The Street of Seven Stars HTML version

Chapter 22
Harmony's only thought had been flight, from Peter, from McLean, from Mrs. Boyer. She
had devoted all her energies to losing herself, to cutting the threads that bound her to the
life in the Siebensternstrasse. She had drawn all her money, as Peter discovered later. The
discovery caused him even more acute anxiety. The city was full of thieves; poverty and
its companion, crime, lurked on every shadowy staircase of the barracklike houses, or
peered, red-eyed, from every alleyway.
And into this city of contrasts--of gray women of the night hugging gratings for warmth
and accosting passers-by with loathsome gestures, of smug civilians hiding sensuous
mouths under great mustaches, of dapper soldiers to whom the young girl unattended was
potential prey, into this night city of terror, this day city of frightful contrasts, ermine
rubbing elbows with frost-nipped flesh, destitution sauntering along the fashionable
Prater for lack of shelter, gilt wheels of royalty and yellow wheels of courtesans--
Harmony had ventured alone for the second time.
And this time there was no Peter Byrne to accost her cheerily in the twilight and win her
by sheer friendliness. She was alone. Her funds were lower, much lower. And something
else had gone--her faith. Mrs. Boyer had seen to that. In the autumn Harmony had faced
the city clear-eyed and unafraid; now she feared it, met it with averted eyes, alas!
understood it.
It was not the Harmony who had bade a brave farewell to Scatchy and the Big Soprano in
the station who fled to her refuge on the upper floor of the house in the Wollbadgasse.
This was a hunted creature, alternately flushed and pale, who locked her door behind her
before she took off her hat, and who, having taken off her hat and surveyed her hiding-
place with tragic eyes, fell suddenly to trembling, alone there in the gaslight.
She had had no plans beyond flight. She had meant, once alone, to think the thing out.
But the room was cold, she had had nothing to eat, and the single slovenly maid was a
Hungarian and spoke no German. The dressmaker had gone to the Ronacher. Harmony
did not know where to find a restaurant, was afraid to trust herself to the streets alone.
She went to bed supperless, with a tiny picture of Peter and Jimmy and the wooden sentry
under her cheek.
The pigeons, cooing on the window-sill, wakened her early. She was confused at first, got
up to see if Jimmy had thrown off his blankets, and wakened to full consciousness with
the sickening realization that Jimmy was not there.
The dressmaker, whose name was Monia Reiff, slept late after her evening out. Harmony,
collapsing with hunger and faintness, waited as long as she could. Then she put on her
things desperately and ventured out. Surely at this hour Peter would not be searching, and
even if he were he would never think of the sixteenth district. He would make inquiries,
of course--the Pension Schwarz, Boyers', the master's.