The Street of Seven Stars
Mary Roberts Rinehart
Part 5 out of 6
even peered through the doors of shops here and there, hoping
while he feared that the girl might be seeking employment within,
as she had before in the early days of the winter.
Because of his stature and powerful physique, and perhaps, too,
because of the wretchedness in his eyes, people noticed him.
There was one place where Peter lingered, where a new building
was being erected, and where because of the narrowness of the
passage the dense crowd was thinned as it passed. He stood by
choice outside a hairdresser's window, where a brilliant light
shone on each face that passed.
Inside the clerks had noticed him. Two of them standing together
by the desk spoke of him: "He is there again, the gray man!"
"Ah, so! But, yes, there is his back!"
"Poor one, it is the Fraulein Engel he waits to see, perhaps."
"More likely Le Grande, the American. He is American."
"He is Russian. Look at his size."
"But his shoes!" triumphantly. "They are American, little one."
The third girl had not spoken; she was wrapping in tissue a great
golden rose made for the hair. She placed it in a box carefully.
"I think he is of the police," she said, "or a spy. There is much
talk of war."
"Foolishness! Does a police officer sigh always? Or a spy have
such sadness in his face? And he grows thin and white."
"The rose, Fraulein."
The clerk who had wrapped up the flower held it out to the
customer. The customer, however, was not looking. She was gazing
with strange intentness at the back of a worn gray overcoat. Then
with a curious clutch at her heart she went white. Harmony, of
course, Harmony come to fetch the golden rose that was to
complete Le Grande's costume.
She recovered almost at once and made an excuse to leave by
She took a final look at the gray sleeve that was all she could
see of Peter, who had shifted a bit, and stumbled out into the
crowd, walking along with her lip trembling under her veil, and
with the slow and steady ache at her heart that she had thought
she had stilled for good.
It had never occurred to Harmony that Peter loved her. He had
proposed to her twice, but that had been in each case to solve a
difficulty for her. And once he had taken her in his arms, but
that was different. Even then he had not said he loved her--had
not even known it, to be exact. Nor had Harmony realized what
Peter meant to her until she had put him out of her life.
The sight of the familiar gray coat, the scrap of conversation,
so enlightening as to poor Peter's quest, that Peter was growing
thin and white, made her almost reel. She had been too occupied
with her own position to realize Peter's. With the glimpse of him
came a great longing for the house on the Siebensternstrasse, for
Jimmy's arms about her neck, for the salon with the lamp lighted
and the sleet beating harmlessly against the casement windows,
for the little kitchen with the brick stove, for Peter.
Doubts of the wisdom of her course assailed her. But to go back
meant, at the best, adding to Peter's burden of Jimmy and Marie,
meant the old situation again, too, for Marie most certainly did
not add to the respectability of the establishment. And other
doubts assailed her. What if Jimmy were not so well, should die,
as was possible, and she had not let his mother see him!
Monia Reiff was very busy that day. Harmony did not leave the
workroom until eight o'clock. During all that time, while her
slim fingers worked over fragile laces and soft chiffons, she was
seeing Jimmy as she had seen him last, with the flower fairies on
his pillow, and Peter, keeping watch over the crowd in the
Karntnerstrasse, looking with his steady eyes for her.
No part of the city was safe for a young girl after night, she
knew; the sixteenth district was no better than the rest, rather
worse in places. But the longing to see the house on the
Siebensternstrasse grew on her, became from an ache a sharp and
insistent pain. She must go, must see once again the comfortable
glow of Peter's lamp, the flicker that was the fire.
She ate no supper. She was too tired to eat, and there was the
pain. She put on her wraps and crept down the whitewashed
The paved courtyard below was to be crossed and it was poorly
lighted. She achieved the street, however, without molestation.
To the street-car was only a block, but during that block she was
accosted twice. She was white and frightened when she reached the
The Siebensternstrasse at last. The street was always dark; the
delicatessen shop was closed, but in the wild-game store next a
light was burning low, and a flame flickered before the little
shrine over the money drawer. The gameseller was a religious man.
The old stucco house dominated the neighborhood. From the time
she left the car Harmony saw it, its long flat roof black against
the dark sky, its rows of unlighted windows, its long wall broken
in the center by the gate. Now from across the street its whole
facade lay before her. Peter's lamp was not lighted, but there
was a glow of soft firelight from the salon windows. The light
was not regular--it disappeared at regular intervals, was blotted
out. Harmony knew what that meant. Some one beyond range of where
she stood was pacing the floor, back and forward, back and
forward. When he was worried or anxious Peter always paced the
She did not know how long she stood there. One of the soft rains
was falling, or more accurately, condensing. The saturated air
was hardly cold. She stood on the pavement unmolested, while the
glow died lower and lower, until at last it was impossible to
trace the pacing figure. No one came to any of the windows. The
little lamp before the shrine in the wild-game shop burned itself
out; the Portier across the way came to the door, glanced up at
the sky and went in. Harmony heard the rattle of the chain as it
was stretched across the door inside.
Not all the windows of the suite opened on the street. Jimmy's
windows--and Peter's--opened toward the back of the house, where
in a brick-paved courtyard the wife of the Portier hung her
washing, and where the Portier himself kept a hutch of rabbits. A
wild and reckless desire to see at least the light from the
child's room possessed Harmony. Even the light would be
something; to go like this, to carry with her only the memory of
a dark looming house without cheer was unthinkable. The gate was
never locked. If she but went into the garden and round by the
spruce tree to the back of the house, it would be something.
She knew the garden quite well. Even the darkness had no horror
for her. Little Scatchy had had a habit of leaving various
articles on her window-sill and of instigating searches for them
at untimely hours of night. Once they had found her hairbrush in
the rabbit hutch! So Harmony, ashamed but unalarmed, made her way
by the big spruce to the corner of the old lodge and thus to the
Ah, this was better! Lights all along the apartment floor and
moving shadows; on Jimmy's window-sill a jar of milk. And
voices--some one was singing.
Peter was singing, droning softly, as one who puts a drowsy child
to sleep. Slower and slower, softer and softer, over and over,
the little song Harmony had been wont to sing:--
"Ah well! For us all some sweet hope lies
Deeply buried from human eyes.
And in the--hereafter--angels may
Slower and slower, softer and softer, until it died away
altogether. Peter, in his old dressing-gown, came to the window
and turned down the gaslight beside it to a blue point. Harmony
did not breathe. For a minute, two minutes, he stood there
looking out. Far off the twin clocks of the Votivkirche struck
the hour. All about lay the lights of the old city, so very old,
so wise, so cunning, so cold.
Peter stood looking out, as he had each night since Harmony went
away. Each night he sang the boy to sleep, turned down the light
and stood by the window. And each night he whispered to the city
that sheltered Harmony somewhere, what he had whispered to the
little sweater coat the night before he went away:--
"Good-night, dear. Good-night, Harmony."
The rabbits stirred uneasily in the hutch; a passing gust shook
the great tree overhead and sent down a sharp shower on to the
bricks below. Peter struck a match and lit his pipe; the
flickering light illuminated his face, his rough hair, his steady
"Good-night, Peter," whispered Harmony. "Good-night, dear."
Walter Stewart had made an uncomplicated recovery, helped along
by relief at the turn events had taken. In a few days he was
going about again, weak naturally, rather handsomer than before
because a little less florid. But the week's confinement had
given him an opportunity to think over many things. Peter had set
him thinking, on the day when he had packed up the last of
Marie's small belongings and sent them down to Vienna.
Stewart, lying in bed, had watched him. "Just how much talk do
you suppose this has made, Byrne?" he asked.
"Haven't an idea. Some probably. The people in the Russian villa
saw it, you know."
Stewart's brows contracted.
"Damnation! Then the hotel has it, of course!"
Stewart groaned. Peter closed Marie's American trunk of which she
had been so proud, and coming over looked down at the injured
"Don't you think you'd better tell the girl all about it?"
"I know, of course, it wouldn't be easy, but--you can't get away
with it, Stewart. That's one way of looking at it. There's
"Starting with a clean slate. If she's the sort you want to
marry, and not a prude, she'll understand, not at first, but
after she gets used to it."
"She wouldn't understand in a thousand years."
"Then you'd better not marry her. You know, Stewart, I have an
idea that women imagine a good many pretty rotten things about
us, anyhow. A sensible girl would rather know the truth and be
done with it. What a man has done with his life before a
girl--the right girl--comes into it isn't a personal injury to
her, since she wasn't a part of his life then. You know what I
mean. But she has a right to know it before she chooses."
"How many would choose under those circumstances?" he jibed.
