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The Street of Seven Stars

Chapter 25
The little Georgiev was in trouble those days. The Balkan engine was threatening to
explode, but continued to gather steam, with Bulgaria sitting on the safety-valve. Austria
was mobilizing troops, and there were long conferences in the Burg between the Emperor
and various bearded gentlemen, while the military prayed in the churches for war.
The little Georgiev hardly ate or slept. Much hammering went on all day in the small
room below Harmony's on the Wollbadgasse. At night, when the man in the green
velours hat took a little sleep, mysterious packages were carried down the whitewashed
staircase and loaded into wagons waiting below. Once on her window-sill Harmony
found among the pigeons a carrier pigeon with a brass tube fastened to its leg.
On the morning after Harmony's flight from the garden in the Street of Seven Stars, she
received a visit from Georgiev. She had put in a sleepless night, full of heart-searching.
She charged herself with cowardice in running away from Peter and Jimmy when they
needed her, and in going back like a thief the night before. The conviction that the boy
was not so well brought with it additional introspection--her sacrifice seemed useless,
almost childish. She had fled because two men thought it necessary, in order to save her
reputation, to marry her; and she did not wish to marry. Marriage was fatal to the career
she had promised herself, had been promised. But this career, for which she had given up
everything else--would she find it in the workroom of a dressmaker?
Ah, but there was more to it than that. Suppose--how her cheeks burned when she
thought of it!--suppose she had taken Peter at his word and married him? What about
Peter's career? Was there any way by which Peter's poverty for one would be comfort for
two? Was there any reason why Peter, with his splendid ability, should settle down to the
hack-work of general practice, the very slough out of which he had so painfully climbed?
Either of two things--go back to Peter, but not to marry him, or stay where she was. How
she longed to go back only Harmony knew. There in the little room, with only the
pigeons to see, she held out her arms longingly. "Peter!" she said. "Peter, dear!"
She decided, of course, to stay where she was, a burden to no one. The instinct of the
young girl to preserve her good name at any cost outweighed the vision of Peter at the
window, haggard and tired, looking out. It was Harmony's chance, perhaps, to do a big
thing; to prove herself bigger than her fears, stronger than convention. But she was
young, bewildered, afraid. And there was this element, stronger than any of the others--
Peter had never told her he loved her. To go back, throwing herself again on his mercy,
was unthinkable. On his love--that was different. But what if he did not love her? He had
been good to her; but then Peter was good to every one.
There was something else. If the boy was worse what about his mother? Whatever she
was or had been, she was his mother. Suppose he were to die and his mother not see him?