The Street of Seven Stars
Mary Roberts Rinehart
Part 4 out of 6
opening the door he had decided what to do.
McLean stepped inside. He was smaller than Peter, not so much
shorter as slenderer. Even Peter winced before the look in his
"Where is she?"
"In the kitchen, I think. Come into the salon."
McLean flung off his coat. Peter closed the door behind him and
stood just inside. He had his pipe as usual. "I came to see her,
not you, Byrne."
"So I gather. I'll let you see her, of course, but don't you want
to see me first?"
"I want to take her away from here."
"Why? Are you better able to care for her than I am?"
McLean stood rigid. He had thrust his clenched hands into his
"You're a scoundrel, Byrne," he said steadily. "Why didn't you
tell me this this afternoon?"
"Because I knew if I did you'd do just what you are doing."
"Are you going to keep her here?"
Peter changed color at the thrust, but he kept himself in hand.
"I'm not keeping her here," he said patiently. "I'm doing the
best I can under the circumstances."
"Then your best is pretty bad."
"Perhaps. If you would try to remember the circumstances,
McLean,--that the girl has no place else to go, practically no
money, and that I--"
"I remember one circumstance, that you are living here alone with
her and that you're crazy in love with her."
"That has nothing to do with you. As long as I treat her--"
"Will you be good enough to let me finish what I am trying to
say? She's safe with me. When I say that I mean it. She will not
go away from here with you or with any one else if I can prevent
it. And if you care enough about her to try to keep her happy
you'll not let her know you have been here. I've got a woman
coming to take Anna's place. That ought to satisfy you."
"She'll not come. Mrs. Boyer has been talking to her. Inside of
an hour the whole club will have it--every American in Vienna
will know about it in a day or so. I tell you, Byrne, you're
doing an awful thing."
Peter drew a long breath. He had had his bad half-hour before
McLean came; had had to stand by, wordless, and see Harmony
trying to smile, see her dragging about, languid and white, see
her tragic attempts to greet him on the old familiar footing.
Through it all he had been sustained by the thought that a day or
two days would see the old footing reestablished, another woman
in the house, life again worth the living and Harmony smiling up
frankly into his eyes. Now this hope had departed.
"You can't keep me from seeing her, you know," McLean persisted.
"I've got to put this thing to her. She's got to choose."
"What alternative have you to suggest?"
"I'd marry her if she'd have me."
After all Peter had expected that. And, if she cared for the boy
wouldn't that be best for her? What had he to offer against that?
He couldn't marry. He could only offer her shelter, against
everything else. Even then he did not dislike McLean. He was a
man, every slender inch of him, this boy musician. Peter's heart
sank, but he put down his pipe and turned to the door.
"I'll call her," he said. "But, since this concerns me very
vitally, I should like to be here while you put the thing to her.
After that if you like--"
He called Harmony. She had given Jimmy his supper and was
carrying out a tray that seemed hardly touched.
"He won't eat to-night," she said miserably. "Peter, if he stops
eating, what can we do? He is so weak!"
Peter, took the tray from her gently.
"Harry dear," he said, "I want you to come into the salon. Some
one wishes to speak to you."
"Yes. Harry, do you remember that evening in the kitchen when--Do
you recall what I promised?"
"You are sure you know what I mean?"
"That's all right, then. McLean wants to see you."
She hesitated, looking up at him.
"McLean? You look so grave, Peter. What is it?"
"He will tell you. Nothing alarming."
Peter gave McLean a minute alone after all, while he carried the
tray to the kitchen. He had no desire to play watchdog over the
girl, he told himself savagely; only to keep himself straight
with her and to save her from McLean's impetuosity. He even
waited in the kitchen to fill and light his pipe.
McLean had worked himself into a very fair passion. He was
intense, almost theatrical, as he stood with folded arms waiting
for Harmony. So entirely did the girl fill his existence that he
forgot, or did not care to remember, how short a time he had
known her. As Harmony she dominated his life and his thoughts; as
Harmony he addressed her when, rather startled, she entered the
salon and stood just inside the closed door.
"Peter said you wanted to speak to me."
McLean groaned. "Peter!" he said. "It is always Peter. Look here,
Harmony, you cannot stay here."
"It is only for a few hours. To-morrow some one is coming. And,
anyhow, Peter is going to Semmering. We know it is unusual, but
what can we do?"
"Unusual! It's--it's damnable. It's the appearance of the thing,
don't you see that?"
"I think it is rather silly to talk of appearance when there is
no one to care. And how can I leave? Jimmy needs me all the
"That's another idiocy of Peter's. What does he mean by putting
you in this position?"
"I am one of Peter's idiocies."
Peter entered on that. He took in the situation with a glance,
and Harmony turned to him; but if she had expected Peter to
support her, she was disappointed. Whatever decision she was to
make must be her own, in Peter's troubled mind. He crossed the
room and stood at one of the windows, looking out, a passive
participant in the scene.
The day had been a trying one for Harmony. What she chose to
consider Peter's defection was a fresh stab. She glanced from
McLean, flushed and excited, to Peter's impassive back. Then she
sat down, rather limp, and threw out her hands helplessly.
"What am I to do?" she demanded. "Every one comes with cruel
things to say, but no one tells me what to do."
Peter turned away from the window.
"You can leave here," ventured McLean. "That's the first thing.
"Yes, and after that, what?"
McLean glanced at Peter. Then he took a step toward the girl.
"You could marry me, Harmony," he said unsteadily. "I hadn't
expected to tell you so soon, or before a third person." He
faltered before Harmony's eyes, full of bewilderment. "I'd be
very happy if you--if you could see it that way. I care a great
deal, you see."
It seemed hours to Peter before she made any reply, and that her
voice came from miles away.
"Is it really as bad as that?" she asked. "Have I made such a
mess of things that some one, either you or Peter, must marry me
to straighten things out? I don't want to marry any one. Do I
"Certainly you don't have to," said Peter. There was relief in
his voice, relief and also something of exultation. "McLean, you
mean well, but marriage isn't the solution. We were getting along
all right until our friends stepped in. Let Mrs. Boyer howl all
over the colony; there will be one sensible woman somewhere to
come and be comfortable here with us. In the interval we'll
manage, unless Harmony is afraid. In that case--"
"Afraid of what?"
The two men exchanged glances, McLean helpless, Peter triumphant.
"I do not care what Mrs. Boyer says, at least not much. And I am
not afraid of anything else at all."
McLean picked up his overcoat.
"At least," he appealed to Peter, "you'll come over to my place?"
"No!" said Peter.
McLean made a final appeal to Harmony.
"If this gets out," he said, "you are going to regret it all your
"I shall have nothing to regret," she retorted proudly.
Had Peter not been there McLean would have made a better case,
would have pleaded with her, would have made less of a situation
that roused her resentment and more of his love for her. He was
very hard hit, very young. He was almost hysterical with rage and
helplessness; he wanted to slap her, to take her in his arms. He
writhed under the restraint of Peter's steady eyes.
He got to the door and turned, furious.
"Then it's up to you," he flung at Peter. "You're old enough to
know better; she isn't. And don't look so damned superior. You're
human, like the rest of us. And if any harm comes to her--"
Here unexpectedly Peter held out his hand, and after a sheepish
moment McLean took it.
"Good-night, old man," said Peter. "And--don't be an ass."
As was Peter's way, the words meant little, the tone much. McLean
knew what in his heart he had known all along--that the girl was
safe enough; that all that was to fear was the gossip of
scandal-lovers. He took Peter's hand, and then going to Harmony
stood before her very erect.
"I suppose I've said too much; I always do," he said contritely.
"But you know the reason. Don't forget the reason, will you?"
"I am only sorry."
He bent over and kissed her hand lingeringly. It was a tragic
moment for him, poor lad! He turned and went blindly out the door
and down the dark stone staircase. It was rather anticlimax,
after all that, to have Peter discover he had gone without his
hat and toss it down to him a flight below.
All the frankness had gone out of the relationship between
Harmony and Peter. They made painful efforts at ease, talked
during the meal of careful abstractions, such as Jimmy, and
Peter's proposed trip to Semmering, avoided each other's eyes,
ate little or nothing. Once when Harmony passed Peter his
coffee-cup their fingers touched, and between them they dropped
the cup. Harmony was flushed and pallid by turns, Peter wretched
Out of the darkness came one ray of light. Stewart had wired from
Semmering, urging Peter to come. He would be away for two days.
In two days much might happen; Dr. Jennings might come or some
one else. In two days some of the restraint would have worn off.
Things would never be the same, but they would be forty-eight
Peter spent the early part of the evening with Jimmy, reading
aloud to him. After the child had dropped to sleep he packed a
valise for the next day's journey and counted out into an
envelope half of the money he had with him. This he labeled
"Household Expenses" and set it up on his table, leaning against
his collar-box. There was no sign of Harmony about. The salon was
dark except for the study lamp turned down.
Peter was restless. He put on his shabby dressing-gown and worn
slippers and wandered about. The Portier had brought coal to the
landing; Peter carried it in. He inspected the medicine bottles
on Jimmy's stand and wrote full directions for every emergency he
could imagine. Then, finding it still only nine o'clock, he
turned up the lamp in the salon and wrote an exciting letter from
Jimmy's father, in which a lost lamb, wandering on the
mountain-side, had been picked up by an avalanche and carried
down into the fold and the arms of the shepherd. And because he
stood so in loco parentis, and because it seemed so inevitable
that before long Jimmy would be in the arms of the Shepherd, and,
of course, because it had been a trying day all through, Peter's
lips were none too steady as he folded up the letter.
