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Song of the Lark
Willa Cather

(1915 edition)



CONTENTS:

PART I.  FRIENDS OF CHILDHOOD
    II.  THE SONG OF THE LARK
   III.  STUPID FACES
    IV.  THE ANCIENT PEOPLE
     V.  DOCTOR ARCHIE'S VENTURE
    VI.  KRONBORG
         EPILOGUE





PART I

FRIENDS OF CHILDHOOD

I


Dr. Howard Archie had just come up from a game of pool with the Jewish
clothier and two traveling men who happened to be staying overnight in
Moonstone. His offices were in the Duke Block, over the drug store.
Larry, the doctor's man, had lit the overhead light in the waiting-room
and the double student's lamp on the desk in the study. The isinglass
sides of the hard-coal burner were aglow, and the air in the study was
so hot that as he came in the doctor opened the door into his little
operating-room, where there was no stove. The waiting room was carpeted
and stiffly furnished, something like a country parlor. The study had
worn, unpainted floors, but there was a look of winter comfort about it.
The doctor's flat-top desk was large and well made; the papers were in
orderly piles, under glass weights. Behind the stove a wide bookcase,
with double glass doors, reached from the floor to the ceiling. It was
filled with medical books of every thickness and color. On the top shelf
stood a long row of thirty or forty volumes, bound all alike in dark
mottled board covers, with imitation leather backs.

As the doctor in New England villages is proverbially old, so the doctor
in small Colorado towns twenty-five years ago was generally young.
Dr. Archie was barely thirty. He was tall, with massive shoulders
which he held stiffly, and a large, well-shaped head. He was a
distinguished-looking man, for that part of the world, at least.

There was something individual in the way in which his reddish-brown
hair, parted cleanly at the side, bushed over his high forehead. His
nose was straight and thick, and his eyes were intelligent. He wore a
curly, reddish mustache and an imperial, cut trimly, which made him look
a little like the pictures of Napoleon III. His hands were large and
well kept, but ruggedly formed, and the backs were shaded with crinkly
reddish hair. He wore a blue suit of woolly, wide-waled serge; the
traveling men had known at a glance that it was made by a Denver tailor.
The doctor was always well dressed.

Dr. Archie turned up the student's lamp and sat down in the swivel chair
before his desk. He sat uneasily, beating a tattoo on his knees with his
fingers, and looked about him as if he were bored. He glanced at his
watch, then absently took from his pocket a bunch of small keys,
selected one and looked at it. A contemptuous smile, barely perceptible,
played on his lips, but his eyes remained meditative. Behind the door
that led into the hall, under his buffaloskin driving-coat, was a locked
cupboard. This the doctor opened mechanically, kicking aside a pile of
muddy overshoes. Inside, on the shelves, were whiskey glasses and
decanters, lemons, sugar, and bitters. Hearing a step in the empty,
echoing hall without, the doctor closed the cupboard again, snapping the
Yale lock. The door of the waiting-room opened, a man entered and came
on into the consulting-room.

"Good-evening, Mr. Kronborg," said the doctor carelessly. "Sit down."

His visitor was a tall, loosely built man, with a thin brown beard,
streaked with gray. He wore a frock coat, a broad-brimmed black hat, a
white lawn necktie, and steel rimmed spectacles. Altogether there was a
pretentious and important air about him, as he lifted the skirts of his
coat and sat down.

"Good-evening, doctor. Can you step around to the house with me? I think
Mrs. Kronborg will need you this evening." This was said with profound
gravity and, curiously enough, with a slight embarrassment.

"Any hurry?" the doctor asked over his shoulder as he went into his
operating-room.

Mr. Kronborg coughed behind his hand, and contracted his brows. His face
threatened at every moment to break into a smile of foolish excitement.
He controlled it only by calling upon his habitual pulpit manner. "Well,
I think it would be as well to go immediately. Mrs. Kronborg will be
more comfortable if you are there. She has been suffering for some
time."

The doctor came back and threw a black bag upon his desk. He wrote some
instructions for his man on a prescription pad and then drew on his
overcoat. "All ready," he announced, putting out his lamp. Mr. Kronborg
rose and they tramped through the empty hall and down the stairway to
the street. The drug store below was dark, and the saloon next door was
just closing. Every other light on Main Street was out.

On either side of the road and at the outer edge of the board sidewalk,
the snow had been shoveled into breastworks. The town looked small and
black, flattened down in the snow, muffled and all but extinguished.
Overhead the stars shone gloriously. It was impossible not to notice
them. The air was so clear that the white sand hills to the east of
Moonstone gleamed softly. Following the Reverend Mr. Kronborg along the
narrow walk, past the little dark, sleeping houses, the doctor looked up
at the flashing night and whistled softly. It did seem that people were
stupider than they need be; as if on a night like this there ought to be
something better to do than to sleep nine hours, or to assist Mrs.
Kronborg in functions which she could have performed so admirably
unaided. He wished he had gone down to Denver to hear Fay Templeton sing
"See-Saw." Then he remembered that he had a personal interest in this
family, after all. They turned into another street and saw before them
lighted windows; a low story-and-a-half house, with a wing built on at
the right and a kitchen addition at the back, everything a little on the
slant--roofs, windows, and doors. As they approached the gate, Peter
Kronborg's pace grew brisker. His nervous, ministerial cough annoyed the
doctor. "Exactly as if he were going to give out a text," he thought. He
drew off his glove and felt in his vest pocket. "Have a troche,
Kronborg," he said, producing some. "Sent me for samples. Very good for
a rough throat."

"Ah, thank you, thank you. I was in something of a hurry. I neglected to
put on my overshoes. Here we are, doctor." Kronborg opened his front
door--seemed delighted to be at home again.

The front hall was dark and cold; the hatrack was hung with an
astonishing number of children's hats and caps and cloaks. They were
even piled on the table beneath the hatrack. Under the table was a heap
of rubbers and overshoes. While the doctor hung up his coat and hat,
Peter Kronborg opened the door into the living-room. A glare of light
greeted them, and a rush of hot, stale air, smelling of warming
flannels.

At three o'clock in the morning Dr. Archie was in the parlor putting on
his cuffs and coat--there was no spare bedroom in that house. Peter
Kronborg's seventh child, a boy, was being soothed and cosseted by his
aunt, Mrs. Kronborg was asleep, and the doctor was going home. But he
wanted first to speak to Kronborg, who, coatless and fluttery, was
pouring coal into the kitchen stove. As the doctor crossed the
dining-room he paused and listened. From one of the wing rooms, off to
the left, he heard rapid, distressed breathing. He went to the kitchen
door.

"One of the children sick in there?" he asked, nodding toward the
partition.

Kronborg hung up the stove-lifter and dusted his fingers. "It must be
Thea. I meant to ask you to look at her. She has a croupy cold. But in
my excitement--Mrs. Kronborg is doing finely, eh, doctor? Not many of
your patients with such a constitution, I expect."

"Oh, yes. She's a fine mother." The doctor took up the lamp from the
kitchen table and unceremoniously went into the wing room. Two chubby
little boys were asleep in a double bed, with the coverlids over their
noses and their feet drawn up. In a single bed, next to theirs, lay a
little girl of eleven, wide awake, two yellow braids sticking up on the
pillow behind her. Her face was scarlet and her eyes were blazing.

The doctor shut the door behind him. "Feel pretty sick, Thea?" he asked
as he took out his thermometer. "Why didn't you call somebody?"

She looked at him with greedy affection. "I thought you were here," she
spoke between quick breaths. "There is a new baby, isn't there? Which?"

"Which?" repeated the doctor.

"Brother or sister?"

He smiled and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Brother," he said,
taking her hand. "Open."

"Good. Brothers are better," she murmured as he put the glass tube under
her tongue.

"Now, be still, I want to count." Dr. Archie reached for her hand and
took out his watch. When he put her hand back under the quilt he went
over to one of the windows--they were both tight shut--and lifted it a
little way. He reached up and ran his hand along the cold, unpapered
wall. "Keep under the covers; I'll come back to you in a moment," he
said, bending over the glass lamp with his thermometer. He winked at her
from the door before he shut it.

Peter Kronborg was sitting in his wife's room, holding the bundle which
contained his son. His air of cheerful importance, his beard and
glasses, even his shirt-sleeves, annoyed the doctor. He beckoned
Kronborg into the living-room and said sternly:--

"You've got a very sick child in there. Why didn't you call me before?
It's pneumonia, and she must have been sick for several days. Put the
baby down somewhere, please, and help me make up the bed-lounge here in
the parlor. She's got to be in a warm room, and she's got to be quiet.
You must keep the other children out. Here, this thing opens up, I see,"
swinging back the top of the carpet lounge. "We can lift her mattress
and carry her in just as she is. I don't want to disturb her more than
is necessary."

Kronborg was all concern immediately. The two men took up the mattress
and carried the sick child into the parlor. "I'll have to go down to my
office to get some medicine, Kronborg. The drug store won't be open.
Keep the covers on her. I won't be gone long. Shake down the stove and
put on a little coal, but not too much; so it'll catch quickly, I mean.
Find an old sheet for me, and put it there to warm."

The doctor caught his coat and hurried out into the dark street. Nobody
was stirring yet, and the cold was bitter. He was tired and hungry and
in no mild humor. "The idea!" he muttered; "to be such an ass at his
age, about the seventh! And to feel no responsibility about the little
girl. Silly old goat! The baby would have got into the world somehow;
they always do. But a nice little girl like that--she's worth the whole
litter. Where she ever got it from--" He turned into the Duke Block and
ran up the stairs to his office.

Thea Kronborg, meanwhile, was wondering why she happened to be in the
parlor, where nobody but company--usually visiting preachers--ever
slept. She had moments of stupor when she did not see anything, and
moments of excitement when she felt that something unusual and pleasant
was about to happen, when she saw everything clearly in the red light
from the isinglass sides of the hard-coal burner--the nickel trimmings
on the stove itself, the pictures on the wall, which she thought very
beautiful, the flowers on the Brussels carpet, Czerny's "Daily Studies"
which stood open on the upright piano. She forgot, for the time being,
all about the new baby.

When she heard the front door open, it occurred to her that the pleasant
thing which was going to happen was Dr. Archie himself. He came in and
warmed his hands at the stove. As he turned to her, she threw herself
wearily toward him, half out of her bed. She would have tumbled to the
floor had he not caught her. He gave her some medicine and went to the
kitchen for something he needed. She drowsed and lost the sense of his
being there. When she opened her eyes again, he was kneeling before the
stove, spreading something dark and sticky on a white cloth, with a big
spoon; batter, perhaps. Presently she felt him taking off her nightgown.
He wrapped the hot plaster about her chest. There seemed to be straps
which he pinned over her shoulders. Then he took out a thread and needle
and began to sew her up in it. That, she felt, was too strange; she must
be dreaming anyhow, so she succumbed to her drowsiness.

Thea had been moaning with every breath since the doctor came back, but
she did not know it. She did not realize that she was suffering pain.
When she was conscious at all, she seemed to be separated from her body;
to be perched on top of the piano, or on the hanging lamp, watching the
doctor sew her up. It was perplexing and unsatisfactory, like dreaming.
She wished she could waken up and see what was going on.

The doctor thanked God that he had persuaded Peter Kronborg to keep out
of the way. He could do better by the child if he had her to himself. He
had no children of his own. His marriage was a very unhappy one. As he
lifted and undressed Thea, he thought to himself what a beautiful thing
a little girl's body was,--like a flower. It was so neatly and
delicately fashioned, so soft, and so milky white. Thea must have got
her hair and her silky skin from her mother. She was a little Swede,
through and through. Dr. Archie could not help thinking how he would
cherish a little creature like this if she were his. Her hands, so
little and hot, so clever, too,--he glanced at the open exercise book on
the piano. When he had stitched up the flaxseed jacket, he wiped it
neatly about the edges, where the paste had worked out on the skin. He
put on her the clean nightgown he had warmed before the fire, and tucked
the blankets about her. As he pushed back the hair that had fuzzed down
over her eyebrows, he felt her head thoughtfully with the tips of his
fingers. No, he couldn't say that it was different from any other
child's head, though he believed that there was something very different
about her. He looked intently at her wide, flushed face, freckled nose,
fierce little mouth, and her delicate, tender chin--the one soft touch
in her hard little Scandinavian face, as if some fairy godmother had
caressed her there and left a cryptic promise. Her brows were usually
drawn together defiantly, but never when she was with Dr. Archie. Her
affection for him was prettier than most of the things that went to make
up the doctor's life in Moonstone.

The windows grew gray. He heard a tramping on the attic floor, on the
back stairs, then cries: "Give me my shirt!" "Where's my other
stocking?"

"I'll have to stay till they get off to school," he reflected, "or
they'll be in here tormenting her, the whole lot of them."



II


For the next four days it seemed to Dr. Archie that his patient might
slip through his hands, do what he might. But she did not. On the
contrary, after that she recovered very rapidly. As her father remarked,
she must have inherited the "constitution" which he was never tired of
admiring in her mother.

One afternoon, when her new brother was a week old, the doctor found
Thea very comfortable and happy in her bed in the parlor. The sunlight
was pouring in over her shoulders, the baby was asleep on a pillow in a
big rocking-chair beside her. Whenever he stirred, she put out her hand
and rocked him. Nothing of him was visible but a flushed, puffy forehead
and an uncompromisingly big, bald cranium. The door into her mother's
room stood open, and Mrs. Kronborg was sitting up in bed darning
stockings. She was a short, stalwart woman, with a short neck and a
determined-looking head. Her skin was very fair, her face calm and
unwrinkled, and her yellow hair, braided down her back as she lay in
bed, still looked like a girl's. She was a woman whom Dr. Archie
respected; active, practical, unruffled; goodhumored, but determined.
Exactly the sort of woman to take care of a flighty preacher. She had
brought her husband some property, too,--one fourth of her father's
broad acres in Nebraska,--but this she kept in her own name. She had
profound respect for her husband's erudition and eloquence. She sat
under his preaching with deep humility, and was as much taken in by his
stiff shirt and white neckties as if she had not ironed them herself by
lamplight the night before they appeared correct and spotless in the
pulpit. But for all this, she had no confidence in his administration of
worldly affairs. She looked to him for morning prayers and grace at
table; she expected him to name the babies and to supply whatever
parental sentiment there was in the house, to remember birthdays and
anniversaries, to point the children to moral and patriotic ideals. It
was her work to keep their bodies, their clothes, and their conduct in
some sort of order, and this she accomplished with a success that was a
source of wonder to her neighbors. As she used to remark, and her
husband admiringly to echo, she "had never lost one." With all his
flightiness, Peter Kronborg appreciated the matter-of-fact, punctual way
in which his wife got her children into the world and along in it. He
believed, and he was right in believing, that the sovereign State of
Colorado was much indebted to Mrs. Kronborg and women like her.

Mrs. Kronborg believed that the size of every family was decided in
heaven. More modern views would not have startled her; they would simply
have seemed foolish--thin chatter, like the boasts of the men who built
the tower of Babel, or like Axel's plan to breed ostriches in the
chicken yard. From what evidence Mrs. Kronborg formed her opinions on
this and other matters, it would have been difficult to say, but once
formed, they were unchangeable. She would no more have questioned her
convictions than she would have questioned revelation. Calm and even
tempered, naturally kind, she was capable of strong prejudices, and she
never forgave.

When the doctor came in to see Thea, Mrs. Kronborg was reflecting that
the washing was a week behind, and deciding what she had better do about
it. The arrival of a new baby meant a revision of her entire domestic
schedule, and as she drove her needle along she had been working out new
sleeping arrangements and cleaning days. The doctor had entered the
house without knocking, after making noise enough in the hall to prepare
his patients. Thea was reading, her book propped up before her in the
sunlight.

"Mustn't do that; bad for your eyes," he said, as Thea shut the book
quickly and slipped it under the covers.

Mrs. Kronborg called from her bed: "Bring the baby here, doctor, and
have that chair. She wanted him in there for company."

Before the doctor picked up the baby, he put a yellow paper bag down on
Thea's coverlid and winked at her. They had a code of winks and
grimaces. When he went in to chat with her mother, Thea opened the bag
cautiously, trying to keep it from crackling. She drew out a long bunch
of white grapes, with a little of the sawdust in which they had been
packed still clinging to them. They were called Malaga grapes in
Moonstone, and once or twice during the winter the leading grocer got a
keg of them. They were used mainly for table decoration, about
Christmas-time. Thea had never had more than one grape at a time before.
When the doctor came back she was holding the almost transparent fruit
up in the sunlight, feeling the pale-green skins softly with the tips of
her fingers. She did not thank him; she only snapped her eyes at him in
a special way which he understood, and, when he gave her his hand, put
it quickly and shyly under her cheek, as if she were trying to do so
without knowing it--and without his knowing it.

Dr. Archie sat down in the rocking-chair. "And how's Thea feeling
to-day?"

He was quite as shy as his patient, especially when a third person
overheard his conversation. Big and handsome and superior to his fellow
townsmen as Dr. Archie was, he was seldom at his ease, and like Peter
Kronborg he often dodged behind a professional manner. There was
sometimes a contraction of embarrassment and self consciousness all over
his big body, which made him awkward--likely to stumble, to kick up
rugs, or to knock over chairs. If any one was very sick, he forgot
himself, but he had a clumsy touch in convalescent gossip.

Thea curled up on her side and looked at him with pleasure. "All right.
I like to be sick. I have more fun then than other times."

"How's that?"

"I don't have to go to school, and I don't have to practice. I can read
all I want to, and have good things,"--she patted the grapes. "I had
lots of fun that time I mashed my finger and you wouldn't let Professor
Wunsch make me practice. Only I had to do left hand, even then. I think
that was mean."

The doctor took her hand and examined the forefinger, where the nail had
grown back a little crooked. "You mustn't trim it down close at the
corner there, and then it will grow straight. You won't want it crooked
when you're a big girl and wear rings and have sweethearts."

She made a mocking little face at him and looked at his new scarf-pin.
"That's the prettiest one you ev-ER had. I wish you'd stay a long while
and let me look at it. What is it?"

Dr. Archie laughed. "It's an opal. Spanish Johnny brought it up for me
from Chihuahua in his shoe. I had it set in Denver, and I wore it to-day
for your benefit."

Thea had a curious passion for jewelry. She wanted every shining stone
she saw, and in summer she was always going off into the sand hills to
hunt for crystals and agates and bits of pink chalcedony. She had two
cigar boxes full of stones that she had found or traded for, and she
imagined that they were of enormous value. She was always planning how
she would have them set.

"What are you reading?" The doctor reached under the covers and pulled
out a book of Byron's poems. "Do you like this?"

She looked confused, turned over a few pages rapidly, and pointed to "My
native land, good-night." "That," she said sheepishly.

"How about `Maid of Athens'?"

She blushed and looked at him suspiciously. "I like 'There was a sound
of revelry,'" she muttered.

The doctor laughed and closed the book. It was clumsily bound in padded
leather and had been presented to the Reverend Peter Kronborg by his
Sunday-School class as an ornament for his parlor table.

"Come into the office some day, and I'll lend you a nice book. You can
skip the parts you don't understand. You can read it in vacation.
Perhaps you'll be able to understand all of it by then."

Thea frowned and looked fretfully toward the piano. "In vacation I have
to practice four hours every day, and then there'll be Thor to take care
of." She pronounced it "Tor."

"Thor? Oh, you've named the baby Thor?" exclaimed the doctor.

Thea frowned again, still more fiercely, and said quickly, "That's a
nice name, only maybe it's a little--old fashioned." She was very
sensitive about being thought a foreigner, and was proud of the fact
that, in town, her father always preached in English; very bookish
English, at that, one might add.

Born in an old Scandinavian colony in Minnesota, Peter Kronborg had been
sent to a small divinity school in Indiana by the women of a Swedish
evangelical mission, who were convinced of his gifts and who skimped and
begged and gave church suppers to get the long, lazy youth through the
seminary. He could still speak enough Swedish to exhort and to bury the
members of his country church out at Copper Hole, and he wielded in his
Moonstone pulpit a somewhat pompous English vocabulary he had learned
out of books at college. He always spoke of "the infant Saviour," "our
Heavenly Father," etc. The poor man had no natural, spontaneous human
speech. If he had his sincere moments, they were perforce inarticulate.
Probably a good deal of his pretentiousness was due to the fact that he
habitually expressed himself in a book learned language, wholly remote
from anything personal, native, or homely. Mrs. Kronborg spoke Swedish
to her own sisters and to her sister-in-law Tillie, and colloquial
English to her neighbors. Thea, who had a rather sensitive ear, until
she went to school never spoke at all, except in monosyllables, and her
mother was convinced that she was tongue-tied. She was still inept in
speech for a child so intelligent. Her ideas were usually clear, but she
seldom attempted to explain them, even at school, where she excelled in
"written work" and never did more than mutter a reply.

"Your music professor stopped me on the street to-day and asked me how
you were," said the doctor, rising. "He'll be sick himself, trotting
around in this slush with no overcoat or overshoes."

"He's poor," said Thea simply.

The doctor sighed. "I'm afraid he's worse than that. Is he always all
right when you take your lessons? Never acts as if he'd been drinking?"

Thea looked angry and spoke excitedly. "He knows a lot. More than
anybody. I don't care if he does drink; he's old and poor." Her voice
shook a little.

Mrs. Kronborg spoke up from the next room. "He's a good teacher, doctor.
It's good for us he does drink. He'd never be in a little place like
this if he didn't have some weakness. These women that teach music
around here don't know nothing. I wouldn't have my child wasting time
with them. If Professor Wunsch goes away, Thea'll have nobody to take
from. He's careful with his scholars; he don't use bad language. Mrs.
Kohler is always present when Thea takes her lesson. It's all right."
Mrs. Kronborg spoke calmly and judicially. One could see that she had
thought the matter out before.

"I'm glad to hear that, Mrs. Kronborg. I wish we could get the old man
off his bottle and keep him tidy. Do you suppose if I gave you an old
overcoat you could get him to wear it?" The doctor went to the bedroom
door and Mrs. Kronborg looked up from her darning.

"Why, yes, I guess he'd be glad of it. He'll take most anything from me.
He won't buy clothes, but I guess he'd wear 'em if he had 'em. I've
never had any clothes to give him, having so many to make over for."

"I'll have Larry bring the coat around to-night. You aren't cross with
me, Thea?" taking her hand.

Thea grinned warmly. "Not if you give Professor Wunsch a coat--and
things," she tapped the grapes significantly. The doctor bent over and
kissed her.



III


Being sick was all very well, but Thea knew from experience that
starting back to school again was attended by depressing difficulties.
One Monday morning she got up early with Axel and Gunner, who shared her
wing room, and hurried into the back living-room, between the
dining-room and the kitchen. There, beside a soft-coal stove, the
younger children of the family undressed at night and dressed in the
morning. The older daughter, Anna, and the two big boys slept upstairs,
where the rooms were theoretically warmed by stovepipes from below. The
first (and the worst!) thing that confronted Thea was a suit of clean,
prickly red flannel, fresh from the wash. Usually the torment of
breaking in a clean suit of flannel came on Sunday, but yesterday, as
she was staying in the house, she had begged off. Their winter underwear
was a trial to all the children, but it was bitterest to Thea because
she happened to have the most sensitive skin. While she was tugging it
on, her Aunt Tillie brought in warm water from the boiler and filled the
tin pitcher. Thea washed her face, brushed and braided her hair, and got
into her blue cashmere dress. Over this she buttoned a long apron, with
sleeves, which would not be removed until she put on her cloak to go to
school. Gunner and Axel, on the soap box behind the stove, had their
usual quarrel about which should wear the tightest stockings, but they
exchanged reproaches in low tones, for they were wholesomely afraid of
Mrs. Kronborg's rawhide whip. She did not chastise her children often,
but she did it thoroughly. Only a somewhat stern system of discipline
could have kept any degree of order and quiet in that overcrowded house.

Mrs. Kronborg's children were all trained to dress themselves at the
earliest possible age, to make their own beds,--the boys as well as the
girls,--to take care of their clothes, to eat what was given them, and
to keep out of the way. Mrs. Kronborg would have made a good chess
player; she had a head for moves and positions.

Anna, the elder daughter, was her mother's lieutenant. All the children
knew that they must obey Anna, who was an obstinate contender for
proprieties and not always fair minded. To see the young Kronborgs
headed for Sunday School was like watching a military drill. Mrs.
Kronborg let her children's minds alone. She did not pry into their
thoughts or nag them. She respected them as individuals, and outside of
the house they had a great deal of liberty. But their communal life was
definitely ordered.

In the winter the children breakfasted in the kitchen; Gus and Charley
and Anna first, while the younger children were dressing. Gus was
nineteen and was a clerk in a dry-goods store. Charley, eighteen months
younger, worked in a feed store. They left the house by the kitchen door
at seven o'clock, and then Anna helped her Aunt Tillie get the breakfast
for the younger ones. Without the help of this sister-in-law, Tillie
Kronborg, Mrs. Kronborg's life would have been a hard one. Mrs. Kronborg
often reminded Anna that "no hired help would ever have taken the same
interest."

Mr. Kronborg came of a poorer stock than his wife; from a lowly,
ignorant family that had lived in a poor part of Sweden. His
great-grandfather had gone to Norway to work as a farm laborer and had
married a Norwegian girl. This strain of Norwegian blood came out
somewhere in each generation of the Kronborgs. The intemperance of one
of Peter Kronborg's uncles, and the religious mania of another, had been
alike charged to the Norwegian grandmother. Both Peter Kronborg and his
sister Tillie were more like the Norwegian root of the family than like
the Swedish, and this same Norwegian strain was strong in Thea, though
in her it took a very different character.

Tillie was a queer, addle-pated thing, as flighty as a girl at
thirty-five, and overweeningly fond of gay clothes--which taste, as Mrs.
Kronborg philosophically said, did nobody any harm. Tillie was always
cheerful, and her tongue was still for scarcely a minute during the day.
She had been cruelly overworked on her father's Minnesota farm when she
was a young girl, and she had never been so happy as she was now; had
never before, as she said, had such social advantages. She thought her
brother the most important man in Moonstone. She never missed a church
service, and, much to the embarrassment of the children, she always
"spoke a piece" at the Sunday-School concerts. She had a complete set of
"Standard Recitations," which she conned on Sundays. This morning, when
Thea and her two younger brothers sat down to breakfast, Tillie was
remonstrating with Gunner because he had not learned a recitation
assigned to him for George Washington Day at school. The unmemorized
text lay heavily on Gunner's conscience as he attacked his buckwheat
cakes and sausage. He knew that Tillie was in the right, and that "when
the day came he would be ashamed of himself."

"I don't care," he muttered, stirring his coffee; "they oughtn't to make
boys speak. It's all right for girls. They like to show off."

"No showing off about it. Boys ought to like to speak up for their
country. And what was the use of your father buying you a new suit, if
you're not going to take part in anything?"

"That was for Sunday-School. I'd rather wear my old one, anyhow. Why
didn't they give the piece to Thea?" Gunner grumbled.

Tillie was turning buckwheat cakes at the griddle. "Thea can play and
sing, she don't need to speak. But you've got to know how to do
something, Gunner, that you have. What are you going to do when you git
big and want to git into society, if you can't do nothing? Everybody'll
say, `Can you sing? Can you play? Can you speak? Then git right out of
society.' An' that's what they'll say to you, Mr. Gunner."

Gunner and Alex grinned at Anna, who was preparing her mother's
breakfast. They never made fun of Tillie, but they understood well
enough that there were subjects upon which her ideas were rather
foolish. When Tillie struck the shallows, Thea was usually prompt in
turning the conversation.

"Will you and Axel let me have your sled at recess?" she asked.

"All the time?" asked Gunner dubiously.

"I'll work your examples for you to-night, if you do."

"Oh, all right. There'll be a lot of 'em."

"I don't mind, I can work 'em fast. How about yours, Axel?"

Axel was a fat little boy of seven, with pretty, lazy blue eyes. "I
don't care," he murmured, buttering his last buckwheat cake without
ambition; "too much trouble to copy 'em down. Jenny Smiley'll let me
have hers."

The boys were to pull Thea to school on their sled, as the snow was
deep. The three set off together. Anna was now in the high school, and
she no longer went with the family party, but walked to school with some
of the older girls who were her friends, and wore a hat, not a hood like
Thea.



IV


"And it was Summer, beautiful Summer!" Those were the closing words of
Thea's favorite fairy tale, and she thought of them as she ran out into
the world one Saturday morning in May, her music book under her arm. She
was going to the Kohlers' to take her lesson, but she was in no hurry.

It was in the summer that one really lived. Then all the little
overcrowded houses were opened wide, and the wind blew through them with
sweet, earthy smells of garden-planting. The town looked as if it had
just been washed. People were out painting their fences. The cottonwood
trees were a-flicker with sticky, yellow little leaves, and the feathery
tamarisks were in pink bud. With the warm weather came freedom for
everybody. People were dug up, as it were. The very old people, whom one
had not seen all winter, came out and sunned themselves in the yard. The
double windows were taken off the houses, the tormenting flannels in
which children had been encased all winter were put away in boxes, and
the youngsters felt a pleasure in the cool cotton things next their
skin.

Thea had to walk more than a mile to reach the Kohlers' house, a very
pleasant mile out of town toward the glittering sand hills,--yellow this
morning, with lines of deep violet where the clefts and valleys were.
She followed the sidewalk to the depot at the south end of the town;
then took the road east to the little group of adobe houses where the
Mexicans lived, then dropped into a deep ravine; a dry sand creek,
across which the railroad track ran on a trestle. Beyond that gulch, on
a little rise of ground that faced the open sandy plain, was the
Kohlers' house, where Professor Wunsch lived. Fritz Kohler was the town
tailor, one of the first settlers. He had moved there, built a little
house and made a garden, when Moonstone was first marked down on the
map. He had three sons, but they now worked on the railroad and were
stationed in distant cities. One of them had gone to work for the Santa
Fe, and lived in New Mexico.

Mrs. Kohler seldom crossed the ravine and went into the town except at
Christmas-time, when she had to buy presents and Christmas cards to send
to her old friends in Freeport, Illinois. As she did not go to church,
she did not possess such a thing as a hat. Year after year she wore the
same red hood in winter and a black sunbonnet in summer. She made her
own dresses; the skirts came barely to her shoe-tops, and were gathered
as full as they could possibly be to the waistband. She preferred men's
shoes, and usually wore the cast-offs of one of her sons. She had never
learned much English, and her plants and shrubs were her companions. She
lived for her men and her garden. Beside that sand gulch, she had tried
to reproduce a bit of her own village in the Rhine Valley. She hid
herself behind the growth she had fostered, lived under the shade of
what she had planted and watered and pruned. In the blaze of the open
plain she was stupid and blind like an owl. Shade, shade; that was what
she was always planning and making. Behind the high tamarisk hedge, her
garden was a jungle of verdure in summer. Above the cherry trees and
peach trees and golden plums stood the windmill, with its tank on
stilts, which kept all this verdure alive. Outside, the sage-brush grew
up to the very edge of the garden, and the sand was always drifting up
to the tamarisks.

Every one in Moonstone was astonished when the Kohlers took the
wandering music-teacher to live with them. In seventeen years old Fritz
had never had a crony, except the harness-maker and Spanish Johnny. This
Wunsch came from God knew where,--followed Spanish Johnny into town when
that wanderer came back from one of his tramps. Wunsch played in the
dance orchestra, tuned pianos, and gave lessons. When Mrs. Kohler
rescued him, he was sleeping in a dirty, unfurnished room over one of
the saloons, and he had only two shirts in the world. Once he was under
her roof, the old woman went at him as she did at her garden. She sewed
and washed and mended for him, and made him so clean and respectable
that he was able to get a large class of pupils and to rent a piano. As
soon as he had money ahead, he sent to the Narrow Gauge lodging-house,
in Denver, for a trunkful of music which had been held there for unpaid
board. With tears in his eyes the old man--he was not over fifty, but
sadly battered--told Mrs. Kohler that he asked nothing better of God
than to end his days with her, and to be buried in the garden, under her
linden trees. They were not American basswood, but the European linden,
which has honey-colored blooms in summer, with a fragrance that
surpasses all trees and flowers and drives young people wild with joy.

Thea was reflecting as she walked along that had it not been for
Professor Wunsch she might have lived on for years in Moonstone without
ever knowing the Kohlers, without ever seeing their garden or the inside
of their house. Besides the cuckoo clock,--which was wonderful enough,
and which Mrs. Kohler said she kept for "company when she was
lonesome,"--the Kohlers had in their house the most wonderful thing Thea
had ever seen--but of that later.

Professor Wunsch went to the houses of his other pupils to give them
their lessons, but one morning he told Mrs. Kronborg that Thea had
talent, and that if she came to him he could teach her in his slippers,
and that would be better. Mrs. Kronborg was a strange woman. That word
"talent," which no one else in Moonstone, not even Dr. Archie, would
have understood, she comprehended perfectly. To any other woman there,
it would have meant that a child must have her hair curled every day and
must play in public. Mrs. Kronborg knew it meant that Thea must practice
four hours a day. A child with talent must be kept at the piano, just as
a child with measles must be kept under the blankets. Mrs. Kronborg and
her three sisters had all studied piano, and all sang well, but none of
them had talent. Their father had played the oboe in an orchestra in
Sweden, before he came to America to better his fortunes. He had even
known Jenny Lind. A child with talent had to be kept at the piano; so
twice a week in summer and once a week in winter Thea went over the
gulch to the Kohlers', though the Ladies' Aid Society thought it was not
proper for their preacher's daughter to go "where there was so much
drinking." Not that the Kohler sons ever so much as looked at a glass of
beer. They were ashamed of their old folks and got out into the world as
fast as possible; had their clothes made by a Denver tailor and their
necks shaved up under their hair and forgot the past. Old Fritz and
Wunsch, however, indulged in a friendly bottle pretty often. The two men
were like comrades; perhaps the bond between them was the glass wherein
lost hopes are found; perhaps it was common memories of another country;
perhaps it was the grapevine in the garden--knotty, fibrous shrub, full
of homesickness and sentiment, which the Germans have carried around the
world with them.

As Thea approached the house she peeped between the pink sprays of the
tamarisk hedge and saw the Professor and Mrs. Kohler in the garden,
spading and raking. The garden looked like a relief-map now, and gave no
indication of what it would be in August; such a jungle! Pole beans and
potatoes and corn and leeks and kale and red cabbage--there would even
be vegetables for which there is no American name. Mrs. Kohler was
always getting by mail packages of seeds from Freeport and from the old
country. Then the flowers! There were big sunflowers for the canary
bird, tiger lilies and phlox and zinnias and lady's-slippers and
portulaca and hollyhocks,--giant hollyhocks. Beside the fruit trees
there was a great umbrella-shaped catalpa, and a balm-of-Gilead, two
lindens, and even a ginka,--a rigid, pointed tree with leaves shaped
like butterflies, which shivered, but never bent to the wind.

This morning Thea saw to her delight that the two oleander trees, one
white and one red, had been brought up from their winter quarters in the
cellar. There is hardly a German family in the most arid parts of Utah,
New Mexico, Arizona, but has its oleander trees. However loutish the
American-born sons of the family may be, there was never one who refused
to give his muscle to the back-breaking task of getting those tubbed
trees down into the cellar in the fall and up into the sunlight in the
spring. They may strive to avert the day, but they grapple with the tub
at last.

When Thea entered the gate, her professor leaned his spade against the
white post that supported the turreted dove-house, and wiped his face
with his shirt-sleeve; someway he never managed to have a handkerchief
about him. Wunsch was short and stocky, with something rough and
bear-like about his shoulders. His face was a dark, bricky red, deeply
creased rather than wrinkled, and the skin was like loose leather over
his neck band--he wore a brass collar button but no collar. His hair was
cropped close; iron-gray bristles on a bullet-like head. His eyes were
always suffused and bloodshot. He had a coarse, scornful mouth, and
irregular, yellow teeth, much worn at the edges. His hands were square
and red, seldom clean, but always alive, impatient, even sympathetic.

"MORGEN," he greeted his pupil in a businesslike way, put on a black
alpaca coat, and conducted her at once to the piano in Mrs. Kohler's
sitting-room. He twirled the stool to the proper height, pointed to it,
and sat down in a wooden chair beside Thea.

"The scale of B flat major," he directed, and then fell into an attitude
of deep attention. Without a word his pupil set to work.

To Mrs. Kohler, in the garden, came the cheerful sound of effort, of
vigorous striving. Unconsciously she wielded her rake more lightly.
Occasionally she heard the teacher's voice. "Scale of E minor...WEITER,
WEITER!...IMMER I hear the thumb, like a lame foot. WEITER...WEITER,
once...SCHON! The chords, quick!"

The pupil did not open her mouth until they began the second movement of
the Clementi sonata, when she remonstrated in low tones about the way he
had marked the fingering of a passage.

"It makes no matter what you think," replied her teacher coldly. "There
is only one right way. The thumb there. EIN, ZWEI, DREI, VIER," etc.
Then for an hour there was no further interruption.

At the end of the lesson Thea turned on her stool and leaned her arm on
the keyboard. They usually had a little talk after the lesson.

Herr Wunsch grinned. "How soon is it you are free from school? Then we
make ahead faster, eh?"

"First week in June. Then will you give me the `Invitation to the
Dance'?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "It makes no matter. If you want him, you
play him out of lesson hours."

"All right." Thea fumbled in her pocket and brought out a crumpled slip
of paper. "What does this mean, please? I guess it's Latin."

Wunsch blinked at the line penciled on the paper. "Wherefrom you get
this?" he asked gruffly.

"Out of a book Dr. Archie gave me to read. It's all English but that.
Did you ever see it before?" she asked, watching his face.

"Yes. A long time ago," he muttered, scowling. "Ovidius!" He took a stub
of lead pencil from his vest pocket, steadied his hand by a visible
effort, and under the words:

"LENTE CURRITE, LENTE CURRITE, NOCTIS EQUI," he wrote in a clear,
elegant Gothic hand,--

"GO SLOWLY, GO SLOWLY, YE STEEDS OF THE NIGHT."

He put the pencil back in his pocket and continued to stare at the
Latin. It recalled the poem, which he had read as a student, and thought
very fine. There were treasures of memory which no lodging-house keeper
could attach. One carried things about in one's head, long after one's
linen could be smuggled out in a tuning-bag. He handed the paper back
to Thea. "There is the English, quite elegant," he said, rising.

Mrs. Kohler stuck her head in at the door, and Thea slid off the stool.
"Come in, Mrs. Kohler," she called, "and show me the piece-picture."

The old woman laughed, pulled off her big gardening gloves, and pushed
Thea to the lounge before the object of her delight. The
"piece-picture," which hung on the wall and nearly covered one whole end
of the room, was the handiwork of Fritz Kohler. He had learned his trade
under an old-fashioned tailor in Magdeburg who required from each of his
apprentices a thesis: that is, before they left his shop, each
apprentice had to copy in cloth some well known German painting,
stitching bits of colored stuff together on a linen background; a kind
of mosaic. The pupil was allowed to select his subject, and Fritz Kohler
had chosen a popular painting of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. The
gloomy Emperor and his staff were represented as crossing a stone
bridge, and behind them was the blazing city, the walls and fortresses
done in gray cloth with orange tongues of flame darting about the domes
and minarets. Napoleon rode his white horse; Murat, in Oriental dress, a
bay charger. Thea was never tired of examining this work, of hearing how
long it had taken Fritz to make it, how much it had been admired, and
what narrow escapes it had had from moths and fire. Silk, Mrs. Kohler
explained, would have been much easier to manage than woolen cloth, in
which it was often hard to get the right shades. The reins of the
horses, the wheels of the spurs, the brooding eyebrows of the Emperor,
Murat's fierce mustaches, the great shakos of the Guard, were all worked
out with the minutest fidelity. Thea's admiration for this picture had
endeared her to Mrs. Kohler. It was now many years since she used to
point out its wonders to her own little boys. As Mrs. Kohler did not go
to church, she never heard any singing, except the songs that floated
over from Mexican Town, and Thea often sang for her after the lesson was
over. This morning Wunsch pointed to the piano.

"On Sunday, when I go by the church, I hear you sing something."

Thea obediently sat down on the stool again and began, "COME, YE
DISCONSOLATE." Wunsch listened thoughtfully, his hands on his knees.
Such a beautiful child's voice! Old Mrs. Kohler's face relaxed in a
smile of happiness; she half closed her eyes. A big fly was darting in
and out of the window; the sunlight made a golden pool on the rag carpet
and bathed the faded cretonne pillows on the lounge, under the
piece-picture. "EARTH HAS NO SORROW THAT HEAVEN CANNOT HEAL," the song
died away.

"That is a good thing to remember," Wunsch shook himself. "You believe
that?" looking quizzically at Thea.

She became confused and pecked nervously at a black key with her middle
finger. "I don't know. I guess so," she murmured.

Her teacher rose abruptly. "Remember, for next time, thirds. You ought
to get up earlier."

That night the air was so warm that Fritz and Herr Wunsch had their
after-supper pipe in the grape arbor, smoking in silence while the sound
of fiddles and guitars came across the ravine from Mexican Town. Long
after Fritz and his old Paulina had gone to bed, Wunsch sat motionless
in the arbor, looking up through the woolly vine leaves at the
glittering machinery of heaven.

"LENTE CURRITE, NOCTIS EQUI."

That line awoke many memories. He was thinking of youth; of his own, so
long gone by, and of his pupil's, just beginning. He would even have
cherished hopes for her, except that he had become superstitious. He
believed that whatever he hoped for was destined not to be; that his
affection brought ill-fortune, especially to the young; that if he held
anything in his thoughts, he harmed it. He had taught in music schools
in St. Louis and Kansas City, where the shallowness and complacency of
the young misses had maddened him. He had encountered bad manners and
bad faith, had been the victim of sharpers of all kinds, was dogged by
bad luck. He had played in orchestras that were never paid and wandering
opera troupes which disbanded penniless. And there was always the old
enemy, more relentless than the others. It was long since he had wished
anything or desired anything beyond the necessities of the body. Now
that he was tempted to hope for another, he felt alarmed and shook his
head.

It was his pupil's power of application, her rugged will, that
interested him. He had lived for so long among people whose sole
ambition was to get something for nothing that he had learned not to
look for seriousness in anything. Now that he by chance encountered it,
it recalled standards, ambitions, a society long forgot. What was it she
reminded him of? A yellow flower, full of sunlight, perhaps. No; a thin
glass full of sweet-smelling, sparkling Moselle wine. He seemed to see
such a glass before him in the arbor, to watch the bubbles rising and
breaking, like the silent discharge of energy in the nerves and brain,
the rapid florescence in young blood--Wunsch felt ashamed and dragged
his slippers along the path to the kitchen, his eyes on the ground.



V


The children in the primary grades were sometimes required to make
relief maps of Moonstone in sand. Had they used colored sands, as the
Navajo medicine men do in their sand mosaics, they could easily have
indicated the social classifications of Moonstone, since these conformed
to certain topographical boundaries, and every child understood them
perfectly.

The main business street ran, of course, through the center of the town.
To the west of this street lived all the people who were, as Tillie
Kronborg said, "in society." Sylvester Street, the third parallel with
Main Street on the west, was the longest in town, and the best dwellings
were built along it. Far out at the north end, nearly a mile from the
court-house and its cottonwood grove, was Dr. Archie's house, its big
yard and garden surrounded by a white paling fence. The Methodist Church
was in the center of the town, facing the court-house square. The
Kronborgs lived half a mile south of the church, on the long street that
stretched out like an arm to the depot settlement. This was the first
street west of Main, and was built up only on one side. The preacher's
house faced the backs of the brick and frame store buildings and a draw
full of sunflowers and scraps of old iron. The sidewalk which ran in
front of the Kronborgs' house was the one continuous sidewalk to the
depot, and all the train men and roundhouse employees passed the front
gate every time they came uptown. Thea and Mrs. Kronborg had many
friends among the railroad men, who often paused to chat across the
fence, and of one of these we shall have more to say.

In the part of Moonstone that lay east of Main Street, toward the deep
ravine which, farther south, wound by Mexican Town, lived all the
humbler citizens, the people who voted but did not run for office. The
houses were little story-and-a-half cottages, with none of the fussy
architectural efforts that marked those on Sylvester Street. They
nestled modestly behind their cottonwoods and Virginia creeper; their
occupants had no social pretensions to keep up. There were no half-glass
front doors with doorbells, or formidable parlors behind closed
shutters. Here the old women washed in the back yard, and the men sat in
the front doorway and smoked their pipes. The people on Sylvester Street
scarcely knew that this part of the town existed. Thea liked to take
Thor and her express wagon and explore these quiet, shady streets, where
the people never tried to have lawns or to grow elms and pine trees, but
let the native timber have its way and spread in luxuriance. She had
many friends there, old women who gave her a yellow rose or a spray of
trumpet vine and appeased Thor with a cooky or a doughnut. They called
Thea "that preacher's girl," but the demonstrative was misplaced, for
when they spoke of Mr. Kronborg they called him "the Methodist
preacher."

Dr. Archie was very proud of his yard and garden, which he worked
himself. He was the only man in Moonstone who was successful at growing
rambler roses, and his strawberries were famous. One morning when Thea
was downtown on an errand, the doctor stopped her, took her hand and
went over her with a quizzical eye, as he nearly always did when they
met.

"You haven't been up to my place to get any strawberries yet, Thea.
They're at their best just now. Mrs. Archie doesn't know what to do with
them all. Come up this afternoon. Just tell Mrs. Archie I sent you.
Bring a big basket and pick till you are tired."

When she got home Thea told her mother that she didn't want to go,
because she didn't like Mrs. Archie.

"She is certainly one queer woman," Mrs. Kronborg assented, "but he's
asked you so often, I guess you'll have to go this time. She won't bite
you."

After dinner Thea took a basket, put Thor in his baby buggy, and set out
for Dr. Archie's house at the other end of town. As soon as she came
within sight of the house, she slackened her pace. She approached it
very slowly, stopping often to pick dandelions and sand-peas for Thor to
crush up in his fist.

It was his wife's custom, as soon as Dr. Archie left the house in the
morning, to shut all the doors and windows to keep the dust out, and to
pull down the shades to keep the sun from fading the carpets. She
thought, too, that neighbors were less likely to drop in if the house
was closed up. She was one of those people who are stingy without motive
or reason, even when they can gain nothing by it. She must have known
that skimping the doctor in heat and food made him more extravagant than
he would have been had she made him comfortable. He never came home for
lunch, because she gave him such miserable scraps and shreds of food. No
matter how much milk he bought, he could never get thick cream for his
strawberries. Even when he watched his wife lift it from the milk in
smooth, ivory-colored blankets, she managed, by some sleight-of-hand, to
dilute it before it got to the breakfast table. The butcher's favorite
joke was about the kind of meat he sold Mrs. Archie. She felt no
interest in food herself, and she hated to prepare it. She liked nothing
better than to have Dr. Archie go to Denver for a few days--he often
went chiefly because he was hungry--and to be left alone to eat canned
salmon and to keep the house shut up from morning until night.

Mrs. Archie would not have a servant because, she said, "they ate too
much and broke too much"; she even said they knew too much. She used
what mind she had in devising shifts to minimize her housework. She used
to tell her neighbors that if there were no men, there would be no
housework. When Mrs. Archie was first married, she had been always in a
panic for fear she would have children. Now that her apprehensions on
that score had grown paler, she was almost as much afraid of having dust
in the house as she had once been of having children in it. If dust did
not get in, it did not have to be got out, she said. She would take any
amount of trouble to avoid trouble. Why, nobody knew. Certainly her
husband had never been able to make her out. Such little, mean natures
are among the darkest and most baffling of created things. There is no
law by which they can be explained. The ordinary incentives of pain and
pleasure do not account for their behavior. They live like insects,
absorbed in petty activities that seem to have nothing to do with any
genial aspect of human life.

Mrs. Archie, as Mrs. Kronborg said, "liked to gad." She liked to have
her house clean, empty, dark, locked, and to be out of it--anywhere. A
church social, a prayer meeting, a ten-cent show; she seemed to have no
preference. When there was nowhere else to go, she used to sit for hours
in Mrs. Smiley's millinery and notion store, listening to the talk of
the women who came in, watching them while they tried on hats, blinking
at them from her corner with her sharp, restless little eyes. She never
talked much herself, but she knew all the gossip of the town and she had
a sharp ear for racy anecdotes--"traveling men's stories," they used to
be called in Moonstone. Her clicking laugh sounded like a typewriting
machine in action, and, for very pointed stories, she had a little
screech.

Mrs. Archie had been Mrs. Archie for only six years, and when she was
Belle White she was one of the "pretty" girls in Lansing, Michigan. She
had then a train of suitors. She could truly remind Archie that "the
boys hung around her." They did. They thought her very spirited and were
always saying, "Oh, that Belle White, she's a case!" She used to play
heavy practical jokes which the young men thought very clever. Archie
was considered the most promising young man in "the young crowd," so
Belle selected him. She let him see, made him fully aware, that she had
selected him, and Archie was the sort of boy who could not withstand
such enlightenment. Belle's family were sorry for him. On his wedding
day her sisters looked at the big, handsome boy--he was twenty-four--as
he walked down the aisle with his bride, and then they looked at each
other. His besotted confidence, his sober, radiant face, his gentle,
protecting arm, made them uncomfortable. Well, they were glad that he
was going West at once, to fulfill his doom where they would not be
onlookers. Anyhow, they consoled themselves, they had got Belle off
their hands.

More than that, Belle seemed to have got herself off her hands. Her
reputed prettiness must have been entirely the result of determination,
of a fierce little ambition. Once she had married, fastened herself on
some one, come to port,--it vanished like the ornamental plumage which
drops away from some birds after the mating season. The one aggressive
action of her life was over. She began to shrink in face and stature. Of
her harum-scarum spirit there was nothing left but the little screech.
Within a few years she looked as small and mean as she was.

Thor's chariot crept along. Thea approached the house unwillingly. She
didn't care about the strawberries, anyhow. She had come only because
she did not want to hurt Dr. Archie's feelings. She not only disliked
Mrs. Archie, she was a little afraid of her. While Thea was getting the
heavy baby-buggy through the iron gate she heard some one call, "Wait a
minute!" and Mrs. Archie came running around the house from the back
door, her apron over her head. She came to help with the buggy, because
she was afraid the wheels might scratch the paint off the gateposts. She
was a skinny little woman with a great pile of frizzy light hair on a
small head.

"Dr. Archie told me to come up and pick some strawberries," Thea
muttered, wishing she had stayed at home.

Mrs. Archie led the way to the back door, squinting and shading her eyes
with her hand. "Wait a minute," she said again, when Thea explained why
she had come.

She went into her kitchen and Thea sat down on the porch step. When Mrs.
Archie reappeared she carried in her hand a little wooden butter-basket
trimmed with fringed tissue paper, which she must have brought home from
some church supper. "You'll have to have something to put them in," she
said, ignoring the yawning willow basket which stood empty on Thor's
feet. "You can have this, and you needn't mind about returning it. You
know about not trampling the vines, don't you?"

Mrs. Archie went back into the house and Thea leaned over in the sand
and picked a few strawberries. As soon as she was sure that she was not
going to cry, she tossed the little basket into the big one and ran
Thor's buggy along the gravel walk and out of the gate as fast as she
could push it. She was angry, and she was ashamed for Dr. Archie. She
could not help thinking how uncomfortable he would be if he ever found
out about it. Little things like that were the ones that cut him most.
She slunk home by the back way, and again almost cried when she told her
mother about it.

Mrs. Kronborg was frying doughnuts for her husband's supper. She laughed
as she dropped a new lot into the hot grease. "It's wonderful, the way
some people are made," she declared. "But I wouldn't let that upset me
if I was you. Think what it would be to live with it all the time. You
look in the black pocketbook inside my handbag and take a dime and go
downtown and get an ice-cream soda. That'll make you feel better. Thor
can have a little of the ice-cream if you feed it to him with a spoon.
He likes it, don't you, son?" She stooped to wipe his chin. Thor was
only six months old and inarticulate, but it was quite true that he
liked ice-cream.



VI


Seen from a balloon, Moonstone would have looked like a Noah's ark town
set out in the sand and lightly shaded by gray-green tamarisks and
cottonwoods. A few people were trying to make soft maples grow in their
turfed lawns, but the fashion of planting incongruous trees from the
North Atlantic States had not become general then, and the frail,
brightly painted desert town was shaded by the light-reflecting,
wind-loving trees of the desert, whose roots are always seeking water
and whose leaves are always talking about it, making the sound of rain.
The long porous roots of the cottonwood are irrepressible. They break
into the wells as rats do into granaries, and thieve the water.

The long street which connected Moonstone with the depot settlement
traversed in its course a considerable stretch of rough open country,
staked out in lots but not built up at all, a weedy hiatus between the
town and the railroad. When you set out along this street to go to the
station, you noticed that the houses became smaller and farther apart,
until they ceased altogether, and the board sidewalk continued its
uneven course through sunflower patches, until you reached the solitary,
new brick Catholic Church. The church stood there because the land was
given to the parish by the man who owned the adjoining waste lots, in
the hope of making them more salable--"Farrier's Addition," this patch
of prairie was called in the clerk's office. An eighth of a mile beyond
the church was a washout, a deep sand-gully, where the board sidewalk
became a bridge for perhaps fifty feet. Just beyond the gully was old
Uncle Billy Beemer's grove,--twelve town lots set out in fine,
well-grown cottonwood trees, delightful to look upon, or to listen to,
as they swayed and rippled in the wind. Uncle Billy had been one of the
most worthless old drunkards who ever sat on a store box and told filthy
stories. One night he played hide-and-seek with a switch engine and got
his sodden brains knocked out. But his grove, the one creditable thing
he had ever done in his life, rustled on. Beyond this grove the houses
of the depot settlement began, and the naked board walk, that had run in
out of the sunflowers, again became a link between human dwellings.

One afternoon, late in the summer, Dr. Howard Archie was fighting his
way back to town along this walk through a blinding sandstorm, a silk
handkerchief tied over his mouth. He had been to see a sick woman down
in the depot settlement, and he was walking because his ponies had been
out for a hard drive that morning.

As he passed the Catholic Church he came upon Thea and Thor. Thea was
sitting in a child's express wagon, her feet out behind, kicking the
wagon along and steering by the tongue. Thor was on her lap and she held
him with one arm. He had grown to be a big cub of a baby, with a
constitutional grievance, and he had to be continually amused. Thea took
him philosophically, and tugged and pulled him about, getting as much
fun as she could under her encumbrance. Her hair was blowing about her
face, and her eyes were squinting so intently at the uneven board
sidewalk in front of her that she did not see the doctor until he spoke
to her.

"Look out, Thea. You'll steer that youngster into the ditch."

The wagon stopped. Thea released the tongue, wiped her hot, sandy face,
and pushed back her hair. "Oh, no, I won't! I never ran off but once,
and then he didn't get anything but a bump. He likes this better than a
baby buggy, and so do I."

"Are you going to kick that cart all the way home?"

"Of course. We take long trips; wherever there is a sidewalk. It's no
good on the road."

"Looks to me like working pretty hard for your fun. Are you going to be
busy to-night? Want to make a call with me? Spanish Johnny's come home
again, all used up. His wife sent me word this morning, and I said I'd
go over to see him to-night. He's an old chum of yours, isn't he?"

"Oh, I'm glad. She's been crying her eyes out. When did he come?"

"Last night, on Number Six. Paid his fare, they tell me. Too sick to
beat it. There'll come a time when that boy won't get back, I'm afraid.
Come around to my office about eight o'clock,--and you needn't bring
that!"

Thor seemed to understand that he had been insulted, for he scowled and
began to kick the side of the wagon, shouting, "Go-go, go-go!" Thea
leaned forward and grabbed the wagon tongue. Dr. Archie stepped in front
of her and blocked the way. "Why don't you make him wait? What do you
let him boss you like that for?"

"If he gets mad he throws himself, and then I can't do anything with
him. When he's mad he's lots stronger than me, aren't you, Thor?" Thea
spoke with pride, and the idol was appeased. He grunted approvingly as
his sister began to kick rapidly behind her, and the wagon rattled off
and soon disappeared in the flying currents of sand.

That evening Dr. Archie was seated in his office, his desk chair tilted
back, reading by the light of a hot coal-oil lamp. All the windows were
open, but the night was breathless after the sandstorm, and his hair was
moist where it hung over his forehead. He was deeply engrossed in his
book and sometimes smiled thoughtfully as he read. When Thea Kronborg
entered quietly and slipped into a seat, he nodded, finished his
paragraph, inserted a bookmark, and rose to put the book back into the
case. It was one out of the long row of uniform volumes on the top
shelf.

"Nearly every time I come in, when you're alone, you're reading one of
those books," Thea remarked thoughtfully. "They must be very nice."

The doctor dropped back into his swivel chair, the mottled volume still
in his hand. "They aren't exactly books, Thea," he said seriously.
"They're a city."

"A history, you mean?"

"Yes, and no. They're a history of a live city, not a dead one. A
Frenchman undertook to write about a whole cityful of people, all the
kinds he knew. And he got them nearly all in, I guess. Yes, it's very
interesting. You'll like to read it some day, when you're grown up."

Thea leaned forward and made out the title on the back, "A Distinguished
Provincial in Paris."

"It doesn't sound very interesting."

"Perhaps not, but it is." The doctor scrutinized her broad face, low
enough to be in the direct light from under the green lamp shade. "Yes,"
he went on with some satisfaction, "I think you'll like them some day.
You're always curious about people, and I expect this man knew more
about people than anybody that ever lived."

"City people or country people?"

"Both. People are pretty much the same everywhere."

"Oh, no, they're not. The people who go through in the dining-car aren't
like us."

"What makes you think they aren't, my girl? Their clothes?"

Thea shook her head. "No, it's something else. I don't know." Her eyes
shifted under the doctor's searching gaze and she glanced up at the row
of books. "How soon will I be old enough to read them?"

"Soon enough, soon enough, little girl." The doctor patted her hand and
looked at her index finger. "The nail's coming all right, isn't it? But
I think that man makes you practice too much. You have it on your mind
all the time." He had noticed that when she talked to him she was always
opening and shutting her hands. "It makes you nervous."

"No, he don't," Thea replied stubbornly, watching Dr. Archie return the
book to its niche.

He took up a black leather case, put on his hat, and they went down the
dark stairs into the street. The summer moon hung full in the sky. For
the time being, it was the great fact in the world. Beyond the edge of
the town the plain was so white that every clump of sage stood out
distinct from the sand, and the dunes looked like a shining lake. The
doctor took off his straw hat and carried it in his hand as they walked
toward Mexican Town, across the sand.

North of Pueblo, Mexican settlements were rare in Colorado then. This
one had come about accidentally. Spanish Johnny was the first Mexican
who came to Moonstone. He was a painter and decorator, and had been
working in Trinidad, when Ray Kennedy told him there was a "boom" on in
Moonstone, and a good many new buildings were going up. A year after
Johnny settled in Moonstone, his cousin, Famos Serrenos, came to work in
the brickyard; then Serrenos' cousins came to help him. During the
strike, the master mechanic put a gang of Mexicans to work in the
roundhouse. The Mexicans had arrived so quietly, with their blankets and
musical instruments, that before Moonstone was awake to the fact, there
was a Mexican quarter; a dozen families or more.

As Thea and the doctor approached the 'dobe houses, they heard a guitar,
and a rich barytone voice--that of Famos Serrenos--singing "La
Golandrina." All the Mexican houses had neat little yards, with tamarisk
hedges and flowers, and walks bordered with shells or whitewashed
stones. Johnny's house was dark. His wife, Mrs. Tellamantez, was sitting
on the doorstep, combing her long, blue-black hair. (Mexican women are
like the Spartans; when they are in trouble, in love, under stress of
any kind, they comb and comb their hair.) She rose without embarrassment
or apology, comb in hand, and greeted the doctor.

"Good-evening; will you go in?" she asked in a low, musical voice. "He
is in the back room. I will make a light." She followed them indoors,
lit a candle and handed it to the doctor, pointing toward the bedroom.
Then she went back and sat down on her doorstep.

Dr. Archie and Thea went into the bedroom, which was dark and quiet.
There was a bed in the corner, and a man was lying on the clean sheets.
On the table beside him was a glass pitcher, half-full of water. Spanish
Johnny looked younger than his wife, and when he was in health he was
very handsome: slender, gold-colored, with wavy black hair, a round,
smooth throat, white teeth, and burning black eyes. His profile was
strong and severe, like an Indian's. What was termed his "wildness"
showed itself only in his feverish eyes and in the color that burned on
his tawny cheeks. That night he was a coppery green, and his eyes were
like black holes. He opened them when the doctor held the candle before
his face.

"MI TESTA!" he muttered, "MI TESTA," doctor. "LA FIEBRE!" Seeing the
doctor's companion at the foot of the bed, he attempted a smile.
"MUCHACHA!" he exclaimed deprecatingly.

Dr. Archie stuck a thermometer into his mouth. "Now, Thea, you can run
outside and wait for me."

Thea slipped noiselessly through the dark house and joined Mrs.
Tellamantez. The somber Mexican woman did not seem inclined to talk, but
her nod was friendly. Thea sat down on the warm sand, her back to the
moon, facing Mrs. Tellamantez on her doorstep, and began to count the
moon flowers on the vine that ran over the house. Mrs. Tellamantez was
always considered a very homely woman. Her face was of a strongly marked
type not sympathetic to Americans. Such long, oval faces, with a full
chin, a large, mobile mouth, a high nose, are not uncommon in Spain.
Mrs. Tellamantez could not write her name, and could read but little.
Her strong nature lived upon itself. She was chiefly known in Moonstone
for her forbearance with her incorrigible husband.

Nobody knew exactly what was the matter with Johnny, and everybody liked
him. His popularity would have been unusual for a white man, for a
Mexican it was unprecedented. His talents were his undoing. He had a
high, uncertain tenor voice, and he played the mandolin with exceptional
skill. Periodically he went crazy. There was no other way to explain his
behavior. He was a clever workman, and, when he worked, as regular and
faithful as a burro. Then some night he would fall in with a crowd at
the saloon and begin to sing. He would go on until he had no voice left,
until he wheezed and rasped. Then he would play his mandolin furiously,
and drink until his eyes sank back into his head. At last, when he was
put out of the saloon at closing time, and could get nobody to listen to
him, he would run away--along the railroad track, straight across the
desert. He always managed to get aboard a freight somewhere. Once beyond
Denver, he played his way southward from saloon to saloon until he got
across the border. He never wrote to his wife; but she would soon begin
to get newspapers from La Junta, Albuquerque, Chihuahua, with marked
paragraphs announcing that Juan Tellamantez and his wonderful mandolin
could be heard at the Jack Rabbit Grill, or the Pearl of Cadiz Saloon.
Mrs. Tellamantez waited and wept and combed her hair. When he was
completely wrung out and burned up,--all but destroyed,--her Juan always
came back to her to be taken care of,--once with an ugly knife wound in
the neck, once with a finger missing from his right hand,--but he played
just as well with three fingers as he had with four.

Public sentiment was lenient toward Johnny, but everybody was disgusted
with Mrs. Tellamantez for putting up with him. She ought to discipline
him, people said; she ought to leave him; she had no self-respect. In
short, Mrs. Tellamantez got all the blame. Even Thea thought she was
much too humble. To-night, as she sat with her back to the moon, looking
at the moon flowers and Mrs. Tellamantez's somber face, she was thinking
that there is nothing so sad in the world as that kind of patience and
resignation. It was much worse than Johnny's craziness. She even
wondered whether it did not help to make Johnny crazy. People had no
right to be so passive and resigned. She would like to roll over and
over in the sand and screech at Mrs. Tellamantez. She was glad when the
doctor came out.

The Mexican woman rose and stood respectful and expectant. The doctor
held his hat in his hand and looked kindly at her.

"Same old thing, Mrs. Tellamantez. He's no worse than he's been before.
I've left some medicine. Don't give him anything but toast water until I
see him again. You're a good nurse; you'll get him out." Dr. Archie
smiled encouragingly. He glanced about the little garden and wrinkled
his brows. "I can't see what makes him behave so. He's killing himself,
and he's not a rowdy sort of fellow. Can't you tie him up someway? Can't
you tell when these fits are coming on?"

Mrs. Tellamantez put her hand to her forehead. "The saloon, doctor, the
excitement; that is what makes him. People listen to him, and it excites
him."

The doctor shook his head. "Maybe. He's too much for my calculations. I
don't see what he gets out of it."

"He is always fooled,"--the Mexican woman spoke rapidly and tremulously,
her long under lip quivering.

"He is good at heart, but he has no head. He fools himself. You do not
understand in this country, you are progressive. But he has no judgment,
and he is fooled." She stooped quickly, took up one of the white
conch-shells that bordered the walk, and, with an apologetic inclination
of her head, held it to Dr. Archie's ear. "Listen, doctor. You hear
something in there? You hear the sea; and yet the sea is very far from
here. You have judgment, and you know that. But he is fooled. To him, it
is the sea itself. A little thing is big to him." She bent and placed
the shell in the white row, with its fellows. Thea took it up softly and
pressed it to her own ear. The sound in it startled her; it was like
something calling one. So that was why Johnny ran away. There was
something awe-inspiring about Mrs. Tellamantez and her shell.

Thea caught Dr. Archie's hand and squeezed it hard as she skipped along
beside him back toward Moonstone. She went home, and the doctor went
back to his lamp and his book. He never left his office until after
midnight. If he did not play whist or pool in the evening, he read. It
had become a habit with him to lose himself.



VII


Thea's twelfth birthday had passed a few weeks before her memorable call
upon Mrs. Tellamantez. There was a worthy man in Moonstone who was
already planning to marry Thea as soon as she should be old enough. His
name was Ray Kennedy, his age was thirty, and he was conductor on a
freight train, his run being from Moonstone to Denver. Ray was a big
fellow, with a square, open American face, a rock chin, and features
that one would never happen to remember. He was an aggressive idealist,
a freethinker, and, like most railroad men, deeply sentimental. Thea
liked him for reasons that had to do with the adventurous life he had
led in Mexico and the Southwest, rather than for anything very personal.
She liked him, too, because he was the only one of her friends who ever
took her to the sand hills. The sand hills were a constant
tantalization; she loved them better than anything near Moonstone, and
yet she could so seldom get to them. The first dunes were accessible
enough; they were only a few miles beyond the Kohlers', and she could
run out there any day when she could do her practicing in the morning
and get Thor off her hands for an afternoon. But the real hills--the
Turquoise Hills, the Mexicans called them--were ten good miles away, and
one reached them by a heavy, sandy road. Dr. Archie sometimes took Thea
on his long drives, but as nobody lived in the sand hills, he never had
calls to make in that direction. Ray Kennedy was her only hope of
getting there.

This summer Thea had not been to the hills once, though Ray had planned
several Sunday expeditions. Once Thor was sick, and once the organist in
her father's church was away and Thea had to play the organ for the
three Sunday services. But on the first Sunday in September, Ray drove
up to the Kronborgs' front gate at nine o'clock in the morning and the
party actually set off. Gunner and Axel went with Thea, and Ray had
asked Spanish Johnny to come and to bring Mrs. Tellamantez and his
mandolin. Ray was artlessly fond of music, especially of Mexican music.
He and Mrs. Tellamantez had got up the lunch between them, and they were
to make coffee in the desert.

When they left Mexican Town, Thea was on the front seat with Ray and
Johnny, and Gunner and Axel sat behind with Mrs. Tellamantez. They
objected to this, of course, but there were some things about which Thea
would have her own way. "As stubborn as a Finn," Mrs. Kronborg sometimes
said of her, quoting an old Swedish saying. When they passed the
Kohlers', old Fritz and Wunsch were cutting grapes at the arbor. Thea
gave them a businesslike nod. Wunsch came to the gate and looked after
them. He divined Ray Kennedy's hopes, and he distrusted every expedition
that led away from the piano. Unconsciously he made Thea pay for
frivolousness of this sort.

As Ray Kennedy's party followed the faint road across the sagebrush,
they heard behind them the sound of church bells, which gave them a
sense of escape and boundless freedom. Every rabbit that shot across the
path, every sage hen that flew up by the trail, was like a runaway
thought, a message that one sent into the desert. As they went farther,
the illusion of the mirage became more instead of less convincing; a
shallow silver lake that spread for many miles, a little misty in the
sunlight. Here and there one saw reflected the image of a heifer, turned
loose to live upon the sparse sand-grass. They were magnified to a
preposterous height and looked like mammoths, prehistoric beasts
standing solitary in the waters that for many thousands of years
actually washed over that desert;--the mirage itself may be the ghost
of that long-vanished sea. Beyond the phantom lake lay the line of
many-colored hills; rich, sun-baked yellow, glowing turquoise, lavender,
purple; all the open, pastel colors of the desert.

After the first five miles the road grew heavier. The horses had to slow
down to a walk and the wheels sank deep into the sand, which now lay in
long ridges, like waves, where the last high wind had drifted it. Two
hours brought the party to Pedro's Cup, named for a Mexican desperado
who had once held the sheriff at bay there. The Cup was a great
amphitheater, cut out in the hills, its floor smooth and packed hard,
dotted with sagebrush and greasewood.

On either side of the Cup the yellow hills ran north and south, with
winding ravines between them, full of soft sand which drained down from
the crumbling banks. On the surface of this fluid sand, one could find
bits of brilliant stone, crystals and agates and onyx, and petrified
wood as red as blood. Dried toads and lizards were to be found there,
too. Birds, decomposing more rapidly, left only feathered skeletons.

After a little reconnoitering, Mrs. Tellamantez declared that it was
time for lunch, and Ray took his hatchet and began to cut greasewood,
which burns fiercely in its green state. The little boys dragged the
bushes to the spot that Mrs. Tellamantez had chosen for her fire.
Mexican women like to cook out of doors.

After lunch Thea sent Gunner and Axel to hunt for agates. "If you see a
rattlesnake, run. Don't try to kill it," she enjoined.

Gunner hesitated. "If Ray would let me take the hatchet, I could kill
one all right."

Mrs. Tellamantez smiled and said something to Johnny in Spanish.

"Yes," her husband replied, translating, "they say in Mexico, kill a
snake but never hurt his feelings. Down in the hot country, MUCHACHA,"
turning to Thea, "people keep a pet snake in the house to kill rats and
mice. They call him the house snake. They keep a little mat for him by
the fire, and at night he curl up there and sit with the family, just as
friendly!"

Gunner sniffed with disgust. "Well, I think that's a dirty Mexican way
to keep house; so there!"

Johnny shrugged his shoulders. "Perhaps," he muttered. A Mexican learns
to dive below insults or soar above them, after he crosses the border.

By this time the south wall of the amphitheater cast a narrow shelf of
shadow, and the party withdrew to this refuge. Ray and Johnny began to
talk about the Grand Canyon and Death Valley, two places much shrouded
in mystery in those days, and Thea listened intently. Mrs. Tellamantez
took out her drawn-work and pinned it to her knee. Ray could talk well
about the large part of the continent over which he had been knocked
about, and Johnny was appreciative.

"You been all over, pretty near. Like a Spanish boy," he commented
respectfully.

Ray, who had taken off his coat, whetted his pocketknife thoughtfully on
the sole of his shoe. "I began to browse around early. I had a mind to
see something of this world, and I ran away from home before I was
twelve. Rustled for myself ever since."

"Ran away?" Johnny looked hopeful. "What for?"

"Couldn't make it go with my old man, and didn't take to farming. There
were plenty of boys at home. I wasn't missed."

Thea wriggled down in the hot sand and rested her chin on her arm. "Tell
Johnny about the melons, Ray, please do!"

