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 mistakes.