Peter smiled. "Quite a few," he said cheerfully. "It's a wrong
system, of course; but we can get a little truth out of it."
"You can't get away with it" stuck in Stewart's mind for several
days. It was the one thing Peter said that did stick. And before
Stewart had recovered enough to be up and about he had made up
his mind to tell Anita. In his mind he made quite a case for
himself; he argued the affair against his conscience and came out
Anita's party had broken up. The winter sports did not compare,
they complained, with St. Moritz. They disliked German cooking.
Into the bargain the weather was not good; the night's snows
turned soft by midday; and the crowds that began to throng the
hotels were solid citizens, not the fashionables of the Riviera.
Anita's arm forbade her traveling. In the reassembling of the
party she went to the Kurhaus in the valley below the pension
with one of the women who wished to take the baths.
It was to the Kurhaus, then, that Stewart made his first
excursion after the accident. He went to dinner. Part of the
chaperon's treatment called for an early retiring hour, which was
highly as he had wished it and rather unnerving after all. A man
may decide that a dose of poison is the remedy for all his
troubles, but he does not approach his hour with any hilarity.
Stewart was a stupid dinner guest, ate very little, and looked
haggard beyond belief when the hour came for the older woman to
He did not lack courage however. It was his great asset, physical
and mental rather than moral, but courage nevertheless. The
evening was quiet, and they elected to sit on the balcony outside
Anita's sitting room, the girl swathed in white furs and leaning
back in her steamer chair.
Below lay the terrace of the Kurhaus, edged with evergreen trees.
Beyond and far below that was the mountain village, a few
scattered houses along a frozen stream. The townspeople retired
early; light after light was extinguished, until only one in the
priest's house remained. A train crept out of one tunnel and into
another, like a glowing worm crawling from burrow to burrow.
The girl felt a change in Stewart. During the weeks he had known
her there had been a curious restraint in his manner to her.
There were times when an avowal seemed to tremble on his lips,
when his eyes looked into hers with the look no women ever
mistakes; the next moment he would glance away, his face would
harden. They were miles apart. And perhaps the situation had
piqued the girl. Certainly it had lost nothing for her by its
To-night there was a difference in the man. His eyes met hers
squarely, without evasion, but with a new quality, a searching,
perhaps, for something in her to give him courage. The girl had
character, more than ordinary decision. It was what Stewart
admired in her most, and the thing, of course, that the little
Marie had lacked. Moreover, Anita, barely twenty, was a woman,
not a young girl. Her knowledge of the world, not so deep as
Marie's, was more comprehensive. Where Marie would have been
merciful, Anita would be just, unless she cared for him. In that
case she might be less than just, or more.
Anita in daylight was a pretty young woman, rather incisive of
speech, very intelligent, having a wit without malice, charming
to look at, keenly alive. Anita in the dusk of the balcony,
waiting to hear she knew not what, was a judicial white goddess,
formidably still, frightfully potential. Stewart, who had
embraced many women, did not dare a finger on her arm.
He had decided on a way to tell the girl the story--a preamble
about his upbringing, which had been indifferent, his struggle to
get to Vienna, his loneliness there, all leading with inevitable
steps to Marie. From that, if she did not utterly shrink from
him, to his love for her.
It was his big hour, that hour on the balcony. He was reaching,
through love, heights of honesty he had never scaled before. But
as a matter of fact he reversed utterly his order of procedure.
The situation got him, this first evening absolutely alone with
her. That and her nearness, and the pathos of her bandaged,
useless arm. Still he had not touched her.
The thing he was trying to do was more difficult for that.
General credulity to the contrary, men do not often make spoken
love first. How many men propose marriage to their women across
the drawing-room or from chair to chair? Absurd! The eyes speak
first, then the arms, the lips last. The woman is in his arms
before he tells his love. It is by her response that he gauges
his chances and speaks of marriage. Actually the thing is already
settled; tardy speech only follows on swift instinct. Stewart,
wooing as men woo, would have taken the girl's hand, gained an
encouragement from it, ventured to kiss it, perhaps, and finding
no rebuff would then and there have crushed her to him; What need
of words? They would follow in due time, not to make a situation
but to clarify it.
But he could not woo as men woo. The barrier of his own weakness
stood between them and must be painfully taken down.
"I'm afraid this is stupid for you," said Anita out of the
silence. "Would you like to go to the music-room?"
"God forbid. I was thinking."
"Of what?" Encouragement this, surely.
"I was thinking how you had come into my life, and stirred it
"You know that."
"How did I stir it up?"
"That's hardly the way I meant to put it. You've changed
everything for me. I care for you--a very great deal."
He was still carefully in hand, his voice steady. And still he
did not touch her. Other men had made love to her, but never in
this fashion, or was he making love?
"I'm very glad you like me."
"Like you!" Almost out of hand that time. The thrill in his voice
was unmistakable. "It's much more than that, Anita, so much more
that I'm going to try to do a hideously hard thing. Will you help
"Yes, if I can." She was stirred, too, and rather frightened.
Stewart drew his chair nearer to her and sat forward, his face
set and dogged.
"Have you any idea how you were hurt? Or why?"
"No. There's a certain proportion of accidents that occur at all
these places, isn't there?"
"This was not an accident."
"The branch of a tree was thrown out in front of the sled to send
us over the bank. It was murder, if intention is crime."
After a brief silence--
"Somebody who wished to kill you, or me?"
"Both of us, I believe. It was done by a woman--a girl, Anita. A
girl I had been living with."
A brutal way to tell her, no doubt, but admirably courageous. For
he was quivering with dread when he said it--the courage of the
man who faces a cannon. And here, where a less-poised woman would
have broken into speech, Anita took the refuge of her kind and
was silent. Stewart watched her as best he could in the darkness,
trying to gather further courage to go on. He could not see her
face, but her fingers, touching the edge of the chair, quivered.
"May I tell you the rest?"
"I don't think I want to hear it."
"Are you going to condemn me unheard?"
"There isn't anything you can say against the fact?"
But there was much to say, and sitting there in the darkness he
made his plea. He made no attempt to put his case. He told what
had happened simply; he told of his loneliness and discomfort.
And he emphasized the lack of sentiment that prompted the
Anita spoke then for the first time: "And when you tried to
terminate it she attempted to kill you!"
"I was acting the beast. I brought her up here, and then
neglected her for you."
"Then it was hardly only a business arrangement for her."
"It was at first. I never dreamed of any thing else. I swear
that, Anita. But lately, in the last month or two, she--I suppose
I should have seen that she--"
"That she had fallen in love with you. How old is she?"
A sudden memory came to Anita, of a slim young girl, who had
watched her with wide, almost childish eyes.
"Then it was she who was in the compartment with you on the train
"Where is she now?"
"In Vienna. I have not heard from her. Byrne, the chap who came
up to see me after the--after the accident, sent her away. I
think he's looking after her. I haven't heard from him."
"Why did you tell me all this?"
"Because I love you, Anita. I want you to marry me."
"What! After that?"
"That, or something similar, is in many men's lives. They don't
tell it, that's the difference. I 'm not taking any credit for
telling you this. I'm ashamed to the bottom of my soul, and when
I look at your bandaged arm I'm suicidal. Peter Byrne urged me to
tell you. He said I couldn't get away with it; some time or other
it would come out. Then he said something else. He said you'd
probably understand, and that if you married me it was better to
start with a clean slate."
No love, no passion in the interview now. A clear statement of
fact, an offer--his past against hers, his future with hers. Her
hand was steady now. The light in the priest's house had been
extinguished. The chill of the mountain night penetrated Anita's
white furs; and set her--or was it the chill?--to shivering.
"If I had not told you, would you have married me?"
"I think so. I'll be honest, too. Yes."
"I am the same man you would have married. Only--more honest."
"I cannot argue about it. I am tired and cold."
Stewart glanced across the valley to where the cluster of villas
hugged the mountain-side There was a light in his room; outside
was the little balcony where Marie had leaned against the railing
and looked down, down. Some of the arrogance of his new virtue
left the man. He was suddenly humbled. For the first time he
realized a part of what Marie had endured in that small room
where the light burned.
"Poor little Marie!" he said softly.
The involuntary exclamation did more for him than any plea he
could have made. Anita rose and held out her hand.
"Go and see her," she said quietly. "You owe her that. We'll be
leaving here in a day or so and I'll not see you again. But
you've been honest, and I will be honest, too. I--I cared a great
"And this has killed it?"
"I hardly comprehend it yet. I shall have to have time to think."
"But if you are going away--I'm afraid to leave you. You'll think
this thing over, alone, and all the rules of life you've been
taught will come--"
"Please, I must think. I will write you, I promise."
He caught her hand and crushed it between both of his.