Ray's solid, sunburned cheeks grew a shade redder, and he looked
reproachfully at Thea. "You're stuck on that story, kid. You like to get
the laugh on me, don't you? That was the finishing split I had with my
old man, John. He had a claim along the creek, not far from Denver, and
raised a little garden stuff for market. One day he had a load of melons
and he decided to take 'em to town and sell 'em along the street, and he
made me go along and drive for him. Denver wasn't the queen city it is
now, by any means, but it seemed a terrible big place to me; and when we
got there, if he didn't make me drive right up Capitol Hill! Pap got out
and stopped at folkses houses to ask if they didn't want to buy any
melons, and I was to drive along slow. The farther I went the madder I
got, but I was trying to look unconscious, when the end-gate came loose
and one of the melons fell out and squashed. Just then a swell girl, all
dressed up, comes out of one of the big houses and calls out, `Hello,
boy, you're losing your melons!' Some dudes on the other side of the
street took their hats off to her and began to laugh. I couldn't stand
it any longer. I grabbed the whip and lit into that team, and they tore
up the hill like jack-rabbits, them damned melons bouncing out the back
every jump, the old man cussin' an' yellin' behind and everybody
laughin'. I never looked behind, but the whole of Capitol Hill must have
been a mess with them squashed melons. I didn't stop the team till I got
out of sight of town. Then I pulled up an' left 'em with a rancher I was
acquainted with, and I never went home to get the lickin' that was
waitin' for me. I expect it's waitin' for me yet."

Thea rolled over in the sand. "Oh, I wish I could have seen those melons
fly, Ray! I'll never see anything as funny as that. Now, tell Johnny
about your first job."

Ray had a collection of good stories. He was observant, truthful, and
kindly--perhaps the chief requisites in a good story-teller.
Occasionally he used newspaper phrases, conscientiously learned in his
efforts at self-instruction, but when he talked naturally he was always
worth listening to. Never having had any schooling to speak of, he had,
almost from the time he first ran away, tried to make good his loss. As
a sheep-herder he had worried an old grammar to tatters, and read
instructive books with the help of a pocket dictionary. By the light of
many camp-fires he had pondered upon Prescott's histories, and the works
of Washington Irving, which he bought at a high price from a book-agent.
Mathematics and physics were easy for him, but general culture came
hard, and he was determined to get it. Ray was a freethinker, and
inconsistently believed himself damned for being one. When he was
braking, down on the Santa Fe, at the end of his run he used to climb
into the upper bunk of the caboose, while a noisy gang played poker
about the stove below him, and by the roof-lamp read Robert Ingersoll's
speeches and "The Age of Reason."

Ray was a loyal-hearted fellow, and it had cost him a great deal to give
up his God. He was one of the stepchildren of Fortune, and he had very
little to show for all his hard work; the other fellow always got the
best of it. He had come in too late, or too early, on several schemes
that had made money. He brought with him from all his wanderings a good
deal of information (more or less correct in itself, but unrelated, and
therefore misleading), a high standard of personal honor, a sentimental
veneration for all women, bad as well as good, and a bitter hatred of
Englishmen. Thea often thought that the nicest thing about Ray was his
love for Mexico and the Mexicans, who had been kind to him when he
drifted, a homeless boy, over the border. In Mexico, Ray was Senor
Ken-ay-dy, and when he answered to that name he was somehow a different
fellow. He spoke Spanish fluently, and the sunny warmth of that tongue
kept him from being quite as hard as his chin, or as narrow as his
popular science.

While Ray was smoking his cigar, he and Johnny fell to talking about the
great fortunes that had been made in the Southwest, and about fellows
they knew who had "struck it rich."

"I guess you been in on some big deals down there?" Johnny asked
trustfully.

Ray smiled and shook his head. "I've been out on some, John. I've never
been exactly in on any. So far, I've either held on too long or let go
too soon. But mine's coming to me, all right." Ray looked reflective. He
leaned back in the shadow and dug out a rest for his elbow in the sand.
"The narrowest escape I ever had, was in the Bridal Chamber. If I hadn't
let go there, it would have made me rich. That was a close call."

Johnny looked delighted. "You don' say! She was silver mine, I guess?"

"I guess she was! Down at Lake Valley. I put up a few hundred for the
prospector, and he gave me a bunch of stock. Before we'd got anything
out of it, my brother-in-law died of the fever in Cuba. My sister was
beside herself to get his body back to Colorado to bury him. Seemed
foolish to me, but she's the only sister I got. It's expensive for dead
folks to travel, and I had to sell my stock in the mine to raise the
money to get Elmer on the move. Two months afterward, the boys struck
that big pocket in the rock, full of virgin silver. They named her the
Bridal Chamber. It wasn't ore, you remember. It was pure, soft metal you
could have melted right down into dollars. The boys cut it out with
chisels. If old Elmer hadn't played that trick on me, I'd have been in
for about fifty thousand. That was a close call, Spanish."

"I recollec'. When the pocket gone, the town go bust."

"You bet. Higher'n a kite. There was no vein, just a pocket in the rock
that had sometime or another got filled up with molten silver. You'd
think there would be more somewhere about, but NADA. There's fools
digging holes in that mountain yet."

When Ray had finished his cigar, Johnny took his mandolin and began
Kennedy's favorite, "Ultimo Amor." It was now three o'clock in the
afternoon, the hottest hour in the day. The narrow shelf of shadow had
widened until the floor of the amphitheater was marked off in two
halves, one glittering yellow, and one purple. The little boys had come
back and were making a robbers' cave to enact the bold deeds of Pedro
the bandit. Johnny, stretched gracefully on the sand, passed from
"Ultimo Amor" to "Fluvia de Oro," and then to "Noches de Algeria,"
playing languidly.

Every one was busy with his own thoughts. Mrs. Tellamantez was thinking
of the square in the little town in which she was born; of the white
church steps, with people genuflecting as they passed, and the
round-topped acacia trees, and the band playing in the plaza. Ray
Kennedy was thinking of the future, dreaming the large Western dream of
easy money, of a fortune kicked up somewhere in the hills,--an oil well,
a gold mine, a ledge of copper. He always told himself, when he accepted
a cigar from a newly married railroad man, that he knew enough not to
marry until he had found his ideal, and could keep her like a queen. He
believed that in the yellow head over there in the sand he had found his
ideal, and that by the time she was old enough to marry, he would be
able to keep her like a queen. He would kick it up from somewhere, when
he got loose from the railroad.

Thea, stirred by tales of adventure, of the Grand Canyon and Death
Valley, was recalling a great adventure of her own. Early in the summer
her father had been invited to conduct a reunion of old frontiersmen, up
in Wyoming, near Laramie, and he took Thea along with him to play the
organ and sing patriotic songs. There they stayed at the house of an old
ranchman who told them about a ridge up in the hills called Laramie
Plain, where the wagon-trails of the Forty-niners and the Mormons were
still visible. The old man even volunteered to take Mr. Kronborg up into
the hills to see this place, though it was a very long drive to make in
one day. Thea had begged frantically to go along, and the old rancher,
flattered by her rapt attention to his stories, had interceded for her.

They set out from Laramie before daylight, behind a strong team of
mules. All the way there was much talk of the Forty-niners. The old
rancher had been a teamster in a freight train that used to crawl back
and forth across the plains between Omaha and Cherry Creek, as Denver
was then called, and he had met many a wagon train bound for California.
He told of Indians and buffalo, thirst and slaughter, wanderings in
snowstorms, and lonely graves in the desert.

The road they followed was a wild and beautiful one. It led up and up,
by granite rocks and stunted pines, around deep ravines and echoing
gorges. The top of the ridge, when they reached it, was a great flat
plain, strewn with white boulders, with the wind howling over it. There
was not one trail, as Thea had expected; there were a score; deep
furrows, cut in the earth by heavy wagon wheels, and now grown over with
dry, whitish grass. The furrows ran side by side; when one trail had
been worn too deep, the next party had abandoned it and made a new trail
to the right or left. They were, indeed, only old wagon ruts, running
east and west, and grown over with grass. But as Thea ran about among
the white stones, her skirts blowing this way and that, the wind brought
to her eyes tears that might have come anyway. The old rancher picked up
an iron ox-shoe from one of the furrows and gave it to her for a
keepsake. To the west one could see range after range of blue mountains,
and at last the snowy range, with its white, windy peaks, the clouds
caught here and there on their spurs. Again and again Thea had to hide
her face from the cold for a moment. The wind never slept on this plain,
the old man said. Every little while eagles flew over.

Coming up from Laramie, the old man had told them that he was in
Brownsville, Nebraska, when the first telegraph wires were put across
the Missouri River, and that the first message that ever crossed the
river was "Westward the course of Empire takes its way." He had been in
the room when the instrument began to click, and all the men there had,
without thinking what they were doing, taken off their hats, waiting
bareheaded to hear the message translated. Thea remembered that message
when she sighted down the wagon tracks toward the blue mountains. She
told herself she would never, never forget it. The spirit of human
courage seemed to live up there with the eagles. For long after, when
she was moved by a Fourth-of-July oration, or a band, or a circus
parade, she was apt to remember that windy ridge.

To-day she went to sleep while she was thinking about it. When Ray
wakened her, the horses were hitched to the wagon and Gunner and Axel
were begging for a place on the front seat. The air had cooled, the sun
was setting, and the desert was on fire. Thea contentedly took the back
seat with Mrs. Tellamantez. As they drove homeward the stars began to
come out, pale yellow in a yellow sky, and Ray and Johnny began to sing
one of those railroad ditties that are usually born on the Southern
Pacific and run the length of the Santa Fe and the "Q" system before
they die to give place to a new one. This was a song about a Greaser
dance, the refrain being something like this:--


"Pedro, Pedro, swing high, swing low,
And it's allamand left again;
For there's boys that's bold and there's some that's cold,
But the gold boys come from Spain,
Oh, the gold boys come from Spain!"



VIII


Winter was long in coming that year. Throughout October the days were
bathed in sunlight and the air was clear as crystal. The town kept its
cheerful summer aspect, the desert glistened with light, the sand hills
every day went through magical changes of color. The scarlet sage
bloomed late in the front yards, the cottonwood leaves were bright gold
long before they fell, and it was not until November that the green on
the tamarisks began to cloud and fade. There was a flurry of snow about
Thanksgiving, and then December came on warm and clear.

Thea had three music pupils now, little girls whose mothers declared
that Professor Wunsch was "much too severe." They took their lessons on
Saturday, and this, of course, cut down her time for play. She did not
really mind this because she was allowed to use the money--her pupils
paid her twenty-five cents a lesson--to fit up a little room for herself
upstairs in the half-story. It was the end room of the wing, and was not
plastered, but was snugly lined with soft pine. The ceiling was so low
that a grown person could reach it with the palm of the hand, and it
sloped down on either side. There was only one window, but it was a
double one and went to the floor. In October, while the days were still
warm, Thea and Tillie papered the room, walls and ceiling in the same
paper, small red and brown roses on a yellowish ground. Thea bought a
brown cotton carpet, and her big brother, Gus, put it down for her one
Sunday. She made white cheesecloth curtains and hung them on a tape. Her
mother gave her an old walnut dresser with a broken mirror, and she had
her own dumpy walnut single bed, and a blue washbowl and pitcher which
she had drawn at a church fair lottery. At the head of her bed she had a
tall round wooden hat-crate, from the clothing store. This, standing on
end and draped with cretonne, made a fairly steady table for her
lantern. She was not allowed to take a lamp upstairs, so Ray Kennedy
gave her a railroad lantern by which she could read at night.

In winter this loft room of Thea's was bitterly cold, but against her
mother's advice--and Tillie's--she always left her window open a little
way. Mrs. Kronborg declared that she "had no patience with American
physiology," though the lessons about the injurious effects of alcohol
and tobacco were well enough for the boys. Thea asked Dr. Archie about
the window, and he told her that a girl who sang must always have plenty
of fresh air, or her voice would get husky, and that the cold would
harden her throat. The important thing, he said, was to keep your feet
warm. On very cold nights Thea always put a brick in the oven after
supper, and when she went upstairs she wrapped it in an old flannel
petticoat and put it in her bed. The boys, who would never heat bricks
for themselves, sometimes carried off Thea's, and thought it a good joke
to get ahead of her.

When Thea first plunged in between her red blankets, the cold sometimes
kept her awake for a good while, and she comforted herself by
remembering all she could of "Polar Explorations," a fat, calf-bound
volume her father had bought from a book-agent, and by thinking about
the members of Greely's party: how they lay in their frozen
sleeping-bags, each man hoarding the warmth of his own body and trying
to make it last as long as possible against the on-coming cold that
would be everlasting. After half an hour or so, a warm wave crept over
her body and round, sturdy legs; she glowed like a little stove with the
warmth of her own blood, and the heavy quilts and red blankets grew warm
wherever they touched her, though her breath sometimes froze on the
coverlid. Before daylight, her internal fires went down a little, and
she often wakened to find herself drawn up into a tight ball, somewhat
stiff in the legs. But that made it all the easier to get up.

The acquisition of this room was the beginning of a new era in Thea's
life. It was one of the most important things that ever happened to her.
Hitherto, except in summer, when she could be out of doors, she had
lived in constant turmoil; the family, the day school, the
Sunday-School. The clamor about her drowned the voice within herself. In
the end of the wing, separated from the other upstairs sleeping-rooms by
a long, cold, unfinished lumber room, her mind worked better. She
thought things out more clearly. Pleasant plans and ideas occurred to
her which had never come before. She had certain thoughts which were
like companions, ideas which were like older and wiser friends. She left
them there in the morning, when she finished dressing in the cold, and
at night, when she came up with her lantern and shut the door after a
busy day, she found them awaiting her. There was no possible way of
heating the room, but that was fortunate, for otherwise it would have
been occupied by one of her older brothers.

From the time when she moved up into the wing, Thea began to live a
double life. During the day, when the hours were full of tasks, she was
one of the Kronborg children, but at night she was a different person.
On Friday and Saturday nights she always read for a long while after she
was in bed. She had no clock, and there was no one to nag her.

Ray Kennedy, on his way from the depot to his boardinghouse, often
looked up and saw Thea's light burning when the rest of the house was
dark, and felt cheered as by a friendly greeting. He was a faithful
soul, and many disappointments had not changed his nature. He was still,
at heart, the same boy who, when he was sixteen, had settled down to
freeze with his sheep in a Wyoming blizzard, and had been rescued only
to play the losing game of fidelity to other charges.

Ray had no very clear idea of what might be going on in Thea's head, but
he knew that something was. He used to remark to Spanish Johnny, "That
girl is developing something fine." Thea was patient with Ray, even in
regard to the liberties he took with her name. Outside the family, every
one in Moonstone, except Wunsch and Dr. Archie, called her "Thee-a," but
this seemed cold and distant to Ray, so he called her "Thee." Once, in a
moment of exasperation, Thea asked him why he did this, and he explained
that he once had a chum, Theodore, whose name was always abbreviated
thus, and that since he was killed down on the Santa Fe, it seemed
natural to call somebody "Thee." Thea sighed and submitted. She was
always helpless before homely sentiment and usually changed the subject.

It was the custom for each of the different Sunday Schools in Moonstone
to give a concert on Christmas Eve. But this year all the churches were
to unite and give, as was announced from the pulpits, "a semi-sacred
concert of picked talent" at the opera house. The Moonstone Orchestra,
under the direction of Professor Wunsch, was to play, and the most
talented members of each Sunday School were to take part in the
programme. Thea was put down by the committee "for instrumental." This
made her indignant, for the vocal numbers were always more popular. Thea
went to the president of the committee and demanded hotly if her rival,
Lily Fisher, were going to sing. The president was a big, florid,
powdered woman, a fierce W.C.T.U. worker, one of Thea's natural enemies.
Her name was Johnson; her husband kept the livery stable, and she was
called Mrs. Livery Johnson, to distinguish her from other families of
the same surname. Mrs. Johnson was a prominent Baptist, and Lily Fisher
was the Baptist prodigy. There was a not very Christian rivalry between
the Baptist Church and Mr. Kronborg's church.

When Thea asked Mrs. Johnson whether her rival was to be allowed to
sing, Mrs. Johnson, with an eagerness which told how she had waited for
this moment, replied that "Lily was going to recite to be obliging, and
to give other children a chance to sing." As she delivered this thrust,
her eyes glittered more than the Ancient Mariner's, Thea thought. Mrs.
Johnson disapproved of the way in which Thea was being brought up, of a
child whose chosen associates were Mexicans and sinners, and who was, as
she pointedly put it, "bold with men." She so enjoyed an opportunity to
rebuke Thea, that, tightly corseted as she was, she could scarcely
control her breathing, and her lace and her gold watch chain rose and
fell "with short, uneasy motion." Frowning, Thea turned away and walked
slowly homeward. She suspected guile. Lily Fisher was the most stuck-up
doll in the world, and it was certainly not like her to recite to be
obliging. Nobody who could sing ever recited, because the warmest
applause always went to the singers.

However, when the programme was printed in the Moonstone GLEAM, there it
was: "Instrumental solo, Thea Kronborg. Recitation, Lily Fisher."

Because his orchestra was to play for the concert, Mr. Wunsch imagined
that he had been put in charge of the music, and he became arrogant. He
insisted that Thea should play a "Ballade" by Reinecke. When Thea
consulted her mother, Mrs. Kronborg agreed with her that the "Ballade"
would "never take" with a Moonstone audience. She advised Thea to play
"something with variations," or, at least, "The Invitation to the
Dance."

"It makes no matter what they like," Wunsch replied to Thea's
entreaties. "It is time already that they learn something."

Thea's fighting powers had been impaired by an ulcerated tooth and
consequent loss of sleep, so she gave in. She finally had the molar
pulled, though it was a second tooth and should have been saved. The
dentist was a clumsy, ignorant country boy, and Mr. Kronborg would not
hear of Dr. Archie's taking Thea to a dentist in Denver, though Ray
Kennedy said he could get a pass for her. What with the pain of the
tooth, and family discussions about it, with trying to make Christmas
presents and to keep up her school work and practicing, and giving
lessons on Saturdays, Thea was fairly worn out.

On Christmas Eve she was nervous and excited. It was the first time she
had ever played in the opera house, and she had never before had to face
so many people. Wunsch would not let her play with her notes, and she
was afraid of forgetting. Before the concert began, all the participants
had to assemble on the stage and sit there to be looked at. Thea wore
her white summer dress and a blue sash, but Lily Fisher had a new pink
silk, trimmed with white swansdown.

The hall was packed. It seemed as if every one in Moonstone was there,
even Mrs. Kohler, in her hood, and old Fritz. The seats were wooden
kitchen chairs, numbered, and nailed to long planks which held them
together in rows. As the floor was not raised, the chairs were all on
the same level. The more interested persons in the audience peered over
the heads of the people in front of them to get a good view of the
stage. From the platform Thea picked out many friendly faces. There was
Dr. Archie, who never went to church entertainments; there was the
friendly jeweler who ordered her music for her,--he sold accordions and
guitars as well as watches,--and the druggist who often lent her books,
and her favorite teacher from the school. There was Ray Kennedy, with a
party of freshly barbered railroad men he had brought along with him.
There was Mrs. Kronborg with all the children, even Thor, who had been
brought out in a new white plush coat. At the back of the hall sat a
little group of Mexicans, and among them Thea caught the gleam of
Spanish Johnny's white teeth, and of Mrs. Tellamantez's lustrous,
smoothly coiled black hair.

After the orchestra played "Selections from Erminie," and the Baptist
preacher made a long prayer, Tillie Kronborg came on with a highly
colored recitation, "The Polish Boy." When it was over every one
breathed more freely. No committee had the courage to leave Tillie off a
programme. She was accepted as a trying feature of every entertainment.
The Progressive Euchre Club was the only social organization in the town
that entirely escaped Tillie. After Tillie sat down, the Ladies'
Quartette sang, "Beloved, it is Night," and then it was Thea's turn.

The "Ballade" took ten minutes, which was five minutes too long. The
audience grew restive and fell to whispering. Thea could hear Mrs.
Livery Johnson's bracelets jangling as she fanned herself, and she could
hear her father's nervous, ministerial cough. Thor behaved better than
any one else. When Thea bowed and returned to her seat at the back of
the stage there was the usual applause, but it was vigorous only from
the back of the house where the Mexicans sat, and from Ray Kennedy's
CLAQUEURS. Any one could see that a good-natured audience had been
bored.

Because Mr. Kronborg's sister was on the programme, it had also been
necessary to ask the Baptist preacher's wife's cousin to sing. She was a
"deep alto" from McCook, and she sang, "Thy Sentinel Am I." After her
came Lily Fisher. Thea's rival was also a blonde, but her hair was much
heavier than Thea's, and fell in long round curls over her shoulders.
She was the angel-child of the Baptists, and looked exactly like the
beautiful children on soap calendars. Her pink-and-white face, her set
smile of innocence, were surely born of a color-press. She had long,
drooping eyelashes, a little pursed-up mouth, and narrow, pointed teeth,
like a squirrel's.

Lily began:--

"ROCK OF AGES, CLEFT FOR ME, carelessly the maiden sang."

Thea drew a long breath. That was the game; it was a recitation and a
song in one. Lily trailed the hymn through half a dozen verses with
great effect. The Baptist preacher had announced at the beginning of the
concert that "owing to the length of the programme, there would be no
encores." But the applause which followed Lily to her seat was such an
unmistakable expression of enthusiasm that Thea had to admit Lily was
justified in going back. She was attended this time by Mrs. Livery
Johnson herself, crimson with triumph and gleaming-eyed, nervously
rolling and unrolling a sheet of music. She took off her bracelets and
played Lily's accompaniment. Lily had the effrontery to come out with,
"She sang the song of Home, Sweet Home, the song that touched my heart."
But this did not surprise Thea; as Ray said later in the evening, "the
cards had been stacked against her from the beginning." The next issue
of the GLEAM correctly stated that "unquestionably the honors of the
evening must be accorded to Miss Lily Fisher." The Baptists had
everything their own way.

After the concert Ray Kennedy joined the Kronborgs' party and walked
home with them. Thea was grateful for his silent sympathy, even while it
irritated her. She inwardly vowed that she would never take another
lesson from old Wunsch. She wished that her father would not keep
cheerfully singing, "When Shepherds Watched," as he marched ahead,
carrying Thor. She felt that silence would become the Kronborgs for a
while. As a family, they somehow seemed a little ridiculous, trooping
along in the starlight. There were so many of them, for one thing. Then
Tillie was so absurd. She was giggling and talking to Anna just as if
she had not made, as even Mrs. Kronborg admitted, an exhibition of
herself.

When they got home, Ray took a box from his overcoat pocket and slipped
it into Thea's hand as he said goodnight. They all hurried in to the
glowing stove in the parlor. The sleepy children were sent to bed. Mrs.
Kronborg and Anna stayed up to fill the stockings.

"I guess you're tired, Thea. You needn't stay up." Mrs. Kronborg's clear
and seemingly indifferent eye usually measured Thea pretty accurately.

Thea hesitated. She glanced at the presents laid out on the dining-room
table, but they looked unattractive. Even the brown plush monkey she had
bought for Thor with such enthusiasm seemed to have lost his wise and
humorous expression. She murmured, "All right," to her mother, lit her
lantern, and went upstairs.

Ray's box contained a hand-painted white satin fan, with pond lilies--an
unfortunate reminder. Thea smiled grimly and tossed it into her upper
drawer. She was not to be consoled by toys. She undressed quickly and
stood for some time in the cold, frowning in the broken looking glass at
her flaxen pig-tails, at her white neck and arms. Her own broad,
resolute face set its chin at her, her eyes flashed into her own
defiantly. Lily Fisher was pretty, and she was willing to be just as big
a fool as people wanted her to be. Very well; Thea Kronborg wasn't. She
would rather be hated than be stupid, any day. She popped into bed and
read stubbornly at a queer paper book the drug-store man had given her
because he couldn't sell it. She had trained herself to put her mind on
what she was doing, otherwise she would have come to grief with her
complicated daily schedule. She read, as intently as if she had not been
flushed with anger, the strange "Musical Memories" of the Reverend H. R.
Haweis. At last she blew out the lantern and went to sleep. She had many
curious dreams that night. In one of them Mrs. Tellamantez held her
shell to Thea's ear, and she heard the roaring, as before, and distant
voices calling, "Lily Fisher! Lily Fisher!"



IX


Mr. Kronborg considered Thea a remarkable child; but so were all his
children remarkable. If one of the business men downtown remarked to him
that he "had a mighty bright little girl, there," he admitted it, and at
once began to explain what a "long head for business" his son Gus had,
or that Charley was "a natural electrician," and had put in a telephone
from the house to the preacher's study behind the church.

Mrs. Kronborg watched her daughter thoughtfully. She found her more
interesting than her other children, and she took her more seriously,
without thinking much about why she did so. The other children had to be
guided, directed, kept from conflicting with one another. Charley and
Gus were likely to want the same thing, and to quarrel about it. Anna
often demanded unreasonable service from her older brothers; that they
should sit up until after midnight to bring her home from parties when
she did not like the youth who had offered himself as her escort; or
that they should drive twelve miles into the country, on a winter night,
to take her to a ranch dance, after they had been working hard all day.
Gunner often got bored with his own clothes or stilts or sled, and
wanted Axel's. But Thea, from the time she was a little thing, had her
own routine. She kept out of every one's way, and was hard to manage
only when the other children interfered with her. Then there was trouble
indeed: bursts of temper which used to alarm Mrs. Kronborg. "You ought
to know enough to let Thea alone. She lets you alone," she often said to
the other children.

One may have staunch friends in one's own family, but one seldom has
admirers. Thea, however, had one in the person of her addle-pated aunt,
Tillie Kronborg. In older countries, where dress and opinions and
manners are not so thoroughly standardized as in our own West, there is
a belief that people who are foolish about the more obvious things of
life are apt to have peculiar insight into what lies beyond the obvious.
The old woman who can never learn not to put the kerosene can on the
stove, may yet be able to tell fortunes, to persuade a backward child to
grow, to cure warts, or to tell people what to do with a young girl who
has gone melancholy. Tillie's mind was a curious machine; when she was
awake it went round like a wheel when the belt has slipped off, and when
she was asleep she dreamed follies. But she had intuitions. She knew,
for instance, that Thea was different from the other Kronborgs, worthy
though they all were. Her romantic imagination found possibilities in
her niece. When she was sweeping or ironing, or turning the ice-cream
freezer at a furious rate, she often built up brilliant futures for
Thea, adapting freely the latest novel she had read.

Tillie made enemies for her niece among the church people because, at
sewing societies and church suppers, she sometimes spoke vauntingly,
with a toss of her head, just as if Thea's "wonderfulness" were an
accepted fact in Moonstone, like Mrs. Archie's stinginess, or Mrs.
Livery Johnson's duplicity. People declared that, on this subject,
Tillie made them tired.

Tillie belonged to a dramatic club that once a year performed in the
Moonstone Opera House such plays as "Among the Breakers," and "The
Veteran of 1812." Tillie played character parts, the flirtatious old
maid or the spiteful INTRIGANTE. She used to study her parts up in the
attic at home. While she was committing the lines, she got Gunner or
Anna to hold the book for her, but when she began "to bring out the
expression," as she said, she used, very timorously, to ask Thea to hold
the book. Thea was usually--not always--agreeable about it. Her mother
had told her that, since she had some influence with Tillie, it would be
a good thing for them all if she could tone her down a shade and "keep
her from taking on any worse than need be." Thea would sit on the foot
of Tillie's bed, her feet tucked under her, and stare at the silly text.
"I wouldn't make so much fuss, there, Tillie," she would remark
occasionally; "I don't see the point in it"; or, "What do you pitch your
voice so high for? It don't carry half as well."

"I don't see how it comes Thea is so patient with Tillie," Mrs. Kronborg
more than once remarked to her husband. "She ain't patient with most
people, but it seems like she's got a peculiar patience for Tillie."

Tillie always coaxed Thea to go "behind the scenes" with her when the
club presented a play, and help her with her make-up. Thea hated it, but
she always went. She felt as if she had to do it. There was something in
Tillie's adoration of her that compelled her. There was no family
impropriety that Thea was so much ashamed of as Tillie's "acting" and
yet she was always being dragged in to assist her. Tillie simply had
her, there. She didn't know why, but it was so. There was a string in
her somewhere that Tillie could pull; a sense of obligation to Tillie's
misguided aspirations. The saloon-keepers had some such feeling of
responsibility toward Spanish Johnny.

The dramatic club was the pride of Tillie's heart, and her enthusiasm
was the principal factor in keeping it together. Sick or well, Tillie
always attended rehearsals, and was always urging the young people, who
took rehearsals lightly, to "stop fooling and begin now." The young men
--bank clerks, grocery clerks, insurance agents--played tricks, laughed
at Tillie, and "put it up on each other" about seeing her home; but they
often went to tiresome rehearsals just to oblige her. They were
good-natured young fellows. Their trainer and stage-manager was young
Upping, the jeweler who ordered Thea's music for her.

Though barely thirty, he had followed half a dozen professions, and had
once been a violinist in the orchestra of the Andrews Opera Company,
then well known in little towns throughout Colorado and Nebraska.

By one amazing indiscretion Tillie very nearly lost her hold upon the
Moonstone Drama Club. The club had decided to put on "The Drummer Boy of
Shiloh," a very ambitious undertaking because of the many supers needed
and the scenic difficulties of the act which took place in Andersonville
Prison. The members of the club consulted together in Tillie's absence
as to who should play the part of the drummer boy. It must be taken by a
very young person, and village boys of that age are self-conscious and
are not apt at memorizing. The part was a long one, and clearly it must
be given to a girl. Some members of the club suggested Thea Kronborg,
others advocated Lily Fisher. Lily's partisans urged that she was much
prettier than Thea, and had a much "sweeter disposition." Nobody denied
these facts. But there was nothing in the least boyish about Lily, and
she sang all songs and played all parts alike. Lily's simper was
popular, but it seemed not quite the right thing for the heroic drummer
boy.

Upping, the trainer, talked to one and another: "Lily's all right for
girl parts," he insisted, "but you've got to get a girl with some ginger
in her for this. Thea's got the voice, too. When she sings, `Just Before
the Battle, Mother,' she'll bring down the house."

When all the members of the club had been privately consulted, they
announced their decision to Tillie at the first regular meeting that was
called to cast the parts. They expected Tillie to be overcome with joy,
but, on the contrary, she seemed embarrassed. "I'm afraid Thea hasn't
got time for that," she said jerkily. "She is always so busy with her
music. Guess you'll have to get somebody else."

The club lifted its eyebrows. Several of Lily Fisher's friends coughed.
Mr. Upping flushed. The stout woman who always played the injured wife
called Tillie's attention to the fact that this would be a fine
opportunity for her niece to show what she could do. Her tone was
condescending.

Tillie threw up her head and laughed; there was something sharp and wild
about Tillie's laugh--when it was not a giggle. "Oh, I guess Thea hasn't
got time to do any showing off. Her time to show off ain't come yet. I
expect she'll make us all sit up when it does. No use asking her to take
the part. She'd turn her nose up at it. I guess they'd be glad to get
her in the Denver Dramatics, if they could."

The company broke up into groups and expressed their amazement. Of
course all Swedes were conceited, but they would never have believed
that all the conceit of all the Swedes put together would reach such a
pitch as this. They confided to each other that Tillie was "just a
little off, on the subject of her niece," and agreed that it would be as
well not to excite her further. Tillie got a cold reception at
rehearsals for a long while afterward, and Thea had a crop of new
enemies without even knowing it.



X


Wunsch and old Fritz and Spanish Johnny celebrated Christmas together,
so riotously that Wunsch was unable to give Thea her lesson the next
day. In the middle of the vacation week Thea went to the Kohlers'
through a soft, beautiful snowstorm. The air was a tender blue-gray,
like the color on the doves that flew in and out of the white dove-house
on the post in the Kohlers' garden. The sand hills looked dim and
sleepy. The tamarisk hedge was full of snow, like a foam of blossoms
drifted over it. When Thea opened the gate, old Mrs. Kohler was just
coming in from the chicken yard, with five fresh eggs in her apron and a
pair of old top-boots on her feet. She called Thea to come and look at a
bantam egg, which she held up proudly. Her bantam hens were remiss in
zeal, and she was always delighted when they accomplished anything. She
took Thea into the sitting-room, very warm and smelling of food, and
brought her a plateful of little Christmas cakes, made according to old
and hallowed formulae, and put them before her while she warmed her
feet. Then she went to the door of the kitchen stairs and called: "Herr
Wunsch, Herr Wunsch!"

Wunsch came down wearing an old wadded jacket, with a velvet collar. The
brown silk was so worn that the wadding stuck out almost everywhere. He
avoided Thea's eyes when he came in, nodded without speaking, and
pointed directly to the piano stool. He was not so insistent upon the
scales as usual, and throughout the little sonata of Mozart's she was
studying, he remained languid and absent-minded. His eyes looked very
heavy, and he kept wiping them with one of the new silk handkerchiefs
Mrs. Kohler had given him for Christmas. When the lesson was over he did
not seem inclined to talk. Thea, loitering on the stool, reached for a
tattered book she had taken off the music-rest when she sat down. It was
a very old Leipsic edition of the piano score of Gluck's "Orpheus." She
turned over the pages curiously.

"Is it nice?" she asked.

"It is the most beautiful opera ever made," Wunsch declared solemnly.
"You know the story, eh? How, when she die, Orpheus went down below for
his wife?"

"Oh, yes, I know. I didn't know there was an opera about it, though. Do
people sing this now?"

"ABER JA! What else? You like to try? See." He drew her from the stool
and sat down at the piano. Turning over the leaves to the third act, he
handed the score to Thea. "Listen, I play it through and you get the
RHYTHMUS. EINS, ZWEI, DREI, VIER." He played through Orpheus' lament,
then pushed back his cuffs with awakening interest and nodded at Thea.
"Now, VOM BLATT, MIT MIR."

"ACH, ICH HABE SIE VERLOREN, ALL' MEIN GLUCK IST NUN DAHIN."

Wunsch sang the aria with much feeling. It was evidently one that was
very dear to him.

"NOCH EINMAL, alone, yourself." He played the introductory measures,
then nodded at her vehemently, and she began:--

"ACH, ICH HABE SIE VERLOREN."

When she finished, Wunsch nodded again. "SCHON," he muttered as he
finished the accompaniment softly. He dropped his hands on his knees and
looked up at Thea. "That is very fine, eh? There is no such beautiful
melody in the world. You can take the book for one week and learn
something, to pass the time. It is good to know--always. EURIDICE,
EU--RI--DI--CE, WEH DASS ICH AUF ERDEN BIN!" he sang softly, playing the
melody with his right hand.

Thea, who was turning over the pages of the third act, stopped and
scowled at a passage. The old German's blurred eyes watched her
curiously.

"For what do you look so, IMMER?" puckering up his own face. "You see
something a little difficult, may-be, and you make such a face like it
was an enemy."

Thea laughed, disconcerted. "Well, difficult things are enemies, aren't
they? When you have to get them?"

Wunsch lowered his head and threw it up as if he were butting something.
"Not at all! By no means." He took the book from her and looked at it.
"Yes, that is not so easy, there. This is an old book. They do not print
it so now any more, I think. They leave it out, may-be. Only one woman
could sing that good."

Thea looked at him in perplexity.

Wunsch went on. "It is written for alto, you see. A woman sings the
part, and there was only one to sing that good in there. You understand?
Only one!" He glanced at her quickly and lifted his red forefinger
upright before her eyes.

Thea looked at the finger as if she were hypnotized. "Only one?" she
asked breathlessly; her hands, hanging at her sides, were opening and
shutting rapidly.

Wunsch nodded and still held up that compelling finger. When he dropped
his hands, there was a look of satisfaction in his face.

"Was she very great?"

Wunsch nodded.

"Was she beautiful?"

"ABER GAR NICHT! Not at all. She was ugly; big mouth, big teeth, no
figure, nothing at all," indicating a luxuriant bosom by sweeping his
hands over his chest. "A pole, a post! But for the voice--ACH! She have
something in there, behind the eyes," tapping his temples.

Thea followed all his gesticulations intently. "Was she German?"

"No, SPANISCH." He looked down and frowned for a moment. "ACH, I tell
you, she look like the Frau Tellamantez, some-thing. Long face, long
chin, and ugly al-so."

"Did she die a long while ago?"

"Die? I think not. I never hear, anyhow. I guess she is alive somewhere
in the world; Paris, may-be. But old, of course. I hear her when I was a
youth. She is too old to sing now any more."

"Was she the greatest singer you ever heard?"

Wunsch nodded gravely. "Quite so. She was the most--" he hunted for an
English word, lifted his hand over his head and snapped his fingers
noiselessly in the air, enunciating fiercely, "KUNST-LER-ISCH!" The word
seemed to glitter in his uplifted hand, his voice was so full of
emotion.

Wunsch rose from the stool and began to button his wadded jacket,
preparing to return to his half-heated room in the loft. Thea
regretfully put on her cloak and hood and set out for home.

When Wunsch looked for his score late that afternoon, he found that Thea
had not forgotten to take it with her. He smiled his loose, sarcastic
smile, and thoughtfully rubbed his stubbly chin with his red fingers.
When Fritz came home in the early blue twilight the snow was flying
faster, Mrs. Kohler was cooking HASENPFEFFER in the kitchen, and the
professor was seated at the piano, playing the Gluck, which he knew by
heart. Old Fritz took off his shoes quietly behind the stove and lay
down on the lounge before his masterpiece, where the firelight was
playing over the walls of Moscow. He listened, while the room grew
darker and the windows duller. Wunsch always came back to the same
thing:--

"ACH, ICH HABE SIE VERLOREN,...EURIDICE, EURIDICE!"

From time to time Fritz sighed softly. He, too, had lost a Euridice.



XI


One Saturday, late in June, Thea arrived early for her lesson. As she
perched herself upon the piano stool,--a wobbly, old-fashioned thing
that worked on a creaky screw,--she gave Wunsch a side glance, smiling.
"You must not be cross to me to-day. This is my birthday."

"So?" he pointed to the keyboard.

After the lesson they went out to join Mrs. Kohler, who had asked Thea
to come early, so that she could stay and smell the linden bloom. It was
one of those still days of intense light, when every particle of mica in
the soil flashed like a little mirror, and the glare from the plain
below seemed more intense than the rays from above. The sand ridges ran
glittering gold out to where the mirage licked them up, shining and
steaming like a lake in the tropics. The sky looked like blue lava,
forever incapable of clouds,--a turquoise bowl that was the lid of the
desert. And yet within Mrs. Kohler's green patch the water dripped, the
beds had all been hosed, and the air was fresh with rapidly evaporating
moisture.

The two symmetrical linden trees were the proudest things in the garden.
Their sweetness embalmed all the air. At every turn of the
paths,--whether one went to see the hollyhocks or the bleeding heart, or
to look at the purple morning-glories that ran over the
bean-poles,--wherever one went, the sweetness of the lindens struck one
afresh and one always came back to them. Under the round leaves, where
the waxen yellow blossoms hung, bevies of wild bees were buzzing. The
tamarisks were still pink, and the flower-beds were doing their best in
honor of the linden festival. The white dove-house was shining with a
fresh coat of paint, and the pigeons were crooning contentedly, flying
down often to drink at the drip from the water tank. Mrs. Kohler, who
was transplanting pansies, came up with her trowel and told Thea it was
lucky to have your birthday when the lindens were in bloom, and that she
must go and look at the sweet peas. Wunsch accompanied her, and as they
walked between the flower-beds he took Thea's hand.

"ES FLUSTERN UND SPRECHEN DIE BLUMEN,"--he muttered. "You know that von
Heine? IM LEUCHTENDEN SOMMERMORGEN?" He looked down at Thea and softly
pressed her hand.

"No, I don't know it. What does FLUSTERN mean?"

"FLUSTERN?--to whisper. You must begin now to know such things. That is
necessary. How many birthdays?"

"Thirteen. I'm in my 'teens now. But how can I know words like that? I
only know what you say at my lessons. They don't teach German at school.
How can I learn?"

"It is always possible to learn when one likes," said Wunsch. His words
were peremptory, as usual, but his tone was mild, even confidential.
"There is always a way. And if some day you are going to sing, it is
necessary to know well the German language."

Thea stooped over to pick a leaf of rosemary. How did Wunsch know that,
when the very roses on her wall-paper had never heard it? "But am I
going to?" she asked, still stooping.

"That is for you to say," returned Wunsch coldly. "You would better
marry some JACOB here and keep the house for him, may-be? That is as one
desires."

Thea flashed up at him a clear, laughing look. "No, I don't want to do
that. You know," she brushed his coat sleeve quickly with her yellow
head. "Only how can I learn anything here? It's so far from Denver."

Wunsch's loose lower lip curled in amusement. Then, as if he suddenly
remembered something, he spoke seriously. "Nothing is far and nothing is
near, if one desires. The world is little, people are little, human life
is little. There is only one big thing--desire. And before it, when it
is big, all is little. It brought Columbus across the sea in a little
boat, UND SO WEITER." Wunsch made a grimace, took his pupil's hand and
drew her toward the grape arbor. "Hereafter I will more speak to you in
German. Now, sit down and I will teach you for your birthday that little
song. Ask me the words you do not know already. Now: IM LEUCHTENDEN
SOMMERMORGEN."

Thea memorized quickly because she had the power of listening intently.
In a few moments she could repeat the eight lines for him. Wunsch nodded
encouragingly and they went out of the arbor into the sunlight again. As
they went up and down the gravel paths between the flowerbeds, the white
and yellow butterflies kept darting before them, and the pigeons were
washing their pink feet at the drip and crooning in their husky bass.
Over and over again Wunsch made her say the lines to him. "You see it is
nothing. If you learn a great many of the LIEDER, you will know the
German language already. WEITER, NUN." He would incline his head gravely
and listen.


"IM LEUCHTENDEN SOMMERMORGEN
GEH' ICH IM GARTEN HERUM;
ES FLUSTERN UND SPRECHEN DIE BLUMEN,
ICH ABER, ICH WANDTE STUMM.

"ES FLUSTERN UND SPRECHEN DIE BLUMEN
UND SCHAU'N MITLEIDIG MICH AN:
`SEI UNSERER SCHWESTER NICHT BOSE,
DU TRAURIGER, BLASSER MANN!'"


(In the soft-shining summer morning
I wandered the garden within.
The flowers they whispered and murmured,
But I, I wandered dumb.

The flowers they whisper and murmur,
And me with compassion they scan:
"Oh, be not harsh to our sister,
Thou sorrowful, death-pale man!")


Wunsch had noticed before that when his pupil read anything in verse the
character of her voice changed altogether; it was no longer the voice
which spoke the speech of Moonstone. It was a soft, rich contralto, and
she read quietly; the feeling was in the voice itself, not indicated by
emphasis or change of pitch. She repeated the little verses musically,
like a song, and the entreaty of the flowers was even softer than the
rest, as the shy speech of flowers might be, and she ended with the
voice suspended, almost with a rising inflection. It was a nature-voice,
Wunsch told himself, breathed from the creature and apart from language,
like the sound of the wind in the trees, or the murmur of water.

"What is it the flowers mean when they ask him not to be harsh to their
sister, eh?" he asked, looking down at her curiously and wrinkling his
dull red forehead.

Thea glanced at him in surprise. "I suppose he thinks they are asking
him not to be harsh to his sweetheart--or some girl they remind him of."

"And why TRAURIGER, BLASSER MANN?"

They had come back to the grape arbor, and Thea picked out a sunny place
on the bench, where a tortoise-shell cat was stretched at full length.
She sat down, bending over the cat and teasing his whiskers. "Because he
had been awake all night, thinking about her, wasn't it? Maybe that was
why he was up so early."

Wunsch shrugged his shoulders. "If he think about her all night already,
why do you say the flowers remind him?"

Thea looked up at him in perplexity. A flash of comprehension lit her
face and she smiled eagerly. "Oh, I didn't mean `remind' in that way! I
didn't mean they brought her to his mind! I meant it was only when he
came out in the morning, that she seemed to him like that,--like one of
the flowers."

"And before he came out, how did she seem?"

This time it was Thea who shrugged her shoulders. The warm smile left
her face. She lifted her eyebrows in annoyance and looked off at the
sand hills.

Wunsch persisted. "Why you not answer me?"

"Because it would be silly. You are just trying to make me say things.
It spoils things to ask questions."

Wunsch bowed mockingly; his smile was disagreeable. Suddenly his face
grew grave, grew fierce, indeed. He pulled himself up from his clumsy
stoop and folded his arms. "But it is necessary to know if you know some
things. Some things cannot be taught. If you not know in the beginning,
you not know in the end. For a singer there must be something in the
inside from the beginning. I shall not be long in this place, may-be,
and I like to know. Yes,"--he ground his heel in the gravel,--"yes, when
you are barely six, you must know that already. That is the beginning of
all things; DER GEIST, DIE PHANTASIE. It must be in the baby, when it
makes its first cry, like DER RHYTHMUS, or it is not to be. You have
some voice already, and if in the beginning, when you are with
things-to-play, you know that what you will not tell me, then you can
learn to sing, may-be."

Wunsch began to pace the arbor, rubbing his hands together. The dark
flush of his face had spread up under the iron-gray bristles on his
head. He was talking to himself, not to Thea. Insidious power of the
linden bloom! "Oh, much you can learn! ABER NICHT DIE AMERICANISCHEN
FRAULEIN. They have nothing inside them," striking his chest with both
fists. "They are like the ones in the MARCHEN, a grinning face and
hollow in the insides. Something they can learn, oh, yes, may-be! But
the secret--what make the rose to red, the sky to blue, the man to love
--IN DER BRUST, IN DER BRUST it is, UND OHNE DIESES GIEBT ES KEINE
KUNST, GIEBT ES KEINE KUNST!" He threw up his square hand and shook it,
all the fingers apart and wagging. Purple and breathless he went out of
the arbor and into the house, without saying good-bye. These outbursts
frightened Wunsch. They were always harbingers of ill.

Thea got her music-book and stole quietly out of the garden. She did not
go home, but wandered off into the sand dunes, where the prickly pear
was in blossom and the green lizards were racing each other in the
glittering light. She was shaken by a passionate excitement. She did not
altogether understand what Wunsch was talking about; and yet, in a way
she knew. She knew, of course, that there was something about her that
was different. But it was more like a friendly spirit than like anything
that was a part of herself. She thought everything to it, and it
answered her; happiness consisted of that backward and forward movement
of herself. The something came and went, she never knew how. Sometimes
she hunted for it and could not find it; again, she lifted her eyes from
a book, or stepped out of doors, or wakened in the morning, and it was
there,--under her cheek, it usually seemed to be, or over her breast,--a
kind of warm sureness. And when it was there, everything was more
interesting and beautiful, even people. When this companion was with
her, she could get the most wonderful things out of Spanish Johnny, or
Wunsch, or Dr. Archie.

On her thirteenth birthday she wandered for a long while about the sand
ridges, picking up crystals and looking into the yellow prickly-pear
blossoms with their thousand stamens. She looked at the sand hills until
she wished she WERE a sand hill. And yet she knew that she was going to
leave them all behind some day. They would be changing all day long,
yellow and purple and lavender, and she would not be there. From that
day on, she felt there was a secret between her and Wunsch. Together
they had lifted a lid, pulled out a drawer, and looked at something.
They hid it away and never spoke of what they had seen; but neither of
them forgot it.



XII


One July night, when the moon was full, Dr. Archie was coming up from
the depot, restless and discontented, wishing there were something to
do. He carried his straw hat in his hand, and kept brushing his hair
back from his forehead with a purposeless, unsatisfied gesture. After he
passed Uncle Billy Beemer's cottonwood grove, the sidewalk ran out of
the shadow into the white moonlight and crossed the sand gully on high
posts, like a bridge. As the doctor approached this trestle, he saw a
white figure, and recognized Thea Kronborg. He quickened his pace and
she came to meet him.

"What are you doing out so late, my girl?" he asked as he took her hand.

"Oh, I don't know. What do people go to bed so early for? I'd like to
run along before the houses and screech at them. Isn't it glorious out
here?"

The young doctor gave a melancholy laugh and pressed her hand.

"Think of it," Thea snorted impatiently. "Nobody up but us and the
rabbits! I've started up half a dozen of 'em. Look at that little one
down there now,"--she stooped and pointed. In the gully below them there
was, indeed, a little rabbit with a white spot of a tail, crouching down
on the sand, quite motionless. It seemed to be lapping up the moonlight
like cream. On the other side of the walk, down in the ditch, there was
a patch of tall, rank sunflowers, their shaggy leaves white with dust.
The moon stood over the cottonwood grove. There was no wind, and no
sound but the wheezing of an engine down on the tracks.

"Well, we may as well watch the rabbits." Dr. Archie sat down on the
sidewalk and let his feet hang over the edge. He pulled out a smooth
linen handkerchief that smelled of German cologne water. "Well, how goes
it? Working hard? You must know about all Wunsch can teach you by this
time."

Thea shook her head. "Oh, no, I don't, Dr. Archie. He's hard to get at,
but he's been a real musician in his time. Mother says she believes he's
forgotten more than the music-teachers down in Denver ever knew."

"I'm afraid he won't be around here much longer," said Dr. Archie. "He's
been making a tank of himself lately. He'll be pulling his freight one
of these days. That's the way they do, you know. I'll be sorry on your
account." He paused and ran his fresh handkerchief over his face. "What
the deuce are we all here for anyway, Thea?" he said abruptly.

"On earth, you mean?" Thea asked in a low voice.

"Well, primarily, yes. But secondarily, why are we in Moonstone? It
isn't as if we'd been born here. You were, but Wunsch wasn't, and I
wasn't. I suppose I'm here because I married as soon as I got out of
medical school and had to get a practice quick. If you hurry things, you
always get left in the end. I don't learn anything here, and as for the
people--In my own town in Michigan, now, there were people who liked me
on my father's account, who had even known my grandfather. That meant
something. But here it's all like the sand: blows north one day and
south the next. We're all a lot of gamblers without much nerve, playing
for small stakes. The railroad is the one real fact in this country.
That has to be; the world has to be got back and forth. But the rest of
us are here just because it's the end of a run and the engine has to
have a drink. Some day I'll get up and find my hair turning gray, and
I'll have nothing to show for it."

Thea slid closer to him and caught his arm. "No, no. I won't let you get
gray. You've got to stay young for me. I'm getting young now, too."

Archie laughed. "Getting?"

"Yes. People aren't young when they're children. Look at Thor, now; he's
just a little old man. But Gus has a sweetheart, and he's young!"

"Something in that!" Dr. Archie patted her head, and then felt the shape
of her skull gently, with the tips of his fingers. "When you were
little, Thea, I used always to be curious about the shape of your head.
You seemed to have more inside it than most youngsters. I haven't
examined it for a long time. Seems to be the usual shape, but uncommonly
hard, some how. What are you going to do with yourself, anyway?"

"I don't know."

"Honest, now?" He lifted her chin and looked into her eyes.

Thea laughed and edged away from him.

"You've got something up your sleeve, haven't you? Anything you like;
only don't marry and settle down here without giving yourself a chance,
will you?"

"Not much. See, there's another rabbit!"

"That's all right about the rabbits, but I don't want you to get tied
up. Remember that."

Thea nodded. "Be nice to Wunsch, then. I don't know what I'd do if he
went away."

"You've got older friends than Wunsch here, Thea."

"I know." Thea spoke seriously and looked up at the moon, propping her
chin on her hand. "But Wunsch is the only one that can teach me what I
want to know. I've got to learn to do something well, and that's the
thing I can do best."

"Do you want to be a music-teacher?"

"Maybe, but I want to be a good one. I'd like to go to Germany to study,
some day. Wunsch says that's the best place,--the only place you can
really learn." Thea hesitated and then went on nervously, "I've got a
book that says so, too. It's called `My Musical Memories.' It made me
want to go to Germany even before Wunsch said anything. Of course it's a
secret. You're the first one I've told."

Dr. Archie smiled indulgently. "That's a long way off. Is that what
you've got in your hard noddle?" He put his hand on her hair, but this
time she shook him off.

"No, I don't think much about it. But you talk about going, and a body
has to have something to go TO!"

"That's so." Dr. Archie sighed. "You're lucky if you have. Poor Wunsch,
now, he hasn't. What do such fellows come out here for? He's been asking
me about my mining stock, and about mining towns. What would he do in a
mining town? He wouldn't know a piece of ore if he saw one. He's got
nothing to sell that a mining town wants to buy. Why don't those old
fellows stay at home? We won't need them for another hundred years. An
engine wiper can get a job, but a piano player! Such people can't make
good."

"My grandfather Alstrom was a musician, and he made good."

Dr. Archie chuckled. "Oh, a Swede can make good anywhere, at anything!
You've got that in your favor, miss. Come, you must be getting home."

Thea rose. "Yes, I used to be ashamed of being a Swede, but I'm not any
more. Swedes are kind of common, but I think it's better to be
SOMETHING."

"It surely is! How tall you are getting. You come above my shoulder
now."

"I'll keep on growing, don't you think? I particularly want to be tall.
Yes, I guess I must go home. I wish there'd be a fire."

"A fire?"

"Yes, so the fire-bell would ring and the roundhouse whistle would blow,
and everybody would come running out. Sometime I'm going to ring the
fire-bell myself and stir them all up."

"You'd be arrested."

"Well, that would be better than going to bed."

"I'll have to lend you some more books."

Thea shook herself impatiently. "I can't read every night."

Dr. Archie gave one of his low, sympathetic chuckles as he opened the
gate for her. "You're beginning to grow up, that's what's the matter
with you. I'll have to keep an eye on you. Now you'll have to say
good-night to the moon."

"No, I won't. I sleep on the floor now, right in the moonlight. My
window comes down to the floor, and I can look at the sky all night."

She shot round the house to the kitchen door, and Dr. Archie watched her
disappear with a sigh. He thought of the hard, mean, frizzy little woman
who kept his house for him; once the belle of a Michigan town, now dry
and withered up at thirty. "If I had a daughter like Thea to watch," he
reflected, "I wouldn't mind anything. I wonder if all of my life's going
to be a mistake just because I made a big one then? Hardly seems fair."

Howard Archie was "respected" rather than popular in Moonstone. Everyone
recognized that he was a good physician, and a progressive Western town
likes to be able to point to a handsome, well-set-up, well-dressed man
among its citizens. But a great many people thought Archie "distant,"
and they were right. He had the uneasy manner of a man who is not among
his own kind, and who has not seen enough of the world to feel that all
people are in some sense his own kind. He knew that every one was
curious about his wife, that she played a sort of character part in
Moonstone, and that people made fun of her, not very delicately. Her own
friends--most of them women who were distasteful to Archie--liked to ask
her to contribute to church charities, just to see how mean she could
be. The little, lop-sided cake at the church supper, the cheapest
pincushion, the skimpiest apron at the bazaar, were always Mrs. Archie's
contribution.

All this hurt the doctor's pride. But if there was one thing he had
learned, it was that there was no changing Belle's nature. He had
married a mean woman; and he must accept the consequences. Even in
Colorado he would have had no pretext for divorce, and, to do him
justice, he had never thought of such a thing. The tenets of the
Presbyterian Church in which he had grown up, though he had long ceased
to believe in them, still influenced his conduct and his conception of
propriety. To him there was something vulgar about divorce. A divorced
man was a disgraced man; at least, he had exhibited his hurt, and made
it a matter for common gossip. Respectability was so necessary to Archie
that he was willing to pay a high price for it. As long as he could keep
up a decent exterior, he could manage to get on; and if he could have
concealed his wife's littleness from all his friends, he would scarcely
have complained. He was more afraid of pity than he was of any
unhappiness. Had there been another woman for whom he cared greatly, he
might have had plenty of courage; but he was not likely to meet such a
woman in Moonstone.

There was a puzzling timidity in Archie's make-up. The thing that held
his shoulders stiff, that made him resort to a mirthless little laugh
when he was talking to dull people, that made him sometimes stumble over
rugs and carpets, had its counterpart in his mind. He had not the
courage to be an honest thinker. He could comfort himself by evasions
and compromises. He consoled himself for his own marriage by telling
himself that other people's were not much better. In his work he saw
pretty deeply into marital relations in Moonstone, and he could honestly
say that there were not many of his friends whom he envied. Their wives
seemed to suit them well enough, but they would never have suited him.

Although Dr. Archie could not bring himself to regard marriage merely as
a social contract, but looked upon it as somehow made sacred by a church
in which he did not believe,--as a physician he knew that a young man
whose marriage is merely nominal must yet go on living his life. When he
went to Denver or to Chicago, he drifted about in careless company where
gayety and good-humor can be bought, not because he had any taste for
such society, but because he honestly believed that anything was better
than divorce. He often told himself that "hanging and wiving go by
destiny." If wiving went badly with a man,--and it did oftener than
not,--then he must do the best he could to keep up appearances and help
the tradition of domestic happiness along. The Moonstone gossips,
assembled in Mrs. Smiley's millinery and notion store, often discussed
Dr. Archie's politeness to his wife, and his pleasant manner of speaking
about her. "Nobody has ever got a thing out of him yet," they agreed.
And it was certainly not because no one had ever tried.

When he was down in Denver, feeling a little jolly, Archie could forget
how unhappy he was at home, and could even make himself believe that he
missed his wife. He always bought her presents, and would have liked to
send her flowers if she had not repeatedly told him never to send her
anything but bulbs,--which did not appeal to him in his expansive
moments. At the Denver Athletic Club banquets, or at dinner with his
colleagues at the Brown Palace Hotel, he sometimes spoke sentimentally
about "little Mrs. Archie," and he always drank the toast "to our wives,
God bless them!" with gusto.

The determining factor about Dr. Archie was that he was romantic. He had
married Belle White because he was romantic--too romantic to know
anything about women, except what he wished them to be, or to repulse a
pretty girl who had set her cap for him. At medical school, though he
was a rather wild boy in behavior, he had always disliked coarse jokes
and vulgar stories. In his old Flint's Physiology there was still a poem
he had pasted there when he was a student; some verses by Dr. Oliver
Wendell Holmes about the ideals of the medical profession. After so much
and such disillusioning experience with it, he still had a romantic
feeling about the human body; a sense that finer things dwelt in it than
could be explained by anatomy. He never jested about birth or death or
marriage, and did not like to hear other doctors do it. He was a good
nurse, and had a reverence for the bodies of women and children. When he
was tending them, one saw him at his best. Then his constraint and
self-consciousness fell away from him. He was easy, gentle, competent,
master of himself and of other people. Then the idealist in him was not
afraid of being discovered and ridiculed.

In his tastes, too, the doctor was romantic. Though he read Balzac all
the year through, he still enjoyed the Waverley Novels as much as when
he had first come upon them, in thick leather-bound volumes, in his
grandfather's library. He nearly always read Scott on Christmas and
holidays, because it brought back the pleasures of his boyhood so
vividly. He liked Scott's women. Constance de Beverley and the minstrel
girl in "The Fair Maid of Perth," not the Duchesse de Langeais, were his
heroines. But better than anything that ever got from the heart of a man
into printer's ink, he loved the poetry of Robert Burns. "Death and Dr.
Hornbook" and "The Jolly Beggars," Burns's "Reply to his Tailor," he
often read aloud to himself in his office, late at night, after a glass
of hot toddy. He used to read "Tam o'Shanter" to Thea Kronborg, and he
got her some of the songs, set to the old airs for which they were
written. He loved to hear her sing them. Sometimes when she sang, "Oh,
wert thou in the cauld blast," the doctor and even Mr. Kronborg joined
in. Thea never minded if people could not sing; she directed them with
her head and somehow carried them along. When her father got off the
pitch she let her own voice out and covered him.



XIII


At the beginning of June, when school closed, Thea had told Wunsch that
she didn't know how much practicing she could get in this summer because
Thor had his worst teeth still to cut.

"My God! all last summer he was doing that!" Wunsch exclaimed furiously.

"I know, but it takes them two years, and Thor is slow," Thea answered
reprovingly.

The summer went well beyond her hopes, however. She told herself that it
was the best summer of her life, so far. Nobody was sick at home, and
her lessons were uninterrupted. Now that she had four pupils of her own
and made a dollar a week, her practicing was regarded more seriously by
the household. Her mother had always arranged things so that she could
have the parlor four hours a day in summer. Thor proved a friendly ally.
He behaved handsomely about his molars, and never objected to being
pulled off into remote places in his cart. When Thea dragged him over
the hill and made a camp under the shade of a bush or a bank, he would
waddle about and play with his blocks, or bury his monkey in the sand
and dig him up again. Sometimes he got into the cactus and set up a
howl, but usually he let his sister read peacefully, while he coated his
hands and face, first with an all-day sucker and then with gravel.

Life was pleasant and uneventful until the first of September, when
Wunsch began to drink so hard that he was unable to appear when Thea
went to take her mid-week lesson, and Mrs. Kohler had to send her home
after a tearful apology. On Saturday morning she set out for the
Kohlers' again, but on her way, when she was crossing the ravine, she
noticed a woman sitting at the bottom of the gulch, under the railroad
trestle. She turned from her path and saw that it was Mrs. Tellamantez,
and she seemed to be doing drawn-work. Then Thea noticed that there was
something beside her, covered up with a purple and yellow Mexican
blanket. She ran up the gulch and called to Mrs. Tellamantez. The
Mexican woman held up a warning finger. Thea glanced at the blanket and
recognized a square red hand which protruded. The middle finger twitched
slightly.

"Is he hurt?" she gasped.

Mrs. Tellamantez shook her head. "No; very sick. He knows nothing," she
said quietly, folding her hands over her drawn-work.

Thea learned that Wunsch had been out all night, that this morning Mrs.
Kohler had gone to look for him and found him under the trestle covered
with dirt and cinders. Probably he had been trying to get home and had
lost his way. Mrs. Tellamantez was watching beside the unconscious man
while Mrs. Kohler and Johnny went to get help.

"You better go home now, I think," said Mrs. Tellamantez, in closing her
narration.

Thea hung her head and looked wistfully toward the blanket.

"Couldn't I just stay till they come?" she asked. "I'd like to know if
he's very bad."

"Bad enough," sighed Mrs. Tellamantez, taking up her work again.

Thea sat down under the narrow shade of one of the trestle posts and
listened to the locusts rasping in the hot sand while she watched Mrs.
Tellamantez evenly draw her threads. The blanket looked as if it were
over a heap of bricks.

"I don't see him breathing any," she said anxiously.

"Yes, he breathes," said Mrs. Tellamantez, not lifting her eyes.

It seemed to Thea that they waited for hours. At last they heard voices,
and a party of men came down the hill and up the gulch. Dr. Archie and
Fritz Kohler came first; behind were Johnny and Ray, and several men
from the roundhouse. Ray had the canvas litter that was kept at the
depot for accidents on the road. Behind them trailed half a dozen boys
who had been hanging round the depot.

When Ray saw Thea, he dropped his canvas roll and hurried forward.
"Better run along home, Thee. This is ugly business." Ray was indignant
that anybody who gave Thea music lessons should behave in such a manner.

Thea resented both his proprietary tone and his superior virtue. "I
won't. I want to know how bad he is. I'm not a baby!" she exclaimed
indignantly, stamping her foot into the sand.

Dr. Archie, who had been kneeling by the blanket, got up and came toward
Thea, dusting his knees. He smiled and nodded confidentially. "He'll be
all right when we get him home. But he wouldn't want you to see him like
this, poor old chap! Understand? Now, skip!"

Thea ran down the gulch and looked back only once, to see them lifting
the canvas litter with Wunsch upon it, still covered with the blanket.

The men carried Wunsch up the hill and down the road to the Kohlers'.
Mrs. Kohler had gone home and made up a bed in the sitting-room, as she
knew the litter could not be got round the turn in the narrow stairway.
Wunsch was like a dead man. He lay unconscious all day. Ray Kennedy
stayed with him till two o'clock in the afternoon, when he had to go out
on his run. It was the first time he had ever been inside the Kohlers'
house, and he was so much impressed by Napoleon that the piece-picture
formed a new bond between him and Thea.

Dr. Archie went back at six o'clock, and found Mrs. Kohler and Spanish
Johnny with Wunsch, who was in a high fever, muttering and groaning.

"There ought to be some one here to look after him to-night, Mrs.
Kohler," he said. "I'm on a confinement case, and I can't be here, but
there ought to be somebody. He may get violent."

Mrs. Kohler insisted that she could always do anything with Wunsch, but
the doctor shook his head and Spanish Johnny grinned. He said he would
stay. The doctor laughed at him. "Ten fellows like you couldn't hold
him, Spanish, if he got obstreperous; an Irishman would have his hands
full. Guess I'd better put the soft pedal on him." He pulled out his
hypodermic.

Spanish Johnny stayed, however, and the Kohlers went to bed. At about
two o'clock in the morning Wunsch rose from his ignominious cot. Johnny,
who was dozing on the lounge, awoke to find the German standing in the
middle of the room in his undershirt and drawers, his arms bare, his
heavy body seeming twice its natural girth. His face was snarling and
savage, and his eyes were crazy. He had risen to avenge himself, to wipe
out his shame, to destroy his enemy. One look was enough for Johnny.
Wunsch raised a chair threateningly, and Johnny, with the lightness of a
PICADOR, darted under the missile and out of the open window. He shot
across the gully to get help, meanwhile leaving the Kohlers to their
fate.

Fritz, upstairs, heard the chair crash upon the stove. Then he heard
doors opening and shutting, and some one stumbling about in the
shrubbery of the garden. He and Paulina sat up in bed and held a
consultation. Fritz slipped from under the covers, and going cautiously
over to the window, poked out his head. Then he rushed to the door and
bolted it.

"MEIN GOTT, Paulina," he gasped, "he has the axe, he will kill us!"

"The dresser," cried Mrs. Kohler; "push the dresser before the door.
ACH, if you had your rabbit gun, now!"

"It is in the barn," said Fritz sadly. "It would do no good; he would
not be afraid of anything now. Stay you in the bed, Paulina." The
dresser had lost its casters years ago, but he managed to drag it in
front of the door. "He is in the garden. He makes nothing. He will get
sick again, may-be."

Fritz went back to bed and his wife pulled the quilt over him and made
him lie down. They heard stumbling in the garden again, then a smash of
glass.

"ACH, DAS MISTBEET!" gasped Paulina, hearing her hotbed shivered. "The
poor soul, Fritz, he will cut himself. ACH! what is that?" They both sat
up in bed. "WIEDER! ACH, What is he doing?"

The noise came steadily, a sound of chopping. Paulina tore off her
night-cap. "DIE BAUME, DIE BAUME! He is cutting our trees, Fritz!" Before
her husband could prevent her, she had sprung from the bed and rushed to
the window. "DER TAUBENSCHLAG! GERECHTER HIMMEL, he is chopping the
dove-house down!"

Fritz reached her side before she had got her breath again, and poked
his head out beside hers. There, in the faint starlight, they saw a
bulky man, barefoot, half dressed, chopping away at the white post that
formed the pedestal of the dove-house. The startled pigeons were
croaking and flying about his head, even beating their wings in his
face, so that he struck at them furiously with the axe. In a few seconds
there was a crash, and Wunsch had actually felled the dove-house.

"Oh, if only it is not the trees next!" prayed Paulina. "The dove-house
you can make new again, but not DIE BAUME."

They watched breathlessly. In the garden below Wunsch stood in the
attitude of a woodman, contemplating the fallen cote. Suddenly he threw
the axe over his shoulder and went out of the front gate toward the
town.

"The poor soul, he will meet his death!" Mrs. Kohler wailed. She ran
back to her feather bed and hid her face in the pillow.

Fritz kept watch at the window. "No, no, Paulina," he called presently;
"I see lanterns coming. Johnny must have gone for somebody. Yes, four
lanterns, coming along the gulch. They stop; they must have seen him
already. Now they are under the hill and I cannot see them, but I think
they have him. They will bring him back. I must dress and go down." He
caught his trousers and began pulling them on by the window. "Yes, here
they come, half a dozen men. And they have tied him with a rope,
Paulina!"

"ACH, the poor man! To be led like a cow," groaned Mrs. Kohler. "Oh, it
is good that he has no wife!" She was reproaching herself for nagging
Fritz when he drank himself into foolish pleasantry or mild sulks, and
felt that she had never before appreciated her blessings.


Wunsch was in bed for ten days, during which time he was gossiped about
and even preached about in Moonstone. The Baptist preacher took a shot
at the fallen man from his pulpit, Mrs. Livery Johnson nodding
approvingly from her pew. The mothers of Wunsch's pupils sent him notes
informing him that their daughters would discontinue their
music-lessons. The old maid who had rented him her piano sent the town
dray for her contaminated instrument, and ever afterward declared that
Wunsch had ruined its tone and scarred its glossy finish. The Kohlers
were unremitting in their kindness to their friend. Mrs. Kohler made him
soups and broths without stint, and Fritz repaired the dove-house and
mounted it on a new post, lest it might be a sad reminder.

As soon as Wunsch was strong enough to sit about in his slippers and
wadded jacket, he told Fritz to bring him some stout thread from the
shop. When Fritz asked what he was going to sew, he produced the
tattered score of "Orpheus" and said he would like to fix it up for a
little present. Fritz carried it over to the shop and stitched it into
pasteboards, covered with dark suiting-cloth. Over the stitches he glued
a strip of thin red leather which he got from his friend, the
harness-maker. After Paulina had cleaned the pages with fresh bread,
Wunsch was amazed to see what a fine book he had. It opened stiffly, but
that was no matter.

Sitting in the arbor one morning, under the ripe grapes and the brown,
curling leaves, with a pen and ink on the bench beside him and the Gluck
score on his knee, Wunsch pondered for a long while. Several times he
dipped the pen in the ink, and then put it back again in the cigar box
in which Mrs. Kohler kept her writing utensils. His thoughts wandered
over a wide territory; over many countries and many years. There was no
order or logical sequence in his ideas. Pictures came and went without
reason. Faces, mountains, rivers, autumn days in other vineyards far
away. He thought of a FUSZREISE he had made through the Hartz Mountains
in his student days; of the innkeeper's pretty daughter who had lighted
his pipe for him in the garden one summer evening, of the woods above
Wiesbaden, haymakers on an island in the river. The roundhouse whistle
woke him from his reveries. Ah, yes, he was in Moonstone, Colorado. He
frowned for a moment and looked at the book on his knee. He had thought
of a great many appropriate things to write in it, but suddenly he
rejected all of them, opened the book, and at the top of the
much-engraved title-page he wrote rapidly in purple ink:--

EINST, O WUNDER!--

A. WUNSCH.
MOONSTONE, COLO.
SEPTEMBER 30, 18--


Nobody in Moonstone ever found what Wunsch's first name was. That "A"
may have stood for Adam, or August, or even Amadeus; he got very angry
if any one asked him.

He remained A. Wunsch to the end of his chapter there. When he presented
this score to Thea, he told her that in ten years she would either know
what the inscription meant, or she would not have the least idea, in
which case it would not matter.

When Wunsch began to pack his trunk, both the Kohlers were very unhappy.
He said he was coming back some day, but that for the present, since he
had lost all his pupils, it would be better for him to try some "new
town." Mrs. Kohler darned and mended all his clothes, and gave him two
new shirts she had made for Fritz. Fritz made him a new pair of trousers
and would have made him an overcoat but for the fact that overcoats were
so easy to pawn.

Wunsch would not go across the ravine to the town until he went to take
the morning train for Denver. He said that after he got to Denver he
would "look around." He left Moonstone one bright October morning,
without telling any one good-bye. He bought his ticket and went directly
into the smoking-car. When the train was beginning to pull out, he heard
his name called frantically, and looking out of the window he saw Thea
Kronborg standing on the siding, bareheaded and panting. Some boys had
brought word to school that they saw Wunsch's trunk going over to the
station, and Thea had run away from school. She was at the end of the
station platform, her hair in two braids, her blue gingham dress wet to
the knees because she had run across lots through the weeds. It had
rained during the night, and the tall sunflowers behind her were fresh
and shining.

"Good-bye, Herr Wunsch, good-bye!" she called waving to him.

He thrust his head out at the car window and called back, "LEBEN SIE
WOHL, LEBEN SIE WOHL, MEIN KIND!" He watched her until the train swept
around the curve beyond the roundhouse, and then sank back into his
seat, muttering, "She had been running. Ah, she will run a long way;
they cannot stop her!"