The fire was dead in the stove; Peter put out the salon lamp and
closed the shutters. In the warm darkness he put out his hand to
feel his way through the room. It touched a little sweater coat
of Harmony's, hanging over the back of a chair. Peter picked it
up in a very passion of tenderness and held it to him.
"Little girl!" he choked. "My little girl! God help me!"
He was rather ashamed, considerably startled. It alarmed him to
find that the mere unexpected touch of a familiar garment could
rouse such a storm in him. It made him pause. He put down the
coat and pulled himself up sharply. McLean was right; he was only
human stuff, very poor human stuff. He put the little coat down
hastily, only to lift it again gently to his lips.
"Good-night, dear," he whispered. "Goodnight, Harmony."
Frau Schwarz had had two visitors between the hours of coffee and
supper that day. The reason of their call proved to be neither
rooms nor pension. They came to make inquiries.
The Frau Schwarz made this out at last, and sat down on the edge
of the bed in the room that had once been Peter's and that still
lacked an occupant.
Mrs. Boyer had no German; Dr. Jennings very little and that
chiefly medical. There is, however, a sort of code that answers
instead of language frequently, when two or three women of later
middle life are gathered together, a code born of mutual
understanding, mutual disillusion, mutual distrust, a language of
outspread hands, raised eyebrows, portentous shakings of the
head. Frau Schwarz, on the edge of Peter's tub-shaped bed, needed
no English to convey the fact that Peter was a bad lot. Not that
she resorted only to the sign language.
"The women were also wicked," she said. "Of a man what does one
expect? But of a woman! And the younger one looked--Herr Gott!
She had the eyes of a saint! The little Georgiev was mad for her.
When the three of them left, disgraced, as one may say, he came
to me, he threatened me. The Herr Schwarz, God rest his soul, was
a violent man, but never spoke he so to me!"
"She says," interpreted Dr. Jennings, "that they were a bad
lot--that the younger one made eyes at the Herr Schwarz!"
Mrs. Boyer drew her ancient sables about her and put a tremulous
hand on the other woman's arm.
"What an escape for you!" she said. "If you had gone there to
live and then found the establishment--queer!"
From the kitchen of the pension, Olga was listening, an ear to
the door. Behind her, also listening, but less advantageously,
"American ladies!" said Olga. "Two, old and fat."
"More hot water!" growled Katrina. "Why do not the Americans stay
in their own country, where the water, I have learned, comes hot
from the earth."
Olga, bending forward, opened the door a crack wider.
"Sh! They do not come for rooms. They inquire for the Herr Doktor
Byrne and the others!"
"Of a certainty."
"Then let me to the door!"
"A moment. She tells them everything and more. She says--how she
is wicked, Katrina! She says the Fraulein Harmony was not good,
that she sent them all away. Here, take the door!"
Thus it happened that Dr. Jennings and Mrs. Boyer, having shaken
off the dust of a pension that had once harbored three
malefactors, and having retired Peter and Anna and Harmony into
the limbo of things best forgotten or ignored, found themselves,
at the corner, confronted by a slovenly girl in heelless slippers
and wearing a knitted shawl over her head. "The Frau Schwarz is
wrong," cried Olga passionately in Vienna dialect. "They were
good, all of them!"
"What in the world--"
"And, please, tell me where lives the Fraulein Harmony. The Herr
Georgiev eats not nor sleeps that he cannot find her."
Dr. Jennings was puzzled.
"She wishes to know where the girl lives," she interpreted to
Mrs. Boyer. "A man wishes to know."
"Naturally!" said Mrs. Boyer. "Well, don't tell her."
Olga gathered from the tone rather than the words that she was
not to be told. She burst into a despairing appeal in which the
Herr Georgiev, Peter, a necktie Peter had forgotten, open
windows, and hot water were inextricably confused. Dr. Jennings
listened, then waved her back with a gesture.
"She says," she interpreted as they walked on, "that Dr.
Peter--by which I suppose she means Dr. Byrne--has left a
necktie, and that she'll be in hot water if she does not return
Mrs. Boyer sniffed.
"In love with him, probably, like the others!" she said.
Peter went to Semmering the next morning, tiptoeing out very
early and without breakfast. He went in to cover Jimmy, lying
diagonally across his small bed amid a riot of tossed blankets.
The communicating door into Harmony's room was open. Peter kept
his eyes carefully from it, but his ears were less under control.
He could hear her soft breathing. There were days coming when
Peter would stand where he stood then and listen, and find only
He tore himself away at last, closing the outer door carefully
behind him and lighting a match to find his way down the
staircase. The Portier was not awake. Peter had to rouse him, and
to stand by while he donned the trousers which he deemed
necessary to the dignity of his position before he opened the
Reluctant as he had been to go, the change was good for Peter.
The dawn grew rosy, promised sunshine, fulfilled its promise. The
hurrying crowds at the depot interested him: he enjoyed his
coffee, taken from a bare table in the station. The horizontal
morning sunlight, shining in through marvelously clean windows,
warmed the marble of the floor, made black shadows beside the
heaps of hand luggage everywhere, turned into gold the hair of a
toddling baby venturing on a tour of discovery. The same morning
light, alas! revealed to Peter a break across the toe of one of
his shoes. Peter sighed, then smiled. The baby was catching at
the bits of dust that floated in the sunshine.
Suddenly a great wave of happiness overwhelmed Peter. It was a
passing thing, born of nothing, but for the instant that it
lasted Peter was a king. Everything was well. The world was his
oyster. Life was his, to make it what he would--youth and hope
and joy. Under the beatific influence he expanded, grew, almost
shone. Youth and hope and joy--that cometh in the morning.
The ecstasy passed away, but without reaction. Peter no longer
shone; he still glowed. He picked up the golden-haired baby and
hugged it. He hunted out a beggar he had passed and gave him five
Hellers. He helped a suspicious old lady with an oilcloth-covered
bundle; he called the guard on the train "son" and forced a grin
out of that dignitary.
Peter traveled third-class, which was quite comfortable, and no
bother about "Nicht Rauchen" signs. His unreasonable cheerfulness
persisted as far as Gloggnitz. There, with the increasing
ruggedness of the scenery and his first view of the Raxalpe, came
recollection of the urgency of Stewart's last message, of Marie
Jedlicka, of the sordid little tragedy that awaited him at the
end of his journey.
Peter sobered. Life was rather a mess, after all, he reflected.
Love was a blessing, but it was also a curse. After that he sat
back in his corner and let the mountain scenery take care of
itself, while he recalled the look he had surprised once or twice
in Marie's eyes when she looked at Stewart. It was sad, pitiful.
Marie was a clever little thing. If only she'd had a chance!--
Why wasn't he rich enough to help the ones who needed help. Marie
could start again in America, with no one the wiser, and make her
"Smart as the devil, these Austrian girls!" Peter reflected.
"Poor little guttersnipe!"
The weather was beautiful. The sleet of the previous day in
Vienna had been a deep snowfall on the mountains. The Schwarza
was frozen, the castle of Liechtenstein was gray against a white
world. A little pilgrimage church far below seemed snowed in
against the faithful. The third-class compartment filled with
noisy skiing parties. The old woman opened her oilcloth bundle,
and taking a cat out of a box inside fed it a sausage.
Up and up, past the Weinzettelwand and the Station Breitenstein,
across the highest viaduct, the Kalte Rinne, and so at last to
The glow had died at last for Peter. He did not like his errand,
was very vague, indeed, as to just what that errand might be. He
was stiff and rather cold. Also he thought the cat might stifle
in the oilcloth, but the old woman too clearly distrusted him to
make it possible to interfere. Anyhow, he did not know the German
for either cat or oilcloth.
He had wired Stewart; but the latter was not at the station. This
made him vaguely uneasy, he hardly knew why. He did not know
Stewart well enough to know whether he was punctilious in such
matters or not: as a matter of fact he hardly knew him at all. It
was because he had appealed to him that Peter was there, it being
only necessary to Peter to be needed, and he was anywhere.
The Pension Waldheim was well up the mountains. He shouldered his
valise and started up--first long flights of steps through the
pines, then a steep road. Peter climbed easily. Here and there he
met groups coming down, men that he thought probably American,
pretty women in "tams" and sweaters. He watched for Marie, but
there was no sign of her.
He was half an hour, perhaps, in reaching the Waldheim. As he
turned in at the gate he noticed a sledge, with a dozen people
following it, coming toward him. It was a singularly silent
party. Peter, with his hand on the door-knocker, watched its
approach with some curiosity.
It stopped, and the men who had been following closed up round
it. Even then Peter did not understand. He did not understand
until he saw Stewart, limp and unconscious, lifted out of the
straw and carried toward him.
Suicide may be moral cowardice; but it requires physical bravery.
And Marie was not brave. The balcony had attracted her: it opened
possibilities of escape, of unceasing regret and repentance for
Stewart, of publicity that would mean an end to the situation.
But every inch of her soul was craven at the thought. She crept
out often and looked down, and as often drew back, shuddering. To
fall down, down on to the tree tops, to be dropped from branch to
branch, a broken thing, and perhaps even not yet dead--that was
the unthinkable thing, to live for a time and suffer!
Stewart was not ignorant of all that went on in her mind. She had
threatened him with the balcony, just as, earlier in the winter,
it had been a window-ledge with which she had frightened him. But
there was this difference, whereas before he had drawn her back
from the window and clapped her into sanity, now he let her
alone. At the end of one of their quarrels she had flung out on
to the balcony, and then had watched him through the opening in
the shutter. He had lighted a cigarette!
