The Street of Seven Stars
Mary Roberts Rinehart
Part 2 out of 6
"Any but Thursday. We're hearing 'La Boheme.'"
"Say Friday, then."
Byrne's tone lacked enthusiasm, but Stewart in his after-dinner
mood failed to notice it.
"Have you thought any more about our conversation of the other
"What was that?"
Stewart poked him playfully in the ribs.
"Wake up, Byrne !" he said. "You remember well enough. Neither
the Days nor any one else is going to have the benefit of your
assistance if you go on living the way you have been. I was at
Schwarz's. It is the double drain there that tells on one--eating
little and being eaten much. Those old walls are full of vermin.
Why don't you take our apartment?"
"Yes, for a couple of months. I'm through with Schleich and
Breidau can't take me for two months. It's Marie's off season and
we're going to Semmering for the winter sports. We're ahead
enough to take a holiday. And if you want the flat for the same
amount you are spending now, or less, you can have it, and--a
home, old man."
Byrne was irritated, the more so that he realized that the offer
tempted him. To his resentment was added a contempt of himself.
"Thanks," he said. "I think not."
"Oh, all right." Stewart was rather offended. "I can't do more
than give you a chance."
They separated shortly after and Byrne went on alone. The snow of
Sunday had turned to a fine rain which had lasted all of Monday
and Tuesday. The sidewalks were slimy; wagons slid in the ooze of
the streets; and the smoke from the little stoves in the
street-cars followed them in depressing horizontal clouds. Cabmen
sat and smoked in the interior of musty cabs. The women
hod-carriers on a new building steamed like horses as they
Byrne walked along, his head thrust down into his up-turned
collar; moisture gathered on his face like dew, condensed rather
than precipitated. And as he walked there came before him a
vision of the little flat on the Hochgasse, with the lamp on the
table, and the general air of warmth and cheer, and a figure
presiding over the brick stove in the kitchen. Byrne shook
himself like a great dog and turned in at the gate of the
hospital. He was thoroughly ashamed of himself.
That week was full of disappointments for Harmony. Wherever she
turned she faced a wall of indifference or, what was worse, an
interest that frightened her. Like a bird in a cage she beat
helplessly against barriers of language, of strange customs, of
stolidity that were not far from absolute cruelty.
She held to her determination, however, at first with hope, then,
as the pension in advance and the lessons at fifty Kronen--also
in advance,--went on, recklessly. She played marvelously those
days, crying out through her violin the despair she had sealed
her lips against. On Thursday, playing for the master, she turned
to find him flourishing his handkerchief, and went home in a sort
of daze, incredulous that she could have moved him to tears.
The little Bulgarian was frankly her slave now. He had given up
the coffee-houses that he might spend that hour near her, on the
chance of seeing her or, failing that, of hearing her play. At
night in the Cafe Hungaria he sat for hours at a time, his elbows
on the table, a bottle of native wine before him, and dreamed of
her. He was very fat, the little Georgiev, very swarthy, very
pathetic. The Balkan kettle was simmering in those days, and he
had been set to watch the fire. But instead he had kindled a
flame of his own, and was feeding it with stray words, odd
glances, a bit of music, the curve of a woman's hair behind her
ears. For reports he wrote verses in modern Greek, and through
one of those inadvertences which make tragedy, the Minister of
War down in troubled Bulgaria once received between the pages of
a report in cipher on the fortifications of the Danube a verse in
fervid hexameter that made even that grim official smile.
Harmony was quite unconscious. She went on her way methodically:
so many hours of work, so many lessons at fifty Kronen, so many
afternoons searching for something to do, making rounds of shops
where her English might be valuable.
And after a few weeks Peter Byrne found time to help. After one
experience, when Harmony left a shop with flaming face and tears
in her eyes, he had thought it best to go with her. The first
interview, under Peter's grim eyes, was a failure. The shopkeeper
was obviously suspicious of Peter. After that, whenever he could
escape from clinics, Peter went along, but stayed outside,
smoking his eternal cigarette, and keeping a watchful eye on
things inside the shop.
Only once was he needed. At that time, suspecting that all was
not well, from the girl's eyes and the leer on the shopkeeper's
face, he had opened the door in time to hear enough. He had
lifted the proprietor bodily and flung him with a crash into a
glass showcase of ornaments for the hair. Then, entirely cheerful
and happy, and unmolested by the frightened clerks, he led
Harmony outside and in a sort of atavistic triumph bought her a
bunch of valley lilies.
Nevertheless, in his sane moments, Peter knew that things were
very bad, indeed. He was still not in love with the girl. He
analyzed his own feeling very carefully, and that was his
conclusion. Nevertheless he did a quixotic thing--which was
Peter, of course, all over.
He took supper with Stewart and Marie on Friday, and the idea
came to him there. Hardly came to him, being Marie's originally.
The little flat was cozy and bright. Marie, having straightened
her kitchen, brought in a waist she was making and sat sewing
while the two men talked. Their conversation was technical, a new
extirpation of the thyroid gland, a recent nephrectomy.
In her curious way Marie liked Peter and respected him. She
struggled with the technicalities of their talk as she sewed,
finding here and there a comprehensive bit. At those times she
sat, needle poised, intelligent eyes on the speakers, until she
lost herself again in the mazes of their English.
At ten o'clock she rose and put away her sewing. Peter saw her
get the stone pitcher and knew she was on her way for the evening
beer. He took advantage of her absence to broach the matter of
"She's up against it, as a matter of fact," he finished. "It
ought to be easy enough for her to find something, but it isn't."
"I hardly saw her that day in the coffee-house; but she's rather
handsome, isn't she?"
"That's one of the difficulties. Yes."
Stewart smoked and reflected. "No friends here at all?"
"None. There were three girls at first. Two have gone home."
"Could she teach violin?"
"I should think so."
"Aren't there any kids in the American colony who want lessons?
There's usually some sort of infant prodigy ready to play at any
entertainments of the Doctors' Club."
"They don't want an American teacher, I fancy; but I suppose I
could put a card up in the club rooms. Damn it all!" cried Peter
with a burst of honest resentment, "why do I have to be poor?"
"If you were rolling in gold you could hardly offer her money,
Peter had not thought of that before. It was the only comfort he
found in his poverty. Marie had brought in the beer and was
carefully filling the mugs. "Why do you not marry her?" she asked
unexpectedly. "Then you could take this flat. We are going to
Semmering for the winter sports. I would show her about the
"Marry her, of course!" said Peter gravely. "Just pick her up and
carry her to church! The trifling fact that she does not wish to
marry me need have nothing to do with it."
"Ah, but does she not wish it?" demanded Marie. "Are you so
certain, stupid big one? Do not women always love you?"
Ridiculous as the thought was, Peter pondered it as he went back
to the Pension Schwarz. About himself he was absurdly modest,
almost humble. It had never occurred to him that women might care
for him for himself. In his struggling life there had been little
time for women. But about himself as the solution of a
problem--that was different.
He argued the thing over. In the unlikely contingency of the
girl's being willing, was Stewart right--could two people live as
cheaply as one? Marie was an Austrian and knew how to
manage--that was different. And another thing troubled him. He
dreaded to disturb the delicate adjustment of their relationship;
the terra incognita of a young girl's mind daunted him. There was
another consideration which he put resolutely in the back of his
mind--his career. He had seen many a promising one killed by
early marriage, men driven to the hack work of the profession by
the scourge of financial necessity. But that was a matter of the
future; the necessity was immediate.
The night was very cold. Gusts of wind from the snow-covered
Schneeberg drove along the streets, making each corner a fortress
defended by the elements, a battlement to be seized, lost, seized
again. Peter Byrne battled valiantly but mechanically. And as he
fought he made his decision.
He acted with characteristic promptness. Possibly, too, he was
afraid of the strength of his own resolution. By morning sanity
might prevail, and in cold daylight he would see the absurdity of
his position. He almost ran up the winding staircase. At the top
his cold fingers fumbled the key and he swore under his breath.
He slammed the door behind him. Peter always slammed doors, and
had an apologetic way of opening the door again and closing it
gently, as if to show that he could. Harmony's room was dark,
but he had surprised her once into a confession that when she was
very downhearted she liked to sit in the dark and be very blue
indeed. So he stopped and knocked. There was no reply, but from
Dr. Gates's room across there came a hum of conversation. He knew
at once that Harmony was there.
Peter hardly hesitated. He took off his soft hat and ran a hand
over his hair, and he straightened his tie. These preliminaries
to a proposal of marriage being disposed of, he rapped at the
Anna Gates opened it. She wore a hideous red-flannel wrapper, and
in deference to Harmony a thimble. Her flat breast was stuck with
pins, and pinkish threads revealed the fact that the bathrobe was
still under way.
"Peter!" she cried. "Come in and get warm."
Harmony, in the blue kimono, gave a little gasp, and flung round
her shoulders the mass of pink on which she had been working.
"Please go out!" she said. "I am not dressed."