What was it about the child that one believed in? Was it her dogged
industry, so unusual in this free-and-easy country? Was it her
imagination? More likely it was because she had both imagination and a
stubborn will, curiously balancing and interpenetrating each other.
There was something unconscious and unawakened about her, that tempted
curiosity. She had a kind of seriousness that he had not met with in a
pupil before. She hated difficult things, and yet she could never pass
one by. They seemed to challenge her; she had no peace until she
mastered them. She had the power to make a great effort, to lift a
weight heavier than herself. Wunsch hoped he would always remember her
as she stood by the track, looking up at him; her broad eager face, so
fair in color, with its high cheek-bones, yellow eyebrows and
greenishhazel eyes. It was a face full of light and energy, of the
unquestioning hopefulness of first youth. Yes, she was like a flower
full of sun, but not the soft German flowers of his childhood. He had it
now, the comparison he had absently reached for before: she was like the
yellow prickly pear blossoms that open there in the desert; thornier and
sturdier than the maiden flowers he remembered; not so sweet, but
wonderful.


That night Mrs. Kohler brushed away many a tear as she got supper and
set the table for two. When they sat down, Fritz was more silent than
usual. People who have lived long together need a third at table: they
know each other's thoughts so well that they have nothing left to say.
Mrs. Kohler stirred and stirred her coffee and clattered the spoon, but
she had no heart for her supper. She felt, for the first time in years,
that she was tired of her own cooking. She looked across the glass lamp
at her husband and asked him if the butcher liked his new overcoat, and
whether he had got the shoulders right in a ready-made suit he was
patching over for Ray Kennedy. After supper Fritz offered to wipe the
dishes for her, but she told him to go about his business, and not to
act as if she were sick or getting helpless.

When her work in the kitchen was all done, she went out to cover the
oleanders against frost, and to take a last look at her chickens. As she
came back from the hen-house she stopped by one of the linden trees and
stood resting her hand on the trunk. He would never come back, the poor
man; she knew that. He would drift on from new town to new town, from
catastrophe to catastrophe. He would hardly find a good home for himself
again. He would die at last in some rough place, and be buried in the
desert or on the wild prairie, far enough from any linden tree!

Fritz, smoking his pipe on the kitchen doorstep, watched his Paulina and
guessed her thoughts. He, too, was sorry to lose his friend. But Fritz
was getting old; he had lived a long while and had learned to lose
without struggle.



XIV


"Mother," said Peter Kronborg to his wife one morning about two weeks
after Wunsch's departure, "how would you like to drive out to Copper
Hole with me to-day?"

Mrs. Kronborg said she thought she would enjoy the drive. She put on her
gray cashmere dress and gold watch and chain, as befitted a minister's
wife, and while her husband was dressing she packed a black oilcloth
satchel with such clothing as she and Thor would need overnight.

Copper Hole was a settlement fifteen miles northwest of Moonstone where
Mr. Kronborg preached every Friday evening. There was a big spring there
and a creek and a few irrigating ditches. It was a community of
discouraged agriculturists who had disastrously experimented with dry
farming. Mr. Kronborg always drove out one day and back the next,
spending the night with one of his parishioners. Often, when the weather
was fine, his wife accompanied him. To-day they set out from home after
the midday meal, leaving Tillie in charge of the house. Mrs. Kronborg's
maternal feeling was always garnered up in the baby, whoever the baby
happened to be. If she had the baby with her, the others could look out
for themselves. Thor, of course, was not, accurately speaking, a baby
any longer. In the matter of nourishment he was quite independent of his
mother, though this independence had not been won without a struggle.
Thor was conservative in all things, and the whole family had anguished
with him when he was being weaned. Being the youngest, he was still the
baby for Mrs. Kronborg, though he was nearly four years old and sat up
boldly on her lap this afternoon, holding on to the ends of the lines
and shouting "`mup, 'mup, horsey." His father watched him affectionately
and hummed hymn tunes in the jovial way that was sometimes such a trial
to Thea.

Mrs. Kronborg was enjoying the sunshine and the brilliant sky and all
the faintly marked features of the dazzling, monotonous landscape. She
had a rather unusual capacity for getting the flavor of places and of
people. Although she was so enmeshed in family cares most of the time,
she could emerge serene when she was away from them. For a mother of
seven, she had a singularly unprejudiced point of view. She was,
moreover, a fatalist, and as she did not attempt to direct things beyond
her control, she found a good deal of time to enjoy the ways of man and
nature.

When they were well upon their road, out where the first lean pasture
lands began and the sand grass made a faint showing between the
sagebrushes, Mr. Kronborg dropped his tune and turned to his wife.
"Mother, I've been thinking about something."

"I guessed you had. What is it?" She shifted Thor to her left knee,
where he would be more out of the way.

"Well, it's about Thea. Mr. Follansbee came to my study at the church
the other day and said they would like to have their two girls take
lessons of Thea. Then I sounded Miss Meyers" (Miss Meyers was the
organist in Mr. Kronborg's church) "and she said there was a good deal
of talk about whether Thea wouldn't take over Wunsch's pupils. She said
if Thea stopped school she wouldn't wonder if she could get pretty much
all Wunsch's class. People think Thea knows about all Wunsch could
teach."

Mrs. Kronborg looked thoughtful. "Do you think we ought to take her out
of school so young?"

"She is young, but next year would be her last year anyway. She's far
along for her age. And she can't learn much under the principal we've
got now, can she?"

"No, I'm afraid she can't," his wife admitted. "She frets a good deal
and says that man always has to look in the back of the book for the
answers. She hates all that diagramming they have to do, and I think
myself it's a waste of time."

Mr. Kronborg settled himself back into the seat and slowed the mare to a
walk. "You see, it occurs to me that we might raise Thea's prices, so it
would be worth her while. Seventy-five cents for hour lessons, fifty
cents for half-hour lessons. If she got, say two thirds of Wunsch's
class, that would bring her in upwards of ten dollars a week. Better pay
than teaching a country school, and there would be more work in vacation
than in winter. Steady work twelve months in the year; that's an
advantage. And she'd be living at home, with no expenses."

"There'd be talk if you raised her prices," said Mrs. Kronborg
dubiously.

"At first there would. But Thea is so much the best musician in town
that they'd all come into line after a while. A good many people in
Moonstone have been making money lately, and have bought new pianos.
There were ten new pianos shipped in here from Denver in the last year.
People ain't going to let them stand idle; too much money invested. I
believe Thea can have as many scholars as she can handle, if we set her
up a little."

"How set her up, do you mean?" Mrs. Kronborg felt a certain reluctance
about accepting this plan, though she had not yet had time to think out
her reasons.

"Well, I've been thinking for some time we could make good use of
another room. We couldn't give up the parlor to her all the time. If we
built another room on the ell and put the piano in there, she could give
lessons all day long and it wouldn't bother us. We could build a
clothes-press in it, and put in a bed-lounge and a dresser and let Anna
have it for her sleeping-room. She needs a place of her own, now that
she's beginning to be dressy."

"Seems like Thea ought to have the choice of the room, herself," said
Mrs. Kronborg.

"But, my dear, she don't want it. Won't have it. I sounded her coming
home from church on Sunday; asked her if she would like to sleep in a
new room, if we built on. She fired up like a little wild-cat and said
she'd made her own room all herself, and she didn't think anybody ought
to take it away from her."

"She don't mean to be impertinent, father. She's made decided that way,
like my father." Mrs. Kronborg spoke warmly. "I never have any trouble
with the child. I remember my father's ways and go at her carefully.
Thea's all right."

Mr. Kronborg laughed indulgently and pinched Thor's full cheek. "Oh, I
didn't mean anything against your girl, mother! She's all right, but
she's a little wild-cat, just the same. I think Ray Kennedy's planning
to spoil a born old maid."

"Huh! She'll get something a good sight better than Ray Kennedy, you
see! Thea's an awful smart girl. I've seen a good many girls take music
lessons in my time, but I ain't seen one that took to it so. Wunsch said
so, too. She's got the making of something in her."

"I don't deny that, and the sooner she gets at it in a businesslike way,
the better. She's the kind that takes responsibility, and it'll be good
for her."

Mrs. Kronborg was thoughtful. "In some ways it will, maybe. But there's
a good deal of strain about teaching youngsters, and she's always worked
so hard with the scholars she has. I've often listened to her pounding
it into 'em. I don't want to work her too hard. She's so serious that
she's never had what you might call any real childhood. Seems like she
ought to have the next few years sort of free and easy. She'll be tied
down with responsibilities soon enough."

Mr. Kronborg patted his wife's arm. "Don't you believe it, mother. Thea
is not the marrying kind. I've watched 'em. Anna will marry before long
and make a good wife, but I don't see Thea bringing up a family. She's
got a good deal of her mother in her, but she hasn't got all. She's too
peppery and too fond of having her own way. Then she's always got to be
ahead in everything. That kind make good church-workers and missionaries
and school teachers, but they don't make good wives. They fret all their
energy away, like colts, and get cut on the wire."

Mrs. Kronborg laughed. "Give me the graham crackers I put in your pocket
for Thor. He's hungry. You're a funny man, Peter. A body wouldn't think,
to hear you, you was talking about your own daughters. I guess you see
through 'em. Still, even if Thea ain't apt to have children of her own,
I don't know as that's a good reason why she should wear herself out on
other people's."

"That's just the point, mother. A girl with all that energy has got to
do something, same as a boy, to keep her out of mischief. If you don't
want her to marry Ray, let her do something to make herself
independent."

"Well, I'm not against it. It might be the best thing for her. I wish I
felt sure she wouldn't worry. She takes things hard. She nearly cried
herself sick about Wunsch's going away. She's the smartest child of 'em
all, Peter, by a long ways."

Peter Kronborg smiled. "There you go, Anna. That's you all over again.
Now, I have no favorites; they all have their good points. But you,"
with a twinkle, "always did go in for brains."

Mrs. Kronborg chuckled as she wiped the cracker crumbs from Thor's chin
and fists. "Well, you're mighty conceited, Peter! But I don't know as I
ever regretted it. I prefer having a family of my own to fussing with
other folks' children, that's the truth."

Before the Kronborgs reached Copper Hole, Thea's destiny was pretty well
mapped out for her. Mr. Kronborg was always delighted to have an excuse
for enlarging the house.

Mrs. Kronborg was quite right in her conjecture that there would be
unfriendly comment in Moonstone when Thea raised her prices for
music-lessons. People said she was getting too conceited for anything.
Mrs. Livery Johnson put on a new bonnet and paid up all her back calls
to have the pleasure of announcing in each parlor she entered that her
daughters, at least, would "never pay professional prices to Thea
Kronborg."

Thea raised no objection to quitting school. She was now in the "high
room," as it was called, in next to the highest class, and was studying
geometry and beginning Caesar. She no longer recited her lessons to the
teacher she liked, but to the Principal, a man who belonged, like Mrs.
Livery Johnson, to the camp of Thea's natural enemies. He taught school
because he was too lazy to work among grown-up people, and he made an
easy job of it. He got out of real work by inventing useless activities
for his pupils, such as the "tree-diagramming system." Thea had spent
hours making trees out of "Thanatopsis," Hamlet's soliloquy, Cato on
"Immortality." She agonized under this waste of time, and was only too
glad to accept her father's offer of liberty.

So Thea left school the first of November. By the first of January she
had eight one-hour pupils and ten half-hour pupils, and there would be
more in the summer. She spent her earnings generously. She bought a new
Brussels carpet for the parlor, and a rifle for Gunner and Axel, and an
imitation tiger-skin coat and cap for Thor. She enjoyed being able to
add to the family possessions, and thought Thor looked quite as handsome
in his spots as the rich children she had seen in Denver. Thor was most
complacent in his conspicuous apparel. He could walk anywhere by this
time--though he always preferred to sit, or to be pulled in his cart. He
was a blissfully lazy child, and had a number of long, dull plays, such
as making nests for his china duck and waiting for her to lay him an
egg. Thea thought him very intelligent, and she was proud that he was so
big and burly. She found him restful, loved to hear him call her
"sitter," and really liked his companionship, especially when she was
tired. On Saturday, for instance, when she taught from nine in the
morning until five in the afternoon, she liked to get off in a corner
with Thor after supper, away from all the bathing and dressing and
joking and talking that went on in the house, and ask him about his
duck, or hear him tell one of his rambling stories.



XV


By the time Thea's fifteenth birthday came round, she was established as
a music teacher in Moonstone. The new room had been added to the house
early in the spring, and Thea had been giving her lessons there since
the middle of May. She liked the personal independence which was
accorded her as a wage-earner. The family questioned her comings and
goings very little. She could go buggy-riding with Ray Kennedy, for
instance, without taking Gunner or Axel. She could go to Spanish
Johnny's and sing part songs with the Mexicans, and nobody objected.

Thea was still under the first excitement of teaching, and was terribly
in earnest about it. If a pupil did not get on well, she fumed and
fretted. She counted until she was hoarse. She listened to scales in her
sleep. Wunsch had taught only one pupil seriously, but Thea taught
twenty. The duller they were, the more furiously she poked and prodded
them. With the little girls she was nearly always patient, but with
pupils older than herself, she sometimes lost her temper. One of her
mistakes was to let herself in for a calling-down from Mrs. Livery
Johnson. That lady appeared at the Kronborgs' one morning and announced
that she would allow no girl to stamp her foot at her daughter Grace.
She added that Thea's bad manners with the older girls were being talked
about all over town, and that if her temper did not speedily improve she
would lose all her advanced pupils. Thea was frightened. She felt she
could never bear the disgrace, if such a thing happened. Besides, what
would her father say, after he had gone to the expense of building an
addition to the house? Mrs. Johnson demanded an apology to Grace. Thea
said she was willing to make it. Mrs. Johnson said that hereafter, since
she had taken lessons of the best piano teacher in Grinnell, Iowa, she
herself would decide what pieces Grace should study. Thea readily
consented to that, and Mrs. Johnson rustled away to tell a neighbor
woman that Thea Kronborg could be meek enough when you went at her
right.

Thea was telling Ray about this unpleasant encounter as they were
driving out to the sand hills the next Sunday.

"She was stuffing you, all right, Thee," Ray reassured her. "There's no
general dissatisfaction among your scholars. She just wanted to get in a
knock. I talked to the piano tuner the last time he was here, and he
said all the people he tuned for expressed themselves very favorably
about your teaching. I wish you didn't take so much pains with them,
myself."

"But I have to, Ray. They're all so dumb. They've got no ambition," Thea
exclaimed irritably. "Jenny Smiley is the only one who isn't stupid. She
can read pretty well, and she has such good hands. But she don't care a
rap about it. She has no pride."

Ray's face was full of complacent satisfaction as he glanced sidewise at
Thea, but she was looking off intently into the mirage, at one of those
mammoth cattle that are nearly always reflected there. "Do you find it
easier to teach in your new room?" he asked.

"Yes; I'm not interrupted so much. Of course, if I ever happen to want
to practice at night, that's always the night Anna chooses to go to bed
early."

"It's a darned shame, Thee, you didn't cop that room for yourself. I'm
sore at the PADRE about that. He ought to give you that room. You could
fix it up so pretty."

"I didn't want it, honest I didn't. Father would have let me have it. I
like my own room better. Somehow I can think better in a little room.
Besides, up there I am away from everybody, and I can read as late as I
please and nobody nags me."

"A growing girl needs lots of sleep," Ray providently remarked.

Thea moved restlessly on the buggy cushions. "They need other things
more," she muttered. "Oh, I forgot. I brought something to show you.
Look here, it came on my birthday. Wasn't it nice of him to remember?"
She took from her pocket a postcard, bent in the middle and folded, and
handed it to Ray. On it was a white dove, perched on a wreath of very
blue forget-me-nots, and "Birthday Greetings" in gold letters. Under
this was written, "From A. Wunsch."

Ray turned the card over, examined the postmark, and then began to
laugh.

"Concord, Kansas. He has my sympathy!"

"Why, is that a poor town?"

"It's the jumping-off place, no town at all. Some houses dumped down in
the middle of a cornfield. You get lost in the corn. Not even a saloon
to keep things going; sell whiskey without a license at the butcher
shop, beer on ice with the liver and beefsteak. I wouldn't stay there
over Sunday for a ten-dollar bill."

"Oh, dear! What do you suppose he's doing there? Maybe he just stopped
off there a few days to tune pianos," Thea suggested hopefully.

Ray gave her back the card. "He's headed in the wrong direction. What
does he want to get back into a grass country for? Now, there are lots
of good live towns down on the Santa Fe, and everybody down there is
musical. He could always get a job playing in saloons if he was
dead broke. I've figured out that I've got no years of my life to waste
in a Methodist country where they raise pork."

"We must stop on our way back and show this card to Mrs. Kohler. She
misses him so."

"By the way, Thee, I hear the old woman goes to church every Sunday to
hear you sing. Fritz tells me he has to wait till two o'clock for his
Sunday dinner these days. The church people ought to give you credit for
that, when they go for you."

Thea shook her head and spoke in a tone of resignation. "They'll always
go for me, just as they did for Wunsch. It wasn't because he drank they
went for him; not really. It was something else."

"You want to salt your money down, Thee, and go to Chicago and take some
lessons. Then you come back, and wear a long feather and high heels and
put on a few airs, and that'll fix 'em. That's what they like."

"I'll never have money enough to go to Chicago. Mother meant to lend me
some, I think, but now they've got hard times back in Nebraska, and her
farm don't bring her in anything. Takes all the tenant can raise to pay
the taxes. Don't let's talk about that. You promised to tell me about
the play you went to see in Denver."

Any one would have liked to hear Ray's simple and clear account of the
performance he had seen at the Tabor Grand Opera House--Maggie Mitchell
in LITTLE BAREFOOT--and any one would have liked to watch his kind face.
Ray looked his best out of doors, when his thick red hands were covered
by gloves, and the dull red of his sunburned face somehow seemed right
in the light and wind. He looked better, too, with his hat on; his hair
was thin and dry, with no particular color or character, "regular
Willy-boy hair," as he himself described it. His eyes were pale beside
the reddish bronze of his skin. They had the faded look often seen in
the eyes of men who have lived much in the sun and wind and who have
been accustomed to train their vision upon distant objects.

Ray realized that Thea's life was dull and exacting, and that she missed
Wunsch. He knew she worked hard, that she put up with a great many
little annoyances, and that her duties as a teacher separated her more
than ever from the boys and girls of her own age. He did everything he
could to provide recreation for her. He brought her candy and magazines
and pineapples--of which she was very fond--from Denver, and kept his
eyes and ears open for anything that might interest her. He was, of
course, living for Thea. He had thought it all out carefully and had
made up his mind just when he would speak to her. When she was
seventeen, then he would tell her his plan and ask her to marry him. He
would be willing to wait two, or even three years, until she was twenty,
if she thought best. By that time he would surely have got in on
something: copper, oil, gold, silver, sheep,--something.

Meanwhile, it was pleasure enough to feel that she depended on him more
and more, that she leaned upon his steady kindness. He never broke faith
with himself about her; he never hinted to her of his hopes for the
future, never suggested that she might be more intimately confidential
with him, or talked to her of the thing he thought about so constantly.
He had the chivalry which is perhaps the proudest possession of his
race. He had never embarrassed her by so much as a glance. Sometimes,
when they drove out to the sand hills, he let his left arm lie along the
back of the buggy seat, but it never came any nearer to Thea than that,
never touched her. He often turned to her a face full of pride, and
frank admiration, but his glance was never so intimate or so penetrating
as Dr. Archie's. His blue eyes were clear and shallow, friendly,
uninquiring. He rested Thea because he was so different; because, though
he often told her interesting things, he never set lively fancies going
in her head; because he never misunderstood her, and because he never,
by any chance, for a single instant, understood her! Yes, with Ray she
was safe; by him she would never be discovered!



XVI


The pleasantest experience Thea had that summer was a trip that she and
her mother made to Denver in Ray Kennedy's caboose. Mrs. Kronborg had
been looking forward to this excursion for a long while, but as Ray
never knew at what hour his freight would leave Moonstone, it was
difficult to arrange. The call-boy was as likely to summon him to start
on his run at twelve o'clock midnight as at twelve o'clock noon. The
first week in June started out with all the scheduled trains running on
time, and a light freight business. Tuesday evening Ray, after
consulting with the dispatcher, stopped at the Kronborgs' front gate to
tell Mrs. Kronborg--who was helping Tillie water the flowers--that if
she and Thea could be at the depot at eight o'clock the next morning, he
thought he could promise them a pleasant ride and get them into Denver
before nine o'clock in the evening. Mrs. Kronborg told him cheerfully,
across the fence, that she would "take him up on it," and Ray hurried
back to the yards to scrub out his car.

The one complaint Ray's brakemen had to make of him was that he was too
fussy about his caboose. His former brakeman had asked to be transferred
because, he said, "Kennedy was as fussy about his car as an old maid
about her bird-cage." Joe Giddy, who was braking with Ray now, called
him "the bride," because he kept the caboose and bunks so clean.

It was properly the brakeman's business to keep the car clean, but when
Ray got back to the depot, Giddy was nowhere to be found. Muttering that
all his brakemen seemed to consider him "easy," Ray went down to his car
alone. He built a fire in the stove and put water on to heat while he
got into his overalls and jumper. Then he set to work with a
scrubbing-brush and plenty of soap and "cleaner." He scrubbed the floor
and seats, blacked the stove, put clean sheets on the bunks, and then
began to demolish Giddy's picture gallery. Ray found that his brakemen
were likely to have what he termed "a taste for the nude in art," and
Giddy was no exception. Ray took down half a dozen girls in tights and
ballet skirts,--premiums for cigarette coupons,--and some racy calendars
advertising saloons and sporting clubs, which had cost Giddy both time
and trouble; he even removed Giddy's particular pet, a naked girl lying
on a couch with her knee carelessly poised in the air. Underneath the
picture was printed the title, "The Odalisque." Giddy was under the
happy delusion that this title meant something wicked,--there was a
wicked look about the consonants,--but Ray, of course, had looked it up,
and Giddy was indebted to the dictionary for the privilege of keeping
his lady. If "odalisque" had been what Ray called an objectionable word,
he would have thrown the picture out in the first place. Ray even took
down a picture of Mrs. Langtry in evening dress, because it was entitled
the "Jersey Lily," and because there was a small head of Edward VII,
then Prince of Wales, in one corner. Albert Edward's conduct was a
popular subject of discussion among railroad men in those days, and as
Ray pulled the tacks out of this lithograph he felt more indignant with
the English than ever. He deposited all these pictures under the
mattress of Giddy's bunk, and stood admiring his clean car in the
lamplight; the walls now exhibited only a wheatfield, advertising
agricultural implements, a map of Colorado, and some pictures of
race-horses and hunting-dogs. At this moment Giddy, freshly shaved and
shampooed, his shirt shining with the highest polish known to Chinese
laundrymen, his straw hat tipped over his right eye, thrust his head in
at the door.

"What in hell--" he brought out furiously. His good humored, sunburned
face seemed fairly to swell with amazement and anger.

"That's all right, Giddy," Ray called in a conciliatory tone. "Nothing
injured. I'll put 'em all up again as I found 'em. Going to take some
ladies down in the car to-morrow."

Giddy scowled. He did not dispute the propriety of Ray's measures, if
there were to be ladies on board, but he felt injured. "I suppose you'll
expect me to behave like a Y.M.C.A. secretary," he growled. "I can't do
my work and serve tea at the same time."

"No need to have a tea-party," said Ray with determined cheerfulness.
"Mrs. Kronborg will bring the lunch, and it will be a darned good one."

Giddy lounged against the car, holding his cigar between two thick
fingers. "Then I guess she'll get it," he observed knowingly. "I don't
think your musical friend is much on the grub-box. Has to keep her hands
white to tickle the ivories." Giddy had nothing against Thea, but he
felt cantankerous and wanted to get a rise out of Kennedy.

"Every man to his own job," Ray replied agreeably, pulling his white
shirt on over his head.

Giddy emitted smoke disdainfully. "I suppose so. The man that gets her
will have to wear an apron and bake the pancakes. Well, some men like to
mess about the kitchen." He paused, but Ray was intent on getting into
his clothes as quickly as possible. Giddy thought he could go a little
further. "Of course, I don't dispute your right to haul women in this
car if you want to; but personally, so far as I'm concerned, I'd a good
deal rather drink a can of tomatoes and do without the women AND their
lunch. I was never much enslaved to hard-boiled eggs, anyhow."

"You'll eat 'em to-morrow, all the same." Ray's tone had a steely
glitter as he jumped out of the car, and Giddy stood aside to let him
pass. He knew that Kennedy's next reply would be delivered by hand. He
had once seen Ray beat up a nasty fellow for insulting a Mexican woman
who helped about the grub-car in the work train, and his fists had
worked like two steel hammers. Giddy wasn't looking for trouble.

At eight o'clock the next morning Ray greeted his ladies and helped them
into the car. Giddy had put on a clean shirt and yellow pig-skin gloves
and was whistling his best. He considered Kennedy a fluke as a ladies'
man, and if there was to be a party, the honors had to be done by some
one who wasn't a blacksmith at small-talk. Giddy had, as Ray
sarcastically admitted, "a local reputation as a jollier," and he was
fluent in gallant speeches of a not too-veiled nature. He insisted that
Thea should take his seat in the cupola, opposite Ray's, where she could
look out over the country. Thea told him, as she clambered up, that she
cared a good deal more about riding in that seat than about going to
Denver. Ray was never so companionable and easy as when he sat chatting
in the lookout of his little house on wheels. Good stories came to him,
and interesting recollections. Thea had a great respect for the reports
he had to write out, and for the telegrams that were handed to him at
stations; for all the knowledge and experience it must take to run a
freight train.

Giddy, down in the car, in the pauses of his work, made himself
agreeable to Mrs. Kronborg.

"It's a great rest to be where my family can't get at me, Mr. Giddy,"
she told him. "I thought you and Ray might have some housework here for
me to look after, but I couldn't improve any on this car."

"Oh, we like to keep her neat," returned Giddy glibly, winking up at
Ray's expressive back. "If you want to see a clean ice-box, look at this
one. Yes, Kennedy always carries fresh cream to eat on his oatmeal. I'm
not particular. The tin cow's good enough for me."

"Most of you boys smoke so much that all victuals taste alike to you,"
said Mrs. Kronborg. "I've got no religious scruples against smoking, but
I couldn't take as much interest cooking for a man that used tobacco. I
guess it's all right for bachelors who have to eat round."

Mrs. Kronborg took off her hat and veil and made herself comfortable.
She seldom had an opportunity to be idle, and she enjoyed it. She could
sit for hours and watch the sage-hens fly up and the jack-rabbits dart
away from the track, without being bored. She wore a tan bombazine
dress, made very plainly, and carried a roomy, worn, mother-of-the-family
handbag.

Ray Kennedy always insisted that Mrs. Kronborg was "a fine-looking
lady," but this was not the common opinion in Moonstone. Ray had lived
long enough among the Mexicans to dislike fussiness, to feel that there
was something more attractive in ease of manner than in absentminded
concern about hairpins and dabs of lace. He had learned to think that
the way a woman stood, moved, sat in her chair, looked at you, was more
important than the absence of wrinkles from her skirt. Ray had, indeed,
such unusual perceptions in some directions, that one could not help
wondering what he would have been if he had ever, as he said, had "half
a chance."

He was right; Mrs. Kronborg was a fine-looking woman. She was short and
square, but her head was a real head, not a mere jerky termination of
the body. It had some individuality apart from hats and hairpins. Her
hair, Moonstone women admitted, would have been very pretty "on anybody
else." Frizzy bangs were worn then, but Mrs. Kronborg always dressed her
hair in the same way, parted in the middle, brushed smoothly back from
her low, white forehead, pinned loosely on the back of her head in two
thick braids. It was growing gray about the temples, but after the
manner of yellow hair it seemed only to have grown paler there, and had
taken on a color like that of English primroses. Her eyes were clear and
untroubled; her face smooth and calm, and, as Ray said, "strong."

Thea and Ray, up in the sunny cupola, were laughing and talking. Ray got
great pleasure out of seeing her face there in the little box where he
so often imagined it. They were crossing a plateau where great red
sandstone boulders lay about, most of them much wider at the top than at
the base, so that they looked like great toadstools.

"The sand has been blowing against them for a good many hundred years,"
Ray explained, directing Thea's eyes with his gloved hand. "You see the
sand blows low, being so heavy, and cuts them out underneath. Wind and
sand are pretty high-class architects. That's the principle of most of
the Cliff-Dweller remains down at Canyon de Chelly. The sandstorms had
dug out big depressions in the face of a cliff, and the Indians built
their houses back in that depression."

"You told me that before, Ray, and of course you know. But the geography
says their houses were cut out of the face of the living rock, and I
like that better."

Ray sniffed. "What nonsense does get printed! It's enough to give a man
disrespect for learning. How could them Indians cut houses out of the
living rock, when they knew nothing about the art of forging metals?"
Ray leaned back in his chair, swung his foot, and looked thoughtful and
happy. He was in one of his favorite fields of speculation, and nothing
gave him more pleasure than talking these things over with Thea
Kronborg. "I'll tell you, Thee, if those old fellows had learned to work
metals once, your ancient Egyptians and Assyrians wouldn't have beat
them very much. Whatever they did do, they did well. Their masonry's
standing there to-day, the corners as true as the Denver Capitol. They
were clever at most everything but metals; and that one failure kept
them from getting across. It was the quicksand that swallowed 'em up, as
a race. I guess civilization proper began when men mastered metals."

Ray was not vain about his bookish phrases. He did not use them to show
off, but because they seemed to him more adequate than colloquial
speech. He felt strongly about these things, and groped for words, as he
said, "to express himself." He had the lamentable American belief that
"expression" is obligatory. He still carried in his trunk, among the
unrelated possessions of a railroad man, a notebook on the title-page of
which was written "Impressions on First Viewing the Grand Canyon, Ray H.
Kennedy." The pages of that book were like a battlefield; the laboring
author had fallen back from metaphor after metaphor, abandoned position
after position. He would have admitted that the art of forging metals
was nothing to this treacherous business of recording impressions, in
which the material you were so full of vanished mysteriously under your
striving hand. "Escaping steam!" he had said to himself, the last time
he tried to read that notebook.

Thea didn't mind Ray's travel-lecture expressions. She dodged them,
unconsciously, as she did her father's professional palaver. The light
in Ray's pale-blue eyes and the feeling in his voice more than made up
for the stiffness of his language.

"Were the Cliff-Dwellers really clever with their hands, Ray, or do you
always have to make allowance and say, 'That was pretty good for an
Indian'?" she asked.

Ray went down into the car to give some instructions to Giddy. "Well,"
he said when he returned, "about the aborigines: once or twice I've been
with some fellows who were cracking burial mounds. Always felt a little
ashamed of it, but we did pull out some remarkable things. We got some
pottery out whole; seemed pretty fine to me. I guess their women were
their artists. We found lots of old shoes and sandals made out of yucca
fiber, neat and strong; and feather blankets, too."

"Feather blankets? You never told me about them."

"Didn't I? The old fellows--or the squaws--wove a close netting of yucca
fiber, and then tied on little bunches of down feathers, overlapping,
just the way feathers grow on a bird. Some of them were feathered on
both sides. You can't get anything warmer than that, now, can you?--or
prettier. What I like about those old aborigines is, that they got all
their ideas from nature."

Thea laughed. "That means you're going to say something about girls'
wearing corsets. But some of your Indians flattened their babies' heads,
and that's worse than wearing corsets."

"Give me an Indian girl's figure for beauty," Ray insisted. "And a girl
with a voice like yours ought to have plenty of lung-action. But you
know my sentiments on that subject. I was going to tell you about the
handsomest thing we ever looted out of those burial mounds. It was on a
woman, too, I regret to say. She was preserved as perfect as any mummy
that ever came out of the pyramids. She had a big string of turquoises
around her neck, and she was wrapped in a fox-fur cloak, lined with
little yellow feathers that must have come off wild canaries. Can you
beat that, now? The fellow that claimed it sold it to a Boston man for a
hundred and fifty dollars."

Thea looked at him admiringly. "Oh, Ray, and didn't you get anything off
her, to remember her by, even? She must have been a princess."

Ray took a wallet from the pocket of the coat that was hanging beside
him, and drew from it a little lump wrapped in worn tissue paper. In a
moment a stone, soft and blue as a robin's egg, lay in the hard palm of
his hand. It was a turquoise, rubbed smooth in the Indian finish, which
is so much more beautiful than the incongruous high polish the white man
gives that tender stone. "I got this from her necklace. See the hole
where the string went through? You know how the Indians drill them? Work
the drill with their teeth. You like it, don't you? They're just right
for you. Blue and yellow are the Swedish colors." Ray looked intently at
her head, bent over his hand, and then gave his whole attention to the
track.

"I'll tell you, Thee," he began after a pause, "I'm going to form a
camping party one of these days and persuade your PADRE to take you and
your mother down to that country, and we'll live in the rock
houses--they're as comfortable as can be--and start the cook fires up in
'em once again. I'll go into the burial mounds and get you more
keepsakes than any girl ever had before." Ray had planned such an
expedition for his wedding journey, and it made his heart thump to see
how Thea's eyes kindled when he talked about it. "I've learned more down
there about what makes history," he went on, "than in all the books I've
ever read. When you sit in the sun and let your heels hang out of a
doorway that drops a thousand feet, ideas come to you. You begin to feel
what the human race has been up against from the beginning. There's
something mighty elevating about those old habitations. You feel like
it's up to you to do your best, on account of those fellows having it so
hard. You feel like you owed them something."

At Wassiwappa, Ray got instructions to sidetrack until Thirty-six went
by. After reading the message, he turned to his guests. "I'm afraid this
will hold us up about two hours, Mrs. Kronborg, and we won't get into
Denver till near midnight."

"That won't trouble me," said Mrs. Kronborg contentedly. "They know me
at the Y.W.C.A., and they'll let me in any time of night. I came to see
the country, not to make time. I've always wanted to get out at this
white place and look around, and now I'll have a chance. What makes it
so white?"

"Some kind of chalky rock." Ray sprang to the ground and gave Mrs.
Kronborg his hand. "You can get soil of any color in Colorado; match
most any ribbon."

While Ray was getting his train on to a side track, Mrs. Kronborg
strolled off to examine the post-office and station house; these, with
the water tank, made up the town. The station agent "batched" and raised
chickens. He ran out to meet Mrs. Kronborg, clutched at her feverishly,
and began telling her at once how lonely he was and what bad luck he was
having with his poultry. She went to his chicken yard with him, and
prescribed for gapes.

Wassiwappa seemed a dreary place enough to people who looked for
verdure, a brilliant place to people who liked color. Beside the station
house there was a blue-grass plot, protected by a red plank fence, and
six fly-bitten box-elder trees, not much larger than bushes, were kept
alive by frequent hosings from the water plug. Over the windows some
dusty morning-glory vines were trained on strings. All the country about
was broken up into low chalky hills, which were so intensely white, and
spotted so evenly with sage, that they looked like white leopards
crouching. White dust powdered everything, and the light was so intense
that the station agent usually wore blue glasses. Behind the station
there was a water course, which roared in flood time, and a basin in the
soft white rock where a pool of alkali water flashed in the sun like a
mirror. The agent looked almost as sick as his chickens, and Mrs.
Kronborg at once invited him to lunch with her party. He had, he
confessed, a distaste for his own cooking, and lived mainly on soda
crackers and canned beef. He laughed apologetically when Mrs. Kronborg
said she guessed she'd look about for a shady place to eat lunch.

She walked up the track to the water tank, and there, in the narrow
shadows cast by the uprights on which the tank stood, she found two
tramps. They sat up and stared at her, heavy with sleep. When she asked
them where they were going, they told her "to the coast." They rested by
day and traveled by night; walked the ties unless they could steal a
ride, they said; adding that "these Western roads were getting strict."
Their faces were blistered, their eyes blood-shot, and their shoes
looked fit only for the trash pile.

"I suppose you're hungry?" Mrs. Kronborg asked. "I suppose you both
drink?" she went on thoughtfully, not censoriously.

The huskier of the two hoboes, a bushy, bearded fellow, rolled his eyes
and said, "I wonder?" But the other, who was old and spare, with a sharp
nose and watery eyes, sighed. "Some has one affliction, some another,"
he said.

Mrs. Kronborg reflected. "Well," she said at last, "you can't get liquor
here, anyway. I am going to ask you to vacate, because I want to have a
little picnic under this tank for the freight crew that brought me
along. I wish I had lunch enough to provide you, but I ain't. The
station agent says he gets his provisions over there at the post office
store, and if you are hungry you can get some canned stuff there." She
opened her handbag and gave each of the tramps a half-dollar.

The old man wiped his eyes with his forefinger. "Thank 'ee, ma'am. A can
of tomatters will taste pretty good to me. I wasn't always walkin' ties;
I had a good job in Cleveland before--"

The hairy tramp turned on him fiercely. "Aw, shut up on that, grandpaw!
Ain't you got no gratitude? What do you want to hand the lady that fur?"

The old man hung his head and turned away. As he went off, his comrade
looked after him and said to Mrs. Kronborg: "It's true, what he says. He
had a job in the car shops; but he had bad luck." They both limped away
toward the store, and Mrs. Kronborg sighed. She was not afraid of
tramps. She always talked to them, and never turned one away. She hated
to think how many of them there were, crawling along the tracks over
that vast country.

Her reflections were cut short by Ray and Giddy and Thea, who came
bringing the lunch box and water bottles. Although there was not shadow
enough to accommodate all the party at once, the air under the tank was
distinctly cooler than the surrounding air, and the drip made a pleasant
sound in that breathless noon. The station agent ate as if he had never
been fed before, apologizing every time he took another piece of fried
chicken. Giddy was unabashed before the devilled eggs of which he had
spoken so scornfully last night. After lunch the men lit their pipes and
lay back against the uprights that supported the tank.

"This is the sunny side of railroading, all right," Giddy drawled
luxuriously.

"You fellows grumble too much," said Mrs. Kronborg as she corked the
pickle jar. "Your job has its drawbacks, but it don't tie you down. Of
course there's the risk; but I believe a man's watched over, and he
can't be hurt on the railroad or anywhere else if it's intended he
shouldn't be."

Giddy laughed. "Then the trains must be operated by fellows the Lord has
it in for, Mrs. Kronborg. They figure it out that a railroad man's only
due to last eleven years; then it's his turn to be smashed."

"That's a dark Providence, I don't deny," Mrs. Kronborg admitted. "But
there's lots of things in life that's hard to understand."

"I guess!" murmured Giddy, looking off at the spotted white hills.

Ray smoked in silence, watching Thea and her mother clear away the
lunch. He was thinking that Mrs. Kronborg had in her face the same
serious look that Thea had; only hers was calm and satisfied, and Thea's
was intense and questioning. But in both it was a large kind of look,
that was not all the time being broken up and convulsed by trivial
things. They both carried their heads like Indian women, with a kind of
noble unconsciousness. He got so tired of women who were always nodding
and jerking; apologizing, deprecating, coaxing, insinuating with their
heads.

When Ray's party set off again that afternoon the sun beat fiercely into
the cupola, and Thea curled up in one of the seats at the back of the
car and had a nap.

As the short twilight came on, Giddy took a turn in the cupola, and Ray
came down and sat with Thea on the rear platform of the caboose and
watched the darkness come in soft waves over the plain. They were now
about thirty miles from Denver, and the mountains looked very near. The
great toothed wall behind which the sun had gone down now separated into
four distinct ranges, one behind the other. They were a very pale blue,
a color scarcely stronger than wood smoke, and the sunset had left
bright streaks in the snow-filled gorges. In the clear, yellowstreaked
sky the stars were coming out, flickering like newly lighted lamps,
growing steadier and more golden as the sky darkened and the land
beneath them fell into complete shadow. It was a cool, restful darkness
that was not black or forbidding, but somehow open and free; the night
of high plains where there is no moistness or mistiness in the
atmosphere.

Ray lit his pipe. "I never get tired of them old stars, Thee. I miss 'em
up in Washington and Oregon where it's misty. Like 'em best down in
Mother Mexico, where they have everything their own way. I'm not for any
country where the stars are dim." Ray paused and drew on his pipe. "I
don't know as I ever really noticed 'em much till that first year I
herded sheep up in Wyoming. That was the year the blizzard caught me."

"And you lost all your sheep, didn't you, Ray?" Thea spoke
sympathetically. "Was the man who owned them nice about it?"

"Yes, he was a good loser. But I didn't get over it for a long while.
Sheep are so damned resigned. Sometimes, to this day, when I'm
dog-tired, I try to save them sheep all night long. It comes kind of
hard on a boy when he first finds out how little he is, and how big
everything else is."

Thea moved restlessly toward him and dropped her chin on her hand,
looking at a low star that seemed to rest just on the rim of the earth.
"I don't see how you stood it. I don't believe I could. I don't see how
people can stand it to get knocked out, anyhow!" She spoke with such
fierceness that Ray glanced at her in surprise. She was sitting on the
floor of the car, crouching like a little animal about to spring.

"No occasion for you to see," he said warmly. "There'll always be plenty
of other people to take the knocks for you."

"That's nonsense, Ray." Thea spoke impatiently and leaned lower still,
frowning at the red star. "Everybody's up against it for himself,
succeeds or fails--himself."

"In one way, yes," Ray admitted, knocking the sparks from his pipe out
into the soft darkness that seemed to flow like a river beside the car.
"But when you look at it another way, there are a lot of halfway people
in this world who help the winners win, and the failers fail. If a man
stumbles, there's plenty of people to push him down. But if he's like
`the youth who bore,' those same people are foreordained to help him
along. They may hate to, worse than blazes, and they may do a lot of
cussin' about it, but they have to help the winners and they can't dodge
it. It's a natural law, like what keeps the big clock up there going,
little wheels and big, and no mix-up." Ray's hand and his pipe were
suddenly outlined against the sky. "Ever occur to you, Thee, that they
have to be on time close enough to MAKE TIME? The Dispatcher up there
must have a long head." Pleased with his similitude, Ray went back to
the lookout. Going into Denver, he had to keep a sharp watch.

Giddy came down, cheerful at the prospect of getting into port, and
singing a new topical ditty that had come up from the Santa Fe by way of
La Junta. Nobody knows who makes these songs; they seem to follow events
automatically. Mrs. Kronborg made Giddy sing the whole twelve verses of
this one, and laughed until she wiped her eyes. The story was that of
Katie Casey, head diningroom girl at Winslow, Arizona, who was unjustly
discharged by the Harvey House manager. Her suitor, the yardmaster, took
the switchmen out on a strike until she was reinstated. Freight trains
from the east and the west piled up at Winslow until the yards looked
like a log-jam. The division superintendent, who was in California, had
to wire instructions for Katie Casey's restoration before he could get
his trains running. Giddy's song told all this with much detail, both
tender and technical, and after each of the dozen verses came the
refrain:--


"Oh, who would think that Katie Casey owned the Santa Fe?
But it really looks that way,
The dispatcher's turnin' gray,
All the crews is off their pay;
She can hold the freight from Albuquerq' to Needles any day;
The division superintendent, he come home from Monterey,
Just to see if things was pleasin' Katie Ca--a--a--sey."


Thea laughed with her mother and applauded Giddy.
Everything was so kindly and comfortable; Giddy and
Ray, and their hospitable little house, and the easy-going
country, and the stars.  She curled up on the seat again
with that warm, sleepy feeling of the friendliness of the
world--which nobody keeps very long, and which she
was to lose early and irrevocably.



XVII


The summer flew by. Thea was glad when Ray Kennedy had a Sunday in town
and could take her driving. Out among the sand hills she could forget
the "new room" which was the scene of wearing and fruitless labor. Dr.
Archie was away from home a good deal that year. He had put all his
money into mines above Colorado Springs, and he hoped for great returns
from them.

In the fall of that year, Mr. Kronborg decided that Thea ought to show
more interest in church work. He put it to her frankly, one night at
supper, before the whole family. "How can I insist on the other girls in
the congregation being active in the work, when one of my own daughters
manifests so little interest?"

"But I sing every Sunday morning, and I have to give up one night a week
to choir practice," Thea declared rebelliously, pushing back her plate
with an angry determination to eat nothing more.

"One night a week is not enough for the pastor's daughter," her father
replied. "You won't do anything in the sewing society, and you won't
take part in the Christian Endeavor or the Band of Hope. Very well, you
must make it up in other ways. I want some one to play the organ and
lead the singing at prayer-meeting this winter. Deacon Potter told me
some time ago that he thought there would be more interest in our
prayer-meetings if we had the organ. Miss Meyers don't feel that she can
play on Wednesday nights. And there ought to be somebody to start the
hymns. Mrs. Potter is getting old, and she always starts them too high.
It won't take much of your time, and it will keep people from talking."

This argument conquered Thea, though she left the table sullenly. The
fear of the tongue, that terror of little towns, is usually felt more
keenly by the minister's family than by other households. Whenever the
Kronborgs wanted to do anything, even to buy a new carpet, they had to
take counsel together as to whether people would talk. Mrs. Kronborg had
her own conviction that people talked when they felt like it, and said
what they chose, no matter how the minister's family conducted
themselves. But she did not impart these dangerous ideas to her
children. Thea was still under the belief that public opinion could be
placated; that if you clucked often enough, the hens would mistake you
for one of themselves.

Mrs. Kronborg did not have any particular zest for prayer-meetings, and
she stayed at home whenever she had a valid excuse. Thor was too old to
furnish such an excuse now, so every Wednesday night, unless one of the
children was sick, she trudged off with Thea, behind Mr. Kronborg. At
first Thea was terribly bored. But she got used to prayermeeting, got
even to feel a mournful interest in it.

The exercises were always pretty much the same. After the first hymn her
father read a passage from the Bible, usually a Psalm. Then there was
another hymn, and then her father commented upon the passage he had read
and, as he said, "applied the Word to our necessities." After a third
hymn, the meeting was declared open, and the old men and women took
turns at praying and talking. Mrs. Kronborg never spoke in meeting. She
told people firmly that she had been brought up to keep silent and let
the men talk, but she gave respectful attention to the others, sitting
with her hands folded in her lap.

The prayer-meeting audience was always small. The young and energetic
members of the congregation came only once or twice a year, "to keep
people from talking." The usual Wednesday night gathering was made up of
old women, with perhaps six or eight old men, and a few sickly girls who
had not much interest in life; two of them, indeed, were already
preparing to die. Thea accepted the mournfulness of the prayer-meetings
as a kind of spiritual discipline, like funerals. She always read late
after she went home and felt a stronger wish than usual to live and to
be happy.

The meetings were conducted in the Sunday-School room, where there were
wooden chairs instead of pews; an old map of Palestine hung on the wall,
and the bracket lamps gave out only a dim light. The old women sat
motionless as Indians in their shawls and bonnets; some of them wore
long black mourning veils. The old men drooped in their chairs. Every
back, every face, every head said "resignation." Often there were long
silences, when you could hear nothing but the crackling of the soft coal
in the stove and the muffled cough of one of the sick girls.

There was one nice old lady,--tall, erect, self-respecting, with a
delicate white face and a soft voice. She never whined, and what she
said was always cheerful, though she spoke so nervously that Thea knew
she dreaded getting up, and that she made a real sacrifice to, as she
said, "testify to the goodness of her Saviour." She was the mother of
the girl who coughed, and Thea used to wonder how she explained things
to herself. There was, indeed, only one woman who talked because she
was, as Mr. Kronborg said, "tonguey." The others were somehow
impressive. They told about the sweet thoughts that came to them while
they were at their work; how, amid their household tasks, they were
suddenly lifted by the sense of a divine Presence. Sometimes they told
of their first conversion, of how in their youth that higher Power had
made itself known to them. Old Mr. Carsen, the carpenter, who gave his
services as janitor to the church, used often to tell how, when he was a
young man and a scoffer, bent on the destruction of both body and soul,
his Saviour had come to him in the Michigan woods and had stood, it
seemed to him, beside the tree he was felling; and how he dropped his
axe and knelt in prayer "to Him who died for us upon the tree." Thea
always wanted to ask him more about it; about his mysterious wickedness,
and about the vision.

Sometimes the old people would ask for prayers for their absent
children. Sometimes they asked their brothers and sisters in Christ to
pray that they might be stronger against temptations. One of the sick
girls used to ask them to pray that she might have more faith in the
times of depression that came to her, "when all the way before seemed
dark." She repeated that husky phrase so often, that Thea always
remembered it.

One old woman, who never missed a Wednesday night, and who nearly always
took part in the meeting, came all the way up from the depot settlement.
She always wore a black crocheted "fascinator" over her thin white hair,
and she made long, tremulous prayers, full of railroad terminology. She
had six sons in the service of different railroads, and she always
prayed "for the boys on the road, who know not at what moment they may
be cut off. When, in Thy divine wisdom, their hour is upon them, may
they, O our Heavenly Father, see only white lights along the road to
Eternity." She used to speak, too, of "the engines that race with
death"; and though she looked so old and little when she was on her
knees, and her voice was so shaky, her prayers had a thrill of speed and
danger in them; they made one think of the deep black canyons, the
slender trestles, the pounding trains. Thea liked to look at her sunken
eyes that seemed full of wisdom, at her black thread gloves, much too
long in the fingers and so meekly folded one over the other. Her face
was brown, and worn away as rocks are worn by water. There are many ways
of describing that color of age, but in reality it is not like
parchment, or like any of the things it is said to be like. That
brownness and that texture of skin are found only in the faces of old
human creatures, who have worked hard and who have always been poor.

One bitterly cold night in December the prayer-meeting seemed to Thea
longer than usual. The prayers and the talks went on and on. It was as
if the old people were afraid to go out into the cold, or were stupefied
by the hot air of the room. She had left a book at home that she was
impatient to get back to. At last the Doxology was sung, but the old
people lingered about the stove to greet each other, and Thea took her
mother's arm and hurried out to the frozen sidewalk, before her father
could get away. The wind was whistling up the street and whipping the
naked cottonwood trees against the telegraph poles and the sides of the
houses. Thin snow clouds were flying overhead, so that the sky looked
gray, with a dull phosphorescence. The icy streets and the shingle roofs
of the houses were gray, too. All along the street, shutters banged or
windows rattled, or gates wobbled, held by their latch but shaking on
loose hinges. There was not a cat or a dog in Moonstone that night that
was not given a warm shelter; the cats under the kitchen stove, the dogs
in barns or coal-sheds. When Thea and her mother reached home, their
mufflers were covered with ice, where their breath had frozen. They
hurried into the house and made a dash for the parlor and the hard-coal
burner, behind which Gunner was sitting on a stool, reading his Jules
Verne book. The door stood open into the dining-room, which was heated
from the parlor. Mr. Kronborg always had a lunch when he came home from
prayer-meeting, and his pumpkin pie and milk were set out on the
dining-table. Mrs. Kronborg said she thought she felt hungry, too, and
asked Thea if she didn't want something to eat.

"No, I'm not hungry, mother. I guess I'll go upstairs."

"I expect you've got some book up there," said Mrs. Kronborg, bringing
out another pie. "You'd better bring it down here and read. Nobody'll
disturb you, and it's terrible cold up in that loft."

Thea was always assured that no one would disturb her if she read
downstairs, but the boys talked when they came in, and her father fairly
delivered discourses after he had been renewed by half a pie and a
pitcher of milk.

"I don't mind the cold. I'll take a hot brick up for my feet. I put one
in the stove before I left, if one of the boys hasn't stolen it.
Good-night, mother." Thea got her brick and lantern, and dashed upstairs
through the windy loft. She undressed at top speed and got into bed with
her brick. She put a pair of white knitted gloves on her hands, and
pinned over her head a piece of soft flannel that had been one of Thor's
long petticoats when he was a baby. Thus equipped, she was ready for
business. She took from her table a thick paper-backed volume, one of
the "line" of paper novels the druggist kept to sell to traveling men.
She had bought it, only yesterday, because the first sentence interested
her very much, and because she saw, as she glanced over the pages, the
magical names of two Russian cities. The book was a poor translation of
"Anna Karenina." Thea opened it at a mark, and fixed her eyes intently
upon the small print. The hymns, the sick girl, the resigned black
figures were forgotten. It was the night of the ball in Moscow.

Thea would have been astonished if she could have known how, years
afterward, when she had need of them, those old faces were to come back
to her, long after they were hidden away under the earth; that they
would seem to her then as full of meaning, as mysteriously marked by
Destiny, as the people who danced the mazurka under the elegant
Korsunsky.



XVIII


Mr. Kronborg was too fond of his ease and too sensible to worry his
children much about religion. He was more sincere than many preachers,
but when he spoke to his family about matters of conduct it was usually
with a regard for keeping up appearances. The church and church work
were discussed in the family like the routine of any other business.
Sunday was the hard day of the week with them, just as Saturday was the
busy day with the merchants on Main Street. Revivals were seasons of
extra work and pressure, just as threshing-time was on the farms.
Visiting elders had to be lodged and cooked for, the folding-bed in the
parlor was let down, and Mrs. Kronborg had to work in the kitchen all
day long and attend the night meetings.

During one of these revivals Thea's sister Anna professed religion with,
as Mrs. Kronborg said, "a good deal of fluster." While Anna was going up
to the mourners' bench nightly and asking for the prayers of the
congregation, she disseminated general gloom throughout the household,
and after she joined the church she took on an air of "set-apartness"
that was extremely trying to her brothers and her sister, though they
realized that Anna's sanctimoniousness was perhaps a good thing for
their father. A preacher ought to have one child who did more than
merely acquiesce in religious observances, and Thea and the boys were
glad enough that it was Anna and not one of themselves who assumed this
obligation.

"Anna, she's American," Mrs. Kronborg used to say. The Scandinavian
mould of countenance, more or less marked in each of the other children,
was scarcely discernible in her, and she looked enough like other
Moonstone girls to be thought pretty. Anna's nature was conventional, like
her face. Her position as the minister's eldest daughter was important
to her, and she tried to live up to it. She read sentimental religious
story-books and emulated the spiritual struggles and magnanimous
behavior of their persecuted heroines. Everything had to be interpreted
for Anna. Her opinions about the smallest and most commonplace things
were gleaned from the Denver papers, the church weeklies, from sermons
and Sunday-School addresses. Scarcely anything was attractive to her in
its natural state--indeed, scarcely anything was decent until it was
clothed by the opinion of some authority. Her ideas about habit,
character, duty, love, marriage, were grouped under heads, like a book
of popular quotations, and were totally unrelated to the emergencies of
human living. She discussed all these subjects with other Methodist
girls of her age. They would spend hours, for instance, in deciding what
they would or would not tolerate in a suitor or a husband, and the
frailties of masculine nature were too often a subject of discussion
among them. In her behavior Anna was a harmless girl, mild except where
her prejudices were concerned, neat and industrious, with no graver
fault than priggishness; but her mind had really shocking habits of
classification. The wickedness of Denver and of Chicago, and even of
Moonstone, occupied her thoughts too much. She had none of the delicacy
that goes with a nature of warm impulses, but the kind of fishy
curiosity which justifies itself by an expression of horror.

Thea, and all Thea's ways and friends, seemed indecorous to Anna. She
not only felt a grave social discrimination against the Mexicans; she
could not forget that Spanish Johnny was a drunkard and that "nobody
knew what he did when he ran away from home." Thea pretended, of course,
that she liked the Mexicans because they were fond of music; but every
one knew that music was nothing very real, and that it did not matter in
a girl's relations with people. What was real, then, and what did
matter? Poor Anna!

Anna approved of Ray Kennedy as a young man of steady habits and
blameless life, but she regretted that he was an atheist, and that he
was not a passenger conductor with brass buttons on his coat. On the
whole, she wondered what such an exemplary young man found to like in
Thea. Dr. Archie she treated respectfully because of his position in
Moonstone, but she KNEW he had kissed the Mexican barytone's pretty
daughter, and she had a whole DOSSIER of evidence about his behavior in
his hours of relaxation in Denver. He was "fast," and it was because he
was "fast" that Thea liked him. Thea always liked that kind of people.
Dr. Archie's whole manner with Thea, Anna often told her mother, was too
free. He was always putting his hand on Thea's head, or holding her hand
while he laughed and looked down at her. The kindlier manifestation of
human nature (about which Anna sang and talked, in the interests of
which she went to conventions and wore white ribbons) were never
realities to her after all. She did not believe in them. It was only in
attitudes of protest or reproof, clinging to the cross, that human
beings could be even temporarily decent.

Preacher Kronborg's secret convictions were very much like Anna's. He
believed that his wife was absolutely good, but there was not a man or
woman in his congregation whom he trusted all the way.

Mrs. Kronborg, on the other hand, was likely to find something to admire
in almost any human conduct that was positive and energetic. She could
always be taken in by the stories of tramps and runaway boys. She went
to the circus and admired the bareback riders, who were "likely good
enough women in their way." She admired Dr. Archie's fine physique and
well-cut clothes as much as Thea did, and said she "felt it was a
privilege to be handled by such a gentleman when she was sick."

Soon after Anna became a church member she began to remonstrate with
Thea about practicing--playing "secular music"--on Sunday. One Sunday
the dispute in the parlor grew warm and was carried to Mrs. Kronborg in
the kitchen. She listened judicially and told Anna to read the chapter
about how Naaman the leper was permitted to bow down in the house of
Rimmon. Thea went back to the piano, and Anna lingered to say that,
since she was in the right, her mother should have supported her.

"No," said Mrs. Kronborg, rather indifferently, "I can't see it that
way, Anna. I never forced you to practice, and I don't see as I should
keep Thea from it. I like to hear her, and I guess your father does. You
and Thea will likely follow different lines, and I don't see as I'm
called upon to bring you up alike."

Anna looked meek and abused. "Of course all the church people must hear
her. Ours is the only noisy house on this street. You hear what she's
playing now, don't you?"

Mrs. Kronborg rose from browning her coffee. "Yes; it's the Blue Danube
waltzes. I'm familiar with 'em. If any of the church people come at you,
you just send 'em to me. I ain't afraid to speak out on occasion, and I
wouldn't mind one bit telling the Ladies' Aid a few things about
standard composers." Mrs. Kronborg smiled, and added thoughtfully, "No,
I wouldn't mind that one bit."

Anna went about with a reserved and distant air for a week, and Mrs.
Kronborg suspected that she held a larger place than usual in her
daughter's prayers; but that was another thing she didn't mind.


Although revivals were merely a part of the year's work, like
examination week at school, and although Anna's piety impressed her very
little, a time came when Thea was perplexed about religion. A scourge of
typhoid broke out in Moonstone and several of Thea's schoolmates died of
it. She went to their funerals, saw them put into the ground, and
wondered a good deal about them. But a certain grim incident, which
caused the epidemic, troubled her even more than the death of her
friends.

Early in July, soon after Thea's fifteenth birthday, a particularly
disgusting sort of tramp came into Moonstone in an empty box car. Thea
was sitting in the hammock in the front yard when he first crawled up to
the town from the depot, carrying a bundle wrapped in dirty ticking
under one arm, and under the other a wooden box with rusty screening
nailed over one end. He had a thin, hungry face covered with black hair.
It was just before suppertime when he came along, and the street smelled
of fried potatoes and fried onions and coffee. Thea saw him sniffing the
air greedily and walking slower and slower. He looked over the fence.
She hoped he would not stop at their gate, for her mother never turned
any one away, and this was the dirtiest and most utterly
wretched-looking tramp she had ever seen. There was a terrible odor
about him, too. She caught it even at that distance, and put her
handkerchief to her nose. A moment later she was sorry, for she knew
that he had noticed it. He looked away and shuffled a little faster.

A few days later Thea heard that the tramp had camped in an empty shack
over on the east edge of town, beside the ravine, and was trying to give
a miserable sort of show there. He told the boys who went to see what he
was doing, that he had traveled with a circus. His bundle contained a
filthy clown's suit, and his box held half a dozen rattlesnakes.

Saturday night, when Thea went to the butcher shop to get the chickens
for Sunday, she heard the whine of an accordion and saw a crowd before
one of the saloons. There she found the tramp, his bony body grotesquely
attired in the clown's suit, his face shaved and painted white,--the
sweat trickling through the paint and washing it away,--and his eyes
wild and feverish. Pulling the accordion in and out seemed to be almost
too great an effort for him, and he panted to the tune of "Marching
through Georgia." After a considerable crowd had gathered, the tramp
exhibited his box of snakes, announced that he would now pass the hat,
and that when the onlookers had contributed the sum of one dollar, he
would eat "one of these living reptiles." The crowd began to cough and
murmur, and the saloon keeper rushed off for the marshal, who arrested
the wretch for giving a show without a license and hurried him away to
the calaboose.

The calaboose stood in a sunflower patch,--an old hut with a barred
window and a padlock on the door. The tramp was utterly filthy and there
was no way to give him a bath. The law made no provision to grub-stake
vagrants, so after the constable had detained the tramp for twentyfour
hours, he released him and told him to "get out of town, and get quick."
The fellow's rattlesnakes had been killed by the saloon keeper. He hid
in a box car in the freight yard, probably hoping to get a ride to the
next station, but he was found and put out. After that he was seen no
more. He had disappeared and left no trace except an ugly, stupid word,
chalked on the black paint of the seventy-five-foot standpipe which was
the reservoir for the Moonstone water-supply; the same word, in another
tongue, that the French soldier shouted at Waterloo to the English
officer who bade the Old Guard surrender; a comment on life which the
defeated, along the hard roads of the world, sometimes bawl at the
victorious.

A week after the tramp excitement had passed over, the city water began
to smell and to taste. The Kronborgs had a well in their back yard and
did not use city water, but they heard the complaints of their
neighbors. At first people said that the town well was full of rotting
cottonwood roots, but the engineer at the pumpingstation convinced the
mayor that the water left the well untainted. Mayors reason slowly, but,
the well being eliminated, the official mind had to travel toward the
standpipe--there was no other track for it to go in. The standpipe amply
rewarded investigation. The tramp had got even with Moonstone. He had
climbed the standpipe by the handholds and let himself down into
seventy-five feet of cold water, with his shoes and hat and roll of
ticking. The city council had a mild panic and passed a new ordinance
about tramps. But the fever had already broken out, and several adults
and half a dozen children died of it.

Thea had always found everything that happened in Moonstone exciting,
disasters particularly so. It was gratifying to read sensational
Moonstone items in the Denver paper. But she wished she had not chanced
to see the tramp as he came into town that evening, sniffing the
supper-laden air. His face remained unpleasantly clear in her memory,
and her mind struggled with the problem of his behavior as if it were a
hard page in arithmetic. Even when she was practicing, the drama of the
tramp kept going on in the back of her head, and she was constantly
trying to make herself realize what pitch of hatred or despair could
drive a man to do such a hideous thing. She kept seeing him in his
bedraggled clown suit, the white paint on his roughly shaven face,
playing his accordion before the saloon. She had noticed his lean body,
his high, bald forehead that sloped back like a curved metal lid. How
could people fall so far out of fortune? She tried to talk to Ray
Kennedy about her perplexity, but Ray would not discuss things of that
sort with her. It was in his sentimental conception of women that they
should be deeply religious, though men were at liberty to doubt and
finally to deny. A picture called "The Soul Awakened," popular in
Moonstone parlors, pretty well interpreted Ray's idea of woman's
spiritual nature.

One evening when she was haunted by the figure of the tramp, Thea went
up to Dr. Archie's office. She found him sewing up two bad gashes in the
face of a little boy who had been kicked by a mule. After the boy had
been bandaged and sent away with his father, Thea helped the doctor wash
and put away the surgical instruments. Then she dropped into her
accustomed seat beside his desk and began to talk about the tramp. Her
eyes were hard and green with excitement, the doctor noticed.

"It seems to me, Dr. Archie, that the whole town's to blame. I'm to
blame, myself. I know he saw me hold my nose when he went by. Father's
to blame. If he believes the Bible, he ought to have gone to the
calaboose and cleaned that man up and taken care of him. That's what I
can't understand; do people believe the Bible, or don't they? If the
next life is all that matters, and we're put here to get ready for it,
then why do we try to make money, or learn things, or have a good time?
There's not one person in Moonstone that really lives the way the New
Testament says. Does it matter, or don't it?"

Dr. Archie swung round in his chair and looked at her, honestly and
leniently. "Well, Thea, it seems to me like this. Every people has had
its religion. All religions are good, and all are pretty much alike. But
I don't see how we could live up to them in the sense you mean. I've
thought about it a good deal, and I can't help feeling that while we are
in this world we have to live for the best things of this world, and
those things are material and positive. Now, most religions are passive,
and they tell us chiefly what we should not do." The doctor moved
restlessly, and his eyes hunted for something along the opposite wall:
"See here, my girl, take out the years of early childhood and the time
we spend in sleep and dull old age, and we only have about twenty able,
waking years. That's not long enough to get acquainted with half the
fine things that have been done in the world, much less to do anything
ourselves. I think we ought to keep the Commandments and help other
people all we can; but the main thing is to live those twenty splendid
years; to do all we can and enjoy all we can."

Dr. Archie met his little friend's searching gaze, the look of acute
inquiry which always touched him.

"But poor fellows like that tramp--" she hesitated and wrinkled her
forehead.

The doctor leaned forward and put his hand protectingly over hers, which
lay clenched on the green felt desktop. "Ugly accidents happen, Thea;
always have and always will. But the failures are swept back into the
pile and forgotten. They don't leave any lasting scar in the world, and
they don't affect the future. The things that last are the good things.
The people who forge ahead and do something, they really count." He saw
tears on her cheeks, and he remembered that he had never seen her cry
before, not even when she crushed her finger when she was little. He
rose and walked to the window, came back and sat down on the edge of his
chair.

"Forget the tramp, Thea. This is a great big world, and I want you to
get about and see it all. You're going to Chicago some day, and do
something with that fine voice of yours. You're going to be a number one
musician and make us proud of you. Take Mary Anderson, now; even the
tramps are proud of her. There isn't a tramp along the 'Q' system who
hasn't heard of her. We all like people who do things, even if we only
see their faces on a cigar-box lid."

They had a long talk. Thea felt that Dr. Archie had never let himself
out to her so much before. It was the most grown-up conversation she had
ever had with him. She left his office happy, flattered and stimulated.
She ran for a long while about the white, moonlit streets, looking up at
the stars and the bluish night, at the quiet houses sunk in black shade,
the glittering sand hills. She loved the familiar trees, and the people
in those little houses, and she loved the unknown world beyond Denver.
She felt as if she were being pulled in two, between the desire to go
away forever and the desire to stay forever. She had only twenty
years--no time to lose.

Many a night that summer she left Dr. Archie's office with a desire to
run and run about those quiet streets until she wore out her shoes, or
wore out the streets themselves; when her chest ached and it seemed as
if her heart were spreading all over the desert. When she went home, it
was not to go to sleep. She used to drag her mattress beside her low
window and lie awake for a long while, vibrating with excitement, as a
machine vibrates from speed. Life rushed in upon her through that
window--or so it seemed. In reality, of course, life rushes from within,
not from without. There is no work of art so big or so beautiful that it
was not once all contained in some youthful body, like this one which
lay on the floor in the moonlight, pulsing with ardor and anticipation.
It was on such nights that Thea Kronborg learned the thing that old
Dumas meant when he told the Romanticists that to make a drama he needed
but one passion and four walls.



XIX


It is well for its peace of mind that the traveling public takes
railroads so much for granted. The only men who are incurably nervous
about railway travel are the railroad operatives. A railroad man never
forgets that the next run may be his turn.

On a single-track road, like that upon which Ray Kennedy worked, the
freight trains make their way as best they can between passenger trains.
Even when there is such a thing as a freight time-schedule, it is merely
a form. Along the one track dozens of fast and slow trains dash in both
directions, kept from collision only by the brains in the dispatcher's
office. If one passenger train is late, the whole schedule must be
revised in an instant; the trains following must be warned, and those
moving toward the belated train must be assigned new meeting-places.

Between the shifts and modifications of the passenger schedule, the
freight trains play a game of their own. They have no right to the track
at any given time, but are supposed to be on it when it is free, and to
make the best time they can between passenger trains. A freight train,
on a single-track road, gets anywhere at all only by stealing bases.

Ray Kennedy had stuck to the freight service, although he had had
opportunities to go into the passenger service at higher pay. He always
regarded railroading as a temporary makeshift, until he "got into
something," and he disliked the passenger service. No brass buttons for
him, he said; too much like a livery. While he was railroading he would
wear a jumper, thank you!

The wreck that "caught" Ray was a very commonplace one; nothing
thrilling about it, and it got only six lines in the Denver papers. It
happened about daybreak one morning, only thirty-two miles from home.

At four o'clock in the morning Ray's train had stopped to take water at
Saxony, having just rounded the long curve which lies south of that
station. It was Joe Giddy's business to walk back along the curve about
three hundred yards and put out torpedoes to warn any train which might
be coming up from behind--a freight crew is not notified of trains
following, and the brakeman is supposed to protect his train. Ray was so
fussy about the punctilious observance of orders that almost any
brakeman would take a chance once in a while, from natural perversity.

When the train stopped for water that morning, Ray was at the desk in
his caboose, making out his report. Giddy took his torpedoes, swung off
the rear platform, and glanced back at the curve. He decided that he
would not go back to flag this time. If anything was coming up behind,
he could hear it in plenty of time. So he ran forward to look after a
hot journal that had been bothering him. In a general way, Giddy's
reasoning was sound. If a freight train, or even a passenger train, had
been coming up behind them, he could have heard it in time. But as it
happened, a light engine, which made no noise at all, was
coming,--ordered out to help with the freight that was piling up at the
other end of the division. This engine got no warning, came round the
curve, struck the caboose, went straight through it, and crashed into
the heavy lumber car ahead.


The Kronborgs were just sitting down to breakfast, when the night
telegraph operator dashed into the yard at a run and hammered on the
front door. Gunner answered the knock, and the telegraph operator told
him he wanted to see his father a minute, quick. Mr. Kronborg appeared
at the door, napkin in hand. The operator was pale and panting.

"Fourteen was wrecked down at Saxony this morning," he shouted, "and
Kennedy's all broke up. We're sending an engine down with the doctor,
and the operator at Saxony says Kennedy wants you to come along with us
and bring your girl." He stopped for breath.

Mr. Kronborg took off his glasses and began rubbing them with his
napkin.

"Bring--I don't understand," he muttered. "How did this happen?"

"No time for that, sir. Getting the engine out now. Your girl, Thea.
You'll surely do that for the poor chap. Everybody knows he thinks the
world of her." Seeing that Mr. Kronborg showed no indication of having
made up his mind, the operator turned to Gunner. "Call your sister, kid.
I'm going to ask the girl herself," he blurted out.

"Yes, yes, certainly. Daughter," Mr. Kronborg called. He had somewhat
recovered himself and reached to the hall hatrack for his hat.

Just as Thea came out on the front porch, before the operator had had
time to explain to her, Dr. Archie's ponies came up to the gate at a
brisk trot. Archie jumped out the moment his driver stopped the team and
came up to the bewildered girl without so much as saying good-morning to
any one. He took her hand with the sympathetic, reassuring graveness
which had helped her at more than one hard time in her life. "Get your
hat, my girl. Kennedy's hurt down the road, and he wants you to run down
with me. They'll have a car for us. Get into my buggy, Mr. Kronborg.
I'll drive you down, and Larry can come for the team."

The driver jumped out of the buggy and Mr. Kronborg and the doctor got
in. Thea, still bewildered, sat on her father's knee. Dr. Archie gave
his ponies a smart cut with the whip.

When they reached the depot, the engine, with one car attached, was
standing on the main track. The engineer had got his steam up, and was
leaning out of the cab impatiently. In a moment they were off. The run
to Saxony took forty minutes. Thea sat still in her seat while Dr.
Archie and her father talked about the wreck. She took no part in the
conversation and asked no questions, but occasionally she looked at Dr.
Archie with a frightened, inquiring glance, which he answered by an
encouraging nod. Neither he nor her father said anything about how badly
Ray was hurt. When the engine stopped near Saxony, the main track was
already cleared. As they got out of the car, Dr. Archie pointed to a
pile of ties.

"Thea, you'd better sit down here and watch the wreck crew while your
father and I go up and look Kennedy over. I'll come back for you when I
get him fixed up."