Stewart spent every daylight hour at the hotel, or walking over
the mountain roads, seldom alone with Anita, but always near her.
He left Marie sulking or sewing, as the case might be. He
returned in the evening to find her still sulking, still sewing.
But Marie did not sulk all day, or sew. She too was out, never
far from Stewart, always watching. Many times she escaped
discovery only by a miracle, as when she stooped behind an
oxcart, pretending to tie her shoe, or once when they all met
face to face, and although she lowered her veil Stewart must have
known her instantly had he not been so intent on helping Anita
over a slippery gutter.
She planned a dozen forms of revenge and found them impossible of
execution. Stewart himself was frightfully unhappy. For the first
time in his life he was really in love, with all the humility of
the condition. There were days when he would not touch Anita's
hand, when he hardly spoke, when the girl herself would have been
outraged at his conduct had she not now and then caught him
watching her, seen the wretchedness in his eyes.
The form of Marie's revenge was unpremeditated, after all. The
light mountain snow was augmented by a storm; roads were ploughed
through early in the morning, leaving great banks on either side.
Sleigh-bells were everywhere. Coasting parties made the steep
roads a menace to the pedestrian; every up-climbing sleigh
carried behind it a string of sleds, going back to the
Below the hotel was the Serpentine Coast, a long and dangerous
course, full of high-banked curves, of sudden descents, of long
straightaway dashes through the woodland. Two miles, perhaps
three, it wound its tortuous way down the mountain. Up by the
highroad to the crest again, only a mile or less. Thus it
happened that the track was always clear, except for speeding
sleds. No coasters, dragging sleds back up the slide, interfered.
The track was crowded. Every minute a sled set out, sped down the
straightaway, dipped, turned, disappeared. A dozen would be lined
up, waiting for the interval and the signal. And here, watching
from the porch of the church, in the very shadow of the saints,
Marie found her revenge.
Stewart had given her a little wrist watch. Stewart and Anita
were twelfth in line. By the watch, then, twelve minutes down the
mountain-side, straight down through the trees to a curve that
Marie knew well, a bad curve, only to be taken by running well up
on the snowbank. Beyond the snowbank there was a drop, fifteen
feet, perhaps more, into the yard of a Russian villa. Stewart and
Anita were twelfth; a man in a green stocking-cap was eleventh.
The hillside was steep. Marie negotiated it by running from tree
to tree, catching herself, steadying for a second, then down
again. Once she fell and rolled a little distance. There was no
time to think; perhaps had she thought she would have weakened.
She had no real courage, only desperation.
As she reached the track the man in the green stocking-cap was in
sight. A minute and a half she had then, not more. She looked
about her hastily. A stone might serve her purpose, almost
anything that would throw the sled out of its course. She saw a
tree branch just above the track and dragged at it frantically.
Some one was shouting at her from an upper window of the Russian
villa. She did not hear. Stewart and Anita had made the curve
above and were coming down at frantic speed. Marie stood, her
back to the oncoming rush of the sled, swaying slightly. When she
could hear the singing of the runners she stooped and slid the
tree branch out against the track.
She had acted almost by instinct, but with devilish skill. The
sled swung to one side up the snowbank, and launched itself into
the air. Marie heard the thud and the silence that followed it.
Then she turned and scuttled like a hunted thing up the mountain
Peter put in a bad day. Marie was not about, could not be
located. Stewart, suffering from concussion, lay insensible all
day and all of the night. Peter could find no fracture, but felt
it wise to get another opinion. In the afternoon he sent for a
doctor from the Kurhaus and learned for the first time that Anita
had also been hurt--a broken arm. "Not serious," said the
Kurhaus man. "She is brave, very brave, the young woman. I
believe they are engaged?" Peter said he did not know and
thought very hard. Where was Marie? Not gone surely. Here about
him lay all her belongings, even her purse.
Toward evening Stewart showed some improvement. He was not
conscious, but he swallowed better and began to toss about.
Peter, who had had a long day and very little sleep the night
before, began to look jaded. He would have sent for a nurse from
the Kurhaus, but he doubted Stewart's ability to stand any extra
financial strain, and Peter could not help any.
The time for supper passed, and no Marie.
The landlady sent up a tray to Peter, stewed meat and potatoes, a
salad, coffee. Peter sat in a corner with his back to Stewart and
ate ravenously. He had had nothing since the morning's coffee.
After that he sat down again by the bed to watch. There was
little to do but watch.
The meal had made him drowsy. He thought of his pipe. Perhaps if
he got some fresh air and a smoke! He remembered the balcony.
It was there on the balcony that he found Marie, a cowering thing
that pushed his hands away when he would have caught her and
broke into passionate crying.
"I cannot! I cannot!"
"Cannot what?" demanded Peter gently, watching her. So near was
the balcony rail!
"Throw myself over. I've tried, Peter. I cannot!"
"I should think not!" said Peter sternly. "Just now when we need
you, too! Come in and don't be a foolish child."
But Marie would not go in. She held back, clinging tight to
Peter's big hand, moaning out in the dialect of the people that
always confused him her story of the day, of what she had done,
of watching Stewart brought back, of stealing into the house and
through an adjacent room to the balcony, of her desperation and
She was numb with cold, exhaustion, and hunger, quite childish,
helpless. Peter stood out on the balcony with his arm round her,
while the night wind beat about them, and pondered what was best
to do. He thought she might come in and care for Stewart, at
least, until he was conscious. He could get her some supper.
"How can I?" she asked. "I was seen. They are searching for me
now. Oh, Peter! Peter!"
"Who is searching for you? Who saw you?"
"The people in the Russian villa."
"Did they see your face?"
"I wore a veil. I think not."
"Then come in and change your clothes. There is a train down at
midnight. You can take it."
"I have no money."
This raised a delicate question. Marie absolutely refused to take
Stewart's money. She had almost none of her own. And there were
other complications--where was she to go? The family of the
injured girl did not suspect her since they did not know of her
existence. She might get away without trouble. But after that,
Peter pondered this on the balcony, while Marie in the bedroom
was changing her clothing, soaked with a day in the snow. He came
to the inevitable decision, the decision he knew at the beginning
that he was going to make.
"If I could only put it up to Harmony first!" he reflected. "But
she will understand when I tell her. She always understands."
Standing there on the little balcony, with tragedy the thickness
of a pine board beyond him, Peter experienced a bit of the glow
of the morning, as of one who stumbling along in a dark place
puts a hand on a friend.
He went into the room. Stewart was lying very still and breathing
easily. On her knees beside the bed knelt Marie. At Peter's step
she rose and faced him.
"I am leaving him, Peter, for always."
"Good!" said Peter heartily. "Better for you and better for him."
Marie drew a long breath. "The night train," she said listlessly,
"is an express. I had forgotten. It is double fare."
"What of that, little sister?" said Peter. "What is a double fare
when it means life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? And
there will be happiness, little sister."
He put his hand in his pocket.
The Portier was almost happy that morning. For one thing, he had
won honorable mention at the Schubert Society the night before;
for another, that night the Engel was to sing Mignon, and the
Portier had spent his Christmas tips for a ticket. All day long
he had been poring over the score.
"'Kennst du das Land wo die Citronen bluhen?'" he sang with
feeling while he polished the floors. He polished them with his
feet, wearing felt boots for the purpose, and executing in the
doing a sort of ungainly dance--a sprinkle of wax, right foot
forward and back, left foot forward and back, both feet forward
and back in a sort of double shuffle; more wax, more vigorous
polishing, more singing, with longer pauses for breath. "
'Knowest thou the land where the lemon trees bloom?' " he
bellowed--sprinkle of wax, right foot, left foot, any foot at
all. Now and then he took the score from his pocket and pored
over it, humming the air, raising his eyebrows over the high
notes, dropping his chin to the low ones. It was a wonderful
morning. Between greetings to neighbors he sang--a bit of talk, a
bit of song.
"'Kennst du das Land'--Good-morning, sir--the old Rax wears a
crown. It will snow soon. 'Kennst du das Land wo die
Citronen'--Ah, madam the milk Frau, and are the cows frozen up
to-day like the pump? No? Marvelous! Dost thou know that to-night
is Mignon at the Opera, and that the Engel sings? 'Kennst du das
At eleven came Rosa with her husband, the soldier from Salzburg
with one lung. He was having a holiday from his sentry duty at
the hospital, and the one lung seemed to be a libel, for while
the women had coffee together and a bit of mackerel he sang a
very fair bass to the Portier's tenor. Together they pored over
the score, and even on their way to the beer hall hummed together
such bits as they recalled.
On one point they differed. The score was old and soiled with
much thumbing. At one point, destroyed long since, the sentry
sang A sharp: the Portier insisted on A natural. They argued
together over three Steins of beer; the waiter, referred to,
decided for A flat. It was a serious matter to have one's teeth
set, as one may say, for a natural and then to be shocked with an
unexpected half-tone up or down! It destroyed the illusion; it
disappointed; it hurt.
The sentry stuck to the sharp--it was sung so at the Salzburg
opera. The Portier snapped his thumb at the Salzburg opera.
Things were looking serious; they walked back to the locale in
silence. The sentry coughed. Possibly there was something, after
all, in the one-lung rumor.
It was then that the Portier remembered Harmony. She would know;
perhaps she had the score.
Harmony was having a bad morning. She had slept little until
dawn, and Peter's stealthy closing of the outer door had wakened
her by its very caution. After that there had been no more sleep.
