The Street of Seven Stars HTML version

Chapter 23
Jimmy was not so well, although Harmony's flight had had nothing to do with the relapse.
He had found Marie a slavishly devoted substitute, and besides Peter had indicated that
Harmony's absence was purely temporary. But the breaking-up was inevitable. All day
long the child lay in the white bed, apathetic but sleepless. In vain Marie made flower
fairies for his pillow, in vain the little mice, now quite tame, played hide-and-seek over
the bed, in vain Peter paused long enough in his frantic search for Harmony to buy
colored postcards and bring them to him.
He was contented enough; he did not suffer at all; and he had no apprehension of what
was coming. He asked for nothing, tried obediently to eat, liked to have Marie in the
room. But he did not beg to be taken into the salon, as he once had done. There was a sort
of mental confusion also. He liked Marie to read his father's letters; but as he grew
weaker the occasional confusing of Peter with his dead father became a fixed idea. Peter
was Daddy.
Peter took care of him at night. He had moved into Harmony's adjacent room and dressed
there. But he had never slept in the bed. At night he put on his shabby dressing-gown and
worn slippers and lay on a haircloth sofa at the foot of Jimmy's bed--lay but hardly slept,
so afraid was he that the slender thread of life might snap when it was drawn out to its
slenderest during the darkest hours before the dawn. More than once in every night Peter
rose and stood, hardly breathing, with the tiny lamp in his hand, watching for the rise and
fall of the boy's thin little chest. Peter grew old these days. He turned gray over the ears
and developed lines about his mouth that never left him again. He felt gray and old, and
sometimes bitter and hard also. The boy's condition could not be helped: it was
inevitable, hopeless. But the thing that was eating his heart out had been unnecessary and
Where was Harmony? When it stormed, as it did almost steadily, he wondered how she
was sheltered; when the occasional sun shone he hoped it was bringing her a bit of cheer.
Now and then, in the night, when the lamp burned low and gusts of wind shook the old
house, fearful thoughts came to him--the canal, with its filthy depths. Daylight brought
reason, however. Harmony had been too rational, too sane for such an end.
McLean was Peter's great support in those terrible days. He was young and hopeful. Also
he had money. Peter could not afford to grease the machinery of the police service;
McLean could and did. In Berlin Harmony could not have remained hidden for two days.
In Vienna, however, it was different. Returns were made to the department, but
irregularly. An American music student was missing. There were thousands of American
music students in the city: one fell over them in the coffee-houses. McLean offered a
reward and followed up innumerable music students.
The alternating hope and despair was most trying. Peter became old and haggard; the boy
grew thin and white. But there was this difference, that with Peter the strain was