The two men went off up the sand gulch, and Thea sat down and looked at
the pile of splintered wood and twisted iron that had lately been Ray's
caboose. She was frightened and absent-minded. She felt that she ought
to be thinking about Ray, but her mind kept racing off to all sorts of
trivial and irrelevant things. She wondered whether Grace Johnson would
be furious when she came to take her music lesson and found nobody there
to give it to her; whether she had forgotten to close the piano last
night and whether Thor would get into the new room and mess the keys all
up with his sticky fingers; whether Tillie would go upstairs and make
her bed for her. Her mind worked fast, but she could fix it upon
nothing. The grasshoppers, the lizards, distracted her attention and
seemed more real to her than poor Ray.

On their way to the sand bank where Ray had been carried, Dr. Archie and
Mr. Kronborg met the Saxony doctor. He shook hands with them.

"Nothing you can do, doctor. I couldn't count the fractures. His back's
broken, too. He wouldn't be alive now if he weren't so confoundedly
strong, poor chap. No use bothering him. I've given him morphia, one and
a half, in eighths."

Dr. Archie hurried on. Ray was lying on a flat canvas litter, under the
shelter of a shelving bank, lightly shaded by a slender cottonwood tree.
When the doctor and the preacher approached, he looked at them intently.

"Didn't--" he closed his eyes to hide his bitter disappointment.

Dr. Archie knew what was the matter. "Thea's back there, Ray. I'll bring
her as soon as I've had a look at you."

Ray looked up. "You might clean me up a trifle, doc. Won't need you for
anything else, thank you all the same."

However little there was left of him, that little was certainly Ray
Kennedy. His personality was as positive as ever, and the blood and dirt
on his face seemed merely accidental, to have nothing to do with the man
himself. Dr. Archie told Mr. Kronborg to bring a pail of water, and he
began to sponge Ray's face and neck. Mr. Kronborg stood by, nervously
rubbing his hands together and trying to think of something to say.
Serious situations always embarrassed him and made him formal, even when
he felt real sympathy.

"In times like this, Ray," he brought out at last, crumpling up his
handkerchief in his long fingers,--"in times like this, we don't want to
forget the Friend that sticketh closer than a brother."

Ray looked up at him; a lonely, disconsolate smile played over his mouth
and his square cheeks. "Never mind about all that, PADRE," he said
quietly. "Christ and me fell out long ago."

There was a moment of silence. Then Ray took pity on Mr. Kronborg's
embarrassment. "You go back for the little girl, PADRE. I want a word
with the doc in private."

Ray talked to Dr. Archie for a few moments, then stopped suddenly, with
a broad smile. Over the doctor's shoulder he saw Thea coming up the
gulch, in her pink chambray dress, carrying her sun-hat by the strings.
Such a yellow head! He often told himself that he "was perfectly
foolish about her hair." The sight of her, coming, went through
him softly, like the morphia. "There she is," he whispered. "Get the old
preacher out of the way, doc. I want to have a little talk with her."

Dr. Archie looked up. Thea was hurrying and yet hanging back. She was
more frightened than he had thought she would be. She had gone with him
to see very sick people and had always been steady and calm. As she came
up, she looked at the ground, and he could see that she had been crying.

Ray Kennedy made an unsuccessful effort to put out his hand. "Hello,
little kid, nothing to be afraid of. Darned if I don't believe they've
gone and scared you! Nothing to cry about. I'm the same old goods, only
a little dented. Sit down on my coat there, and keep me company. I've
got to lay still a bit."

Dr. Archie and Mr. Kronborg disappeared. Thea cast a timid glance after
them, but she sat down resolutely and took Ray's hand.

"You ain't scared now, are you?" he asked affectionately. "You were a
regular brick to come, Thee. Did you get any breakfast?"

"No, Ray, I'm not scared. Only I'm dreadful sorry you're hurt, and I
can't help crying."

His broad, earnest face, languid from the opium and smiling with such
simple happiness, reassured her. She drew nearer to him and lifted his
hand to her knee. He looked at her with his clear, shallow blue eyes.
How he loved everything about that face and head! How many nights in his
cupola, looking up the track, he had seen that face in the darkness;
through the sleet and snow, or in the soft blue air when the moonlight
slept on the desert.

"You needn't bother to talk, Thee. The doctor's medicine makes me sort
of dopey. But it's nice to have company. Kind of cozy, don't you think?
Pull my coat under you more. It's a darned shame I can't wait on you."

"No, no, Ray. I'm all right. Yes, I like it here. And I guess you ought
not to talk much, ought you? If you can sleep, I'll stay right here, and
be awful quiet. I feel just as much at home with you as ever, now."

That simple, humble, faithful something in Ray's eyes went straight to
Thea's heart. She did feel comfortable with him, and happy to give him
so much happiness. It was the first time she had ever been conscious of
that power to bestow intense happiness by simply being near any one. She
always remembered this day as the beginning of that knowledge. She bent
over him and put her lips softly to his cheek.

Ray's eyes filled with light. "Oh, do that again, kid!" he said
impulsively. Thea kissed him on the forehead, blushing faintly. Ray held
her hand fast and closed his eyes with a deep sigh of happiness. The
morphia and the sense of her nearness filled him with content. The gold
mine, the oil well, the copper ledge--all pipe dreams, he mused, and
this was a dream, too. He might have known it before. It had always been
like that; the things he admired had always been away out of his reach:
a college education, a gentleman's manner, an Englishman's
accent--things over his head. And Thea was farther out of his reach than
all the rest put together. He had been a fool to imagine it, but he was
glad he had been a fool. She had given him one grand dream. Every mile
of his run, from Moonstone to Denver, was painted with the colors of
that hope. Every cactus knew about it. But now that it was not to be, he
knew the truth. Thea was never meant for any rough fellow like
him--hadn't he really known that all along, he asked himself? She wasn't
meant for common men. She was like wedding cake, a thing to dream on. He
raised his eyelids a little. She was stroking his hand and looking off
into the distance. He felt in her face that look of unconscious power
that Wunsch had seen there. Yes, she was bound for the big terminals of
the world; no way stations for her. His lids drooped. In the dark he
could see her as she would be after a while; in a box at the Tabor Grand
in Denver, with diamonds on her neck and a tiara in her yellow hair,
with all the people looking at her through their opera-glasses, and a
United States Senator, maybe, talking to her. "Then you'll remember me!"
He opened his eyes, and they were full of tears.

Thea leaned closer. "What did you say, Ray? I couldn't hear."

"Then you'll remember me," he whispered.

The spark in his eye, which is one's very self, caught the spark in hers
that was herself, and for a moment they looked into each other's
natures. Thea realized how good and how great-hearted he was, and he
realized about her many things. When that elusive spark of personality
retreated in each of them, Thea still saw in his wet eyes her own face,
very small, but much prettier than the cracked glass at home had ever
shown it. It was the first time she had seen her face in that kindest
mirror a woman can ever find.

Ray had felt things in that moment when he seemed to be looking into the
very soul of Thea Kronborg. Yes, the gold mine, the oil well, the copper
ledge, they'd all got away from him, as things will; but he'd backed a
winner once in his life! With all his might he gave his faith to the
broad little hand he held. He wished he could leave her the rugged
strength of his body to help her through with it all. He would have
liked to tell her a little about his old dream,--there seemed long years
between him and it already,--but to tell her now would somehow be
unfair; wouldn't be quite the straightest thing in the world. Probably
she knew, anyway. He looked up quickly. "You know, don't you, Thee, that
I think you are just the finest thing I've struck in this world?"

The tears ran down Thea's cheeks. "You're too good to me, Ray. You're a
lot too good to me," she faltered.

"Why, kid," he murmured, "everybody in this world's going to be good to
you!"

Dr. Archie came to the gulch and stood over his patient. "How's it
going?"

"Can't you give me another punch with your pacifier, doc? The little
girl had better run along now." Ray released Thea's hand. "See you
later, Thee."

She got up and moved away aimlessly, carrying her hat by the strings.
Ray looked after her with the exaltation born of bodily pain and said
between his teeth, "Always look after that girl, doc. She's a queen!"

Thea and her father went back to Moonstone on the one-o'clock passenger.
Dr. Archie stayed with Ray Kennedy until he died, late in the afternoon.



XX


On Monday morning, the day after Ray Kennedy's funeral, Dr. Archie
called at Mr. Kronborg's study, a little room behind the church. Mr.
Kronborg did not write out his sermons, but spoke from notes jotted upon
small pieces of cardboard in a kind of shorthand of his own. As sermons
go, they were not worse than most. His conventional rhetoric pleased the
majority of his congregation, and Mr. Kronborg was generally regarded as
a model preacher. He did not smoke, he never touched spirits. His
indulgence in the pleasures of the table was an endearing bond between
him and the women of his congregation. He ate enormously, with a zest
which seemed incongruous with his spare frame.

This morning the doctor found him opening his mail and reading a pile of
advertising circulars with deep attention.

"Good-morning, Mr. Kronborg," said Dr. Archie, sitting down. "I came to
see you on business. Poor Kennedy asked me to look after his affairs for
him. Like most railroad men he spent his wages, except for a few
investments in mines which don't look to me very promising. But his life
was insured for six hundred dollars in Thea's favor."

Mr. Kronborg wound his feet about the standard of his desk-chair. "I
assure you, doctor, this is a complete surprise to me."

"Well, it's not very surprising to me," Dr. Archie went on. "He talked
to me about it the day he was hurt. He said he wanted the money to be
used in a particular way, and in no other." Dr. Archie paused meaningly.

Mr. Kronborg fidgeted. "I am sure Thea would observe his wishes in every
respect."

"No doubt; but he wanted me to see that you agreed to his plan. It seems
that for some time Thea has wanted to go away to study music. It was
Kennedy's wish that she should take this money and go to Chicago this
winter. He felt that it would be an advantage to her in a business way:
that even if she came back here to teach, it would give her more
authority and make her position here more comfortable."

Mr. Kronborg looked a little startled. "She is very young," he
hesitated; "she is barely seventeen. Chicago is a long way from home. We
would have to consider. I think, Dr. Archie, we had better consult Mrs.
Kronborg."

"I think I can bring Mrs. Kronborg around, if I have your consent. I've
always found her pretty level-headed. I have several old classmates
practicing in Chicago. One is a throat specialist. He has a good deal to
do with singers. He probably knows the best piano teachers and could
recommend a boarding-house where music students stay. I think Thea needs
to get among a lot of young people who are clever like herself. Here she
has no companions but old fellows like me. It's not a natural life for a
young girl. She'll either get warped, or wither up before her time. If
it will make you and Mrs. Kronborg feel any easier, I'll be glad to take
Thea to Chicago and see that she gets started right. This throat man I
speak of is a big fellow in his line, and if I can get him interested,
he may be able to put her in the way of a good many things. At any rate,
he'll know the right teachers. Of course, six hundred dollars won't take
her very far, but even half the winter there would be a great advantage.
I think Kennedy sized the situation up exactly."

"Perhaps; I don't doubt it. You are very kind, Dr. Archie." Mr. Kronborg
was ornamenting his desk-blotter with hieroglyphics. "I should think
Denver might be better. There we could watch over her. She is very
young."

Dr. Archie rose. "Kennedy didn't mention Denver. He said Chicago,
repeatedly. Under the circumstances, it seems to me we ought to try to
carry out his wishes exactly, if Thea is willing."

"Certainly, certainly. Thea is conscientious. She would not waste her
opportunities." Mr. Kronborg paused. "If Thea were your own daughter,
doctor, would you consent to such a plan, at her present age?"

"I most certainly should. In fact, if she were my daughter, I'd have
sent her away before this. She's a most unusual child, and she's only
wasting herself here. At her age she ought to be learning, not teaching.
She'll never learn so quickly and easily as she will right now."

"Well, doctor, you had better talk it over with Mrs. Kronborg. I make it
a point to defer to her wishes in such matters. She understands all her
children perfectly. I may say that she has all a mother's insight, and
more."

Dr. Archie smiled. "Yes, and then some. I feel quite confident about
Mrs. Kronborg. We usually agree. Goodmorning."

Dr. Archie stepped out into the hot sunshine and walked rapidly toward
his office, with a determined look on his face. He found his
waiting-room full of patients, and it was one o'clock before he had
dismissed the last one. Then he shut his door and took a drink before
going over to the hotel for his lunch. He smiled as he locked his
cupboard. "I feel almost as gay as if I were going to get away for a
winter myself," he thought.


Afterward Thea could never remember much about that summer, or how she
lived through her impatience. She was to set off with Dr. Archie on the
fifteenth of October, and she gave lessons until the first of September.
Then she began to get her clothes ready, and spent whole afternoons in
the village dressmaker's stuffy, littered little sewing-room. Thea and
her mother made a trip to Denver to buy the materials for her dresses.
Ready-made clothes for girls were not to be had in those days. Miss
Spencer, the dressmaker, declared that she could do handsomely by Thea
if they would only let her carry out her own ideas. But Mrs. Kronborg
and Thea felt that Miss Spencer's most daring productions might seem out
of place in Chicago, so they restrained her with a firm hand. Tillie,
who always helped Mrs. Kronborg with the family sewing, was for letting
Miss Spencer challenge Chicago on Thea's person. Since Ray Kennedy's
death, Thea had become more than ever one of Tillie's heroines. Tillie
swore each of her friends to secrecy, and, coming home from church or
leaning over the fence, told them the most touching stories about Ray's
devotion, and how Thea would "never get over it."

Tillie's confidences stimulated the general discussion of Thea's
venture. This discussion went on, upon front porches and in back yards,
pretty much all summer. Some people approved of Thea's going to Chicago,
but most people did not. There were others who changed their minds about
it every day.

Tillie said she wanted Thea to have a ball dress "above all things." She
bought a fashion book especially devoted to evening clothes and looked
hungrily over the colored plates, picking out costumes that would be
becoming to "a blonde." She wanted Thea to have all the gay clothes she
herself had always longed for; clothes she often told herself she needed
"to recite in."

"Tillie," Thea used to cry impatiently, "can't you see that if Miss
Spencer tried to make one of those things, she'd make me look like a
circus girl? Anyhow, I don't know anybody in Chicago. I won't be going
to parties."

Tillie always replied with a knowing toss of her head, "You see! You'll
be in society before you know it. There ain't many girls as accomplished
as you."

On the morning of the fifteenth of October the Kronborg family, all of
them but Gus, who couldn't leave the store, started for the station an
hour before train time. Charley had taken Thea's trunk and telescope to
the depot in his delivery wagon early that morning. Thea wore her new
blue serge traveling-dress, chosen for its serviceable qualities. She
had done her hair up carefully, and had put a pale-blue ribbon around
her throat, under a little lace collar that Mrs. Kohler had crocheted
for her. As they went out of the gate, Mrs. Kronborg looked her over
thoughtfully. Yes, that blue ribbon went very well with the dress, and
with Thea's eyes. Thea had a rather unusual touch about such things, she
reflected comfortably. Tillie always said that Thea was "so indifferent
to dress," but her mother noticed that she usually put her clothes on
well. She felt the more at ease about letting Thea go away from home,
because she had good sense about her clothes and never tried to dress up
too much. Her coloring was so individual, she was so unusually fair,
that in the wrong clothes she might easily have been "conspicuous."

It was a fine morning, and the family set out from the house in good
spirits. Thea was quiet and calm. She had forgotten nothing, and she
clung tightly to her handbag, which held her trunk-key and all of her
money that was not in an envelope pinned to her chemise. Thea walked
behind the others, holding Thor by the hand, and this time she did not
feel that the procession was too long. Thor was uncommunicative that
morning, and would only talk about how he would rather get a sand bur in
his toe every day than wear shoes and stockings. As they passed the
cottonwood grove where Thea often used to bring him in his cart, she
asked him who would take him for nice long walks after sister went away.

"Oh, I can walk in our yard," he replied unappreciatively. "I guess I
can make a pond for my duck."

Thea leaned down and looked into his face. "But you won't forget about
sister, will you?" Thor shook his head. "And won't you be glad when
sister comes back and can take you over to Mrs. Kohler's to see the
pigeons?"

"Yes, I'll be glad. But I'm going to have a pigeon my own self."

"But you haven't got any little house for one. Maybe Axel would make you
a little house."

"Oh, her can live in the barn, her can," Thor drawled indifferently.

Thea laughed and squeezed his hand. She always liked his sturdy
matter-of-factness. Boys ought to be like that, she thought.

When they reached the depot, Mr. Kronborg paced the platform somewhat
ceremoniously with his daughter. Any member of his flock would have
gathered that he was giving her good counsel about meeting the
temptations of the world. He did, indeed, begin to admonish her not to
forget that talents come from our Heavenly Father and are to be used for
his glory, but he cut his remarks short and looked at his watch. He
believed that Thea was a religious girl, but when she looked at him with
that intent, that passionately inquiring gaze which used to move even
Wunsch, Mr. Kronborg suddenly felt his eloquence fail. Thea was like her
mother, he reflected; you couldn't put much sentiment across with her.
As a usual thing, he liked girls to be a little more responsive. He
liked them to blush at his compliments; as Mrs. Kronborg candidly said,
"Father could be very soft with the girls." But this morning he was
thinking that hard-headedness was a reassuring quality in a daughter who
was going to Chicago alone.

Mr. Kronborg believed that big cities were places where people went to
lose their identity and to be wicked. He himself, when he was a student
at the Seminary--he coughed and opened his watch again. He knew, of
course, that a great deal of business went on in Chicago, that there was
an active Board of Trade, and that hogs and cattle were slaughtered
there. But when, as a young man, he had stopped over in Chicago, he had
not interested himself in the commercial activities of the city. He
remembered it as a place full of cheap shows and dance halls and boys
from the country who were behaving disgustingly.

Dr. Archie drove up to the station about ten minutes before the train
was due. His man tied the ponies and stood holding the doctor's
alligator-skin bag--very elegant, Thea thought it. Mrs. Kronborg did not
burden the doctor with warnings and cautions. She said again that she
hoped he could get Thea a comfortable place to stay, where they had good
beds, and she hoped the landlady would be a woman who'd had children of
her own. "I don't go much on old maids looking after girls," she
remarked as she took a pin out of her own hat and thrust it into Thea's
blue turban. "You'll be sure to lose your hatpins on the train, Thea.
It's better to have an extra one in case." She tucked in a little curl
that had escaped from Thea's careful twist. "Don't forget to brush your
dress often, and pin it up to the curtains of your berth to-night, so it
won't wrinkle. If you get it wet, have a tailor press it before it
draws."

She turned Thea about by the shoulders and looked her over a last time.
Yes, she looked very well. She wasn't pretty, exactly,--her face was too
broad and her nose was too big. But she had that lovely skin, and she
looked fresh and sweet. She had always been a sweet-smelling child. Her
mother had always liked to kiss her, when she happened to think of it.

The train whistled in, and Mr. Kronborg carried the canvas "telescope"
into the car. Thea kissed them all good-bye. Tillie cried, but she was
the only one who did. They all shouted things up at the closed window of
the Pullman car, from which Thea looked down at them as from a frame,
her face glowing with excitement, her turban a little tilted in spite of
three hatpins. She had already taken off her new gloves to save them.
Mrs. Kronborg reflected that she would never see just that same picture
again, and as Thea's car slid off along the rails, she wiped a tear from
her eye. "She won't come back a little girl," Mrs. Kronborg said to her
husband as they turned to go home. "Anyhow, she's been a sweet one."

While the Kronborg family were trooping slowly homeward, Thea was
sitting in the Pullman, her telescope in the seat beside her, her
handbag tightly gripped in her fingers. Dr. Archie had gone into the
smoker. He thought she might be a little tearful, and that it would be
kinder to leave her alone for a while. Her eyes did fill once, when she
saw the last of the sand hills and realized that she was going to leave
them behind for a long while. They always made her think of Ray, too.
She had had such good times with him out there.

But, of course, it was herself and her own adventure that mattered to
her. If youth did not matter so much to itself, it would never have the
heart to go on. Thea was surprised that she did not feel a deeper sense
of loss at leaving her old life behind her. It seemed, on the contrary,
as she looked out at the yellow desert speeding by, that she had left
very little. Everything that was essential seemed to be right there in
the car with her. She lacked nothing. She even felt more compact and
confident than usual. She was all there, and something else was there,
too,--in her heart, was it, or under her cheek? Anyhow, it was about her
somewhere, that warm sureness, that sturdy little companion with whom
she shared a secret.

When Dr. Archie came in from the smoker, she was sitting still, looking
intently out of the window and smiling, her lips a little parted, her
hair in a blaze of sunshine. The doctor thought she was the prettiest
thing he had ever seen, and very funny, with her telescope and big
handbag. She made him feel jolly, and a little mournful, too. He knew
that the splendid things of life are few, after all, and so very easy to
miss.




PART II



THE SONG OF THE LARK


I


THEA and Dr. Archie had been gone from Moonstone four days. On the
afternoon of the nineteenth of October they were in a street-car, riding
through the depressing, unkept wastes of North Chicago, on their way to
call upon the Reverend Lars Larsen, a friend to whom Mr. Kronborg had
written. Thea was still staying at the rooms of the Young Women's
Christian Association, and was miserable and homesick there. The
housekeeper watched her in a way that made her uncomfortable. Things had
not gone very well, so far. The noise and confusion of a big city tired
and disheartened her. She had not had her trunk sent to the Christian
Association rooms because she did not want to double cartage charges,
and now she was running up a bill for storage on it. The contents of her
gray telescope were becoming untidy, and it seemed impossible to keep
one's face and hands clean in Chicago. She felt as if she were still on
the train, traveling without enough clothes to keep clean. She wanted
another nightgown, and it did not occur to her that she could buy one.
There were other clothes in her trunk that she needed very much, and she
seemed no nearer a place to stay than when she arrived in the rain, on
that first disillusioning morning.

Dr. Archie had gone at once to his friend Hartley Evans, the throat
specialist, and had asked him to tell him of a good piano teacher and
direct him to a good boarding-house. Dr. Evans said he could easily tell
him who was the best piano teacher in Chicago, but that most students'
boarding-houses were "abominable places, where girls got poor food for body
and mind." He gave Dr. Archie several addresses, however, and the doctor
went to look the places over. He left Thea in her room, for she seemed
tired and was not at all like herself. His inspection of boardinghouses
was not encouraging. The only place that seemed to him at all desirable
was full, and the mistress of the house could not give Thea a room in
which she could have a piano. She said Thea might use the piano in her
parlor; but when Dr. Archie went to look at the parlor he found a girl
talking to a young man on one of the corner sofas. Learning that the
boarders received all their callers there, he gave up that house, too,
as hopeless.

So when they set out to make the acquaintance of Mr. Larsen on the
afternoon he had appointed, the question of a lodging was still
undecided. The Swedish Reform Church was in a sloughy, weedy district,
near a group of factories. The church itself was a very neat little
building. The parsonage, next door, looked clean and comfortable, and
there was a well-kept yard about it, with a picket fence. Thea saw
several little children playing under a swing, and wondered why
ministers always had so many. When they rang at the parsonage door, a
capable-looking Swedish servant girl answered the bell and told them
that Mr. Larsen's study was in the church, and that he was waiting for
them there.

Mr. Larsen received them very cordially. The furniture in his study was
so new and the pictures were so heavily framed, that Thea thought it
looked more like the waiting-room of the fashionable Denver dentist to
whom Dr. Archie had taken her that summer, than like a preacher's study.
There were even flowers in a glass vase on the desk. Mr. Larsen was a
small, plump man, with a short, yellow beard, very white teeth, and a
little turned-up nose on which he wore gold-rimmed eye-glasses. He
looked about thirty-five, but he was growing bald, and his thin, hair
was parted above his left ear and brought up over the bare spot on the
top of his head. He looked cheerful and agreeable. He wore a blue coat
and no cuffs.

After Dr. Archie and Thea sat down on a slippery leather couch, the
minister asked for an outline of Thea's plans. Dr. Archie explained that
she meant to study piano with Andor Harsanyi; that they had already seen
him, that Thea had played for him and he said he would be glad to teach
her.

Mr. Larsen lifted his pale eyebrows and rubbed his plump white hands
together. "But he is a concert pianist already. He will be very
expensive."

"That's why Miss Kronborg wants to get a church position if possible.
She has not money enough to see her through the winter. There's no use
her coming all the way from Colorado and studying with a second-rate
teacher. My friends here tell me Harsanyi is the best."

"Oh, very likely! I have heard him play with Thomas. You Western people
do things on a big scale. There are half a dozen teachers that I should
think--However, you know what you want." Mr. Larsen showed his contempt
for such extravagant standards by a shrug. He felt that Dr. Archie was
trying to impress him. He had succeeded, indeed, in bringing out the
doctor's stiffest manner. Mr. Larsen went on to explain that he managed
the music in his church himself, and drilled his choir, though the tenor
was the official choirmaster. Unfortunately there were no vacancies in
his choir just now. He had his four voices, very good ones. He looked
away from Dr. Archie and glanced at Thea. She looked troubled, even a
little frightened when he said this, and drew in her lower lip. She,
certainly, was not pretentious, if her protector was. He continued to
study her. She was sitting on the lounge, her knees far apart, her
gloved hands lying stiffly in her lap, like a country girl. Her turban,
which seemed a little too big for her, had got tilted in the wind,--it
was always windy in that part of Chicago,--and she looked tired. She
wore no veil, and her hair, too, was the worse for the wind and dust.
When he said he had all the voices he required, he noticed that her
gloved hands shut tightly. Mr. Larsen reflected that she was not, after
all, responsible for the lofty manner of her father's physician; that
she was not even responsible for her father, whom he remembered as a
tiresome fellow. As he watched her tired, worried face, he felt sorry
for her.

"All the same, I would like to try your voice," he said, turning
pointedly away from her companion. "I am interested in voices. Can you
sing to the violin?"

"I guess so," Thea replied dully. "I don't know. I never tried."

Mr. Larsen took his violin out of the case and began to tighten the
keys. "We might go into the lecture-room and see how it goes. I can't
tell much about a voice by the organ. The violin is really the proper
instrument to try a voice." He opened a door at the back of his study,
pushed Thea gently through it, and looking over his shoulder to Dr.
Archie said, "Excuse us, sir. We will be back soon."

Dr. Archie chuckled. All preachers were alike, officious and on their
dignity; liked to deal with women and girls, but not with men. He took
up a thin volume from the minister's desk. To his amusement it proved to
be a book of "Devotional and Kindred Poems; by Mrs. Aurelia S. Larsen."
He looked them over, thinking that the world changed very little. He
could remember when the wife of his father's minister had published a
volume of verses, which all the church members had to buy and all the
children were encouraged to read. His grandfather had made a face at the
book and said, "Puir body!" Both ladies seemed to have chosen the same
subjects, too: Jephthah's Daughter, Rizpah, David's Lament for Absalom,
etc. The doctor found the book very amusing.

The Reverend Lars Larsen was a reactionary Swede. His father came to
Iowa in the sixties, married a Swedish girl who was ambitious, like
himself, and they moved to Kansas and took up land under the Homestead
Act. After that, they bought land and leased it from the Government,
acquired land in every possible way. They worked like horses, both of
them; indeed, they would never have used any horse-flesh they owned as
they used themselves. They reared a large family and worked their sons
and daughters as mercilessly as they worked themselves; all of them but
Lars. Lars was the fourth son, and he was born lazy. He seemed to bear
the mark of overstrain on the part of his parents. Even in his cradle he
was an example of physical inertia; anything to lie still. When he was a
growing boy his mother had to drag him out of bed every morning, and he
had to be driven to his chores. At school he had a model "attendance
record," because he found getting his lessons easier than farm work. He
was the only one of the family who went through the high school, and by
the time he graduated he had already made up his mind to study for the
ministry, because it seemed to him the least laborious of all callings.
In so far as he could see, it was the only business in which there was
practically no competition, in which a man was not all the time pitted
against other men who were willing to work themselves to death. His
father stubbornly opposed Lars's plan, but after keeping the boy at home
for a year and finding how useless he was on the farm, he sent him to a
theological seminary--as much to conceal his laziness from the neighbors
as because he did not know what else to do with him.

Larsen, like Peter Kronborg, got on well in the ministry, because he got
on well with the women. His English was no worse than that of most young
preachers of American parentage, and he made the most of his skill with
the violin. He was supposed to exert a very desirable influence over
young people and to stimulate their interest in church work. He married
an American girl, and when his father died he got his share of the
property--which was very considerable. He invested his money carefully
and was that rare thing, a preacher of independent means. His white,
well-kept hands were his result,--the evidence that he had worked out
his life successfully in the way that pleased him. His Kansas brothers
hated the sight of his hands.

Larsen liked all the softer things of life,--in so far as he knew about
them. He slept late in the morning, was fussy about his food, and read a
great many novels, preferring sentimental ones. He did not smoke, but he
ate a great deal of candy "for his throat," and always kept a box of
chocolate drops in the upper right-hand drawer of his desk. He always
bought season tickets for the symphony concerts, and he played his
violin for women's culture clubs. He did not wear cuffs, except on
Sunday, because he believed that a free wrist facilitated his violin
practice. When he drilled his choir he always held his hand with the
little and index fingers curved higher than the other two, like a noted
German conductor he had seen. On the whole, the Reverend Larsen was not
an insincere man; he merely spent his life resting and playing, to make
up for the time his forebears had wasted grubbing in the earth. He was
simple-hearted and kind; he enjoyed his candy and his children and his
sacred cantatas. He could work energetically at almost any form of play.

Dr. Archie was deep in "The Lament of Mary Magdalen," when Mr. Larsen
and Thea came back to the study. From the minister's expression he
judged that Thea had succeeded in interesting him.

Mr. Larsen seemed to have forgotten his hostility toward him, and
addressed him frankly as soon as he entered. He stood holding his
violin, and as Thea sat down he pointed to her with his bow:--

"I have just been telling Miss Kronborg that though I cannot promise her
anything permanent, I might give her something for the next few months.
My soprano is a young married woman and is temporarily indisposed. She
would be glad to be excused from her duties for a while. I like Miss
Kronborg's singing very much, and I think she would benefit by the
instruction in my choir. Singing here might very well lead to something
else. We pay our soprano only eight dollars a Sunday, but she always
gets ten dollars for singing at funerals. Miss Kronborg has a
sympathetic voice, and I think there would be a good deal of demand for
her at funerals. Several American churches apply to me for a soloist on
such occasions, and I could help her to pick up quite a little money
that way."

This sounded lugubrious to Dr. Archie, who had a physician's dislike of
funerals, but he tried to accept the suggestion cordially.

"Miss Kronborg tells me she is having some trouble getting located," Mr.
Larsen went on with animation, still holding his violin. "I would advise
her to keep away from boarding-houses altogether. Among my parishioners
there are two German women, a mother and daughter. The daughter is a
Swede by marriage, and clings to the Swedish Church. They live near
here, and they rent some of their rooms. They have now a large room
vacant, and have asked me to recommend some one. They have never taken
boarders, but Mrs. Lorch, the mother, is a good cook,--at least, I am
always glad to take supper with her,--and I think I could persuade her
to let this young woman partake of the family table. The daughter, Mrs.
Andersen, is musical, too, and sings in the Mozart Society. I think they
might like to have a music student in the house. You speak German, I
suppose?" he turned to Thea.

"Oh, no; a few words. I don't know the grammar," she murmured.

Dr. Archie noticed that her eyes looked alive again, not frozen as they
had looked all morning. "If this fellow can help her, it's not for me to
be stand-offish," he said to himself.

"Do you think you would like to stay in such a quiet place, with
old-fashioned people?" Mr. Larsen asked. "I shouldn't think you could
find a better place to work, if that's what you want."

"I think mother would like to have me with people like that," Thea
replied. "And I'd be glad to settle down most anywhere. I'm losing
time."

"Very well, there's no time like the present. Let us go to see Mrs.
Lorch and Mrs. Andersen."

The minister put his violin in its case and caught up a black-and-white
checked traveling-cap that he wore when he rode his high Columbia wheel.
The three left the church together.



II


SO Thea did not go to a boarding-house after all. When Dr. Archie left
Chicago she was comfortably settled with Mrs. Lorch, and her happy
reunion with her trunk somewhat consoled her for his departure.

Mrs. Lorch and her daughter lived half a mile from the Swedish Reform
Church, in an old square frame house, with a porch supported by frail
pillars, set in a damp yard full of big lilac bushes. The house, which
had been left over from country times, needed paint badly, and looked
gloomy and despondent among its smart Queen Anne neighbors. There was a
big back yard with two rows of apple trees and a grape arbor, and a
warped walk, two planks wide, which led to the coal bins at the back of
the lot. Thea's room was on the second floor, overlooking this back
yard, and she understood that in the winter she must carry up her own
coal and kindling from the bin. There was no furnace in the house, no
running water except in the kitchen, and that was why the room rent was
small. All the rooms were heated by stoves, and the lodgers pumped the
water they needed from the cistern under the porch, or from the well at
the entrance of the grape arbor. Old Mrs. Lorch could never bring
herself to have costly improvements made in her house; indeed she had
very little money. She preferred to keep the house just as her husband
built it, and she thought her way of living good enough for plain
people.

Thea's room was large enough to admit a rented upright piano without
crowding. It was, the widowed daughter said, "a double room that had
always before been occupied by two gentlemen"; the piano now took the
place of a second occupant. There was an ingrain carpet on the floor,
green ivy leaves on a red ground, and clumsy, old-fashioned walnut
furniture. The bed was very wide, and the mattress thin and hard. Over
the fat pillows were "shams" embroidered in Turkey red, each with a
flowering scroll--one with "Gute' Nacht," the other with "Guten Morgen."
The dresser was so big that Thea wondered how it had ever been got into
the house and up the narrow stairs. Besides an old horsehair armchair,
there were two low plush "spring-rockers," against the massive pedestals
of which one was always stumbling in the dark. Thea sat in the dark a
good deal those first weeks, and sometimes a painful bump against one of
those brutally immovable pedestals roused her temper and pulled her out
of a heavy hour. The wall-paper was brownish yellow, with blue flowers.
When it was put on, the carpet, certainly, had not been consulted. There
was only one picture on the wall when Thea moved in: a large colored
print of a brightly lighted church in a snow-storm, on Christmas Eve,
with greens hanging about the stone doorway and arched windows. There
was something warm and home, like about this picture, and Thea grew fond
of it. One day, on her way into town to take her lesson, she stopped at
a bookstore and bought a photograph of the Naples bust of Julius Caesar.
This she had framed, and hung it on the big bare wall behind her stove.
It was a curious choice, but she was at the age when people do
inexplicable things. She had been interested in Caesar's "Commentaries"
when she left school to begin teaching, and she loved to read about
great generals; but these facts would scarcely explain her wanting that
grim bald head to share her daily existence. It seemed a strange freak,
when she bought so few things, and when she had, as Mrs. Andersen said
to Mrs. Lorch, "no pictures of the composers at all."

Both the widows were kind to her, but Thea liked the mother better. Old
Mrs. Lorch was fat and jolly, with a red face, always shining as if she
had just come from the stove, bright little eyes, and hair of several
colors. Her own hair was one cast of iron-gray, her switch another, and
her false front still another. Her clothes always smelled of savory
cooking, except when she was dressed for church or KAFFEEKLATSCH, and
then she smelled of bay rum or of the lemon-verbena sprig which she
tucked inside her puffy black kid glove. Her cooking justified all that
Mr. Larsen had said of it, and Thea had never been so well nourished
before.

The daughter, Mrs. Andersen,--Irene, her mother called her,--was a
different sort of woman altogether. She was perhaps forty years old,
angular, big-boned, with large, thin features, light-blue eyes, and dry,
yellow hair, the bang tightly frizzed. She was pale, anaemic, and
sentimental. She had married the youngest son of a rich, arrogant
Swedish family who were lumber merchants in St. Paul. There she dwelt
during her married life. Oscar Andersen was a strong, full-blooded
fellow who had counted on a long life and had been rather careless about
his business affairs. He was killed by the explosion of a steam boiler
in the mills, and his brothers managed to prove that he had very little
stock in the big business. They had strongly disapproved of his marriage
and they agreed among themselves that they were entirely justified in
defrauding his widow, who, they said, "would only marry again and give
some fellow a good thing of it." Mrs. Andersen would not go to law with
the family that had always snubbed and wounded her--she felt the
humiliation of being thrust out more than she felt her impoverishment;
so she went back to Chicago to live with her widowed mother on an income
of five hundred a year. This experience had given her sentimental nature
an incurable hurt. Something withered away in her. Her head had a
downward droop; her step was soft and apologetic, even in her mother's
house, and her smile had the sickly, uncertain flicker that so often
comes from a secret humiliation. She was affable and yet shrinking, like
one who has come down in the world, who has known better clothes, better
carpets, better people, brighter hopes. Her husband was buried in the
Andersen lot in St. Paul, with a locked iron fence around it. She had to
go to his eldest brother for the key when she went to say good-bye to
his grave. She clung to the Swedish Church because it had been her
husband's church.

As her mother had no room for her household belongings, Mrs. Andersen
had brought home with her only her bedroom set, which now furnished her
own room at Mrs. Lorch's. There she spent most of her time, doing
fancywork or writing letters to sympathizing German friends in St. Paul,
surrounded by keepsakes and photographs of the burly Oscar Andersen.
Thea, when she was admitted to this room, and shown these photographs,
found herself wondering, like the Andersen family, why such a lusty,
gay-looking fellow ever thought he wanted this pallid, long-cheeked
woman, whose manner was always that of withdrawing, and who must have
been rather thin-blooded even as a girl.

Mrs. Andersen was certainly a depressing person. It sometimes annoyed
Thea very much to hear her insinuating knock on the door, her flurried
explanation of why she had come, as she backed toward the stairs. Mrs.
Andersen admired Thea greatly. She thought it a distinction to be even a
"temporary soprano"--Thea called herself so quite seriously--in the
Swedish Church. She also thought it distinguished to be a pupil of
Harsanyi's. She considered Thea very handsome, very Swedish, very
talented. She fluttered about the upper floor when Thea was practicing.
In short, she tried to make a heroine of her, just as Tillie Kronborg
had always done, and Thea was conscious of something of the sort. When
she was working and heard Mrs. Andersen tip-toeing past her door, she
used to shrug her shoulders and wonder whether she was always to have a
Tillie diving furtively about her in some disguise or other.

At the dressmaker's Mrs. Andersen recalled Tillie even more painfully.
After her first Sunday in Mr. Larsen's choir, Thea saw that she must
have a proper dress for morning service. Her Moonstone party dress might
do to wear in the evening, but she must have one frock that could stand
the light of day. She, of course, knew nothing about Chicago
dressmakers, so she let Mrs. Andersen take her to a German woman whom
she recommended warmly. The German dressmaker was excitable and
dramatic. Concert dresses, she said, were her specialty. In her
fitting-room there were photographs of singers in the dresses she had
made them for this or that SANGERFEST. She and Mrs. Andersen together
achieved a costume which would have warmed Tillie Kronborg's heart. It
was clearly intended for a woman of forty, with violent tastes. There
seemed to be a piece of every known fabric in it somewhere. When it came
home, and was spread out on her huge bed, Thea looked it over and told
herself candidly that it was "a horror." However, her money was gone,
and there was nothing to do but make the best of the dress. She never
wore it except, as she said, "to sing in," as if it were an unbecoming
uniform. When Mrs. Lorch and Irene told her that she "looked like a
little bird-of-Paradise in it," Thea shut her teeth and repeated to
herself words she had learned from Joe Giddy and Spanish Johnny.

In these two good women Thea found faithful friends, and in their house
she found the quiet and peace which helped her to support the great
experiences of that winter.



III


ANDOR HARSANYI had never had a pupil in the least like Thea Kronborg. He
had never had one more intelligent, and he had never had one so
ignorant. When Thea sat down to take her first lesson from him, she had
never heard a work by Beethoven or a composition by Chopin. She knew
their names vaguely. Wunsch had been a musician once, long before he
wandered into Moonstone, but when Thea awoke his interest there was not
much left of him. From him Thea had learned something about the works of
Gluck and Bach, and he used to play her some of the compositions of
Schumann. In his trunk he had a mutilated score of the F sharp minor
sonata, which he had heard Clara Schumann play at a festival in Leipsic.
Though his powers of execution were at such a low ebb, he used to play
at this sonata for his pupil and managed to give her some idea of its
beauty. When Wunsch was a young man, it was still daring to like
Schumann; enthusiasm for his work was considered an expression of
youthful waywardness. Perhaps that was why Wunsch remembered him best.
Thea studied some of the KINDERSZENEN with him, as well as some little
sonatas by Mozart and Clementi. But for the most part Wunsch stuck to
Czerny and Hummel.

Harsanyi found in Thea a pupil with sure, strong hands, one who read
rapidly and intelligently, who had, he felt, a richly gifted nature. But
she had been given no direction, and her ardor was unawakened. She had
never heard a symphony orchestra. The literature of the piano was an
undiscovered world to her. He wondered how she had been able to work so
hard when she knew so little of what she was working toward. She had
been taught according to the old Stuttgart method; stiff back, stiff
elbows, a very formal position of the hands. The best thing about her
preparation was that she had developed an unusual power of work. He
noticed at once her way of charging at difficulties. She ran to meet
them as if they were foes she had long been seeking, seized them as if
they were destined for her and she for them. Whatever she did well, she
took for granted. Her eagerness aroused all the young Hungarian's
chivalry. Instinctively one went to the rescue of a creature who had so
much to overcome and who struggled so hard. He used to tell his wife
that Miss Kronborg's hour took more out of him than half a dozen other
lessons. He usually kept her long over time; he changed her lessons
about so that he could do so, and often gave her time at the end of the
day, when he could talk to her afterward and play for her a little from
what he happened to be studying. It was always interesting to play for
her. Sometimes she was so silent that he wondered, when she left him,
whether she had got anything out of it. But a week later, two weeks
later, she would give back his idea again in a way that set him
vibrating.

All this was very well for Harsanyi; an interesting variation in the
routine of teaching. But for Thea Kronborg, that winter was almost
beyond enduring. She always remembered it as the happiest and wildest
and saddest of her life. Things came too fast for her; she had not had
enough preparation. There were times when she came home from her lesson
and lay upon her bed hating Wunsch and her family, hating a world that
had let her grow up so ignorant; when she wished that she could die then
and there, and be born over again to begin anew. She said something of
this kind once to her teacher, in the midst of a bitter struggle.
Harsanyi turned the light of his wonderful eye upon her--poor fellow, he
had but one, though that was set in such a handsome head--and said
slowly: "Every artist makes himself born. It is very much harder than
the other time, and longer. Your mother did not bring anything into the
world to play piano. That you must bring into the world yourself."

This comforted Thea temporarily, for it seemed to give her a chance. But
a great deal of the time she was comfortless. Her letters to Dr. Archie
were brief and businesslike. She was not apt to chatter much, even in
the stimulating company of people she liked, and to chatter on paper was
simply impossible for her. If she tried to write him anything definite
about her work, she immediately scratched it out as being only partially
true, or not true at all. Nothing that she could say about her studies
seemed unqualifiedly true, once she put it down on paper.

Late one afternoon, when she was thoroughly tired and wanted to struggle
on into the dusk, Harsanyi, tired too, threw up his hands and laughed at
her. "Not to-day, Miss Kronborg. That sonata will keep; it won't run
away. Even if you and I should not waken up to-morrow, it will be
there."

Thea turned to him fiercely. "No, it isn't here unless I have it--not
for me," she cried passionately. "Only what I hold in my two hands is
there for me!"

Harsanyi made no reply. He took a deep breath and sat down again. "The
second movement now, quietly, with the shoulders relaxed."

There were hours, too, of great exaltation; when she was at her best and
became a part of what she was doing and ceased to exist in any other
sense. There were other times when she was so shattered by ideas that
she could do nothing worth while; when they trampled over her like an
army and she felt as if she were bleeding to death under them. She
sometimes came home from a late lesson so exhausted that she could eat
no supper. If she tried to eat, she was ill afterward. She used to throw
herself upon the bed and lie there in the dark, not thinking, not
feeling, but evaporating. That same night, perhaps, she would waken up
rested and calm, and as she went over her work in her mind, the passages
seemed to become something of themselves, to take a sort of pattern in
the darkness. She had never learned to work away from the piano until
she came to Harsanyi, and it helped her more than anything had ever
helped her before.

She almost never worked now with the sunny, happy contentment that had
filled the hours when she worked with Wunsch--"like a fat horse turning
a sorgum mill," she said bitterly to herself. Then, by sticking to it,
she could always do what she set out to do. Now, everything that she
really wanted was impossible; a CANTABILE like Harsanyi's, for instance,
instead of her own cloudy tone. No use telling her she might have it in
ten years. She wanted it now. She wondered how she had ever found other
things interesting: books, "Anna Karenina"--all that seemed so unreal
and on the outside of things. She was not born a musician, she decided;
there was no other way of explaining it.

Sometimes she got so nervous at the piano that she left it, and
snatching up her hat and cape went out and walked, hurrying through the
streets like Christian fleeing from the City of Destruction. And while
she walked she cried. There was scarcely a street in the neighborhood
that she had not cried up and down before that winter was over. The
thing that used to lie under her cheek, that sat so warmly over her
heart when she glided away from the sand hills that autumn morning, was
far from her. She had come to Chicago to be with it, and it had deserted
her, leaving in its place a painful longing, an unresigned despair.


Harsanyi knew that his interesting pupil--"the savage blonde," one of
his male students called her--was sometimes very unhappy. He saw in her
discontent a curious definition of character. He would have said that a
girl with so much musical feeling, so intelligent, with good training of
eye and hand, would, when thus suddenly introduced to the great
literature of the piano, have found boundless happiness. But he soon
learned that she was not able to forget her own poverty in the richness
of the world he opened to her. Often when he played to her, her face was
the picture of restless misery. She would sit crouching forward, her
elbows on her knees, her brows drawn together and her gray-green eyes
smaller than ever, reduced to mere pin-points of cold, piercing light.
Sometimes, while she listened, she would swallow hard, two or three
times, and look nervously from left to right, drawing her shoulders
together. "Exactly," he thought, "as if she were being watched, or as if
she were naked and heard some one coming."

On the other hand, when she came several times to see Mrs. Harsanyi and
the two babies, she was like a little girl, jolly and gay and eager to
play with the children, who loved her. The little daughter, Tanya, liked
to touch Miss Kronborg's yellow hair and pat it, saying, "Dolly, dolly,"
because it was of a color much oftener seen on dolls than on people. But
if Harsanyi opened the piano and sat down to play, Miss Kronborg
gradually drew away from the children, retreated to a corner and became
sullen or troubled. Mrs. Harsanyi noticed this, also, and thought it
very strange behavior.

Another thing that puzzled Harsanyi was Thea's apparent lack of
curiosity. Several times he offered to give her tickets to concerts, but
she said she was too tired or that it "knocked her out to be up late."
Harsanyi did not know that she was singing in a choir, and had often to
sing at funerals, neither did he realize how much her work with him
stirred her and exhausted her. Once, just as she was leaving his studio,
he called her back and told her he could give her some tickets that had
been sent him for Emma Juch that evening. Thea fingered the black wool
on the edge of her plush cape and replied, "Oh, thank you, Mr. Harsanyi,
but I have to wash my hair to-night."

Mrs. Harsanyi liked Miss Kronborg thoroughly. She saw in her the making
of a pupil who would reflect credit upon Harsanyi. She felt that the
girl could be made to look strikingly handsome, and that she had the
kind of personality which takes hold of audiences. Moreover, Miss
Kronborg was not in the least sentimental about her husband. Sometimes
from the show pupils one had to endure a good deal. "I like that girl,"
she used to say, when Harsanyi told her of one of Thea's GAUCHERIES.
"She doesn't sigh every time the wind blows. With her one swallow
doesn't make a summer."

Thea told them very little about herself. She was not naturally
communicative, and she found it hard to feel confidence in new people.
She did not know why, but she could not talk to Harsanyi as she could to
Dr. Archie, or to Johnny and Mrs. Tellamantez. With Mr. Larsen she felt
more at home, and when she was walking she sometimes stopped at his
study to eat candy with him or to hear the plot of the novel he happened
to be reading.

One evening toward the middle of December Thea was to dine with the
Harsanyis. She arrived early, to have time to play with the children
before they went to bed. Mrs. Harsanyi took her into her own room and
helped her take off her country "fascinator" and her clumsy plush cape.
Thea had bought this cape at a big department store and had paid $16.50
for it. As she had never paid more than ten dollars for a coat before,
that seemed to her a large price. It was very heavy and not very warm,
ornamented with a showy pattern in black disks, and trimmed around the
collar and the edges with some kind of black wool that "crocked" badly
in snow or rain. It was lined with a cotton stuff called "farmer's
satin." Mrs. Harsanyi was one woman in a thousand. As she lifted this
cape from Thea's shoulders and laid it on her white bed, she wished that
her husband did not have to charge pupils like this one for their
lessons. Thea wore her Moonstone party dress, white organdie, made with
a "V" neck and elbow sleeves, and a blue sash. She looked very pretty in
it, and around her throat she had a string of pink coral and tiny white
shells that Ray once brought her from Los Angeles. Mrs. Harsanyi noticed
that she wore high heavy shoes which needed blacking. The choir in Mr.
Larsen's church stood behind a railing, so Thea did not pay much
attention to her shoes.

"You have nothing to do to your hair," Mrs. Harsanyi said kindly, as
Thea turned to the mirror. "However it happens to lie, it's always
pretty. I admire it as much as Tanya does."

Thea glanced awkwardly away from her and looked stern, but Mrs. Harsanyi
knew that she was pleased. They went into the living-room, behind the
studio, where the two children were playing on the big rug before the
coal grate. Andor, the boy, was six, a sturdy, handsome child, and the
little girl was four. She came tripping to meet Thea, looking like a
little doll in her white net dress--her mother made all her clothes.
Thea picked her up and hugged her. Mrs. Harsanyi excused herself and
went to the dining-room. She kept only one maid and did a good deal of
the housework herself, besides cooking her husband's favorite dishes for
him. She was still under thirty, a slender, graceful woman, gracious,
intelligent, and capable. She adapted herself to circumstances with a
well-bred ease which solved many of her husband's difficulties, and kept
him, as he said, from feeling cheap and down at the heel. No musician
ever had a better wife. Unfortunately her beauty was of a very frail and
impressionable kind, and she was beginning to lose it. Her face was too
thin now, and there were often dark circles under her eyes.

Left alone with the children, Thea sat down on Tanya's little chair--she
would rather have sat on the floor, but was afraid of rumpling her
dress--and helped them play "cars" with Andor's iron railway set. She
showed him new ways to lay his tracks and how to make switches, set up
his Noah's ark village for stations and packed the animals in the open
coal cars to send them to the stockyards. They worked out their shipment
so realistically that when Andor put the two little reindeer into the
stock car, Tanya snatched them out and began to cry, saying she wasn't
going to have all their animals killed.

Harsanyi came in, jaded and tired, and asked Thea to go on with her
game, as he was not equal to talking much before dinner. He sat down and
made pretense of glancing at the evening paper, but he soon dropped it.
After the railroad began to grow tiresome, Thea went with the children
to the lounge in the corner, and played for them the game with which she
used to amuse Thor for hours together behind the parlor stove at home,
making shadow pictures against the wall with her hands. Her fingers were
very supple, and she could make a duck and a cow and a sheep and a fox
and a rabbit and even an elephant. Harsanyi, from his low chair, watched
them, smiling. The boy was on his knees, jumping up and down with the
excitement of guessing the beasts, and Tanya sat with her feet tucked
under her and clapped her frail little hands. Thea's profile, in the
lamplight, teased his fancy. Where had he seen a head like it before?

When dinner was announced, little Andor took Thea's hand and walked to
the dining-room with her. The children always had dinner with their
parents and behaved very nicely at table. "Mamma," said Andor seriously
as he climbed into his chair and tucked his napkin into the collar of
his blouse, "Miss Kronborg's hands are every kind of animal there is."

His father laughed. "I wish somebody would say that about my hands,
Andor."

When Thea dined at the Harsanyis before, she noticed that there was an
intense suspense from the moment they took their places at the table
until the master of the house had tasted the soup. He had a theory that
if the soup went well, the dinner would go well; but if the soup was
poor, all was lost. To-night he tasted his soup and smiled, and Mrs.
Harsanyi sat more easily in her chair and turned her attention to Thea.
Thea loved their dinner table, because it was lighted by candles in
silver candle-sticks, and she had never seen a table so lighted anywhere
else. There were always flowers, too. To-night there was a little orange
tree, with oranges on it, that one of Harsanyi's pupils had sent him at
Thanksgiving time. After Harsanyi had finished his soup and a glass of
red Hungarian wine, he lost his fagged look and became cordial and
witty. He persuaded Thea to drink a little wine to-night. The first time
she dined with them, when he urged her to taste the glass of sherry
beside her plate, she astonished them by telling them that she "never
drank."

Harsanyi was then a man of thirty-two. He was to have a very brilliant
career, but he did not know it then. Theodore Thomas was perhaps the
only man in Chicago who felt that Harsanyi might have a great future.
Harsanyi belonged to the softer Slavic type, and was more like a Pole
than a Hungarian. He was tall, slender, active, with sloping, graceful
shoulders and long arms. His head was very fine, strongly and delicately
modelled, and, as Thea put it, "so independent." A lock of his thick
brown hair usually hung over his forehead. His eye was wonderful; full
of light and fire when he was interested, soft and thoughtful when he
was tired or melancholy. The meaning and power of two very fine eyes
must all have gone into this one--the right one, fortunately, the one
next his audience when he played. He believed that the glass eye which
gave one side of his face such a dull, blind look, had ruined his
career, or rather had made a career impossible for him. Harsanyi lost
his eye when he was twelve years old, in a Pennsylvania mining town
where explosives happened to be kept too near the frame shanties in
which the company packed newly arrived Hungarian families.

His father was a musician and a good one, but he had cruelly over-worked
the boy; keeping him at the piano for six hours a day and making him
play in cafes and dance halls for half the night. Andor ran away and
crossed the ocean with an uncle, who smuggled him through the port as
one of his own many children. The explosion in which Andor was hurt
killed a score of people, and he was thought lucky to get off with an
eye. He still had a clipping from a Pittsburg paper, giving a list of
the dead and injured. He appeared as "Harsanyi, Andor, left eye and
slight injuries about the head." That was his first American "notice";
and he kept it. He held no grudge against the coal company; he
understood that the accident was merely one of the things that are bound
to happen in the general scramble of American life, where every one
comes to grab and takes his chance.

While they were eating dessert, Thea asked Harsanyi if she could change
her Tuesday lesson from afternoon to morning. "I have to be at a choir
rehearsal in the afternoon, to get ready for the Christmas music, and I
expect it will last until late."

Harsanyi put down his fork and looked up. "A choir rehearsal? You sing
in a church?"

"Yes. A little Swedish church, over on the North side."

"Why did you not tell us?"

"Oh, I'm only a temporary. The regular soprano is not well."

"How long have you been singing there?"

"Ever since I came. I had to get a position of some kind," Thea
explained, flushing, "and the preacher took me on. He runs the choir
himself. He knew my father, and I guess he took me to oblige."

Harsanyi tapped the tablecloth with the ends of his fingers. "But why
did you never tell us? Why are you so reticent with us?"

Thea looked shyly at him from under her brows. "Well, it's certainly not
very interesting. It's only a little church. I only do it for business
reasons."

"What do you mean? Don't you like to sing? Don't you sing well?"

"I like it well enough, but, of course, I don't know anything about
singing. I guess that's why I never said anything about it. Anybody
that's got a voice can sing in a little church like that."

Harsanyi laughed softly--a little scornfully, Thea thought. "So you have
a voice, have you?"

Thea hesitated, looked intently at the candles and then at Harsanyi.
"Yes," she said firmly; "I have got some, anyway."

"Good girl," said Mrs. Harsanyi, nodding and smiling at Thea. "You must
let us hear you sing after dinner."

This remark seemingly closed the subject, and when the coffee was
brought they began to talk of other things. Harsanyi asked Thea how she
happened to know so much about the way in which freight trains are
operated, and she tried to give him some idea of how the people in
little desert towns live by the railway and order their lives by the
coming and going of the trains. When they left the diningroom the
children were sent to bed and Mrs. Harsanyi took Thea into the studio.
She and her husband usually sat there in the evening.

Although their apartment seemed so elegant to Thea, it was small and
cramped. The studio was the only spacious room. The Harsanyis were poor,
and it was due to Mrs. Harsanyi's good management that their lives, even
in hard times, moved along with dignity and order. She had long ago
found out that bills or debts of any kind frightened her husband and
crippled his working power. He said they were like bars on the windows,
and shut out the future; they meant that just so many hundred dollars'
worth of his life was debilitated and exhausted before he got to it. So
Mrs. Harsanyi saw to it that they never owed anything. Harsanyi was not
extravagant, though he was sometimes careless about money. Quiet and
order and his wife's good taste were the things that meant most to him.
After these, good food, good cigars, a little good wine. He wore his
clothes until they were shabby, until his wife had to ask the tailor to
come to the house and measure him for new ones. His neckties she usually
made herself, and when she was in shops she always kept her eye open for
silks in very dull or pale shades, grays and olives, warm blacks and
browns.

When they went into the studio Mrs. Harsanyi took up her embroidery and
Thea sat down beside her on a low stool, her hands clasped about her
knees. While his wife and his pupil talked, Harsanyi sank into a CHAISE
LONGUE in which he sometimes snatched a few moments' rest between his
lessons, and smoked. He sat well out of the circle of the lamplight, his
feet to the fire. His feet were slender and well shaped, always
elegantly shod. Much of the grace of his movements was due to the fact
that his feet were almost as sure and flexible as his hands. He listened
to the conversation with amusement. He admired his wife's tact and
kindness with crude young people; she taught them so much without
seeming to be instructing. When the clock struck nine, Thea said she
must be going home.

Harsanyi rose and flung away his cigarette. "Not yet. We have just begun
the evening. Now you are going to sing for us. I have been waiting for
you to recover from dinner. Come, what shall it be?" he crossed to the
piano.

Thea laughed and shook her head, locking her elbows still tighter about
her knees. "Thank you, Mr. Harsanyi, but if you really make me sing,
I'll accompany myself. You couldn't stand it to play the sort of things
I have to sing."

As Harsanyi still pointed to the chair at the piano, she left her stool
and went to it, while he returned to his CHAISE LONGUE. Thea looked at
the keyboard uneasily for a moment, then she began "Come, ye
Disconsolate," the hymn Wunsch had always liked to hear her sing. Mrs.
Harsanyi glanced questioningly at her husband, but he was looking
intently at the toes of his boots, shading his forehead with his long
white hand. When Thea finished the hymn she did not turn around, but
immediately began "The Ninety and Nine." Mrs. Harsanyi kept trying to
catch her husband's eye; but his chin only sank lower on his collar.


"There were ninety and nine that safely lay In the shelter of the fold,
But one was out on the hills away, Far off from the gates of gold."


Harsanyi looked at her, then back at the fire.

"Rejoice, for the Shepherd has found his sheep."

Thea turned on the chair and grinned. "That's about enough, isn't it?
That song got me my job. The preacher said it was sympathetic," she
minced the word, remembering Mr. Larsen's manner.

Harsanyi drew himself up in his chair, resting his elbows on the low
arms. "Yes? That is better suited to your voice. Your upper tones are
good, above G. I must teach you some songs. Don't you know
anything--pleasant?"

Thea shook her head ruefully. "I'm afraid I don't. Let me see--Perhaps,"
she turned to the piano and put her hands on the keys. "I used to sing
this for Mr. Wunsch a long while ago. It's for contralto, but I'll try
it." She frowned at the keyboard a moment, played the few introductory
measures, and began:

"ACH, ICH HABE SIE VERLOREN,"

She had not sung it for a long time, and it came back like an old
friendship. When she finished, Harsanyi sprang from his chair and
dropped lightly upon his toes, a kind of ENTRE-CHAT that he sometimes
executed when he formed a sudden resolution, or when he was about to
follow a pure intuition, against reason. His wife said that when he gave
that spring he was shot from the bow of his ancestors, and now when he
left his chair in that manner she knew he was intensely interested. He
went quickly to the piano.

"Sing that again. There is nothing the matter with your low voice, my
girl. I will play for you. Let your voice out." Without looking at her
he began the accompaniment. Thea drew back her shoulders, relaxed them
instinctively, and sang.

When she finished the aria, Harsanyi beckoned her nearer. "Sing AH--AH
for me, as I indicate." He kept his right hand on the keyboard and put
his left to her throat, placing the tips of his delicate fingers over
her larynx. "Again,--until your breath is gone.--Trill between the two
tones, always; good! Again; excellent!--Now up,--stay there. E and F.
Not so good, is it? F is always a hard one.--Now, try the
half-tone.--That's right, nothing difficult about it.--Now, pianissimo,
AH--AH. Now, swell it, AH--AH.--Again, follow my hand.--Now, carry it
down.--Anybody ever tell you anything about your breathing?"

"Mr. Larsen says I have an unusually long breath," Thea replied with
spirit.

Harsanyi smiled. "So you have, so you have. That was what I meant. Now,
once more; carry it up and then down, AH--AH." He put his hand back to
her throat and sat with his head bent, his one eye closed. He loved to
hear a big voice throb in a relaxed, natural throat, and he was thinking
that no one had ever felt this voice vibrate before. It was like a wild
bird that had flown into his studio on Middleton Street from goodness
knew how far! No one knew that it had come, or even that it existed;
least of all the strange, crude girl in whose throat it beat its
passionate wings. What a simple thing it was, he reflected; why had he
never guessed it before? Everything about her indicated it,--the big
mouth, the wide jaw and chin, the strong white teeth, the deep laugh.
The machine was so simple and strong, seemed to be so easily operated.
She sang from the bottom of herself. Her breath came from down where her
laugh came from, the deep laugh which Mrs. Harsanyi had once called "the
laugh of the people." A relaxed throat, a voice that lay on the breath,
that had never been forced off the breath; it rose and fell in the
air-column like the little balls which are put to shine in the jet of a
fountain. The voice did not thin as it went up; the upper tones were as
full and rich as the lower, produced in the same way and as
unconsciously, only with deeper breath.

At last Harsanyi threw back his head and rose. "You must be tired, Miss
Kronborg."

When she replied, she startled him; he had forgotten how hard and full
of burs her speaking voice was. "No," she said, "singing never tires
me."

Harsanyi pushed back his hair with a nervous hand. "I don't know much
about the voice, but I shall take liberties and teach you some good
songs. I think you have a very interesting voice."

"I'm glad if you like it. Good-night, Mr. Harsanyi." Thea went with Mrs.
Harsanyi to get her wraps.

When Mrs. Harsanyi came back to her husband, she found him walking
restlessly up and down the room.

"Don't you think her voice wonderful, dear?" she asked.

"I scarcely know what to think. All I really know about that girl is
that she tires me to death. We must not have her often. If I did not
have my living to make, then--" he dropped into a chair and closed his
eyes. "How tired I am. What a voice!"



IV


AFTER that evening Thea's work with Harsanyi changed somewhat. He
insisted that she should study some songs with him, and after almost
every lesson he gave up half an hour of his own time to practicing them
with her. He did not pretend to know much about voice production, but so
far, he thought, she had acquired no really injurious habits. A healthy
and powerful organ had found its own method, which was not a bad one. He
wished to find out a good deal before he recommended a vocal teacher. He
never told Thea what he thought about her voice, and made her general
ignorance of anything worth singing his pretext for the trouble he took.
That was in the beginning. After the first few lessons his own pleasure
and hers were pretext enough. The singing came at the end of the lesson
hour, and they both treated it as a form of relaxation.

Harsanyi did not say much even to his wife about his discovery. He
brooded upon it in a curious way. He found that these unscientific
singing lessons stimulated him in his own study. After Miss Kronborg
left him he often lay down in his studio for an hour before dinner, with
his head full of musical ideas, with an effervescence in his brain which
he had sometimes lost for weeks together under the grind of teaching. He
had never got so much back for himself from any pupil as he did from
Miss Kronborg. From the first she had stimulated him; something in her
personality invariably affected him. Now that he was feeling his way
toward her voice, he found her more interesting than ever before. She
lifted the tedium of the winter for him, gave him curious fancies and
reveries. Musically, she was sympathetic to him. Why all this was true,
he never asked himself. He had learned that one must take where and when
one can the mysterious mental irritant that rouses one's imagination;
that it is not to be had by order. She often wearied him, but she never
bored him. Under her crudeness and brusque hardness, he felt there was a
nature quite different, of which he never got so much as a hint except
when she was at the piano, or when she sang. It was toward this hidden
creature that he was trying, for his own pleasure, to find his way. In
short, Harsanyi looked forward to his hour with Thea for the same reason
that poor Wunsch had sometimes dreaded his; because she stirred him more
than anything she did could adequately explain.

One afternoon Harsanyi, after the lesson, was standing by the window
putting some collodion on a cracked finger, and Thea was at the piano
trying over "Die Lorelei" which he had given her last week to practice.
It was scarcely a song which a singing master would have given her, but
he had his own reasons. How she sang it mattered only to him and to her.
He was playing his own game now, without interference; he suspected that
he could not do so always.

When she finished the song, she looked back over her shoulder at him and
spoke thoughtfully. "That wasn't right, at the end, was it?"

"No, that should be an open, flowing tone, something like this,"--he
waved his fingers rapidly in the air. "You get the idea?"

"No, I don't. Seems a queer ending, after the rest."

Harsanyi corked his little bottle and dropped it into the pocket of his
velvet coat. "Why so? Shipwrecks come and go, MARCHEN come and go, but
the river keeps right on. There you have your open, flowing tone."

Thea looked intently at the music. "I see," she said dully. "Oh, I see!"
she repeated quickly and turned to him a glowing countenance. "It is the
river.--Oh, yes, I get it now!" She looked at him but long enough to
catch his glance, then turned to the piano again. Harsanyi was never
quite sure where the light came from when her face suddenly flashed out
at him in that way. Her eyes were too small to account for it, though
they glittered like green ice in the sun. At such moments her hair was
yellower, her skin whiter, her cheeks pinker, as if a lamp had suddenly
been turned up inside of her. She went at the song again:


"ICH WEISS NICHT, WAS SOLL ES BEDEUTEN, DAS ICH SO TRAURIG BIN."


A kind of happiness vibrated in her voice. Harsanyi noticed how much and
how unhesitatingly she changed her delivery of the whole song, the first
part as well as the last. He had often noticed that she could not think
a thing out in passages. Until she saw it as a whole, she wandered like
a blind man surrounded by torments. After she once had her "revelation,"
after she got the idea that to her--not always to him--explained
everything, then she went forward rapidly. But she was not always easy
to help. She was sometimes impervious to suggestion; she would stare at
him as if she were deaf and ignore everything he told her to do. Then,
all at once, something would happen in her brain and she would begin to
do all that he had been for weeks telling her to do, without realizing
that he had ever told her.

To-night Thea forgot Harsanyi and his finger. She finished the song only
to begin it with fresh enthusiasm.


"UND DAS HAT MIT IHREM SINGEN DIE LORELEI GETHAN."


She sat there singing it until the darkening room was so flooded with it
that Harsanyi threw open a window.

"You really must stop it, Miss Kronborg. I shan't be able to get it out
of my head to-night."

Thea laughed tolerantly as she began to gather up her music. "Why, I
thought you had gone, Mr. Harsanyi. I like that song."

That evening at dinner Harsanyi sat looking intently into a glass of
heavy yellow wine; boring into it, indeed, with his one eye, when his
face suddenly broke into a smile.

"What is it, Andor?" his wife asked.

He smiled again, this time at her, and took up the nutcrackers and a
Brazil nut. "Do you know," he said in a tone so intimate and
confidential that he might have been speaking to himself,--"do you know,
I like to see Miss Kronborg get hold of an idea. In spite of being so
talented, she's not quick. But when she does get an idea, it fills her
up to the eyes. She had my room so reeking of a song this afternoon that
I couldn't stay there."

Mrs. Harsanyi looked up quickly, "`Die Lorelei,' you mean? One couldn't
think of anything else anywhere in the house. I thought she was
possessed. But don't you think her voice is wonderful sometimes?"

Harsanyi tasted his wine slowly. "My dear, I've told you before that I
don't know what I think about Miss Kronborg, except that I'm glad there
are not two of her. I sometimes wonder whether she is not glad. Fresh as
she is at it all, I've occasionally fancied that, if she knew how, she
would like to--diminish." He moved his left hand out into the air as if
he were suggesting a DIMINUENDO to an orchestra.



V


BY the first of February Thea had been in Chicago almost four months,
and she did not know much more about the city than if she had never
quitted Moonstone. She was, as Harsanyi said, incurious. Her work took
most of her time, and she found that she had to sleep a good deal. It
had never before been so hard to get up in the morning. She had the
bother of caring for her room, and she had to build her fire and bring
up her coal. Her routine was frequently interrupted by a message from
Mr. Larsen summoning her to sing at a funeral. Every funeral took half a
day, and the time had to be made up. When Mrs. Harsanyi asked her if it
did not depress her to sing at funerals, she replied that she "had been
brought up to go to funerals and didn't mind."

Thea never went into shops unless she had to, and she felt no interest
in them. Indeed, she shunned them, as places where one was sure to be
parted from one's money in some way. She was nervous about counting her
change, and she could not accustom herself to having her purchases sent
to her address. She felt much safer with her bundles under her arm.

During this first winter Thea got no city consciousness. Chicago was
simply a wilderness through which one had to find one's way. She felt no
interest in the general briskness and zest of the crowds. The crash and
scramble of that big, rich, appetent Western city she did not take in at
all, except to notice that the noise of the drays and street-cars tired
her. The brilliant window displays, the splendid furs and stuffs, the
gorgeous flower-shops, the gay candy-shops, she scarcely noticed. At
Christmas-time she did feel some curiosity about the toy-stores, and she
wished she held Thor's little mittened fist in her hand as she stood
before the windows. The jewelers' windows, too, had a strong attraction
for her--she had always liked bright stones. When she went into the city
she used to brave the biting lake winds and stand gazing in at the
displays of diamonds and pearls and emeralds; the tiaras and necklaces
and earrings, on white velvet. These seemed very well worth while to
her, things worth coveting.

Mrs. Lorch and Mrs. Andersen often told each other it was strange that
Miss Kronborg had so little initiative about "visiting points of
interest." When Thea came to live with them she had expressed a wish to
see two places: Montgomery Ward and Company's big mail-order store, and
the packing-houses, to which all the hogs and cattle that went through
Moonstone were bound. One of Mrs. Lorch's lodgers worked in a
packing-house, and Mrs. Andersen brought Thea word that she had spoken
to Mr. Eckman and he would gladly take her to Packingtown. Eckman was a
toughish young Swede, and he thought it would be something of a lark to
take a pretty girl through the slaughter-houses. But he was
disappointed. Thea neither grew faint nor clung to the arm he kept
offering her. She asked innumerable questions and was impatient because
he knew so little of what was going on outside of his own department.
When they got off the street-car and walked back to Mrs. Lorch's house
in the dusk, Eckman put her hand in his overcoat pocket--she had no
muff--and kept squeezing it ardently until she said, "Don't do that; my
ring cuts me." That night he told his roommate that he "could have
kissed her as easy as rolling off a log, but she wasn't worth the
trouble." As for Thea, she had enjoyed the afternoon very much, and
wrote her father a brief but clear account of what she had seen.

One night at supper Mrs. Andersen was talking about the exhibit of
students' work she had seen at the Art Institute that afternoon. Several
of her friends had sketches in the exhibit. Thea, who always felt that
she was behindhand in courtesy to Mrs. Andersen, thought that here was
an opportunity to show interest without committing herself to anything.
"Where is that, the Institute?" she asked absently.

Mrs. Andersen clasped her napkin in both hands. "The Art Institute? Our
beautiful Art Institute on Michigan Avenue? Do you mean to say you have
never visited it?"

"Oh, is it the place with the big lions out in front? I remember; I saw
it when I went to Montgomery Ward's. Yes, I thought the lions were
beautiful."