She had sat up in bed with her chin in her hands and thought.
In the pitiless dawn, with no Peter to restore her to
cheerfulness, things looked black, indeed. To what had she
fallen, that first one man and then another must propose marriage
to her to save her. To save her from what? From what people
thought, or--each from the other?
Were men so evil that they never trusted each other? McLean had
frankly distrusted Peter, had said so. Or could it be that there
was something about her, something light and frivolous? She had
been frivolous. She always laughed at Peter's foolishnesses.
Perhaps that was it. That was it. They were afraid for her. She
had thrown herself on Peter's hands--almost into his arms. She
had made this situation.
She must get away, of course. If only she had some one to care
for Jimmy until Peter returned! But there was no one. The
Portier's wife was fond of Jimmy, but not skillful. And suppose
he were to wake in the night and call for her and she would not
come. She cried a little over this. After a time she pattered
across the room in her bare feet and got from a bureau drawer the
money she had left. There was not half enough to take her home.
She could write; the little mother might get some for her, but at
infinite cost, infinite humiliation. That would have to be a
final, desperate resort.
She felt a little more cheerful when she had had a cup of coffee.
Jimmy wakened about that time, and she went through the details
of his morning toilet with all the brightness she could
assume--bath blankets, warm bath, toenails, finger-nails, fresh
nightgown, fresh sheets, and--final touch of all--a real barber's
part straight from crown to brow. After that ten minutes under
extra comforters while the room aired.
She hung over the boy that morning in an agony of tenderness--he
was so little, so frail, and she must leave him. Only one thing
sustained her. The boy loved her, but it was Peter he idolized.
When he had Peter he needed nothing else. In some curious process
of his childish mind Peter and Daddy mingled in inextricable
confusion. More than once he had recalled events in the roving
life he and his father had led.
"You remember that, don't you?" he would say.
"Certainly I remember," Peter would reply heartily.
"That evening on the steamer when I ate so many raisins."
"Of course. And were ill."
"Not ill--not that time. But you said I'd make a good pudding!
You remember that, don't you?"
And Peter would recall it all.
Peter would be left. That was the girl's comfort.
She made a beginning at gathering her things together that
morning, while the boy dozed and the white mice scurried about
the little cage. She could not take her trunk, or Peter would
trace it. She would have to carry her belongings, a few at a
time, to wherever she found a room. Then when Peter came back she
could slip away and he would never find her.
At noon came the Portier and the sentry, now no longer friends,
and rang the doorbell. Harmony was rather startled. McLean and
Mrs. Boyer had been her only callers, and she did not wish to see
either of them. But after a second ring she gathered her courage
in her hands and opened the door.
She turned pale when she saw the sentry in his belted blue-gray
tunic and high cap. She thought, of course, that Jimmy had been
traced and that now he would be taken away. If the sentry knew
her, however, he kept his face impassive and merely touched his
cap. The Portier stated their errand. Harmony's face cleared. She
even smiled as the Portier extended to her the thumbed score with
its missing corner. What, after all, does it matter which was
right --whether it was A sharp or A natural? What really matters
is that Harmony, having settled the dispute and clinched the
decision by running over the score for a page or two, turned to
find the Portier, ecstatic eyes upturned, hands folded on paunch,
enjoying a delirium of pleasure, and the sentry nowhere in sight.
He was discovered a moment later in the doorway of Jimmy's room,
where, taciturn as ever, severe, martial, he stood at attention,
shoulders back, arms at his sides, thumbs in. In this position he
was making, with amazing rapidity, a series of hideous grimaces
for the benefit of the little boy in the bed: marvelous faces
they were, in which nose, mouth, and eyes seemed interchangeable,
where features played leapfrog with one another. When all was
over--perhaps when his repertoire was exhausted--the sentry
returned his nose to the center of his face, replaced eyes and
mouth, and wiped the ensemble with a blue cotton handkerchief.
Then, still in silence, he saluted and withdrew, leaving the
youngster enraptured, staring at the doorway.
Harmony had decided the approximate location of her room. In the
higher part of the city, in the sixteenth district, there were
many unpretentious buildings. She had hunted board there and she
knew. It was far from the Stadt, far from the fashionable part of
town, a neighborhood of small shops, of frank indigence. There
surely she could find a room, and perhaps in one of the small
stores what she failed to secure in the larger, a position.
Rosa having taken her soldier away, Harmony secured the Portier's
wife to sit with Jimmy and spent two hours that afternoon looking
about for a room. She succeeded finally in finding one, a small
and wretchedly furnished bedroom, part of the suite of a cheap
dressmaker. The approach was forbidding enough. One entered a
cavelike, cobble-paved court under the building, filled with
wagons, feeding horses, quarrelsome and swearing teamsters. From
the side a stone staircase took off and led, twisting from one
landing cave to another, to the upper floor.
Here lived the dressmaker, amid the constant whirring of
sewing-machines, the Babel of workpeople. Harmony, seeking not a
home but a hiding-place, took the room at once. She was asked for
no reference. In a sort of agony lest this haven fail her she
paid for a week in advance. The wooden bed, the cracked mirror
over the table, even the pigeons outside on the windowsill were
hers for a week.
The dressmaker was friendly, almost garrulous.
"I will have it cleaned," she explained. "I have been so busy:
the masquerade season is on. The Fraulein is American, is she
"One knows the Americans. They are chic, not like the English. I
have some American customers."
Harmony started. The dressmaker was shrewd. Many people hid in
the sixteenth district. She hastened to reassure the girl.
"They will not disturb you. And just now I have but one, a
dancer. I shall have the room cleaned. Good-bye, Fraulein."
So far, good. She had a refuge now, one spot that the venom of
scandal could not poison, where she could study and work--work
hard, although there could be no more lessons--one spot where
Peter would not have to protect her, where Peter, indeed, would
never find her. This thought, which should have brought comfort,
brought only new misery. Peace seemed dearly bought all at once;
shabby, wholesome, hearty Peter, with his rough hair and quiet
voice, his bulging pockets and steady eyes--she was leaving Peter
forever, exchanging his companionship for that of a row of
pigeons on a window-sill. He would find some one, of course; but
who would know that he liked toast made hard and plenty of
butter, or to leave his bed-clothing loose at the foot, Peter
being very long and apt to lop over? The lopping over brought a
tear or two. A very teary and tragic young heroine, this Harmony,
prone to go about for the last day or two with a damp little
handkerchief tucked in her sleeve.
She felt her way down the staircase and into the cave below. Fate
hangs by a very slender thread sometimes. If a wagon had not
lumbered by as she reached the lowest step, so that she must wait
and thus had time to lower her veil, she would have been
recognized at once by the little Georgiev, waiting to ascend. But
the wagon was there, Harmony lowered her veil, the little
Georgiev, passing a veiled young woman in the gloom, went up the
staircase with even pulses and calm and judicial bearing, up to
the tiny room a floor or two below Harmony's, where he wrote
reports to the Minister of War and mixed them with sonnets--to
Harmony went back to the Siebensternstrasse, having accomplished
what she had set out to do and being very wretched in
consequence. Because she was leaving the boy so soon she strove
to atone for her coming defection by making it a gala evening.
The child was very happy. She tucked him up in the salon, lighted
all the candles, served him the daintiest of suppers there. She
brought in the mice and tied tiny bows on their necks; she played
checkers with him while the supper dishes waited, and went down
to defeat in three hilarious games; and last of all she played to
him, joyous music at first, then slower, drowsier airs, until his
heavy head dropped on his shoulder and she gathered him up in
tender arms and carried him to bed.
It was dawn when Marie arrived. Harmony was sleeping soundly
when the bell rang. Her first thought was that Peter had come
back--but Peter carried a key. The bell rang again, and she
slipped on the old kimono and went to the door.
"Is it Peter?" she called, hand on knob.
"I come from Peter. I have a letter," in German.
"Who is it?"
"You do not know me--Marie Jedlicka. Please let me come in."
Bewildered, Harmony opened the door, and like a gray ghost Marie
slipped by her and into the hall.
There was a gaslight burning very low; Harmony turned it up and
faced her visitor. She recognized her at once--the girl Dr.
Stewart had been with in the coffee-house.
"Something has happened to Peter!"
"No. He is well. He sent this to the Fraulein Wells."
"I am the Fraulein Wells."
Marie held out the letter and staggered. Harmony put her in a
chair; she was bewildered, almost frightened. Crisis of some sort
was written on Marie's face. Harmony felt very young, very
incapable. The other girl refused coffee, would not even go into
the salon until Peter's letter had been read. She was a fugitive,
a criminal; the Austrian law is severe to those that harbor
criminals. Let Harmony read:--
DEAR HARRY,--Will you forgive me for this and spread the wings of
your splendid charity over this poor child? Perhaps I am doing
wrong in sending her to you, but just now it is all I can think
of. If she wants to talk let her talk. It will probably help her.
Also feed her, will you? And if she cannot sleep, give her one of
the blue powders I fixed for Jimmy. I'll be back later to-day if
I can make it.
Harmony glanced up from the letter. Marie sat drooping in her
chair. Her eyes were sunken in her head. She had recognized her
at once, but any surprise she may have felt at finding Harmony in
Peter's apartment was sunk in a general apathy, a compound of
nervous reaction and fatigue. During the long hours in the
express she had worn herself out with fright and remorse: there
was nothing left now but exhaustion.
