He went into the room. Stewart was lying very still and breathing easily. On her knees beside the bed knelt Marie. At Peter’s step she rose and faced him.
“I am leaving him, Peter, for always.”
“Good!” said Peter heartily. “Better for you and better for him.”
Marie drew a long breath. “The night train,” she said listlessly, “is an express. I had forgotten. It is double fare.”
“What of that, little sister?” said Peter. “What is a double fare when it means life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? And there will be happiness, little sister.”
He put his hand in his pocket.
The Portier was almost happy that morning. For one thing, he had won honorable mention at the Schubert Society the night before; for another, that night the Engel was to sing Mignon, and the Portier had spent his Christmas tips for a ticket. All day long he had been poring over the score.
“‘Kennst du das Land wo die Citronen bluhen?’” he sang with feeling while he polished the floors. He polished them with his feet, wearing felt boots for the purpose, and executing in the doing a sort of ungainly dance—a sprinkle of wax, right foot forward and back, left foot forward and back, both feet forward and back in a sort of double shuffle; more wax, more vigorous polishing, more singing, with longer pauses for breath. “‘Knowest thou the land where the lemon trees bloom?’” he bellowed—sprinkle of wax, right foot, left foot, any foot at all. Now and then he took the score from his pocket and pored over it, humming the air, raising his eyebrows over the high notes, dropping his chin to the low ones. It was a wonderful morning. Between greetings to neighbors he sang—a bit of talk, a bit of song.
“’Kennst du das Land’—Good-morning, sir—the old Rax wears a crown. It will snow soon. ’Kennst du das Land wo die Citronen’—Ah, madam the milk Frau, and are the cows frozen up to-day like the pump? No? Marvelous! Dost thou know that to-night is Mignon at the Opera, and that the Engel sings? ’Kennst du das Land’—”
At eleven came Rosa with her husband, the soldier from Salzburg with one lung. He was having a holiday from his sentry duty at the hospital, and the one lung seemed to be a libel, for while the women had coffee together and a bit of mackerel he sang a very fair bass to the Portier’s tenor. Together they pored over the score, and even on their way to the beer hall hummed together such bits as they recalled.
On one point they differed. The score was old and soiled with much thumbing. At one point, destroyed long since, the sentry sang A sharp: the Portier insisted on A natural. They argued together over three Steins of beer; the waiter, referred to, decided for A flat. It was a serious matter to have one’s teeth set, as one may say, for a natural and then to be shocked with an unexpected half-tone up or down! It destroyed the illusion; it disappointed; it hurt.