"But the pictures! Didn't you visit the galleries?"

"No. The sign outside said it was a pay-day. I've always meant to go
back, but I haven't happened to be down that way since."

Mrs. Lorch and Mrs. Andersen looked at each other. The old mother spoke,
fixing her shining little eyes upon Thea across the table. "Ah, but Miss
Kronborg, there are old masters! Oh, many of them, such as you could not
see anywhere out of Europe."

"And Corots," breathed Mrs. Andersen, tilting her head feelingly. "Such
examples of the Barbizon school!" This was meaningless to Thea, who did
not read the art columns of the Sunday INTER-OCEAN as Mrs. Andersen did.

"Oh, I'm going there some day," she reassured them. "I like to look at
oil paintings."

One bleak day in February, when the wind was blowing clouds of dirt like
a Moonstone sandstorm, dirt that filled your eyes and ears and mouth,
Thea fought her way across the unprotected space in front of the Art
Institute and into the doors of the building. She did not come out again
until the closing hour. In the street-car, on the long cold ride home,
while she sat staring at the waistcoat buttons of a fat strap-hanger,
she had a serious reckoning with herself. She seldom thought about her
way of life, about what she ought or ought not to do; usually there was
but one obvious and important thing to be done. But that afternoon she
remonstrated with herself severely. She told herself that she was
missing a great deal; that she ought to be more willing to take advice
and to go to see things. She was sorry that she had let months pass
without going to the Art Institute. After this she would go once a week.

The Institute proved, indeed, a place of retreat, as the sand hills or
the Kohlers' garden used to be; a place where she could forget Mrs.
Andersen's tiresome overtures of friendship, the stout contralto in the
choir whom she so unreasonably hated, and even, for a little while, the
torment of her work. That building was a place in which she could relax
and play, and she could hardly ever play now. On the whole, she spent
more time with the casts than with the pictures. They were at once more
simple and more perplexing; and some way they seemed more important,
harder to overlook. It never occurred to her to buy a catalogue, so she
called most of the casts by names she made up for them. Some of them she
knew; the Dying Gladiator she had read about in "Childe Harold" almost
as long ago as she could remember; he was strongly associated with Dr.
Archie and childish illnesses. The Venus di Milo puzzled her; she could
not see why people thought her so beautiful. She told herself over and
over that she did not think the Apollo Belvedere "at all handsome."
Better than anything else she liked a great equestrian statue of an
evil, cruel-looking general with an unpronounceable name. She used to
walk round and round this terrible man and his terrible horse, frowning
at him, brooding upon him, as if she had to make some momentous decision
about him.

The casts, when she lingered long among them, always made her gloomy. It
was with a lightening of the heart, a feeling of throwing off the old
miseries and old sorrows of the world, that she ran up the wide
staircase to the pictures. There she liked best the ones that told
stories. There was a painting by Gerome called "The Pasha's Grief" which
always made her wish for Gunner and Axel. The Pasha was seated on a rug,
beside a green candle almost as big as a telegraph pole, and before him
was stretched his dead tiger, a splendid beast, and there were pink
roses scattered about him. She loved, too, a picture of some boys
bringing in a newborn calf on a litter, the cow walking beside it and
licking it. The Corot which hung next to this painting she did not like
or dislike; she never saw it.

But in that same room there was a picture--oh, that was the thing she
ran upstairs so fast to see! That was her picture. She imagined that
nobody cared for it but herself, and that it waited for her. That was a
picture indeed. She liked even the name of it, "The Song of the Lark."
The flat country, the early morning light, the wet fields, the look in
the girl's heavy face--well, they were all hers, anyhow, whatever was
there. She told herself that that picture was "right." Just what she
meant by this, it would take a clever person to explain. But to her the
word covered the almost boundless satisfaction she felt when she looked
at the picture.


Before Thea had any idea how fast the weeks were flying, before Mr.
Larsen's "permanent" soprano had returned to her duties, spring came;
windy, dusty, strident, shrill; a season almost more violent in Chicago
than the winter from which it releases one, or the heat to which it
eventually delivers one. One sunny morning the apple trees in Mrs.
Lorch's back yard burst into bloom, and for the first time in months
Thea dressed without building a fire. The morning shone like a holiday,
and for her it was to be a holiday. There was in the air that sudden,
treacherous softness which makes the Poles who work in the
packing-houses get drunk. At such times beauty is necessary, and in
Packingtown there is no place to get it except at the saloons, where one
can buy for a few hours the illusion of comfort, hope, love,--whatever
one most longs for.

Harsanyi had given Thea a ticket for the symphony concert that
afternoon, and when she looked out at the white apple trees her doubts
as to whether she ought to go vanished at once. She would make her work
light that morning, she told herself. She would go to the concert full
of energy. When she set off, after dinner, Mrs. Lorch, who knew Chicago
weather, prevailed upon her to take her cape. The old lady said that
such sudden mildness, so early in April, presaged a sharp return of
winter, and she was anxious about her apple trees.

The concert began at two-thirty, and Thea was in her seat in the
Auditorium at ten minutes after two--a fine seat in the first row of the
balcony, on the side, where she could see the house as well as the
orchestra. She had been to so few concerts that the great house, the
crowd of people, and the lights, all had a stimulating effect. She was
surprised to see so many men in the audience, and wondered how they
could leave their business in the afternoon. During the first number
Thea was so much interested in the orchestra itself, in the men, the
instruments, the volume of sound, that she paid little attention to what
they were playing. Her excitement impaired her power of listening. She
kept saying to herself, "Now I must stop this foolishness and listen; I
may never hear this again"; but her mind was like a glass that is hard
to focus. She was not ready to listen until the second number, Dvorak's
Symphony in E minor, called on the programme, "From the New World." The
first theme had scarcely been given out when her mind became clear;
instant composure fell upon her, and with it came the power of
concentration. This was music she could understand, music from the New
World indeed! Strange how, as the first movement went on, it brought
back to her that high tableland above Laramie; the grass-grown wagon
trails, the far-away peaks of the snowy range, the wind and the eagles,
that old man and the first telegraph message.

When the first movement ended, Thea's hands and feet were cold as ice.
She was too much excited to know anything except that she wanted
something desperately, and when the English horns gave out the theme of
the Largo, she knew that what she wanted was exactly that. Here were the
sand hills, the grasshoppers and locusts, all the things that wakened
and chirped in the early morning; the reaching and reaching of high
plains, the immeasurable yearning of all flat lands. There was home in
it, too; first memories, first mornings long ago; the amazement of a new
soul in a new world; a soul new and yet old, that had dreamed something
despairing, something glorious, in the dark before it was born; a soul
obsessed by what it did not know, under the cloud of a past it could not
recall.

If Thea had had much experience in concert-going, and had known her own
capacity, she would have left the hall when the symphony was over. But
she sat still, scarcely knowing where she was, because her mind had been
far away and had not yet come back to her. She was startled when the
orchestra began to play again--the entry of the gods into Walhalla. She
heard it as people hear things in their sleep. She knew scarcely
anything about the Wagner operas. She had a vague idea that "Rhinegold"
was about the strife between gods and men; she had read something about
it in Mr. Haweis's book long ago. Too tired to follow the orchestra with
much understanding, she crouched down in her seat and closed her eyes.
The cold, stately measures of the Walhalla music rang out, far away; the
rainbow bridge throbbed out into the air, under it the wailing of the
Rhine daughters and the singing of the Rhine. But Thea was sunk in
twilight; it was all going on in another world. So it happened that with
a dull, almost listless ear she heard for the first time that troubled
music, ever-darkening, ever-brightening, which was to flow through so
many years of her life.

When Thea emerged from the concert hall, Mrs. Lorch's predictions had
been fulfilled. A furious gale was beating over the city from Lake
Michigan. The streets were full of cold, hurrying, angry people, running
for street-cars and barking at each other. The sun was setting in a
clear, windy sky, that flamed with red as if there were a great fire
somewhere on the edge of the city. For almost the first time Thea was
conscious of the city itself, of the congestion of life all about her,
of the brutality and power of those streams that flowed in the streets,
threatening to drive one under. People jostled her, ran into her, poked
her aside with their elbows, uttering angry exclamations. She got on the
wrong car and was roughly ejected by the conductor at a windy corner, in
front of a saloon. She stood there dazed and shivering. The cars passed,
screaming as they rounded curves, but either they were full to the
doors, or were bound for places where she did not want to go. Her hands
were so cold that she took off her tight kid gloves. The street lights
began to gleam in the dusk. A young man came out of the saloon and stood
eyeing her questioningly while he lit a cigarette. "Looking for a friend
to-night?" he asked. Thea drew up the collar of her cape and walked on a
few paces. The young man shrugged his shoulders and drifted away.

Thea came back to the corner and stood there irresolutely. An old man
approached her. He, too, seemed to be waiting for a car. He wore an
overcoat with a black fur collar, his gray mustache was waxed into
little points, and his eyes were watery. He kept thrusting his face up
near hers. Her hat blew off and he ran after it--a stiff, pitiful skip
he had--and brought it back to her. Then, while she was pinning her hat
on, her cape blew up, and he held it down for her, looking at her
intently. His face worked as if he were going to cry or were frightened.
He leaned over and whispered something to her. It struck her as curious
that he was really quite timid, like an old beggar. "Oh, let me ALONE!"
she cried miserably between her teeth. He vanished, disappeared like the
Devil in a play. But in the mean time something had got away from her;
she could not remember how the violins came in after the horns, just
there. When her cape blew up, perhaps--Why did these men torment her? A
cloud of dust blew in her face and blinded her. There was some power
abroad in the world bent upon taking away from her that feeling with
which she had come out of the concert hall. Everything seemed to sweep
down on her to tear it out from under her cape. If one had that, the
world became one's enemy; people, buildings, wagons, cars, rushed at one
to crush it under, to make one let go of it. Thea glared round her at
the crowds, the ugly, sprawling streets, the long lines of lights, and
she was not crying now. Her eyes were brighter than even Harsanyi had
ever seen them. All these things and people were no longer remote and
negligible; they had to be met, they were lined up against her, they
were there to take something from her. Very well; they should never have
it. They might trample her to death, but they should never have it. As
long as she lived that ecstasy was going to be hers. She would live for
it, work for it, die for it; but she was going to have it, time after
time, height after height. She could hear the crash of the orchestra
again, and she rose on the brasses. She would have it, what the trumpets
were singing! She would have it, have it,--it! Under the old cape she
pressed her hands upon her heaving bosom, that was a little girl's no
longer.



VI


ONE afternoon in April, Theodore Thomas, the conductor of the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra, had turned out his desk light and was about to leave
his office in the Auditorium Building, when Harsanyi appeared in the
doorway. The conductor welcomed him with a hearty hand-grip and threw
off the overcoat he had just put on. He pushed Harsanyi into a chair and
sat down at his burdened desk, pointing to the piles of papers and
railway folders upon it.

"Another tour, clear to the coast. This traveling is the part of my work
that grinds me, Andor. You know what it means: bad food, dirt, noise,
exhaustion for the men and for me. I'm not so young as I once was. It's
time I quit the highway. This is the last tour, I swear!"

"Then I'm sorry for the `highway.' I remember when I first heard you in
Pittsburg, long ago. It was a life-line you threw me. It's about one of
the people along your highway that I've come to see you. Whom do you
consider the best teacher for voice in Chicago?"

Mr. Thomas frowned and pulled his heavy mustache. "Let me see; I suppose
on the whole Madison Bowers is the best. He's intelligent, and he had
good training. I don't like him."

Harsanyi nodded. "I thought there was no one else. I don't like him,
either, so I hesitated. But I suppose he must do, for the present."

"Have you found anything promising? One of your own students?"

"Yes, sir. A young Swedish girl from somewhere in Colorado. She is very
talented, and she seems to me to have a remarkable voice."

"High voice?"

"I think it will be; though her low voice has a beautiful quality, very
individual. She has had no instruction in voice at all, and I shrink
from handing her over to anybody; her own instinct about it has been so
good. It is one of those voices that manages itself easily, without
thinning as it goes up; good breathing and perfect relaxation. But she
must have a teacher, of course. There is a break in the middle voice, so
that the voice does not all work together; an unevenness."

Thomas looked up. "So? Curious; that cleft often happens with the
Swedes. Some of their best singers have had it. It always reminds me of
the space you so often see between their front teeth. Is she strong
physically?"

Harsanyi's eye flashed. He lifted his hand before him and clenched it.
"Like a horse, like a tree! Every time I give her a lesson, I lose a
pound. She goes after what she wants."

"Intelligent, you say? Musically intelligent?"

"Yes; but no cultivation whatever. She came to me like a fine young
savage, a book with nothing written in it. That is why I feel the
responsibility of directing her." Harsanyi paused and crushed his soft
gray hat over his knee. "She would interest you, Mr. Thomas," he added
slowly. "She has a quality--very individual."

"Yes; the Scandinavians are apt to have that, too. She can't go to
Germany, I suppose?"

"Not now, at any rate. She is poor."

Thomas frowned again "I don't think Bowers a really first-rate man. He's
too petty to be really first-rate; in his nature, I mean. But I dare say
he's the best you can do, if you can't give her time enough yourself."

Harsanyi waved his hand. "Oh, the time is nothing--she may have all she
wants. But I cannot teach her to sing."

"Might not come amiss if you made a musician of her, however," said Mr.
Thomas dryly.

"I have done my best. But I can only play with a voice, and this is not
a voice to be played with. I think she will be a musician, whatever
happens. She is not quick, but she is solid, real; not like these
others. My wife says that with that girl one swallow does not make a
summer."

Mr. Thomas laughed. "Tell Mrs. Harsanyi that her remark conveys
something to me. Don't let yourself get too much interested. Voices are
so often disappointing; especially women's voices. So much chance about
it, so many factors."

"Perhaps that is why they interest one. All the intelligence and talent
in the world can't make a singer. The voice is a wild thing. It can't be
bred in captivity. It is a sport, like the silver fox. It happens."

Mr. Thomas smiled into Harsanyi's gleaming eye. "Why haven't you brought
her to sing for me?"

"I've been tempted to, but I knew you were driven to death, with this
tour confronting you."

"Oh, I can always find time to listen to a girl who has a voice, if she
means business. I'm sorry I'm leaving so soon. I could advise you better
if I had heard her. I can sometimes give a singer suggestions. I've
worked so much with them."

"You're the only conductor I know who is not snobbish about singers."
Harsanyi spoke warmly.

"Dear me, why should I be? They've learned from me, and I've learned
from them." As they rose, Thomas took the younger man affectionately by
the arm. "Tell me about that wife of yours. Is she well, and as lovely
as ever? And such fine children! Come to see me oftener, when I get
back. I miss it when you don't."

The two men left the Auditorium Building together. Harsanyi walked home.
Even a short talk with Thomas always stimulated him. As he walked he was
recalling an evening they once spent together in Cincinnati.

Harsanyi was the soloist at one of Thomas's concerts there, and after
the performance the conductor had taken him off to a RATHSKELLER where
there was excellent German cooking, and where the proprietor saw to it
that Thomas had the best wines procurable. Thomas had been working with
the great chorus of the Festival Association and was speaking of it with
enthusiasm when Harsanyi asked him how it was that he was able to feel
such an interest in choral directing and in voices generally. Thomas
seldom spoke of his youth or his early struggles, but that night he
turned back the pages and told Harsanyi a long story.

He said he had spent the summer of his fifteenth year wandering about
alone in the South, giving violin concerts in little towns. He traveled
on horseback. When he came into a town, he went about all day tacking up
posters announcing his concert in the evening. Before the concert, he
stood at the door taking in the admission money until his audience had
arrived, and then he went on the platform and played. It was a lazy,
hand-to-mouth existence, and Thomas said he must have got to like that
easy way of living and the relaxing Southern atmosphere. At any rate,
when he got back to New York in the fall, he was rather torpid; perhaps
he had been growing too fast. From this adolescent drowsiness the lad
was awakened by two voices, by two women who sang in New York in 1851,
--Jenny Lind and Henrietta Sontag. They were the first great artists he
had ever heard, and he never forgot his debt to them.

As he said, "It was not voice and execution alone. There was a greatness
about them. They were great women, great artists. They opened a new
world to me." Night after night he went to hear them, striving to
reproduce the quality of their tone upon his violin. From that time his
idea about strings was completely changed, and on his violin he tried
always for the singing, vibrating tone, instead of the loud and somewhat
harsh tone then prevalent among even the best German violinists. In
later years he often advised violinists to study singing, and singers to
study violin. He told Harsanyi that he got his first conception of tone
quality from Jenny Lind.

"But, of course," he added, "the great thing I got from Lind and Sontag
was the indefinite, not the definite, thing. For an impressionable boy,
their inspiration was incalculable. They gave me my first feeling for
the Italian style--but I could never say how much they gave me. At that
age, such influences are actually creative. I always think of my
artistic consciousness as beginning then."

All his life Thomas did his best to repay what he felt he owed to the
singer's art. No man could get such singing from choruses, and no man
worked harder to raise the standard of singing in schools and churches
and choral societies.



VII


All through the lesson Thea had felt that Harsanyi was restless and
abstracted. Before the hour was over, he pushed back his chair and said
resolutely, "I am not in the mood, Miss Kronborg. I have something on my
mind, and I must talk to you. When do you intend to go home?"

Thea turned to him in surprise. "The first of June, about. Mr. Larsen
will not need me after that, and I have not much money ahead. I shall
work hard this summer, though."

"And to-day is the first of May; May-day." Harsanyi leaned forward, his
elbows on his knees, his hands locked between them. "Yes, I must talk to
you about something. I have asked Madison Bowers to let me bring you to
him on Thursday, at your usual lesson-time. He is the best vocal teacher
in Chicago, and it is time you began to work seriously with your voice."

Thea's brow wrinkled. "You mean take lessons of Bowers?"

Harsanyi nodded, without lifting his head.

"But I can't, Mr. Harsanyi. I haven't got the time, and, besides--" she
blushed and drew her shoulders up stiffly--"besides, I can't afford to
pay two teachers." Thea felt that she had blurted this out in the worst
possible way, and she turned back to the keyboard to hide her chagrin.

"I know that. I don't mean that you shall pay two teachers. After you go
to Bowers you will not need me. I need scarcely tell you that I shan't
be happy at losing you."

Thea turned to him, hurt and angry. "But I don't want to go to Bowers. I
don't want to leave you. What's the matter? Don't I work hard enough?
I'm sure you teach people that don't try half as hard."

Harsanyi rose to his feet. "Don't misunderstand me, Miss Kronborg. You
interest me more than any pupil I have. I have been thinking for months
about what you ought to do, since that night when you first sang for
me." He walked over to the window, turned, and came toward her again. "I
believe that your voice is worth all that you can put into it. I have
not come to this decision rashly. I have studied you, and I have become
more and more convinced, against my own desires. I cannot make a singer
of you, so it was my business to find a man who could. I have even
consulted Theodore Thomas about it."

"But suppose I don't want to be a singer? I want to study with you.
What's the matter? Do you really think I've no talent? Can't I be a
pianist?"

Harsanyi paced up and down the long rug in front of her. "My girl, you
are very talented. You could be a pianist, a good one. But the early
training of a pianist, such a pianist as you would want to be, must be
something tremendous. He must have had no other life than music. At your
age he must be the master of his instrument. Nothing can ever take the
place of that first training. You know very well that your technique is
good, but it is not remarkable. It will never overtake your
intelligence. You have a fine power of work, but you are not by nature a
student. You are not by nature, I think, a pianist. You would never find
yourself. In the effort to do so, I'm afraid your playing would become
warped, eccentric." He threw back his head and looked at his pupil
intently with that one eye which sometimes seemed to see deeper than any
two eyes, as if its singleness gave it privileges. "Oh, I have watched
you very carefully, Miss Kronborg. Because you had had so little and had
yet done so much for yourself, I had a great wish to help you. I believe
that the strongest need of your nature is to find yourself, to emerge AS
yourself. Until I heard you sing I wondered how you were to do this, but
it has grown clearer to me every day."

Thea looked away toward the window with hard, narrow eyes. "You mean I
can be a singer because I haven't brains enough to be a pianist."

"You have brains enough and talent enough. But to do what you will want
to do, it takes more than these--it takes vocation. Now, I think you
have vocation, but for the voice, not for the piano. If you knew,"--he
stopped and sighed,--"if you knew how fortunate I sometimes think you.
With the voice the way is so much shorter, the rewards are more easily
won. In your voice I think Nature herself did for you what it would take
you many years to do at the piano. Perhaps you were not born in the
wrong place after all. Let us talk frankly now. We have never done so
before, and I have respected your reticence. What you want more than
anything else in the world is to be an artist; is that true?"

She turned her face away from him and looked down at the keyboard. Her
answer came in a thickened voice. "Yes, I suppose so."

"When did you first feel that you wanted to be an artist?"

"I don't know. There was always--something."

"Did you never think that you were going to sing?"

"Yes."

"How long ago was that?"

"Always, until I came to you. It was you who made me want to play
piano." Her voice trembled. "Before, I tried to think I did, but I was
pretending."

Harsanyi reached out and caught the hand that was hanging at her side.
He pressed it as if to give her something. "Can't you see, my dear girl,
that was only because I happened to be the first artist you have ever
known? If I had been a trombone player, it would have been the same; you
would have wanted to play trombone. But all the while you have been
working with such good-will, something has been struggling against me.
See, here we were, you and I and this instrument,"--he tapped the
piano,--"three good friends, working so hard. But all the while there
was something fighting us: your gift, and the woman you were meant to
be. When you find your way to that gift and to that woman, you will be
at peace. In the beginning it was an artist that you wanted to be; well,
you may be an artist, always."

Thea drew a long breath. Her hands fell in her lap. "So I'm just where I
began. No teacher, nothing done. No money."

Harsanyi turned away. "Feel no apprehension about the money, Miss
Kronborg. Come back in the fall and we shall manage that. I shall even
go to Mr. Thomas if necessary. This year will not be lost. If you but
knew what an advantage this winter's study, all your study of the piano,
will give you over most singers. Perhaps things have come out better for
you than if we had planned them knowingly."

"You mean they have IF I can sing."

Thea spoke with a heavy irony, so heavy, indeed, that it was coarse. It
grated upon Harsanyi because he felt that it was not sincere, an awkward
affectation.

He wheeled toward her. "Miss Kronborg, answer me this. YOU KNOW THAT YOU
CAN SING, do you not? You have always known it. While we worked here
together you sometimes said to yourself, `I have something you know
nothing about; I could surprise you.' Is that also true?"

Thea nodded and hung her head.

"Why were you not frank with me? Did I not deserve it?"

She shuddered. Her bent shoulders trembled. "I don't know," she
muttered. "I didn't mean to be like that. I couldn't. I can't. It's
different."

"You mean it is very personal?" he asked kindly.

She nodded. "Not at church or funerals, or with people like Mr. Larsen.
But with you it was--personal. I'm not like you and Mrs. Harsanyi. I
come of rough people. I'm rough. But I'm independent, too. It was--all I
had. There is no use my talking, Mr. Harsanyi. I can't tell you."

"You needn't tell me. I know. Every artist knows." Harsanyi stood
looking at his pupil's back, bent as if she were pushing something, at
her lowered head. "You can sing for those people because with them you
do not commit yourself. But the reality, one cannot uncover THAT until
one is sure. One can fail one's self, but one must not live to see that
fail; better never reveal it. Let me help you to make yourself sure of
it. That I can do better than Bowers."

Thea lifted her face and threw out her hands.

Harsanyi shook his head and smiled. "Oh, promise nothing! You will have
much to do. There will not be voice only, but French, German, Italian.
You will have work enough. But sometimes you will need to be understood;
what you never show to any one will need companionship. And then you
must come to me." He peered into her face with that searching, intimate
glance. "You know what I mean, the thing in you that has no business
with what is little, that will have to do only with beauty and power."

Thea threw out her hands fiercely, as if to push him away. She made a
sound in her throat, but it was not articulate. Harsanyi took one of her
hands and kissed it lightly upon the back. His salute was one of
greeting, not of farewell, and it was for some one he had never seen.

When Mrs. Harsanyi came in at six o'clock, she found her husband sitting
listlessly by the window. "Tired?" she asked.

"A little. I've just got through a difficulty. I've sent Miss Kronborg
away; turned her over to Bowers, for voice."

"Sent Miss Kronborg away? Andor, what is the matter with you?"

"It's nothing rash. I've known for a long while I ought to do it. She is
made for a singer, not a pianist."

Mrs. Harsanyi sat down on the piano chair. She spoke a little bitterly:
"How can you be sure of that? She was, at least, the best you had. I
thought you meant to have her play at your students' recital next fall.
I am sure she would have made an impression. I could have dressed her so
that she would have been very striking. She had so much individuality."

Harsanyi bent forward, looking at the floor. "Yes, I know. I shall miss
her, of course."

Mrs. Harsanyi looked at her husband's fine head against the gray window.
She had never felt deeper tenderness for him than she did at that
moment. Her heart ached for him. "You will never get on, Andor," she
said mournfully.

Harsanyi sat motionless. "No, I shall never get on," he repeated
quietly. Suddenly he sprang up with that light movement she knew so
well, and stood in the window, with folded arms. "But some day I shall
be able to look her in the face and laugh because I did what I could for
her. I believe in her. She will do nothing common. She is uncommon, in a
common, common world. That is what I get out of it. It means more to me
than if she played at my concert and brought me a dozen pupils. All this
drudgery will kill me if once in a while I cannot hope something, for
somebody! If I cannot sometimes see a bird fly and wave my hand to it."

His tone was angry and injured. Mrs. Harsanyi understood that this was
one of the times when his wife was a part of the drudgery, of the
"common, common world."

He had let something he cared for go, and he felt bitterly about
whatever was left. The mood would pass, and he would be sorry. She knew
him. It wounded her, of course, but that hurt was not new. It was as old
as her love for him. She went out and left him alone.



VIII


ONE warm damp June night the Denver Express was speeding westward across
the earthy-smelling plains of Iowa. The lights in the day-coach were
turned low and the ventilators were open, admitting showers of soot and
dust upon the occupants of the narrow green plush chairs which were
tilted at various angles of discomfort. In each of these chairs some
uncomfortable human being lay drawn up, or stretched out, or writhing
from one position to another. There were tired men in rumpled shirts,
their necks bare and their suspenders down; old women with their heads
tied up in black handkerchiefs; bedraggled young women who went to sleep
while they were nursing their babies and forgot to button up their
dresses; dirty boys who added to the general discomfort by taking off
their boots. The brakeman, when he came through at midnight, sniffed the
heavy air disdainfully and looked up at the ventilators. As he glanced
down the double rows of contorted figures, he saw one pair of eyes that
were wide open and bright, a yellow head that was not overcome by the
stupefying heat and smell in the car. "There's a girl for you," he
thought as he stopped by Thea's chair.

"Like to have the window up a little?" he asked.

Thea smiled up at him, not misunderstanding his friendliness. "The girl
behind me is sick; she can't stand a draft. What time is it, please?"

He took out his open-faced watch and held it before her eyes with a
knowing look. "In a hurry?" he asked. "I'll leave the end door open and
air you out. Catch a wink; the time'll go faster."

Thea nodded good-night to him and settled her head back on her pillow,
looking up at the oil lamps. She was going back to Moonstone for her
summer vacation, and she was sitting up all night in a day-coach because
that seemed such an easy way to save money. At her age discomfort was a
small matter, when one made five dollars a day by it. She had
confidently expected to sleep after the car got quiet, but in the two
chairs behind her were a sick girl and her mother, and the girl had been
coughing steadily since ten o'clock. They had come from somewhere in
Pennsylvania, and this was their second night on the road. The mother
said they were going to Colorado "for her daughter's lungs." The
daughter was a little older than Thea, perhaps nineteen, with patient
dark eyes and curly brown hair. She was pretty in spite of being so
sooty and travel-stained. She had put on an ugly figured satine kimono
over her loosened clothes. Thea, when she boarded the train in Chicago,
happened to stop and plant her heavy telescope on this seat. She had not
intended to remain there, but the sick girl had looked up at her with an
eager smile and said, "Do sit there, miss. I'd so much rather not have a
gentleman in front of me."

After the girl began to cough there were no empty seats left, and if
there had been Thea could scarcely have changed without hurting her
feelings. The mother turned on her side and went to sleep; she was used
to the cough. But the girl lay wide awake, her eyes fixed on the roof of
the car, as Thea's were. The two girls must have seen very different
things there.

Thea fell to going over her winter in Chicago. It was only under unusual
or uncomfortable conditions like these that she could keep her mind
fixed upon herself or her own affairs for any length of time. The rapid
motion and the vibration of the wheels under her seemed to give her
thoughts rapidity and clearness. She had taken twenty very expensive
lessons from Madison Bowers, but she did not yet know what he thought of
her or of her ability. He was different from any man with whom she had
ever had to do. With her other teachers she had felt a personal
relation; but with him she did not. Bowers was a cold, bitter,
avaricious man, but he knew a great deal about voices. He worked with a
voice as if he were in a laboratory, conducting a series of experiments.
He was conscientious and industrious, even capable of a certain cold
fury when he was working with an interesting voice, but Harsanyi
declared that he had the soul of a shrimp, and could no more make an
artist than a throat specialist could. Thea realized that he had taught
her a great deal in twenty lessons.

Although she cared so much less for Bowers than for Harsanyi, Thea was,
on the whole, happier since she had been studying with him than she had
been before. She had always told herself that she studied piano to fit
herself to be a music teacher. But she never asked herself why she was
studying voice. Her voice, more than any other part of her, had to do
with that confidence, that sense of wholeness and inner well-being that
she had felt at moments ever since she could remember.

Of this feeling Thea had never spoken to any human being until that day
when she told Harsanyi that "there had always been--something." Hitherto
she had felt but one obligation toward it--secrecy; to protect it even
from herself. She had always believed that by doing all that was
required of her by her family, her teachers, her pupils, she kept that
part of herself from being caught up in the meshes of common things. She
took it for granted that some day, when she was older, she would know a
great deal more about it. It was as if she had an appointment to meet
the rest of herself sometime, somewhere. It was moving to meet her and
she was moving to meet it. That meeting awaited her, just as surely as,
for the poor girl in the seat behind her, there awaited a hole in the
earth, already dug.

For Thea, so much had begun with a hole in the earth. Yes, she
reflected, this new part of her life had all begun that morning when she
sat on the clay bank beside Ray Kennedy, under the flickering shade of
the cottonwood tree. She remembered the way Ray had looked at her that
morning. Why had he cared so much? And Wunsch, and Dr. Archie, and
Spanish Johnny, why had they? It was something that had to do with her
that made them care, but it was not she. It was something they believed
in, but it was not she. Perhaps each of them concealed another person in
himself, just as she did. Why was it that they seemed to feel and to
hunt for a second person in her and not in each other? Thea frowned up
at the dull lamp in the roof of the car. What if one's second self could
somehow speak to all these second selves? What if one could bring them
out, as whiskey did Spanish Johnny's? How deep they lay, these second
persons, and how little one knew about them, except to guard them
fiercely. It was to music, more than to anything else, that these hidden
things in people responded. Her mother--even her mother had something of
that sort which replied to music.

Thea found herself listening for the coughing behind her and not hearing
it. She turned cautiously and looked back over the head-rest of her
chair. The poor girl had fallen asleep. Thea looked at her intently. Why
was she so afraid of men? Why did she shrink into herself and avert her
face whenever a man passed her chair? Thea thought she knew; of course,
she knew. How horrible to waste away like that, in the time when one
ought to be growing fuller and stronger and rounder every day. Suppose
there were such a dark hole open for her, between to-night and that
place where she was to meet herself? Her eyes narrowed. She put her hand
on her breast and felt how warm it was; and within it there was a full,
powerful pulsation. She smiled--though she was ashamed of it--with the
natural contempt of strength for weakness, with the sense of physical
security which makes the savage merciless. Nobody could die while they
felt like that inside. The springs there were wound so tight that it
would be a long while before there was any slack in them. The life in
there was rooted deep. She was going to have a few things before she
died. She realized that there were a great many trains dashing east and
west on the face of the continent that night, and that they all carried
young people who meant to have things. But the difference was that SHE
WAS GOING TO GET THEM! That was all. Let people try to stop her! She
glowered at the rows of feckless bodies that lay sprawled in the chairs.
Let them try it once! Along with the yearning that came from some deep
part of her, that was selfless and exalted, Thea had a hard kind of
cockiness, a determination to get ahead. Well, there are passages in
life when that fierce, stubborn self-assertion will stand its ground
after the nobler feeling is overwhelmed and beaten under.

Having told herself once more that she meant to grab a few things, Thea
went to sleep.

She was wakened in the morning by the sunlight, which beat fiercely
through the glass of the car window upon her face. She made herself as
clean as she could, and while the people all about her were getting cold
food out of their lunch-baskets she escaped into the dining-car. Her
thrift did not go to the point of enabling her to carry a lunchbasket.
At that early hour there were few people in the dining-car. The linen
was white and fresh, the darkies were trim and smiling, and the sunlight
gleamed pleasantly upon the silver and the glass water-bottles. On each
table there was a slender vase with a single pink rose in it. When Thea
sat down she looked into her rose and thought it the most beautiful
thing in the world; it was wide open, recklessly offering its yellow
heart, and there were drops of water on the petals. All the future was
in that rose, all that one would like to be. The flower put her in an
absolutely regal mood. She had a whole pot of coffee, and scrambled eggs
with chopped ham, utterly disregarding the astonishing price they cost.
She had faith enough in what she could do, she told herself, to have
eggs if she wanted them. At the table opposite her sat a man and his
wife and little boy--Thea classified them as being "from the East."
They spoke in that quick, sure staccato, which Thea, like Ray Kennedy,
pretended to scorn and secretly admired. People who could use words in
that confident way, and who spoke them elegantly, had a great advantage
in life, she reflected. There were so many words which she could not
pronounce in speech as she had to do in singing. Language was like
clothes; it could be a help to one, or it could give one away. But the
most important thing was that one should not pretend to be what one was
not.

When she paid her check she consulted the waiter. "Waiter, do you
suppose I could buy one of those roses? I'm out of the day-coach, and
there is a sick girl in there. I'd like to take her a cup of coffee and
one of those flowers."

The waiter liked nothing better than advising travelers less
sophisticated than himself. He told Thea there were a few roses left in
the icebox and he would get one. He took the flower and the coffee into
the day-coach. Thea pointed out the girl, but she did not accompany him.
She hated thanks and never received them gracefully. She stood outside
on the platform to get some fresh air into her lungs. The train was
crossing the Platte River now, and the sunlight was so intense that it
seemed to quiver in little flames on the glittering sandbars, the scrub
willows, and the curling, fretted shallows.

Thea felt that she was coming back to her own land. She had often heard
Mrs. Kronborg say that she "believed in immigration," and so did Thea
believe in it. This earth seemed to her young and fresh and kindly, a
place where refugees from old, sad countries were given another chance.
The mere absence of rocks gave the soil a kind of amiability and
generosity, and the absence of natural boundaries gave the spirit a
wider range. Wire fences might mark the end of a man's pasture, but they
could not shut in his thoughts as mountains and forests can. It was over
flat lands like this, stretching out to drink the sun, that the larks
sang--and one's heart sang there, too. Thea was glad that this was her
country, even if one did not learn to speak elegantly there. It was,
somehow, an honest country, and there was a new song in that blue air
which had never been sung in the world before. It was hard to tell about
it, for it had nothing to do with words; it was like the light of the
desert at noon, or the smell of the sagebrush after rain; intangible but
powerful. She had the sense of going back to a friendly soil, whose
friendship was somehow going to strengthen her; a naive, generous
country that gave one its joyous force, its large-hearted, childlike
power to love, just as it gave one its coarse, brilliant flowers.

As she drew in that glorious air Thea's mind went back to Ray Kennedy.
He, too, had that feeling of empire; as if all the Southwest really
belonged to him because he had knocked about over it so much, and knew
it, as he said, "like the blisters on his own hands." That feeling, she
reflected, was the real element of companionship between her and Ray.
Now that she was going back to Colorado, she realized this as she had
not done before.



IX

THEA reached Moonstone in the late afternoon, and all the Kronborgs were
there to meet her except her two older brothers. Gus and Charley were
young men now, and they had declared at noon that it would "look silly
if the whole bunch went down to the train." "There's no use making a
fuss over Thea just because she's been to Chicago," Charley warned his
mother. "She's inclined to think pretty well of herself, anyhow, and if
you go treating her like company, there'll be no living in the house
with her." Mrs. Kronborg simply leveled her eyes at Charley, and he
faded away, muttering. She had, as Mr. Kronborg always said with an
inclination of his head, good control over her children. Anna, too,
wished to absent herself from the party, but in the end her curiosity
got the better of her. So when Thea stepped down from the porter's
stool, a very creditable Kronborg representation was grouped on the
platform to greet her. After they had all kissed her (Gunner and Axel
shyly), Mr. Kronborg hurried his flock into the hotel omnibus, in which
they were to be driven ceremoniously home, with the neighbors looking
out of their windows to see them go by.

All the family talked to her at once, except Thor,--impressive in new
trousers,--who was gravely silent and who refused to sit on Thea's lap.
One of the first things Anna told her was that Maggie Evans, the girl
who used to cough in prayer meeting, died yesterday, and had made a
request that Thea sing at her funeral.

Thea's smile froze. "I'm not going to sing at all this summer, except my
exercises. Bowers says I taxed my voice last winter, singing at funerals
so much. If I begin the first day after I get home, there'll be no end
to it. You can tell them I caught cold on the train, or something."

Thea saw Anna glance at their mother. Thea remembered having seen that
look on Anna's face often before, but she had never thought anything
about it because she was used to it. Now she realized that the look was
distinctly spiteful, even vindictive. She suddenly realized that Anna
had always disliked her.

Mrs. Kronborg seemed to notice nothing, and changed the trend of the
conversation, telling Thea that Dr. Archie and Mr. Upping, the jeweler,
were both coming in to see her that evening, and that she had asked
Spanish Johnny to come, because he had behaved well all winter and ought
to be encouraged.

The next morning Thea wakened early in her own room up under the eaves
and lay watching the sunlight shine on the roses of her wall-paper. She
wondered whether she would ever like a plastered room as well as this
one lined with scantlings. It was snug and tight, like the cabin of a
little boat. Her bed faced the window and stood against the wall, under
the slant of the ceiling. When she went away she could just touch the
ceiling with the tips of her fingers; now she could touch it with the
palm of her hand. It was so little that it was like a sunny cave, with
roses running all over the roof. Through the low window, as she lay
there, she could watch people going by on the farther side of the
street; men, going downtown to open their stores. Thor was over there,
rattling his express wagon along the sidewalk. Tillie had put a bunch of
French pinks in a tumbler of water on her dresser, and they gave out a
pleasant perfume. The blue jays were fighting and screeching in the
cottonwood tree outside her window, as they always did, and she could
hear the old Baptist deacon across the street calling his chickens, as
she had heard him do every summer morning since she could remember. It
was pleasant to waken up in that bed, in that room, and to feel the
brightness of the morning, while light quivered about the low, papered
ceiling in golden spots, refracted by the broken mirror and the glass of
water that held the pinks. "IM LEUCHTENDEN SOMMERMORGEN"; those lines,
and the face of her old teacher, came back to Thea, floated to her out
of sleep, perhaps. She had been dreaming something pleasant, but she
could not remember what. She would go to call upon Mrs. Kohler to-day,
and see the pigeons washing their pink feet in the drip under the water
tank, and flying about their house that was sure to have a fresh coat of
white paint on it for summer. On the way home she would stop to see Mrs.
Tellamantez. On Sunday she would coax Gunner to take her out to the sand
hills. She had missed them in Chicago; had been homesick for their
brilliant morning gold and for their soft colors at evening. The Lake,
somehow, had never taken their place.

While she lay planning, relaxed in warm drowsiness, she heard a knock at
her door. She supposed it was Tillie, who sometimes fluttered in on her
before she was out of bed to offer some service which the family would
have ridiculed. But instead, Mrs. Kronborg herself came in, carrying a
tray with Thea's breakfast set out on one of the best white napkins.
Thea sat up with some embarrassment and pulled her nightgown together
across her chest. Mrs. Kronborg was always busy downstairs in the
morning, and Thea could not remember when her mother had come to her
room before.

"I thought you'd be tired, after traveling, and might like to take it
easy for once." Mrs. Kronborg put the tray on the edge of the bed. "I
took some thick cream for you before the boys got at it. They raised a
howl." She chuckled and sat down in the big wooden rocking chair. Her
visit made Thea feel grown-up, and, somehow, important.

Mrs. Kronborg asked her about Bowers and the Harsanyis. She felt a great
change in Thea, in her face and in her manner. Mr. Kronborg had noticed
it, too, and had spoken of it to his wife with great satisfaction while
they were undressing last night. Mrs. Kronborg sat looking at her
daughter, who lay on her side, supporting herself on her elbow and
lazily drinking her coffee from the tray before her. Her short-sleeved
nightgown had come open at the throat again, and Mrs. Kronborg noticed
how white her arms and shoulders were, as if they had been dipped in new
milk. Her chest was fuller than when she went away, her breasts rounder
and firmer, and though she was so white where she was uncovered, they
looked rosy through the thin muslin. Her body had the elasticity that
comes of being highly charged with the desire to live. Her hair, hanging
in two loose braids, one by either cheek, was just enough disordered to
catch the light in all its curly ends.

Thea always woke with a pink flush on her cheeks, and this morning her
mother thought she had never seen her eyes so wide-open and bright; like
clear green springs in the wood, when the early sunlight sparkles in
them. She would make a very handsome woman, Mrs. Kronborg said to
herself, if she would only get rid of that fierce look she had
sometimes. Mrs. Kronborg took great pleasure in good looks, wherever she
found them. She still remembered that, as a baby, Thea had been the
"best-formed" of any of her children.

"I'll have to get you a longer bed," she remarked, as she put the tray
on the table. "You're getting too long for that one."

Thea looked up at her mother and laughed, dropping back on her pillow
with a magnificent stretch of her whole body. Mrs. Kronborg sat down
again.

"I don't like to press you, Thea, but I think you'd better sing at that
funeral to-morrow. I'm afraid you'll always be sorry if you don't.
Sometimes a little thing like that, that seems nothing at the time,
comes back on one afterward and troubles one a good deal. I don't mean
the church shall run you to death this summer, like they used to. I've
spoken my mind to your father about that, and he's very reasonable. But
Maggie talked a good deal about you to people this winter; always asked
what word we'd had, and said how she missed your singing and all. I
guess you ought to do that much for her."

"All right, mother, if you think so." Thea lay looking at her mother
with intensely bright eyes.

"That's right, daughter." Mrs. Kronborg rose and went over to get the
tray, stopping to put her hand on Thea's chest. "You're filling out
nice," she said, feeling about. "No, I wouldn't bother about the
buttons. Leave 'em stay off. This is a good time to harden your chest."

Thea lay still and heard her mother's firm step receding along the bare
floor of the trunk loft. There was no sham about her mother, she
reflected. Her mother knew a great many things of which she never
talked, and all the church people were forever chattering about things
of which they knew nothing. She liked her mother.

Now for Mexican Town and the Kohlers! She meant to run in on the old
woman without warning, and hug her.



X


SPANISH JOHNNY had no shop of his own, but he kept a table and an
order-book in one corner of the drug store where paints and wall-paper
were sold, and he was sometimes to be found there for an hour or so
about noon. Thea had gone into the drug store to have a friendly chat
with the proprietor, who used to lend her books from his shelves. She
found Johnny there, trimming rolls of wall-paper for the parlor of
Banker Smith's new house. She sat down on the top of his table and
watched him.

"Johnny," she said suddenly, "I want you to write down the words of that
Mexican serenade you used to sing; you know, `ROSA DE NOCHE.' It's an
unusual song. I'm going to study it. I know enough Spanish for that."

Johnny looked up from his roller with his bright, affable smile. "SI,
but it is low for you, I think; VOZ CONTRALTO. It is low for me."

"Nonsense. I can do more with my low voice than I used to. I'll show
you. Sit down and write it out for me, please." Thea beckoned him with
the short yellow pencil tied to his order-book.

Johnny ran his fingers through his curly black hair. "If you wish. I do
not know if that SERENATA all right for young ladies. Down there it is
more for married ladies. They sing it for husbands--or somebody else,
may-bee." Johnny's eyes twinkled and he apologized gracefully with his
shoulders. He sat down at the table, and while Thea looked over his arm,
began to write the song down in a long, slanting script, with highly
ornamental capitals. Presently he looked up. "This-a song not exactly
Mexican," he said thoughtfully. "It come from farther down; Brazil,
Venezuela, may-bee. I learn it from some fellow down there, and he learn
it from another fellow. It is-a most like Mexican, but not quite." Thea
did not release him, but pointed to the paper. There were three verses
of the song in all, and when Johnny had written them down, he sat
looking at them meditatively, his head on one side. "I don' think for a
high voice, SENORITA," he objected with polite persistence. "How you
accompany with piano?"

"Oh, that will be easy enough."

"For you, may-bee!" Johnny smiled and drummed on the table with the tips
of his agile brown fingers. "You know something? Listen, I tell you." He
rose and sat down on the table beside her, putting his foot on the
chair. He loved to talk at the hour of noon. "When you was a little
girl, no bigger than that, you come to my house one day 'bout noon, like
this, and I was in the door, playing guitar. You was barehead, barefoot;
you run away from home. You stand there and make a frown at me an'
listen. By 'n by you say for me to sing. I sing some lil' ting, and then
I say for you to sing with me. You don' know no words, of course, but
you take the air and you sing it justa beauti-ful! I never see a child
do that, outside Mexico. You was, oh, I do' know--seven year, may-bee.
By 'n by the preacher come look for you and begin for scold. I say,
`Don' scold, Meester Kronborg. She come for hear guitar. She gotta some
music in her, that child. Where she get?' Then he tell me 'bout your
gran'papa play oboe in the old country. I never forgetta that time."
Johnny chuckled softly.

Thea nodded. "I remember that day, too. I liked your music better than
the church music. When are you going to have a dance over there,
Johnny?"

Johnny tilted his head. "Well, Saturday night the Spanish boys have a
lil' party, some DANZA. You know Miguel Ramas? He have some young
cousins, two boys, very nice-a, come from Torreon. They going to Salt
Lake for some job-a, and stay off with him two-three days, and he mus'
have a party. You like to come?"

That was how Thea came to go to the Mexican ball. Mexican Town had been
increased by half a dozen new families during the last few years, and
the Mexicans had put up an adobe dance-hall, that looked exactly like
one of their own dwellings, except that it was a little longer, and was
so unpretentious that nobody in Moonstone knew of its existence. The
"Spanish boys" are reticent about their own affairs. Ray Kennedy used to
know about all their little doings, but since his death there was no one
whom the Mexicans considered SIMPATICO.

On Saturday evening after supper Thea told her mother that she was going
over to Mrs. Tellamantez's to watch the Mexicans dance for a while, and
that Johnny would bring her home.

Mrs. Kronborg smiled. She noticed that Thea had put on a white dress and
had done her hair up with unusual care, and that she carried her best
blue scarf. "Maybe you'll take a turn yourself, eh? I wouldn't mind
watching them Mexicans. They're lovely dancers."

Thea made a feeble suggestion that her mother might go with her, but
Mrs. Kronborg was too wise for that. She knew that Thea would have a
better time if she went alone, and she watched her daughter go out of
the gate and down the sidewalk that led to the depot.

Thea walked slowly. It was a soft, rosy evening. The sand hills were
lavender. The sun had gone down a glowing copper disk, and the fleecy
clouds in the east were a burning rose-color, flecked with gold. Thea
passed the cottonwood grove and then the depot, where she left the
sidewalk and took the sandy path toward Mexican Town. She could hear the
scraping of violins being tuned, the tinkle of mandolins, and the growl
of a double bass. Where had they got a double bass? She did not know
there was one in Moonstone. She found later that it was the property
of one of Ramas's young cousins, who was taking it to Utah with him
to cheer him at his "job-a."

The Mexicans never wait until it is dark to begin to dance, and Thea had
no difficulty in finding the new hall, because every other house in the
town was deserted. Even the babies had gone to the ball; a neighbor was
always willing to hold the baby while the mother danced. Mrs.
Tellamantez came out to meet Thea and led her in. Johnny bowed to her
from the platform at the end of the room, where he was playing the
mandolin along with two fiddles and the bass. The hall was a long low
room, with whitewashed walls, a fairly tight plank floor, wooden benches
along the sides, and a few bracket lamps screwed to the frame timbers.
There must have been fifty people there, counting the children. The
Mexican dances were very much family affairs. The fathers always danced
again and again with their little daughters, as well as with their
wives. One of the girls came up to greet Thea, her dark cheeks glowing
with pleasure and cordiality, and introduced her brother, with whom she
had just been dancing. "You better take him every time he asks you," she
whispered. "He's the best dancer here, except Johnny."

Thea soon decided that the poorest dancer was herself. Even Mrs.
Tellamantez, who always held her shoulders so stiffly, danced better
than she did. The musicians did not remain long at their post. When one
of them felt like dancing, he called some other boy to take his
instrument, put on his coat, and went down on the floor. Johnny, who
wore a blousy white silk shirt, did not even put on his coat.

The dances the railroad men gave in Firemen's Hall were the only dances
Thea had ever been allowed to go to, and they were very different from
this. The boys played rough jokes and thought it smart to be clumsy and
to run into each other on the floor. For the square dances there was
always the bawling voice of the caller, who was also the county
auctioneer.

This Mexican dance was soft and quiet. There was no calling, the
conversation was very low, the rhythm of the music was smooth and
engaging, the men were graceful and courteous. Some of them Thea had
never before seen out of their working clothes, smeared with grease from
the round-house or clay from the brickyard. Sometimes, when the music
happened to be a popular Mexican waltz song, the dancers sang it softly
as they moved. There were three little girls under twelve, in their
first communion dresses, and one of them had an orange marigold in her
black hair, just over her ear. They danced with the men and with each
other. There was an atmosphere of ease and friendly pleasure in the low,
dimly lit room, and Thea could not help wondering whether the Mexicans
had no jealousies or neighborly grudges as the people in Moonstone had.
There was no constraint of any kind there to-night, but a kind of
natural harmony about their movements, their greetings, their low
conversation, their smiles.

Ramas brought up his two young cousins, Silvo and Felipe, and presented
them. They were handsome, smiling youths, of eighteen and twenty, with
pale-gold skins, smooth cheeks, aquiline features, and wavy black hair,
like Johnny's. They were dressed alike, in black velvet jackets and soft
silk shirts, with opal shirt-buttons and flowing black ties looped
through gold rings. They had charming manners, and low, guitar-like
voices. They knew almost no English, but a Mexican boy can pay a great
many compliments with a very limited vocabulary. The Ramas boys thought
Thea dazzlingly beautiful. They had never seen a Scandinavian girl
before, and her hair and fair skin bewitched them. "BLANCO Y ORO,
SEMEJANTE LA PASCUA!" (White and gold, like Easter!) they exclaimed to
each other. Silvo, the younger, declared that he could never go on to
Utah; that he and his double bass had reached their ultimate
destination. The elder was more crafty; he asked Miguel Ramas whether
there would be "plenty more girls like that _A_ Salt Lake, maybee?"

Silvo, overhearing, gave his brother a contemptuous glance. "Plenty more
A PARAISO may-bee!" he retorted. When they were not dancing with her,
their eyes followed her, over the coiffures of their other partners.
That was not difficult; one blonde head moving among so many dark ones.

Thea had not meant to dance much, but the Ramas boys danced so well and
were so handsome and adoring that she yielded to their entreaties. When
she sat out a dance with them, they talked to her about their family at
home, and told her how their mother had once punned upon their name.
RAMA, in Spanish, meant a branch, they explained. Once when they were
little lads their mother took them along when she went to help the women
decorate the church for Easter. Some one asked her whether she had
brought any flowers, and she replied that she had brought her "ramas."
This was evidently a cherished family story.

When it was nearly midnight, Johnny announced that every one was going
to his house to have "some lil' icecream and some lil' MUSICA." He began
to put out the lights and Mrs. Tellamantez led the way across the square
to her CASA. The Ramas brothers escorted Thea, and as they stepped out
of the door, Silvo exclaimed, "HACE FRIO!" and threw his velvet coat
about her shoulders.

Most of the company followed Mrs. Tellamantez, and they sat about on the
gravel in her little yard while she and Johnny and Mrs. Miguel Ramas
served the ice-cream. Thea sat on Felipe's coat, since Silvo's was
already about her shoulders. The youths lay down on the shining gravel
beside her, one on her right and one on her left. Johnny already called
them "LOS ACOLITOS," the altar-boys. The talk all about them was low,
and indolent. One of the girls was playing on Johnny's guitar, another
was picking lightly at a mandolin. The moonlight was so bright that one
could see every glance and smile, and the flash of their teeth. The
moonflowers over Mrs. Tellamantez's door were wide open and of an
unearthly white. The moon itself looked like a great pale flower in the
sky.

After all the ice-cream was gone, Johnny approached Thea, his guitar
under his arm, and the elder Ramas boy politely gave up his place.
Johnny sat down, took a long breath, struck a fierce chord, and then
hushed it with his other hand. "Now we have some lil' SERENATA, eh? You
wan' a try?"

When Thea began to sing, instant silence fell upon the company. She felt
all those dark eyes fix themselves upon her intently. She could see them
shine. The faces came out of the shadow like the white flowers over the
door. Felipe leaned his head upon his hand. Silvo dropped on his back
and lay looking at the moon, under the impression that he was still
looking at Thea. When she finished the first verse, Thea whispered to
Johnny, "Again, I can do it better than that."

She had sung for churches and funerals and teachers, but she had never
before sung for a really musical people, and this was the first time she
had ever felt the response that such a people can give. They turned
themselves and all they had over to her. For the moment they cared about
nothing in the world but what she was doing. Their faces confronted her,
open, eager, unprotected. She felt as if all these warm-blooded people
debouched into her. Mrs. Tellamantez's fateful resignation, Johnny's
madness, the adoration of the boy who lay still in the sand; in an
instant these things seemed to be within her instead of without, as if
they had come from her in the first place.

When she finished, her listeners broke into excited murmur. The men
began hunting feverishly for cigarettes. Famos Serranos the barytone
bricklayer, touched Johnny's arm, gave him a questioning look, then
heaved a deep sigh. Johnny dropped on his elbow, wiping his face and
neck and hands with his handkerchief. "SENORITA," he panted, "if you
sing like that once in the City of Mexico, they just-a go crazy. In the
City of Mexico they ain't-a sit like stumps when they hear that, not-a
much! When they like, they just-a give you the town."

Thea laughed. She, too, was excited. "Think so, Johnny? Come, sing
something with me. EL PARRENO; I haven't sung that for a long time."

Johnny laughed and hugged his guitar. "You not-a forget him?" He began
teasing his strings. "Come!" He threw back his head, "ANOCHE-E-E--"


"ANOCHE ME CONFESSE CON UN PADRE CARMELITE, Y ME DIO PENITENCIA QUE
BESARAS TU BOQUITA."

(Last night I made confession With a Carmelite father, And he gave me
absolution For the kisses you imprinted.)


Johnny had almost every fault that a tenor can have. His voice was thin,
unsteady, husky in the middle tones. But it was distinctly a voice, and
sometimes he managed to get something very sweet out of it. Certainly it
made him happy to sing. Thea kept glancing down at him as he lay there
on his elbow. His eyes seemed twice as large as usual and had lights in
them like those the moonlight makes on black, running water. Thea
remembered the old stories about his "spells." She had never seen him
when his madness was on him, but she felt something tonight at her elbow
that gave her an idea of what it might be like. For the first time she
fully understood the cryptic explanation that Mrs. Tellamantez had made
to Dr. Archie, long ago. There were the same shells along the walk; she
believed she could pick out the very one. There was the same moon up
yonder, and panting at her elbow was the same Johnny--fooled by the same
old things!

When they had finished, Famos, the barytone, murmured something to
Johnny; who replied, "Sure we can sing `Trovatore.' We have no alto, but
all the girls can sing alto and make some noise."

The women laughed. Mexican women of the poorer class do not sing like
the men. Perhaps they are too indolent. In the evening, when the men are
singing their throats dry on the doorstep, or around the camp-fire
beside the work-train, the women usually sit and comb their hair.

While Johnny was gesticulating and telling everybody what to sing and
how to sing it, Thea put out her foot and touched the corpse of Silvo
with the toe of her slipper. "Aren't you going to sing, Silvo?" she
asked teasingly.

The boy turned on his side and raised himself on his elbow for a moment.
"Not this night, SENORITA," he pleaded softly, "not this night!" He
dropped back again, and lay with his cheek on his right arm, the hand
lying passive on the sand above his head.

"How does he flatten himself into the ground like that?" Thea asked
herself. "I wish I knew. It's very effective, somehow."

Across the gulch the Kohlers' little house slept among its trees, a dark
spot on the white face of the desert. The windows of their upstairs
bedroom were open, and Paulina had listened to the dance music for a
long while before she drowsed off. She was a light sleeper, and when she
woke again, after midnight, Johnny's concert was at its height. She lay
still until she could bear it no longer. Then she wakened Fritz and they
went over to the window and leaned out. They could hear clearly there.

"DIE THEA," whispered Mrs. Kohler; "it must be. ACH, WUNDERSCHON!"

Fritz was not so wide awake as his wife. He grunted and scratched on the
floor with his bare foot. They were listening to a Mexican part-song;
the tenor, then the soprano, then both together; the barytone joins
them, rages, is extinguished; the tenor expires in sobs, and the soprano
finishes alone. When the soprano's last note died away, Fritz nodded to
his wife. "JA," he said; "SCHON."

There was silence for a few moments. Then the guitar sounded fiercely,
and several male voices began the sextette from "Lucia." Johnny's reedy
tenor they knew well, and the bricklayer's big, opaque barytone; the
others might be anybody over there--just Mexican voices. Then at the
appointed, at the acute, moment, the soprano voice, like a fountain jet,
shot up into the light. "HORCH! HORCH!" the old people whispered, both
at once. How it leaped from among those dusky male voices! How it played
in and about and around and over them, like a goldfish darting among
creek minnows, like a yellow butterfly soaring above a swarm of dark
ones. "Ah," said Mrs. Kohler softly, "the dear man; if he could hear her
now!"



XI


MRS. KRONBORG had said that Thea was not to be disturbed on Sunday
morning, and she slept until noon. When she came downstairs the family
were just sitting down to dinner, Mr. Kronborg at one end of the long
table, Mrs. Kronborg at the other. Anna, stiff and ceremonious, in her
summer silk, sat at her father's right, and the boys were strung along
on either side of the table. There was a place left for Thea between her
mother and Thor. During the silence which preceded the blessing, Thea
felt something uncomfortable in the air. Anna and her older brothers had
lowered their eyes when she came in. Mrs. Kronborg nodded cheerfully,
and after the blessing, as she began to pour the coffee, turned to her.

"I expect you had a good time at that dance, Thea. I hope you got your
sleep out."

"High society, that," remarked Charley, giving the mashed potatoes a
vicious swat. Anna's mouth and eyebrows became half-moons.

Thea looked across the table at the uncompromising countenances of her
older brothers. "Why, what's the matter with the Mexicans?" she asked,
flushing. "They don't trouble anybody, and they are kind to their
families and have good manners."

"Nice clean people; got some style about them. Do you really like that
kind, Thea, or do you just pretend to? That's what I'd like to know."
Gus looked at her with pained inquiry. But he at least looked at her.

"They're just as clean as white people, and they have a perfect right to
their own ways. Of course I like 'em. I don't pretend things."

"Everybody according to their own taste," remarked Charley bitterly.
"Quit crumbing your bread up, Thor. Ain't you learned how to eat yet?"

"Children, children!" said Mr. Kronborg nervously, looking up from the
chicken he was dismembering. He glanced at his wife, whom he expected to
maintain harmony in the family.

"That's all right, Charley. Drop it there," said Mrs. Kronborg. "No use
spoiling your Sunday dinner with race prejudices. The Mexicans suit me
and Thea very well. They are a useful people. Now you can just talk
about something else."

Conversation, however, did not flourish at that dinner. Everybody ate as
fast as possible. Charley and Gus said they had engagements and left the
table as soon as they finished their apple pie. Anna sat primly and ate
with great elegance. When she spoke at all she spoke to her father,
about church matters, and always in a commiserating tone, as if he had
met with some misfortune. Mr. Kronborg, quite innocent of her
intentions, replied kindly and absent-mindedly. After the dessert he
went to take his usual Sunday afternoon nap, and Mrs. Kronborg carried
some dinner to a sick neighbor. Thea and Anna began to clear the table.

"I should think you would show more consideration for father's position,
Thea," Anna began as soon as she and her sister were alone.

Thea gave her a sidelong glance. "Why, what have I done to father?"

"Everybody at Sunday-School was talking about you going over there and
singing with the Mexicans all night, when you won't sing for the church.
Somebody heard you, and told it all over town. Of course, we all get the
blame for it."

"Anything disgraceful about singing?" Thea asked with a provoking yawn.

"I must say you choose your company! You always had that streak in you,
Thea. We all hoped that going away would improve you. Of course, it
reflects on father when you are scarcely polite to the nice people here
and make up to the rowdies."

"Oh, it's my singing with the Mexicans you object to?" Thea put down a
tray full of dishes. "Well, I like to sing over there, and I don't like
to over here. I'll sing for them any time they ask me to. They know
something about what I'm doing. They're a talented people."

"Talented!" Anna made the word sound like escaping steam. "I suppose you
think it's smart to come home and throw that at your family!"

Thea picked up the tray. By this time she was as white as the Sunday
tablecloth. "Well," she replied in a cold, even tone, "I'll have to
throw it at them sooner or later. It's just a question of when, and it
might as well be now as any time." She carried the tray blindly into the
kitchen.

Tillie, who was always listening and looking out for her, took the
dishes from her with a furtive, frightened glance at her stony face.
Thea went slowly up the back stairs to her loft. Her legs seemed as
heavy as lead as she climbed the stairs, and she felt as if everything
inside her had solidified and grown hard.

After shutting her door and locking it, she sat down on the edge of her
bed. This place had always been her refuge, but there was a hostility in
the house now which this door could not shut out. This would be her last
summer in that room. Its services were over; its time was done. She rose
and put her hand on the low ceiling. Two tears ran down her cheeks, as
if they came from ice that melted slowly. She was not ready to leave her
little shell. She was being pulled out too soon. She would never be able
to think anywhere else as well as here. She would never sleep so well or
have such dreams in any other bed; even last night, such sweet,
breathless dreams--Thea hid her face in the pillow. Wherever she went
she would like to take that little bed with her. When she went away from
it for good, she would leave something that she could never recover;
memories of pleasant excitement, of happy adventures in her mind; of
warm sleep on howling winter nights, and joyous awakenings on summer
mornings. There were certain dreams that might refuse to come to her at
all except in a little morning cave, facing the sun--where they came to
her so powerfully, where they beat a triumph in her!

The room was hot as an oven. The sun was beating fiercely on the
shingles behind the board ceiling. She undressed, and before she threw
herself upon her bed in her chemise, she frowned at herself for a long
while in her looking-glass. Yes, she and It must fight it out together.
The thing that looked at her out of her own eyes was the only friend she
could count on. Oh, she would make these people sorry enough! There
would come a time when they would want to make it up with her. But,
never again! She had no little vanities, only one big one, and she would
never forgive.

Her mother was all right, but her mother was a part of the family, and
she was not. In the nature of things, her mother had to be on both
sides. Thea felt that she had been betrayed. A truce had been broken
behind her back. She had never had much individual affection for any of
her brothers except Thor, but she had never been disloyal, never felt
scorn or held grudges. As a little girl she had always been good friends
with Gunner and Axel, whenever she had time to play. Even before she got
her own room, when they were all sleeping and dressing together, like
little cubs, and breakfasting in the kitchen, she had led an absorbing
personal life of her own. But she had a cub loyalty to the other cubs.
She thought them nice boys and tried to make them get their lessons. She
once fought a bully who "picked on" Axel at school. She never made fun
of Anna's crimpings and curlings and beauty-rites.

Thea had always taken it for granted that her sister and brothers
recognized that she had special abilities, and that they were proud of
it. She had done them the honor, she told herself bitterly, to believe
that though they had no particular endowments, THEY WERE OF HER KIND,
and not of the Moonstone kind. Now they had all grown up and become
persons. They faced each other as individuals, and she saw that Anna and
Gus and Charley were among the people whom she had always recognized as
her natural enemies. Their ambitions and sacred proprieties were
meaningless to her. She had neglected to congratulate Charley upon
having been promoted from the grocery department of Commings's store to
the drygoods department. Her mother had reproved her for this omission.
And how was she to know, Thea asked herself, that Anna expected to be
teased because Bert Rice now came and sat in the hammock with her every
night? No, it was all clear enough. Nothing that she would ever do in
the world would seem important to them, and nothing they would ever do
would seem important to her.

Thea lay thinking intently all through the stifling afternoon. Tillie
whispered something outside her door once, but she did not answer. She
lay on her bed until the second church bell rang, and she saw the family
go trooping up the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street, Anna and
her father in the lead. Anna seemed to have taken on a very story-book
attitude toward her father; patronizing and condescending, it seemed to
Thea. The older boys were not in the family band. They now took their
girls to church. Tillie had stayed at home to get supper. Thea got up,
washed her hot face and arms, and put on the white organdie dress she
had worn last night; it was getting too small for her, and she might as
well wear it out. After she was dressed she unlocked her door and went
cautiously downstairs. She felt as if chilling hostilities might be
awaiting her in the trunk loft, on the stairway, almost anywhere. In the
dining-room she found Tillie, sitting by the open window, reading the
dramatic news in a Denver Sunday paper. Tillie kept a scrapbook in which
she pasted clippings about actors and actresses.

"Come look at this picture of Pauline Hall in tights, Thea," she called.
"Ain't she cute? It's too bad you didn't go to the theater more when you
was in Chicago; such a good chance! Didn't you even get to see Clara
Morris or Modjeska?"

"No; I didn't have time. Besides, it costs money, Tillie," Thea replied
wearily, glancing at the paper Tillie held out to her.

Tillie looked up at her niece. "Don't you go and be upset about any of
Anna's notions. She's one of these narrow kind. Your father and mother
don't pay any attention to what she says. Anna's fussy; she is with me,
but I don't mind her."

"Oh, I don't mind her. That's all right, Tillie. I guess I'll take a
walk."

Thea knew that Tillie hoped she would stay and talk to her for a while,
and she would have liked to please her. But in a house as small as that
one, everything was too intimate and mixed up together. The family was
the family, an integral thing. One couldn't discuss Anna there. She felt
differently toward the house and everything in it, as if the battered
old furniture that seemed so kindly, and the old carpets on which she
had played, had been nourishing a secret grudge against her and were not
to be trusted any more.

She went aimlessly out of the front gate, not knowing what to do with
herself. Mexican Town, somehow, was spoiled for her just then, and she
felt that she would hide if she saw Silvo or Felipe coming toward her.
She walked down through the empty main street. All the stores were
closed, their blinds down. On the steps of the bank some idle boys were
sitting, telling disgusting stories because there was nothing else to
do. Several of them had gone to school with Thea, but when she nodded to
them they hung their heads and did not speak. Thea's body was often
curiously expressive of what was going on in her mind, and to-night
there was something in her walk and carriage that made these boys feel
that she was "stuck up." If she had stopped and talked to them, they
would have thawed out on the instant and would have been friendly and
grateful. But Thea was hurt afresh, and walked on, holding her chin
higher than ever. As she passed the Duke Block, she saw a light in Dr.
Archie's office, and she went up the stairs and opened the door into his
study. She found him with a pile of papers and accountbooks before him.
He pointed her to her old chair at the end of his desk and leaned back
in his own, looking at her with satisfaction. How handsome she was
growing!

"I'm still chasing the elusive metal, Thea,"--he pointed to the papers
before him,--"I'm up to my neck in mines, and I'm going to be a rich man
some day."

"I hope you will; awfully rich. That's the only thing that counts." She
looked restlessly about the consultingroom. "To do any of the things one
wants to do, one has to have lots and lots of money."

Dr. Archie was direct. "What's the matter? Do you need some?"

Thea shrugged. "Oh, I can get along, in a little way." She looked
intently out of the window at the arc streetlamp that was just beginning
to sputter. "But it's silly to live at all for little things," she added
quietly. "Living's too much trouble unless one can get something big out
of it."

Dr. Archie rested his elbows on the arms of his chair, dropped his chin
on his clasped hands and looked at her. "Living is no trouble for little
people, believe me!" he exclaimed. "What do you want to get out of it?"

"Oh--so many things!" Thea shivered.

"But what? Money? You mentioned that. Well, you can make money, if you
care about that more than anything else." He nodded prophetically above
his interlacing fingers.

"But I don't. That's only one thing. Anyhow, I couldn't if I did." She
pulled her dress lower at the neck as if she were suffocating. "I only
want impossible things," she said roughly. "The others don't interest
me."

Dr. Archie watched her contemplatively, as if she were a beaker full of
chemicals working. A few years ago, when she used to sit there, the
light from under his green lampshade used to fall full upon her broad
face and yellow pigtails. Now her face was in the shadow and the line of
light fell below her bare throat, directly across her bosom. The
shrunken white organdie rose and fell as if she were struggling to be
free and to break out of it altogether. He felt that her heart must be
laboring heavily in there, but he was afraid to touch her; he was,
indeed. He had never seen her like this before. Her hair, piled high on
her head, gave her a commanding look, and her eyes, that used to be so
inquisitive, were stormy.

"Thea," he said slowly, "I won't say that you can have everything you
want--that means having nothing, in reality. But if you decide what it
is you want most, YOU CAN GET IT." His eye caught hers for a moment.
"Not everybody can, but you can. Only, if you want a big thing, you've
got to have nerve enough to cut out all that's easy, everything that's
to be had cheap." Dr. Archie paused. He picked up a paper-cutter and,
feeling the edge of it softly with his fingers, he added slowly, as if
to himself:--


"He either fears his fate too much, Or his deserts are small, Who dares
not put it to the touch To win...or lose it all."


Thea's lips parted; she looked at him from under a frown, searching his
face. "Do you mean to break loose, too, and--do something?" she asked
in a low voice.

"I mean to get rich, if you call that doing anything. I've found what I
can do without. You make such bargains in your mind, first."

Thea sprang up and took the paper-cutter he had put down, twisting it in
her hands. "A long while first, sometimes," she said with a short laugh.
"But suppose one can never get out what they've got in them? Suppose
they make a mess of it in the end; then what?" She threw the
paper-cutter on the desk and took a step toward the doctor, until her
dress touched him. She stood looking down at him. "Oh, it's easy to
fail!" She was breathing through her mouth and her throat was throbbing
with excitement.

As he looked up at her, Dr. Archie's hands tightened on the arms of his
chair. He had thought he knew Thea Kronborg pretty well, but he did not
know the girl who was standing there. She was beautiful, as his little
Swede had never been, but she frightened him. Her pale cheeks, her
parted lips, her flashing eyes, seemed suddenly to mean one thing--he
did not know what. A light seemed to break upon her from far away--or
perhaps from far within. She seemed to grow taller, like a scarf drawn
out long; looked as if she were pursued and fleeing, and--yes, she
looked tormented. "It's easy to fail," he heard her say again, "and if I
fail, you'd better forget about me, for I'll be one of the worst women
that ever lived. I'll be an awful woman!"

In the shadowy light above the lampshade he caught her glance again and
held it for a moment. Wild as her eyes were, that yellow gleam at the
back of them was as hard as a diamond drill-point. He rose with a
nervous laugh and dropped his hand lightly on her shoulder. "No, you
won't. You'll be a splendid one!"

She shook him off before he could say anything more, and went out of his
door with a kind of bound. She left so quickly and so lightly that he
could not even hear her footstep in the hallway outside. Archie dropped
back into his chair and sat motionless for a long while.