Harmony was bewildered, but obedient. She went back to the cold
kitchen and lighted a fire. She made Marie as comfortable as she
could in the salon, and then went into her room to dress. There
she read the letter again, and wondered if Peter had gone through
life like this, picking up waifs and strays and shouldering their
burdens for them. Decidedly, life with Peter was full of
She remembered, as she hurried into her clothes; the boys' club
back in America and the spelling-matches. Decidedly, also, Peter
was an occupation, a state of mind, a career. No musician, hoping
for a career of her own, could possibly marry Peter.
That was a curious morning in the old lodge of Maria Theresa,
while Stewart in the Pension Waldheim struggled back to
consciousness, while Peter sat beside him and figured on an old
envelope the problem of dividing among four enough money to
support one, while McLean ate his heart out in wretchedness in
Marie told her story over the early breakfast, sitting with her
thin elbows on the table, her pointed chin in her palms.
"And now I am sorry," she finished. "It has done no good. If it
had only killed her but she was not much hurt. I saw her rise and
bend over him."
Harmony was silent. She had no stock of aphorisms for the
situation, no worldly knowledge, only pity.
"Did Peter say he would recover?"
"Yes. They will both recover and go to America. And he will marry
Perhaps Harmony would have been less comfortable, Marie less
frank, had Marie realized that this establishment of Peter's was
not on the same basis as Stewart's had been, or had Harmony
divined her thought.
The presence of the boy was discovered by his waking. Marie was
taken in and presented. She looked stupefied. Certainly the
Americans were a marvelous people--to have taken into their house
and their hearts this strange child--if he were strange. Marie's
suspicious little slum mind was not certain.
In the safety and comfort of the little apartment the Viennese
expanded, cheered. She devoted herself to the boy, telling him
strange folk tales, singing snatches of songs for him. The
youngster took a liking to her at once. It seemed to Harmony,
going about her morning routine, that Marie was her solution and
During the afternoon she took a package to the branch post-office
and mailed it by parcel-post to the Wollbadgasse. On the way she
met Mrs. Boyer face to face. That lady looked severely ahead, and
Harmony passed her with her chin well up and the eyes of a
McLean sent a great box of flowers that day. She put them, for
lack of a vase, in a pitcher beside Jimmy's bed.
At dusk a telegram came to say that Stewart was better and that
Peter was on his way down to Vienna. He would arrive at eight.
Time was very short now--seconds flashed by, minutes galloped.
Harmony stewed a chicken for supper, and creamed the breast for
Jimmy. She fixed the table, flowers in the center, the best
cloth, Peter's favorite cheese. Six o'clock, six-thirty, seven;
Marie was telling Jimmy a fairy tale and making the fairies out
of rosebuds. The studylamp was lighted, the stove glowing,
Peter's slippers were out, his old smoking-coat, his pipe.
A quarter past seven. Peter would be near Vienna now and hungry.
If he could only eat his supper before he learned--but that was
impossible. He would come in, as he always did, and slam the
outer door, and open it again to close it gently, as he always
did, and then he would look for her, going from room to room
until he found her--only to-night he would not find her.
She did not say good-bye to Jimmy. She stood in the doorway and
said a little prayer for him. Marie had made the flower fairies
on needles, and they stood about his head on the pillow--pink and
yellow and white elves with fluffy skirts. Then, very silently,
she put on her hat and jacket and closed the outer door behind
her. In the courtyard she turned and looked up. The great
chandelier in the salon was not lighted, but from the casement
windows shone out the comfortable glow of Peter's lamp.
Peter had had many things to think over during the ride down the
mountains. He had the third-class compartment to himself, and sat
in a corner, soft hat over his eyes. Life had never been
particularly simple to Peter--his own life, yes; a matter of
three meals a day--he had had fewer--a roof, clothing. But other
lives had always touched him closely, and at the contact points
Peter glowed, fused, amalgamated. Thus he had been many
people--good, indifferent, bad, but all needy. Thus, also, Peter
had committed vicarious crimes, suffered vicarious illnesses,
starved, died, loved--vicariously.
And now, after years of living for others, Peter was living at
last for himself--and suffering.
Not that he understood exactly what ailed him. He thought he was
tired, which was true enough, having had little sleep for two or
three nights. Also he explained to himself that he was smoking
too much, and resolutely--lighted another cigarette.
Two things had revealed Peter's condition to himself: McLean had
said: "You are crazy in love with her." McLean's statement,
lacking subtlety, had had a certain quality of directness. Even
then Peter, utterly miserable, had refused to capitulate, when to
capitulate would have meant the surrender of the house in the
Siebensternstrasse. And the absence from Harmony had shown him
just where he stood.
He was in love, crazy in love. Every fiber of his long body
glowed with it, ached with it. And every atom of his reason told
him what mad folly it was, this love. Even if Harmony cared--and
at the mere thought his heart pounded--what madness for her, what
idiocy for him! To ask her to accept the half of--nothing, to
give up a career to share his struggle for one, to ask her to
bury her splendid talent and her beauty under a bushel that he
might wave aloft his feeble light!
And there was no way out, no royal road to fortune by the route
he had chosen; nothing but grinding work, with a result
problematical and years ahead. There were even no legacies to
expect, he thought whimsically. Peter had known a chap once,
struggling along in gynecology, who had had a fortune left him by
a G. P., which being interpreted is Grateful Patient. Peter's
patients had a way of living, and when they did drop out, as
happened now and then, had also a way of leaving Peter an unpaid
bill in token of appreciation; Peter had even occasionally helped
to bury them, by way, he defended himself, of covering up his
Peter, sitting back in his corner, allowed the wonderful scenery
to slip by unnoticed. He put Harmony the Desirable out of his
mind, and took to calculating on a scrap of paper what could be
done for Harmony the Musician. He could hold out for three
months, he calculated, and still have enough to send Harmony home
and to get home himself on a slow boat. The Canadian lines were
cheap. If Jimmy lived perhaps he could take him along: if not--
He would have to put six months' work in the next three. That was
not so hard. He had got along before with less sleep, and thrived
on it. Also there must be no more idle evenings, with Jimmy in
the salon propped in a chair and Harmony playing, the room dark
save for the glow from the stove and for the one candle at
All roads lead to Rome. Peter's thoughts, having traveled in a
circle, were back again to Harmony the Desirable--Harmony playing
in the firelight, Harmony Hushed over the brick stove, Harmony
paring potatoes that night in the kitchen when he--Harmony!
Stewart knew all about the accident and its cause. Peter had
surmised as much when the injured man failed to ask for Marie.
He tested him finally by bringing Marie's name into the
conversation. Stewart ignored it, accepted her absence, refused
to be drawn.
That was at first. During the day, however, as he gained
strength, he grew restless and uneasy. As the time approached for
Peter to leave, he was clearly struggling with himself. The
landlady had agreed to care for him and was bustling about the
room. During one of her absences he turned to Peter.
"I suppose Marie hasn't been round?"
"She came back last night."
"Did she tell you?"
"Yes, poor child."
"She's a devil!" Stewart said, and lay silent. Then: "I saw her
shoot that thing out in front of us, but there was no time--Where
is she now?"
"Marie? I sent her to Vienna."
Stewart fell back, relieved, not even curious.
"Thank Heaven for that!" he said. "I don't want to see her again.
I'd do something I'd be sorry for. The kindest thing to say for
her is that she was not sane."
"No," said Peter gravely, "she was hardly sane."
Stewart caught his steady gaze and glanced away. For him Marie's
little tragedy had been written and erased. He would forget it
magnanimously. He had divided what he had with her, and she had
repaid him by attempting his life. And not only his life, but
Anita's. Peter followed his line of reasoning easily.
"It's quite a frequent complication, Stewart," he said, "but
every man to whom it happens regards himself more or less as a
victim. She fell in love with you, that's all. Her conduct is
contrary to the ethics of the game, but she's been playing poor
cards all along."
"Where is she?"
"That doesn't matter, does it?"
Stewart had lain back and closed his eyes. No, it didn't matter.
A sense of great relief overwhelmed him. Marie was gone,
frightened into hiding. It was as if a band that had been about
him was suddenly loosed: he breathed deep, he threw out his arms
and laughed from sheer reaction. Then, catching Peter's not
particularly approving eyes, he colored.
"Good Lord, Peter!" he said, "you don't know what I've gone
through with that little devil. And now she's gone!" He glanced
round the disordered room, where bandages and medicines crowded
toilet articles on the dressing-table, where one of Marie's small
slippers still lay where it had fallen under the foot of the bed,
where her rosary still hung over the corner of the table. "Ring
for the maid, Peter, will you! I've got to get this junk out of
here. Some of Anita's people may come."
During that afternoon ride, while the train clump-clumped down
the mountains, Peter thought of all this. Some of Marie's "junk"
was in his bag; her rosary lay in his breastpocket, along with
the pin he had sent her at Christmas. Peter happened on it, still
in its box, which looked as if it had been cried over. He had
brought it with him. He admired it very much, and it had cost
money he could ill afford to spend.
It was late when the train drew into the station. Peter,
encumbered with Marie's luggage and his own, lowered his window
and added his voice to the chorus of plaintive calls: "Portier!
Portier!" they shouted. "Portier!" bawled Peter.
He was obliged to resort to the extravagance of a taxicab.
Possibly a fiacre would have done as well, but it cost almost as
much and was slower. Moments counted now: a second was an hour,
an hour a decade. For he was on his way to Harmony. Extravagance
became recklessness. As soon die for a sheep as a lamb! He
stopped the taxicab and bought a bunch of violets, stopped again
and bought lilies of the valley to combine with the violets, went
out of his tray to the American grocery and bought a jar of
By that time he was laden. The jar of preserves hung in one
shabby pocket, Marie's rosary dangled from another; the violets
were buttoned under his overcoat against the cold.