"I suppose you would rather I did not kiss you?" humbly.
"I do not want you to kiss me."
He released her hand and stood looking down at her in the
darkness. If he could only have crushed her to him, made her feel
the security of his love, of his sheltering arms! But the barrier
of his own building was between them. His voice was husky.
"I want you to try to remember, past what I have told you, to the
thing that concerns us both--I love you. I never loved the other
woman. I never pretended I loved her. And there will be nothing
more like that."
"I shall try to remember."
Anita left Semmering the next day, against the protests of the
doctor and the pleadings of the chaperon. She did not see Stewart
again. But before she left, with the luggage gone and the fiacre
at the door, she went out on the terrace, and looked across to
the Villa Waldheim, rising from among its clustering trees.
Although it was too far to be certain, she thought she saw the
figure of a man on the little balcony standing with folded arms,
gazing across the valley to the Kurhaus.
Having promised to see Marie, Stewart proceeded to carry out his
promise in his direct fashion. He left Semmering the evening of
the following day, for Vienna. The strain of the confession was
over, but he was a victim of sickening dread. To one thing only
he dared to pin his hopes. Anita had said she cared, cared a
great deal. And, after all, what else mattered? The story had
been a jolt, he told himself. Girls were full of queer ideas of
right and wrong, bless them! But she cared. She cared!
He arrived in Vienna at nine o'clock that night. The imminence of
his interview with Marie hung over him like a cloud. He ate a
hurried supper, and calling up the Doctors' Club by telephone
found Peter's address in the Siebensternstrasse. He had no idea,
of course, that Marie was there. He wanted to see Peter to learn
where Marie had taken refuge, and incidentally to get from Peter
a fresh supply of moral courage for the interview. For he needed
courage. In vain on the journey down had he clothed himself in
armor of wrath against the girl; the very compartment in the
train provoked softened memories of her. Here they had bought a
luncheon, there Marie had first seen the Rax. Again at this
station she had curled up and put her head on his shoulder for a
nap. Ah, but again, at this part of the journey he had first seen
He took a car to the Siebensternstrasse. His idea of Peter's
manner of living those days was exceedingly vague. He had
respected Peter's reticence, after the manner of men with each
other. Peter had once mentioned a boy he was looking after, in
excuse for leaving so soon after the accident. That was all.
The house on the Siebensternstrasse loomed large and unlighted.
The street was dark, and it was only after a search that Stewart
found the gate. Even then he lost the path, and found himself
among a group of trees, to touch the lowest branches of any of
which resulted in a shower of raindrops. To add to his discomfort
some one was walking in the garden, coming toward him with light,
almost stealthy steps.
Stewart by his tree stood still, waiting. The steps approached,
were very close, were beside him. So intense was the darkness
that even then all he saw was a blacker shadow, and that was
visible only because it moved. Then a hand touched his arm,
stopped as if paralyzed, drew back slowly, fearfully.
"Good Heavens!" said poor Harmony faintly.
"Please don't be alarmed. I have lost the path." Stewart's voice
was almost equally nervous. "Is it to the right or the left?"
It was a moment before Harmony had breath to speak. Then:--
"To the right a dozen paces or so."
"Thank you. Perhaps I can help you to find it."
"I know it quite well. Please don't bother."
The whole situation was so unexpected that only then did it dawn
on Stewart that this blacker shadow was a countrywoman speaking
God's own language. Together, Harmony a foot or so in advance,
they made the path.
"The house is there. Ring hard, the bell is out of order."
"Are you not coming in?"
"No. I--I do not live here."
She must have gone just after that. Stewart, glancing at the dark
facade of the house, turned round to find her gone, and a moment
later heard the closing of the gate. He was bewildered. What sort
of curious place was this, a great looming house that concealed
in its garden a fugitive American girl who came and went like a
shadow, leaving only the memory of a sweet voice strained with
Stewart was full of his encounter as he took the candle the
Portier gave him and followed the gentleman's gruff directions up
the staircase. Peter admitted him, looking a trifle uneasy, as
well he might with Marie in the salon.
Stewart was too preoccupied to notice Peter's expression. He
shook the rain off his hat, smiling.
"How are you?" asked Peter dutifully.
"Pretty good, except for a headache when I'm tired. What sort of
a place have you got here anyhow, Byrne?"
"Old hunting-lodge of Maria Theresa," replied Peter, still
preoccupied with Marie and what was coming. "Rather interesting
"Rather," commented Stewart, "with goddesses in the garden and
all the usual stunts."
"Ran into one just now among the trees. 'A woman I forswore, but
thou being a goddess I forswore not thee.' English-speaking
goddess, by George!"
Peter was staring at him incredulously; now he bent forward and
grasped his arm in fingers of steel.
"For Heaven's sake, Stewart, tell me what you mean! Who was in
Stewart was amused and interested. It was not for him to belittle
a situation of his own making, an incident of his own telling.
"I lost my way in your garden, wandered among the trees, broke
through a hedgerow or two, struck a match and consulted the
Peter's fingers closed.
"Quick," he said.
Stewart's manner lost its jauntiness.
"There was a girl there," he said shortly. "Couldn't see her. She
spoke English. Said she didn't live here, and broke for the gate
the minute I got to the path."
"You didn't see her?"
"No. Nice voice, though. Young."
The next moment he was alone. Peter in his dressing-gown was
running down the staircase to the lower floor, was shouting to
the Portier to unlock the door, was a madman in everything but
purpose. The Portier let him out and returned to the bedroom.
"The boy above is worse," he said briefly. "A strange doctor has
just come, and but now the Herr Doktor Byrne runs to the drug
The Portier's wife shrugged her shoulders even while tears filled
"What can one expect?" she demanded. "The good Herr Gott has
forbidden theft and Rosa says the boy was stolen. Also the
druggist has gone to visit his wife's mother."
"Perhaps I may be of service; I shall go up."
"And see for a moment that hussy of the streets! Remain here. I
Slowly and ponderously she climbed the stairs.
Stewart, left alone, wandered along the dim corridor. He found
Peter's excitement rather amusing. So this was where Peter lived,
an old house, isolated in a garden where rambled young women with
soft voices. Hello, a youngster asleep! The boy, no doubt.
He wandered on toward the lighted door of the salon and Marie.
The place was warm and comfortable, but over it all hung the
indescribable odor of drugs that meant illness. He remembered
that the boy was frail.
Marie turned as he stopped in the salon doorway, and then rose,
white-faced. Across the wide spaces of the room they eyed each
other. Marie's crisis had come. Like all crises it was bigger
than speech. It was after a distinct pause that she spoke.
"Hast thou brought the police?"
Curiously human, curiously masculine at least was Stewart's
mental condition at that moment. He had never loved the girl; it
was with tremendous relief he had put her out of his life. And
"So it's old Peter now, is it?"
"No, no, not that, Walter. He has given me shelter, that is all.
I swear it. I look after the boy."
"Who else is here?"
"No one else; but--"
"Tell that rot to some one who does not know you."
"It is true. He never even looks at me. I am wicked, but I do not
lie." There was a catch of hope in her voice. Marie knew men
somewhat, but she still cherished the feminine belief that
jealousy is love, whereas it is only injured pride. She took a
step toward him. "Walter, I am sorry. Do you hate me?" She had
dropped the familiar "thou."
Stewart crossed the room until only Peter's table and lamp stood
"I didn't mean to be brutal," he said, rather largely, entirely
conscious of his own magnanimity. "It was pretty bad up there and
I know it. I don't hate you, of course. That's hardly possible
"You--would take me back?"
"No. It's over, Marie. I wanted to know where you were, that's
all; to see that you were comfortable and not frightened. You're
a silly child to think of the police."
Marie put a hand to her throat.
"It is the American, of course."
She staggered a trifle, recovered, threw up her head. "Then I
wish I had killed her!"
No man ever violently resents the passionate hate of one woman
for her rival in his affections. Stewart, finding the situation
in hand and Marie only feebly formidable, was rather amused and
flattered by the honest fury in her voice. The mouse was under
his paw; he would play a bit. "You'll get over feeling that way,
kid. You don't really love me."
"You were my God, that is all."
"Will you let me help you--money, I mean?"
"Keep it for her."
"Peter will be here in a minute." He bent over the table and eyed
her with his old, half-bullying, half-playful manner. "Come round
here and kiss me for old times."
She stood stubbornly still, and Stewart, still smiling, took a
step or two toward her. Then he stopped, ceased smiling, drew
"You are quite right and I'm a rotter." Marie's English did not
comprehend "rotter," but she knew the tone. "Listen, Marie, I've
told the other girl, and there's a chance for me, anyhow. Some
day she may marry me. She asked me to see you."
