“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 Schwarz.”
“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 stairs.
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 time.
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.