At the very last he held the taxi an extra moment and darted into
the delicatessen shop across the Siebensternstrasse. From there,
standing inside the doorway, he could see the lights in the salon
across the way, the glow of his lamp, the flicker that was the
fire. Peter whistled, stamped his cold feet, quite neglected--in
spite of repeated warnings from Harmony--to watch the Herr
Schenkenkaufer weigh the cheese, accepted without a glance a
ten-Kronen piece with a hole in it.
"And how is the child to-day?" asked the Herr Schenkenkaufer,
covering the defective gold piece with conversation.
"I do not know; I have been away," said Peter. He almost sang it.
"All is well or I would have heard. Wilhelm the Portier was but
just now here."
"All well, of course," sang Peter, eyes on the comfortable Floor
of his lamp, the flicker that was the fire. "Auf wiedersehen,
"Auf wiedersehen, Herr Doktor."
Violets, lilies-of-the-valley, cheese, rosary, luggage--thus
Peter climbed the stairs. The Portier wished to assist him, but
Peter declined. The Portier was noisy. There was to be a moment
when Peter, having admitted himself with extreme caution, would
present himself without so much as a creak to betray him, would
stand in a doorway until some one, Harmony perhaps--ah,
Peter!--would turn and see him. She had a way of putting one
slender hand over her heart when she was startled.
Peter put down the jar of preserved peaches outside. It was to be
a second surprise. Also he put down the flowers; they were to be
brought in last of all. One surprise after another is a
cumulative happiness. Peter did not wish to swallow all his cake
in one bite.
For once he did not slam the outer door, although he very nearly
did, and only caught it at the cost of a bruised finger. Inside
he listened. There was no clatter of dishes, no scurrying back
and forth from table to stove in the final excitement of dishing
up. There was, however, a highly agreeable odor of stewing
chicken, a crisp smell of baking biscuit.
In the darkened hall Peter had to pause to steady himself. For he
had a sudden mad impulse to shout Harmony's name, to hold out his
arms, to call her to him there in the warm darkness, and when she
had come, to catch her to him, to tell his love in one long
embrace, his arms about her, his rough cheek against her soft
one. No wonder he grew somewhat dizzy and had to pull himself
The silence rather surprised him, until he recalled that Harmony
was probably sewing in the salon, as she did sometimes when
dinner was ready to serve. The boy was asleep, no doubt. He stole
along on tiptoe, hardly breathing, to the first doorway, which
Jimmy was asleep. Round him were the pink and yellow and white
flower fairies with violet heads. Peter saw them and smiled.
Then, his eyes growing accustomed to the light, he saw Marie,
face down on the floor, her head on her arms. Still as she was,
Peter knew she was not sleeping, only fighting her battle over
again and losing.
Some of the joyousness of his return fled from Peter, never to
come back. The two silent figures were too close to tragedy.
Peter, with a long breath, stole past the door and on to the
salon. No Harmony there, but the great room was warm and cheery.
The table was drawn near the stove and laid for Abendessen. The
white porcelain coffee-pot had boiled and extinguished itself,
according to its method, and now gently steamed.
On to the kitchen. Much odor of food here, two candles lighted
but burning low, a small platter with money on it, quite a little
money--almost all he had left Harmony when he went away.
Peter was dazed at first. Even when Marie, hastily summoned, had
discovered that Harmony's clothing was gone, when a search of the
rooms revealed the absence of her violin and her music, when at
last the fact stared them, incontestable, in the face, Peter
refused to accept it. He sat for a half-hour or even more by the
fire in the salon, obstinately refusing to believe she was gone,
keeping the supper warm against her return. He did not think or
reason, he sat and waited, saying nothing, hardly moving, save
when a gust of wind slammed the garden gate. Then he was all
alive, sat erect, ears straining for her hand on the knob of the
The numbness of the shock passed at last, to be succeeded by
alarm. During all the time that followed, that condition
persisted, fright, almost terror. Harmony alone in the city,
helpless, dependent, poverty-stricken. Harmony seeking employment
under conditions Peter knew too well. But with his alarm came
Marie had never seen Peter angry. She shrank from this gaunt and
gray-faced man who raved up and down the salon, questioning the
frightened Portier, swearing fierce oaths, bringing accusation
after accusation against some unnamed woman to whom he applied
epithets that Marie's English luckily did not comprehend. Not a
particularly heroic figure was Peter that night: a frantic,
disheveled individual, before whom the Portier cowered, who
struggled back to sanity through a berserk haze and was liable to
swift relapses into fury again.
To this succeeded at last the mental condition that was to be
Peter's for many days, hopelessness and alarm and a grim
determination to keep on searching.
There were no clues. The Portier made inquiries of all the
cabstands in the neighborhood. Harmony had not taken a cab. The
delicatessen seller had seen her go out that afternoon with a
bundle and return without it. She had been gone only an hour or
so. That gave Peter a ray of hope that she might have found a
haven in the neighborhood--until he recalled the parcel-post.
One possibility he clung to: Mrs. Boyer had made the mischief,
but she had also offered the girl a home. She might be at the
Boyers'. Peter, flinging on a hat and without his overcoat, went
to the Boyers'. Time was valuable, and he had wasted an hour, two
hours, in useless rage. So he took a taxicab, and being by this
time utterly reckless of cost let it stand while he interviewed
Boyer himself, partially undressed, opened the door to his ring.
Peter was past explanation or ceremonial.
"Is Harmony here?" he demanded.
"Harmony Wells. She's disappeared, missing."
"Come in," said Boyer, alive to the strain in Peter's voice. "I
don't know, I haven't heard anything. I'll ask Mrs. Boyer."
During the interval it took for a whispered colloquy in the
bedroom, and for Mrs. Boyer to don her flannel wrapper, Peter
suffered the tortures of the damned. Whatever Mrs. Boyer had
meant to say by way of protest at the intrusion on the sacred
privacy of eleven o'clock and bedtime died in her throat. Her
plump and terraced chin shook with agitation, perhaps with guilt.
Peter, however, had got himself in hand. He told a quiet story;
Boyer listened; Mrs. Boyer, clutching her wrapper about her
unstayed figure, listened.
"I thought," finished Peter, "that since you had offered her a
refuge--from me--she might have come here."
"I offered her a refuge--before I had been to the Pension
"Ah!" said Peter slowly. "And what about the Pension Schwarz?"
"Need you ask? I learned that you were all put out there. I am
obliged to say, Dr. Byrne, that under the circumstances had the
girl come here I could hardly--Frank, I will speak!--I could
hardly have taken her in."
Peter went white and ducked as from a physical blow, stumbling
out into the hall again. There he thought of something to say in
reply, repudiation, thought better of it, started down the
Boyer followed him helplessly. At the street door, however, he
put his hand on Peter's shoulder. "You know, old man, I don't
believe that. These women--"
"I know," said Peter simply. "Thank you. Good-night."
Harmony's only thought had been flight, from Peter, from McLean,
from Mrs. Boyer. She had devoted all her energies to losing
herself, to cutting the threads that bound her to the life in the
Siebensternstrasse. She had drawn all her money, as Peter
discovered later. The discovery caused him even more acute
anxiety. The city was full of thieves; poverty and its companion,
crime, lurked on every shadowy staircase of the barracklike
houses, or peered, red-eyed, from every alleyway.
And into this city of contrasts--of gray women of the night
hugging gratings for warmth and accosting passers-by with
loathsome gestures, of smug civilians hiding sensuous mouths
under great mustaches, of dapper soldiers to whom the young girl
unattended was potential prey, into this night city of terror,
this day city of frightful contrasts, ermine rubbing elbows with
frost-nipped flesh, destitution sauntering along the fashionable
Prater for lack of shelter, gilt wheels of royalty and yellow
wheels of courtesans--Harmony had ventured alone for the second
And this time there was no Peter Byrne to accost her cheerily in
the twilight and win her by sheer friendliness. She was alone.
Her funds were lower, much lower. And something else had
gone--her faith. Mrs. Boyer had seen to that. In the autumn
Harmony had faced the city clear-eyed and unafraid; now she
feared it, met it with averted eyes, alas! understood it.
It was not the Harmony who had bade a brave farewell to Scatchy
and the Big Soprano in the station who fled to her refuge on the
upper floor of the house in the Wollbadgasse. This was a hunted
creature, alternately flushed and pale, who locked her door
behind her before she took off her hat, and who, having taken off
her hat and surveyed her hiding-place with tragic eyes, fell
suddenly to trembling, alone there in the gaslight.
She had had no plans beyond flight. She had meant, once alone, to
think the thing out. But the room was cold, she had had nothing
to eat, and the single slovenly maid was a Hungarian and spoke no
German. The dressmaker had gone to the Ronacher. Harmony did not
know where to find a restaurant, was afraid to trust herself to
the streets alone. She went to bed supperless, with a tiny
picture of Peter and Jimmy and the wooden sentry under her cheek.
The pigeons, cooing on the window-sill, wakened her early. She
was confused at first, got up to see if Jimmy had thrown off his
blankets, and wakened to full consciousness with the sickening
realization that Jimmy was not there.
The dressmaker, whose name was Monia Reiff, slept late after her
evening out. Harmony, collapsing with hunger and faintness,
waited as long as she could. Then she put on her things
desperately and ventured out. Surely at this hour Peter would not
be searching, and even if he were he would never think of the
sixteenth district. He would make inquiries, of course--the
Pension Schwarz, Boyers', the master's.
