“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 still.
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 not insisted.
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.