So it went; one loved a quaint little girl, cheerful, industrious,
always on the run and hustling through her tasks; and suddenly one lost
her. He had thought he knew that child like the glove on his hand. But
about this tall girl who threw up her head and glittered like that all
over, he knew nothing. She was goaded by desires, ambitions, revulsions
that were dark to him. One thing he knew: the old highroad of life, worn
safe and easy, hugging the sunny slopes, would scarcely hold her again.

After that night Thea could have asked pretty much anything of him. He
could have refused her nothing. Years ago a crafty little bunch of hair
and smiles had shown him what she wanted, and he had promptly married
her. To-night a very different sort of girl--driven wild by doubts and
youth, by poverty and riches--had let him see the fierceness of her
nature. She went out still distraught, not knowing or caring what she
had shown him. But to Archie knowledge of that sort was obligation. Oh,
he was the same old Howard Archie!


That Sunday in July was the turning-point; Thea's peace of mind did not
come back. She found it hard even to practice at home. There was
something in the air there that froze her throat. In the morning, she
walked as far as she could walk. In the hot afternoons she lay on her
bed in her nightgown, planning fiercely. She haunted the post-office.
She must have worn a path in the sidewalk that led to the post-office,
that summer. She was there the moment the mail-sacks came up from the
depot, morning and evening, and while the letters were being sorted and
distributed she paced up and down outside, under the cottonwood trees,
listening to the thump, thump, thump of Mr. Thompson's stamp. She hung
upon any sort of word from Chicago; a card from Bowers, a letter from
Mrs. Harsanyi, from Mr. Larsen, from her landlady,--anything to reassure
her that Chicago was still there. She began to feel the same
restlessness that had tortured her the last spring when she was teaching
in Moonstone. Suppose she never got away again, after all? Suppose one
broke a leg and had to lie in bed at home for weeks, or had pneumonia
and died there. The desert was so big and thirsty; if one's foot
slipped, it could drink one up like a drop of water.

This time, when Thea left Moonstone to go back to Chicago, she went
alone. As the train pulled out, she looked back at her mother and father
and Thor. They were calm and cheerful; they did not know, they did not
understand. Something pulled in her--and broke. She cried all the way to
Denver, and that night, in her berth, she kept sobbing and waking
herself. But when the sun rose in the morning, she was far away. It was
all behind her, and she knew that she would never cry like that again.
People live through such pain only once; pain comes again, but it finds
a tougher surface. Thea remembered how she had gone away the first time,
with what confidence in everything, and what pitiful ignorance. Such a
silly! She felt resentful toward that stupid, good-natured child. How
much older she was now, and how much harder! She was going away to
fight, and she was going away forever.



PART III



STUPID FACES


I


So many grinning, stupid faces! Thea was sitting by the window in
Bowers's studio, waiting for him to come back from lunch. On her knee
was the latest number of an illustrated musical journal in which
musicians great and little stridently advertised their wares. Every
afternoon she played accompaniments for people who looked and smiled
like these. She was getting tired of the human countenance.

Thea had been in Chicago for two months. She had a small church position
which partly paid her living expenses, and she paid for her singing
lessons by playing Bowers's accompaniments every afternoon from two
until six. She had been compelled to leave her old friends Mrs. Lorch
and Mrs. Andersen, because the long ride from North Chicago to Bowers's
studio on Michigan Avenue took too much time--an hour in the morning,
and at night, when the cars were crowded, an hour and a half. For the
first month she had clung to her old room, but the bad air in the cars,
at the end of a long day's work, fatigued her greatly and was bad for
her voice. Since she left Mrs. Lorch, she had been staying at a
students' club to which she was introduced by Miss Adler, Bowers's
morning accompanist, an intelligent Jewish girl from Evanston.

Thea took her lesson from Bowers every day from eleven-thirty until
twelve. Then she went out to lunch with an Italian grammar under her
arm, and came back to the studio to begin her work at two. In the
afternoon Bowers coached professionals and taught his advanced pupils.
It was his theory that Thea ought to be able to learn a great deal by
keeping her ears open while she played for him.

The concert-going public of Chicago still remembers the long, sallow,
discontented face of Madison Bowers. He seldom missed an evening
concert, and was usually to be seen lounging somewhere at the back of
the concert hall, reading a newspaper or review, and conspicuously
ignoring the efforts of the performers. At the end of a number he looked
up from his paper long enough to sweep the applauding audience with a
contemptuous eye. His face was intelligent, with a narrow lower jaw, a
thin nose, faded gray eyes, and a close-cut brown mustache. His hair was
iron-gray, thin and dead-looking. He went to concerts chiefly to satisfy
himself as to how badly things were done and how gullible the public
was. He hated the whole race of artists; the work they did, the wages
they got, and the way they spent their money. His father, old Hiram
Bowers, was still alive and at work, a genial old choirmaster in Boston,
full of enthusiasm at seventy. But Madison was of the colder stuff of
his grandfathers, a long line of New Hampshire farmers; hard workers,
close traders, with good minds, mean natures, and flinty eyes. As a boy
Madison had a fine barytone voice, and his father made great sacrifices
for him, sending him to Germany at an early age and keeping him abroad
at his studies for years. Madison worked under the best teachers, and
afterward sang in England in oratorio. His cold nature and academic
methods were against him. His audiences were always aware of the
contempt he felt for them. A dozen poorer singers succeeded, but Bowers
did not.

Bowers had all the qualities which go to make a good teacher--except
generosity and warmth. His intelligence was of a high order, his taste
never at fault. He seldom worked with a voice without improving it, and
in teaching the delivery of oratorio he was without a rival. Singers came
from far and near to study Bach and Handel with him. Even the fashionable
sopranos and contraltos of Chicago, St. Paul, and St. Louis (they were
usually ladies with very rich husbands, and Bowers called them the
"pampered jades of Asia") humbly endured his sardonic humor for the sake
of what he could do for them. He was not at all above helping a very
lame singer across, if her husband's check-book warranted it. He had a
whole bag of tricks for stupid people, "life-preservers," he called
them. "Cheap repairs for a cheap 'un," he used to say, but the husbands
never found the repairs very cheap. Those were the days when lumbermen's
daughters and brewers' wives contended in song; studied in Germany and
then floated from SANGERFEST to SANGERFEST. Choral societies flourished
in all the rich lake cities and river cities. The soloists came to
Chicago to coach with Bowers, and he often took long journeys to hear
and instruct a chorus. He was intensely avaricious, and from these
semi-professionals he reaped a golden harvest. They fed his pockets and
they fed his ever-hungry contempt, his scorn of himself and his
accomplices. The more money he made, the more parsimonious he became.
His wife was so shabby that she never went anywhere with him, which
suited him exactly. Because his clients were luxurious and extravagant,
he took a revengeful pleasure in having his shoes halfsoled a second
time, and in getting the last wear out of a broken collar. He had first
been interested in Thea Kronborg because of her bluntness, her country
roughness, and her manifest carefulness about money. The mention of
Harsanyi's name always made him pull a wry face. For the first time Thea
had a friend who, in his own cool and guarded way, liked her for
whatever was least admirable in her.

Thea was still looking at the musical paper, her grammar unopened on the
window-sill, when Bowers sauntered in a little before two o'clock. He
was smoking a cheap cigarette and wore the same soft felt hat he had
worn all last winter. He never carried a cane or wore gloves.

Thea followed him from the reception-room into the studio. "I may cut my
lesson out to-morrow, Mr. Bowers. I have to hunt a new boarding-place."

Bowers looked up languidly from his desk where he had begun to go over a
pile of letters. "What's the matter with the Studio Club? Been fighting
with them again?"

"The Club's all right for people who like to live that way. I don't."

Bowers lifted his eyebrows. "Why so tempery?" he asked as he drew a
check from an envelope postmarked "Minneapolis."

"I can't work with a lot of girls around. They're too familiar. I never
could get along with girls of my own age. It's all too chummy. Gets on
my nerves. I didn't come here to play kindergarten games." Thea began
energetically to arrange the scattered music on the piano.

Bowers grimaced good-humoredly at her over the three checks he was
pinning together. He liked to play at a rough game of banter with her.
He flattered himself that he had made her harsher than she was when she
first came to him; that he had got off a little of the sugar-coating
Harsanyi always put on his pupils.

"The art of making yourself agreeable never comes amiss, Miss Kronborg.
I should say you rather need a little practice along that line. When you
come to marketing your wares in the world, a little smoothness goes
farther than a great deal of talent sometimes. If you happen to be
cursed with a real talent, then you've got to be very smooth indeed, or
you'll never get your money back." Bowers snapped the elastic band
around his bank-book.

Thea gave him a sharp, recognizing glance. "Well, that's the money I'll
have to go without," she replied.

"Just what do you mean?"

"I mean the money people have to grin for. I used to know a railroad man
who said there was money in every profession that you couldn't take.
He'd tried a good many jobs," Thea added musingly; "perhaps he was too
particular about the kind he could take, for he never picked up much. He
was proud, but I liked him for that."

Bowers rose and closed his desk. "Mrs. Priest is late again. By the way,
Miss Kronborg, remember not to frown when you are playing for Mrs.
Priest. You did not remember yesterday."

"You mean when she hits a tone with her breath like that? Why do you let
her? You wouldn't let me."

"I certainly would not. But that is a mannerism of Mrs. Priest's. The
public like it, and they pay a great deal of money for the pleasure of
hearing her do it. There she is. Remember!"

Bowers opened the door of the reception-room and a tall, imposing woman
rustled in, bringing with her a glow of animation which pervaded the
room as if half a dozen persons, all talking gayly, had come in instead
of one. She was large, handsome, expansive, uncontrolled; one felt this
the moment she crossed the threshold. She shone with care and
cleanliness, mature vigor, unchallenged authority, gracious good-humor,
and absolute confidence in her person, her powers, her position, and her
way of life; a glowing, overwhelming self-satisfaction, only to be found
where human society is young and strong and without yesterdays. Her face
had a kind of heavy, thoughtless beauty, like a pink peony just at the
point of beginning to fade. Her brown hair was waved in front and done
up behind in a great twist, held by a tortoiseshell comb with gold
filigree. She wore a beautiful little green hat with three long green
feathers sticking straight up in front, a little cape made of velvet and
fur with a yellow satin rose on it. Her gloves, her shoes, her veil,
somehow made themselves felt. She gave the impression of wearing a cargo
of splendid merchandise.

Mrs. Priest nodded graciously to Thea, coquettishly to Bowers, and asked
him to untie her veil for her. She threw her splendid wrap on a chair,
the yellow lining out. Thea was already at the piano. Mrs. Priest stood
behind her.

"`Rejoice Greatly' first, please. And please don't hurry it in there,"
she put her arm over Thea's shoulder, and indicated the passage by a
sweep of her white glove. She threw out her chest, clasped her hands
over her abdomen, lifted her chin, worked the muscles of her cheeks back
and forth for a moment, and then began with conviction, "Re-jo-oice!
Re-jo-oice!"

Bowers paced the room with his catlike tread. When he checked Mrs.
Priest's vehemence at all, he handled her roughly; poked and hammered
her massive person with cold satisfaction, almost as if he were taking
out a grudge on this splendid creation. Such treatment the imposing lady
did not at all resent. She tried harder and harder, her eyes growing all
the while more lustrous and her lips redder. Thea played on as she was
told, ignoring the singer's struggles.

When she first heard Mrs. Priest sing in church, Thea admired her. Since
she had found out how dull the goodnatured soprano really was, she felt
a deep contempt for her. She felt that Mrs. Priest ought to be reproved
and even punished for her shortcomings; that she ought to be
exposed,--at least to herself,--and not be permitted to live and shine
in happy ignorance of what a poor thing it was she brought across so
radiantly. Thea's cold looks of reproof were lost upon Mrs. Priest;
although the lady did murmur one day when she took Bowers home in her
carriage, "How handsome your afternoon girl would be if she did not have
that unfortunate squint; it gives her that vacant Swede look, like an
animal." That amused Bowers. He liked to watch the germination and
growth of antipathies.


One of the first disappointments Thea had to face when she returned to
Chicago that fall, was the news that the Harsanyis were not coming back.
They had spent the summer in a camp in the Adirondacks and were moving
to New York. An old teacher and friend of Harsanyi's, one of the
best-known piano teachers in New York, was about to retire because of
failing health and had arranged to turn his pupils over to Harsanyi.
Andor was to give two recitals in New York in November, to devote
himself to his new students until spring, and then to go on a short
concert tour. The Harsanyis had taken a furnished apartment in New York,
as they would not attempt to settle a place of their own until Andor's
recitals were over. The first of December, however, Thea received a note
from Mrs. Harsanyi, asking her to call at the old studio, where she was
packing their goods for shipment.

The morning after this invitation reached her, Thea climbed the stairs
and knocked at the familiar door. Mrs. Harsanyi herself opened it, and
embraced her visitor warmly. Taking Thea into the studio, which was
littered with excelsior and packing-cases, she stood holding her hand
and looking at her in the strong light from the big window before she
allowed her to sit down. Her quick eye saw many changes. The girl was
taller, her figure had become definite, her carriage positive. She had
got used to living in the body of a young woman, and she no longer tried
to ignore it and behave as if she were a little girl. With that
increased independence of body there had come a change in her face; an
indifference, something hard and skeptical. Her clothes, too, were
different, like the attire of a shopgirl who tries to follow the
fashions; a purple suit, a piece of cheap fur, a three-cornered purple
hat with a pompon sticking up in front. The queer country clothes she
used to wear suited her much better, Mrs. Harsanyi thought. But such
trifles, after all, were accidental and remediable. She put her hand on
the girl's strong shoulder.

"How much the summer has done for you! Yes, you are a young lady at
last. Andor will be so glad to hear about you."

Thea looked about at the disorder of the familiar room. The pictures
were piled in a corner, the piano and the CHAISE LONGUE were gone. "I
suppose I ought to be glad you have gone away," she said, "but I'm not.
It's a fine thing for Mr. Harsanyi, I suppose."

Mrs. Harsanyi gave her a quick glance that said more than words. "If you
knew how long I have wanted to get him away from here, Miss Kronborg! He
is never tired, never discouraged, now."

Thea sighed. "I'm glad for that, then." Her eyes traveled over the faint
discolorations on the walls where the pictures had hung. "I may run away
myself. I don't know whether I can stand it here without you."

"We hope that you can come to New York to study before very long. We
have thought of that. And you must tell me how you are getting on with
Bowers. Andor will want to know all about it."

"I guess I get on more or less. But I don't like my work very well. It
never seems serious as my work with Mr. Harsanyi did. I play Bowers's
accompaniments in the afternoons, you know. I thought I would learn a
good deal from the people who work with him, but I don't think I get
much."

Mrs. Harsanyi looked at her inquiringly. Thea took out a carefully
folded handkerchief from the bosom of her dress and began to draw the
corners apart. "Singing doesn't seem to be a very brainy profession,
Mrs. Harsanyi," she said slowly. "The people I see now are not a bit
like the ones I used to meet here. Mr. Harsanyi's pupils, even the dumb
ones, had more--well, more of everything, it seems to me. The people I
have to play accompaniments for are discouraging. The professionals,
like Katharine Priest and Miles Murdstone, are worst of all. If I have
to play `The Messiah' much longer for Mrs. Priest, I'll go out of my
mind!" Thea brought her foot down sharply on the bare floor.

Mrs. Harsanyi looked down at the foot in perplexity. "You mustn't wear
such high heels, my dear. They will spoil your walk and make you mince
along. Can't you at least learn to avoid what you dislike in these
singers? I was never able to care for Mrs. Priest's singing."

Thea was sitting with her chin lowered. Without moving her head she
looked up at Mrs. Harsanyi and smiled; a smile much too cold and
desperate to be seen on a young face, Mrs. Harsanyi felt. "Mrs.
Harsanyi, it seems to me that what I learn is just TO DISLIKE. I dislike
so much and so hard that it tires me out. I've got no heart for
anything." She threw up her head suddenly and sat in defiance, her hand
clenched on the arm of the chair. "Mr. Harsanyi couldn't stand these
people an hour, I know he couldn't. He'd put them right out of the
window there, frizzes and feathers and all. Now, take that new soprano
they're all making such a fuss about, Jessie Darcey. She's going on tour
with a symphony orchestra and she's working up her repertory with
Bowers. She's singing some Schumann songs Mr. Harsanyi used to go over
with me. Well, I don't know what he WOULD do if he heard her."

"But if your own work goes well, and you know these people are wrong,
why do you let them discourage you?"

Thea shook her head. "That's just what I don't understand myself. Only,
after I've heard them all afternoon, I come out frozen up. Somehow it
takes the shine off of everything. People want Jessie Darcey and the
kind of thing she does; so what's the use?"

Mrs. Harsanyi smiled. "That stile you must simply vault over. You must
not begin to fret about the successes of cheap people. After all,
what have they to do with you?"

"Well, if I had somebody like Mr. Harsanyi, perhaps I wouldn't fret
about them. He was the teacher for me. Please tell him so."

Thea rose and Mrs. Harsanyi took her hand again. "I am sorry you have to
go through this time of discouragement. I wish Andor could talk to you,
he would understand it so well. But I feel like urging you to keep clear
of Mrs. Priest and Jessie Darcey and all their works."

Thea laughed discordantly. "No use urging me. I don't get on with them
AT ALL. My spine gets like a steel rail when they come near me. I liked
them at first, you know. Their clothes and their manners were so fine,
and Mrs. Priest IS handsome. But now I keep wanting to tell them how
stupid they are. Seems like they ought to be informed, don't you think
so?" There was a flash of the shrewd grin that Mrs. Harsanyi remembered.
Thea pressed her hand. "I must go now. I had to give my lesson hour this
morning to a Duluth woman who has come on to coach, and I must go and
play `On Mighty Pens' for her. Please tell Mr. Harsanyi that I think
oratorio is a great chance for bluffers."

Mrs. Harsanyi detained her. "But he will want to know much more than
that about you. You are free at seven? Come back this evening, then, and
we will go to dinner somewhere, to some cheerful place. I think you need
a party."

Thea brightened. "Oh, I do! I'll love to come; that will be like old
times. You see," she lingered a moment, softening, "I wouldn't mind if
there were only ONE of them I could really admire."

"How about Bowers?" Mrs. Harsanyi asked as they were approaching the
stairway.

"Well, there's nothing he loves like a good fakir, and nothing he hates
like a good artist. I always remember something Mr. Harsanyi said about
him. He said Bowers was the cold muffin that had been left on the
plate."

Mrs. Harsanyi stopped short at the head of the stairs and said
decidedly: "I think Andor made a mistake. I can't believe that is the
right atmosphere for you. It would hurt you more than most people. It's
all wrong."

"Something's wrong," Thea called back as she clattered down the stairs
in her high heels.



II


DURING that winter Thea lived in so many places that sometimes at night
when she left Bowers's studio and emerged into the street she had to
stop and think for a moment to remember where she was living now and
what was the best way to get there.

When she moved into a new place her eyes challenged the beds, the
carpets, the food, the mistress of the house. The boarding-houses were
wretchedly conducted and Thea's complaints sometimes took an insulting
form. She quarreled with one landlady after another and moved on. When
she moved into a new room, she was almost sure to hate it on sight and
to begin planning to hunt another place before she unpacked her trunk.
She was moody and contemptuous toward her fellow boarders, except toward
the young men, whom she treated with a careless familiarity which they
usually misunderstood. They liked her, however, and when she left the
house after a storm, they helped her to move her things and came to see
her after she got settled in a new place. But she moved so often that
they soon ceased to follow her. They could see no reason for keeping up
with a girl who, under her jocularity, was cold, self-centered, and
unimpressionable. They soon felt that she did not admire them.

Thea used to waken up in the night and wonder why she was so unhappy.
She would have been amazed if she had known how much the people whom she
met in Bowers's studio had to do with her low spirits. She had never
been conscious of those instinctive standards which are called ideals,
and she did not know that she was suffering for them. She often found
herself sneering when she was on a street-car, or when she was brushing
out her hair before her mirror, as some inane remark or too familiar
mannerism flitted across her mind.

She felt no creature kindness, no tolerant good-will for Mrs. Priest or
Jessie Darcey. After one of Jessie Darcey's concerts the glowing press
notices, and the admiring comments that floated about Bowers's studio,
caused Thea bitter unhappiness. It was not the torment of personal
jealousy. She had never thought of herself as even a possible rival of
Miss Darcey. She was a poor music student, and Jessie Darcey was a
popular and petted professional. Mrs. Priest, whatever one held against
her, had a fine, big, showy voice and an impressive presence. She read
indifferently, was inaccurate, and was always putting other people
wrong, but she at least had the material out of which singers can be
made. But people seemed to like Jessie Darcey exactly because she could
not sing; because, as they put it, she was "so natural and
unprofessional." Her singing was pronounced "artless," her voice
"birdlike." Miss Darcey was thin and awkward in person, with a sharp,
sallow face. Thea noticed that her plainness was accounted to her
credit, and that people spoke of it affectionately. Miss Darcey was
singing everywhere just then; one could not help hearing about her. She
was backed by some of the packing-house people and by the Chicago
Northwestern Railroad. Only one critic raised his voice against her.
Thea went to several of Jessie Darcey's concerts. It was the first time
she had had an opportunity to observe the whims of the public which
singers live by interesting. She saw that people liked in Miss Darcey
every quality a singer ought not to have, and especially the nervous
complacency that stamped her as a commonplace young woman. They seemed
to have a warmer feeling for Jessie than for Mrs. Priest, an
affectionate and cherishing regard. Chicago was not so very different
from Moonstone, after all, and Jessie Darcey was only Lily Fisher under
another name.

Thea particularly hated to accompany for Miss Darcey because she sang
off pitch and didn't mind it in the least. It was excruciating to sit
there day after day and hear her; there was something shameless and
indecent about not singing true.

One morning Miss Darcey came by appointment to go over the programme for
her Peoria concert. She was such a frail-looking girl that Thea ought to
have felt sorry for her. True, she had an arch, sprightly little manner,
and a flash of salmon-pink on either brown cheek. But a narrow upper jaw
gave her face a pinched look, and her eyelids were heavy and relaxed. By
the morning light, the purplish brown circles under her eyes were
pathetic enough, and foretold no long or brilliant future. A singer with
a poor digestion and low vitality; she needed no seer to cast her
horoscope. If Thea had ever taken the pains to study her, she would have
seen that, under all her smiles and archness, poor Miss Darcey was
really frightened to death. She could not understand her success any
more than Thea could; she kept catching her breath and lifting her
eyebrows and trying to believe that it was true. Her loquacity was not
natural, she forced herself to it, and when she confided to you how many
defects she could overcome by her unusual command of head resonance, she
was not so much trying to persuade you as to persuade herself.

When she took a note that was high for her, Miss Darcey always put her
right hand out into the air, as if she were indicating height, or giving
an exact measurement. Some early teacher had told her that she could
"place" a tone more surely by the help of such a gesture, and she firmly
believed that it was of great assistance to her. (Even when she was
singing in public, she kept her right hand down with difficulty,
nervously clasping her white kid fingers together when she took a high
note. Thea could always see her elbows stiffen.) She unvaryingly
executed this gesture with a smile of gracious confidence, as if she
were actually putting her finger on the tone: "There it is, friends!"

This morning, in Gounod's "Ave Maria," as Miss Darcey approached her B
natural:--

DANS--NOS--A--LAR--MES!

Out went the hand, with the sure airy gesture, though it was little
above A she got with her voice, whatever she touched with her finger.
Often Bowers let such things pass--with the right people--but this
morning he snapped his jaws together and muttered, "God!" Miss Darcey
tried again, with the same gesture as of putting the crowning touch,
tilting her head and smiling radiantly at Bowers, as if to say, "It is
for you I do all this!"


DANS--NOS A--LAR------MES!

This time she made B flat, and went on in the happy belief that she had
done well enough, when she suddenly found that her accompanist was not
going on with her, and this put her out completely.

She turned to Thea, whose hands had fallen in her lap. "Oh why did you
stop just there! It IS too trying! Now we'd better go back to that other
CRESCENDO and try it from there."

"I beg your pardon," Thea muttered. "I thought you wanted to get that B
natural." She began again, as Miss Darcey indicated.

After the singer was gone, Bowers walked up to Thea and asked languidly,
"Why do you hate Jessie so? Her little variations from pitch are between
her and her public; they don't hurt you. Has she ever done anything to
you except be very agreeable?"

"Yes, she has done things to me," Thea retorted hotly.

Bowers looked interested. "What, for example?"

"I can't explain, but I've got it in for her."

Bowers laughed. "No doubt about that. I'll have to suggest that you
conceal it a little more effectually. That is--necessary, Miss
Kronborg," he added, looking back over the shoulder of the overcoat he
was putting on.

He went out to lunch and Thea thought the subject closed. But late in
the afternoon, when he was taking his dyspepsia tablet and a glass of
water between lessons, he looked up and said in a voice ironically
coaxing:--

"Miss Kronborg, I wish you would tell me why you hate Jessie."

Taken by surprise Thea put down the score she was reading and answered
before she knew what she was saying, "I hate her for the sake of what I
used to think a singer might be."

Bowers balanced the tablet on the end of his long forefinger and
whistled softly. "And how did you form your conception of what a singer
ought to be?" he asked.

"I don't know." Thea flushed and spoke under her breath; "but I suppose
I got most of it from Harsanyi."

Bowers made no comment upon this reply, but opened the door for the next
pupil, who was waiting in the reception-room.

It was dark when Thea left the studio that night. She knew she had
offended Bowers. Somehow she had hurt herself, too. She felt unequal to
the boarding-house table, the sneaking divinity student who sat next her
and had tried to kiss her on the stairs last night. She went over to the
waterside of Michigan Avenue and walked along beside the lake. It was a
clear, frosty winter night. The great empty space over the water was
restful and spoke of freedom. If she had any money at all, she would go
away. The stars glittered over the wide black water. She looked up at
them wearily and shook her head. She believed that what she felt was
despair, but it was only one of the forms of hope. She felt, indeed, as
if she were bidding the stars good-bye; but she was renewing a promise.
Though their challenge is universal and eternal, the stars get no answer
but that,--the brief light flashed back to them from the eyes of the
young who unaccountably aspire.

The rich, noisy, city, fat with food and drink, is a spent thing; its
chief concern is its digestion and its little game of hide-and-seek with
the undertaker. Money and office and success are the consolations of
impotence. Fortune turns kind to such solid people and lets them suck
their bone in peace. She flecks her whip upon flesh that is more alive,
upon that stream of hungry boys and girls who tramp the streets of every
city, recognizable by their pride and discontent, who are the Future,
and who possess the treasure of creative power.



III


WHILE her living arrangements were so casual and fortuitous, Bowers's
studio was the one fixed thing in Thea's life. She went out from it to
uncertainties, and hastened to it from nebulous confusion. She was more
influenced by Bowers than she knew. Unconsciously she began to take on
something of his dry contempt, and to share his grudge without
understanding exactly what it was about. His cynicism seemed to her
honest, and the amiability of his pupils artificial. She admired his
drastic treatment of his dull pupils. The stupid deserved all they got,
and more. Bowers knew that she thought him a very clever man.

One afternoon when Bowers came in from lunch Thea handed him a card on
which he read the name, "Mr. Philip Frederick Ottenburg."

"He said he would be in again to-morrow and that he wanted some time.
Who is he? I like him better than the others."

Bowers nodded. "So do I. He's not a singer. He's a beer prince: son of
the big brewer in St. Louis. He's been in Germany with his mother. I
didn't know he was back."

"Does he take lessons?"

"Now and again. He sings rather well. He's at the head of the Chicago
branch of the Ottenburg business, but he can't stick to work and is
always running away. He has great ideas in beer, people tell me. He's
what they call an imaginative business man; goes over to Bayreuth and
seems to do nothing but give parties and spend money, and brings back
more good notions for the brewery than the fellows who sit tight dig out
in five years. I was born too long ago to be much taken in by these
chesty boys with flowered vests, but I like Fred, all the same."

"So do I," said Thea positively.

Bowers made a sound between a cough and a laugh. "Oh, he's a
lady-killer, all right! The girls in here are always making eyes at him.
You won't be the first." He threw some sheets of music on the piano.
"Better look that over; accompaniment's a little tricky. It's for that
new woman from Detroit. And Mrs. Priest will be in this afternoon."

Thea sighed. "`I Know that my Redeemer Liveth'?"

"The same. She starts on her concert tour next week, and we'll have a
rest. Until then, I suppose we'll have to be going over her programme."

The next day Thea hurried through her luncheon at a German bakery and
got back to the studio at ten minutes past one. She felt sure that the
young brewer would come early, before it was time for Bowers to arrive.
He had not said he would, but yesterday, when he opened the door to go,
he had glanced about the room and at her, and something in his eye had
conveyed that suggestion.

Sure enough, at twenty minutes past one the door of the reception-room
opened, and a tall, robust young man with a cane and an English hat and
ulster looked in expectantly. "Ah--ha!" he exclaimed, "I thought if I
came early I might have good luck. And how are you to-day, Miss
Kronborg?"

Thea was sitting in the window chair. At her left elbow there was a
table, and upon this table the young man sat down, holding his hat and
cane in his hand, loosening his long coat so that it fell back from his
shoulders. He was a gleaming, florid young fellow. His hair, thick and
yellow, was cut very short, and he wore a closely trimmed beard, long
enough on the chin to curl a little. Even his eyebrows were thick and
yellow, like fleece. He had lively blue eyes--Thea looked up at them
with great interest as he sat chatting and swinging his foot
rhythmically. He was easily familiar, and frankly so. Wherever people
met young Ottenburg, in his office, on shipboard, in a foreign hotel or
railway compartment, they always felt (and usually liked) that artless
presumption which seemed to say, "In this case we may waive formalities.
We really haven't time. This is to-day, but it will soon be to-morrow,
and then we may be very different people, and in some other country." He
had a way of floating people out of dull or awkward situations, out of
their own torpor or constraint or discouragement. It was a marked
personal talent, of almost incalculable value in the representative of a
great business founded on social amenities. Thea had liked him yesterday
for the way in which he had picked her up out of herself and her German
grammar for a few exciting moments.

"By the way, will you tell me your first name, please? Thea? Oh, then
you ARE a Swede, sure enough! I thought so. Let me call you Miss Thea,
after the German fashion. You won't mind? Of course not!" He usually
made his assumption of a special understanding seem a tribute to the
other person and not to himself.

"How long have you been with Bowers here? Do you like the old grouch? So
do I. I've come to tell him about a new soprano I heard at Bayreuth.
He'll pretend not to care, but he does. Do you warble with him? Have you
anything of a voice? Honest? You look it, you know. What are you going
in for, something big? Opera?"

Thea blushed crimson. "Oh, I'm not going in for anything. I'm trying to
learn to sing at funerals."

Ottenburg leaned forward. His eyes twinkled. "I'll engage you to sing at
mine. You can't fool me, Miss Thea. May I hear you take your lesson this
afternoon?"

"No, you may not. I took it this morning."

He picked up a roll of music that lay behind him on the table. "Is this
yours? Let me see what you are doing."

He snapped back the clasp and began turning over the songs. "All very
fine, but tame. What's he got you at this Mozart stuff for? I shouldn't
think it would suit your voice. Oh, I can make a pretty good guess at
what will suit you! This from `Gioconda' is more in your line. What's
this Grieg? It looks interesting. TAK FOR DITT ROD. What does that
mean?"

"`Thanks for your Advice.' Don't you know it?"

"No; not at all. Let's try it." He rose, pushed open the door into the
music-room, and motioned Thea to enter before him. She hung back.

"I couldn't give you much of an idea of it. It's a big song."

Ottenburg took her gently by the elbow and pushed her into the other
room. He sat down carelessly at the piano and looked over the music for
a moment. "I think I can get you through it. But how stupid not to have
the German words. Can you really sing the Norwegian? What an infernal
language to sing. Translate the text for me." He handed her the music.

Thea looked at it, then at him, and shook her head. "I can't. The truth
is I don't know either English or Swedish very well, and Norwegian's
still worse," she said confidentially. She not infrequently refused to
do what she was asked to do, but it was not like her to explain her
refusal, even when she had a good reason.

"I understand. We immigrants never speak any language well. But you know
what it means, don't you?"

"Of course I do!"

"Then don't frown at me like that, but tell me."

Thea continued to frown, but she also smiled. She was confused, but not
embarrassed. She was not afraid of Ottenburg. He was not one of those
people who made her spine like a steel rail. On the contrary, he made
one venturesome.

"Well, it goes something like this: Thanks for your advice! But I prefer
to steer my boat into the din of roaring breakers. Even if the journey
is my last, I may find what I have never found before. Onward must I go,
for I yearn for the wild sea. I long to fight my way through the angry
waves, and to see how far, and how long I can make them carry me."

Ottenburg took the music and began: "Wait a moment. Is that too fast?
How do you take it? That right?" He pulled up his cuffs and began the
accompaniment again. He had become entirely serious, and he played with
fine enthusiasm and with understanding.

Fred's talent was worth almost as much to old Otto Ottenburg as the
steady industry of his older sons. When Fred sang the Prize Song at an
interstate meet of the TURNVEREIN, ten thousand TURNERS went forth
pledged to Ottenburg beer.

As Thea finished the song Fred turned back to the first page, without
looking up from the music. "Now, once more," he called. They began
again, and did not hear Bowers when he came in and stood in the doorway.
He stood still, blinking like an owl at their two heads shining in the
sun. He could not see their faces, but there was something about his
girl's back that he had not noticed before: a very slight and yet very
free motion, from the toes up. Her whole back seemed plastic, seemed to
be moulding itself to the galloping rhythm of the song. Bowers perceived
such things sometimes--unwillingly. He had known to-day that there was
something afoot. The river of sound which had its source in his pupil
had caught him two flights down. He had stopped and listened with a kind
of sneering admiration. From the door he watched her with a
half-incredulous, half-malicious smile.

When he had struck the keys for the last time, Ottenburg dropped his
hands on his knees and looked up with a quick breath. "I got you
through. What a stunning song! Did I play it right?"

Thea studied his excited face. There was a good deal of meaning in it,
and there was a good deal in her own as she answered him. "You suited
me," she said ungrudgingly.

After Ottenburg was gone, Thea noticed that Bowers was more agreeable
than usual. She had heard the young brewer ask Bowers to dine with him
at his club that evening, and she saw that he looked forward to the
dinner with pleasure. He dropped a remark to the effect that Fred knew
as much about food and wines as any man in Chicago. He said this
boastfully.

"If he's such a grand business man, how does he have time to run around
listening to singing-lessons?" Thea asked suspiciously.

As she went home to her boarding-house through the February slush, she
wished she were going to dine with them. At nine o'clock she looked up
from her grammar to wonder what Bowers and Ottenburg were having to eat.
At that moment they were talking of her.



IV


THEA noticed that Bowers took rather more pains with her now that Fred
Ottenburg often dropped in at eleven-thirty to hear her lesson. After
the lesson the young man took Bowers off to lunch with him, and Bowers
liked good food when another man paid for it. He encouraged Fred's
visits, and Thea soon saw that Fred knew exactly why.

One morning, after her lesson, Ottenburg turned to Bowers. "If you'll
lend me Miss Thea, I think I have an engagement for her. Mrs. Henry
Nathanmeyer is going to give three musical evenings in April, first
three Saturdays, and she has consulted me about soloists. For the first
evening she has a young violinist, and she would be charmed to have Miss
Kronborg. She will pay fifty dollars. Not much, but Miss Thea would meet
some people there who might be useful. What do you say?"

Bowers passed the question on to Thea. "I guess you could use the fifty,
couldn't you, Miss Kronborg? You can easily work up some songs."

Thea was perplexed. "I need the money awfully," she said frankly; "but I
haven't got the right clothes for that sort of thing. I suppose I'd
better try to get some."

Ottenburg spoke up quickly, "Oh, you'd make nothing out of it if you
went to buying evening clothes. I've thought of that. Mrs. Nathanmeyer
has a troop of daughters, a perfect seraglio, all ages and sizes. She'll
be glad to fit you out, if you aren't sensitive about wearing kosher
clothes. Let me take you to see her, and you'll find that she'll arrange
that easily enough. I told her she must produce something nice, blue or
yellow, and properly cut. I brought half a dozen Worth gowns through the
customs for her two weeks ago, and she's not ungrateful. When can we go
to see her?"

"I haven't any time free, except at night," Thea replied in some
confusion.

"To-morrow evening, then? I shall call for you at eight. Bring all your
songs along; she will want us to give her a little rehearsal, perhaps.
I'll play your accompaniments, if you've no objection. That will save
money for you and for Mrs. Nathanmeyer. She needs it." Ottenburg
chuckled as he took down the number of Thea's boarding-house.

The Nathanmeyers were so rich and great that even Thea had heard of
them, and this seemed a very remarkable opportunity. Ottenburg had
brought it about by merely lifting a finger, apparently. He was a beer
prince sure enough, as Bowers had said.

The next evening at a quarter to eight Thea was dressed and waiting in
the boarding-house parlor. She was nervous and fidgety and found it
difficult to sit still on the hard, convex upholstery of the chairs. She
tried them one after another, moving about the dimly lighted, musty
room, where the gas always leaked gently and sang in the burners. There
was no one in the parlor but the medical student, who was playing one of
Sousa's marches so vigorously that the china ornaments on the top of the
piano rattled. In a few moments some of the pension-office girls would
come in and begin to two-step. Thea wished that Ottenburg would come and
let her escape. She glanced at herself in the long, somber mirror. She
was wearing her pale-blue broadcloth church dress, which was not
unbecoming but was certainly too heavy to wear to anybody's house in the
evening. Her slippers were run over at the heel and she had not had time
to have them mended, and her white gloves were not so clean as they
should be. However, she knew that she would forget these annoying things
as soon as Ottenburg came.

Mary, the Hungarian chambermaid, came to the door, stood between the
plush portieres, beckoned to Thea, and made an inarticulate sound in her
throat. Thea jumped up and ran into the hall, where Ottenburg stood
smiling, his caped cloak open, his silk hat in his white-kid hand. The
Hungarian girl stood like a monument on her flat heels, staring at the
pink carnation in Ottenburg's coat. Her broad, pockmarked face wore the
only expression of which it was capable, a kind of animal wonder. As the
young man followed Thea out, he glanced back over his shoulder through
the crack of the door; the Hun clapped her hands over her stomach,
opened her mouth, and made another raucous sound in her throat.

"Isn't she awful?" Thea exclaimed. "I think she's half-witted. Can you
understand her?"

Ottenburg laughed as he helped her into the carriage. "Oh, yes; I can
understand her!" He settled himself on the front seat opposite Thea.
"Now, I want to tell you about the people we are going to see. We may
have a musical public in this country some day, but as yet there are
only the Germans and the Jews. All the other people go to hear Jessie
Darcey sing, `O, Promise Me!' The Nathanmeyers are the finest kind of
Jews. If you do anything for Mrs. Henry Nathanmeyer, you must put
yourself into her hands. Whatever she says about music, about clothes,
about life, will be correct. And you may feel at ease with her. She
expects nothing of people; she has lived in Chicago twenty years. If you
were to behave like the Magyar who was so interested in my buttonhole,
she would not be surprised. If you were to sing like Jessie Darcey, she
would not be surprised; but she would manage not to hear you again."

"Would she? Well, that's the kind of people I want to find." Thea felt
herself growing bolder.

"You will be all right with her so long as you do not try to be anything
that you are not. Her standards have nothing to do with Chicago. Her
perceptions--or her grandmother's, which is the same thing--were keen
when all this was an Indian village. So merely be yourself, and you will
like her. She will like you because the Jews always sense talent, and,"
he added ironically, "they admire certain qualities of feeling that are
found only in the whiteskinned races."

Thea looked into the young man's face as the light of a street lamp
flashed into the carriage. His somewhat academic manner amused her.

"What makes you take such an interest in singers?" she asked curiously.
"You seem to have a perfect passion for hearing music-lessons. I wish I
could trade jobs with you!"

"I'm not interested in singers." His tone was offended. "I am interested
in talent. There are only two interesting things in the world, anyhow;
and talent is one of them."

"What's the other?" The question came meekly from the figure opposite
him. Another arc-light flashed in at the window.

Fred saw her face and broke into a laugh. "Why, you're guying me, you
little wretch! You won't let me behave properly." He dropped his gloved
hand lightly on her knee, took it away and let it hang between his own.
"Do you know," he said confidentially, "I believe I'm more in earnest
about all this than you are."

"About all what?"

"All you've got in your throat there."

"Oh! I'm in earnest all right; only I never was much good at talking.
Jessie Darcey is the smooth talker. `You notice the effect I get
there--' If she only got 'em, she'd be a wonder, you know!"

Mr. and Mrs. Nathanmeyer were alone in their great library. Their three
unmarried daughters had departed in successive carriages, one to a
dinner, one to a Nietszche club, one to a ball given for the girls
employed in the big department stores. When Ottenburg and Thea entered,
Henry Nathanmeyer and his wife were sitting at a table at the farther
end of the long room, with a reading-lamp and a tray of cigarettes and
cordial-glasses between them. The overhead lights were too soft to bring
out the colors of the big rugs, and none of the picture lights were on.
One could merely see that there were pictures there. Fred whispered that
they were Rousseaus and Corots, very fine ones which the old banker had
bought long ago for next to nothing. In the hall Ottenburg had stopped
Thea before a painting of a woman eating grapes out of a paper bag, and
had told her gravely that there was the most beautiful Manet in the
world. He made her take off her hat and gloves in the hall, and looked
her over a little before he took her in. But once they were in the
library he seemed perfectly satisfied with her and led her down the long
room to their hostess.

Mrs. Nathanmeyer was a heavy, powerful old Jewess, with a great
pompadour of white hair, a swarthy complexion, an eagle nose, and sharp,
glittering eyes. She wore a black velvet dress with a long train, and a
diamond necklace and earrings. She took Thea to the other side of the
table and presented her to Mr. Nathanmeyer, who apologized for not
rising, pointing to a slippered foot on a cushion; he said that he
suffered from gout. He had a very soft voice and spoke with an accent
which would have been heavy if it had not been so caressing. He kept
Thea standing beside him for some time. He noticed that she stood
easily, looked straight down into his face, and was not embarrassed.
Even when Mrs. Nathanmeyer told Ottenburg to bring a chair for Thea, the
old man did not release her hand, and she did not sit down. He admired
her just as she was, as she happened to be standing, and she felt it. He
was much handsomer than his wife, Thea thought. His forehead was high,
his hair soft and white, his skin pink, a little puffy under his clear
blue eyes. She noticed how warm and delicate his hands were, pleasant to
touch and beautiful to look at. Ottenburg had told her that Mr.
Nathanmeyer had a very fine collection of medals and cameos, and his
fingers looked as if they had never touched anything but delicately cut
surfaces.

He asked Thea where Moonstone was; how many inhabitants it had; what her
father's business was; from what part of Sweden her grandfather came;
and whether she spoke Swedish as a child. He was interested to hear that
her mother's mother was still living, and that her grandfather had
played the oboe. Thea felt at home standing there beside him; she felt
that he was very wise, and that he some way took one's life up and
looked it over kindly, as if it were a story. She was sorry when they
left him to go into the music-room.

As they reached the door of the music-room, Mrs. Nathanmeyer turned a
switch that threw on many lights. The room was even larger than the
library, all glittering surfaces, with two Steinway pianos.

Mrs. Nathanmeyer rang for her own maid. "Selma will take you upstairs,
Miss Kronborg, and you will find some dresses on the bed. Try several of
them, and take the one you like best. Selma will help you. She has a
great deal of taste. When you are dressed, come down and let us go over
some of your songs with Mr. Ottenburg."

After Thea went away with the maid, Ottenburg came up to Mrs.
Nathanmeyer and stood beside her, resting his hand on the high back of
her chair.

"Well, GNADIGE FRAU, do you like her?"

"I think so. I liked her when she talked to father. She will always get
on better with men."

Ottenburg leaned over her chair. "Prophetess! Do you see what I meant?"

"About her beauty? She has great possibilities, but you can never tell
about those Northern women. They look so strong, but they are easily
battered. The face falls so early under those wide cheek-bones. A single
idea--hate or greed, or even love--can tear them to shreds. She is
nineteen? Well, in ten years she may have quite a regal beauty, or she
may have a heavy, discontented face, all dug out in channels. That will
depend upon the kind of ideas she lives with."

"Or the kind of people?" Ottenburg suggested.

The old Jewess folded her arms over her massive chest, drew back her
shoulders, and looked up at the young man. "With that hard glint in her
eye? The people won't matter much, I fancy. They will come and go. She
is very much interested in herself--as she should be."

Ottenburg frowned. "Wait until you hear her sing. Her eyes are different
then. That gleam that comes in them is curious, isn't it? As you say,
it's impersonal."

The object of this discussion came in, smiling. She had chosen neither
the blue nor the yellow gown, but a pale rose-color, with silver
butterflies. Mrs. Nathanmeyer lifted her lorgnette and studied her as
she approached. She caught the characteristic things at once: the free,
strong walk, the calm carriage of the head, the milky whiteness of the
girl's arms and shoulders.

"Yes, that color is good for you," she said approvingly. "The yellow one
probably killed your hair? Yes; this does very well indeed, so we need
think no more about it."

Thea glanced questioningly at Ottenburg. He smiled and bowed, seemed
perfectly satisfied. He asked her to stand in the elbow of the piano, in
front of him, instead of behind him as she had been taught to do.

"Yes," said the hostess with feeling. "That other position is
barbarous."

Thea sang an aria from `Gioconda,' some songs by Schumann which she had
studied with Harsanyi, and the "TAK FOR DIT ROD," which Ottenburg liked.

"That you must do again," he declared when they finished this song. "You
did it much better the other day. You accented it more, like a dance or
a galop. How did you do it?"

Thea laughed, glancing sidewise at Mrs. Nathanmeyer. "You want it
rough-house, do you? Bowers likes me to sing it more seriously, but it
always makes me think about a story my grandmother used to tell."

Fred pointed to the chair behind her. "Won't you rest a moment and tell
us about it? I thought you had some notion about it when you first sang
it for me."

Thea sat down. "In Norway my grandmother knew a girl who was awfully in
love with a young fellow. She went into service on a big dairy farm to
make enough money for her outfit. They were married at Christmastime,
and everybody was glad, because they'd been sighing around about each
other for so long. That very summer, the day before St. John's Day, her
husband caught her carrying on with another farm-hand. The next night
all the farm people had a bonfire and a big dance up on the mountain,
and everybody was dancing and singing. I guess they were all a little
drunk, for they got to seeing how near they could make the girls dance
to the edge of the cliff. Ole--he was the girl's husband--seemed the
jolliest and the drunkest of anybody. He danced his wife nearer and
nearer the edge of the rock, and his wife began to scream so that the
others stopped dancing and the music stopped; but Ole went right on
singing, and he danced her over the edge of the cliff and they fell
hundreds of feet and were all smashed to pieces."

Ottenburg turned back to the piano. "That's the idea! Now, come Miss
Thea. Let it go!"

Thea took her place. She laughed and drew herself up out of her corsets,
threw her shoulders high and let them drop again. She had never sung in
a low dress before, and she found it comfortable. Ottenburg jerked his
head and they began the song. The accompaniment sounded more than ever
like the thumping and scraping of heavy feet.

When they stopped, they heard a sympathetic tapping at the end of the
room. Old Mr. Nathanmeyer had come to the door and was sitting back in
the shadow, just inside the library, applauding with his cane. Thea
threw him a bright smile. He continued to sit there, his slippered foot
on a low chair, his cane between his fingers, and she glanced at him
from time to time. The doorway made a frame for him, and he looked like
a man in a picture, with the long, shadowy room behind him.

Mrs. Nathanmeyer summoned the maid again. "Selma will pack that gown in
a box for you, and you can take it home in Mr. Ottenburg's carriage."

Thea turned to follow the maid, but hesitated. "Shall I wear gloves?"
she asked, turning again to Mrs. Nathanmeyer.

"No, I think not. Your arms are good, and you will feel freer without.
You will need light slippers, pink--or white, if you have them, will do
quite as well."

Thea went upstairs with the maid and Mrs. Nathanmeyer rose, took
Ottenburg's arm, and walked toward her husband. "That's the first real
voice I have heard in Chicago," she said decidedly. "I don't count that
stupid Priest woman. What do you say, father?"

Mr. Nathanmeyer shook his white head and smiled softly, as if he were
thinking about something very agreeable. "SVENSK SOMMAR," he murmured.
"She is like a Swedish summer. I spent nearly a year there when I was a
young man," he explained to Ottenburg.

When Ottenburg got Thea and her big box into the carriage, it occurred
to him that she must be hungry, after singing so much. When he asked
her, she admitted that she was very hungry, indeed.

He took out his watch. "Would you mind stopping somewhere with me? It's
only eleven."

"Mind? Of course, I wouldn't mind. I wasn't brought up like that. I can
take care of myself."

Ottenburg laughed. "And I can take care of myself, so we can do lots of
jolly things together." He opened the carriage door and spoke to the
driver. "I'm stuck on the way you sing that Grieg song," he declared.

When Thea got into bed that night she told herself that this was the
happiest evening she had had in Chicago. She had enjoyed the
Nathanmeyers and their grand house, her new dress, and Ottenburg, her
first real carriage ride, and the good supper when she was so hungry.
And Ottenburg WAS jolly! He made you want to come back at him. You
weren't always being caught up and mystified. When you started in with
him, you went; you cut the breeze, as Ray used to say. He had some go in
him.


Philip Frederick Ottenburg was the third son of the great brewer. His
mother was Katarina Furst, the daughter and heiress of a brewing
business older and richer than Otto Ottenburg's. As a young woman she
had been a conspicuous figure in German-American society in New York,
and not untouched by scandal. She was a handsome, headstrong girl, a
rebellious and violent force in a provincial society. She was brutally
sentimental and heavily romantic. Her free speech, her Continental
ideas, and her proclivity for championing new causes, even when she did
not know much about them, made her an object of suspicion. She was
always going abroad to seek out intellectual affinities, and was one of
the group of young women who followed Wagner about in his old age,
keeping at a respectful distance, but receiving now and then a gracious
acknowledgment that he appreciated their homage. When the composer died,
Katarina, then a matron with a family, took to her bed and saw no one
for a week.

After having been engaged to an American actor, a Welsh socialist
agitator, and a German army officer, Fraulein Furst at last placed
herself and her great brewery interests into the trustworthy hands of
Otto Ottenburg, who had been her suitor ever since he was a clerk,
learning his business in her father's office.

Her first two sons were exactly like their father. Even as children they
were industrious, earnest little tradesmen. As Frau Ottenburg said, "she
had to wait for her Fred, but she got him at last," the first man who
had altogether pleased her. Frederick entered Harvard when he was
eighteen. When his mother went to Boston to visit him, she not only got
him everything he wished for, but she made handsome and often
embarrassing presents to all his friends. She gave dinners and supper
parties for the Glee Club, made the crew break training, and was a
generally disturbing influence. In his third year Fred left the
university because of a serious escapade which had somewhat hampered his
life ever since. He went at once into his father's business, where, in
his own way, he had made himself very useful.

Fred Ottenburg was now twenty-eight, and people could only say of him
that he had been less hurt by his mother's indulgence than most boys
would have been. He had never wanted anything that he could not have it,
and he might have had a great many things that he had never wanted. He
was extravagant, but not prodigal. He turned most of the money his
mother gave him into the business, and lived on his generous salary.

Fred had never been bored for a whole day in his life. When he was in
Chicago or St. Louis, he went to ballgames, prize-fights, and
horse-races. When he was in Germany, he went to concerts and to the
opera. He belonged to a long list of sporting-clubs and huntingclubs,
and was a good boxer. He had so many natural interests that he had no
affectations. At Harvard he kept away from the aesthetic circle that had
already discovered Francis Thompson. He liked no poetry but German
poetry. Physical energy was the thing he was full to the brim of, and
music was one of its natural forms of expression. He had a healthy love
of sport and art, of eating and drinking. When he was in Germany, he
scarcely knew where the soup ended and the symphony began.



V


MARCH began badly for Thea. She had a cold during the first week, and
after she got through her church duties on Sunday she had to go to bed
with tonsilitis. She was still in the boarding-house at which young
Ottenburg had called when he took her to see Mrs. Nathanmeyer. She had
stayed on there because her room, although it was inconvenient and very
small, was at the corner of the house and got the sunlight.

Since she left Mrs. Lorch, this was the first place where she had got
away from a north light. Her rooms had all been as damp and mouldy as
they were dark, with deep foundations of dirt under the carpets, and
dirty walls. In her present room there was no running water and no
clothes closet, and she had to have the dresser moved out to make room
for her piano. But there were two windows, one on the south and one on
the west, a light wall-paper with morning-glory vines, and on the floor
a clean matting. The landlady had tried to make the room look cheerful,
because it was hard to let. It was so small that Thea could keep it
clean herself, after the Hun had done her worst. She hung her dresses on
the door under a sheet, used the washstand for a dresser, slept on a
cot, and opened both the windows when she practiced. She felt less
walled in than she had in the other houses.

Wednesday was her third day in bed. The medical student who lived in the
house had been in to see her, had left some tablets and a foamy gargle,
and told her that she could probably go back to work on Monday. The
landlady stuck her head in once a day, but Thea did not encourage her
visits. The Hungarian chambermaid brought her soup and toast. She made a
sloppy pretense of putting the room in order, but she was such a dirty
creature that Thea would not let her touch her cot; she got up every
morning and turned the mattress and made the bed herself. The exertion
made her feel miserably ill, but at least she could lie still
contentedly for a long while afterward. She hated the poisoned feeling
in her throat, and no matter how often she gargled she felt unclean and
disgusting. Still, if she had to be ill, she was almost glad that she
had a contagious illness. Otherwise she would have been at the mercy of
the people in the house. She knew that they disliked her, yet now that
she was ill, they took it upon themselves to tap at her door, send her
messages, books, even a miserable flower or two. Thea knew that their
sympathy was an expression of self-righteousness, and she hated them for
it. The divinity student, who was always whispering soft things to her,
sent her "The Kreutzer Sonata."

The medical student had been kind to her: he knew that she did not want
to pay a doctor. His gargle had helped her, and he gave her things to
make her sleep at night. But he had been a cheat, too. He had exceeded
his rights. She had no soreness in her chest, and had told him so
clearly. All this thumping of her back, and listening to her breathing,
was done to satisfy personal curiosity. She had watched him with a
contemptuous smile. She was too sick to care; if it amused him--She made
him wash his hands before he touched her; he was never very clean. All
the same, it wounded her and made her feel that the world was a pretty
disgusting place. "The Kreutzer Sonata" did not make her feel any more
cheerful. She threw it aside with hatred. She could not believe it was
written by the same man who wrote the novel that had thrilled her.

Her cot was beside the south window, and on Wednesday afternoon she lay
thinking about the Harsanyis, about old Mr. Nathanmeyer, and about how
she was missing Fred Ottenburg's visits to the studio. That was much the
worst thing about being sick. If she were going to the studio every day,
she might be having pleasant encounters with Fred. He was always running
away, Bowers said, and he might be planning to go away as soon as Mrs.
Nathanmeyer's evenings were over. And here she was losing all this time!

After a while she heard the Hun's clumsy trot in the hall, and then a
pound on the door. Mary came in, making her usual uncouth sounds,
carrying a long box and a big basket. Thea sat up in bed and tore off
the strings and paper. The basket was full of fruit, with a big Hawaiian
pineapple in the middle, and in the box there were layers of pink roses
with long, woody stems and dark-green leaves. They filled the room with
a cool smell that made another air to breathe. Mary stood with her apron
full of paper and cardboard. When she saw Thea take an envelope out from
under the flowers, she uttered an exclamation, pointed to the roses, and
then to the bosom of her own dress, on the left side. Thea laughed and
nodded. She understood that Mary associated the color with Ottenburg's
BOUTONNIERE. She pointed to the water pitcher,--she had nothing else big
enough to hold the flowers,--and made Mary put it on the window sill
beside her.

After Mary was gone Thea locked the door. When the landlady knocked, she
pretended that she was asleep. She lay still all afternoon and with
drowsy eyes watched the roses open. They were the first hothouse flowers
she had ever had. The cool fragrance they released was soothing, and as
the pink petals curled back, they were the only things between her and
the gray sky. She lay on her side, putting the room and the
boarding-house behind her. Fred knew where all the pleasant things in
the world were, she reflected, and knew the road to them. He had keys to
all the nice places in his pocket, and seemed to jingle them from time
to time. And then, he was young; and her friends had always been old.
Her mind went back over them. They had all been teachers; wonderfully
kind, but still teachers. Ray Kennedy, she knew, had wanted to marry
her, but he was the most protecting and teacher-like of them all. She
moved impatiently in her cot and threw her braids away from her hot
neck, over her pillow. "I don't want him for a teacher," she thought,
frowning petulantly out of the window. "I've had such a string of them.
I want him for a sweetheart."



VI


"THEA," said Fred Ottenburg one drizzly afternoon in April, while they
sat waiting for their tea at a restaurant in the Pullman Building,
overlooking the lake, "what are you going to do this summer?"

"I don't know. Work, I suppose."

"With Bowers, you mean? Even Bowers goes fishing for a month. Chicago's
no place to work, in the summer. Haven't you made any plans?"

Thea shrugged her shoulders. "No use having any plans when you haven't
any money. They are unbecoming."

"Aren't you going home?"

She shook her head. "No. It won't be comfortable there till I've got
something to show for myself. I'm not getting on at all, you know. This
year has been mostly wasted."

"You're stale; that's what's the matter with you. And just now you're
dead tired. You'll talk more rationally after you've had some tea. Rest
your throat until it comes." They were sitting by a window. As Ottenburg
looked at her in the gray light, he remembered what Mrs. Nathanmeyer had
said about the Swedish face "breaking early." Thea was as gray as the
weather. Her skin looked sick. Her hair, too, though on a damp day it
curled charmingly about her face, looked pale.

Fred beckoned the waiter and increased his order for food. Thea did not
hear him. She was staring out of the window, down at the roof of the Art
Institute and the green lions, dripping in the rain. The lake was all
rolling mist, with a soft shimmer of robin's-egg blue in the gray. A
lumber boat, with two very tall masts, was emerging gaunt and black out
of the fog. When the tea came Thea ate hungrily, and Fred watched her.
He thought her eyes became a little less bleak. The kettle sang
cheerfully over the spirit lamp, and she seemed to concentrate her
attention upon that pleasant sound. She kept looking toward it
listlessly and indulgently, in a way that gave him a realization of her
loneliness. Fred lit a cigarette and smoked thoughtfully. He and Thea
were alone in the quiet, dusky room full of white tables. In those days
Chicago people never stopped for tea. "Come," he said at last, "what
would you do this summer, if you could do whatever you wished?"

"I'd go a long way from here! West, I think. Maybe I could get some of
my spring back. All this cold, cloudy weather,"--she looked out at the
lake and shivered,--"I don't know, it does things to me," she ended
abruptly.

Fred nodded. "I know. You've been going down ever since you had
tonsilitis. I've seen it. What you need is to sit in the sun and bake
for three months. You've got the right idea. I remember once when we
were having dinner somewhere you kept asking me about the Cliff-Dweller
ruins. Do they still interest you?"

"Of course they do. I've always wanted to go down there--long before I
ever got in for this."

"I don't think I told you, but my father owns a whole canyon full of
Cliff-Dweller ruins. He has a big worthless ranch down in Arizona, near
a Navajo reservation, and there's a canyon on the place they call
Panther Canyon, chock full of that sort of thing. I often go down there
to hunt. Henry Biltmer and his wife live there and keep a tidy place.
He's an old German who worked in the brewery until he lost his health.
Now he runs a few cattle. Henry likes to do me a favor. I've done a few
for him." Fred drowned his cigarette in his saucer and studied Thea's
expression, which was wistful and intent, envious and admiring. He
continued with satisfaction: "If you went down there and stayed with
them for two or three months, they wouldn't let you pay anything. I
might send Henry a new gun, but even I couldn't offer him money for
putting up a friend of mine. I'll get you transportation. It would make
a new girl of you. Let me write to Henry, and you pack your trunk.
That's all that's necessary. No red tape about it. What do you say,
Thea?"

She bit her lip, and sighed as if she were waking up.

Fred crumpled his napkin impatiently. "Well, isn't it easy enough?"

"That's the trouble; it's TOO easy. Doesn't sound probable. I'm not used
to getting things for nothing."

Ottenburg laughed. "Oh, if that's all, I'll show you how to begin. You
won't get this for nothing, quite. I'll ask you to let me stop off and
see you on my way to California. Perhaps by that time you will be glad
to see me. Better let me break the news to Bowers. I can manage him. He
needs a little transportation himself now and then. You must get
corduroy riding-things and leather leggings. There are a few snakes
about. Why do you keep frowning?"

"Well, I don't exactly see why you take the trouble. What do you get out
of it? You haven't liked me so well the last two or three weeks."

Fred dropped his third cigarette and looked at his watch. "If you don't
see that, it's because you need a tonic. I'll show you what I'll get out
of it. Now I'm going to get a cab and take you home. You are too tired
to walk a step. You'd better get to bed as soon as you get there. Of
course, I don't like you so well when you're half anaesthetized all the
time. What have you been doing to yourself?"

Thea rose. "I don't know. Being bored eats the heart out of me, I
guess." She walked meekly in front of him to the elevator. Fred noticed
for the hundredth time how vehemently her body proclaimed her state of
feeling. He remembered how remarkably brilliant and beautiful she had
been when she sang at Mrs. Nathanmeyer's: flushed and gleaming, round
and supple, something that couldn't be dimmed or downed. And now she
seemed a moving figure of discouragement. The very waiters glanced at
her apprehensively. It was not that she made a fuss, but her back was
most extraordinarily vocal. One never needed to see her face to know
what she was full of that day. Yet she was certainly not mercurial. Her
flesh seemed to take a mood and to "set," like plaster. As he put her
into the cab, Fred reflected once more that he "gave her up." He would
attack her when his lance was brighter.



PART IV



THE ANCIENT PEOPLE


I

THE San Francisco Mountain lies in Northern Arizona, above Flagstaff,
and its blue slopes and snowy summit entice the eye for a hundred miles
across the desert. About its base lie the pine forests of the Navajos,
where the great red-trunked trees live out their peaceful centuries in
that sparkling air. The PINONS and scrub begin only where the forest
ends, where the country breaks into open, stony clearings and the
surface of the earth cracks into deep canyons. The great pines stand at
a considerable distance from each other. Each tree grows alone, murmurs
alone, thinks alone. They do not intrude upon each other. The Navajos
are not much in the habit of giving or of asking help. Their language is
not a communicative one, and they never attempt an interchange of
personality in speech. Over their forests there is the same inexorable
reserve. Each tree has its exalted power to bear.

That was the first thing Thea Kronborg felt about the forest, as she
drove through it one May morning in Henry Biltmer's democrat wagon--and
it was the first great forest she had ever seen. She had got off the
train at Flagstaff that morning, rolled off into the high, chill air
when all the pines on the mountain were fired by sunrise, so that she
seemed to fall from sleep directly into the forest.

Old Biltmer followed a faint wagon trail which ran southeast, and which,
as they traveled, continually dipped lower, falling away from the high
plateau on the slope of which Flagstaff sits. The white peak of the
mountain, the snow gorges above the timber, now disappeared from time to
time as the road dropped and dropped, and the forest closed behind the
wagon. More than the mountain disappeared as the forest closed thus.
Thea seemed to be taking very little through the wood with her. The
personality of which she was so tired seemed to let go of her. The high,
sparkling air drank it up like blotting-paper. It was lost in the
thrilling blue of the new sky and the song of the thin wind in the
PINONS. The old, fretted lines which marked one off, which defined
her,--made her Thea Kronborg, Bowers's accompanist, a soprano with a
faulty middle voice,--were all erased.

So far she had failed. Her two years in Chicago had not resulted in
anything. She had failed with Harsanyi, and she had made no great
progress with her voice. She had come to believe that whatever Bowers
had taught her was of secondary importance, and that in the essential
things she had made no advance. Her student life closed behind her, like
the forest, and she doubted whether she could go back to it if she
tried. Probably she would teach music in little country towns all her
life. Failure was not so tragic as she would have supposed; she was
tired enough not to care.

She was getting back to the earliest sources of gladness that she could
remember. She had loved the sun, and the brilliant solitudes of sand and
sun, long before these other things had come along to fasten themselves
upon her and torment her. That night, when she clambered into her big
German feather bed, she felt completely released from the enslaving
desire to get on in the world. Darkness had once again the sweet wonder
that it had in childhood.



II


THEA'S life at the Ottenburg ranch was simple and full of light, like
the days themselves. She awoke every morning when the first fierce
shafts of sunlight darted through the curtainless windows of her room at
the ranch house. After breakfast she took her lunch-basket and went down
to the canyon. Usually she did not return until sunset.

Panther Canyon was like a thousand others--one of those abrupt fissures
with which the earth in the Southwest is riddled; so abrupt that you
might walk over the edge of any one of them on a dark night and never
know what had happened to you. This canyon headed on the Ottenburg
ranch, about a mile from the ranch house, and it was accessible only at
its head. The canyon walls, for the first two hundred feet below the
surface, were perpendicular cliffs, striped with even-running strata of
rock. From there on to the bottom the sides were less abrupt, were
shelving, and lightly fringed with PINONS and dwarf cedars. The effect
was that of a gentler canyon within a wilder one. The dead city lay at
the point where the perpendicular outer wall ceased and the V-shaped
inner gorge began. There a stratum of rock, softer than those above, had
been hollowed out by the action of time until it was like a deep groove
running along the sides of the canyon. In this hollow (like a great fold
in the rock) the Ancient People had built their houses of yellowish
stone and mortar. The over-hanging cliff above made a roof two hundred
feet thick. The hard stratum below was an everlasting floor. The houses
stood along in a row, like the buildings in a city block, or like a
barracks.

In both walls of the canyon the same streak of soft rock had been washed
out, and the long horizontal groove had been built up with houses. The
dead city had thus two streets, one set in either cliff, facing each
other across the ravine, with a river of blue air between them.

The canyon twisted and wound like a snake, and these two streets went on
for four miles or more, interrupted by the abrupt turnings of the gorge,
but beginning again within each turn. The canyon had a dozen of these
false endings near its head. Beyond, the windings were larger and less
perceptible, and it went on for a hundred miles, too narrow,
precipitous, and terrible for man to follow it. The Cliff Dwellers liked
wide canyons, where the great cliffs caught the sun. Panther Canyon had
been deserted for hundreds of years when the first Spanish missionaries
came into Arizona, but the masonry of the houses was still wonderfully
firm; had crumbled only where a landslide or a rolling boulder had torn
it.

All the houses in the canyon were clean with the cleanness of sun-baked,
wind-swept places, and they all smelled of the tough little cedars that
twisted themselves into the very doorways. One of these rock-rooms Thea
took for her own. Fred had told her how to make it comfortable. The day
after she came old Henry brought over on one of the pack-ponies a roll
of Navajo blankets that belonged to Fred, and Thea lined her cave with
them. The room was not more than eight by ten feet, and she could touch
the stone roof with her finger-tips. This was her old idea: a nest in a
high cliff, full of sun. All morning long the sun beat upon her cliff,
while the ruins on the opposite side of the canyon were in shadow. In
the afternoon, when she had the shade of two hundred feet of rock wall,
the ruins on the other side of the gulf stood out in the blazing
sunlight. Before her door ran the narrow, winding path that had been the
street of the Ancient People. The yucca and niggerhead cactus grew
everywhere. From her doorstep she looked out on the ocher-colored slope
that ran down several hundred feet to the stream, and this hot rock was
sparsely grown with dwarf trees. Their colors were so pale that the
shadows of the little trees on the rock stood out sharper than the trees
themselves. When Thea first came, the chokecherry bushes were in
blossom, and the scent of them was almost sickeningly sweet after a
shower. At the very bottom of the canyon, along the stream, there was a
thread of bright, flickering, golden-green,--cottonwood seedlings. They
made a living, chattering screen behind which she took her bath every
morning.

Thea went down to the stream by the Indian water trail. She had found a
bathing-pool with a sand bottom, where the creek was damned by fallen
trees. The climb back was long and steep, and when she reached her
little house in the cliff she always felt fresh delight in its comfort
and inaccessibility. By the time she got there, the woolly red-and-gray
blankets were saturated with sunlight, and she sometimes fell asleep as
soon as she stretched her body on their warm surfaces. She used to
wonder at her own inactivity. She could lie there hour after hour in the
sun and listen to the strident whir of the big locusts, and to the
light, ironical laughter of the quaking asps. All her life she had been
hurrying and sputtering, as if she had been born behind time and had
been trying to catch up. Now, she reflected, as she drew herself out
long upon the rugs, it was as if she were waiting for something to catch
up with her. She had got to a place where she was out of the stream of
meaningless activity and undirected effort.

Here she could lie for half a day undistracted, holding pleasant and
incomplete conceptions in her mind--almost in her hands. They were
scarcely clear enough to be called ideas. They had something to do with
fragrance and color and sound, but almost nothing to do with words. She
was singing very little now, but a song would go through her head all
morning, as a spring keeps welling up, and it was like a pleasant
sensation indefinitely prolonged. It was much more like a sensation than
like an idea, or an act of remembering. Music had never come to her in
that sensuous form before. It had always been a thing to be struggled
with, had always brought anxiety and exaltation and chagrin--never
content and indolence. Thea began to wonder whether people could not
utterly lose the power to work, as they can lose their voice or their
memory. She had always been a little drudge, hurrying from one task to
another--as if it mattered! And now her power to think seemed converted
into a power of sustained sensation. She could become a mere receptacle
for heat, or become a color, like the bright lizards that darted about
on the hot stones outside her door; or she could become a continuous
repetition of sound, like the cicadas.



III


THE faculty of observation was never highly developed in Thea Kronborg.
A great deal escaped her eye as she passed through the world. But the
things which were for her, she saw; she experienced them physically and
remembered them as if they had once been a part of herself. The roses
she used to see in the florists' shops in Chicago were merely roses. But
when she thought of the moonflowers that grew over Mrs. Tellamantez's
door, it was as if she had been that vine and had opened up in white
flowers every night. There were memories of light on the sand hills, of
masses of prickly-pear blossoms she had found in the desert in early
childhood, of the late afternoon sun pouring through the grape leaves
and the mint bed in Mrs. Kohler's garden, which she would never lose.
These recollections were a part of her mind and personality. In Chicago
she had got almost nothing that went into her subconscious self and took
root there. But here, in Panther Canyon, there were again things which
seemed destined for her.

Panther Canyon was the home of innumerable swallows. They built nests in
the wall far above the hollow groove in which Thea's own rock chamber
lay. They seldom ventured above the rim of the canyon, to the flat,
wind-swept tableland. Their world was the blue air-river between the
canyon walls. In that blue gulf the arrow-shaped birds swam all day
long, with only an occasional movement of the wings. The only sad thing
about them was their timidity; the way in which they lived their lives
between the echoing cliffs and never dared to rise out of the shadow of
the canyon walls. As they swam past her door, Thea often felt how easy
it would be to dream one's life out in some cleft in the world.

From the ancient dwelling there came always a dignified, unobtrusive
sadness; now stronger, now fainter,--like the aromatic smell which the
dwarf cedars gave out in the sun,--but always present, a part of the air
one breathed. At night, when Thea dreamed about the canyon,--or in the
early morning when she hurried toward it, anticipating it,--her
conception of it was of yellow rocks baking in sunlight, the swallows,
the cedar smell, and that peculiar sadness--a voice out of the past, not
very loud, that went on saying a few simple things to the solitude
eternally.

Standing up in her lodge, Thea could with her thumb nail dislodge flakes
of carbon from the rock roof--the cooking-smoke of the Ancient People.
They were that near! A timid, nest-building folk, like the swallows. How
often Thea remembered Ray Kennedy's moralizing about the cliff cities.
He used to say that he never felt the hardness of the human struggle or
the sadness of history as he felt it among those ruins. He used to say,
too, that it made one feel an obligation to do one's best. On the first
day that Thea climbed the water trail she began to have intuitions about
the women who had worn the path, and who had spent so great a part of
their lives going up and down it. She found herself trying to walk as
they must have walked, with a feeling in her feet and knees and loins
which she had never known before,--which must have come up to her out of
the accustomed dust of that rocky trail. She could feel the weight of an
Indian baby hanging to her back as she climbed.