The breakfast brought back her strength and the morning air gave
her confidence. The district, too, was less formidable than the
neighborhood of the Karntnerstrasse and the Graben. The shops
were smaller. The windows exhibited cheaper goods. There was a
sort of family atmosphere about many of them; the head of the
establishment in the doorway, the wife at the cashier's desk,
daughters, cousins, nieces behind the wooden counters. The
shopkeepers were approachable, instead of familiar. Harmony met
no rebuffs, was respectfully greeted and cheerfully listened to.
In many cases the application ended in a general consultation,
shopkeeper, wife, daughters, nieces, slim clerks with tiny
mustaches. She got addresses, followed them up, more
consultations, more addresses, but no work. The reason dawned on
her after a day of tramping, during which she kept carefully away
from that part of the city where Peter might be searching for
The fact was, of course, that her knowledge of English was her
sole asset as a clerk. And there were few English and no tourists
in the sixteenth district. She was marketing a commodity for
which there was no demand.
She lunched at a Konditorei, more to rest her tired body than
because she needed food. The afternoon was as the morning. At six
o'clock, long after the midwinter darkness had fallen, she
stumbled back to the Wollbadgasse and up the whitewashed
She had a shock at the second landing. A man had stepped into the
angle to let her pass. A gasjet dared over his head, and she
recognized the short heavy figure and ardent eyes of Georgiev.
She had her veil down luckily, and he gave no sign of
recognition. She passed on, and she heard him a second later
descending. But there had been something reminiscent after all in
her figure and carriage. The little Georgiev paused, halfway
down, and thought a moment. It was impossible, of course. All
women reminded him of the American. Had he not, only the day
before, followed for two city blocks a woman old enough to be his
mother, merely because she carried a violin case? But there was
something about the girl he had just passed--Bah!
A bad week for Harmony followed, a week of weary days and
restless nights when she slept only to dream of Peter--of his
hurt and incredulous eyes when he found she had gone; of
Jimmy--that he needed her, was worse, was dying. More than once
she heard him sobbing and wakened to the cooing of the pigeons on
the window-sill. She grew thin and sunken-eyed; took to dividing
her small hoard, half of it with her, half under the carpet, so
that in case of accident all would not be gone.
This, as it happened, was serious. One day, the sixth, she came
back wet to the skin from an all-day rain, to find that the
carpet bank had been looted. There was no clue. The stolid
Hungarian, startled out of her lethargy, protested innocence; the
little dressmaker, who seemed honest and friendly, wept in sheer
sympathy. The fact remained--half the small hoard was gone.
Two days more, a Sunday and a Monday. On Sunday Harmony played,
and Georgiev in the room below, translating into cipher a recent
conference between the Austrian Minister of War and the German
Ambassador, put aside his work and listened. She played, as once
before she had played when life seemed sad and tragic, the
"Humoresque." Georgiev, hands behind his head and eyes upturned,
was back in the Pension Schwarz that night months ago when
Harmony played the "Humoresque" and Peter stooped outside her
door. The little Bulgarian sighed and dreamed.
Harmony, a little sadder, a little more forlorn each day, pursued
her hopeless quest. She ventured into the heart of the Stadt and
paid a part of her remaining money to an employment bureau, to
teach English or violin, whichever offered, or even both. After
she had paid they told her it would be difficult, almost
impossible without references. She had another narrow escape as
she was leaving. She almost collided with Olga, the chambermaid,
who, having clashed for the last time with Katrina, was seeking
new employment. On another occasion she saw Marie in the crowd
and was obsessed with a longing to call to her, to ask for Peter,
for Jimmy. That meeting took the heart out of the girl. Marie was
white and weary--perhaps the boy was worse. Perhaps Peter--Her
heart contracted. But that was absurd, of course, Peter was
always well and strong.
Two things occurred that week, one unexpected, the other
inevitable. The unexpected occurrence was that Monia Reiff,
finding Harmony being pressed for work, offered the girl a
situation. The wage was small, but she could live on it.
The inevitable was that she met Georgiev on the stairs without
It was the first day in the workroom. The apprentices were
carrying home boxes for a ball that night. Thread was needed, and
quickly. Harmony, who did odds and ends of sewing, was most
easily spared. She slipped on her jacket and hat and ran down to
the shop near by.
It was on the return that she met Georgiev coming down. The
afternoon was dark and the staircase unlighted. In the gloom one
face was as another. Georgiev, listening intently, hearing
footsteps, drew back into the embrasure of a window and waited.
His swarthy face was tense, expectant. As the steps drew near,
were light feminine instead of stealthy, the little spy relaxed
somewhat. But still he waited, crouched.
It was a second before he recognized Harmany, another instant
before he realized his good fortune. She had almost passed. He
put out an unsteady hand.
The little Bulgarian was profoundly stirred. His fervid eyes
gleamed. He struggled against the barrier of language, broke out
in passionate Bulgar, switched to German punctuated with an
English word here and there. Made intelligible, it was that he
had found her at last. Harmony held her spools of thread and
waited for the storm of languages to subside. Then:--
"But you are not to say you have seen me, Herr Georgiev."
"I am--am hiding," she explained. "Something very uncomfortable
happened and I came here. Please don't say you have seen me."
Georgiev was puzzled at first. She had to explain very slowly,
with his ardent eyes on her. But he understood at last and agreed
of course. His incredulity was turning to certainty. Harmony had
actually been in the same building with him while he sought her
"Then," he said at last, "it was you who played Sunday."
She made a move to pass him, but he held out an imploring hand.
"Fraulein, I may see you sometimes?"
"We shall meet again, of course."
"Fraulein,--with all respect,--sometime perhaps you will walk out
"I am very busy all day."
"At night, then? For the exercise? I, with all respect,
Harmony was touched.
"Sometime," she consented. And then impulsively: "I am very
lonely, Herr Georgiev."
She held out her hand, and the little Bulgarian bent over it and
kissed it reverently. The Herr Georgiev's father was a nobleman
in his own country, and all the little spy's training had been to
make of a girl in Harmony's situation lawful prey. But in the
spy's glowing heart there was nothing for Harmony to fear. She
knew it. He stood, hat in hand, while she went up the staircase.
"Was there below at the entrance a tall man in a green velours
"I saw no one there."
"I thank you, Fraulein."
He watched her slender figure ascend, lose itself in the shadows,
listened until she reached the upper floors. Then with a sigh he
clapped his hat on his head and made his cautious way down to the
street. There was no man in a green velours hat below, but the
little spy had an uneasy feeling that eyes watched him,
nevertheless. Life was growing complicated for the Herr Georgiev.
Life was pressing very close to Harmony also in those days, a
life she had never touched before. She discovered, after a day or
two in the work-room, that Monia Reiff's business lay almost
altogether among the demi-monde. The sewing-girls, of Marie's
type many of them, found in the customers endless topics of
conversation. Some things Harmony was spared, much of the talk
being in dialect. But a great deal of it she understood, and she
learned much that was not spoken. They talked freely of the
women, their clothes, and they talked a great deal about a
newcomer, an American dancer, for whom Monia was making an
elaborate outfit. The American's name was Lillian Le Grande. She
was dancing at one of the variety theaters.
Harmony was working on a costume for the Le Grande woman--a gold
brocade slashed to the knee at one side and with a fragment of
bodice made of gilt tissue. On the day after her encounter with
Georgiev she met her.
There was a dispute over the gown, something about the draping.
Monia, flushed with irritation, came to the workroom door and
glanced over the girls. She singled out Harmony finally and
"Come and put on the American's gown," she ordered. "She
wishes--Heaven knows what she wishes!"
Harmony went unwillingly. Nothing she had heard of the Fraulein
Le Grande had prepossessed her. Her uneasiness was increased when
she found herself obliged to shed her gown and to stand for one
terrible moment before the little dressmaker's amused eyes.
"Thou art very lovely, very chic," said Monia. The dress added to
rather than relieved Harmony's discomfiture. She donned it in one
of the fitting-rooms, made by the simple expedient of curtaining
off a corner of the large reception room. The slashed skirt
embarrassed her; the low cut made her shrink. Monia was frankly
entranced. Above the gold tissue of the bodice rose Harmony's
exquisite shoulders. Her hair was gold; even her eyes looked
golden. The dressmaker, who worshiped beauty, gave a pull here, a
pat there. If only all women were so beautiful in the things she
She had an eye for the theatrical also. She posed Harmony behind
the curtain, arranged lights, drew down the chiffon so that a bit
more of the girl's rounded bosom was revealed. Then she drew the
curtain aside and stood smiling.
Le Grande paid the picture the tribute of a second's silence.
"Exquisite!" she said in English. Then in halting German: "Do not
change a line. It is perfect."
Harmony must walk in the gown, turn, sit. Once she caught a
glimpse of herself and was startled. She had been wearing black
for so long, and now this radiant golden creature was herself.
She was enchanted and abashed. The slash in the skirt troubled
her: her slender leg had a way of revealing itself.
The ordeal was over at last. The dancer was pleased. She ordered
another gown. Harmony, behind the curtain, slipped out of the
dress and into her own shabby frock. On the other side of the
curtain the dancer was talking. Her voice was loud, but rather
agreeable. She smoked a cigarette. Scraps of chatter came to
Harmony, and once a laugh.
"That is too pink--something more delicate."
"Here is a shade; hold it to your cheek."