"I do not wish her pity."
"You are wasting your life here. You cannot marry, you say,
without a dot. There is a chance in America for a clever girl.
You are clever, little Marie. The first money I can spare I'll
send you--if you'll take it. It's all I can do."
This was a new Stewart, a man she had never known. Marie recoiled
from him, eyed him nervously, sought in her childish mind for an
explanation. When at last she understood that he was sincere, she
broke down. Stewart, playing a new part and raw in it, found the
situation irritating. But Marie's tears were not entirely bitter.
Back of them her busy young mind was weaving a new warp of life,
with all of America for its loom. Hope that had died lived again.
Before her already lay that great country where women might labor
and live by the fruit of their labor, where her tawdry past would
be buried in the center of distant Europe. New life beckoned to
the little Marie that night in the old salon of Maria Theresa,
beckoned to her as it called to Stewart, opportunity to one, love
and work to the other. To America!
"I will go," she said at last simply. "And I will not trouble you
"Good!" Stewart held out his hand and Marie took it. With a quick
gesture she held it to her cheek, dropped it.
Peter came back half an hour later, downcast but not hopeless. He
had not found Harmony, but life was not all gray. She was well,
still in Vienna, and--she had come back! She had cared then
enough to come back. To-morrow he would commence again, would
comb the city fine, and when he had found her he would bring her
back, the wanderer, to a marvelous welcome.
He found Stewart gone, and Marie feverishly overhauling her few
belongings by the salon lamp. She turned to him a face still
stained with tears but radiant with hope.
"Peter," she said gravely, "I must prepare my outfit. I go to
"Alone, Peter, to work, to be very good, to be something. I am
very happy, although--Peter, may I kiss you?"
"Certainly," said Peter, and took her caress gravely, patting her
thin shoulder. His thoughts were in the garden with Harmony, who
had cared enough to come back.
"Life," said Peter soberly, "life is just one damned thing after
another, isn't it?"
But Marie was anxiously examining the hem of a skirt.
The letter from Anita reached Stewart the following morning. She
"I have been thinking things over, Walter, and I am going to hurt
you very much--but not, believe me, without hurting myself.
Perhaps my uppermost thought just now is that I am disappointing
you, that I am not so big as you thought I would be. For now, in
this final letter, I can tell you how much I cared. Oh, my dear,
I did care!
"But I will not marry you. And when this reaches you I shall have
gone very quietly out of your life. I find that such philosophy
as I have does not support me to-night, that all my little rules
of life are inadequate. Individual liberty was one--but there is
no liberty of the individual. Life--other lives--press too
closely. You, living your life as seemed best and easiest, and
carrying down with you into shipwreck the little Marie
"For, face to face with the fact, I cannot accept it, Walter. It
is not only a question of my past against yours. It is of steady
revolt and loathing of the whole thing; not the flash of protest
before one succumbs to the inevitable, but a deep-seated hatred
that is a part of me and that would never forget.
"You say that you are the same man I would have married, only
more honest for concealing nothing. But--and forgive me this, it
insists on coming up in my mind--were you honest, really? You
told me, and it took courage, but wasn't it partly fear? What
motive is unmixed? Honesty--and fear, Walter. You were preparing
against a contingency, although you may not admit this to
"I am not passing judgment on you. God forbid that I should! I am
only trying to show you what is in my mind, and that this break
is final. The revolt is in myself, against something sordid and
horrible which I will not take into my life. And for that reason
time will make no difference.
"I am not a child, and I am not unreasonable. But I ask a great
deal of this life of mine that stretches ahead, Walter--home and
children, the love of a good man, the fulfillment of my ideals.
And you ask me to start with a handicap. I cannot do it. I know
you are resentful, but--I know that you understand.
The little Georgiev was in trouble those days. The Balkan engine
was threatening to explode, but continued to gather steam, with
Bulgaria sitting on the safety-valve. Austria was mobilizing
troops, and there were long conferences in the Burg between the
Emperor and various bearded gentlemen, while the military prayed
in the churches for war.
The little Georgiev hardly ate or slept. Much hammering went on
all day in the small room below Harmony's on the Wollbadgasse. At
night, when the man in the green velours hat took a little sleep,
mysterious packages were carried down the whitewashed staircase
and loaded into wagons waiting below. Once on her window-sill
Harmony found among the pigeons a carrier pigeon with a brass
tube fastened to its leg.
On the morning after Harmony's flight from the garden in the
Street of Seven Stars, she received a visit from Georgiev. She
had put in a sleepless night, full of heart-searching. She
charged herself with cowardice in running away from Peter and
Jimmy when they needed her, and in going back like a thief the
night before. The conviction that the boy was not so well brought
with it additional introspection--her sacrifice seemed useless,
almost childish. She had fled because two men thought it
necessary, in order to save her reputation, to marry her; and she
did not wish to marry. Marriage was fatal to the career she had
promised herself, had been promised. But this career, for which
she had given up everything else--would she find it in the
workroom of a dressmaker?
Ah, but there was more to it than that. Suppose--how her cheeks
burned when she thought of it!--suppose she had taken Peter at
his word and married him? What about Peter's career? Was there
any way by which Peter's poverty for one would be comfort for
two? Was there any reason why Peter, with his splendid ability,
should settle down to the hack-work of general practice, the very
slough out of which he had so painfully climbed?
Either of two things--go back to Peter, but not to marry him, or
stay where she was. How she longed to go back only Harmony knew.
There in the little room, with only the pigeons to see, she held
out her arms longingly. "Peter!" she said. "Peter, dear!"
She decided, of course, to stay where she was, a burden to no
one. The instinct of the young girl to preserve her good name at
any cost outweighed the vision of Peter at the window, haggard
and tired, looking out. It was Harmony's chance, perhaps, to do a
big thing; to prove herself bigger than her fears, stronger than
convention. But she was young, bewildered, afraid. And there was
this element, stronger than any of the others--Peter had never
told her he loved her. To go back, throwing herself again on his
mercy, was unthinkable. On his love--that was different. But what
if he did not love her? He had been good to her; but then Peter
was good to every one.
There was something else. If the boy was worse what about his
mother? Whatever she was or had been, she was his mother. Suppose
he were to die and his mother not see him? Harmony's sense of
fairness rebelled. In the small community at home mother was
sacred, her claims insistent.
It was very early, hardly more than dawn. The pigeons cooed on
the sill; over the ridge of the church roof, across, a luminous
strip foretold the sun. An oxcart, laden with vegetables for the
market, lumbered along the streets. Puzzled and unhappy, Harmony
rose and lighted her fire, drew on her slippers and the faded
silk kimono with the pink butterflies.
In the next room the dressmaker still slept, dreaming early
morning dreams of lazy apprentices, overdue bills, complaining
Harmony moved lightly not to disturb her. She set her room in
order, fed the pigeons,--it was then she saw the carrier with its
message,--made her morning coffee by setting the tiny pot inside
the stove. And all the time, moving quietly through her morning
routine, she was there in that upper room in body only.
In soul she was again in the courtyard back of the old lodge, in
the Street of Seven Stars, with the rabbits stirring in the
hutch, and Peter, with rapt eyes, gazing out over the city. Bed,
toilet-table, coffee-pot, Peter; pigeons, rolls, Peter; sunrise
over the church roof, and Peter again. Always Peter!
Monia Reiff was stirring in the next room. Harmony could hear
her, muttering and putting coal on the stove and calling to the
Hungarian maid for breakfast. Harmony dressed hastily. It was one
of her new duties to prepare the workroom for the day. The
luminous streak above the church was rose now, time for the day
She was not certain at once that some one had knocked at the
door, so faint was the sound.
She hesitated, listened. The knob turned slightly. Harmony,
expecting Monia, called "Come in."
It was the little Georgiev, very apologetic, rather gray of face.
He stood in the doorway with his finger on his lips, one ear
toward the stairway. It was very silent. Monia was drinking her
coffee in bed, whither she had retired for warmth.
"Pardon!" said the Bulgarian in a whisper. "I listened until I
heard you moving about. Ah, Fraulein, that I must disturb you!"
"Something has happened!" exclaimed Harmony, thinking of Peter,
"Not yet. I fear it is about to happen. Fraulein, do me the honor
to open your window. My pigeon comes now to you to be fed, and I
fear--on the sill, Fraulein."
Harmony opened the window. The wild pigeons scattered at once,
but the carrier, flying out a foot or two, came back promptly and
set about its breakfast.
"Will he let me catch him?"
"Pardon, Fraulein, If I may enter--"
"Come in, of course."
