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The Street of Seven Stars

Chapter 19
Peter went to Semmering the next morning, tiptoeing out very early and without
breakfast. He went in to cover Jimmy, lying diagonally across his small bed amid a riot of
tossed blankets. The communicating door into Harmony's room was open. Peter kept his
eyes carefully from it, but his ears were less under control. He could hear her soft
breathing. There were days coming when Peter would stand where he stood then and
listen, and find only silence.
He tore himself away at last, closing the outer door carefully behind him and lighting a
match to find his way down the staircase. The Portier was not awake. Peter had to rouse
him, and to stand by while he donned the trousers which he deemed necessary to the
dignity of his position before he opened the street door.
Reluctant as he had been to go, the change was good for Peter. The dawn grew rosy,
promised sunshine, fulfilled its promise. The hurrying crowds at the depot interested him:
he enjoyed his coffee, taken from a bare table in the station. The horizontal morning
sunlight, shining in through marvelously clean windows, warmed the marble of the floor,
made black shadows beside the heaps of hand luggage everywhere, turned into gold the
hair of a toddling baby venturing on a tour of discovery. The same morning light, alas!
revealed to Peter a break across the toe of one of his shoes. Peter sighed, then smiled. The
baby was catching at the bits of dust that floated in the sunshine.
Suddenly a great wave of happiness overwhelmed Peter. It was a passing thing, born of
nothing, but for the instant that it lasted Peter was a king. Everything was well. The world
was his oyster. Life was his, to make it what he would--youth and hope and joy. Under
the beatific influence he expanded, grew, almost shone. Youth and hope and joy--that
cometh in the morning.
The ecstasy passed away, but without reaction. Peter no longer shone; he still glowed. He
picked up the golden-haired baby and hugged it. He hunted out a beggar he had passed
and gave him five Hellers. He helped a suspicious old lady with an oilcloth-covered
bundle; he called the guard on the train "son" and forced a grin out of that dignitary.
Peter traveled third-class, which was quite comfortable, and no bother about "Nicht
Rauchen" signs. His unreasonable cheerfulness persisted as far as Gloggnitz. There, with
the increasing ruggedness of the scenery and his first view of the Raxalpe, came
recollection of the urgency of Stewart's last message, of Marie Jedlicka, of the sordid
little tragedy that awaited him at the end of his journey.
Peter sobered. Life was rather a mess, after all, he reflected. Love was a blessing, but it
was also a curse. After that he sat back in his corner and let the mountain scenery take
care of itself, while he recalled the look he had surprised once or twice in Marie's eyes
when she looked at Stewart. It was sad, pitiful. Marie was a clever little thing. If only
 
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