"I am a bad color. I did not sleep last night."
"Still no news, Fraulein?"
"None. He has disappeared utterly. That isn't so bad, is it? I
could use more rouge."
"It is being much worn. It is strange, is it not, that a child
could be stolen from the hospital and leave no sign!"
The dancer laughed a mirthless laugh. Her voice changed, became
nasal, full of venom.
"Oh, they know well enough," she snapped. "Those nurses know, and
there's a pig of a red-bearded doctor--I'd like to poison him.
Separating mother and child! I'm going to find him, if only to
show them they are not so smart after all."
In her anger she had lapsed into English. Harmony, behind her
curtain, had clutched at her heart. Jimmy's mother!
Jimmy was not so well, although Harmony's flight had had nothing
to do with the relapse. He had found Marie a slavishly devoted
substitute, and besides Peter had indicated that Harmony's
absence was purely temporary. But the breaking-up was inevitable.
All day long the child lay in the white bed, apathetic but
sleepless. In vain Marie made flower fairies for his pillow, in
vain the little mice, now quite tame, played hide-and-seek over
the bed, in vain Peter paused long enough in his frantic search
for Harmony to buy colored postcards and bring them to him.
He was contented enough; he did not suffer at all; and he had no
apprehension of what was coming. He asked for nothing, tried
obediently to eat, liked to have Marie in the room. But he did
not beg to be taken into the salon, as he once had done. There
was a sort of mental confusion also. He liked Marie to read his
father's letters; but as he grew weaker the occasional confusing
of Peter with his dead father became a fixed idea. Peter was
Peter took care of him at night. He had moved into Harmony's
adjacent room and dressed there. But he had never slept in the
bed. At night he put on his shabby dressing-gown and worn
slippers and lay on a haircloth sofa at the foot of Jimmy's
bed--lay but hardly slept, so afraid was he that the slender
thread of life might snap when it was drawn out to its slenderest
during the darkest hours before the dawn. More than once in every
night Peter rose and stood, hardly breathing, with the tiny lamp
in his hand, watching for the rise and fall of the boy's thin
little chest. Peter grew old these days. He turned gray over the
ears and developed lines about his mouth that never left him
again. He felt gray and old, and sometimes bitter and hard also.
The boy's condition could not be helped: it was inevitable,
hopeless. But the thing that was eating his heart out had been
unnecessary and cruel.
Where was Harmony? When it stormed, as it did almost steadily, he
wondered how she was sheltered; when the occasional sun shone he
hoped it was bringing her a bit of cheer. Now and then, in the
night, when the lamp burned low and gusts of wind shook the old
house, fearful thoughts came to him--the canal, with its filthy
depths. Daylight brought reason, however. Harmony had been too
rational, too sane for such an end.
McLean was Peter's great support in those terrible days. He was
young and hopeful. Also he had money. Peter could not afford to
grease the machinery of the police service; McLean could and did.
In Berlin Harmony could not have remained hidden for two days. In
Vienna, however, it was different. Returns were made to the
department, but irregularly. An American music student was
missing. There were thousands of American music students in the
city: one fell over them in the coffee-houses. McLean offered a
reward and followed up innumerable music students.
The alternating hope and despair was most trying. Peter became
old and haggard; the boy grew thin and white. But there was this
difference, that with Peter the strain was cumulative, hour on
hour, day on day. With McLean each night found him worn and
exhausted, but each following morning he went to work with
renewed strength and energy. Perhaps, after all, the iron had not
struck so deep into his soul. With Peter it was a life-and-death
Clinics and lectures had begun again, but he had no heart for
work. The little household went on methodically. Marie remained;
there had seemed nothing else to do. She cooked Peter's
food--what little he would eat; she nursed Jimmy while Peter was
out on the long search; and she kept the apartment neat. She was
never intrusive, never talkative. Indeed, she seemed to have
lapsed into definite silence. She deferred absolutely to Peter,
adored him, indeed, from afar. She never ate with him, in spite
of his protests.
The little apartment was very quiet. Where formerly had been
music and Harmony's soft laughter, where Anna Gates had been wont
to argue with Peter in loud, incisive tones, where even the
prisms of the chandelier had once vibrated in response to
Harmony's violin, almost absolute silence now reigned. Even the
gate, having been repaired, no longer creaked, and the loud
altercations between the Portier and his wife had been silenced
out of deference to the sick child.
On the day that Harmony, in the gold dress, had discovered
Jimmy's mother in the American dancer Peter had had an unusually
bad day. McLean had sent him a note by messenger early in the
morning, to the effect that a young girl answering Harmony's
description had been seen in the park at Schonbrunn and traced to
an apartment near by.
Harmony had liked Schonbrunn, and it seemed possible. They had
gone out together, McLean optimistic, Peter afraid to hope. And
it had been as he feared--a pretty little violin student, indeed,
who had been washing her hair, and only opened the door an inch
McLean made a lame apology, Peter too sick with disappointment to
speak. Then back to the city again.
He had taken to making a daily round, to the master's, to the
Frau Professor Bergmeister's, along the Graben and the
Karntnerstrasse, ending up at the Doctors' Club in the faint hope
of a letter. Wrath still smouldered deep in Peter; he would not
enter a room at the club if Mrs. Boyer sat within. He had had a
long 1 hour with Dr. Jennings, and left that cheerful person
writhing in abasement. And he had held a stormy interview with
the Frau Schwarz, which left her humble for a week, and
exceedingly nervous, being of the impression from Peter's manner
that in the event of Harmony not turning up an American gunboat
would sail up the right arm of the Danube and bombard the Pension
Schonbrunn having failed them, McLean and, Peter went back to the
city in the street-car, neither one saying much. Even McLean's
elasticity was deserting him. His eyes, from much peering into
crowds, had taken on a strained, concentrated look.
Peter was shabbier than ever beside the other man's
ultrafashionable dress. He sat, bent forward, his long arms
dangling between his knees, his head down. Their common trouble
had drawn the two together, or had drawn McLean close to Peter,
as if he recognized that there were degrees in grief and that
Peter had received almost a death-wound. His old rage at Peter
had died. Harmony's flight had proved the situation as no amount
of protestation would have done. The thing now was to find the
girl; then he and Peter would start even, and the battle to the
They had the car almost to themselves. Peter had not spoken since
he sat down. McLean was busy over a notebook, in which he jotted
down from day to day such details of their search as might be
worth keeping. Now and then he glanced at Peter as if he wished
to say something, hesitated, fell to work again over the
notebook. Finally he ventured.
"How's the boy?"
"Not so well to-day. I'm having a couple of men in to see him
to-night. He doesn't sleep."
"Do you sleep?"
"Not much. He's on my mind, of course."
That and other things, Peter.
"Don't you think--wouldn't it be better to have a nurse. You
can't go like this all day and be up all night, you know. And
Marie has him most of the day." McLean, of course, had known
Marie before. "The boy ought to have a nurse, I think."
"He doesn't move without my hearing him."
"That's an argument for me. Do you want to get sick?"
Peter turned a white face toward McLean, a face in which
exasperation struggled with fatigue.
"Good Lord, boy," he rasped, "don't you suppose I'd have a nurse
if I could afford it?"
"Would you let me help? I'd like to do something. I'm a useless
cub in a sick-room, but I could do that. Who's the woman he liked
in the hospital?"
"Nurse Elisabet. I don't know, Mac. There's no reason why I
shouldn't let you help, I suppose. It hurts, of course, but--if
he would be happier--"
"That's settled, then," said McLean. "Nurse Elisabet, if she can
come. And--look here, old man. I 've been trying to say this for
a week and haven't had the nerve. Let me help you out for a
while. You can send it back when you get it, any time, a year or
ten years. I'll not miss it."
But Peter refused. He tempered the refusal in his kindly way.
"I can't take anything now," he said. "But I'll remember it, and
if things get very bad I'll come to you. It isn't costing much to
live. Marie is a good manager, almost as good as--Harmony was."
This with difficulty. He found it always hard to speak of
Harmony. His throat seemed to close on the name.
That was the best McLean could do, but he made a mental
reservation to see Marie that night and slip her a little money.
Peter need never know, would never notice.
At a cross-street the car stopped, and the little Bulgarian,
Georgiev, got on. He inspected the car carefully before he came
in from the platform, and sat down unobtrusively in a corner.
Things were not going well with him either. His small black eyes
darted from face to face suspiciously, until they came to a rest
It was Georgiev's business to read men. Quickly he put together
the bits he had gathered from Harmony on the staircase, added to
them Peter's despondent attitude, his strained face, the
abstraction which required a touch on the arm from his companion
when they reached their destination, recalled Peter outside the
door of Harmony's room in the Pension Schwarz--and built him a
little story that was not far from the truth.
Peter left the car without seeing him. It was the hour of the
promenade, when the Ring and the larger business streets were
full of people, when Demel's was thronged with pretty women
eating American ices, with military men drinking tea and nibbling
Austrian pastry, the hour when the flower women along the
Stephansplatz did a rousing business in roses, when sterile women
burned candles before the Madonna in the Cathedral, when the
lottery did the record business of the day.
It was Peter's forlorn hope that somewhere among the crowd he
might happen on Harmony. For some reason he thought of her always
as in a crowd, with people close, touching her, men staring at
her, following her. He had spent a frightful night in the Opera,
scanning seat after seat, not so much because he hoped to find
her as because inaction was intolerable.
And so, on that afternoon, he made his slow progress along the
Karntnerstrasse, halting now and then to scrutinize the crowd. He
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