"You are covered," returned Anna Gates. "That's all that any sort
of clothing can do. Don't mind her, Peter, and sit on the bed.
Look out for pins!"
Peter, however, did not sit down. He stood just inside the closed
door and stared at Harmony--Harmony in the red light from the
little open door of the stove; Harmony in blue and pink and a bit
of white petticoat; Harmony with her hair over her shoulders and
tied out of her eyes with an encircling band of rosy flannel.
"Do sit!" cried Anna Gates. "You fill the room so. Bless you,
Peter, what a collar!"
No man likes to know his collar is soiled, especially on the eve
of proposing marriage to a pink and blue and white vision. Peter,
seated now on the bed, writhed.
"I rapped at Miss Wells's door," he said. "You were not there."
This last, of course, to Harmony.
Anna Gates sniffed.
"I had something to say to you. I--I dare say it is hardly
pension etiquette for you to go over to your room and let me say
Harmony smiled above the flannel.
"Could you call it through the door?"
"Fiddlesticks!" said Dr. Gates, rising. "I'll go over, of course,
but not for long. There's no fire."
With her hand on the knob, however, Harmony interfered.
"Please!" she implored. "I am not dressed and I'd rather not."
She turned to Peter. "You can say it before her, can't you?
She--I have told her all about things."
Peter hesitated. He felt ridiculous for the second time that
"It was merely an idea I had. I saw a little apartment
furnished--you could learn to use the stove, unless, of course,
you don't like housekeeping--and food is really awfully cheap.
Why, at these delicatessen places and bakeshops--"
Here he paused for breath and found Dr. Gates's quizzical glance
fixed on him, and Harmony's startled eyes.
"What I am trying to say," he exploded, "is that I believe if you
would marry me it would solve some of your troubles anyhow." He
was talking for time now, against Harmony's incredulous face.
"You'd be taking on others, of course. I'm not much and I'm as
poor--well, you know. It--it was the apartment that gave me the
"And the stove!" said Harmony; and suddenly burst into joyous
laughter. After a rather shocked instant Dr. Gates joined her. It
was real mirth with Harmony, the first laugh of days, that
curious laughter of women that is not far from tears.
Peter sat on the bed uncomfortably. He grinned sheepishly and
made a last feeble attempt to stick to his guns.
"I mean it. You know I'm not in love with you or you with me, of
course. But we are such a pair of waifs, and I thought we might
get along. Lord knows I need some one to look after me!"
"There is no Emma. I made her up."
Harmony sobered at that.
"It is only"--she gasped a little for breath--"it is only
your--your transparency, Peter." It was the first time she had
called him Peter. "You know how things are with me and you want
to help me, and out of your generosity you are willing to take on
another burden. Oh, Peter!"
And here, Harmony being an emotional young person, the tears beat
the laughter to the surface and had to be wiped away under the
cover of mirth.
Anna Gates, having recovered herself, sat back and surveyed them
both sternly through her glasses.
"Once for all," she said brusquely, "let such foolishness end.
Peter, I am ashamed of you. Marriage is not for you--not yet, not
for a dozen years. Any man can saddle himself with a wife; not
every man can be what you may be if you keep your senses and stay
single. And the same is true for you, girl. To tide over a bad
six months you would sacrifice the very thing you are both
"I'm sure we don't intend to do it," replied Harmony meekly.
"Not now. Some day you may be tempted. When that time comes,
remember what I say. Matrimonially speaking, each of you is fatal
to the other. Now go away and let me alone. I'm not accustomed to
proposals of marriage."
It was in some confusion of mind that Peter Byrne took himself
off to the bedroom with the cold tiled stove and the bed that was
as comfortable as a washtub. Undeniably he was relieved. Also
Harmony's problem was yet unsolved. Also she had called him
Also he had said he was not in love with her. Was he so sure of
At midnight, just as Peter, rolled in the bedclothing, had
managed to warm the cold concavity of his bed and had dozed off,
Anna Gates knocked at his door.
"Yes?" said Peter, still comfortably asleep.
"It is Dr. Gates."
"Sorry, Doctor--have to 'xcuse me," mumbled Peter from the
Peter roused to a chilled and indignant consciousness and sat up
"Open the door just a crack."
Resignedly Peter crawled out of bed, carefully turning the
coverings up to retain as much heat as possible. An icy blast
from the open window blew round him, setting everything movable
in the little room to quivering. He fumbled in the dark for his
slippers, failed to find them, and yawning noisily went to the
Anna Gates, with a candle, was outside. Her short, graying hair
was out of its hard knot, and hung in an equally uncompromising
six-inch plait down her back. She had no glasses, and over the
candle-frame she peered shortsightedly at Peter.
"It's about Jimmy," she said. "I don't know what's got into me,
but I've forgotten for three days. It's a good bit more than time
for a letter."
"Both yesterday and to-day he asked for it and to-day he fretted
a little. The nurse found him crying."
"The poor little devil!" said Peter contritely. "Overdue, is it?
I'll fix it to-night."
"Leave it under the door where I can get it in the morning. I'm
off at seven."
"Here it is. And take my candle. I'm going to bed."
That was at midnight or shortly after. Half after one struck from
the twin clocks of the Votivkirche and echoed from the
Stephansplatz across the city. It found Peter with the window
closed, sitting up in bed, a candle balanced on one knee, a
writing-tablet on the other.
He was writing a spirited narrative of a chamois hunt in which he
had taken part that day, including a detailed description of the
quarry, which weighed, according to Peter, two hundred and fifty
pounds, Peter being strong on imagination and short on facts as
regards the Alpine chamois. Then, trying to read the letter from
a small boy's point of view and deciding that it lacked snap, he
added by way of postscript a harrowing incident of avalanche,
rope, guide, and ice axe. He ended in a sort of glow of
authorship, and after some thought took fifty pounds off the
The letter finished, he put it in a much-used envelope addressed
to Jimmy Conroy--an envelope that stamped the whole episode as
authentic, bearing as it did an undecipherable date and the
postmark of a tiny village in the Austrian Tyrol.
It was almost two when Peter put out the candle and settled
himself to sleep.
It was just two o'clock when the night nurse, making rounds in
her ward in the general hospital, found a small boy very much
awake on his pillow,and taking off her felt slipper shook it at
him in pretended fury.
"Now, thou bad one!" she said. "Awake, when the Herr Doktor
orders sleep! Shall I use the slipper?"
The boy replied in German with a strong English accent.
"I cannot sleep. Yesterday the Fraulein Elisabet said that in the
mountains there are accidents, and that sometimes--"
"The Fraulein Elisabet is a great fool. Tomorrow comes thy letter
of a certainty. The post has been delayed with great snows. Thy
father has perhaps captured a great boar, or a--a chamois, and he
writes of it."
"Do chamois have horns?"
"Ja. Great horns--so."
"He will send them to me! And there are no accidents?"
"None. Now sleep, or--the slipper."
So far Harmony's small world in the old city had consisted of
Scatchy and the Big Soprano, Peter, and Anna Gates, with far off
in the firmament the master. Scatchy and the Big Soprano had
gone, weeping anxious postcards from every way station it is
true, but never theless gone. Peter and Anna Gates remained, and
the master as long as her funds held out. To them now she was
about to add Jimmy.
The bathrobe was finished. Out of the little doctor's chaos of
pink flannel Harmony had brought order. The result, masculine and
complete even to its tassels and cord of pink yarn, was ready to
be presented. It was with mingled emotions that Anna Gates
wrapped it up and gave it to Harmony the next morning.
"He hasn't been so well the last day or two," she said. "He
doesn't sleep much--that's the worst of those heart conditions.
Sometimes, while I've been working on this thing, I've
wondered--Well, we're making a fight anyhow. And better take the
letter, too, Harry. I might forget and make lecture notes on it,
and if I spoil that envelope--"
Harmony had arranged to carry the bathrobe to the hospital,
meeting the doctor there after her early clinic. She knew Jimmy's
little story quite well. Anna Gates had told it to her in detail.
"Just one of the tragedies of the world, my dear," she had
finished. "You think you have a tragedy, but you have youth and
hope; I think I have my own little tragedy, because I have to go
through the rest of life alone, when taken in time I'd have been
a good wife and mother. Still I have my work. But this little
chap, brought over here by a father who hoped to see him cured,
and spent all he had to bring him here, and then--died. It gets
me by the throat."
"And the boy does not know?" Harmony had asked, her eyes wide.
"No, thanks to Peter. He thinks his father is still in the
mountains. When we heard about it Peter went up and saw that he
was buried. It took about all the money there was. He wrote home
about it, too, to the place they came from. There has never been
any reply. Then ever since Peter has written these letters. Jimmy
lives for them."
Peter! It was always Peter. Peter did this. Peter said that.
Peter thought thus. A very large part of Harmony's life was Peter
in those days.