The empty houses, among which she wandered in the afternoon, the
blanketed one in which she lay all morning, were haunted by certain
fears and desires; feelings about warmth and cold and water and physical
strength. It seemed to Thea that a certain understanding of those old
people came up to her out of the rock shelf on which she lay; that
certain feelings were transmitted to her, suggestions that were simple,
insistent, and monotonous, like the beating of Indian drums. They were
not expressible in words, but seemed rather to translate themselves into
attitudes of body, into degrees of muscular tension or relaxation; the
naked strength of youth, sharp as the sunshafts; the crouching
timorousness of age, the sullenness of women who waited for their
captors. At the first turning of the canyon there was a half-ruined
tower of yellow masonry, a watch-tower upon which the young men used to
entice eagles and snare them with nets. Sometimes for a whole morning
Thea could see the coppery breast and shoulders of an Indian youth there
against the sky; see him throw the net, and watch the struggle with the
eagle.

Old Henry Biltmer, at the ranch, had been a great deal among the Pueblo
Indians who are the descendants of the Cliff-Dwellers. After supper he
used to sit and smoke his pipe by the kitchen stove and talk to Thea
about them. He had never found any one before who was interested in his
ruins. Every Sunday the old man prowled about in the canyon, and he had
come to know a good deal more about it than he could account for. He had
gathered up a whole chestful of Cliff-Dweller relics which he meant to
take back to Germany with him some day. He taught Thea how to find
things among the ruins: grinding-stones, and drills and needles made of
turkey-bones. There were fragments of pottery everywhere. Old Henry
explained to her that the Ancient People had developed masonry and
pottery far beyond any other crafts. After they had made houses for
themselves, the next thing was to house the precious water. He explained
to her how all their customs and ceremonies and their religion went back
to water. The men provided the food, but water was the care of the
women. The stupid women carried water for most of their lives; the
cleverer ones made the vessels to hold it. Their pottery was their most
direct appeal to water, the envelope and sheath of the precious element
itself. The strongest Indian need was expressed in those graceful jars,
fashioned slowly by hand, without the aid of a wheel.

When Thea took her bath at the bottom of the canyon, in the sunny pool
behind the screen of cottonwoods, she sometimes felt as if the water
must have sovereign qualities, from having been the object of so much
service and desire. That stream was the only living thing left of the
drama that had been played out in the canyon centuries ago. In the
rapid, restless heart of it, flowing swifter than the rest, there was a
continuity of life that reached back into the old time. The glittering
thread of current had a kind of lightly worn, loosely knit personality,
graceful and laughing. Thea's bath came to have a ceremonial gravity.
The atmosphere of the canyon was ritualistic.

One morning, as she was standing upright in the pool, splashing water
between her shoulder-blades with a big sponge, something flashed through
her mind that made her draw herself up and stand still until the water
had quite dried upon her flushed skin. The stream and the broken
pottery: what was any art but an effort to make a sheath, a mould in
which to imprison for a moment the shining, elusive element which is
life itself,--life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to
stop, too sweet to lose? The Indian women had held it in their jars. In
the sculpture she had seen in the Art Institute, it had been caught in a
flash of arrested motion. In singing, one made a vessel of one's throat
and nostrils and held it on one's breath, caught the stream in a scale
of natural intervals.



IV


THEA had a superstitious feeling about the potsherds, and liked better
to leave them in the dwellings where she found them. If she took a few
bits back to her own lodge and hid them under the blankets, she did it
guiltily, as if she were being watched. She was a guest in these houses,
and ought to behave as such. Nearly every afternoon she went to the
chambers which contained the most interesting fragments of pottery, sat
and looked at them for a while. Some of them were beautifully decorated.
This care, expended upon vessels that could not hold food or water any
better for the additional labor put upon them, made her heart go out to
those ancient potters. They had not only expressed their desire, but
they had expressed it as beautifully as they could. Food, fire, water,
and something else--even here, in this crack in the world, so far back
in the night of the past! Down here at the beginning that painful thing
was already stirring; the seed of sorrow, and of so much delight.

There were jars done in a delicate overlay, like pine cones; and there
were many patterns in a low relief, like basket-work. Some of the
pottery was decorated in color, red and brown, black and white, in
graceful geometrical patterns. One day, on a fragment of a shallow bowl,
she found a crested serpent's head, painted in red on terra-cotta. Again
she found half a bowl with a broad band of white cliff-houses painted on
a black ground. They were scarcely conventionalized at all; there they
were in the black border, just as they stood in the rock before her. It
brought her centuries nearer to these people to find that they saw their
houses exactly as she saw them.

Yes, Ray Kennedy was right. All these things made one feel that one
ought to do one's best, and help to fulfill some desire of the dust that
slept there. A dream had been dreamed there long ago, in the night of
ages, and the wind had whispered some promise to the sadness of the
savage. In their own way, those people had felt the beginnings of what
was to come. These potsherds were like fetters that bound one to a long
chain of human endeavor.

Not only did the world seem older and richer to Thea now, but she
herself seemed older. She had never been alone for so long before, or
thought so much. Nothing had ever engrossed her so deeply as the daily
contemplation of that line of pale-yellow houses tucked into the wrinkle
of the cliff. Moonstone and Chicago had become vague. Here everything
was simple and definite, as things had been in childhood. Her mind was
like a ragbag into which she had been frantically thrusting whatever she
could grab. And here she must throw this lumber away. The things that
were really hers separated themselves from the rest. Her ideas were
simplified, became sharper and clearer. She felt united and strong.


When Thea had been at the Ottenburg ranch for two months, she got a
letter from Fred announcing that he "might be along at almost any time
now." The letter came at night, and the next morning she took it down
into the canyon with her. She was delighted that he was coming soon. She
had never felt so grateful to any one, and she wanted to tell him
everything that had happened to her since she had been there--more than
had happened in all her life before. Certainly she liked Fred better
than any one else in the world. There was Harsanyi, of course--but
Harsanyi was always tired. Just now, and here, she wanted some one who
had never been tired, who could catch an idea and run with it.

She was ashamed to think what an apprehensive drudge she must always
have seemed to Fred, and she wondered why he had concerned himself about
her at all. Perhaps she would never be so happy or so good-looking
again, and she would like Fred to see her, for once, at her best. She
had not been singing much, but she knew that her voice was more
interesting than it had ever been before. She had begun to understand
that--with her, at least--voice was, first of all, vitality; a lightness
in the body and a driving power in the blood. If she had that, she could
sing. When she felt so keenly alive, lying on that insensible shelf of
stone, when her body bounded like a rubber ball away from its hardness,
then she could sing. This, too, she could explain to Fred. He would know
what she meant.

Another week passed. Thea did the same things as before, felt the same
influences, went over the same ideas; but there was a livelier movement
in her thoughts, and a freshening of sensation, like the brightness
which came over the underbrush after a shower. A persistent
affirmation--or denial--was going on in her, like the tapping of the
woodpecker in the one tall pine tree across the chasm. Musical phrases
drove each other rapidly through her mind, and the song of the cicada
was now too long and too sharp. Everything seemed suddenly to take the
form of a desire for action.

It was while she was in this abstracted state, waiting for the clock to
strike, that Thea at last made up her mind what she was going to try to
do in the world, and that she was going to Germany to study without
further loss of time. Only by the merest chance had she ever got to
Panther Canyon. There was certainly no kindly Providence that directed
one's life; and one's parents did not in the least care what became of
one, so long as one did not misbehave and endanger their comfort. One's
life was at the mercy of blind chance. She had better take it in her own
hands and lose everything than meekly draw the plough under the rod of
parental guidance. She had seen it when she was at home last
summer,--the hostility of comfortable, selfsatisfied people toward any
serious effort. Even to her father it seemed indecorous. Whenever she
spoke seriously, he looked apologetic. Yet she had clung fast to
whatever was left of Moonstone in her mind. No more of that! The
Cliff-Dwellers had lengthened her past. She had older and higher
obligations.



V


ONE Sunday afternoon late in July old Henry Biltmer was rheumatically
descending into the head of the canyon. The Sunday before had been one
of those cloudy days--fortunately rare--when the life goes out of that
country and it becomes a gray ghost, an empty, shivering uncertainty.
Henry had spent the day in the barn; his canyon was a reality only when
it was flooded with the light of its great lamp, when the yellow rocks
cast purple shadows, and the resin was fairly cooking in the corkscrew
cedars. The yuccas were in blossom now. Out of each clump of sharp
bayonet leaves rose a tall stalk hung with greenish-white bells with
thick, fleshy petals. The niggerhead cactus was thrusting its crimson
blooms up out of every crevice in the rocks.

Henry had come out on the pretext of hunting a spade and pick-axe that
young Ottenburg had borrowed, but he was keeping his eyes open. He was
really very curious about the new occupants of the canyon, and what they
found to do there all day long. He let his eye travel along the gulf for
a mile or so to the first turning, where the fissure zigzagged out and
then receded behind a stone promontory on which stood the yellowish,
crumbling ruin of the old watch-tower.

From the base of this tower, which now threw its shadow forward, bits of
rock kept flying out into the open gulf--skating upon the air until they
lost their momentum, then falling like chips until they rang upon the
ledges at the bottom of the gorge or splashed into the stream. Biltmer
shaded his eyes with his hand. There on the promontory, against the
cream-colored cliff, were two figures nimbly moving in the light, both
slender and agile, entirely absorbed in their game. They looked like two
boys. Both were hatless and both wore white shirts.

Henry forgot his pick-axe and followed the trail before the cliff-houses
toward the tower. Behind the tower, as he well knew, were heaps of
stones, large and small, piled against the face of the cliff. He had
always believed that the Indian watchmen piled them there for
ammunition. Thea and Fred had come upon these missiles and were throwing
them for distance. As Biltmer approached he could hear them laughing,
and he caught Thea's voice, high and excited, with a ring of vexation in
it. Fred was teaching her to throw a heavy stone like a discus. When it
was Fred's turn, he sent a triangular-shaped stone out into the air with
considerable skill. Thea watched it enviously, standing in a
half-defiant posture, her sleeves rolled above her elbows and her face
flushed with heat and excitement. After Fred's third missile had rung
upon the rocks below, she snatched up a stone and stepped impatiently
out on the ledge in front of him. He caught her by the elbows and pulled
her back.

"Not so close, you silly! You'll spin yourself off in a minute."

"You went that close. There's your heel-mark," she retorted.

"Well, I know how. That makes a difference." He drew a mark in the dust
with his toe. "There, that's right. Don't step over that. Pivot yourself
on your spine, and make a half turn. When you've swung your length, let
it go."

Thea settled the flat piece of rock between her wrist and fingers, faced
the cliff wall, stretched her arm in position, whirled round on her left
foot to the full stretch of her body, and let the missile spin out over
the gulf. She hung expectantly in the air, forgetting to draw back her
arm, her eyes following the stone as if it carried her fortunes with it.
Her comrade watched her; there weren't many girls who could show a line
like that from the toe to the thigh, from the shoulder to the tip of the
outstretched hand. The stone spent itself and began to fall. Thea drew
back and struck her knee furiously with her palm.

"There it goes again! Not nearly so far as yours. What IS the matter
with me? Give me another." She faced the cliff and whirled again. The
stone spun out, not quite so far as before.

Ottenburg laughed. "Why do you keep on working AFTER you've thrown it?
You can't help it along then."

Without replying, Thea stooped and selected another stone, took a deep
breath and made another turn. Fred watched the disk, exclaiming, "Good
girl! You got past the pine that time. That's a good throw."

She took out her handkerchief and wiped her glowing face and throat,
pausing to feel her right shoulder with her left hand.

"Ah--ha, you've made yourself sore, haven't you? What did I tell you?
You go at things too hard. I'll tell you what I'm going to do, Thea,"
Fred dusted his hands and began tucking in the blouse of his shirt, "I'm
going to make some single-sticks and teach you to fence. You'd be all
right there. You're light and quick and you've got lots of drive in you.
I'd like to have you come at me with foils; you'd look so fierce," he
chuckled.

She turned away from him and stubbornly sent out another stone, hanging
in the air after its flight. Her fury amused Fred, who took all games
lightly and played them well. She was breathing hard, and little beads
of moisture had gathered on her upper lip. He slipped his arm about her.
"If you will look as pretty as that--" he bent his head and kissed her.
Thea was startled, gave him an angry push, drove at him with her free
hand in a manner quite hostile. Fred was on his mettle in an instant. He
pinned both her arms down and kissed her resolutely.

When he released her, she turned away and spoke over her shoulder. "That
was mean of you, but I suppose I deserved what I got."

"I should say you did deserve it," Fred panted, "turning savage on me
like that! I should say you did deserve it!"

He saw her shoulders harden. "Well, I just said I deserved it, didn't I?
What more do you want?"

"I want you to tell me why you flew at me like that! You weren't
playing; you looked as if you'd like to murder me."

She brushed back her hair impatiently. "I didn't mean anything, really.
You interrupted me when I was watching the stone. I can't jump from one
thing to another. I pushed you without thinking."

Fred thought her back expressed contrition. He went up to her, stood
behind her with his chin above her shoulder, and said something in her
ear. Thea laughed and turned toward him. They left the stone-pile
carelessly, as if they had never been interested in it, rounded the
yellow tower, and disappeared into the second turn of the canyon, where
the dead city, interrupted by the jutting promontory, began again.

Old Biltmer had been somewhat embarrassed by the turn the game had
taken. He had not heard their conversation, but the pantomime against
the rocks was clear enough. When the two young people disappeared, their
host retreated rapidly toward the head of the canyon.

"I guess that young lady can take care of herself," he chuckled. "Young
Fred, though, he has quite a way with them."



VI


DAY was breaking over Panther Canyon. The gulf was cold and full of
heavy, purplish twilight. The wood smoke which drifted from one of the
cliff-houses hung in a blue scarf across the chasm, until the draft
caught it and whirled it away. Thea was crouching in the doorway of her
rock house, while Ottenburg looked after the crackling fire in the next
cave. He was waiting for it to burn down to coals before he put the
coffee on to boil.

They had left the ranch house that morning a little after three o'clock,
having packed their camp equipment the day before, and had crossed the
open pasture land with their lantern while the stars were still bright.
During the descent into the canyon by lantern-light, they were chilled
through their coats and sweaters. The lantern crept slowly along the
rock trail, where the heavy air seemed to offer resistance. The voice of
the stream at the bottom of the gorge was hollow and threatening, much
louder and deeper than it ever was by day--another voice altogether. The
sullenness of the place seemed to say that the world could get on very
well without people, red or white; that under the human world there was
a geological world, conducting its silent, immense operations which were
indifferent to man. Thea had often seen the desert sunrise,--a
lighthearted affair, where the sun springs out of bed and the world is
golden in an instant. But this canyon seemed to waken like an old man,
with rheum and stiffness of the joints, with heaviness, and a dull,
malignant mind. She crouched against the wall while the stars faded, and
thought what courage the early races must have had to endure so much for
the little they got out of life.

At last a kind of hopefulness broke in the air. In a moment the
pine trees up on the edge of the rim were flashing with coppery
fire. The thin red clouds which hung above their pointed tops began to
boil and move rapidly, weaving in and out like smoke. The swallows
darted out of their rock houses as at a signal, and flew upward, toward
the rim. Little brown birds began to chirp in the bushes along the
watercourse down at the bottom of the ravine, where everything was still
dusky and pale. At first the golden light seemed to hang like a wave
upon the rim of the canyon; the trees and bushes up there, which one
scarcely noticed at noon, stood out magnified by the slanting rays.
Long, thin streaks of light began to reach quiveringly down into the
canyon. The red sun rose rapidly above the tops of the blazing pines,
and its glow burst into the gulf, about the very doorstep on which Thea
sat. It bored into the wet, dark underbrush. The dripping cherry bushes,
the pale aspens, and the frosty PINONS were glittering and trembling,
swimming in the liquid gold. All the pale, dusty little herbs of the
bean family, never seen by any one but a botanist, became for a moment
individual and important, their silky leaves quite beautiful with dew
and light. The arch of sky overhead, heavy as lead a little while
before, lifted, became more and more transparent, and one could look up
into depths of pearly blue.

The savor of coffee and bacon mingled with the smell of wet cedars
drying, and Fred called to Thea that he was ready for her. They sat down
in the doorway of his kitchen, with the warmth of the live coals behind
them and the sunlight on their faces, and began their breakfast, Mrs.
Biltmer's thick coffee cups and the cream bottle between them, the
coffee-pot and frying-pan conveniently keeping hot among the embers.

"I thought you were going back on the whole proposition, Thea, when you
were crawling along with that lantern. I couldn't get a word out of
you."

"I know. I was cold and hungry, and I didn't believe there was going to
be any morning, anyway. Didn't you feel queer, at all?"

Fred squinted above his smoking cup. "Well, I am never strong for
getting up before the sun. The world looks unfurnished. When I first lit
the fire and had a square look at you, I thought I'd got the wrong girl.
Pale, grim--you were a sight!"

Thea leaned back into the shadow of the rock room and warmed her hands
over the coals. "It was dismal enough. How warm these walls are, all the
way round; and your breakfast is so good. I'm all right now, Fred."

"Yes, you're all right now." Fred lit a cigarette and looked at her
critically as her head emerged into the sun again. "You get up every
morning just a little bit handsomer than you were the day before. I'd
love you just as much if you were not turning into one of the loveliest
women I've ever seen; but you are, and that's a fact to be reckoned
with." He watched her across the thin line of smoke he blew from his
lips. "What are you going to do with all that beauty and all that
talent, Miss Kronborg?"

She turned away to the fire again. "I don't know what you're talking
about," she muttered with an awkwardness which did not conceal her
pleasure.

Ottenburg laughed softly. "Oh, yes, you do! Nobody better! You're a
close one, but you give yourself away sometimes, like everybody else. Do
you know, I've decided that you never do a single thing without an
ulterior motive." He threw away his cigarette, took out his
tobacco-pouch and began to fill his pipe. "You ride and fence and walk
and climb, but I know that all the while you're getting somewhere in
your mind. All these things are instruments; and I, too, am an
instrument." He looked up in time to intercept a quick, startled glance
from Thea. "Oh, I don't mind," he chuckled; "not a bit. Every woman,
every interesting woman, has ulterior motives, many of 'em less
creditable than yours. It's your constancy that amuses me. You must have
been doing it ever since you were two feet high."

Thea looked slowly up at her companion's good-humored face. His eyes,
sometimes too restless and sympathetic in town, had grown steadier and
clearer in the open air. His short curly beard and yellow hair had
reddened in the sun and wind. The pleasant vigor of his person was
always delightful to her, something to signal to and laugh with in a
world of negative people. With Fred she was never becalmed. There was
always life in the air, always something coming and going, a rhythm of
feeling and action,--stronger than the natural accord of youth. As she
looked at him, leaning against the sunny wall, she felt a desire to be
frank with him. She was not willfully holding anything back. But, on the
other hand, she could not force things that held themselves back. "Yes,
it was like that when I was little," she said at last. "I had to be
close, as you call it, or go under. But I didn't know I had been like
that since you came. I've had nothing to be close about. I haven't
thought about anything but having a good time with you. I've just
drifted."

Fred blew a trail of smoke out into the breeze and looked knowing. "Yes,
you drift like a rifle ball, my dear. It's your--your direction that I
like best of all. Most fellows wouldn't, you know. I'm unusual."

They both laughed, but Thea frowned questioningly. "Why wouldn't most
fellows? Other fellows have liked me."

"Yes, serious fellows. You told me yourself they were all old, or
solemn. But jolly fellows want to be the whole target. They would say
you were all brain and muscle; that you have no feeling."

She glanced at him sidewise. "Oh, they would, would they?"

"Of course they would," Fred continued blandly. "Jolly fellows have no
imagination. They want to be the animating force. When they are not
around, they want a girl to be--extinct," he waved his hand. "Old
fellows like Mr. Nathanmeyer understand your kind; but among the young
ones, you are rather lucky to have found me. Even I wasn't always so
wise. I've had my time of thinking it would not bore me to be the Apollo
of a homey flat, and I've paid out a trifle to learn better. All those
things get very tedious unless they are hooked up with an idea of some
sort. It's because we DON'T come out here only to look at each other and
drink coffee that it's so pleasant to--look at each other." Fred drew
on his pipe for a while, studying Thea's abstraction. She was staring up
at the far wall of the canyon with a troubled expression that drew her
eyes narrow and her mouth hard. Her hands lay in her lap, one over the
other, the fingers interlacing. "Suppose," Fred came out at
length,--"suppose I were to offer you what most of the young men I know
would offer a girl they'd been sitting up nights about: a comfortable
flat in Chicago, a summer camp up in the woods, musical evenings, and a
family to bring up. Would it look attractive to you?"

Thea sat up straight and stared at him in alarm, glared into his eyes.
"Perfectly hideous!" she exclaimed.

Fred dropped back against the old stonework and laughed deep in his
chest. "Well, don't be frightened. I won't offer them. You're not a
nest-building bird. You know I always liked your song, `Me for the jolt
of the breakers!' I understand."

She rose impatiently and walked to the edge of the cliff. "It's not that
so much. It's waking up every morning with the feeling that your life is
your own, and your strength is your own, and your talent is your own;
that you're all there, and there's no sag in you." She stood for a
moment as if she were tortured by uncertainty, then turned suddenly back
to him. "Don't talk about these things any more now," she entreated. "It
isn't that I want to keep anything from you. The trouble is that I've
got nothing to keep--except (you know as well as I) that feeling. I told
you about it in Chicago once. But it always makes me unhappy to talk
about it. It will spoil the day. Will you go for a climb with me?" She
held out her hands with a smile so eager that it made Ottenburg feel how
much she needed to get away from herself.

He sprang up and caught the hands she put out so cordially, and stood
swinging them back and forth. "I won't tease you. A word's enough to me.
But I love it, all the same. Understand?" He pressed her hands and
dropped them. "Now, where are you going to drag me?"

"I want you to drag me. Over there, to the other houses. They are more
interesting than these." She pointed across the gorge to the row of
white houses in the other cliff. "The trail is broken away, but I got up
there once. It's possible. You have to go to the bottom of the canyon,
cross the creek, and then go up hand-over-hand."

Ottenburg, lounging against the sunny wall, his hands in the pockets of
his jacket, looked across at the distant dwellings. "It's an awful
climb," he sighed, "when I could be perfectly happy here with my pipe.
However--" He took up his stick and hat and followed Thea down the water
trail. "Do you climb this path every day? You surely earn your bath. I
went down and had a look at your pool the other afternoon. Neat place,
with all those little cottonwoods. Must be very becoming."

"Think so?" Thea said over her shoulder, as she swung round a turn.

"Yes, and so do you, evidently. I'm becoming expert at reading your
meaning in your back. I'm behind you so much on these single-foot
trails. You don't wear stays, do you?"

"Not here."

"I wouldn't, anywhere, if I were you. They will make you less elastic.
The side muscles get flabby. If you go in for opera, there's a fortune
in a flexible body. Most of the German singers are clumsy, even when
they're well set up."

Thea switched a PINON branch back at him. "Oh, I'll never get fat! That
I can promise you."

Fred smiled, looking after her. "Keep that promise, no matter how many
others you break," he drawled.

The upward climb, after they had crossed the stream, was at first a
breathless scramble through underbrush. When they reached the big
boulders, Ottenburg went first because he had the longer leg-reach, and
gave Thea a hand when the step was quite beyond her, swinging her up
until she could get a foothold. At last they reached a little platform
among the rocks, with only a hundred feet of jagged, sloping wall
between them and the cliff-houses.

Ottenburg lay down under a pine tree and declared that he was going to
have a pipe before he went any farther. "It's a good thing to know when
to stop, Thea," he said meaningly.

"I'm not going to stop now until I get there," Thea insisted. "I'll go
on alone."

Fred settled his shoulder against the tree-trunk. "Go on if you like,
but I'm here to enjoy myself. If you meet a rattler on the way, have it
out with him."

She hesitated, fanning herself with her felt hat. "I never have met
one."

"There's reasoning for you," Fred murmured languidly.

Thea turned away resolutely and began to go up the wall, using an
irregular cleft in the rock for a path. The cliff, which looked almost
perpendicular from the bottom, was really made up of ledges and
boulders, and behind these she soon disappeared. For a long while Fred
smoked with half-closed eyes, smiling to himself now and again.
Occasionally he lifted an eyebrow as he heard the rattle of small stones
among the rocks above. "In a temper," he concluded; "do her good." Then
he subsided into warm drowsiness and listened to the locusts in the
yuccas, and the tap-tap of the old woodpecker that was never weary of
assaulting the big pine.

Fred had finished his pipe and was wondering whether he wanted another,
when he heard a call from the cliff far above him. Looking up, he saw
Thea standing on the edge of a projecting crag. She waved to him and
threw her arm over her head, as if she were snapping her fingers in the
air.

As he saw her there between the sky and the gulf, with that great wash
of air and the morning light about her, Fred recalled the brilliant
figure at Mrs. Nathanmeyer's. Thea was one of those people who emerge,
unexpectedly, larger than we are accustomed to see them. Even at this
distance one got the impression of muscular energy and audacity,--a kind
of brilliancy of motion,--of a personality that carried across big
spaces and expanded among big things. Lying still, with his hands under
his head, Ottenburg rhetorically addressed the figure in the air. "You
are the sort that used to run wild in Germany, dressed in their hair and
a piece of skin. Soldiers caught 'em in nets. Old Nathanmeyer," he
mused, "would like a peep at her now. Knowing old fellow. Always buying
those Zorn etchings of peasant girls bathing. No sag in them either.
Must be the cold climate." He sat up. "She'll begin to pitch rocks on me
if I don't move." In response to another impatient gesture from the
crag, he rose and began swinging slowly up the trail.


It was the afternoon of that long day. Thea was lying on a blanket in
the door of her rock house. She and Ottenburg had come back from their
climb and had lunch, and he had gone off for a nap in one of the
cliff-houses farther down the path. He was sleeping peacefully, his coat
under his head and his face turned toward the wall.

Thea, too, was drowsy, and lay looking through halfclosed eyes up at the
blazing blue arch over the rim of the canyon. She was thinking of
nothing at all. Her mind, like her body, was full of warmth, lassitude,
physical content. Suddenly an eagle, tawny and of great size, sailed
over the cleft in which she lay, across the arch of sky. He dropped for
a moment into the gulf between the walls, then wheeled, and mounted
until his plumage was so steeped in light that he looked like a golden
bird. He swept on, following the course of the canyon a little way and
then disappearing beyond the rim. Thea sprang to her feet as if she had
been thrown up from the rock by volcanic action. She stood rigid on the
edge of the stone shelf, straining her eyes after that strong, tawny
flight. O eagle of eagles! Endeavor, achievement, desire, glorious
striving of human art! From a cleft in the heart of the world she
saluted it...It had come all the way; when men lived in caves, it was
there. A vanished race; but along the trails, in the stream, under the
spreading cactus, there still glittered in the sun the bits of their
frail clay vessels, fragments of their desire.



VII


FROM the day of Fred's arrival, he and Thea were unceasingly active.
They took long rides into the Navajo pine forests, bought turquoises and
silver bracelets from the wandering Indian herdsmen, and rode twenty
miles to Flagstaff upon the slightest pretext. Thea had never felt this
pleasant excitement about any man before, and she found herself trying
very hard to please young Ottenburg. She was never tired, never dull.
There was a zest about waking up in the morning and dressing, about
walking, riding, even about sleep.

One morning when Thea came out from her room at seven o'clock, she found
Henry and Fred on the porch, looking up at the sky. The day was already
hot and there was no breeze. The sun was shining, but heavy brown clouds
were hanging in the west, like the smoke of a forest fire. She and Fred
had meant to ride to Flagstaff that morning, but Biltmer advised against
it, foretelling a storm. After breakfast they lingered about the house,
waiting for the weather to make up its mind. Fred had brought his
guitar, and as they had the dining-room to themselves, he made Thea go
over some songs with him. They got interested and kept it up until Mrs.
Biltmer came to set the table for dinner. Ottenburg knew some of the
Mexican things Spanish Johnny used to sing. Thea had never before
happened to tell him about Spanish Johnny, and he seemed more interested
in Johnny than in Dr. Archie or Wunsch.

After dinner they were too restless to endure the ranch house any
longer, and ran away to the canyon to practice with single-sticks. Fred
carried a slicker and a sweater, and he made Thea wear one of the rubber
hats that hung in Biltmer's gun-room. As they crossed the pasture land
the clumsy slicker kept catching in the lacings of his leggings.

"Why don't you drop that thing?" Thea asked. "I won't mind a shower.
I've been wet before."

"No use taking chances."

From the canyon they were unable to watch the sky, since only a strip of
the zenith was visible. The flat ledge about the watch-tower was the
only level spot large enough for single-stick exercise, and they were
still practicing there when, at about four o'clock, a tremendous roll of
thunder echoed between the cliffs and the atmosphere suddenly became
thick.

Fred thrust the sticks in a cleft in the rock. "We're in for it, Thea.
Better make for your cave where there are blankets." He caught her elbow
and hurried her along the path before the cliff-houses. They made the
half-mile at a quick trot, and as they ran the rocks and the sky and the
air between the cliffs turned a turbid green, like the color in a moss
agate. When they reached the blanketed rock room, they looked at each
other and laughed. Their faces had taken on a greenish pallor. Thea's
hair, even, was green.

"Dark as pitch in here," Fred exclaimed as they hurried over the old
rock doorstep. "But it's warm. The rocks hold the heat. It's going to be
terribly cold outside, all right." He was interrupted by a deafening
peal of thunder. "Lord, what an echo! Lucky you don't mind. It's worth
watching out there. We needn't come in yet."

The green light grew murkier and murkier. The smaller vegetation was
blotted out. The yuccas, the cedars, and PINONS stood dark and rigid,
like bronze. The swallows flew up with sharp, terrified twitterings.
Even the quaking asps were still. While Fred and Thea watched from the
doorway, the light changed to purple. Clouds of dark vapor, like
chlorine gas, began to float down from the head of the canyon and hung
between them and the cliff-houses in the opposite wall. Before they knew
it, the wall itself had disappeared. The air was positively
venomous-looking, and grew colder every minute. The thunder seemed to
crash against one cliff, then against the other, and to go shrieking off
into the inner canyon.

The moment the rain broke, it beat the vapors down. In the gulf before
them the water fell in spouts, and dashed from the high cliffs overhead.
It tore aspens and chokecherry bushes out of the ground and left the
yuccas hanging by their tough roots. Only the little cedars stood black
and unmoved in the torrents that fell from so far above. The rock
chamber was full of fine spray from the streams of water that shot over
the doorway. Thea crept to the back wall and rolled herself in a
blanket, and Fred threw the heavier blankets over her. The wool of the
Navajo sheep was soon kindled by the warmth of her body, and was
impenetrable to dampness. Her hair, where it hung below the rubber hat,
gathered the moisture like a sponge. Fred put on the slicker, tied the
sweater about his neck, and settled himself cross-legged beside her. The
chamber was so dark that, although he could see the outline of her head
and shoulders, he could not see her face. He struck a wax match to light
his pipe. As he sheltered it between his hands, it sizzled and
sputtered, throwing a yellow flicker over Thea and her blankets.

"You look like a gypsy," he said as he dropped the match. "Any one you'd
rather be shut up with than me? No? Sure about that?"

"I think I am. Aren't you cold?"

"Not especially." Fred smoked in silence, listening to the roar of the
water outside. "We may not get away from here right away," he remarked.

"I shan't mind. Shall you?"

He laughed grimly and pulled on his pipe. "Do you know where you're at,
Miss Thea Kronborg?" he said at last. "You've got me going pretty hard,
I suppose you know. I've had a lot of sweethearts, but I've never been
so much--engrossed before. What are you going to do about it?" He heard
nothing from the blankets. "Are you going to play fair, or is it about
my cue to cut away?"

"I'll play fair. I don't see why you want to go."

"What do you want me around for?--to play with?"

Thea struggled up among the blankets. "I want you for everything. I
don't know whether I'm what people call in love with you or not. In
Moonstone that meant sitting in a hammock with somebody. I don't want to
sit in a hammock with you, but I want to do almost everything else. Oh,
hundreds of things!"

"If I run away, will you go with me?"

"I don't know. I'll have to think about that. Maybe I would." She freed
herself from her wrappings and stood up. "It's not raining so hard now.
Hadn't we better start this minute? It will be night before we get to
Biltmer's."

Fred struck another match. "It's seven. I don't know how much of the
path may be washed away. I don't even know whether I ought to let you
try it without a lantern."

Thea went to the doorway and looked out. "There's nothing else to do.
The sweater and the slicker will keep me dry, and this will be my chance
to find out whether these shoes are really water-tight. They cost a
week's salary." She retreated to the back of the cave. "It's getting
blacker every minute."

Ottenburg took a brandy flask from his coat pocket. "Better have some of
this before we start. Can you take it without water?"

Thea lifted it obediently to her lips. She put on the sweater and Fred
helped her to get the clumsy slicker on over it. He buttoned it and
fastened the high collar. She could feel that his hands were hurried and
clumsy. The coat was too big, and he took off his necktie and belted it
in at the waist. While she tucked her hair more securely under the
rubber hat he stood in front of her, between her and the gray doorway,
without moving.

"Are you ready to go?" she asked carelessly.

"If you are," he spoke quietly, without moving, except to bend his head
forward a little.

Thea laughed and put her hands on his shoulders. "You know how to handle
me, don't you?" she whispered. For the first time, she kissed him
without constraint or embarrassment.

"Thea, Thea, Thea!" Fred whispered her name three times, shaking her a
little as if to waken her. It was too dark to see, but he could feel
that she was smiling.

When she kissed him she had not hidden her face on his shoulder,--she
had risen a little on her toes, and stood straight and free. In that
moment when he came close to her actual personality, he felt in her the
same expansion that he had noticed at Mrs. Nathanmeyer's. She became
freer and stronger under impulses. When she rose to meet him like that,
he felt her flash into everything that she had ever suggested to him, as
if she filled out her own shadow.

She pushed him away and shot past him out into the rain. "Now for it,
Fred," she called back exultantly. The rain was pouring steadily down
through the dying gray twilight, and muddy streams were spouting and
foaming over the cliff.

Fred caught her and held her back. "Keep behind me, Thea. I don't know
about the path. It may be gone altogether. Can't tell what there is
under this water."

But the path was older than the white man's Arizona. The rush of water
had washed away the dust and stones that lay on the surface, but the
rock skeleton of the Indian trail was there, ready for the foot. Where
the streams poured down through gullies, there was always a cedar or a
PINON to cling to. By wading and slipping and climbing, they got along.
As they neared the head of the canyon, where the path lifted and rose in
steep loops to the surface of the plateau, the climb was more difficult.
The earth above had broken away and washed down over the trail, bringing
rocks and bushes and even young trees with it. The last ghost of
daylight was dying and there was no time to lose. The canyon behind them
was already black.

"We've got to go right through the top of this pine tree, Thea. No time
to hunt a way around. Give me your hand." After they had crashed through
the mass of branches, Fred stopped abruptly. "Gosh, what a hole! Can you
jump it? Wait a minute."

He cleared the washout, slipped on the wet rock at the farther side, and
caught himself just in time to escape a tumble. "If I could only find
something to hold to, I could give you a hand. It's so cursed dark, and
there are no trees here where they're needed. Here's something; it's a
root. It will hold all right." He braced himself on the rock, gripped
the crooked root with one hand and swung himself across toward Thea,
holding out his arm. "Good jump! I must say you don't lose your nerve in
a tight place. Can you keep at it a little longer? We're almost out.
Have to make that next ledge. Put your foot on my knee and catch
something to pull by."

Thea went up over his shoulder. "It's hard ground up here," she panted.
"Did I wrench your arm when I slipped then? It was a cactus I grabbed,
and it startled me."

"Now, one more pull and we're on the level."

They emerged gasping upon the black plateau. In the last five minutes
the darkness had solidified and it seemed as if the skies were pouring
black water. They could not see where the sky ended or the plain began.
The light at the ranch house burned a steady spark through the rain.
Fred drew Thea's arm through his and they struck off toward the light.
They could not see each other, and the rain at their backs seemed to
drive them along. They kept laughing as they stumbled over tufts of
grass or stepped into slippery pools. They were delighted with each
other and with the adventure which lay behind them.

"I can't even see the whites of your eyes, Thea. But I'd know who was
here stepping out with me, anywhere. Part coyote you are, by the feel of
you. When you make up your mind to jump, you jump! My gracious, what's
the matter with your hand?"

"Cactus spines. Didn't I tell you when I grabbed the cactus? I thought
it was a root. Are we going straight?"

"I don't know. Somewhere near it, I think. I'm very comfortable, aren't
you? You're warm, except your cheeks. How funny they are when they're
wet. Still, you always feel like you. I like this. I could walk to
Flagstaff. It's fun, not being able to see anything. I feel surer of you
when I can't see you. Will you run away with me?"

Thea laughed. "I won't run far to-night. I'll think about it. Look,
Fred, there's somebody coming."

"Henry, with his lantern. Good enough! Halloo! Hallo--o--o!" Fred
shouted.

The moving light bobbed toward them. In half an hour Thea was in her big
feather bed, drinking hot lentil soup, and almost before the soup was
swallowed she was asleep.



VIII


ON the first day of September Fred Ottenburg and Thea Kronborg left
Flagstaff by the east-bound express. As the bright morning advanced,
they sat alone on the rear platform of the observation car, watching the
yellow miles unfold and disappear. With complete content they saw the
brilliant, empty country flash by. They were tired of the desert and the
dead races, of a world without change or ideas. Fred said he was glad to
sit back and let the Santa Fe do the work for a while.

"And where are we going, anyhow?" he added.

"To Chicago, I suppose. Where else would we be going?" Thea hunted for a
handkerchief in her handbag.

"I wasn't sure, so I had the trunks checked to Albuquerque. We can
recheck there to Chicago, if you like. Why Chicago? You'll never go back
to Bowers. Why wouldn't this be a good time to make a run for it? We
could take the southern branch at Albuquerque, down to El Paso, and then
over into Mexico. We are exceptionally free. Nobody waiting for us
anywhere."

Thea sighted along the steel rails that quivered in the light behind
them. "I don't see why I couldn't marry you in Chicago, as well as any
place," she brought out with some embarrassment.

Fred took the handbag out of her nervous clasp and swung it about on his
finger. "You've no particular love for that spot, have you? Besides, as
I've told you, my family would make a row. They are an excitable lot.
They discuss and argue everlastingly. The only way I can ever put
anything through is to go ahead, and convince them afterward."

"Yes; I understand. I don't mind that. I don't want to marry your
family. I'm sure you wouldn't want to marry mine. But I don't see why we
have to go so far."

"When we get to Winslow, you look about the freight yards and you'll
probably see several yellow cars with my name on them. That's why, my
dear. When your visiting-card is on every beer bottle, you can't do
things quietly. Things get into the papers." As he watched her troubled
expression, he grew anxious. He leaned forward on his camp-chair, and
kept twirling the handbag between his knees. "Here's a suggestion,
Thea," he said presently. "Dismiss it if you don't like it: suppose we
go down to Mexico on the chance. You've never seen anything like Mexico
City; it will be a lark for you, anyhow. If you change your mind, and
don't want to marry me, you can go back to Chicago, and I'll take a
steamer from Vera Cruz and go up to New York. When I get to Chicago,
you'll be at work, and nobody will ever be the wiser. No reason why we
shouldn't both travel in Mexico, is there? You'll be traveling alone.
I'll merely tell you the right places to stop, and come to take you
driving. I won't put any pressure on you. Have I ever?" He swung the bag
toward her and looked up under her hat.

"No, you haven't," she murmured. She was thinking that her own position
might be less difficult if he had used what he called pressure. He
clearly wished her to take the responsibility.

"You have your own future in the back of your mind all the time," Fred
began, "and I have it in mine. I'm not going to try to carry you off, as
I might another girl. If you wanted to quit me, I couldn't hold you, no
matter how many times you had married me. I don't want to overpersuade
you. But I'd like mighty well to get you down to that jolly old city,
where everything would please you, and give myself a chance. Then, if
you thought you could have a better time with me than without me, I'd
try to grab you before you changed your mind. You are not a sentimental
person."

Thea drew her veil down over her face. "I think I am, a little; about
you," she said quietly. Fred's irony somehow hurt her.

"What's at the bottom of your mind, Thea?" he asked hurriedly. "I can't
tell. Why do you consider it at all, if you're not sure? Why are you
here with me now?"

Her face was half-averted. He was thinking that it looked older and more
firm--almost hard--under a veil.

"Isn't it possible to do things without having any very clear reason?"
she asked slowly. "I have no plan in the back of my mind. Now that I'm
with you, I want to be with you; that's all. I can't settle down to
being alone again. I am here to-day because I want to be with you
to-day." She paused. "One thing, though; if I gave you my word, I'd keep
it. And you could hold me, though you don't seem to think so. Maybe I'm
not sentimental, but I'm not very light, either. If I went off with you
like this, it wouldn't be to amuse myself."

Ottenburg's eyes fell. His lips worked nervously for a moment. "Do you
mean that you really care for me, Thea Kronborg?" he asked unsteadily.

"I guess so. It's like anything else. It takes hold of you and you've
got to go through with it, even if you're afraid. I was afraid to leave
Moonstone, and afraid to leave Harsanyi. But I had to go through with
it."

"And are you afraid now?" Fred asked slowly.

"Yes; more than I've ever been. But I don't think I could go back. The
past closes up behind one, somehow. One would rather have a new kind of
misery. The old kind seems like death or unconsciousness. You can't
force your life back into that mould again. No, one can't go back." She
rose and stood by the back grating of the platform, her hand on the
brass rail.

Fred went to her side. She pushed up her veil and turned her most
glowing face to him. Her eyes were wet and there were tears on her
lashes, but she was smiling the rare, whole-hearted smile he had seen
once or twice before. He looked at her shining eyes, her parted lips,
her chin a little lifted. It was as if they were colored by a sunrise he
could not see. He put his hand over hers and clasped it with a strength
she felt. Her eyelashes trembled, her mouth softened, but her eyes were
still brilliant.

"Will you always be like you were down there, if I go with you?" she
asked under her breath.

His fingers tightened on hers. "By God, I will!" he muttered.

"That's the only promise I'll ask you for. Now go away for a while and
let me think about it. Come back at lunchtime and I'll tell you. Will
that do?"

"Anything will do, Thea, if you'll only let me keep an eye on you. The
rest of the world doesn't interest me much. You've got me in deep."

Fred dropped her hand and turned away. As he glanced back from the front
end of the observation car, he saw that she was still standing there,
and any one would have known that she was brooding over something. The
earnestness of her head and shoulders had a certain nobility. He stood
looking at her for a moment.

When he reached the forward smoking-car, Fred took a seat at the end,
where he could shut the other passengers from his sight. He put on his
traveling-cap and sat down wearily, keeping his head near the window.
"In any case, I shall help her more than I shall hurt her," he kept
saying to himself. He admitted that this was not the only motive which
impelled him, but it was one of them. "I'll make it my business in life
to get her on. There's nothing else I care about so much as seeing her
have her chance. She hasn't touched her real force yet. She isn't even
aware of it. Lord, don't I know something about them? There isn't one of
them that has such a depth to draw from. She'll be one of the great
artists of our time. Playing accompaniments for that cheese-faced sneak!
I'll get her off to Germany this winter, or take her. She hasn't got any
time to waste now. I'll make it up to her, all right."

Ottenburg certainly meant to make it up to her, in so far as he could.
His feeling was as generous as strong human feelings are likely to be.
The only trouble was, that he was married already, and had been since he
was twenty.

His older friends in Chicago, people who had been friends of his family,
knew of the unfortunate state of his personal affairs; but they were
people whom in the natural course of things Thea Kronborg would scarcely
meet. Mrs. Frederick Ottenburg lived in California, at Santa Barbara,
where her health was supposed to be better than elsewhere, and her
husband lived in Chicago. He visited his wife every winter to reinforce
her position, and his devoted mother, although her hatred for her
daughter-inlaw was scarcely approachable in words, went to Santa Barbara
every year to make things look better and to relieve her son.


When Frederick Ottenburg was beginning his junior year at Harvard, he
got a letter from Dick Brisbane, a Kansas City boy he knew, telling him
that his FIANCEE, Miss Edith Beers, was going to New York to buy her
trousseau. She would be at the Holland House, with her aunt and a girl
from Kansas City who was to be a bridesmaid, for two weeks or more. If
Ottenburg happened to be going down to New York, would he call upon Miss
Beers and "show her a good time"?

Fred did happen to be going to New York. He was going down from New
Haven, after the Thanksgiving game. He called on Miss Beers and found
her, as he that night telegraphed Brisbane, a "ripping beauty, no
mistake." He took her and her aunt and her uninteresting friend to the
theater and to the opera, and he asked them to lunch with him at the
Waldorf. He took no little pains in arranging the luncheon with the head
waiter. Miss Beers was the sort of girl with whom a young man liked to
seem experienced. She was dark and slender and fiery. She was witty and
slangy; said daring things and carried them off with NONCHALANCE. Her
childish extravagance and contempt for all the serious facts of life
could be charged to her father's generosity and his long packing-house
purse. Freaks that would have been vulgar and ostentatious in a more
simpleminded girl, in Miss Beers seemed whimsical and picturesque. She
darted about in magnificent furs and pumps and close-clinging gowns,
though that was the day of full skirts. Her hats were large and floppy.
When she wriggled out of her moleskin coat at luncheon, she looked like
a slim black weasel. Her satin dress was a mere sheath, so conspicuous
by its severity and scantness that every one in the dining-room stared.
She ate nothing but alligator-pear salad and hothouse grapes, drank a
little champagne, and took cognac in her coffee. She ridiculed, in the
raciest slang, the singers they had heard at the opera the night before,
and when her aunt pretended to reprove her, she murmured indifferently,
"What's the matter with you, old sport?" She rattled on with a subdued
loquaciousness, always keeping her voice low and monotonous, always
looking out of the corner of her eye and speaking, as it were, in
asides, out of the corner of her mouth. She was scornful of
everything,--which became her eyebrows. Her face was mobile and
discontented, her eyes quick and black. There was a sort of smouldering
fire about her, young Ottenburg thought. She entertained him
prodigiously.

After luncheon Miss Beers said she was going uptown to be fitted, and
that she would go alone because her aunt made her nervous. When Fred
held her coat for her, she murmured, "Thank you, Alphonse," as if she
were addressing the waiter. As she stepped into a hansom, with a long
stretch of thin silk stocking, she said negligently, over her fur
collar, "Better let me take you along and drop you somewhere." He sprang
in after her, and she told the driver to go to the Park.

It was a bright winter day, and bitterly cold. Miss Beers asked Fred to
tell her about the game at New Haven, and when he did so paid no
attention to what he said. She sank back into the hansom and held her
muff before her face, lowering it occasionally to utter laconic remarks
about the people in the carriages they passed, interrupting Fred's
narrative in a disconcerting manner. As they entered the Park he
happened to glance under her wide black hat at her black eyes and
hair--the muff hid everything else--and discovered that she was crying.
To his solicitous inquiry she replied that it "was enough to make you
damp, to go and try on dresses to marry a man you weren't keen about."

Further explanations followed. She had thought she was "perfectly
cracked" about Brisbane, until she met Fred at the Holland House three
days ago. Then she knew she would scratch Brisbane's eyes out if she
married him. What was she going to do?

Fred told the driver to keep going. What did she want to do? Well, she
didn't know. One had to marry somebody, after all the machinery had been
put in motion. Perhaps she might as well scratch Brisbane as anybody
else; for scratch she would, if she didn't get what she wanted.

Of course, Fred agreed, one had to marry somebody. And certainly this
girl beat anything he had ever been up against before. Again he told the
driver to go ahead. Did she mean that she would think of marrying him,
by any chance? Of course she did, Alphonse. Hadn't he seen that all over
her face three days ago? If he hadn't, he was a snowball.

By this time Fred was beginning to feel sorry for the driver. Miss
Beers, however, was compassionless. After a few more turns, Fred
suggested tea at the Casino. He was very cold himself, and remembering
the shining silk hose and pumps, he wondered that the girl was not
frozen. As they got out of the hansom, he slipped the driver a bill and
told him to have something hot while he waited.

At the tea-table, in a snug glass enclosure, with the steam sputtering
in the pipes beside them and a brilliant winter sunset without, they
developed their plan. Miss Beers had with her plenty of money, destined
for tradesmen, which she was quite willing to divert into other
channels--the first excitement of buying a trousseau had worn off,
anyway. It was very much like any other shopping. Fred had his allowance
and a few hundred he had won on the game. She would meet him to-morrow
morning at the Jersey ferry. They could take one of the west-bound
Pennsylvania trains and go--anywhere, some place where the laws weren't
too fussy.--Fred had not even thought about the laws!--It would be all
right with her father; he knew Fred's family.

Now that they were engaged, she thought she would like to drive a little
more. They were jerked about in the cab for another hour through the
deserted Park. Miss Beers, having removed her hat, reclined upon Fred's
shoulder.

The next morning they left Jersey City by the latest fast train out.
They had some misadventures, crossed several States before they found a
justice obliging enough to marry two persons whose names automatically
instigated inquiry. The bride's family were rather pleased with her
originality; besides, any one of the Ottenburg boys was clearly a better
match than young Brisbane. With Otto Ottenburg, however, the affair went
down hard, and to his wife, the once proud Katarina Furst, such a
disappointment was almost unbearable. Her sons had always been clay in
her hands, and now the GELIEBTER SOHN had escaped her.

Beers, the packer, gave his daughter a house in St. Louis, and Fred went
into his father's business. At the end of a year, he was mutely
appealing to his mother for sympathy. At the end of two, he was drinking
and in open rebellion. He had learned to detest his wife. Her
wastefulness and cruelty revolted him. The ignorance and the fatuous
conceit which lay behind her grimacing mask of slang and ridicule
humiliated him so deeply that he became absolutely reckless. Her grace
was only an uneasy wriggle, her audacity was the result of insolence and
envy, and her wit was restless spite. As her personal mannerisms grew
more and more odious to him, he began to dull his perceptions with
champagne. He had it for tea, he drank it with dinner, and during the
evening he took enough to insure that he would be well insulated when he
got home. This behavior spread alarm among his friends. It was
scandalous, and it did not occur among brewers. He was violating the
NOBLESSE OBLIGE of his guild. His father and his father's partners
looked alarmed.

When Fred's mother went to him and with clasped hands entreated an
explanation, he told her that the only trouble was that he couldn't hold
enough wine to make life endurable, so he was going to get out from
under and enlist in the navy. He didn't want anything but the shirt on
his back and clean salt air. His mother could look out; he was going to
make a scandal.

Mrs. Otto Ottenburg went to Kansas City to see Mr. Beers, and had the
satisfaction of telling him that he had brought up his daughter like a
savage, EINE UNGEBILDETE. All the Ottenburgs and all the Beers, and many
of their friends, were drawn into the quarrel. It was to public opinion,
however and not to his mother's activities, that Fred owed his partial
escape from bondage. The cosmopolitan brewing world of St. Louis had
conservative standards. The Ottenburgs' friends were not predisposed in
favor of the plunging Kansas City set, and they disliked young Fred's
wife from the day that she was brought among them. They found her
ignorant and ill-bred and insufferably impertinent. When they became
aware of how matters were going between her and Fred, they omitted no
opportunity to snub her. Young Fred had always been popular, and St.
Louis people took up his cause with warmth. Even the younger men, among
whom Mrs. Fred tried to draft a following, at first avoided and then
ignored her. Her defeat was so conspicuous, her life became such a
desert, that she at last consented to accept the house in Santa Barbara
which Mrs. Otto Ottenburg had long owned and cherished. This villa, with
its luxuriant gardens, was the price of Fred's furlough. His mother was
only too glad to offer it in his behalf. As soon as his wife was
established in California, Fred was transferred from St. Louis to
Chicago.

A divorce was the one thing Edith would never, never, give him. She told
him so, and she told his family so, and her father stood behind her. She
would enter into no arrangement that might eventually lead to divorce.
She had insulted her husband before guests and servants, had scratched
his face, thrown hand-mirrors and hairbrushes and nail-scissors at him
often enough, but she knew that Fred was hardly the fellow who would go
into court and offer that sort of evidence. In her behavior with other
men she was discreet.

After Fred went to Chicago, his mother visited him often, and dropped a
word to her old friends there, who were already kindly disposed toward
the young man. They gossiped as little as was compatible with the
interest they felt, undertook to make life agreeable for Fred, and told
his story only where they felt it would do good: to girls who seemed to
find the young brewer attractive. So far, he had behaved well, and had
kept out of entanglements.

Since he was transferred to Chicago, Fred had been abroad several times,
and had fallen more and more into the way of going about among young
artists,--people with whom personal relations were incidental. With
women, and even girls, who had careers to follow, a young man might have
pleasant friendships without being regarded as a prospective suitor or
lover. Among artists his position was not irregular, because with them
his marriageableness was not an issue. His tastes, his enthusiasm, and
his agreeable personality made him welcome.

With Thea Kronborg he had allowed himself more liberty than he usually
did in his friendships or gallantries with young artists, because she
seemed to him distinctly not the marrying kind. She impressed him as
equipped to be an artist, and to be nothing else; already directed,
concentrated, formed as to mental habit. He was generous and
sympathetic, and she was lonely and needed friendship; needed
cheerfulness. She had not much power of reaching out toward useful
people or useful experiences, did not see opportunities. She had no tact
about going after good positions or enlisting the interest of
influential persons. She antagonized people rather than conciliated
them. He discovered at once that she had a merry side, a robust humor
that was deep and hearty, like her laugh, but it slept most of the time
under her own doubts and the dullness of her life. She had not what is
called a "sense of humor." That is, she had no intellectual humor; no
power to enjoy the absurdities of people, no relish of their
pretentiousness and inconsistencies--which only depressed her. But her
joviality, Fred felt, was an asset, and ought to be developed. He
discovered that she was more receptive and more effective under a
pleasant stimulus than she was under the gray grind which she considered
her salvation. She was still Methodist enough to believe that if a thing
were hard and irksome, it must be good for her. And yet, whatever she
did well was spontaneous. Under the least glow of excitement, as at Mrs.
Nathanmeyer's, he had seen the apprehensive, frowning drudge of Bowers's
studio flash into a resourceful and consciously beautiful woman.

His interest in Thea was serious, almost from the first, and so sincere
that he felt no distrust of himself. He believed that he knew a great
deal more about her possibilities than Bowers knew, and he liked to
think that he had given her a stronger hold on life. She had never seen
herself or known herself as she did at Mrs. Nathanmeyer's musical
evenings. She had been a different girl ever since. He had not
anticipated that she would grow more fond of him than his immediate
usefulness warranted. He thought he knew the ways of artists, and, as he
said, she must have been "at it from her cradle." He had imagined,
perhaps, but never really believed, that he would find her waiting for
him sometime as he found her waiting on the day he reached the Biltmer
ranch. Once he found her so--well, he did not pretend to be anything
more or less than a reasonably well-intentioned young man. A lovesick
girl or a flirtatious woman he could have handled easily enough. But a
personality like that, unconsciously revealing itself for the first time
under the exaltation of a personal feeling,--what could one do but watch
it? As he used to say to himself, in reckless moments back there in the
canyon, "You can't put out a sunrise." He had to watch it, and then he
had to share it.

Besides, was he really going to do her any harm? The Lord knew he would
marry her if he could! Marriage would be an incident, not an end with
her; he was sure of that. If it were not he, it would be some one else;
some one who would be a weight about her neck, probably; who would hold
her back and beat her down and divert her from the first plunge for
which he felt she was gathering all her energies. He meant to help her,
and he could not think of another man who would. He went over his
unmarried friends, East and West, and he could not think of one who
would know what she was driving at--or care. The clever ones were
selfish, the kindly ones were stupid.

"Damn it, if she's going to fall in love with somebody, it had better be
me than any of the others--of the sort she'd find. Get her tied up with
some conceited ass who'd try to make her over, train her like a puppy!
Give one of 'em a big nature like that, and he'd be horrified. He
wouldn't show his face in the clubs until he'd gone after her and combed
her down to conform to some fool idea in his own head--put there by some
other woman, too, his first sweetheart or his grandmother or a maiden
aunt. At least, I understand her. I know what she needs and where she's
bound, and I mean to see that she has a fighting chance."

His own conduct looked crooked, he admitted; but he asked himself
whether, between men and women, all ways were not more or less crooked.
He believed those which are called straight were the most dangerous of
all. They seemed to him, for the most part, to lie between windowless
stone walls, and their rectitude had been achieved at the expense of
light and air. In their unquestioned regularity lurked every sort of
human cruelty and meanness, and every kind of humiliation and suffering.
He would rather have any woman he cared for wounded than crushed. He
would deceive her not once, he told himself fiercely, but a hundred
times, to keep her free.


When Fred went back to the observation car at one o'clock, after the
luncheon call, it was empty, and he found Thea alone on the platform.
She put out her hand, and met his eyes.

"It's as I said. Things have closed behind me. I can't go back, so I am
going on--to Mexico?" She lifted her face with an eager, questioning
smile.

Fred met it with a sinking heart. Had he really hoped she would give him
another answer? He would have given pretty much anything--But there,
that did no good. He could give only what he had. Things were never
complete in this world; you had to snatch at them as they came or go
without. Nobody could look into her face and draw back, nobody who had
any courage. She had courage enough for anything--look at her mouth and
chin and eyes! Where did it come from, that light? How could a face, a
familiar face, become so the picture of hope, be painted with the very
colors of youth's exaltation? She was right; she was not one of those
who draw back. Some people get on by avoiding dangers, others by riding
through them.

They stood by the railing looking back at the sand levels, both feeling
that the train was steaming ahead very fast. Fred's mind was a confusion
of images and ideas. Only two things were clear to him: the force of her
determination, and the belief that, handicapped as he was, he could do
better by her than another man would do. He knew he would always
remember her, standing there with that expectant, forward-looking smile,
enough to turn the future into summer.




PART V



DR. ARCHIE'S VENTURE


I


DR. HOWARD ARCHIE had come down to Denver for a meeting of the
stockholders in the San Felipe silver mine. It was not absolutely
necessary for him to come, but he had no very pressing cases at home.
Winter was closing down in Moonstone, and he dreaded the dullness of it.
On the 10th day of January, therefore, he was registered at the Brown
Palace Hotel. On the morning of the 11th he came down to breakfast to
find the streets white and the air thick with snow. A wild northwester
was blowing down from the mountains, one of those beautiful storms that
wrap Denver in dry, furry snow, and make the city a loadstone to
thousands of men in the mountains and on the plains. The brakemen out on
their box-cars, the miners up in their diggings, the lonely homesteaders
in the sand hills of Yucca and Kit Carson Counties, begin to think of
Denver, muffled in snow, full of food and drink and good cheer, and to
yearn for her with that admiration which makes her, more than other
American cities, an object of sentiment.

Howard Archie was glad he had got in before the storm came. He felt as
cheerful as if he had received a legacy that morning, and he greeted the
clerk with even greater friendliness than usual when he stopped at the
desk for his mail. In the dining-room he found several old friends
seated here and there before substantial breakfasts: cattlemen and
mining engineers from odd corners of the State, all looking fresh and
well pleased with themselves. He had a word with one and another before
he sat down at the little table by a window, where the Austrian head
waiter stood attentively behind a chair. After his breakfast was put
before him, the doctor began to run over his letters. There was one
directed in Thea Kronborg's handwriting, forwarded from Moonstone. He
saw with astonishment, as he put another lump of sugar into his cup,
that this letter bore a New York postmark. He had known that Thea was in
Mexico, traveling with some Chicago people, but New York, to a Denver
man, seems much farther away than Mexico City. He put the letter behind
his plate, upright against the stem of his water goblet, and looked at
it thoughtfully while he drank his second cup of coffee. He had been a
little anxious about Thea; she had not written to him for a long while.

As he never got good coffee at home, the doctor always drank three cups
for breakfast when he was in Denver. Oscar knew just when to bring him a
second pot, fresh and smoking. "And more cream, Oscar, please. You know
I like lots of cream," the doctor murmured, as he opened the square
envelope, marked in the upper right-hand corner, "Everett House, Union
Square." The text of the letter was as follows:--

DEAR DOCTOR ARCHIE:--

I have not written to you for a long time, but it has not been
unintentional. I could not write you frankly, and so I would not write
at all. I can be frank with you now, but not by letter. It is a great
deal to ask, but I wonder if you could come to New York to help me out?
I have got into difficulties, and I need your advice. I need your
friendship. I am afraid I must even ask you to lend me money, if you can
without serious inconvenience. I have to go to Germany to study, and it
can't be put off any longer. My voice is ready. Needless to say, I don't
want any word of this to reach my family. They are the last people I
would turn to, though I love my mother dearly. If you can come, please
telegraph me at this hotel. Don't despair of me. I'll make it up to you
yet.

Your old friend,

THEA KRONBORG.


This in a bold, jagged handwriting with a Gothic turn to the
letters,--something between a highly sophisticated hand and a very
unsophisticated one,--not in the least smooth or flowing.

The doctor bit off the end of a cigar nervously and read the letter
through again, fumbling distractedly in his pockets for matches, while
the waiter kept trying to call his attention to the box he had just
placed before him. At last Oscar came out, as if the idea had just
struck him, "Matches, sir?"

"Yes, thank you." The doctor slipped a coin into his palm and rose,
crumpling Thea's letter in his hand and thrusting the others into his
pocket unopened. He went back to the desk in the lobby and beckoned to
the clerk, upon whose kindness he threw himself apologetically.

"Harry, I've got to pull out unexpectedly. Call up the Burlington, will
you, and ask them to route me to New York the quickest way, and to let
us know. Ask for the hour I'll get in. I have to wire."

"Certainly, Dr. Archie. Have it for you in a minute." The young man's
pallid, clean-scraped face was all sympathetic interest as he reached
for the telephone. Dr. Archie put out his hand and stopped him.

"Wait a minute. Tell me, first, is Captain Harris down yet?"

"No, sir. The Captain hasn't come down yet this morning."

"I'll wait here for him. If I don't happen to catch him, nail him and
get me. Thank you, Harry."

The doctor spoke gratefully and turned away. He began to pace the lobby,
his hands behind him, watching the bronze elevator doors like a hawk. At
last Captain Harris issued from one of them, tall and imposing, wearing
a Stetson and fierce mustaches, a fur coat on his arm, a solitaire
glittering upon his little finger and another in his black satin ascot.
He was one of the grand old bluffers of those good old days. As gullible
as a schoolboy, he had managed, with his sharp eye and knowing air and
twisted blond mustaches, to pass himself off for an astute financier,
and the Denver papers respectfully referred to him as the Rothschild of
Cripple Creek.

Dr. Archie stopped the Captain on his way to breakfast. "Must see you a
minute, Captain. Can't wait. Want to sell you some shares in the San
Felipe. Got to raise money."

The Captain grandly bestowed his hat upon an eager porter who had
already lifted his fur coat tenderly from his arm and stood nursing it.
In removing his hat, the Captain exposed a bald, flushed dome, thatched
about the ears with yellowish gray hair. "Bad time to sell, doctor. You
want to hold on to San Felipe, and buy more. What have you got to
raise?"

"Oh, not a great sum. Five or six thousand. I've been buying up close
and have run short."

"I see, I see. Well, doctor, you'll have to let me get through that
door. I was out last night, and I'm going to get my bacon, if you lose
your mine." He clapped Archie on the shoulder and pushed him along in
front of him. "Come ahead with me, and we'll talk business."

Dr. Archie attended the Captain and waited while he gave his order,
taking the seat the old promoter indicated.

"Now, sir," the Captain turned to him, "you don't want to sell anything.
You must be under the impression that I'm one of these damned New
England sharks that get their pound of flesh off the widow and orphan.
If you're a little short, sign a note and I'll write a check. That's the
way gentlemen do business. If you want to put up some San Felipe as
collateral, let her go, but I shan't touch a share of it. Pens and ink,
please, Oscar,"--he lifted a large forefinger to the Austrian.

The Captain took out his checkbook and a book of blank notes, and
adjusted his nose-nippers. He wrote a few words in one book and Archie
wrote a few in the other. Then they each tore across perforations and
exchanged slips of paper.

"That's the way. Saves office rent," the Captain commented with
satisfaction, returning the books to his pocket. "And now, Archie, where
are you off to?"

"Got to go East to-night. A deal waiting for me in New York." Dr. Archie
rose.

The Captain's face brightened as he saw Oscar approaching with a tray,
and he began tucking the corner of his napkin inside his collar, over
his ascot. "Don't let them unload anything on you back there, doctor,"
he said genially, "and don't let them relieve you of anything, either.
Don't let them get any Cripple stuff off you. We can manage our own
silver out here, and we're going to take it out by the ton, sir!"

The doctor left the dining-room, and after another consultation with the
clerk, he wrote his first telegram to Thea:--


Miss Thea Kronborg,
Everett House, New York.

Will call at your hotel eleven o'clock Friday morning. Glad to come.
Thank you.

ARCHIE


He stood and heard the message actually clicked off on the wire, with
the feeling that she was hearing the click at the other end. Then he sat
down in the lobby and wrote a note to his wife and one to the other
doctor in Moonstone. When he at last issued out into the storm, it was
with a feeling of elation rather than of anxiety. Whatever was wrong, he
could make it right. Her letter had practically said so.

He tramped about the snowy streets, from the bank to the Union Station,
where he shoved his money under the grating of the ticket window as if
he could not get rid of it fast enough. He had never been in New York,
never been farther east than Buffalo. "That's rather a shame," he
reflected boyishly as he put the long tickets in his pocket, "for a man
nearly forty years old." However, he thought as he walked up toward the
club, he was on the whole glad that his first trip had a human interest,
that he was going for something, and because he was wanted. He loved
holidays. He felt as if he were going to Germany himself. "Queer,"--he
went over it with the snow blowing in his face,--"but that sort of thing
is more interesting than mines and making your daily bread. It's worth
paying out to be in on it,--for a fellow like me. And when it's
Thea--Oh, I back her!" he laughed aloud as he burst in at the door of
the Athletic Club, powdered with snow.

Archie sat down before the New York papers and ran over the
advertisements of hotels, but he was too restless to read. Probably he
had better get a new overcoat, and he was not sure about the shape of
his collars. "I don't want to look different to her from everybody else
there," he mused. "I guess I'll go down and have Van look me over. He'll
put me right."

So he plunged out into the snow again and started for his tailor's. When
he passed a florist's shop he stopped and looked in at the window,
smiling; how naturally pleasant things recalled one another. At the
tailor's he kept whistling, "Flow gently, Sweet Afton," while Van Dusen
advised him, until that resourceful tailor and haberdasher exclaimed,
"You must have a date back there, doctor; you behave like a bridegroom,"
and made him remember that he wasn't one.

Before he let him go, Van put his finger on the Masonic pin in his
client's lapel. "Mustn't wear that, doctor. Very bad form back there."



II


FRED OTTENBURG, smartly dressed for the afternoon, with a long black
coat and gaiters was sitting in the dusty parlor of the Everett House.
His manner was not in accord with his personal freshness, the good lines
of his clothes, and the shining smoothness of his hair. His attitude was
one of deep dejection, and his face, though it had the cool,
unimpeachable fairness possible only to a very blond young man, was by
no means happy. A page shuffled into the room and looked about. When he
made out the dark figure in a shadowy corner, tracing over the carpet
pattern with a cane, he droned, "The lady says you can come up, sir."

Fred picked up his hat and gloves and followed the creature, who seemed
an aged boy in uniform, through dark corridors that smelled of old
carpets. The page knocked at the door of Thea's sitting-room, and then
wandered away. Thea came to the door with a telegram in her hand. She
asked Ottenburg to come in and pointed to one of the clumsy,
sullen-looking chairs that were as thick as they were high. The room was
brown with time, dark in spite of two windows that opened on Union
Square, with dull curtains and carpet, and heavy, respectable-looking
furniture in somber colors. The place was saved from utter dismalness by
a coal fire under the black marble mantelpiece,--brilliantly reflected
in a long mirror that hung between the two windows. This was the first
time Fred had seen the room, and he took it in quickly, as he put down
his hat and gloves.

Thea seated herself at the walnut writing-desk, still holding the slip
of yellow paper. "Dr. Archie is coming," she said. "He will be here
Friday morning."

"Well, that's good, at any rate," her visitor replied with a determined
effort at cheerfulness. Then, turning to the fire, he added blankly, "If
you want him."

"Of course I want him. I would never have asked such a thing of him if I
hadn't wanted him a great deal. It's a very expensive trip." Thea spoke
severely. Then she went on, in a milder tone. "He doesn't say anything
about the money, but I think his coming means that he can let me have
it."

Fred was standing before the mantel, rubbing his hands together
nervously. "Probably. You are still determined to call on him?" He sat
down tentatively in the chair Thea had indicated. "I don't see why you
won't borrow from me, and let him sign with you, for instance. That
would constitute a perfectly regular business transaction. I could bring
suit against either of you for my money."

Thea turned toward him from the desk. "We won't take that up again,
Fred. I should have a different feeling about it if I went on your
money. In a way I shall feel freer on Dr. Archie's, and in another way I
shall feel more bound. I shall try even harder." She paused. "He is
almost like my father," she added irrelevantly.

"Still, he isn't, you know," Fred persisted. "It wouldn't be anything
new. I've loaned money to students before, and got it back, too."

"Yes; I know you're generous," Thea hurried over it, "but this will be
the best way. He will be here on Friday did I tell you?"

"I think you mentioned it. That's rather soon. May I smoke?" he took out
a small cigarette case. "I suppose you'll be off next week?" he asked as
he struck a match.

"Just as soon as I can," she replied with a restless movement of her
arms, as if her dark-blue dress were too tight for her. "It seems as if
I'd been here forever."

"And yet," the young man mused, "we got in only four days ago. Facts
really don't count for much, do they? It's all in the way people feel:
even in little things."

Thea winced, but she did not answer him. She put the telegram back in
its envelope and placed it carefully in one of the pigeonholes of the
desk.

"I suppose," Fred brought out with effort, "that your friend is in your
confidence?"

"He always has been. I shall have to tell him about myself. I wish I
could without dragging you in."

Fred shook himself. "Don't bother about where you drag me, please," he
put in, flushing. "I don't give--" he subsided suddenly.

"I'm afraid," Thea went on gravely, "that he won't understand. He'll be
hard on you."

Fred studied the white ash of his cigarette before he flicked it off.
"You mean he'll see me as even worse than I am. Yes, I suppose I shall
look very low to him: a fifthrate scoundrel. But that only matters in so
far as it hurts his feelings."

Thea sighed. "We'll both look pretty low. And after all, we must really
be just about as we shall look to him."

Ottenburg started up and threw his cigarette into the grate. "That I
deny. Have you ever been really frank with this preceptor of your
childhood, even when you WERE a child? Think a minute, have you? Of
course not! From your cradle, as I once told you, you've been `doing it'
on the side, living your own life, admitting to yourself things that
would horrify him. You've always deceived him to the extent of letting
him think you different from what you are. He couldn't understand then,
he can't understand now. So why not spare yourself and him?"

She shook her head. "Of course, I've had my own thoughts. Maybe he has
had his, too. But I've never done anything before that he would much
mind. I must put myself right with him,--as right as I can,--to begin
over. He'll make allowances for me. He always has. But I'm afraid he
won't for you."

"Leave that to him and me. I take it you want me to see him?" Fred sat
down again and began absently to trace the carpet pattern with his cane.
"At the worst," he spoke wanderingly, "I thought you'd perhaps let me go
in on the business end of it and invest along with you. You'd put in
your talent and ambition and hard work, and I'd put in the money
and--well, nobody's good wishes are to be scorned, not even mine. Then,
when the thing panned out big, we could share together. Your doctor
friend hasn't cared half so much about your future as I have."

