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The Street of Seven Stars

Chapter 26
Jimmy was dying. Peter, fighting hard, was beaten at last. All through the night he had
felt it; during the hours before the dawn there had been times when the small pulse
wavered, flickered, almost ceased. With the daylight there had been a trifle of recovery,
enough for a bit of hope, enough to make harder Peter's acceptance of the inevitable.
The boy was very happy, quite content and comfortable. When he opened his eyes he
smiled at Peter, and Peter, gray of face, smiled back. Peter died many deaths that night.
At daylight Jimmy fell into a sleep that was really stupor. Marie, creeping to the door in
the faint dawn, found the boy apparently asleep and Peter on his knees beside the bed. He
raised his head at her footstep and the girl was startled at the suffering in his face. He
motioned her back.
"But you must have a little sleep, Peter."
"No. I'll stay until--Go back to bed. It is very early."
Peter had not been able after all to secure the Nurse Elisabet, and now it was useless. At
eight o'clock he let Marie take his place, then he bathed and dressed and prepared to face
another day, perhaps another night. For the child's release came slowly. He tried to eat
breakfast, but managed only a cup of coffee.
Many things had come to Peter in the long night, and one was insistent--the boy's mother
was in Vienna and he was dying without her. Peter might know in his heart that he had
done the best thing for the child, but like Harmony his early training was rising now to
accuse him. He had separated mother and child. Who was he to have decided the mother's
unfitness, to have played destiny? How lightly he had taken the lives of others in his
hand, and to what end? Harmony, God knows where; the boy dying without his mother.
Whatever that mother might be, her place that day was with her boy. What a wreck he
had made of things! He was humbled as well as stricken, poor Peter!
In the morning he sent a note to McLean, asking him to try to trace the mother and
inclosing the music-hall clipping and the letter. The letter, signed only "Mamma," was
not helpful. The clipping might prove valuable.
"And for Heaven's sake be quick," wrote Peter. "This is a matter of hours. I meant well,
but I've done a terrible thing. Bring her, Mac, no matter what she is or where you find
her." The Portier carried the note. When he came up to get it he brought in his pocket a
small rabbit and a lettuce leaf. Never before had the combination failed to arouse and
amuse the boy. He carried the rabbit down again sorrowfully. "He saw it not," he reported
sadly to his wife. "Be off to the church while I deliver this letter. And this rabbit we will
not cook, but keep in remembrance."
 
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