She was thinking of him as she waited at the gate of the hospital
for Anna Gates, thinking of his shabby gray suit and unkempt
hair, of his letter that she carried to Jimmy Conroy, of his
quixotic proposal of the night before. Of the proposal, most of
all--it was so eminently characteristic of Peter, from the
conception of the plan to its execution. Harmony's thought of
Peter was very tender that morning as she stood in the arched
gateway out of reach of the wind from the Schneeberg. The
tenderness and the bright color brought by the wind made her very
beautiful. Little Marie, waiting across the Alserstrasse for a
bus, and stamping from one foot to the other to keep warm,
recognized and admired her. After all, the American women were
chic, she decided, although some of the doctors had wives of a
dowdiness--Himmel! And she could copy the Fraulein's hat for two
Kronen and a bit of ribbon she possessed.
The presentation of the bathrobe was a success. Six nurses and a
Dozent with a red beard stood about and watched Jimmy put into
it, and the Dozent, who had been engaged for five years and could
not marry because the hospital board forbade it, made a speech
for Jimmy in awe-inspiring German, ending up with a poem that was
intended to be funny, but that made the nurses cry. From which it
will be seen that Jimmy was a great favorite.
During the ceremony, for such it was, the Germans loving a
ceremony, Jimmy kept his eyes on the letter in Anna Gates's hand
and waited. That the letter had come was enough. He lay back in
anticipatory joy, and let himself be talked over, and bathrobed,
and his hair parted Austrian fashion and turned up over a finger,
which is very Austrian indeed. He liked Harmony. The girl caught
his eyes on her more than once. He interrupted the speech once to
ask her just what part of the robe she had made, and whether she
had made the tassel. When she admitted the tassel, his admiration
became mixed with respect.
It was a bright day, for a marvel. Sunlight came through the
barred window behind Jimmy's bed, and brought into dazzling
radiance the pink bathrobe, and Harmony's eyes, and fat Nurse
Elisabet's white apron. It lay on the bedspread in great squares,
outlined by the shadows of the window bars. Now and then the
sentry, pacing outside, would advance as far as Jimmy's window,
and a warlike silhouette of military cap and the upper end of a
carbine would appear on the coverlet. These events, however, were
rare, the sentry preferring the shelter of the gateway and the
odor of boiling onions from the lodge just inside.
The Dozent retired to his room for the second breakfast; the
nurses went about the business of the ward; Dr. Anna Gates drew a
hairpin from her hair and made a great show of opening the many
times opened envelope.
"The letter at last!" she said. "Shall I read it or will you?"
"You read it. It takes me so long. I'll read it all day, after
you are gone. I always do."
Anna Gates read the letter. She read aloud poor Peter's first
halting lines, when he was struggling against sleep and cold.
They were mainly an apology for the delay. Then forgetting
discomfort in the joy of creation, he became more comfortable.
The account of the near-accident was wonderfully graphic; the
description of the chamois was fervid, if not accurate. But
consternation came with the end.
The letter apparently finished, there was yet another sheet. The
doctor read on.
"For Heaven's sake," said Peter's frantic postscript, "find out
how much a medium-sized chamois--"
Dr. Gates stopped "--ought to weigh," was the rest of it, "and
fix it right in the letter. The kid's too smart to be fooled and
I never saw a chamois outside of a drug store. They have horns,
"That's funny!" said Jimmy Conway.
"That was one of my papers slipped in by mistake," remarked Dr.
Gates, with dignity, and flashing a wild appeal for help to
"How did one of your papers get in when it was sealed?"
"I think," observed Harmony, leaning forward, "that little boys
must not ask too many questions, especially when Christmas is
only six weeks off."
"I know! He wants to send me the horns the way he sent me the
For Peter, having in one letter unwisely recorded the slaughter
of a boar, had been obliged to ransack Vienna for a pair of
tusks. The tusks had not been so difficult. But horns!
Jimmy was contented with his solution and asked no more
questions. The morning's excitement had tired him, and he lay
back. Dr. Gates went to hold a whispered consultation vith the
nurse, and came back, looking grave.
The boy was asleep, holding the letter in his thin hands.
The visit to the hospital was a good thing for Harmony--to find
some one worse off than she was, to satisfy that eternal desire
of women to do something, however small, for some one else. Her
own troubles looked very small to her that day as she left the
hospital and stepped out into the bright sunshine.
She passed the impassive sentry, then turned and went back to
"Do you wish to do a very kind thing?" she asked in German.
Now the conversation of an Austrian sentry consists of yea, yea,
and nay, nay, and not always that. But Harmony was lovely and the
sun was moderating the wind. The sentry looked round; no one was
"What do you wish?"
"Inside that third window is a small boy and he is very ill. I do
not think--perhaps he will never be well again. Could you not,
now and then, pass the window? It pleases him."
"Pass the window! But why?"
"In America we see few of our soldiers. He likes to see you and
"Ah, the gun!" He smiled and nodded in comprehension, then, as an
officer appeared in the door of a coffee-house across the street,
he stiffened into immobility and stared past Harmony into space.
But the girl knew he would do as she had desired.
That day brought good luck to Harmony. The wife of one of the
professors at the hospital desired English conversation at two
Kronen an hour.
Peter brought the news home at noon, and that afternoon Harmony
was engaged. It was little enough, but it was something. It did
much more than offer her two Kronen an hour; it gave her back her
self-confidence, although the immediate result was rather tragic.
The Frau Professor Bergmeister, infatuated with English and with
Harmony, engaged her, and took her first two Kronen worth that
afternoon. It was the day for a music-lesson. Harmony arrived
five minutes late, panting, hat awry, and so full of the Frau
Professor Bergmeister that she could think of nothing else.
Obedient to orders she had placed the envelope containing her
fifty Kronen before the secretary as she went in. The master was
out of humor. Should he, the teacher of the great Koert, be kept
waiting for a chit of a girl--only, of course, he said "das
Kindchen" or some other German equivalent for chit--and then have
her come into the sacred presence breathless, and salute him
between gasps as the Frau Professor Bergmeister?
Being excited and now confused by her error, and being also
rather tremulous with three flights of stairs at top speed,
Harmony dropped her bow. In point of heinousness this classes
with dropping one's infant child from an upper window, or sitting
on the wrong side of a carriage when with a lady.
The master, thus thrice outraged, rose slowly and glared at
Harmony. Then with a lordly gesture to her to follow he stalked
to the outer room, and picking up the envelope with the fifty
Kronen held it out to her without a word.
Harmony's world came crashing about her ears. She stared stupidly
at the envelope in her hand, at the master's retreating back.
Two girl students waiting their turn, envelopes in hand, giggled
together. Harmony saw them and flushed scarlet. But the lady
secretary touched her arm.
"It does not matter, Fraulein. He does so sometimes. Always he is
sorry. You will come for your next lesson, not so? and all will
be well. You are his well-beloved pupil. To-night he will not eat
for grief that he has hurt you."
The ring of sincerity in the shabby secretary's voice was
unmistakable. Her tense throat relaxed. She looked across at the
two students who had laughed. They were not laughing now.
Something of fellowship and understanding passed between them in
the glance. After all, it was in the day's work--would come to
one of them next, perhaps. And they had much in common--the
struggle, their faith, the everlasting loneliness, the little
white envelopes, each with its fifty Kronen.
Vaguely comforted, but with the light gone out of her day of
days, Harmony went down the three long flights and out into the
brightness of the winter day.
On the Ring she almost ran into Peter. He was striding toward
her, giving a definite impression of being bound for some
particular destination and of being behind time. That this was
not the case was shown by the celerity with which, when he saw
Harmony, he turned about and walked with her.
"I had an hour or two," he explained, "and I thought I'd walk.
But walking is a social habit, like drinking. I hate to walk
alone. How about the Frau Professor?"
"She has taken me on. I'm very happy. But, Dr. Byrne--"
"You called me Peter last night."
"That was different. You had just proposed to me."
"Oh, if that's all that's necessary--" He stopped in the center
of the busy Ring with every evident intention of proposing again.
"Aha! Victory! Well, what about the Frau Professor Bergmeister?"
"She asks so many questions about America; and I cannot answer
"Well, taxes now. She's very much interested in taxes."
"Never owned anything taxable except a dog--and that wasn't a tax
anyhow; it was a license. Can't you switch her on to medicine or
surgery, where I'd be of some use?"
"She says to-morrow we'll talk of the tariff and customs duties."
"Well, I've got something to say on that." He pulled from his
overcoat pocket a largish bundle--Peter always bulged with
packages--and held it out for her to see. "Tell the Frau
Professor Bergmeister with my compliments," he said, "that
because some idiot at home sent me five pounds of tobacco,
hearing from afar my groans over the tobacco here, I have passed
from mere financial stress to destitution. The Austrian customs
have taken from me to-day the equivalent of ten dollars in duty.
I offered them the tobacco on bended knee, but they scorned it."
Under this lightness Harmony sensed the real anxiety. Ten dollars
was fifty Kronen, and fifty Kronen was a great deal of money. She
reached over and patted his arm.
"You'll make it up in some way. Can't you cut off some little
"I might cut down on my tailor bills." He looked down at himself
whimsically. "Or on ties. I'm positively reckless about ties!"