Evidently the defection of the carrier had been serious. A
handful of grain on a wrong window-sill, and kingdoms overthrown!
Georgiev caught the pigeon and drew the message from the tube.
Even Harmony grasped the seriousness of the situation. The little
Bulgarian's face, from gray became livid; tiny beads of cold
sweat came out on his forehead.
"What have I done?" cried Harmony. "Oh, what have I done? If I
had known about the pigeon--"
Georgiev recovered himself.
"The Fraulein can do nothing wrong," he said. "It is a matter of
an hour's delay, that is all. It may not be too late."
Monia Reiff, from the next room, called loudly for more coffee.
The sulky Hungarian brought it without a glance in their
"Too late for what?"
"Fraulein, if I may trouble you--but glance from the window to
the street below. It is of an urgency, or I--Please, Fraulein!"
Harmony glanced down into the half-light of the street. Georgiev,
behind her, watched her, breathless, expectant. Harmony drew in
"Only a man in a green hat," she said. "And down the street a
group of soldiers."
The situation dawned on the girl then, at least partially.
"They are coming for you?"
"It is possible. But there are many soldiers in Vienna."
"And I with the pigeon--Oh, it's too horrible! Herr Georgiev,
stay here in this room. Lock the door. Monia will say that it is
"Ah no, Fraulein! It is quite hopeless. Nor is it a matter of the
pigeon. It is war, Fraulein. Do not distress yourself. It is but
a matter of--imprisonment."
"There must be something I can do," desperately. "I hear them
below. Is there no way to the roof, no escape?"
"None, Fraulein. It was an oversight. War is not my game; I am a
man of peace. You have been very kind to me, Fraulein. I thank
"You are not going down!"
"Pardon, but it is better so. Soldiers they are of the provinces
mostly, and not for a lady to confront."
"They are coming up!"
He listened. The clank of scabbards against the stone stairs was
unmistakable. The little Georgiev straightened, threw out his
chest, turned to descend, faltered, came back a step or two.
His small black eyes were fixed on Harmony's face.
"Fraulein," he said huskily, "you are very lovely. I carry always
in my heart your image. Always so long as I live. Adieu."
He drew his heels together, gave a stiff little bow and was gone
down the staircase. Harmony was frightened, stricken. She
collapsed in a heap on the floor of her room, her fingers in her
ears. But she need not have feared. The little Georgiev made no
protest, submitted to the inevitable like a gentleman and a
soldier, went out of her life, indeed, as unobtrusively as he had
The carrier pigeon preened itself comfortably on the edge of the
washstand. Harmony ceased her hysterical crying at last and
pondered what was best to do. Monia was still breakfasting so
incredibly brief are great moments. After a little thought
Harmony wrote a tiny message, English, German, and French, and
inclosed it in the brass tube.
"The Herr Georgiev has been arrested," she wrote. An hour later
the carrier rose lazily from the window-sill, flapped its way
over the church roof and disappeared, like Georgiev, out of her
life. Grim-visaged war had touched her and passed on.
The incident was not entirely closed, however. A search of the
building followed the capture of the little spy. Protesting
tenants were turned out, beds were dismantled, closets searched,
walls sounded for hidden hollows. In one room on Harmony's floor
was found stored a quantity of ammunition.
It was when the three men who had conducted the search had
finished, when the boxes of ammunition had been gathered in the
hall, and the chattering sewing-girls had gone back to work, that
Harmony, on her way to her dismantled room, passed through the
She glanced down the staircase where little Georgiev had so
"I carry always in my heart your image. Always so long as I
The clatter of soldiers on their way down to the street came to
her ears; the soft cooing of the pigeons, the whirr of
sewing-machines from the workroom. The incident was closed,
except for the heap of ammunition boxes on the landing, guarded
by an impassive soldier.
Harmony glanced at him. He was eying her steadily, thumbs in,
heels in, toes out, chest out. Harmony put her hand to her heart.
"You!" she said.
The conversation of a sentry, save on a holiday is, "Yea, yea,"
and "Nay, nay."
Harmony put her hands together, a little gesture of appeal,
"You will not say that you have found, have seen me?"
It was in Harmony's mind to ask all her hungry heart craved to
learn--of Peter, of Jimmy, of the Portier, of anything that
belonged to the old life in the Siebensternstrasse. But there was
no time. The sentry's impassive face became rigid; he looked
through her, not at her. Harmony turned.
The man in the green hat was coming up the staircase. There was
no further chance to question. The sentry was set to carrying the
boxes down the staircase.
Full morning now, with the winter sun shining on the beggars in
the market, on the crowds in the parks, on the flower sellers in
the Stephansplatz; shining on Harmony's golden head as she bent
over a bit of chiffon, on the old milkwoman carrying up the
whitewashed staircase her heavy cans of milk; on the carrier
pigeon winging its way to the south; beating in through bars to
the exalted face of Herr Georgiev; resting on Peter's drooping
shoulders, on the neglected mice and the wooden soldier, on the
closed eyes of a sick child--the worshiped sun, peering
forth--the golden window of the East.
Jimmy was dying. Peter, fighting hard, was beaten at last. All
through the night he had felt it; during the hours before the
dawn there had been times when the small pulse wavered,
flickered, almost ceased. With the daylight there had been a
trifle of recovery, enough for a bit of hope, enough to make
harder Peter's acceptance of the inevitable.
The boy was very happy, quite content and comfortable. When he
opened his eyes he smiled at Peter, and Peter, gray of face,
smiled back. Peter died many deaths that night.
At daylight Jimmy fell into a sleep that was really stupor.
Marie, creeping to the door in the faint dawn, found the boy
apparently asleep and Peter on his knees beside the bed. He
raised his head at her footstep and the girl was startled at the
suffering in his face. He motioned her back.
"But you must have a little sleep, Peter."
"No. I'll stay until--Go back to bed. It is very early."
Peter had not been able after all to secure the Nurse Elisabet,
and now it was useless. At eight o'clock he let Marie take his
place, then he bathed and dressed and prepared to face another
day, perhaps another night. For the child's release came slowly.
He tried to eat breakfast, but managed only a cup of coffee.
Many things had come to Peter in the long night, and one was
insistent--the boy's mother was in Vienna and he was dying
without her. Peter might know in his heart that he had done the
best thing for the child, but like Harmony his early training was
rising now to accuse him. He had separated mother and child. Who
was he to have decided the mother's unfitness, to have played
destiny? How lightly he had taken the lives of others in his
hand, and to what end? Harmony, God knows where; the boy dying
without his mother. Whatever that mother might be, her place that
day was with her boy. What a wreck he had made of things! He was
humbled as well as stricken, poor Peter!
In the morning he sent a note to McLean, asking him to try to
trace the mother and inclosing the music-hall clipping and the
letter. The letter, signed only "Mamma," was not helpful. The
clipping might prove valuable.
"And for Heaven's sake be quick," wrote Peter. "This is a matter
of hours. I meant well, but I've done a terrible thing. Bring
her, Mac, no matter what she is or where you find her." The
Portier carried the note. When he came up to get it he brought in
his pocket a small rabbit and a lettuce leaf. Never before had
the combination failed to arouse and amuse the boy. He carried
the rabbit down again sorrowfully. "He saw it not," he reported
sadly to his wife. "Be off to the church while I deliver this
letter. And this rabbit we will not cook, but keep in
At eleven o'clock Marie called Peter, who was asleep on the
"He asks for you."
Peter was instantly awake and on his feet. The boy's eyes were
open and fixed on him.
"Is it another day?" he asked.
"Yes, boy; another morning."
"I am cold, Peter."
They blanketed him, although the room was warm. From where he lay
he could see the mice. He watched them for a moment. Poor Peter,
very humble, found himself wondering in how many ways he had been
remiss. To see this small soul launched into eternity without a
foreword, without a bit of light for the journey! Peter's
religion had been one of life and living, not of creed.
Marie, bringing jugs of hot water, bent over Peter.
"He knows, poor little one!" she whispered.
And so, indeed, it would seem. The boy, revived by a spoonful or
two of broth, asked to have the two tame mice on the bed. Peter,
opening the cage, found one dead, very stiff and stark. The
catastrophe he kept from the boy.
"One is sick, Jimmy boy," he said, and placed the mate, forlorn
and shivering, on the pillow. After a minute:--
"If the sick one dies will it go to heaven?"
"Yes, honey, I think so."
The boy was silent for a time. Thinking was easier than speech.
His mind too worked slowly. It was after a pause, while he lay
there with closed eyes, that Peter saw two tears slip from under
his long lashes. Peter bent over and wiped them away, a great
ache in his heart.
"What is it, dear?"
"I'm afraid--it's going to die!"
