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The Street of Seven Stars

Chapter 16
Quite suddenly Peter's house, built on the sand, collapsed. The shock came on Christmas-
Day, after young McLean, now frankly infatuated, had been driven home by Peter.
Peter did it after his own fashion. Harmony, with unflagging enthusiasm, was looking
tired. Suggestions to this effect rolled off McLean's back like rain off a roof. Finally Peter
gathered up the fur-lined coat, the velours hat, gloves, and stick, and placed them on the
piano in front of the younger man.
"I'm sorry you must go," said Peter calmly, "but, as you say, Miss Wells is tired and there
is supper to be eaten. Don't let me hurry you."
The Portier was at the door as McLean, laughing and protesting, went out. He brought a
cablegram for Anna. Peter took it to her door and waited uneasily while she read it.
It was an urgent summons home; the old father was very low. He was calling for her, and
a few days or week' would see the end. There were things that must be looked after. The
need of her was imperative. With the death the old man's pension would cease and Anna
was the bread-winner.
Anna held the paper out to Peter and sat down. Her nervous strength seemed to have
deserted her. All at once she was a stricken, elderly woman, with hope wiped out of her
face and something nearer resentment than grief in its place.
"It has come, Peter," she said dully. "I always knew it couldn't last. They've always hung
about my neck, and now--"
"Do you think you must go? Isn't there some way? If things are so bad you could hardly
get there in time, and--you must think of yourself a little, Anna."
"I am not thinking of anything else. Peter, I'm an uncommonly selfish woman, but I--"
Quite without warning she burst out crying, unlovely, audible weeping that shook her
narrow shoulders. Harmony heard the sound and joined them. After a look at Anna she
sat down beside her and put a white arm over her shoulders. She did not try to speak.
Anna's noisy grief subsided as suddenly as it came. She patted Harmony's hand in mute
acknowledgment and dried her eyes.
"I'm not grieving, child," she said; "I'm only realizing what a selfish old maid I am. I'm
crying because I'm a disappointment to myself. Harry, I'm going back to America."
And that, after hours of discussion, was where they ended. Anna must go at once. Peter
must keep the apartment, having Jimmy to look after and to hide. What was a frightful
dilemma to him and to Harmony Anna took rather lightly.
 
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