They walked on in silence. A detachment of soldiery, busy with
that eternal military activity that seems to get nowhere, passed
on a dog-trot. Peter looked at them critically.
"Bosnians," he observed. "Raw, half-fed troops from Bosnia, nine
out of ten of them tubercular. It's a rotten game, this military
play of Europe. How's Jimmy?"
"We left him very happy with your letter."
Peter flushed. "I expect it was pretty poor stuff," he
apologized. "I've never seen the Alps except from a train window,
and as for a chamois--"
"He says his father will surely send him the horns."
"Of course!" he said. "Why, in Heaven's name, didn't I make it an
eagle? One can always buy a feather or two. But horns? He really
liked the letter?"
"He adored it. He went to sleep almost at once with it in his
Peter glowed. The small irritation of the custom-house forgotten,
he talked of Jimmy; of what had been done and might still be
done, if only there were money; and from Jimmy he talked boy. He
had had a boys' club at home during his short experience in
general practice. Boys were his hobby.
"Scum of the earth, most of them," he said, his plain face
glowing. "Dirty little beggars off the street. At first they
stole my tobacco; and one of them pawned a medical book or two!
Then they got to playing the game right. By Jove, Harmony, I wish
you could have seen them! Used to line 'em up and make 'em
spell, and the two best spellers were allowed to fight it out
with gloves--my own method, and it worked. Spell! They'd spell
their heads off to get a chance at the gloves. Gee, how I hated
to give them up!"
This was a new Peter, a boyish individual Harmony had never met
before. For the first time it struck her that Peter was young. He
had always seemed rather old, solid and dependable, the fault of
his elder brother attitude to her, no doubt. She was suddenly
rather shy, a bit aloof. Peter felt the change and thought she
was bored. He talked of other things.
A surprise was waiting for them in the cold lower hallway of the
Pension Schwarz. A trunk was there, locked and roped, and on the
trunk, in ulster and hat, sat Dr. Gates. Olga, looking rather
frightened, was coming down with a traveling-bag. She put down
the bag and scuttled up the staircase like a scared rabbit.
The little doctor was grim. She eyed Peter and Harmony with an
impersonal hostility, referable to her humor.
"I've been waiting for you two," she flung at them. "I've had a
terrific row upstairs and I'm going. That woman's a devil!"
It had been a bad day for Harmony, and this new development,
after everything else, assumed the proportions of a crisis. She
had clung, at first out of sheer loneliness and recently out of
affection, to the sharp little doctor with her mannish
affectations, her soft and womanly heart.
"Sit down, child." Anna Gates moved over on the trunk. " You are
fagged out. Peter, will you stop looking murderous and listen to
me? How much did it cost the three of us to live in this abode of
It was simple addition. The total was rather appalling.
"I thought so. Now this is my plan. It may not be conventional,
but it will be respectable enough to satisfy anybody. And it will
be cheaper, I'm sure of that: We are all going out to the
hunting-lodge of Maria Theresa, and Harmony shall keep house for
It was the middle of November when Anna Gates, sitting on her
trunk in the cold entrance hall on the Hirschengasse, flung the
conversational bomb that left empty three rooms in the Pension
Mid-December found Harmony back and fully established in the
lodge of Maria Theresa on the Street of Seven Stars--back, but
with a difference. True, the gate still swung back and forward on
rusty hinges, obedient to every whim of the December gales; but
the casement windows in the salon no longer creaked or admitted
drafts, thanks to Peter and a roll of rubber weather-casing. The
grand piano, which had been Scatchy's rented extravagance, had
gone never to return, and in its corner stood a battered but
still usable upright. Under the great chandelier sat a table with
an oil lamp, and evening and morning the white-tiled stove
gleamed warm with fire. On the table by the lamp were the
combined medical books of Peter and Anna Gates, and an ash-tray
which also they used in common.
Shabby still, of course, bare, almost denuded, the salon of Maria
Theresa. But at night, with the lamp lighted and the little door
of the stove open, and perhaps, when the dishes from supper had
been washed, with Harmony playing softly, it took resolution on
Peter's part to put on his overcoat and face a lecture on the
resection of a rib or a discussion of the function of the
The new arrangement had proved itself in more ways than one not
only greater in comfort, but in economy. Food was amazingly
cheap. Coal, which had cost ninety Hellers a bucket at the
Pension Schwarz, they bought in quantity and could afford to use
lavishly. Oil for the lamp was a trifle. They dined on venison
now and then, when the shop across boasted a deer from the
mountains. They had other game occasionally, when Peter, carrying
home a mysterious package, would make them guess what it might
contain. Always on such occasions Harmony guessed rabbits. She
knew how to cook rabbits, and some of the other game worried her.
For Harmony was the cook. It had taken many arguments and much
coaxing to make Peter see it that way. In vain Harmony argued the
extravagance of Rosa, now married to the soldier from Salzburg
with one lung, or the tendency of the delicatessen seller to
weigh short if one did not watch him. Peter was firm.
It was Dr. Gates, after all, who found the solution.
"Don't be too obstinate, Peter," she admonished him. "The child
needs occupation; she can't practice all day. You and I can keep
up the financial end well enough, reduced as it is. Let her keep
house to her heart's content. That can be her contribution to the
And that eventually was the way it settled itself, not without
demur from Harmony, who feared her part was too small, and who
irritated Anna almost to a frenzy by cleaning the apartment from
end to end to make certain of her usefulness.
A curious little household surely, one that made the wife of the
Portier shake her head, and speak much beneath her breath with
the wife of the brushmaker about the Americans having queer ways
and not as the Austrians.
The short month had seen a change in all of them. Peter showed it
least of all, perhaps. Men feel physical discomfort less keenly
than women, and Peter had been only subconsciously wretched. He
had gained a pound or two in flesh, perhaps, and he was
unmistakably tidier. Anna Gates was growing round and rosy, and
Harmony had trimmed her a hat. But the real change was in Harmony
The girl had become a woman. Who knows the curious psychology by
which such changes come--not in a month or a year; but in an
hour, a breath. One moment Harmony was a shy, tender young
creature, all emotion, quivering at a word, aloof at a glance,
prone to occasional introspection and mysterious daydreams; the
next she was a young woman, tender but not shyly so, incredibly
poised, almost formidably dignified on occasion, but with little
girlish lapses into frolic and high spirits.
The transition moment with Harmony came about in this wise: They
had been settled for three weeks. The odor of stewing cabbages at
the Pension Schwarz had retired into the oblivion of lost scents,
to be recalled, along with its accompanying memory of discomfort,
with every odor of stewing cabbages for years to come. At the
hospital Jimmy had had a bad week again. It had been an anxious
time for all of them. In vain the sentry had stopped outside the
third window and smiled and nodded through it; in vain--when the
street was deserted and there was none to notice--he went through
a bit of the manual of arms on the pavement outside, ending by
setting his gun down with a martial and ringing clang.
In vain had Peter exhausted himself in literary efforts, climbing
unheard-of peaks, taking walking-tours through such a Switzerland
as never was, shooting animals of various sorts, but all
hornless, as he carefully emphasized.
And now Jimmy was better again. He was propped up in bed, and
with the aid of Nurse Elisabet he had cut out a paper sentry and
set it in the barred window. The real sentry had been very much
astonished; he had almost fallen over backward. On recovering he
went entirely through the manual of arms, and was almost seen by
an Oberst-lieutenant. It was all most exciting.
Harmony had been to see Jimmy on the day in question. She had
taken him some gelatin, not without apprehension, it being her
first essay in jelly and Jimmy being frank with the candor of
childhood. The jelly had been a great success.
It was when she was about to go that Jimmy broached a matter very
near his heart.
"The horns haven't come, have they?" he asked wistfully.
"No, not yet."
"Do you think he got my letter about them?"
"He answered it, didn't he?"
Jimmy drew a long breath. "It's very funny. He's mostly so quick.
If I had the horns, Sister Elisabet would tie them there at the
foot of the bed. And I could pretend I was hunting."
Harmony had a great piece of luck that day. As she went home she
saw hanging in front of the wild-game shop next to the
delicatessen store a fresh deer, and this time it was a stag.
Like the others it hung head down, and as it swayed on its hook
its great antlers tapped against the shop door as if mutely
She could not buy the antlers. In vain she pleaded, explained,
implored. Harmony enlisted the Portier, and took him across with
her. The wild-game seller was obdurate. He would sell the deer
entire, or he would mount head and antlers for his wife's cousin
in Galicia as a Christmas gift.
Harmony went back to the lodge and climbed the stairs. She was
profoundly depressed. Even the discovery that Peter had come home
early and was building a fire in the kitchen brought only a
fleeting smile. Anna was not yet home.
Peter built the fire. The winter dusk was falling and Harmony
made a movement to light the candles. Peter stopped her.
"Can't we have the firelight for a little while? You are always
beautiful, but--you are lovely in the firelight, Harmony."
