It was the middle of November when Anna Gates, sitting on her trunk in the cold entrance hall on the Hirschengasse, flung the conversational bomb that left empty three rooms in the Pension Schwarz.
Mid-December found Harmony back and fully established in the lodge of Maria Theresa on the Street of Seven Stars—back, but with a difference. True, the gate still swung back and forward on rusty hinges, obedient to every whim of the December gales; but the casement windows in the salon no longer creaked or admitted drafts, thanks to Peter and a roll of rubber weather-casing. The grand piano, which had been Scatchy’s rented extravagance, had gone never to return, and in its corner stood a battered but still usable upright. Under the great chandelier sat a table with an oil lamp, and evening and morning the white-tiled stove gleamed warm with fire. On the table by the lamp were the combined medical books of Peter and Anna Gates, and an ash-tray which also they used in common.
Shabby still, of course, bare, almost denuded, the salon of Maria Theresa. But at night, with the lamp lighted and the little door of the stove open, and perhaps, when the dishes from supper had been washed, with Harmony playing softly, it took resolution on Peter’s part to put on his overcoat and face a lecture on the resection of a rib or a discussion of the function of the pituitary body.
The new arrangement had proved itself in more ways than one not only greater in comfort, but in economy. Food was amazingly cheap. Coal, which had cost ninety Hellers a bucket at the Pension Schwarz, they bought in quantity and could afford to use lavishly. Oil for the lamp was a trifle. They dined on venison now and then, when the shop across boasted a deer from the mountains. They had other game occasionally, when Peter, carrying home a mysterious package, would make them guess what it might contain. Always on such occasions Harmony guessed rabbits. She knew how to cook rabbits, and some of the other game worried her.
For Harmony was the cook. It had taken many arguments and much coaxing to make Peter see it that way. In vain Harmony argued the extravagance of Rosa, now married to the soldier from Salzburg with one lung, or the tendency of the delicatessen seller to weigh short if one did not watch him. Peter was firm.
It was Dr. Gates, after all, who found the solution.
“Don’t be too obstinate, Peter,” she admonished him. “The child needs occupation; she can’t practice all day. You and I can keep up the financial end well enough, reduced as it is. Let her keep house to her heart’s content. That can be her contribution to the general fund.”
And that eventually was the way it settled itself, not without demur from Harmony, who feared her part was too small, and who irritated Anna almost to a frenzy by cleaning the apartment from end to end to make certain of her usefulness.