She grew obstinate, too. When in his desperation Stewart suggested that they go back to Vienna she openly scoffed.
“Why?” she demanded. “That you may come back here to her, leaving me there?”
“My dear girl,” he flung back exasperated, “this affair was not a permanent one. You knew that at the start.”
“You have taken me away from my work. I have two months’ vacation. It is but one month.”
“Go back and let me pay—”
In pursuance of the plan to leave the hotel the American party came to see the Waldheim, and catastrophe almost ensued. Luckily Marie was on the balcony when the landlady flung open the door, and announced it as Stewart’s apartment. But Stewart had a bad five minutes and took it out, manlike, on the girl.
Stewart had another reason for not wishing to leave Semmering. Anita was beautiful, a bit of a coquette, too; as are most pretty women. And Stewart was not alone in his devotion. A member of the party, a New Yorker named Adam, was much in love with the girl and indifferent who knew it. Stewart detested him.
In his despair Stewart wrote to Peter Byrne. It was characteristic of Peter that, however indifferent people might be in prosperity, they always turned to him in trouble. Stewart’s letter concluded:—
“I have made out a poor case for myself; but I’m in a hole, as you can see. I would like to chuck everything here and sail for home with these people who go in January. But, confound it, Byrne, what am I to do with Marie? And that brings me to what I ’ve been wanting to say all along, and haven’t had the courage to. Marie likes you and you rather liked her, didn’t you? You could talk her into reason if anybody could. Now that you know how things are, can’t you come up over Sunday? It’s asking a lot, and I know it; but things are pretty bad.”
Peter received the letter on the morning of the day before Christmas. He read it several times and, recalling the look he had seen more than once in Marie Jedlicka’s eyes, he knew that things were very bad, indeed.
But Peter was a man of family in those days, and Christmas is a family festival not to be lightly ignored. He wired to Stewart that he would come up as soon as possible after Christmas. Then, because of the look in Marie’s eyes and because he feared for her a sad Christmas, full of heartaches and God knows what loneliness, he bought her a most hideous brooch, which he thought admirable in every way and highly ornamental and which he could not afford at all. This he mailed, with a cheery greeting, and feeling happier and much poorer made his way homeward.
Christmas-Eve in the saloon of Maria Theresa! Christmas-Eve, with the great chandelier recklessly ablaze and a pig’s head with cranberry eyes for supper! Christmas-Eve, with a two-foot tree gleaming with candles on the stand, and beside the stand, in a huge chair, Jimmy!