"That is because you like me. We always think our friends are
"I am fond of Anna, but I have never thought her beautiful."
The kitchen was small. Harmony, rolling up her sleeves by the
table, and Peter before the stove were very close together. The
dusk was fast fading into darkness; to this tiny room at the back
of the old house few street sounds penetrated. Round them,
shutting them off together from the world of shops with lighted
windows, rumbling busses and hurrying humanity, lay the old lodge
with its dingy gardens, its whitewashed halls, its dark and
Peter had been very careful. He had cultivated a comradely manner
with the girl that had kept her entirely at her ease with him.
But it had been growing increasingly hard. He was only human
after all. And he was very comfortable. Love, healthy human love,
thrives on physical ease. Indigestion is a greater foe to it than
poverty. Great love songs are written, not by poets starving in
hall bedrooms, with insistent hunger gnawing and undermining all
that is of the spirit, but by full-fed gentlemen who sing out of
an overflowing of content and wide fellowship, and who write, no
doubt, just after dinner. Love, being a hunger, does not thrive
Thus Peter. He had never found women essential, being occupied in
the struggle for other essentials. Women had had little part in
his busy life. Once or twice he had seen visions, dreamed dreams,
to waken himself savagely to the fact that not for many years
could he afford the luxury of tender eyes looking up into his, of
soft arms about his neck. So he had kept away from women with
almost ferocious determination. And now!
He drew a chair before the stove and sat down. Standing or
sitting, he was much too large for the kitchen. He sat in the
chair, with his hands hanging, fingers interlaced between his
The firelight glowed over his strong, rather irregular features.
Harmony, knife poised over the evening's potatoes, looked at him.
"I think you are sad to-night, Peter."
"Depressed a bit. That's all."
"It isn't money again?"
It was generally money with any of the three, and only the week
before Peter had found an error in his bank balance which meant
that he was a hundred Kronen or so poorer than he had thought.
This discovery had been very upsetting.
"Not more than usual. Don't mind me. I'll probably end in a
roaring bad temper and smash something. My moody spells often
break up that way!"
Harmony put down the paring-knife, and going over to where he sat
rested a hand on his shoulder. Peter drew away from it.
"I have hurt you in some way?"
"Of course not."
"Could--could you talk about whatever it is? That helps
"You wouldn't understand."
"You haven't quarreled with Anna?" Harmony asked, real concern in
"No. Good Lord, Harmony, don't ask me what's wrong! I don't know
He got up almost violently and set the little chair back against
the wall. Hurt and astonished, Harmony went back to the table.
The kitchen was entirely dark, save for the firelight, which
gleamed on the bare floor and the red legs of the table. She was
fumbling with a match and the candle when she realized that Peter
was just behind her, very close.
"Dearest," he said huskily. The next moment he had caught her to
him, was kissing her lips, her hair.
Harmony's heart beat wildly. There was no use struggling against
him. The gates of his self-control were down: all his loneliness,
his starved senses rushed forth in tardy assertion.
After a moment Peter kissed her eyelids very gently and let her
go. Harmony was trembling, but with shock and alarm only. The
storm that had torn him root and branch from his firm ground of
self-restraint left her only shaken. He was still very close to
her; she could hear him breathing. He did not attempt to speak.
With every atom of strength that was left in him he was fighting
a mad desire to take her in his arms again and keep her there.
That was the moment when Harmony became a woman.
She lighted the candle with the match she still held. Then she
turned and faced him.
"That sort of thing is not for you and me, Peter," she said
"There isn't any question about it."
He was still reckless, even argumentative; the crying need of her
still obsessed him. "Why not? Why should I not take you in my
arms? If there is a moment of happiness to be had in this grind
of work and loneliness--"
"It has not made me happy."
Perhaps nothing else she could have said would have been so
effectual. Love demands reciprocation; he could read no passion
in her voice. He knew then that he had left her unstirred. He
dropped his outstretched arms.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do it."
"I would rather not talk about it, please."
The banging of a door far off told them that Anna Gates had
arrived and was taking off her galoshes in the entry. Peter drew
a long breath, and, after his habit, shook himself.
"Very well, we'll not talk of it. But, for Heaven's sake,
Harmony, don't avoid me. I'm not a cad. I'll let you alone."
There was only time for a glance of understanding between them,
of promise from Peter, of acceptance from the girl. When Anna
Gates entered the kitchen she found Harmony peeling potatoes and
Peter filling up an already overfed stove.
That night, during that darkest hour before the dawn when the
thrifty city fathers of the old town had shut off the street
lights because two hours later the sun would rise and furnish
light that cost the taxpayers nothing, the Portier's wife
The room was very silent, too silent. On those rare occasions
when the Portier's wife awakened in the night and heard the twin
clocks of the Votivkirche strike three, and listened, perhaps,
while the delicatessen seller ambled home from the Schubert
Society, singing beerily as he ambled, she was wont to hear from
the bed beside hers the rhythmic respiration that told her how
safe from Schubert Societies and such like evils was her lord.
There was no sound at all.
The Portier's wife raised herself on her elbow and reached over.
Owing to the width of the table that stood between the beds and
to a sweeping that day which had left the beds far apart she met
nothing but empty air. Words had small effect on the Portier, who
slept fathoms deep in unconsciousness. Also she did not wish to
get up--the floor was cold and a wind blowing. Could she not hear
it and the creaking of the deer across the street, as it swung on
The wife of the Portier was a person of resource. She took the
iron candlestick from the table and flung it into the darkness at
the Portier's pillow. No startled yell followed.
Suspicion thus confirmed, the Portier's wife forgot the cold
floor and the wind, and barefoot felt her way into the hall.
Suspicion was doubly confirmed. The chain was off the door; it
even stood open an inch or two.
Armed with a second candlestick she stationed herself inside the
door and waited. The stone floor was icy, but the fury of a woman
scorned kept her warm. The Votivkirche struck one, two, three
quarters of an hour. The candlestick in her hand changed from
iron to ice, from ice to red-hot fire. Still the Portier had not
come back and the door chain swung in the wind.
At four o'clock she retired to the bedroom again. Indignation had
changed to fear, coupled with sneezing. Surely even the Schubert
Society--What was that?
From the Portier's bed was coming a rhythmic respiration!
She roused him, standing over him with the iron candlestick, now
lighted, and gazing at him with eyes in which alarm struggled
"Thou hast been out of thy bed!"
"An hour since the bed was empty."
"The chain is off the door."
"Let it remain so and sleep. What have we to steal or the
Americans above? Sleep and keep peace."
He yawned and was instantly asleep again. The Portier's wife
crawled into her bed and warmed her aching feet under the crimson
feather comfort. But her soul was shaken.
The Devil had been known to come at night and take innocent ones
out to do his evil. The innocent ones knew it not, but it might
be told by the soles of the feet, which were always soiled.
At dawn the Portier's wife cautiously uncovered the soles of her
sleeping lord's feet, and fell back gasping. They were quite
black, as of one who had tramped in garden mould.
Early the next morning Harmony, after a restless night, opened
the door from the salon of Maria Theresa into the hall and set
out a pitcher for the milk.
On the floor, just outside, lay the antlers from the deer across
the street. Tied to them was a bit of paper, and on it was
written the one word, "Still!"
In looking back after a catastrophe it is easy to trace the steps
by which the inevitable advanced. Destiny marches, not by great
leaps but with a thousand small and painful steps, and here and
there it leaves its mark, a footprint on a naked soul. We trace a
life by its scars, as a tree by its rings.
Anna Gates was not the best possible companion for Harmony, and
this with every allowance for her real kindliness, her genuine
affection for the girl. Life had destroyed her illusions, and it
was of illusions that Harmony's veil had been woven. To Anna
Gates, worn with a thousand sleepless nights, a thousand
thankless days, withered before her time with the struggling
routine of medical practice, sapped with endless calls for
sympathy and aid, existence ceased to be spiritual and became
Life and birth and death had lost their mysteries. The veil was
To fit this existence of hers she had built herself a curious
creed, a philosophy of individualism, from behind which she flung
strange bombshells of theories, shafts of distorted moralities,
personal liberties, irresponsibilities, a supreme scorn for
modern law and the prophets. Nature, she claimed, was her law and
In her hard-working, virginal life her theories had wrought no
mischief. Temptation had been lacking to exploit them, and even
in the event of the opportunity it was doubtful whether she would
have had the strength of her convictions. Men love theories, but
seldom have the courage of them, and Anna Gates was largely
masculine. Women, being literal, are apt to absorb dangerous
doctrine and put it to the test. When it is false doctrine they
discover it too late.
Harmony was now a woman.
Anna would have cut off her hand sooner than have brought the
girl to harm; but she loved to generalize. It amused her to see
Harmony's eyes widen with horror at one of her radical beliefs.
Nothing pleased her more than to pit her individualism against
the girl's rigid and conventional morality, and down her by some
apparently unanswerable argument.
