The Street of Seven Stars
A very pale and dispirited Harmony it was who bathed her eyes in cold water that
evening and obeyed little Olga's "Bitte sum speisen." The chairs round the diningtable
were only half occupied--a free concert had taken some, Sunday excursions others. The
little Bulgarian, secretly considered to be a political spy, was never about on this one
evening of the week. Rumor had it that on these evenings, secreted in an attic room far
off in the sixteenth district, he wrote and sent off reports of what he had learned during
the week--his gleanings from near-by tables in coffee-houses or from the indiscreet hours
after midnight in the cafe, where the Austrian military was wont to gather and drink.
Into the empty chair beside Harmony Peter slid his long figure, and met a tremulous bow
and silence. From the head of the table Frau Schwarz was talking volubly--as if, by mere
sound, to distract attention from the scantiness of the meal. Under cover of the Babel
Peter spoke to the girl. Having had his warning his tone was friendly, without a hint of
the intimacy of the day before.
"Not entirely. Somewhat."
"I wish you had sent Olga to me for some tablets. No one needs to suffer from headache,
when five grains or so of powder will help them."
"I am afraid of headache tablets."
"Not when your physician prescribes them, I hope!"
This was the right note. Harmony brightened a little. After all, what had she to do with
the man himself? He had constituted himself her physician. That was all.
"The next time I shall send Olga."
"Good!" he responded heartily; and proceeded to make such a meal as he might, talking
little, and nursing, by a careful indifference, her new-growing confidence.
It was when he had pushed his plate away and lighted a cigarette--according to the
custom of the pension, which accorded the "Nicht Rauchen" sign the same attention that
it did to the portrait of the deceased Herr Schwarz--that he turned to her again.
"I am sorry you are not able to walk. It promises a nice night."
Peter was clever. Harmony, expecting an invitation to walk, had nerved herself to a cool
refusal. This took her off guard.