“It has been splendid, hasn’t it? Since little Scatchy left there has been no one for the piano. I have been lonely sometimes for some one to talk music to.”
Lonely! Poor Peter!
“Then you will let me come back?”
“Will I, indeed! I—I’ll be grateful.”
“How soon would be proper? I dare say to-morrow you’ll be busy—Christmas and all that.”
“Do you mean you would like to come to-morrow?”
“If old Peter wouldn’t be fussed. He might think—”
“Peter always wants every one to be happy. So if you really care—”
“And I’ll not bore you?”
“How—about what time?”
“In the afternoon would be pleasant, I think. And then Jimmy can listen. He loves music.”
McLean, having found his fur-lined coat, got into it as slowly as possible. Then he missed a glove, and it must be searched for in all the dark corners of the salon until found in his pocket. Even then he hesitated, lingered, loath to break up this little world of two.
“You play wonderfully,” he said.
“So do you.”
“If only something comes of it! It’s curious, isn’t it, when you think of it? You and I meeting here in the center of Europe and both of us working our heads off for something that may never pan out.”
There was something reminiscent about that to Harmony. It was not until after young McLean had gone that she recalled. It was almost word for word what Peter had said to her in the coffee-house the night they met. She thought it very curious, the coincidence, and pondered it, being ignorant of the fact that it is always a matter for wonder when the man meets the woman, no matter where. Nothing is less curious, more inevitable, more amazing. “You and I,” forsooth, said Peter!
“You and I,” cried young McLean!
Quite suddenly Peter’s house, built on the sand, collapsed. The shock came on Christmas-Day, after young McLean, now frankly infatuated, had been driven home by Peter.
Peter did it after his own fashion. Harmony, with unflagging enthusiasm, was looking tired. Suggestions to this effect rolled off McLean’s back like rain off a roof. Finally Peter gathered up the fur-lined coat, the velours hat, gloves, and stick, and placed them on the piano in front of the younger man.
“I’m sorry you must go,” said Peter calmly, “but, as you say, Miss Wells is tired and there is supper to be eaten. Don’t let me hurry you.”
The Portier was at the door as McLean, laughing and protesting, went out. He brought a cablegram for Anna. Peter took it to her door and waited uneasily while she read it.
It was an urgent summons home; the old father was very low. He was calling for her, and a few days or week’ would see the end. There were things that must be looked after. The need of her was imperative. With the death the old man’s pension would cease and Anna was the bread-winner.