On the day after the incident in the kitchen such an argument
took place--hardly an argument, for Harmony knew nothing of
mental fencing. Anna had taken a heavy cold, and remained at
home. Harmony had been practicing, and at the end she played a
little winter song by some modern composer. It breathed all the
purity of a white winter's day; it was as chaste as ice and as
cold; and yet throughout was the thought of green things hiding
beneath the snow and the hope of spring.
Harmony, having finished, voiced some such feeling. She was
rather ashamed of her thought.
"It seems that way to me," she finished apologetically. "It
sounds rather silly. I always think I can tell the sort of person
who composes certain things."
"And this gentleman who writes of winter?"
"I think he is very reserved. And that he has never loved any
"When there is any love in music, any heart, one always feels it,
exactly as in books--the difference between a love story
"--a dictionary !"
"You always laugh," Harmony complained
"That's better than weeping. When I think of the rotten way
things go in this world I want to weep always."
"I don't find it a bad world. Of course there are bad people, but
there are good ones."
"Where? Peter and you and I, I suppose."
"There are plenty of good men."
"What do you call a good man?"
Harmony hesitated, then went on bravely:--
Anna smiled. "My dear child," she said, "you substitute the code
of a gentleman for the Mosaic Law. Of course your good man is a
Harmony nodded, puzzled eyes on Anna.
"Then there are no 'good' people in the polygamous countries, I
suppose! When there were twelve women to every man, a man took a
dozen wives. To-day in our part of the globe there is one
woman--and a fifth over--for every man. Each man gets one woman,
and for every five couples there is a derelict like myself,
Anna's amazing frankness about herself often confused Harmony.
Her resentment at her single condition, because it left her
childless, brought forth theories that shocked and alarmed the
girl. In the atmosphere in which Harmony had been reared single
women were always presumed to be thus by choice and to regard
with certain tolerance those weaker sisters who had married.
Anna, on the contrary, was frankly a derelict, frankly regretted
her maiden condition and railed with bitterness against her
enforced childlessness. The near approach of Christmas had for
years found her morose and resentful. There are, here and there,
such women, essentially mothers but not necessarily wives, their
sole passion that of maternity.
Anna, argumentative and reckless, talked on. She tore away, in
her resentment, every theory of existence the girl had ever
known, and offered her instead an incredible liberty in the name
of the freedom of the individual. Harmony found all her
foundations of living shaken, and though refusing to accept
Anna's theories, found her faith in her own weakened. She sat
back, pale and silent, listening, while Anna built up out of her
discontent a new heaven and a new earth, with liberty written
high in its firmament.
When her reckless mood had passed Anna was regretful enough at
the girl's stricken face.
"I'm a fool!" she said contritely. "If Peter had been here he'd
have throttled me. I deserve it. I'm a theorist, pure and simple,
and theorists are the anarchists of society. There's only one
comfort about us--we never live up to our convictions. Now forget
all this rot I've been talking."
Peter brought up the mail that afternoon, a Christmas card or two
for Anna, depressingly early, and a letter from the Big Soprano
for Harmony from New York. The Big Soprano was very glad to be
back and spent two pages over her chances for concert work.
". . . I could have done as well had I stayed at home. If I had
had the money they wanted, to go to Geneva and sing 'Brunnhilde,'
it would have helped a lot. I could have said I'd sung in opera
in Europe and at least have had a hearing at the Met. But I
didn't, and I'm back at the church again and glad to get my old
salary. If it's at all possible, stay until the master has
presented you in a concert. He's quite right, you haven't a
chance unless he does. And now I'll quit grumbling.
"Scatchy met her Henry at the dock and looked quite lovely,
flushed with excitement and having been up since dawn curling her
hair. He was rather a disappointment--small and blond, with light
blue eyes, and almost dapper. But oh, my dear, I wouldn't care
how pale a man's eyes were if he looked at me the way Henry
looked at her.
"They asked me to luncheon with them, but I knew they wanted to
be alone together, and so I ate a bite or two, all I could
swallow for the lump in my throat, by myself. I was homesick
enough in old Wien, but I am just as homesick now that I am here,
for we are really homesick only for people, not places. And no
one really cared whether I came back or not."
Peter had been miserable all day, not with regret for the day
before, but with fear. What if Harmony should decide that the
situation was unpleasant and decide to leave? What if a reckless
impulse, recklessly carried out, were to break up an arrangement
that had made a green oasis of happiness and content for all of
them in the desert of their common despair?
If he had only let her go and apologized! But no, he had had to
argue, to justify himself, to make an idiot of himself generally.
He almost groaned aloud as he opened the gate end crossed the
He need not have feared. Harmony had taken him entirely at his
word. "I am not a beast. I'll let you alone," he had said. She
had had a bad night, as nights go. She had gone through the
painful introspection which, in a thoroughly good girl, always
follows such an outburst as Peter's. Had she said or done
anything to make him think--Surely she had not! Had she been
wrong about Peter after all? Surely not again.
While the Portier's wife, waked, as may happen, by an
unaccustomed silence, was standing guard in the hall below, iron
candlestick in hand, Harmony, having read the Litany through in
the not particularly religious hope of getting to sleep, was
dreaming placidly. It was Peter who tossed and turned almost all
night. Truly there had been little sleep that night in the old
hunting-lodge of Maria Theresa.
Peter, still not quite at ease, that evening kept out of the
kitchen while supper was preparing. Anna, radical theories
forgotten and wearing a knitted shawl against drafts, was making
a salad, and Harmony, all anxiety and flushed with heat, was
broiling a steak.
Steak was an extravagance, to be cooked with clear hot coals and
"Peter," she called, "you may set the table. And try to lay the
Peter, exiled in the salon, came joyously. Obviously the wretched
business of yesterday was forgiven. He came to the door, pipe in
"Suppose I refuse?" he questioned. "You--you haven't been very
friendly with me to-day, Harry."
"Don't quarrel, you children," cried Anna, beating eggs
vigorously. "Harmony is always friendly, too friendly. The
Portier loves her."
"I'm sure I said good-evening to you."
"You usually say, 'Good-evening, Peter.' "
"And I did not?"
"You did not."
His steady eyes met hers. In them there was a renewal of his
yesterday's promise, abasement, regret. Harmony met him with
forgiveness and restoration.
"Sometimes," said Peter humbly, "when I am in very great favor,
you say, 'Good-evening, Peter, dear.' "
"Good-evening, Peter, dear," said Harmony.
The affairs of young Stewart and Marie Jedlicka were not moving
smoothly. Having rented their apartment to the Boyers, and
through Marie's frugality and the extra month's wages at
Christmas, which was Marie's annual perquisite, being temporarily
in funds the sky seemed clear enough, and Walter Stewart started
on his holiday with a comfortable sense of financial security.
Mrs. Boyer, shown over the flat by Stewart during Marie's
temporary exile in the apartment across the hall, was captivated
by the comfort of the little suite and by its order. Her
housewifely mind, restless with long inactivity in a pension,
seized on the bright pans of Marie's kitchen and the promise of
the brick-and-sheetiron stove. She disapproved of Stewart, having
heard strange stories of him, but there was nothing bacchanal or
suspicious about this orderly establishment. Mrs. Boyer was a
placid, motherly looking woman, torn from her church and her card
club, her grown children, her household gods of thirty years'
accumulation, that "Frank" might catch up with his profession.
She had explained it rather tremulously at home.
"Father wants to go," she said. "You children are big enough now
to be left. He's always wanted to do it, but we couldn't go while
you were little."
"But, mother!" expostulated the oldest girl. "When you are so
afraid of the ocean! And a year!"
"What is to be will be," she had replied. "If I'm going to be
drowned I'll be drowned, whether it's in the sea or in a bathtub.
And I'll not let father go alone."
Fatalism being their mother's last argument and always final, the
children gave up. They let her go. More, they prepared for her so
elaborate a wardrobe that the poor soul had had no excuse to
purchase anything abroad. She had gone through Paris looking
straight ahead lest her eyes lead her into the temptation of the
shops. In Vienna she wore her home-town outfit with
determination, vaguely conscious that the women about her had
more style, were different. She priced unsuitable garments
wistfully, and went home to her trunks full of best materials
that would never wear out. The children, knowing her, had bought
To this couple, then, Stewart had rented his apartment. It is
hard to say by what psychology he found their respectability so
satisfactory. It was as though his own status gained by it. He
had much the same feeling about the order and decency with which
Marie managed the apartment, as if irregularity were thus
Marie had met him once for a walk along the Graben. She had worn
an experimental touch of rouge under a veil, and fine lines were
drawn under her blue eyes, darkening them. She had looked very
pretty, rather frightened. Stewart had sent her home and had
sulked for an entire evening.
So curious a thing is the mind masculine, such an order of
disorder, so conventional its defiance of convention. Stewart
breaking the law and trying to keep the letter!
On the day they left for Semmering Marie was up at dawn. There
was much to do. The house must be left clean and shining. There
must be no feminine gewgaws to reveal to the Frau Doktor that it
was not a purely masculine establishment. At the last moment, so
late that it sent her heart into her mouth, she happened on the
box of rouge hidden from Stewart's watchful eyes. She gave it to
the milk girl.
