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The Street of Seven Stars

Chapter 10
In looking back after a catastrophe it is easy to trace the steps by which the inevitable
advanced. Destiny marches, not by great leaps but with a thousand small and painful
steps, and here and there it leaves its mark, a footprint on a naked soul. We trace a life by
its scars, as a tree by its rings.
Anna Gates was not the best possible companion for Harmony, and this with every
allowance for her real kindliness, her genuine affection for the girl. Life had destroyed
her illusions, and it was of illusions that Harmony's veil had been woven. To Anna Gates,
worn with a thousand sleepless nights, a thousand thankless days, withered before her
time with the struggling routine of medical practice, sapped with endless calls for
sympathy and aid, existence ceased to be spiritual and became physiological.
Life and birth and death had lost their mysteries. The veil was rent.
To fit this existence of hers she had built herself a curious creed, a philosophy of
individualism, from behind which she flung strange bombshells of theories, shafts of
distorted moralities, personal liberties, irresponsibilities, a supreme scorn for modern law
and the prophets. Nature, she claimed, was her law and her prophet.
In her hard-working, virginal life her theories had wrought no mischief. Temptation had
been lacking to exploit them, and even in the event of the opportunity it was doubtful
whether she would have had the strength of her convictions. Men love theories, but
seldom have the courage of them, and Anna Gates was largely masculine. Women, being
literal, are apt to absorb dangerous doctrine and put it to the test. When it is false doctrine
they discover it too late.
Harmony was now a woman.
Anna would have cut off her hand sooner than have brought the girl to harm; but she
loved to generalize. It amused her to see Harmony's eyes widen with horror at one of her
radical beliefs. Nothing pleased her more than to pit her individualism against the girl's
rigid and conventional morality, and down her by some apparently unanswerable
argument.
On the day after the incident in the kitchen such an argument took place--hardly an
argument, for Harmony knew nothing of mental fencing. Anna had taken a heavy cold,
and remained at home. Harmony had been practicing, and at the end she played a little
winter song by some modern composer. It breathed all the purity of a white winter's day;
it was as chaste as ice and as cold; and yet throughout was the thought of green things
hiding beneath the snow and the hope of spring.
Harmony, having finished, voiced some such feeling. She was rather ashamed of her
thought.
 
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