"Would that be so terrible, Jimmy boy?" asked Peter gently. "To
go to heaven, where there is no more death or dying, where it is
always summer and the sun always shines?"
No reply for a moment. The little mouse sat up on the pillow and
rubbed its nose with a pinkish paw. The baby mice in the cage
nuzzled their dead mother.
"Is there grass?"
"Yes--soft green grass."
"Do--boys in heaven--go in their bare feet?" Ah, small mind and
heart, so terrified and yet so curious!
"Indeed, yes." And there on his knees beside the white bed Peter
painted such a heaven as no theologue has ever had the humanity
to paint--a heaven of babbling brooks and laughing, playing
children, a heaven of dear departed puppies and resurrected
birds, of friendly deer, of trees in fruit, of speckled fish in
bright rivers. Painted his heaven with smiling eyes and death in
his heart, a child's heaven of games and friendly Indians, of
sunlight and rain, sweet sleep and brisk awakening.
The boy listened. He was silent when Peter had finished. Speech
was increasingly an effort.
"I should--like--to go there," he whispered at last.
He did not speak again during all the long afternoon, but just at
dusk he roused again.
"I would like--to see--the sentry," he said with difficulty.
And so again, and for the last time, Rosa's soldier from Salzburg
with one lung.
Through all that long day, then, Harmony sat over her work,
unaccustomed muscles aching, the whirring machines in her ears.
Monia, upset over the morning's excitement, was irritable and
unreasonable. The gold-tissue costume had come back from Le
Grande with a complaint. Below in the courtyard all day curious
groups stood gaping up the staircase, where the morning had seen
At the noon hour, while the girls heated soup and carried in
pails of salad from the corner restaurant, Harmony had fallen
into the way of playing for them. To the music-loving Viennese
girls this was the hour of the day. To sit back, soup bowl on
knee, the machines silent, Monia quarreling in the kitchen with
the Hungarian servant, and while the pigeons ate crusts on the
window-sills, to hear this American girl play such music as was
played at the opera, her slim figure swaying, her whole beautiful
face and body glowing with the melody she made, the girls found
the situation piquant, altogether delightful. Although she did
not suspect it, many rumors were rife about Harmony in the
workroom. She was not of the people, they said--the daughter of a
great American, of course, run away to escape a loveless
marriage. This was borne out by the report of one of them who had
glimpsed the silk petticoat. It was rumored also that she wore no
chemise, but instead an infinitely coquettish series of lace and
nainsook garments--of a fineness!
Harmony played for them that day, played, perhaps, as she had not
played since the day she had moved the master to tears, played to
Peter as she had seen him at the window, to Jimmy, to the little
Georgiev as he went down the staircase. And finally with a choke
in her throat to the little mother back home, so hopeful, so
In the evening, as was her custom, she took the one real meal of
the day at the corner restaurant, going early to avoid the crowd
and coming back quickly through the winter night. The staircase
was always a peril, to be encountered and conquered night after
night and even in the daytime not to be lightly regarded. On her
way up this night she heard steps ahead, heavy, measured steps
that climbed steadily without pauses. For an instant Harmony
thought it sounded like Peter's step and she went dizzy.
But it was not Peter. Standing in the upper hall, much as he had
stood that morning over the ammunition boxes, thumbs in, heels
in, toes out, chest out, was the sentry.
Harmony's first thought was of Georgiev and more searching of the
building. Then she saw that the sentry's impassive face wore
lines of trouble. He saluted. "Please, Fraulein."
"I have not told the Herr Doktor."
"I thank you."
"But the child dies."
"He dies all of last night and to-day. To-night, it is, perhaps,
but of moments."
Harmony clutched at the iron stair-rail for support. "You are
sure? You are not telling me so that I will go back?"
"He dies, Fraulein. The Herr Doktor has not slept for many hours.
My wife, Rosa, sits on the stair to see that none disturb, and
her cousin, the wife of the Portier, weeps over the stove.
Please, Fraulein, come with me."
"When did you leave the Siebensternstrasse?"
"And he still lives?"
"Ja, Fraulein, and asks for you."
Now suddenly fell away from the girl all pride, all fear, all
that was personal and small and frightened, before the reality of
death. She rose, as women by divine gift do rise, to the crisis;
ceased trembling, got her hat and coat and her shabby gloves and
joined the sentry again. Another moment's delay--to secure the Le
Grande's address from Monia. Then out into the night, Harmony to
the Siebensternstrasse, the tall soldier to find the dancer at
her hotel, or failing that, at the Ronacher Music-Hall.
Harmony took a taxicab--nothing must be spared now--bribed the
chauffeur to greater speed, arrived at the house and ran across
the garden, still tearless, up the stairs, past Rosa on the upper
flight, and rang the bell.
Marie admitted her with only a little gasp of surprise. There was
nothing to warn Peter. One moment he sat by the bed, watch in
hand, alone, drear, tragic-eyed. The next he had glanced up, saw
Harmony and went white, holding to the back of his chair. Their
eyes met, agony and hope in them, love and death, rapture and
bitterness. In Harmony's, pleading, promise, something of doubt;
in Peter's, only yearning, as of empty arms. Then Harmony dared
to look at the bed and fell on her knees in a storm of grief
beside it. Peter bent over and gently stroked her hair.
Le Grande was singing; the boxes were full. In the body of the
immense theater waiters scurried back and forward among the
tables. Everywhere was the clatter of silver and steel on
porcelain, the clink of glasses. Smoke was everywhere--pipes,
cigars, cigarettes. Women smoked between bites at the tables,
using small paper or silver mouthpieces, even a gold one shone
here and there. Men walked up and down among the diners, spraying
the air with chemicals to clear it. At a table just below the
stage sat the red-bearded Dozent with the lady of the photograph.
They were drinking cheap native wines and were very happy.
From the height of his worldly wisdom he was explaining the
people to her.
"In the box--don't stare, Liebchen, he looks--is the princeling I
have told you of. Roses, of course. Last night it was orchids."
"Last night! Were you here?" He coughed.
"I have been told, Liebchen. Each night he sits there, and when
she finishes her song he rises in the box, kisses the flowers and
tosses them to her."
"Shameless! Is she so beautiful?"
"No. But you shall see. She comes."
Le Grande was very popular. She occupied the best place on the
program; and because she sang in American, which is not exactly
English and more difficult to understand, her songs were
considered exceedingly risque. As a matter of fact they were
merely ragtime melodies, with a lilt to them that caught the
Viennese fancy, accustomed to German sentinental ditties and the
artificial forms of grand opera. And there was another reason for
her success. She carried with her a chorus of a dozen
In Austria darkies were as rare as cats, and there were no cats!
So the little chorus had made good.
Each day she walked in the Prater, ermine from head to foot, and
behind her two by two trailed twelve little Southern darkies in
red-velvet coats and caps, grinning sociably. When she drove a
pair sat on the boot.
Her voice was strong, not sweet, spoiled by years of singing
against dishes and bottles in smoky music halls; spoiled by
cigarettes and absinthe and foreign cocktails that resembled
their American prototypes as the night resembles the day.
She wore the gold dress, decolletee, slashed to the knee over
rhinestone-spangled stockings. And back of her trailed the twelve
She sang "Dixie," of course, and the "Old Folks at Home"; then a
ragtime medley, with the chorus showing rows of white teeth and
clogging with all their short legs. Le Grande danced to that, a
whirling, nimble dance. The little rhinestones on her stockings
flashed; her opulent bosom quivered. The Dozent, eyes on the
dancer, squeezed his companion's hand.
"I love thee!" he whispered, rather flushed.
And then she sang "Doan ye cry, mah honey." Her voice, rather
coarse but melodious, lent itself to the negro rhythm, the swing
and lilt of the lullaby. The little darkies, eyes rolling,
preternaturally solemn, linked arms and swayed rhythmically,
right, left, right, left. The glasses ceased clinking; sturdy
citizens forgot their steak and beer for a moment and listened,
knife and fork poised. Under the table the Dozent's hand pressed
its captive affectionately, his eyes no longer on Le Grande, but
on the woman across, his sweetheart, she who would be mother of
his children. The words meant little to the audience; the rich,
rolling Southern lullaby held them rapt:--
"Doan ye Cry, mah honey--
Doan ye weep no mo',
Mammy's gwine to hold her baby,
All de udder black trash sleepin' on the flo',"
The little darkies swayed; the singer swayed, empty arms cradled.
She picked the tiniest darky up and held him, woolly head against
her breast, and crooned to him, rocking on her jeweled heels. The
crowd applauded; the man in the box kissed his flowers and flung
them. Glasses and dishes clinked again.