Finally she folded her meager wardrobe and placed it in the Herr
Doktor's American trunk: a marvel, that trunk, so firm, so heavy,
bound with iron. And with her own clothing she packed Stewart's,
the dress-suit he had worn once to the Embassy, a hat that
folded, strange American shoes, and books--always books. The Herr
Doktor would study at Semmering. When all was in readiness and
Stewart was taking a final survey, Marie ran downstairs and
summoned a cab. It did not occur to her to ask him to do it.
Marie's small life was one of service, and besides there was an
element in their relationship that no one but Marie suspected,
and that she hid even from herself. She was very much in love
with this indifferent American, this captious temporary god of
her domestic altar. Such a contingency had never occurred to
Stewart; but Peter, smoking gravely in the little apartment, had
more than once caught a look in Marie's eyes as she turned them
on the other man, and had surmised it. It made him uncomfortable.
When the train was well under way, however, and he found no
disturbing element among the three others in the compartment,
Stewart relaxed. Semmering was a favorite resort with the
American colony, but not until later in the winter. In December
there were rains in the mountains, and low-lying clouds that
invested some of the chalets in constant fog. It was not until
the middle of January that the little mountain train became
crowded with tourists, knickerbockered men with knapsacks, and
jaunty feathers in their soft hats, boys carrying ski, women with
Alpine cloaks and iron-pointed sticks.
Marie was childishly happy. It was the first real vacation of her
life, and more than that she was going to Semmering, in the very
shadow of the Raxalpe, the beloved mountain of the Viennese.
Marie had seen the Rax all her life, as it towered thirty miles
or so away above the plain. On peaceful Sundays, having climbed
the cog railroad, she had seen its white head turn rosy in the
setting sun, and once when a German tourist from Munich had
handed her his fieldglass she had even made out some of the
crosses that showed where travelers had met their deaths. Now she
would be very close. If the weather were good, she might even say
a prayer in the chapel on its crest for the souls of those who
had died. It was of a marvel, truly; so far may one go when one
has money and leisure.
The small single-trucked railway carriages bumped and rattled up
the mountain sides, always rising, always winding. There were
moments when the track held to the cliffs only by gigantic
fingers of steel, while far below were peaceful valleys and
pink-and-blue houses and churches with gilded spires. There were
vistas of snow-peak and avalanche shed, and always there were
tunnels. Marie, so wise in some things, was a child in others;
she slid close to Stewart in the darkness and touched him for
"It is so dark," she apologized, "and it frightens me, the
mountain heart. In your America, have you so great mountains?"
Stewart patted her hand, a patronizing touch that sent her blood
"Much larger," he said magnificently. "I haven't seen a hill in
Europe I'd exchange for the Rockies. And when we cross the
mountains there we use railway coaches. These toy railroads are a
joke. At home we'd use 'em as street-cars."
"Really! I should like to see America."
"So should I."
The conversation was taking a dangerous trend. Mention of America
was apt to put the Herr Doktor in a bad humor or to depress him,
which was even worse. Marie, her hand still on his arm and not
repulsed, became silent.
At a small way station the three Germans in the compartment left
the train. Stewart, lowering a window, bought from a boy on the
platform beer and sausages and a bag of pretzels. As the train
resumed its clanking progress they ate luncheon, drinking the
beer from the bottles and slicing the sausage with a penknife. It
was a joyous trip, a red-letter day in the girl's rather sordid
if not uneventful life. The Herr Doktor was pleased with her. He
liked her hat, and when she flushed with pleasure demanded proof
that she was not rouged. Proof was forthcoming. She rubbed her
cheeks vigorously with a handkerchief and produced in triumph its
"Thou suspicious one!" she pouted. "I must take off the skin to
assure thee! When the Herr Doktor says no rouge, I use none."
"You're a good child." He stooped over and kissed one scarlet
cheek and then being very comfortable and the beer having made
him drowsy, he put his head in her lap and slept.
When he awakened they were still higher. The snow-peak towered
above and the valleys were dizzying! Semmering was getting near.
They were frequently in darkness; and between the tunnels were
long lines of granite avalanche sheds. The little passage of the
car was full of tourists looking down.
"We are very close, I am sure," an American girl was saying just
outside the doorway. "See, isn't that the Kurhaus? There, it is
The tourists in the passage were Americans and the girl who had
spoken was young and attractive. Stewart noticed them for the
first time and moved to a more decorous distance from Marie.
Marie Jedlicka took her cue and lapsed into silence, but her
thoughts were busy. Perhaps this girl was going to Semmering also
and the Herr Doktor would meet her. But that was foolish! There
were other resorts besides Semmering, and in the little villa to
which they went there would be no Americans. It was childish to
worry about a girl whose back and profile only she had seen. Also
profiles were deceptive; there was the matter of the ears.
Marie's ears were small and set close to her head. If the
American Fraulein's ears stuck out or her face were only short
and wide! But no. The American Fraulein turned and glanced once
swiftly into the compartment. She was quite lovely.
Stewart thought so, too. He got up with a great show of
stretching and yawning and lounged into the passage. He did not
speak to the girl; Marie noted that with some comfort. But
shortly after she saw him conversing easily with a male member of
the party. Her heart sank again. Life was moving very fast for
Marie Jedlicka that afternoon on the train.
Stewart was duly presented to the party of Americans and offered
his own cards, bowing from the waist and clicking his heels
together, a German custom he had picked up. The girl was
impressed; Marie saw that. When they drew into the station at
Semmering Stewart helped the American party off first and then
came back for Marie. Less keen eyes than the little Austrian's
would have seen his nervous anxiety to escape attention, once
they were out of the train and moving toward the gate of the
station. He stopped to light a cigarette, he put down the
hand-luggage and picked it up again, as though it weighed
heavily, whereas it was both small and light. He loitered through
the gate and paused to exchange a word with the gateman.
The result was, of course, that the Americans were in a sleigh
and well up the mountainside before Stewart and Marie were seated
side by side in a straw-lined sledge, their luggage about them, a
robe over their knees, and a noisy driver high above them on the
driving-seat. Stewart spoke to her then, the first time for half
Marie found some comfort. The villas at Semmering were scattered
wide over the mountain breast, set in dense clumps of evergreens,
hidden from the roads and from each other by trees and shrubbery
separated by valleys. One might live in one part of Semmering for
a month and never suspect the existence of other parts, or wander
over steep roads and paths for days and never pass twice over the
same one. The Herr Doktor might not see the American girl
again--and if he did! Did he not see American girls wherever he
The sleigh climbed on. It seemed they would never stop climbing.
Below in the valley twilight already reigned, a twilight of blue
shadows, of cows with bells wandering home over frosty fields, of
houses with dark faces that opened an eye of lamplight as one
Across the valley and far above--Marie pointed without words. Her
small heart was very full. Greater than she had ever dreamed it,
steeper, more beautiful, more deadly, and crowned with its sunset
hue of rose was the Rax. Even Stewart lost his look of irritation
as he gazed with her. He reached over and covered both her hands
with his large one under the robe.
The sleigh climbed steadily. Marie Jedlicka, in a sort of
ecstasy, leaned back and watched the mountain; its crown faded
from rose to gold, from gold to purple with a thread of black.
There was a shadow on the side that looked like a cross. Marie
stopped the sleigh at a wayside shrine, and getting out knelt to
say a prayer for the travelers who had died on the Rax. They had
taken a room at a small villa where board was cheap, and where
the guests were usually Germans of the thriftier sort from
Bavaria. Both the season and the modest character of the
establishment promised them quiet and seclusion.
To Marie the house seemed the epitome of elegance, even luxury.
It clung to a steep hillside. Their room, on the third floor,
looked out from the back of the building over the valley, which
fell away almost sheer from beneath their windows. A tiny balcony
outside, with access to it by a door from the bedroom, looked far
down on the tops of tall pines. It made Marie dizzy.
She was cheerful again and busy. The American trunk was to be
unpacked and the Herr Doktor's things put away, his shoes in
rows, as he liked them, and his shaving materials laid out on the
washstand. Then there was a new dress to put on, that she might
do him credit at supper.
Stewart's bad humor had returned. He complained of the room and
the draft under the balcony door; the light was wrong for
shaving. But the truth came out at last and found Marie not
"The fact is," he said, "I'm not going to eat with you to-night,
dear. I'm going to the hotel."
"With the Americans?"
"Yes. I know a chap who went to college with the brother--with
the young man you saw."
Marie glanced down at her gala toilet. Then she began slowly to
take off the dress, reaching behind her for a hook he had just
fastened and fighting back tears as she struggled with it.
"Now, remember, Marie, I will have no sulking."
"I am not sulking."
"Why should you change your clothes?"
"Because the dress was for you. If you are not here I do not wish
to wear it."
Stewart went out in a bad humor, which left him before he had
walked for five minutes in the clear mountain air. At the hotel
he found the party waiting for him, the women in evening gowns.
