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The Street of Seven Stars

Chapter 14
For two days at Semmering it rained. The Raxalpe and the Schneeberg sulked behind
walls of mist. From the little balcony of the Pension Waldheim one looked out over a sea
of cloud, pierced here and there by islands that were crags or by the tops of sunken masts
that were evergreen trees. The roads were masses of slippery mud, up which the horses
steamed and sweated. The gray cloud fog hung over everything; the barking of a dog
loomed out of it near at hand where no dog was to be seen. Children cried and wild birds
squawked; one saw them not.
During the second night a landslide occurred on the side of the mountain with a rumble
like the noise of fifty trains. In the morning, the rain clouds lifting for a moment, Marie
saw the narrow yellow line of the slip.
Everything was saturated with moisture. It did no good to close the heavy wooden
shutters at night: in the morning the air of the room was sticky and clothing was moist to
the touch. Stewart, confined to the house, grew irritable.
Marie watched him anxiously. She knew quite well by what slender tenure she held her
man. They had nothing in common, neither speech nor thought. And the little Marie's
love for Stewart, grown to be a part of her, was largely maternal. She held him by
mothering him, by keeping him comfortable, not by a great reciprocal passion that might
in time have brought him to her in chains.
And now he was uncomfortable. He chafed against the confinement; he resented the
food, the weather. Even Marie's content at her unusual leisure irked him. He accused her
of purring like a cat by the fire, and stamped out more than once, only to be driven in by
the curious thunderstorms of early Alpine winter.
On the night of the second day the weather changed. Marie, awakening early, stepped out
on to the balcony and closed the door carefully behind her. A new world lay beneath her,
a marvel of glittering branches, of white plain far below; the snowy mane of the Raxalpe
was become a garment. And from behind the villa came the cheerful sound of sleigh-
bells, of horses' feet on crisp snow, of runners sliding easily along frozen roads. Even the
barking of the dog in the next yard had ceased rumbling and become sharp staccato.
The balcony extended round the corner of the house. Marie, eagerly discovering her new
world, peered about, and seeing no one near ventured so far. The road was in view, and a
small girl on ski was struggling to prevent a collision between two plump feet. Even as
Marie saw her the inevitable happened and she went headlong into a drift. A governess
who had been kneeling before a shrine by the road hastily crossed herself and ran to the
rescue.
It was a marvelous morning, a day of days. The governess and the child went on out of
vision. Marie stood still, looking at the shrine. A drift had piled about its foot, where the
 
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