The Dozent bent across the table.
"Some day--" he said.
The girl blushed.
Le Grande made her way into the wings, surrounded by her little
troupe. A motherly colored woman took them, shooed them off,
rounded them up like a flock of chickens.
And there in the wings, grimly impassive, stood a private soldier
of the old Franz Josef, blocking the door to her dressing room.
For a moment gold dress and dark blue-gray uniform confronted
each other. Then the sentry touched his cap.
"Madam," he said, "the child is in the Riebensternstrasse and
to-night he dies."
"What child?" Her arms were full of flowers.
"The child from the hospital. Please to make haste."
Jimmy died an hour after midnight, quite peacefully, died with
one hand in Harmony's and one between Peter's two big ones.
Toward the last he called Peter "Daddy" and asked for a drink.
His eyes, moving slowly round the room, passed without notice the
grayfaced woman in a gold dress who stood staring down at him,
rested a moment on the cage of mice, came to a stop in the
doorway, where stood the sentry, white and weary, but refusing
It was Harmony who divined the child's unspoken wish.
"The manual?" she whispered.
The boy nodded. And so just inside the door of the bedroom across
from the old salon of Maria Theresa the sentry, with sad eyes but
no lack of vigor, went again through the Austrian manual of arms,
and because he had no carbine he used Peter's old walking-stick.
When it was finished the boy smiled faintly, tried to salute, lay
Peter was going back to America and still he had not told Harmony
he loved her. It was necessary that he go back. His money had
about given out, and there was no way to get more save by earning
it. The drain of Jimmy's illness, the inevitable expense of the
small grave and the tiny stone Peter had insisted on buying, had
made retreat his only course. True, Le Grande had wished to
defray all expenses, but Peter was inexorable. No money earned as
the dancer earned hers should purchase peaceful rest for the
loved little body. And after seeing Peter's eyes the dancer had
A week had seen many changes. Marie was gone. After a conference
between Stewart and Peter that had been decided on. Stewart
raised the money somehow, and Peter saw her off, palpitant and
eager, with the pin he had sent her to Semmering at her throat.
She kissed Peter on the cheek in the station, rather to his
embarrassment. From the lowered window, as the train pulled out,
she waved a moist handkerchief.
"I shall be very good," she promised him. The last words he heard
above the grinding of the train were her cheery: "To America!"
Peter was living alone in the Street of Seven Stars, getting food
where he might happen to be, buying a little now and then from
the delicatessen shop across the street. For Harmony had gone
back to the house in the Wollbadgasse. She had stayed until all
was over and until Marie's small preparations for departure were
over. Then, while Peter was at the station, she slipped away
again. But this time she left her address. She wrote:--
"You will come to visit me, dear Peter, because I was so lonely
before and that is unnecessary now. But you must know that I
cannot stay in the Siebensternstrasse. We have each our own fight
to make, and you have been trying to fight for us all, for Marie,
for dear little Jimmy, for me. You must get back to work now; you
have lost so much time. And I am managing well. The Frau
Professor is back and will take an evening lesson, and soon I
shall have more money from Fraulein Reiff. You can see how things
are looking up for me. In a few months I shall be able to renew
my music lessons. And then, Peter,--the career!
Her address was beneath.
Peter had suffered much. He was thinner, grayer, and as he stood
with the letter in his hand he felt that Harmony was right. He
could offer her nothing but his shabby self, his problematic
future. Perhaps, surely, everything would have been settled,
without reason, had he only once taken the girl in his arms, told
her she was the breath of life itself to him. But adversity,
while it had roused his fighting spirit in everything else, had
sapped his confidence.
He had found the letter on his dressing-table, and he found
himself confronting his image over it, a tall, stooping figure, a
tired, lined face, a coat that bore the impress of many days with
a sick child's head against its breast.
So it was over. She had come back and gone again, and this time
he must let her go. Who was he to detain her? She would carry
herself on to success, he felt; she had youth, hope, beauty and
ability. And she had proved the thing he had not dared to
believe, that she could take care of herself in the old city.
Only--to go away and leave her there!
McLean would remain. No doubt he already had Harmony's address in
the Wollbadgasse. Peter was not subtle, no psychologist, but he
had seen during the last few days how the boy watched Harmony's
every word, every gesture. And, perhaps, when loneliness and hard
work began to tell on her, McLean's devotion would win its
reward. McLean's devotion, with all that it meant, the lessons
again, community of taste, their common youth! Peter felt old,
Nevertheless he went that night to the Wollbadgasse. He sent his
gray suit to the Portier's wife to be pressed, and getting out
his surgical case, as he had once before in the Pension Schwarz,
he sewed a button on his overcoat, using the curved needle and
the catgut and working with surgeon's precision. Then, still
working very carefully, he trimmed the edges of graying hair over
his ears, trimmed his cuffs, trimmed his best silk tie, now
almost hopeless. He blacked his shoes, and the suit not coming,
he donned his dressing-gown and went into Jimmy's room to feed
the mice. Peter stood a moment beside the smooth white bed with
his face working. The wooden sentry still stood on the bedside
It was in Peter's mind to take the mice to Harmony, confess his
defeat and approaching retreat, and ask her to care for them.
Then he decided against this palpable appeal for sympathy,
elected to go empty-handed and discover merely how comfortable
she was or was not. When the time came he would slip out of her
life, sending her a letter and leaving McLean on guard.
Harmony was at home. Peter climbed the dark staircase--where
Harmony had met the little Georgiev, and where he had gone down
to his death--climbed steadily, but without his usual elasticity.
The place appalled him--its gloom, its dinginess, its somber
quiet. In the daylight, with the pigeons on the sills and the
morning sunlight printing the cross of the church steeple on the
whitewashed wall, it was peaceful, cloisterlike, with landings
that were crypts. But at night it was almost terrifying, that
Harmony was playing. Peter heard her when he reached the upper
landing, playing a sad little strain that gripped his heart. He
waited outside before ringing, heard her begin something
determinedly cheerful, falter, cease altogether. Peter rang.
Harmony herself admitted him. Perhaps--oh, certainly she had
expected him! It would be Peter, of course, to come and see how
she was getting on, how she was housed. She held out her hand and
Peter took it. Still no words, only a half smile from her and no
smile at all from Peter, but his heart in his eyes.
"I hoped you would come, Peter. We may have the reception room."
"You knew I would come," said Peter. "The reception room?"
"Where customers wait." She still carried her violin, and slipped
back to her room to put it away. Peter had a glimpse of its
poverty and its meagerness. He drew a long breath.
Monia was at the opera, and the Hungarian sat in the kitchen
knitting a stocking. The reception room was warm from the day's
fire, and in order. All the pins and scraps of the day had been
swept up, and the portieres that made fitting-rooms of the
corners were pushed back. Peter saw only a big room with empty
corners, and that at a glance. His eyes were Harmony's.
He sat down awkwardly on a stiff chair, Harmony on a velvet
settee. They were suddenly two strangers meeting for the first
time. In the squalor of the Pension Schwarz, in the comfortable
intimacies of the Street of Seven Stars, they had been easy,
unconstrained. Now suddenly Peter was tongue-tied. Only one thing
in him clamored for utterance, and that he sternly silenced.
"I--I could not stay there, Peter. You understood?"
"No. Of course, I understood."
"You were not angry?"
"Why should I be angry? You came, like an angel of light, when I
needed you. Only, of course,--"
"I'll not say that, I think."
"Please say it, Peter!"
Peter writhed; looked everywhere but at her.
"Please, Peter. You said I always came when you needed me,
"Only--I always need you!" Peter, Peter!
"Not always, I think. Of course, when one is in trouble one needs
a woman; but--"
"Well, of course--but--I'm generally in trouble, Harry dear."
Frightfully ashamed of himself by that time was Peter, ashamed of
his weakness. He sought to give a casual air to the speech by
stooping for a neglected pin on the carpet. By the time he had
stuck it in his lapel he had saved his mental forces from the
rout of Harmony's eyes.
His next speech he made to the center table, and missed a most
delectable look in the aforesaid eyes.
"I didn't come to be silly," he said to the table. "I hate people
who whine, and I've got into a damnable habit of being sorry for
myself! It's to laugh, isn't it, a great, hulking carcass like
me, to be--"
"Peter," said Harmony softly, "aren't you going to look at me?"
"That's cowardice. And I've fixed my hair a new way. Do you like
"Splendid," said Peter to the center table.
"You didn't look!"
The rout of Harmony's eyes was supplemented by the rout of
Harmony's hair. Peter, goaded, got up and walked about. Harmony
was half exasperated; she would have boxed Peter's ears with a
tender hand had she dared.