The girl, whose name was Anita, was bewitching in pale green.
That was a memorable night for Walter Stewart, with his own kind
once more--a perfect dinner, brisk and clever conversation,
enlivened by a bit of sweet champagne, an hour or two on the
terrace afterward with the women in furs, and stars making a
jeweled crown for the Rax.
He entirely forgot Marie until he returned to the villa and
opening the door of the room found her missing.
She had not gone far. At the sound of his steps she moved on the
balcony and came in slowly. She was pale and pinched with cold,
but she was wise with the wisdom of her kind. She smiled.
"Didst thou have a fine evening?"
"I am sorry if I was unpleasant. I was tired, now I am rested."
"Good, little Marie!"
The card in the American Doctors' Club brought a response
finally. It was just in time. Harmony's funds were low, and the
Frau Professor Bergmeister had gone to St. Moritz for the winter.
She regretted the English lessons, but there were always English
at St. Moritz and it cost nothing to talk with them. Before she
left she made Harmony a present. "For Christmas," she explained.
It was a glass pin-tray, decorated beneath with labels from the
Herr Professor's cigars and in the center a picture of the
The response came in this wise. Harmony struggling home against
an east wind and holding the pin-tray and her violin case, opened
the old garden gate by the simple expedient of leaning against
it. It flew back violently, almost overthrowing a stout woman in
process of egress down the walk. The stout woman was Mrs. Boyer,
clad as usual in the best broadcloth and wearing her old sable
cape, made over according to her oldest daughter's ideas into a
staid stole and muff. The muff lay on the path now and Mrs. Boyer
was gasping for breath.
"I'm so sorry!" Harmony exclaimed. "It was stupid of me; but the
wind--Is this your muff?"
Mrs. Boyer took the muff coldly. From its depths she proceeded to
extract a handkerchief and with the handkerchief she brushed down
the broadcloth. Harmony stood apologetically by. It is
explanatory of Mrs. Boyer's face, attitude, and costume that the
girl addressed her in English.
"I backed in," she explained. "So few people come, and no
Mrs. Boyer, having finished her brushing and responded to this
humble apology in her own tongue, condescended to look at
"It really is no matter," she said, still coolly but with
indications of thawing. "I am only glad it did not strike my
nose. I dare say it would have, but I was looking up to see if it
were going to snow." Here she saw the violin case and became
"There was a card in the Doctors' Club, and I called--" She
"I am Miss Wells. The card is mine."
"One of the women here has a small boy who wishes to take violin
lessons and I offered to come. The mother is very busy."
"I see. Will you come in? I can make you a cup of tea and we can
talk about it."
Mrs. Boyer was very willing, although she had doubts about the
tea. She had had no good tea since she had left England, and was
inclined to suspect all of it.
They went in together, Harmony chatting gayly as she ran ahead,
explaining this bit of the old staircase, that walled-up door,
here an ancient bit of furniture not considered worthy of
salvage, there a closed and locked room, home of ghosts and
legends. To Harmony this elderly woman, climbing slowly behind
her, was a bit of home. There had been many such in her life;
women no longer young, friends of her mother's who were friends
of hers; women to whom she had been wont to pay the courtesy of a
potted hyacinth at Easter or a wreath at Christmas or a bit of
custard during an illness. She had missed them all cruelly, as
she had missed many things--her mother, her church, her small
gayeties. She had thought at first that Frau Professor
Bergmeister might allay her longing for these comfortable,
middle-aged, placid-eyed friends of hers. But the Frau Professor
Bergmeister had proved to be a frivolous and garrulous old woman,
who substituted ease for comfort, and who burned a candle on the
name-day of her first husband while her second was safely out of
So it was with something of excitement that Harmony led the way
up the stairs and into the salon of Maria Theresa.
Peter was there. He was sitting with his back to the door, busily
engaged in polishing the horns of the deer. Whatever scruples
Harmony had had about the horns, Peter had none whatever, save to
get them safely out of the place and to the hospital. So Peter
was polishing the horns. Harmony had not expected to find him
home, and paused, rather startled.
"Oh, I didn't know you were home."
Peter spoke without turning.
"Try to bear up under it," he said. "I'm home and hungry,
Peter turned at that and rose instantly. It was rather dark in
the salon and he did not immediately recognize Mrs. Boyer. But
that keen-eyed lady had known him before he turned, had taken in
the domesticity of the scene and Peter's part in it, and had
drawn the swift conclusion of the pure of heart.
"I'll come again," she said hurriedly. "I--I must really get
home. Dr. Boyer will be there, and wondering--"
"Mrs. Boyer!" Peter knew her.
"Oh, Dr. Byrne, isn't it? How unexpected to find you here!"
"I live here."
"So I surmised."
"Three of us," said Peter. "You know Anna Gates, don't you?"
"I'm afraid not. Really I--"
Peter was determined to explain. His very eagerness was almost
"She and Miss Wells are keeping house here and have kindly taken
me in as a boarder. Please sit down."
Harmony found nothing strange in the situation and was frankly
puzzled at Peter. The fact that there was anything unusual in two
single women and one unmarried man, unrelated and comparative
strangers, setting up housekeeping together had never occurred to
her. Many a single woman whom she knew at home took a gentleman
into the house as a roomer, and thereafter referred to him as
"he" and spent hours airing the curtains of smoke and even, as
"he" became a member of the family, in sewing on his buttons.
There was nothing indecorous about such an arrangement; merely a
concession to economic pressure.
She made tea, taking off her jacket and gloves to do it, but
bustling about cheerfully, with her hat rather awry and her
cheeks flushed with excitement and hope. Just now, when the Frau
Professor had gone, the prospect of a music pupil meant
everything. An American child, too! Fond as Harmony was of
children, the sedate and dignified youngsters who walked the
parks daily with a governess, or sat with folded hands and fixed
eyes through hours of heavy music at the opera, rather daunted
her. They were never alone, those Austrian children--always under
surveillance, always restrained, always prepared to kiss the
hand of whatever relative might be near and to take themselves of
to anywhere so it were somewhere else.
"I am so glad you are going to talk to me about an American
child," said Harmony, bringing in the tea.
But Mrs. Boyer was not so sure she was going to talk about the
American child. She was not sure of anything, except that the
household looked most irregular, and that Peter Byrne was trying
to cover a difficult situation with much conversation. He was
almost glib, was Peter. The tea was good; that was one thing.
She sat back with her muff on her knee, having refused the
concession of putting it on a chair as savoring too much of
acceptance if not approval, and sipped her tea out of a spoon as
becomes a tea-lover. Peter, who loathed tea, lounged about the
room, clearly in the way, but fearful to leave Harmony alone with
her. She was quite likely, at the first opportunity, to read her
a lesson on the conventions, if nothing worse; to upset the
delicate balance of the little household he was guarding. So he
stayed, praying for Anna to come and bear out his story, while
Harmony toyed with her spoon and waited for some mention of the
lessons. None came. Mrs. Boyer, having finished her tea, rose and
put down her cup.
"That was very refreshing," she said. "Where shall I find the
street-car? I walked out, but it is late."
"I'll take you to the car." Peter picked up his old hat.
"Thank you. I am always lost in this wretched town. I give the
conductors double tips to put me down where I want to go; but how
can they when it is the wrong car?" She bowed to Harmony without
shaking hands. "Thank you for the tea. It was really good. Where
do you get it?"
"There is a tea-shop a door or two from the Grand Hotel."
"I must remember that. Thank you again. Good-bye."
Not a word about the lessons or the American child!
"You said something about my card in the Doctors' Club--"
Something wistful in the girl's eyes caught and held Mrs. Boyer.
After all she was the mother of daughters. She held out her hand
and her voice was not so hard.
"That will have to wait until another time. I have made a social
visit and we'll not spoil it with business."
"I really think the boy's mother must attend to that herself. But
I shall tell her where to find you, and"--here she glanced at
Peter--"all about it."
"Thank you," said Harmony gratefully.
Peter had no finesse. He escorted Mrs. Boyer across the yard and
through the gate with hardly a word. With the gate closed behind
them he turned and faced her:--
"You are going away with a wrong impression, Mrs. Boyer."
Mrs. Boyer had been thinking hard as she crossed the yard. The
result was a resolution to give Peter a piece of her mind. She
drew her ample proportions into a dignity that was almost
"I--I can understand why you think as you do. It is quite without
"I am glad of that." There was no conviction in her voice.
"Of course," went on Peter, humbling himself for Harmony's sake,
"I suppose it has been rather unconventional, but Dr. Gates is
not a young woman by any means, and she takes very good care of
Miss Wells. There were reasons why this seemed the best thing to
do. Miss Wells was alone and--"
"There is a Dr. Gates?"
"Of course. If you will come back and wait she'll be along very
Mrs. Boyer was convinced and defrauded in one breath; convinced
that there might be a Dr. Gates, but equally convinced that the
situation was anomalous and certainly suspicious; defrauded in
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