The Street of Seven Stars
Peter had had many things to think over during the ride down the mountains. He had the
third-class compartment to himself, and sat in a corner, soft hat over his eyes. Life had
never been particularly simple to Peter--his own life, yes; a matter of three meals a day--
he had had fewer--a roof, clothing. But other lives had always touched him closely, and at
the contact points Peter glowed, fused, amalgamated. Thus he had been many people--
good, indifferent, bad, but all needy. Thus, also, Peter had committed vicarious crimes,
suffered vicarious illnesses, starved, died, loved--vicariously.
And now, after years of living for others, Peter was living at last for himself--and
Not that he understood exactly what ailed him. He thought he was tired, which was true
enough, having had little sleep for two or three nights. Also he explained to himself that
he was smoking too much, and resolutely--lighted another cigarette.
Two things had revealed Peter's condition to himself: McLean had said: "You are crazy
in love with her." McLean's statement, lacking subtlety, had had a certain quality of
directness. Even then Peter, utterly miserable, had refused to capitulate, when to
capitulate would have meant the surrender of the house in the Siebensternstrasse. And the
absence from Harmony had shown him just where he stood.
He was in love, crazy in love. Every fiber of his long body glowed with it, ached with it.
And every atom of his reason told him what mad folly it was, this love. Even if Harmony
cared--and at the mere thought his heart pounded--what madness for her, what idiocy for
him! To ask her to accept the half of--nothing, to give up a career to share his struggle for
one, to ask her to bury her splendid talent and her beauty under a bushel that he might
wave aloft his feeble light!
And there was no way out, no royal road to fortune by the route he had chosen; nothing
but grinding work, with a result problematical and years ahead. There were even no
legacies to expect, he thought whimsically. Peter had known a chap once, struggling
along in gynecology, who had had a fortune left him by a G. P., which being interpreted
is Grateful Patient. Peter's patients had a way of living, and when they did drop out, as
happened now and then, had also a way of leaving Peter an unpaid bill in token of
appreciation; Peter had even occasionally helped to bury them, by way, he defended
himself, of covering up his mistakes.
Peter, sitting back in his corner, allowed the wonderful scenery to slip by unnoticed. He
put Harmony the Desirable out of his mind, and took to calculating on a scrap of paper
what could be done for Harmony the Musician. He could hold out for three months, he
calculated, and still have enough to send Harmony home and to get home himself on a
slow boat. The Canadian lines were cheap. If Jimmy lived perhaps he could take him
along: if not--