His hands thrust savagely in his pockets, Peter turned and faced
her at last.
"First of all," he said, "I am going back to America, Harmony.
I've got all I can get here, all I came for--" He stopped, seeing
her face. "Well, of course, that's not true, I haven't. But I'm
going back, anyhow. You needn't look so stricken: I haven't lost
my chance. I'll come back sometime again and finish, when I've
earned enough to do it."
"You will never come back, Peter. You have spent all your money
on others, and now you are going back just where you were,
and--you are leaving me here alone!"
"You are alone, anyhow," said Peter, "making your own way and
getting along. And McLean will be here."
"Are you turning me over to him?"
No reply. Peter was pacing the floor.
"Do you remember the night in Anna's room at the Schwartz when
you proposed to me?"
No reply. Peter found another pin.
"And that night in the old lodge when you proposed to me again?"
Peter turned and looked at her, at her slender, swaying young
figure, her luminous eyes, her parted, childish lips.
"Peter, I want you to--to ask me again."
"Now, listen to me, Harmony. You're sorry for me, that's all; I
don't want to be pitied. You stay here and work. You'll do big
things. I had a talk with the master while I was searching for
you, and he says you can do anything. But he looked at me--and a
sight I was with worry and fright--and he warned me off, Harmony.
He says you must not marry."
"Old pig!" said Harmony. "I will marry if I please."
Nevertheless Peter's refusal and the master's speech had told
somewhat. She was colder, less vibrant. Peter came to her, stood
close, looking down at her.
"I've said a lot I didn't mean to," he said. "There's only one
thing I haven't said, I oughtn't to say it, dear. I'm not going
to marry you--I won't have such a thing on my conscience. But it
doesn't hurt a woman to know that a man loves her. I love you,
dear. You're my heaven and my earth--even my God, I'm afraid. But
I will not marry you."
"Not even if I ask you to?"
"Not even then, dear. To share my struggle--"
"I see," slowly. "It is to be a struggle?"
"A hard fight, Harmony. I'm a pauper practically."
"And what am I?"
"Two poverties don't make a wealth, even of happiness," said
Peter steadily. "In the time to come, when you would think of
what you might have been, it would be a thousand deaths to me,
"People have married, women have married and carried on their
work, too, Peter."
"Not your sort of women or your sort of work. And not my sort of
man, Harry. I'm jealous--jealous of every one about you. It would
have to be the music or me."
"And you make the choice!" said Harmony proudly. "Very well,
Peter, I shall do as you say. But I think it is a very curious
sort of love."
"I wonder," Peter cried, "if you realize what love it is that
loves you enough to give you up."
"You have not asked me if I care, Peter."
Peter looked at her. She was very near to tears, very sad, very
"I'm afraid to ask," said Peter, and picking up his hat he made
for the door. There he turned, looked back, was lost.
"My sweetest heart!" he cried, and took her in his hungry arms.
But even then, with her arms about his neck at last, with her
slender body held to him, her head on his shoulder, his lips to
her soft throat, Peter put her from him as a starving man might
put away food.
He held her off and looked at her.
"I'm a fool and a weakling," he said gravely. "I love you so much
that I would sacrifice you. You are very lovely, my girl, my
girl! As long as I live I shall carry your image in my heart."
Ah, what the little Georgiev had said on his way to the death
that waited down the staircase. Peter, not daring to look at her
again, put away her detaining hand, squared his shoulders, went
to the door.
"Good-bye, Harmony," he said steadily. "Always in my heart!"
Very near the end now: the little Marie on the way to America,
with the recording angel opening a new page in life's ledger for
her and a red-ink line erasing the other; with Jimmy and his
daddy wandering through the heaven of friendly adventure and
green fields, hand in hand; with the carrier resting after its
labors in the pigeon house by the rose-fields of Sofia; with the
sentry casting martial shadows through the barred windows of the
hospital; and the little Georgiev, about to die, dividing his
heart, as a heritage, between his country and a young girl.
Very near the end, with the morning light of the next day shining
into the salon of Maria Theresa and on to Peter's open trunk and
shabby wardrobe spread over chairs. An end of trunks and
departure, as was the beginning.
Early morning at the Gottesacker, or God's acre, whence little
Jimmy had started on his comfortable journey. Early morning on
the frost-covered grass, the frozen roads, the snap and sparkle
of the Donau. Harmony had taken her problem there, in the early
hour before Monia would summon her to labor--took her problem and
found her answer.
The great cemetery was still and deserted. Harmony, none too
warmly clad, walked briskly, a bunch of flowers in oiled paper
against the cold. Already the air carried a hint of spring; there
was a feeling of resurrection and promise. The dead earth felt
Harmony knelt by the grave and said the little prayer the child
had repeated at night and morning. And, because he had loved it,
with some vague feeling of giving him comfort, she recited the
"Ah well! For us all some sweet hope lies
Deeply buried from human eyes:
And in the hereafter, angels may
Roll the stone from its grave away."
When she looked up Le Grande was standing beside her.
There was no scene, hardly any tears. She had brought out a great
bunch of roses that bore only too clearly the stamp of whence
they came. One of the pickaninnies had carried the box and stood
impassively by, gazing at Harmony.
Le Grande placed her flowers on the grave. They almost covered
it, quite eclipsed Harmony's.
"I come here every morning," she said simply.
She had a cab waiting, and offered to drive Harmony back to the
city. Her quiet almost irritated Harmony, until she had looked
once into the woman's eyes. After that she knew. It was on the
drive back, with the little darky on the box beside the driver,
that Harmony got her answer.
Le Grande put a hand over Harmony's.
"I tried to tell you before how good I know you were to him."
"We loved him."
"And I resented it. But Dr. Byrne was right--I was not a fit
person to--to have him."
"It was not that--not only that--"
"Did he ever ask for me? But of course not."
"No, he had no remembrance."
Silence for a moment. The loose windows of the cab clattered.
"I loved him very much when he came," said Le Grande, "although I
did not want him. I had been told I could have a career on the
stage. Ah, my dear, I chose the career--and look at me! What have
I? A grave in the cemetery back there, and on it roses sent me by
a man I loathe! If I could live it over again!"
The answer was very close now:--
"Would you stay at home?"
"Who knows, I being I? And my husband did not love me. It was the
boy always. There is only one thing worth while--the love of a
good man. I have lived, lived hard. And I know."
"But supposing that one has real ability--I mean some achievement
already, and a promise--"
Le Grande turned and looked at Harmony shrewdly.
"I see. You are a musician, I believe?"
"And--it is Dr. Byrne?"
Le Grande bent forward earnestly.
"My child," she said, "if one man in all the world looked at me
as your doctor looks at you, I--I would be a better woman."
"And my music?"
"Play for your children, as you played for my little boy."
Peter was packing: wrapping medical books in old coats, putting
clean collars next to boots, folding pajamas and such-like
negligible garments with great care and putting in his dresscoat
in a roll. His pipes took time, and the wooden sentry he packed
with great care and a bit of healthy emotion. Once or twice he
came across trifles of Harmony's, and he put them carefully
aside--the sweater coat, a folded handkerchief, a bow she had
worn at her throat. The bow brought back the night before and
that reckless kiss on her white throat. Well for Peter to get
away if he is to keep his resolution, when the sight of a ribbon
bow can bring that look of suffering into his eyes.
The Portier below was polishing floors, right foot, left foot,
any foot at all. And as he polished he sang in a throaty tenor.
"Kennst du das Land wo die Citronen bluhen," he sang at the top
of his voice, and coughed, a bit of floor wax having got into the
air. The antlers of the deer from the wild-game shop hung now in
his bedroom. When the wildgame seller came over for coffee there
would be a discussion probably. But were not the antlers of all
The Portier's wife came to the doorway with a cooking fork in her
"A cab," she announced, "with a devil's imp on the box. Perhaps
it is that American dancer. Run and pretty thyself!"
It was too late for more than an upward twist of a mustache.
Harmony was at the door, but not the sad-eyed Harmony of a week
before or the undecided and troubled girl of before that. A
radiant Harmony, this, who stood in the doorway, who wished them
good-morning, and ran up the old staircase with glowing eyes and
a heart that leaped and throbbed. A woman now, this Harmony, one
who had looked on life and learned; one who had chosen her fate
and was running to meet it; one who feared only death, not life
or anything that life could offer.
The door was not locked. Perhaps Peter was not up--not dressed.
What did that matter? What did anything matter but Peter himself?
Peter, sorting out lectures on McBurney's Point, had come across
a bit of paper that did not belong there, and was sitting by his
open trunk, staring blindly at it:--
"You are very kind to me. Yes, indeed.
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