"He's cared a good deal. He doesn't know as much about such things as
you do. Of course you've been a great deal more help to me than any one
else ever has," Thea said quietly. The black clock on the mantel began
to strike. She listened to the five strokes and then said, "I'd have
liked your helping me eight months ago. But now, you'd simply be keeping
me."

"You weren't ready for it eight months ago." Fred leaned back at last in
his chair. "You simply weren't ready for it. You were too tired. You
were too timid. Your whole tone was too low. You couldn't rise from a
chair like that,"--she had started up apprehensively and gone toward the
window.--"You were fumbling and awkward. Since then you've come into
your personality. You were always locking horns with it before. You were
a sullen little drudge eight months ago, afraid of being caught at
either looking or moving like yourself. Nobody could tell anything about
you. A voice is not an instrument that's found ready-made. A voice is
personality. It can be as big as a circus and as common as
dirt.--There's good money in that kind, too, but I don't happen to be
interested in them.--Nobody could tell much about what you might be able
to do, last winter. I divined more than anybody else."




"Yes, I know you did." Thea walked over to the oldfashioned mantel and
held her hands down to the glow of the fire. "I owe so much to you, and
that's what makes things hard. That's why I have to get away from you
altogether. I depend on you for so many things. Oh, I did even last
winter, in Chicago!" She knelt down by the grate and held her hands
closer to the coals. "And one thing leads to another."

Ottenburg watched her as she bent toward the fire. His glance brightened
a little. "Anyhow, you couldn't look as you do now, before you knew me.
You WERE clumsy. And whatever you do now, you do splendidly. And you
can't cry enough to spoil your face for more than ten minutes. It comes
right back, in spite of you. It's only since you've known me that you've
let yourself be beautiful."

Without rising she turned her face away. Fred went on impetuously. "Oh,
you can turn it away from me, Thea; you can take it away from me! All
the same--" his spurt died and he fell back. "How can you turn on me so,
after all!" he sighed.

"I haven't. But when you arranged with yourself to take me in like that,
you couldn't have been thinking very kindly of me. I can't understand
how you carried it through, when I was so easy, and all the
circumstances were so easy."

Her crouching position by the fire became threatening. Fred got up, and
Thea also rose.

"No," he said, "I can't make you see that now. Some time later, perhaps,
you will understand better. For one thing, I honestly could not imagine
that words, names, meant so much to you." Fred was talking with the
desperation of a man who has put himself in the wrong and who yet feels
that there was an idea of truth in his conduct. "Suppose that you had
married your brakeman and lived with him year after year, caring for him
even less than you do for your doctor, or for Harsanyi. I suppose you
would have felt quite all right about it, because that relation has a
name in good standing. To me, that seems--sickening!" He took a rapid
turn about the room and then as Thea remained standing, he rolled one of
the elephantine chairs up to the hearth for her.

"Sit down and listen to me for a moment, Thea." He began pacing from the
hearthrug to the window and back again, while she sat down compliantly.
"Don't you know most of the people in the world are not individuals at
all? They never have an individual idea or experience. A lot of girls go
to boarding-school together, come out the same season, dance at the same
parties, are married off in groups, have their babies at about the same
time, send their children to school together, and so the human crop
renews itself. Such women know as much about the reality of the forms
they go through as they know about the wars they learn the dates of.
They get their most personal experiences out of novels and plays.
Everything is second-hand with them. Why, you COULDN'T live like that."

Thea sat looking toward the mantel, her eyes half closed, her chin
level, her head set as if she were enduring something. Her hands, very
white, lay passive on her dark gown. From the window corner Fred looked
at them and at her. He shook his head and flashed an angry, tormented
look out into the blue twilight over the Square, through which muffled
cries and calls and the clang of car bells came up from the street. He
turned again and began to pace the floor, his hands in his pockets.

"Say what you will, Thea Kronborg, you are not that sort of person. You
will never sit alone with a pacifier and a novel. You won't subsist on
what the old ladies have put into the bottle for you. You will always
break through into the realities. That was the first thing Harsanyi
found out about you; that you couldn't be kept on the outside. If you'd
lived in Moonstone all your life and got on with the discreet brakeman,
you'd have had just the same nature. Your children would have been the
realities then, probably. If they'd been commonplace, you'd have killed
them with driving. You'd have managed some way to live twenty times as
much as the people around you."

Fred paused. He sought along the shadowy ceiling and heavy mouldings for
words. When he began again, his voice was lower, and at first he spoke
with less conviction, though again it grew on him. "Now I knew all
this--oh, knew it better than I can ever make you understand! You've
been running a handicap. You had no time to lose. I wanted you to have
what you need and to get on fast--get through with me, if need be; I
counted on that. You've no time to sit round and analyze your conduct or
your feelings. Other women give their whole lives to it. They've nothing
else to do. Helping a man to get his divorce is a career for them; just
the sort of intellectual exercise they like."

Fred dived fiercely into his pockets as if he would rip them out and
scatter their contents to the winds. Stopping before her, he took a deep
breath and went on again, this time slowly. "All that sort of thing is
foreign to you. You'd be nowhere at it. You haven't that kind of mind.
The grammatical niceties of conduct are dark to you. You're simple--and
poetic." Fred's voice seemed to be wandering about in the thickening
dusk. "You won't play much. You won't, perhaps, love many times." He
paused. "And you did love me, you know. Your railroad friend would have
understood me. I COULD have thrown you back. The reverse was there,--it
stared me in the face,--but I couldn't pull it. I let you drive ahead."
He threw out his hands. What Thea noticed, oddly enough, was the flash
of the firelight on his cuff link. He turned again. "And you'll always
drive ahead," he muttered. "It's your way."

There was a long silence. Fred had dropped into a chair. He seemed,
after such an explosion, not to have a word left in him. Thea put her
hand to the back of her neck and pressed it, as if the muscles there
were aching.

"Well," she said at last, "I at least overlook more in you than I do in
myself. I am always excusing you to myself. I don't do much else."

"Then why, in Heaven's name, won't you let me be your friend? You make a
scoundrel of me, borrowing money from another man to get out of my
clutches."

"If I borrow from him, it's to study. Anything I took from you would be
different. As I said before, you'd be keeping me."

"Keeping! I like your language. It's pure Moonstone, Thea,--like your
point of view. I wonder how long you'll be a Methodist." He turned away
bitterly.

"Well, I've never said I wasn't Moonstone, have I? I am, and that's why
I want Dr. Archie. I can't see anything so funny about Moonstone, you
know." She pushed her chair back a little from the hearth and clasped
her hands over her knee, still looking thoughtfully into the red coals.
"We always come back to the same thing, Fred. The name, as you call it,
makes a difference to me how I feel about myself. You would have acted
very differently with a girl of your own kind, and that's why I can't
take anything from you now. You've made everything impossible. Being
married is one thing and not being married is the other thing, and
that's all there is to it. I can't see how you reasoned with yourself,
if you took the trouble to reason. You say I was too much alone, and yet
what you did was to cut me off more than I ever had been. Now I'm going
to try to make good to my friends out there. That's all there is left
for me."

"Make good to your friends!" Fred burst out. "What one of them cares as
I care, or believes as I believe? I've told you I'll never ask a
gracious word from you until I can ask it with all the churches in
Christendom at my back."

Thea looked up, and when she saw Fred's face, she thought sadly that he,
too, looked as if things were spoiled for him. "If you know me as well
as you say you do, Fred," she said slowly, "then you are not being
honest with yourself. You know that I can't do things halfway. If you
kept me at all--you'd keep me." She dropped her head wearily on her hand
and sat with her forehead resting on her fingers.

Fred leaned over her and said just above his breath, "Then, when I get
that divorce, you'll take it up with me again? You'll at least let me
know, warn me, before there is a serious question of anybody else?"

Without lifting her head, Thea answered him. "Oh, I don't think there
will ever be a question of anybody else. Not if I can help it. I suppose
I've given you every reason to think there will be,--at once, on
shipboard, any time."

Ottenburg drew himself up like a shot. "Stop it, Thea!" he said sharply.
"That's one thing you've never done. That's like any common woman." He
saw her shoulders lift a little and grow calm. Then he went to the other
side of the room and took up his hat and gloves from the sofa. He came
back cheerfully. "I didn't drop in to bully you this afternoon. I came
to coax you to go out for tea with me somewhere." He waited, but she did
not look up or lift her head, still sunk on her hand.

Her handkerchief had fallen. Fred picked it up and put it on her knee,
pressing her fingers over it. "Good-night, dear and wonderful," he
whispered,--"wonderful and dear! How can you ever get away from me when
I will always follow you, through every wall, through every door,
wherever you go." He looked down at her bent head, and the curve of her
neck that was so sad. He stooped, and with his lips just touched her
hair where the firelight made it ruddiest. "I didn't know I had it in
me, Thea. I thought it was all a fairy tale. I don't know myself any
more." He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. "The salt's all gone out
of your hair. It's full of sun and wind again. I believe it has
memories." Again she heard him take a deep breath. "I could do without
you for a lifetime, if that would give you to yourself. A woman like you
doesn't find herself, alone."

She thrust her free hand up to him. He kissed it softly, as if she were
asleep and he were afraid of waking her.

From the door he turned back irrelevantly. "As to your old friend, Thea,
if he's to be here on Friday, why,"--he snatched out his watch and held
it down to catch the light from the grate,--"he's on the train now! That
ought to cheer you. Good-night." She heard the door close.



III


ON Friday afternoon Thea Kronborg was walking excitedly up and down her
sitting-room, which at that hour was flooded by thin, clear sunshine.
Both windows were open, and the fire in the grate was low, for the day
was one of those false springs that sometimes blow into New York from
the sea in the middle of winter, soft, warm, with a persuasive salty
moisture in the air and a relaxing thaw under foot. Thea was flushed and
animated, and she seemed as restless as the sooty sparrows that chirped
and cheeped distractingly about the windows. She kept looking at the
black clock, and then down into the Square. The room was full of
flowers, and she stopped now and then to arrange them or to move them
into the sunlight. After the bellboy came to announce a visitor, she
took some Roman hyacinths from a glass and stuck them in the front of
her dark-blue dress.

When at last Fred Ottenburg appeared in the doorway, she met him with an
exclamation of pleasure. "I am glad you've come, Fred. I was afraid you
might not get my note, and I wanted to see you before you see Dr.
Archie. He's so nice!" She brought her hands together to emphasize her
statement.

"Is he? I'm glad. You see I'm quite out of breath. I didn't wait for the
elevator, but ran upstairs. I was so pleased at being sent for." He
dropped his hat and overcoat. "Yes, I should say he is nice! I don't
seem to recognize all of these," waving his handkerchief about at the
flowers.

"Yes, he brought them himself, in a big box. He brought lots with him
besides flowers. Oh, lots of things! The old Moonstone feeling,"--Thea
moved her hand back and forth in the air, fluttering her fingers,--"the
feeling of starting out, early in the morning, to take my lesson."

"And you've had everything out with him?"

"No, I haven't."

"Haven't?" He looked up in consternation.

"No, I haven't!" Thea spoke excitedly, moving about over the sunny
patches on the grimy carpet. "I've lied to him, just as you said I had
always lied to him, and that's why I'm so happy. I've let him think what
he likes to think. Oh, I couldn't do anything else, Fred,"--she shook
her head emphatically. "If you'd seen him when he came in, so pleased
and excited! You see this is a great adventure for him. From the moment
I began to talk to him, he entreated me not to say too much, not to
spoil his notion of me. Not in so many words, of course. But if you'd
seen his eyes, his face, his kind hands! Oh, no! I couldn't." She took a
deep breath, as if with a renewed sense of her narrow escape.

"Then, what did you tell him?" Fred demanded.

Thea sat down on the edge of the sofa and began shutting and opening her
hands nervously. "Well, I told him enough, and not too much. I told him
all about how good you were to me last winter, getting me engagements
and things, and how you had helped me with my work more than anybody.
Then I told him about how you sent me down to the ranch when I had no
money or anything." She paused and wrinkled her forehead. "And I told
him that I wanted to marry you and ran away to Mexico with you, and that
I was awfully happy until you told me that you couldn't marry me
because--well, I told him why." Thea dropped her eyes and moved the toe
of her shoe about restlessly on the carpet.

"And he took it from you, like that?" Fred asked, almost with awe.

"Yes, just like that, and asked no questions. He was hurt; he had some
wretched moments. I could see him squirming and squirming and trying to
get past it. He kept shutting his eyes and rubbing his forehead. But
when I told him that I absolutely knew you wanted to marry me, that you
would whenever you could, that seemed to help him a good deal."

"And that satisfied him?" Fred asked wonderingly. He could not quite
imagine what kind of person Dr. Archie might be.

"He took me by the shoulders once and asked, oh, in such a frightened
way, `Thea, was he GOOD to you, this young man?' When I told him you
were, he looked at me again: `And you care for him a great deal, you
believe in him?' Then he seemed satisfied." Thea paused. "You see, he's
just tremendously good, and tremendously afraid of things--of some
things. Otherwise he would have got rid of Mrs. Archie." She looked up
suddenly: "You were right, though; one can't tell people about things
they don't know already."

Fred stood in the window, his back to the sunlight, fingering the
jonquils. "Yes, you can, my dear. But you must tell it in such a way
that they don't know you're telling it, and that they don't know they're
hearing it."

Thea smiled past him, out into the air. "I see. It's a secret. Like the
sound in the shell."

"What's that?" Fred was watching her and thinking how moving that
faraway expression, in her, happened to be. "What did you say?"

She came back. "Oh, something old and Moonstony! I have almost forgotten
it myself. But I feel better than I thought I ever could again. I can't
wait to be off. Oh, Fred," she sprang up, "I want to get at it!"

As she broke out with this, she threw up her head and lifted herself a
little on her toes. Fred colored and looked at her fearfully,
hesitatingly. Her eyes, which looked out through the window, were
bright--they had no memories. No, she did not remember. That momentary
elevation had no associations for her. It was unconscious.

He looked her up and down and laughed and shook his head. "You are just
all I want you to be--and that is,--not for me! Don't worry, you'll get
at it. You are at it. My God! have you ever, for one moment, been at
anything else?"

Thea did not answer him, and clearly she had not heard him. She was
watching something out in the thin light of the false spring and its
treacherously soft air.

Fred waited a moment. "Are you going to dine with your friend to-night?"

"Yes. He has never been in New York before. He wants to go about. Where
shall I tell him to go?"

"Wouldn't it be a better plan, since you wish me to meet him, for you
both to dine with me? It would seem only natural and friendly. You'll
have to live up a little to his notion of us." Thea seemed to consider
the suggestion favorably. "If you wish him to be easy in his mind," Fred
went on, "that would help. I think, myself, that we are rather nice
together. Put on one of the new dresses you got down there, and let him
see how lovely you can be. You owe him some pleasure, after all the
trouble he has taken."

Thea laughed, and seemed to find the idea exciting and pleasant. "Oh,
very well! I'll do my best. Only don't wear a dress coat, please. He
hasn't one, and he's nervous about it."

Fred looked at his watch. "Your monument up there is fast. I'll be here
with a cab at eight. I'm anxious to meet him. You've given me the
strangest idea of his callow innocence and aged indifference."

She shook her head. "No, he's none of that. He's very good, and he won't
admit things. I love him for it. Now, as I look back on it, I see that
I've always, even when I was little, shielded him."

As she laughed, Fred caught the bright spark in her eye that he knew so
well, and held it for a happy instant. Then he blew her a kiss with his
finger-tips and fled.



IV


AT nine o'clock that evening our three friends were seated in the
balcony of a French restaurant, much gayer and more intimate than any
that exists in New York to-day. This old restaurant was built by a lover
of pleasure, who knew that to dine gayly human beings must have the
reassurance of certain limitations of space and of a certain definite
style; that the walls must be near enough to suggest shelter, the
ceiling high enough to give the chandeliers a setting. The place was
crowded with the kind of people who dine late and well, and Dr. Archie,
as he watched the animated groups in the long room below the balcony,
found this much the most festive scene he had ever looked out upon. He
said to himself, in a jovial mood somewhat sustained by the cheer of the
board, that this evening alone was worth his long journey. He followed
attentively the orchestra, ensconced at the farther end of the balcony,
and told Thea it made him feel "quite musical" to recognize "The
Invitation to the Dance" or "The Blue Danube," and that he could
remember just what kind of day it was when he heard her practicing them
at home, and lingered at the gate to listen.

For the first few moments, when he was introduced to young Ottenburg in
the parlor of the Everett House, the doctor had been awkward and
unbending. But Fred, as his father had often observed, "was not a good
mixer for nothing." He had brought Dr. Archie around during the short
cab ride, and in an hour they had become old friends.

From the moment when the doctor lifted his glass and, looking
consciously at Thea, said, "To your success," Fred liked him. He felt
his quality; understood his courage in some directions and what Thea
called his timidity in others, his unspent and miraculously preserved
youthfulness. Men could never impose upon the doctor, he guessed, but
women always could. Fred liked, too, the doctor's manner with Thea, his
bashful admiration and the little hesitancy by which he betrayed his
consciousness of the change in her. It was just this change that, at
present, interested Fred more than anything else. That, he felt, was his
"created value," and it was his best chance for any peace of mind. If
that were not real, obvious to an old friend like Archie, then he cut a
very poor figure, indeed.

Fred got a good deal, too, out of their talk about Moonstone. From her
questions and the doctor's answers he was able to form some conception
of the little world that was almost the measure of Thea's experience,
the one bit of the human drama that she had followed with sympathy and
understanding. As the two ran over the list of their friends, the mere
sound of a name seemed to recall volumes to each of them, to indicate
mines of knowledge and observation they had in common. At some names
they laughed delightedly, at some indulgently and even tenderly.

"You two young people must come out to Moonstone when Thea gets back,"
the doctor said hospitably.

"Oh, we shall!" Fred caught it up. "I'm keen to know all these people.
It is very tantalizing to hear only their names."

"Would they interest an outsider very much, do you think, Dr. Archie?"
Thea leaned toward him. "Isn't it only because we've known them since I
was little?"

The doctor glanced at her deferentially. Fred had noticed that he seemed
a little afraid to look at her squarely--perhaps a trifle embarrassed by
a mode of dress to which he was unaccustomed. "Well, you are practically
an outsider yourself, Thea, now," he observed smiling. "Oh, I know," he
went on quickly in response to her gesture of protest,--"I know you
don't change toward your old friends, but you can see us all from a
distance now. It's all to your advantage that you can still take your
old interest, isn't it, Mr. Ottenburg?"

"That's exactly one of her advantages, Dr. Archie. Nobody can ever take
that away from her, and none of us who came later can ever hope to rival
Moonstone in the impression we make. Her scale of values will always be
the Moonstone scale. And, with an artist, that IS an advantage." Fred
nodded.

Dr. Archie looked at him seriously. "You mean it keeps them from getting
affected?"

"Yes; keeps them from getting off the track generally."

While the waiter filled the glasses, Fred pointed out to Thea a big
black French barytone who was eating anchovies by their tails at one of
the tables below, and the doctor looked about and studied his fellow
diners.

"Do you know, Mr. Ottenburg," he said deeply, "these people all look
happier to me than our Western people do. Is it simply good manners on
their part, or do they get more out of life?"

Fred laughed to Thea above the glass he had just lifted. "Some of them
are getting a good deal out of it now, doctor. This is the hour when
bench-joy brightens."

Thea chuckled and darted him a quick glance. "Benchjoy! Where did you
get that slang?"

"That happens to be very old slang, my dear. Older than Moonstone or the
sovereign State of Colorado. Our old friend Mr. Nathanmeyer could tell
us why it happens to hit you." He leaned forward and touched Thea's
wrist, "See that fur coat just coming in, Thea. It's D'Albert. He's just
back from his Western tour. Fine head, hasn't he?"

"To go back," said Dr. Archie; "I insist that people do look happier
here. I've noticed it even on the street, and especially in the hotels."

Fred turned to him cheerfully. "New York people live a good deal in the
fourth dimension, Dr. Archie. It's that you notice in their faces."

The doctor was interested. "The fourth dimension," he repeated slowly;
"and is that slang, too?"

"No,"--Fred shook his head,--"that's merely a figure. I mean that life
is not quite so personal here as it is in your part of the world. People
are more taken up by hobbies, interests that are less subject to
reverses than their personal affairs. If you're interested in Thea's
voice, for instance, or in voices in general, that interest is just the
same, even if your mining stocks go down."

The doctor looked at him narrowly. "You think that's about the principal
difference between country people and city people, don't you?"

Fred was a little disconcerted at being followed up so resolutely, and
he attempted to dismiss it with a pleasantry. "I've never thought much
about it, doctor. But I should say, on the spur of the moment, that that
is one of the principal differences between people anywhere. It's the
consolation of fellows like me who don't accomplish much. The fourth
dimension is not good for business, but we think we have a better time."

Dr. Archie leaned back in his chair. His heavy shoulders were
contemplative. "And she," he said slowly; "should you say that she is
one of the kind you refer to?" He inclined his head toward the shimmer
of the pale-green dress beside him. Thea was leaning, just then, over
the balcony rail, her head in the light from the chandeliers below.

"Never, never!" Fred protested. "She's as hard-headed as the worst of
you--with a difference."

The doctor sighed. "Yes, with a difference; something that makes a good
many revolutions to the second. When she was little I used to feel her
head to try to locate it."

Fred laughed. "Did you, though? So you were on the track of it? Oh, it's
there! We can't get round it, miss," as Thea looked back inquiringly.
"Dr. Archie, there's a fellow townsman of yours I feel a real kinship
for." He pressed a cigar upon Dr. Archie and struck a match for him.
"Tell me about Spanish Johnny."

The doctor smiled benignantly through the first waves of smoke. "Well,
Johnny's an old patient of mine, and he's an old admirer of Thea's. She
was born a cosmopolitan, and I expect she learned a good deal from
Johnny when she used to run away and go to Mexican Town. We thought it a
queer freak then."

The doctor launched into a long story, in which he was often eagerly
interrupted or joyously confirmed by Thea, who was drinking her coffee
and forcing open the petals of the roses with an ardent and rather rude
hand. Fred settled down into enjoying his comprehension of his guests.
Thea, watching Dr. Archie and interested in his presentation, was
unconsciously impersonating her suave, goldtinted friend. It was
delightful to see her so radiant and responsive again. She had kept her
promise about looking her best; when one could so easily get together
the colors of an apple branch in early spring, that was not hard to do.
Even Dr. Archie felt, each time he looked at her, a fresh consciousness.
He recognized the fine texture of her mother's skin, with the difference
that, when she reached across the table to give him a bunch of grapes,
her arm was not only white, but somehow a little dazzling. She seemed to
him taller, and freer in all her movements. She had now a way of taking
a deep breath when she was interested, that made her seem very strong,
somehow, and brought her at one quite overpoweringly. If he seemed shy,
it was not that he was intimidated by her worldly clothes, but that her
greater positiveness, her whole augmented self, made him feel that his
accustomed manner toward her was inadequate.

Fred, on his part, was reflecting that the awkward position in which he
had placed her would not confine or chafe her long. She looked about at
other people, at other women, curiously. She was not quite sure of
herself, but she was not in the least afraid or apologetic. She seemed
to sit there on the edge, emerging from one world into another, taking
her bearings, getting an idea of the concerted movement about her, but
with absolute self-confidence. So far from shrinking, she expanded. The
mere kindly effort to please Dr. Archie was enough to bring her out.

There was much talk of aurae at that time, and Fred mused that every
beautiful, every compellingly beautiful woman, had an aura, whether
other people did or no. There was, certainly, about the woman he had
brought up from Mexico, such an emanation. She existed in more space
than she occupied by measurement. The enveloping air about her head and
shoulders was subsidized--was more moving than she herself, for in it
lived the awakenings, all the first sweetness that life kills in people.
One felt in her such a wealth of JUGENDZEIT, all those flowers of the
mind and the blood that bloom and perish by the myriad in the few
exhaustless years when the imagination first kindles. It was in watching
her as she emerged like this, in being near and not too near, that one
got, for a moment, so much that one had lost; among other legendary
things the legendary theme of the absolutely magical power of a
beautiful woman.

After they had left Thea at her hotel, Dr. Archie admitted to Fred, as
they walked up Broadway through the rapidly chilling air, that once
before he had seen their young friend flash up into a more potent self,
but in a darker mood. It was in his office one night, when she was at
home the summer before last. "And then I got the idea," he added simply,
"that she would not live like other people: that, for better or worse,
she had uncommon gifts."

"Oh, we'll see that it's for better, you and I," Fred reassured him.
"Won't you come up to my hotel with me? I think we ought to have a long
talk."

"Yes, indeed," said Dr. Archie gratefully; "I think we ought."




V


THEA was to sail on Tuesday, at noon, and on Saturday Fred Ottenburg
arranged for her passage, while she and Dr. Archie went shopping. With
rugs and sea-clothes she was already provided; Fred had got everything
of that sort she needed for the voyage up from Vera Cruz. On Sunday
afternoon Thea went to see the Harsanyis. When she returned to her
hotel, she found a note from Ottenburg, saying that he had called and
would come again to-morrow.

On Monday morning, while she was at breakfast, Fred came in. She knew by
his hurried, distracted air as he entered the dining-room that something
had gone wrong. He had just got a telegram from home. His mother had
been thrown from her carriage and hurt; a concussion of some sort, and
she was unconscious. He was leaving for St. Louis that night on the
eleven o'clock train. He had a great deal to attend to during the day.
He would come that evening, if he might, and stay with her until train
time, while she was doing her packing. Scarcely waiting for her consent,
he hurried away.

All day Thea was somewhat cast down. She was sorry for Fred, and she
missed the feeling that she was the one person in his mind. He had
scarcely looked at her when they exchanged words at the breakfast-table.
She felt as if she were set aside, and she did not seem so important
even to herself as she had yesterday. Certainly, she reflected, it was
high time that she began to take care of herself again. Dr. Archie came
for dinner, but she sent him away early, telling him that she would be
ready to go to the boat with him at half-past ten the next morning. When
she went upstairs, she looked gloomily at the open trunk in her
sitting-room, and at the trays piled on the sofa. She stood at the
window and watched a quiet snowstorm spending itself over the city. More
than anything else, falling snow always made her think of Moonstone; of
the Kohlers' garden, of Thor's sled, of dressing by lamplight and
starting off to school before the paths were broken.

When Fred came, he looked tired, and he took her hand almost without
seeing her.

"I'm so sorry, Fred. Have you had any more word?"

"She was still unconscious at four this afternoon. It doesn't look very
encouraging." He approached the fire and warmed his hands. He seemed to
have contracted, and he had not at all his habitual ease of manner.
"Poor mother!" he exclaimed; "nothing like this should have happened to
her. She has so much pride of person. She's not at all an old woman, you
know. She's never got beyond vigorous and rather dashing middle age." He
turned abruptly to Thea and for the first time really looked at her.
"How badly things come out! She'd have liked you for a daughter-in-law.
Oh, you'd have fought like the devil, but you'd have respected each
other." He sank into a chair and thrust his feet out to the fire.
"Still," he went on thoughtfully, seeming to address the ceiling, "it
might have been bad for you. Our big German houses, our good German
cooking--you might have got lost in the upholstery. That substantial
comfort might take the temper out of you, dull your edge. Yes," he
sighed, "I guess you were meant for the jolt of the breakers."

"I guess I'll get plenty of jolt," Thea murmured, turning to her trunk.

"I'm rather glad I'm not staying over until to-morrow," Fred reflected.
"I think it's easier for me to glide out like this. I feel now as if
everything were rather casual, anyhow. A thing like that dulls one's
feelings."

Thea, standing by her trunk, made no reply. Presently he shook himself
and rose. "Want me to put those trays in for you?"

"No, thank you. I'm not ready for them yet."

Fred strolled over to the sofa, lifted a scarf from one of the trays and
stood abstractedly drawing it through his fingers. "You've been so kind
these last few days, Thea, that I began to hope you might soften a
little; that you might ask me to come over and see you this summer."

"If you thought that, you were mistaken," she said slowly. "I've
hardened, if anything. But I shan't carry any grudge away with me, if
you mean that."

He dropped the scarf. "And there's nothing--nothing at all you'll let me
do?"

"Yes, there is one thing, and it's a good deal to ask. If I get knocked
out, or never get on, I'd like you to see that Dr. Archie gets his money
back. I'm taking three thousand dollars of his."

"Why, of course I shall. You may dismiss that from your mind. How fussy
you are about money, Thea. You make such a point of it." He turned
sharply and walked to the windows.

Thea sat down in the chair he had quitted. "It's only poor people who
feel that way about money, and who are really honest," she said gravely.
"Sometimes I think that to be really honest, you must have been so poor
that you've been tempted to steal."

"To what?"

"To steal. I used to be, when I first went to Chicago and saw all the
things in the big stores there. Never anything big, but little things,
the kind I'd never seen before and could never afford. I did take
something once, before I knew it."

Fred came toward her. For the first time she had his whole attention, in
the degree to which she was accustomed to having it. "Did you? What was
it?" he asked with interest.

"A sachet. A little blue silk bag of orris-root powder. There was a
whole counterful of them, marked down to fifty cents. I'd never seen any
before, and they seemed irresistible. I took one up and wandered about
the store with it. Nobody seemed to notice, so I carried it off."

Fred laughed. "Crazy child! Why, your things always smell of orris; is
it a penance?"

"No, I love it. But I saw that the firm didn't lose anything by me. I
went back and bought it there whenever I had a quarter to spend. I got a
lot to take to Arizona. I made it up to them."

"I'll bet you did!" Fred took her hand. "Why didn't I find you that
first winter? I'd have loved you just as you came!"

Thea shook her head. "No, you wouldn't, but you might have found me
amusing. The Harsanyis said yesterday afternoon that I wore such a funny
cape and that my shoes always squeaked. They think I've improved. I told
them it was your doing if I had, and then they looked scared."

"Did you sing for Harsanyi?"

"Yes. He thinks I've improved there, too. He said nice things to me. Oh,
he was very nice! He agrees with you about my going to Lehmann, if
she'll take me. He came out to the elevator with me, after we had said
good-bye. He said something nice out there, too, but he seemed sad."

"What was it that he said?"

"He said, `When people, serious people, believe in you, they give you
some of their best, so--take care of it, Miss Kronborg.' Then he waved
his hands and went back."

"If you sang, I wish you had taken me along. Did you sing well?" Fred
turned from her and went back to the window. "I wonder when I shall hear
you sing again." He picked up a bunch of violets and smelled them. "You
know, your leaving me like this--well, it's almost inhuman to be able to
do it so kindly and unconditionally."

"I suppose it is. It was almost inhuman to be able to leave home,
too,--the last time, when I knew it was for good. But all the same, I
cared a great deal more than anybody else did. I lived through it. I
have no choice now. No matter how much it breaks me up, I have to go. Do
I seem to enjoy it?"

Fred bent over her trunk and picked up something which proved to be a
score, clumsily bound. "What's this? Did you ever try to sing this?" He
opened it and on the engraved title-page read Wunsch's inscription,
"EINST, O WUNDER!" He looked up sharply at Thea.

"Wunsch gave me that when he went away. I've told you about him, my old
teacher in Moonstone. He loved that opera."

Fred went toward the fireplace, the book under his arm, singing
softly:--


"EINST, O WUNDER, ENTBLUHT AUF MEINEM GRABE,
EINE BLUME DER ASCHE MEINES HERZENS;"

"You have no idea at all where he is, Thea?" He leaned against the
mantel and looked down at her.

"No, I wish I had. He may be dead by this time. That was five years ago,
and he used himself hard. Mrs. Kohler was always afraid he would die off
alone somewhere and be stuck under the prairie. When we last heard of
him, he was in Kansas."

"If he were to be found, I'd like to do something for him. I seem to get
a good deal of him from this." He opened the book again, where he kept
the place with his finger, and scrutinized the purple ink. "How like a
German! Had he ever sung the song for you?"

"No. I didn't know where the words were from until once, when Harsanyi
sang it for me, I recognized them."

Fred closed the book. "Let me see, what was your noble brakeman's name?"

Thea looked up with surprise. "Ray, Ray Kennedy."

"Ray Kennedy!" he laughed. "It couldn't well have been better! Wunsch
and Dr. Archie, and Ray, and I,"--he told them off on his
fingers,--"your whistling-posts! You haven't done so badly. We've backed
you as we could, some in our weakness and some in our might. In your
dark hours--and you'll have them--you may like to remember us." He
smiled whimsically and dropped the score into the trunk. "You are taking
that with you?"

"Surely I am. I haven't so many keepsakes that I can afford to leave
that. I haven't got many that I value so highly."

"That you value so highly?" Fred echoed her gravity playfully. "You are
delicious when you fall into your vernacular." He laughed half to
himself.

"What's the matter with that? Isn't it perfectly good English?"

"Perfectly good Moonstone, my dear. Like the readymade clothes that hang
in the windows, made to fit everybody and fit nobody, a phrase that can
be used on all occasions. Oh,"--he started across the room
again,--"that's one of the fine things about your going! You'll be with
the right sort of people and you'll learn a good, live, warm German,
that will be like yourself. You'll get a new speech full of shades and
color like your voice; alive, like your mind. It will be almost like
being born again, Thea."

She was not offended. Fred had said such things to her before, and she
wanted to learn. In the natural course of things she would never have
loved a man from whom she could not learn a great deal.

"Harsanyi said once," she remarked thoughtfully, "that if one became an
artist one had to be born again, and that one owed nothing to anybody."

"Exactly. And when I see you again I shall not see you, but your
daughter. May I?" He held up his cigarette case questioningly and then
began to smoke, taking up again the song which ran in his head:--


"DEUTLICH SCHIMMERT AUF JEDEM, PURPURBLATTCHEN, ADELAIDE!"


"I have half an hour with you yet, and then, exit Fred." He walked about
the room, smoking and singing the words under his breath. "You'll like
the voyage," he said abruptly. "That first approach to a foreign shore,
stealing up on it and finding it--there's nothing like it. It wakes up
everything that's asleep in you. You won't mind my writing to some
people in Berlin? They'll be nice to you."

"I wish you would." Thea gave a deep sigh. "I wish one could look ahead
and see what is coming to one."

"Oh, no!" Fred was smoking nervously; "that would never do. It's the
uncertainty that makes one try. You've never had any sort of chance, and
now I fancy you'll make it up to yourself. You'll find the way to let
yourself out in one long flight."

Thea put her hand on her heart. "And then drop like the rocks we used to
throw--anywhere." She left the chair and went over to the sofa, hunting
for something in the trunk trays. When she came back she found Fred
sitting in her place. "Here are some handkerchiefs of yours. I've kept
one or two. They're larger than mine and useful if one has a headache."

"Thank you. How nicely they smell of your things!" He looked at the
white squares for a moment and then put them in his pocket. He kept the
low chair, and as she stood beside him he took her hands and sat looking
intently at them, as if he were examining them for some special purpose,
tracing the long round fingers with the tips of his own. "Ordinarily,
you know, there are reefs that a man catches to and keeps his nose above
water. But this is a case by itself. There seems to be no limit as to
how much I can be in love with you. I keep going." He did not lift his
eyes from her fingers, which he continued to study with the same fervor.
"Every kind of stringed instrument there is plays in your hands, Thea,"
he whispered, pressing them to his face.

She dropped beside him and slipped into his arms, shutting her eyes and
lifting her cheek to his. "Tell me one thing," Fred whispered. "You said
that night on the boat, when I first told you, that if you could you
would crush it all up in your hands and throw it into the sea. Would
you, all those weeks?"

She shook her head.

"Answer me, would you?"

"No, I was angry then. I'm not now. I'd never give them up. Don't make
me pay too much." In that embrace they lived over again all the others.
When Thea drew away from him, she dropped her face in her hands. "You
are good to me," she breathed, "you are!"

Rising to his feet, he put his hands under her elbows and lifted her
gently. He drew her toward the door with him. "Get all you can. Be
generous with yourself. Don't stop short of splendid things. I want them
for you more than I want anything else, more than I want one splendid
thing for myself. I can't help feeling that you'll gain, somehow, by my
losing so much. That you'll gain the very thing I lose. Take care of
her, as Harsanyi said. She's wonderful!" He kissed her and went out of
the door without looking back, just as if he were coming again
to-morrow.

Thea went quickly into her bedroom. She brought out an armful of muslin
things, knelt down, and began to lay them in the trays. Suddenly she
stopped, dropped forward and leaned against the open trunk, her head on
her arms. The tears fell down on the dark old carpet. It came over her
how many people must have said good-bye and been unhappy in that room.
Other people, before her time, had hired this room to cry in. Strange
rooms and strange streets and faces, how sick at heart they made one!
Why was she going so far, when what she wanted was some familiar place
to hide in?--the rock house, her little room in Moonstone, her own bed.
Oh, how good it would be to lie down in that little bed, to cut the
nerve that kept one struggling, that pulled one on and on, to sink into
peace there, with all the family safe and happy downstairs. After all,
she was a Moonstone girl, one of the preacher's children. Everything
else was in Fred's imagination. Why was she called upon to take such
chances? Any safe, humdrum work that did not compromise her would be
better. But if she failed now, she would lose her soul. There was
nowhere to fall, after one took that step, except into abysses of
wretchedness. She knew what abysses, for she could still hear the old
man playing in the snowstorm, it was released in her like a passion of
longing. Every nerve in her body thrilled to it. It brought her to her
feet, carried her somehow to bed and into troubled sleep.

That night she taught in Moonstone again: she beat her pupils in hideous
rages, she kept on beating them. She sang at funerals, and struggled at
the piano with Harsanyi. In one dream she was looking into a hand-glass
and thinking that she was getting better-looking, when the glass began
to grow smaller and smaller and her own reflection to shrink, until she
realized that she was looking into Ray Kennedy's eyes, seeing her face
in that look of his which she could never forget. All at once the eyes
were Fred Ottenburg's, and not Ray's. All night she heard the shrieking
of trains, whistling in and out of Moonstone, as she used to hear them
in her sleep when they blew shrill in the winter air. But to-night they
were terrifying,--the spectral, fated trains that "raced with death,"
about which the old woman from the depot used to pray.

In the morning she wakened breathless after a struggle with Mrs. Livery
Johnson's daughter. She started up with a bound, threw the blankets back
and sat on the edge of the bed, her night-dress open, her long braids
hanging over her bosom, blinking at the daylight. After all, it was not
too late. She was only twenty years old, and the boat sailed at noon.
There was still time!




PART VI



KRONBORG


I


It is a glorious winter day. Denver, standing on her high plateau under
a thrilling green-blue sky, is masked in snow and glittering with
sunlight. The Capitol building is actually in armor, and throws off the
shafts of the sun until the beholder is dazzled and the outlines of the
building are lost in a blaze of reflected light. The stone terrace is a
white field over which fiery reflections dance, and the trees and bushes
are faithfully repeated in snow--on every black twig a soft, blurred
line of white. From the terrace one looks directly over to where the
mountains break in their sharp, familiar lines against the sky. Snow
fills the gorges, hangs in scarfs on the great slopes, and on the peaks
the fiery sunshine is gathered up as by a burning-glass.

Howard Archie is standing at the window of his private room in the
offices of the San Felipe Mining Company, on the sixth floor of the
Raton Building, looking off at the mountain glories of his State while
he gives dictation to his secretary. He is ten years older than when we
saw him last, and emphatically ten years more prosperous. A decade of
coming into things has not so much aged him as it has fortified,
smoothed, and assured him. His sandy hair and imperial conceal whatever
gray they harbor. He has not grown heavier, but more flexible, and his
massive shoulders carry fifty years and the control of his great mining
interests more lightly than they carried forty years and a country
practice. In short, he is one of the friends to whom we feel grateful
for having got on in the world, for helping to keep up the general
temperature and our own confidence in life. He is an acquaintance that
one would hurry to overtake and greet among a hundred. In his warm
handshake and generous smile there is the stimulating cordiality of good
fellows come into good fortune and eager to pass it on; something that
makes one think better of the lottery of life and resolve to try again.

When Archie had finished his morning mail, he turned away from the
window and faced his secretary. "Did anything come up yesterday
afternoon while I was away, T. B.?"

Thomas Burk turned over the leaf of his calendar. "Governor Alden sent
down to say that he wanted to see you before he sends his letter to the
Board of Pardons. Asked if you could go over to the State House this
morning."

Archie shrugged his shoulders. "I'll think about it."

The young man grinned.

"Anything else?" his chief continued.

T. B. swung round in his chair with a look of interest on his shrewd,
clean-shaven face. "Old Jasper Flight was in, Dr. Archie. I never
expected to see him alive again. Seems he's tucked away for the winter
with a sister who's a housekeeper at the Oxford. He's all crippled up
with rheumatism, but as fierce after it as ever. Wants to know if you or
the company won't grub-stake him again. Says he's sure of it this time;
had located something when the snow shut down on him in December. He
wants to crawl out at the first break in the weather, with that same old
burro with the split ear. He got somebody to winter the beast for him.
He's superstitious about that burro, too; thinks it's divinely guided.
You ought to hear the line of talk he put up here yesterday; said when
he rode in his carriage, that burro was a-going to ride along with him."

Archie laughed. "Did he leave you his address?"

"He didn't neglect anything," replied the clerk cynically.

"Well, send him a line and tell him to come in again. I like to hear
him. Of all the crazy prospectors I've ever known, he's the most
interesting, because he's really crazy. It's a religious conviction with
him, and with most of 'em it's a gambling fever or pure vagrancy. But
Jasper Flight believes that the Almighty keeps the secret of the silver
deposits in these hills, and gives it away to the deserving. He's a
downright noble figure. Of course I'll stake him! As long as he can
crawl out in the spring. He and that burro are a sight together. The
beast is nearly as white as Jasper; must be twenty years old."

"If you stake him this time, you won't have to again," said T. B.
knowingly. "He'll croak up there, mark my word. Says he never ties the
burro at night now, for fear he might be called sudden, and the beast
would starve. I guess that animal could eat a lariat rope, all right,
and enjoy it."

"I guess if we knew the things those two have eaten, and haven't eaten,
in their time, T. B., it would make us vegetarians." The doctor sat down
and looked thoughtful. "That's the way for the old man to go. It would
be pretty hard luck if he had to die in a hospital. I wish he could turn
up something before he cashes in. But his kind seldom do; they're
bewitched. Still, there was Stratton. I've been meeting Jasper Flight,
and his side meat and tin pans, up in the mountains for years, and I'd
miss him. I always halfway believe the fairy tales he spins me. Old
Jasper Flight," Archie murmured, as if he liked the name or the picture
it called up.

A clerk came in from the outer office and handed Archie a card. He
sprang up and exclaimed, "Mr. Ottenburg? Bring him in."

Fred Ottenburg entered, clad in a long, fur-lined coat, holding a
checked-cloth hat in his hand, his cheeks and eyes bright with the
outdoor cold. The two men met before Archie's desk and their handclasp
was longer than friendship prompts except in regions where the blood
warms and quickens to meet the dry cold. Under the general keyingup of
the altitude, manners take on a heartiness, a vivacity, that is one
expression of the half-unconscious excitement which Colorado people miss
when they drop into lower strata of air. The heart, we are told, wears
out early in that high atmosphere, but while it pumps it sends out no
sluggish stream. Our two friends stood gripping each other by the hand
and smiling.

"When did you get in, Fred? And what have you come for?" Archie gave him
a quizzical glance.

"I've come to find out what you think you're doing out here," the
younger man declared emphatically. "I want to get next, I do. When can
you see me?"

"Anything on to-night? Then suppose you dine with me. Where can I pick
you up at five-thirty?"

"Bixby's office, general freight agent of the Burlington." Ottenburg
began to button his overcoat and drew on his gloves. "I've got to have
one shot at you before I go, Archie. Didn't I tell you Pinky Alden was a
cheap squirt?"

Alden's backer laughed and shook his head. "Oh, he's worse than that,
Fred. It isn't polite to mention what he is, outside of the Arabian
Nights. I guessed you'd come to rub it into me."

Ottenburg paused, his hand on the doorknob, his high color challenging
the doctor's calm. "I'm disgusted with you, Archie, for training with
such a pup. A man of your experience!"

"Well, he's been an experience," Archie muttered. "I'm not coy about
admitting it, am I?"

Ottenburg flung open the door. "Small credit to you. Even the women are
out for capital and corruption, I hear. Your Governor's done more for
the United Breweries in six months than I've been able to do in six
years. He's the lily-livered sort we're looking for. Good-morning."

That afternoon at five o'clock Dr. Archie emerged from the State House
after his talk with Governor Alden, and crossed the terrace under a
saffron sky. The snow, beaten hard, was blue in the dusk; a day of
blinding sunlight had not even started a thaw. The lights of the city
twinkled pale below him in the quivering violet air, and the dome of the
State House behind him was still red with the light from the west.
Before he got into his car, the doctor paused to look about him at the
scene of which he never tired. Archie lived in his own house on Colfax
Avenue, where he had roomy grounds and a rose garden and a conservatory.
His housekeeping was done by three Japanese boys, devoted and
resourceful, who were able to manage Archie's dinner parties, to see
that he kept his engagements, and to make visitors who stayed at the
house so comfortable that they were always loath to go away.

Archie had never known what comfort was until he became a widower,
though with characteristic delicacy, or dishonesty, he insisted upon
accrediting his peace of mind to the San Felipe, to Time, to anything
but his release from Mrs. Archie.

Mrs. Archie died just before her husband left Moonstone and came to
Denver to live, six years ago. The poor woman's fight against dust was
her undoing at last. One summer day when she was rubbing the parlor
upholstery with gasoline,--the doctor had often forbidden her to use it
on any account, so that was one of the pleasures she seized upon in his
absence,--an explosion occurred. Nobody ever knew exactly how it
happened, for Mrs. Archie was dead when the neighbors rushed in to save
her from the burning house. She must have inhaled the burning gas and
died instantly.

Moonstone severity relented toward her somewhat after her death. But
even while her old cronies at Mrs. Smiley's millinery store said that it
was a terrible thing, they added that nothing but a powerful explosive
COULD have killed Mrs. Archie, and that it was only right the doctor
should have a chance.

Archie's past was literally destroyed when his wife died. The house
burned to the ground, and all those material reminders which have such
power over people disappeared in an hour. His mining interests now took
him to Denver so often that it seemed better to make his headquarters
there. He gave up his practice and left Moonstone for good. Six months
afterward, while Dr. Archie was living at the Brown Palace Hotel, the
San Felipe mine began to give up that silver hoard which old Captain
Harris had always accused it of concealing, and San Felipe headed the
list of mining quotations in every daily paper, East and West. In a few
years Dr. Archie was a very rich man. His mine was such an important
item in the mineral output of the State, and Archie had a hand in so
many of the new industries of Colorado and New Mexico, that his
political influence was considerable. He had thrown it all, two years
ago, to the new reform party, and had brought about the election of a
governor of whose conduct he was now heartily ashamed. His friends
believed that Archie himself had ambitious political plans.



II


WHEN Ottenburg and his host reached the house on Colfax Avenue, they
went directly to the library, a long double room on the second floor
which Archie had arranged exactly to his own taste. It was full of books
and mounted specimens of wild game, with a big writing-table at either
end, stiff, old-fashioned engravings, heavy hangings and deep
upholstery.

When one of the Japanese boys brought the cocktails, Fred turned from
the fine specimen of peccoray he had been examining and said, "A man is
an owl to live in such a place alone, Archie. Why don't you marry? As
for me, just because I can't marry, I find the world full of charming,
unattached women, any one of whom I could fit up a house for with
alacrity."

"You're more knowing than I." Archie spoke politely. "I'm not very wide
awake about women. I'd be likely to pick out one of the uncomfortable
ones--and there are a few of them, you know." He drank his cocktail and
rubbed his hands together in a friendly way. "My friends here have
charming wives, and they don't give me a chance to get lonely. They are
very kind to me, and I have a great many pleasant friendships."

Fred put down his glass. "Yes, I've always noticed that women have
confidence in you. You have the doctor's way of getting next. And you
enjoy that kind of thing?"

"The friendship of attractive women? Oh, dear, yes! I depend upon it a
great deal."

The butler announced dinner, and the two men went downstairs to the
dining-room. Dr. Archie's dinners were always good and well served, and
his wines were excellent.

"I saw the Fuel and Iron people to-day," Ottenburg said, looking up from
his soup. "Their heart is in the right place. I can't see why in the
mischief you ever got mixed up with that reform gang, Archie. You've got
nothing to reform out here. The situation has always been as simple as
two and two in Colorado; mostly a matter of a friendly understanding."

"Well,"--Archie spoke tolerantly,--"some of the young fellows seemed to
have red-hot convictions, and I thought it was better to let them try
their ideas out."

Ottenburg shrugged his shoulders. "A few dull young men who haven't
ability enough to play the old game the old way, so they want to put on
a new game which doesn't take so much brains and gives away more
advertising that's what your anti-saloon league and vice commission
amounts to. They provide notoriety for the fellows who can't distinguish
themselves at running a business or practicing law or developing an
industry. Here you have a mediocre lawyer with no brains and no
practice, trying to get a look-in on something. He comes up with the
novel proposition that the prostitute has a hard time of it, puts his
picture in the paper, and the first thing you know, he's a celebrity. He
gets the rake-off and she's just where she was before. How could you
fall for a mouse-trap like Pink Alden, Archie?"

Dr. Archie laughed as he began to carve. "Pink seems to get under your
skin. He's not worth talking about. He's gone his limit. People won't
read about his blameless life any more. I knew those interviews he gave
out would cook him. They were a last resort. I could have stopped him,
but by that time I'd come to the conclusion that I'd let the reformers
down. I'm not against a general shaking-up, but the trouble with Pinky's
crowd is they never get beyond a general writing-up. We gave them a
chance to do something, and they just kept on writing about each other
and what temptations they had overcome."

While Archie and his friend were busy with Colorado politics, the
impeccable Japanese attended swiftly and intelligently to his duties,
and the dinner, as Ottenburg at last remarked, was worthy of more
profitable conversation.

"So it is," the doctor admitted. "Well, we'll go upstairs for our coffee
and cut this out. Bring up some cognac and arak, Tai," he added as he
rose from the table.

They stopped to examine a moose's head on the stairway, and when they
reached the library the pine logs in the fireplace had been lighted, and
the coffee was bubbling before the hearth. Tai placed two chairs before
the fire and brought a tray of cigarettes.

"Bring the cigars in my lower desk drawer, boy," the doctor directed.
"Too much light in here, isn't there, Fred? Light the lamp there on my
desk, Tai." He turned off the electric glare and settled himself deep
into the chair opposite Ottenburg's.

"To go back to our conversation, doctor," Fred began while he waited for
the first steam to blow off his coffee; "why don't you make up your mind
to go to Washington? There'd be no fight made against you. I needn't say
the United Breweries would back you. There'd be some KUDOS coming to us,
too; backing a reform candidate."

Dr. Archie measured his length in his chair and thrust his large boots
toward the crackling pitch-pine. He drank his coffee and lit a big black
cigar while his guest looked over the assortment of cigarettes on the
tray. "You say why don't I," the doctor spoke with the deliberation of a
man in the position of having several courses to choose from, "but, on
the other hand, why should I?" He puffed away and seemed, through his
half-closed eyes, to look down several long roads with the intention of
luxuriously rejecting all of them and remaining where he was. "I'm sick
of politics. I'm disillusioned about serving my crowd, and I don't
particularly want to serve yours. Nothing in it that I particularly
want; and a man's not effective in politics unless he wants something
for himself, and wants it hard. I can reach my ends by straighter roads.
There are plenty of things to keep me busy. We haven't begun to develop
our resources in this State; we haven't had a look in on them yet.
That's the only thing that isn't fake--making men and machines go, and
actually turning out a product."

The doctor poured himself some white cordial and looked over the little
glass into the fire with an expression which led Ottenburg to believe
that he was getting at something in his own mind. Fred lit a cigarette
and let his friend grope for his idea.

"My boys, here," Archie went on, "have got me rather interested in
Japan. Think I'll go out there in the spring, and come back the other
way, through Siberia. I've always wanted to go to Russia." His eyes
still hunted for something in his big fireplace. With a slow turn of his
head he brought them back to his guest and fixed them upon him. "Just
now, I'm thinking of running on to New York for a few weeks," he ended
abruptly.

Ottenburg lifted his chin. "Ah!" he exclaimed, as if he began to see
Archie's drift. "Shall you see Thea?"

"Yes." The doctor replenished his cordial glass. "In fact, I suspect I
am going exactly TO see her. I'm getting stale on things here, Fred.
Best people in the world and always doing things for me. I'm fond of
them, too, but I've been with them too much. I'm getting ill-tempered,
and the first thing I know I'll be hurting people's feelings. I snapped
Mrs. Dandridge up over the telephone this afternoon when she asked me to
go out to Colorado Springs on Sunday to meet some English people who are
staying at the Antlers. Very nice of her to want me, and I was as sour
as if she'd been trying to work me for something. I've got to get out
for a while, to save my reputation."

To this explanation Ottenburg had not paid much attention. He seemed to
be looking at a fixed point: the yellow glass eyes of a fine wildcat
over one of the bookcases. "You've never heard her at all, have you?" he
asked reflectively. "Curious, when this is her second season in New
York."

"I was going on last March. Had everything arranged. And then old Cap
Harris thought he could drive his car and me through a lamp-post and I
was laid up with a compound fracture for two months. So I didn't get to
see Thea."

Ottenburg studied the red end of his cigarette attentively. "She might
have come out to see you. I remember you covered the distance like a
streak when she wanted you."

Archie moved uneasily. "Oh, she couldn't do that. She had to get back to
Vienna to work on some new parts for this year. She sailed two days
after the New York season closed."

"Well, then she couldn't, of course." Fred smoked his cigarette close
and tossed the end into the fire. "I'm tremendously glad you're going
now. If you're stale, she'll jack you up. That's one of her specialties.
She got a rise out of me last December that lasted me all winter."

"Of course," the doctor apologized, "you know so much more about such
things. I'm afraid it will be rather wasted on me. I'm no judge of
music."

"Never mind that." The younger man pulled himself up in his chair. "She
gets it across to people who aren't judges. That's just what she does."
He relapsed into his former lassitude. "If you were stone deaf, it
wouldn't all be wasted. It's a great deal to watch her. Incidentally,
you know, she is very beautiful. Photographs give you no idea."

Dr. Archie clasped his large hands under his chin. "Oh, I'm counting on
that. I don't suppose her voice will sound natural to me. Probably I
wouldn't know it."

Ottenburg smiled. "You'll know it, if you ever knew it. It's the same
voice, only more so. You'll know it."

"Did you, in Germany that time, when you wrote me? Seven years ago, now.
That must have been at the very beginning."

"Yes, somewhere near the beginning. She sang one of the Rhine
daughters." Fred paused and drew himself up again. "Sure, I knew it from
the first note. I'd heard a good many young voices come up out of the
Rhine, but, by gracious, I hadn't heard one like that!" He fumbled for
another cigarette. "Mahler was conducting that night. I met him as he
was leaving the house and had a word with him. `Interesting voice you
tried out this evening,' I said. He stopped and smiled. `Miss Kronborg,
you mean? Yes, very. She seems to sing for the idea. Unusual in a young
singer.' I'd never heard him admit before that a singer could have an
idea. She not only had it, but she got it across. The Rhine music, that
I'd known since I was a boy, was fresh to me, vocalized for the first
time. You realized that she was beginning that long story, adequately,
with the end in view. Every phrase she sang was basic. She simply WAS
the idea of the Rhine music." Ottenburg rose and stood with his back to
the fire. "And at the end, where you don't see the maidens at all, the
same thing again: two pretty voices AND the Rhine voice." Fred snapped
his fingers and dropped his hand.

The doctor looked up at him enviously. "You see, all that would be lost
on me," he said modestly. "I don't know the dream nor the interpretation
thereof. I'm out of it. It's too bad that so few of her old friends can
appreciate her."

"Take a try at it," Fred encouraged him. "You'll get in deeper than you
can explain to yourself. People with no personal interest do that."

"I suppose," said Archie diffidently, "that college German, gone to
seed, wouldn't help me out much. I used to be able to make my German
patients understand me."

"Sure it would!" cried Ottenburg heartily. "Don't be above knowing your
libretto. That's all very well for musicians, but common mortals like
you and me have got to know what she's singing about. Get out your
dictionary and go at it as you would at any other proposition. Her
diction is beautiful, and if you know the text you'll get a great deal.
So long as you're going to hear her, get all that's coming to you. You
bet in Germany people know their librettos by heart! You Americans are
so afraid of stooping to learn anything."

"I AM a little ashamed," Archie admitted. "I guess that's the way we
mask our general ignorance. However, I'll stoop this time; I'm more
ashamed not to be able to follow her. The papers always say she's such a
fine actress." He took up the tongs and began to rearrange the logs that
had burned through and fallen apart. "I suppose she has changed a great
deal?" he asked absently.

"We've all changed, my dear Archie,--she more than most of us. Yes, and
no. She's all there, only there's a great deal more of her. I've had
only a few words with her in several years. It's better not, when I'm
tied up this way. The laws are barbarous, Archie."

"Your wife is--still the same?" the doctor asked sympathetically.

"Absolutely. Hasn't been out of a sanitarium for seven years now. No
prospect of her ever being out, and as long as she's there I'm tied hand
and foot. What does society get out of such a state of things, I'd like
to know, except a tangle of irregularities? If you want to reform,
there's an opening for you!"

"It's bad, oh, very bad; I agree with you!" Dr. Archie shook his head.
"But there would be complications under another system, too. The whole
question of a young man's marrying has looked pretty grave to me for a
long while. How have they the courage to keep on doing it? It depresses
me now to buy wedding presents." For some time the doctor watched his
guest, who was sunk in bitter reflections. "Such things used to go
better than they do now, I believe. Seems to me all the married people I
knew when I was a boy were happy enough." He paused again and bit the
end off a fresh cigar. "You never saw Thea's mother, did you, Ottenburg?
That's a pity. Mrs. Kronborg was a fine woman. I've always been afraid
Thea made a mistake, not coming home when Mrs. Kronborg was ill, no
matter what it cost her."

Ottenburg moved about restlessly. "She couldn't, Archie, she positively
couldn't. I felt you never understood that, but I was in Dresden at the
time, and though I wasn't seeing much of her, I could size up the
situation for myself. It was by just a lucky chance that she got to sing
ELIZABETH that time at the Dresden Opera, a complication of
circumstances. If she'd run away, for any reason, she might have waited
years for such a chance to come again. She gave a wonderful performance
and made a great impression. They offered her certain terms; she had to
take them and follow it up then and there. In that game you can't lose a
single trick. She was ill herself, but she sang. Her mother was ill, and
she sang. No, you mustn't hold that against her, Archie. She did the
right thing there." Ottenburg drew out his watch. "Hello! I must be
traveling. You hear from her regularly?"

"More or less regularly. She was never much of a letterwriter. She tells
me about her engagements and contracts, but I know so little about that
business that it doesn't mean much to me beyond the figures, which seem
very impressive. We've had a good deal of business correspondence, about
putting up a stone to her father and mother, and, lately, about her
youngest brother, Thor. He is with me now; he drives my car. To-day he's
up at the mine."

Ottenburg, who had picked up his overcoat, dropped it. "Drives your
car?" he asked incredulously.

"Yes. Thea and I have had a good deal of bother about Thor. We tried a
business college, and an engineering school, but it was no good. Thor
was born a chauffeur before there were cars to drive. He was never good
for anything else; lay around home and collected postage stamps and took
bicycles to pieces, waiting for the automobile to be invented. He's just
as much a part of a car as the steering-gear. I can't find out whether
he likes his job with me or not, or whether he feels any curiosity about
his sister. You can't find anything out from a Kronborg nowadays. The
mother was different."

Fred plunged into his coat. "Well, it's a queer world, Archie. But
you'll think better of it, if you go to New York. Wish I were going with
you. I'll drop in on you in the morning at about eleven. I want a word
with you about this Interstate Commerce Bill. Good-night."

Dr. Archie saw his guest to the motor which was waiting below, and then
went back to his library, where he replenished the fire and sat down for
a long smoke. A man of Archie's modest and rather credulous nature
develops late, and makes his largest gain between forty and fifty. At
thirty, indeed, as we have seen, Archie was a soft-hearted boy under a
manly exterior, still whistling to keep up his courage. Prosperity and
large responsibilities--above all, getting free of poor Mrs. Archie--had
brought out a good deal more than he knew was in him. He was thinking
tonight as he sat before the fire, in the comfort he liked so well, that
but for lucky chances, and lucky holes in the ground, he would still be
a country practitioner, reading his old books by his office lamp. And
yet, he was not so fresh and energetic as he ought to be. He was tired
of business and of politics. Worse than that, he was tired of the men
with whom he had to do and of the women who, as he said, had been kind
to him. He felt as if he were still hunting for something, like old
Jasper Flight. He knew that this was an unbecoming and ungrateful state
of mind, and he reproached himself for it. But he could not help
wondering why it was that life, even when it gave so much, after all
gave so little. What was it that he had expected and missed? Why was he,
more than he was anything else, disappointed?

He fell to looking back over his life and asking himself which years of
it he would like to live over again,--just as they had been,--and they
were not many. His college years he would live again, gladly. After them
there was nothing he would care to repeat until he came to Thea
Kronborg. There had been something stirring about those years in
Moonstone, when he was a restless young man on the verge of breaking
into larger enterprises, and when she was a restless child on the verge
of growing up into something unknown. He realized now that she had
counted for a great deal more to him than he knew at the time. It was a
continuous sort of relationship. He was always on the lookout for her as
he went about the town, always vaguely expecting her as he sat in his
office at night. He had never asked himself then if it was strange that
he should find a child of twelve the most interesting and companionable
person in Moonstone. It had seemed a pleasant, natural kind of
solicitude. He explained it then by the fact that he had no children of
his own. But now, as he looked back at those years, the other interests
were faded and inanimate. The thought of them was heavy. But wherever
his life had touched Thea Kronborg's, there was still a little warmth
left, a little sparkle. Their friendship seemed to run over those
discontented years like a leafy pattern, still bright and fresh when the
other patterns had faded into the dull background. Their walks and
drives and confidences, the night they watched the rabbit in the
moonlight,--why were these things stirring to remember? Whenever he
thought of them, they were distinctly different from the other memories
of his life; always seemed humorous, gay, with a little thrill of
anticipation and mystery about them. They came nearer to being tender
secrets than any others he possessed. Nearer than anything else they
corresponded to what he had hoped to find in the world, and had not
found. It came over him now that the unexpected favors of fortune, no
matter how dazzling, do not mean very much to us. They may excite or
divert us for a time, but when we look back, the only things we cherish
are those which in some way met our original want; the desire which
formed in us in early youth, undirected, and of its own accord.



III


FOR the first four years after Thea went to Germany things went on as
usual with the Kronborg family. Mrs. Kronborg's land in Nebraska
increased in value and brought her in a good rental. The family drifted
into an easier way of living, half without realizing it, as families
will. Then Mr. Kronborg, who had never been ill, died suddenly of cancer
of the liver, and after his death Mrs. Kronborg went, as her neighbors
said, into a decline. Hearing discouraging reports of her from the
physician who had taken over his practice, Dr. Archie went up from
Denver to see her. He found her in bed, in the room where he had more
than once attended her, a handsome woman of sixty with a body still firm
and white, her hair, faded now to a very pale primrose, in two thick
braids down her back, her eyes clear and calm. When the doctor arrived,
she was sitting up in her bed, knitting. He felt at once how glad she
was to see him, but he soon gathered that she had made no determination
to get well. She told him, indeed, that she could not very well get
along without Mr. Kronborg. The doctor looked at her with astonishment.
Was it possible that she could miss the foolish old man so much? He
reminded her of her children.

"Yes," she replied; "the children are all very well, but they are not
father. We were married young."

The doctor watched her wonderingly as she went on knitting, thinking how
much she looked like Thea. The difference was one of degree rather than
of kind. The daughter had a compelling enthusiasm, the mother had none.
But their framework, their foundation, was very much the same.

In a moment Mrs. Kronborg spoke again. "Have you heard anything from
Thea lately?"




During his talk with her, the doctor gathered that what Mrs. Kronborg
really wanted was to see her daughter Thea. Lying there day after day,
she wanted it calmly and continuously. He told her that, since she felt
so, he thought they might ask Thea to come home.

"I've thought a good deal about it," said Mrs. Kronborg slowly. "I hate
to interrupt her, now that she's begun to get advancement. I expect
she's seen some pretty hard times, though she was never one to complain.
Perhaps she'd feel that she would like to come. It would be hard, losing
both of us while she's off there."

When Dr. Archie got back to Denver he wrote a long letter to Thea,
explaining her mother's condition and how much she wished to see her,
and asking Thea to come, if only for a few weeks. Thea had repaid the
money she had borrowed from him, and he assured her that if she happened
to be short of funds for the journey, she had only to cable him.

A month later he got a frantic sort of reply from Thea. Complications in
the opera at Dresden had given her an unhoped-for opportunity to go on
in a big part. Before this letter reached the doctor, she would have
made her debut as ELIZABETH, in "Tannhauser." She wanted to go to her
mother more than she wanted anything else in the world, but, unless she
failed,--which she would not,--she absolutely could not leave Dresden
for six months. It was not that she chose to stay; she had to stay--or
lose everything. The next few months would put her five years ahead, or
would put her back so far that it would be of no use to struggle
further. As soon as she was free, she would go to Moonstone and take her
mother back to Germany with her. Her mother, she was sure, could live
for years yet, and she would like German people and German ways, and
could be hearing music all the time. Thea said she was writing her
mother and begging her to help her one last time; to get strength and to
wait for her six months, and then she (Thea) would do everything. Her
mother would never have to make an effort again.

Dr. Archie went up to Moonstone at once. He had great confidence in Mrs.
Kronborg's power of will, and if Thea's appeal took hold of her enough,
he believed she might get better. But when he was shown into the
familiar room off the parlor, his heart sank. Mrs. Kronborg was lying
serene and fateful on her pillows. On the dresser at the foot of her bed
there was a large photograph of Thea in the character in which she was
to make her debut. Mrs. Kronborg pointed to it.

"Isn't she lovely, doctor? It's nice that she hasn't changed much. I've
seen her look like that many a time."

They talked for a while about Thea's good fortune. Mrs. Kronborg had had
a cablegram saying, "First performance well received. Great relief." In
her letter Thea said; "If you'll only get better, dear mother, there's
nothing I can't do. I will make a really great success, if you'll try
with me. You shall have everything you want, and we will always be
together. I have a little house all picked out where we are to live."

"Bringing up a family is not all it's cracked up to be," said Mrs.
Kronborg with a flicker of irony, as she tucked the letter back under
her pillow. "The children you don't especially need, you have always
with you, like the poor. But the bright ones get away from you. They
have their own way to make in the world. Seems like the brighter they
are, the farther they go. I used to feel sorry that you had no family,
doctor, but maybe you're as well off."

"Thea's plan seems sound to me, Mrs. Kronborg. There's no reason I can
see why you shouldn't pull up and live for years yet, under proper care.
You'd have the best doctors in the world over there, and it would be
wonderful to live with anybody who looks like that." He nodded at the
photograph of the young woman who must have been singing "DICH, THEURE
HALLE, GRUSS' ICH WIEDER," her eyes looking up, her beautiful hands
outspread with pleasure.

Mrs. Kronborg laughed quite cheerfully. "Yes, wouldn't it? If father
were here, I might rouse myself. But sometimes it's hard to come back.
Or if she were in trouble, maybe I could rouse myself."

"But, dear Mrs. Kronborg, she is in trouble," her old friend
expostulated. "As she says, she's never needed you as she needs you now.
I make my guess that she's never begged anybody to help her before."

Mrs. Kronborg smiled. "Yes, it's pretty of her. But that will pass. When
these things happen far away they don't make such a mark; especially if
your hands are full and you've duties of your own to think about. My own
father died in Nebraska when Gunner was born,--we were living in Iowa
then,--and I was sorry, but the baby made it up to me. I was father's
favorite, too. That's the way it goes, you see."

The doctor took out Thea's letter to him, and read it over to Mrs.
Kronborg. She seemed to listen, and not to listen.

When he finished, she said thoughtfully: "I'd counted on hearing her
sing again. But I always took my pleasures as they come. I always
enjoyed her singing when she was here about the house. While she was
practicing I often used to leave my work and sit down in a rocker and
give myself up to it, the same as if I'd been at an entertainment. I was
never one of these housekeepers that let their work drive them to death.
And when she had the Mexicans over here, I always took it in. First and
last,"--she glanced judicially at the photograph,--"I guess I got about
as much out of Thea's voice as anybody will ever get."

"I guess you did!" the doctor assented heartily; "and I got a good deal
myself. You remember how she used to sing those Scotch songs for me, and
lead us with her head, her hair bobbing?"

"`Flow Gently, Sweet Afton,'--I can hear it now," said Mrs. Kronborg;
"and poor father never knew when he sang sharp! He used to say, `Mother,
how do you always know when they make mistakes practicing?'" Mrs.
Kronborg chuckled.

Dr. Archie took her hand, still firm like the hand of a young woman. "It
was lucky for her that you did know. I always thought she got more from
you than from any of her teachers."

"Except Wunsch; he was a real musician," said Mrs. Kronborg
respectfully. "I gave her what chance I could, in a crowded house. I
kept the other children out of the parlor for her. That was about all I
could do. If she wasn't disturbed, she needed no watching. She went
after it like a terrier after rats from the first, poor child. She was
downright afraid of it. That's why I always encouraged her taking Thor
off to outlandish places. When she was out of the house, then she was
rid of it."

After they had recalled many pleasant memories together, Mrs. Kronborg
said suddenly: "I always understood about her going off without coming
to see us that time. Oh, I know! You had to keep your own counsel. You
were a good friend to her. I've never forgot that." She patted the
doctor's sleeve and went on absently. "There was something she didn't
want to tell me, and that's why she didn't come. Something happened when
she was with those people in Mexico. I worried for a good while, but I
guess she's come out of it all right. She'd had a pretty hard time,
scratching along alone like that when she was so young, and my farms in
Nebraska were down so low that I couldn't help her none. That's no way
to send a girl out. But I guess, whatever there was, she wouldn't be
afraid to tell me now." Mrs. Kronborg looked up at the photograph with a
smile. "She doesn't look like she was beholding to anybody, does she?"

"She isn't, Mrs. Kronborg. She never has been. That was why she borrowed
the money from me."

"Oh, I knew she'd never have sent for you if she'd done anything to
shame us. She was always proud." Mrs. Kronborg paused and turned a
little on her side. "It's been quite a satisfaction to you and me,
doctor, having her voice turn out so fine. The things you hope for don't
always turn out like that, by a long sight. As long as old Mrs. Kohler
lived, she used always to translate what it said about Thea in the
German papers she sent. I could make some of it out myself,--it's not
very different from Swedish,--but it pleased the old lady. She left Thea
her piece-picture of the burning of Moscow. I've got it put away in
moth-balls for her, along with the oboe her grandfather brought from
Sweden. I want her to take father's oboe back there some day." Mrs.
Kronborg paused a moment and compressed her lips. "But I guess she'll
take a finer instrument than that with her, back to Sweden!" she added.

Her tone fairly startled the doctor, it was so vibrating with a fierce,
defiant kind of pride he had heard often in Thea's voice. He looked down
wonderingly at his old friend and patient. After all, one never knew
people to the core. Did she, within her, hide some of that still passion
of which her daughter was all-compact?

"That last summer at home wasn't very nice for her," Mrs. Kronborg began
as placidly as if the fire had never leaped up in her. "The other
children were acting-up because they thought I might make a fuss over
her and give her the big-head. We gave her the dare, somehow, the lot of
us, because we couldn't understand her changing teachers and all that.
That's the trouble about giving the dare to them quiet, unboastful
children; you never know how far it'll take 'em. Well, we ought not to
complain, doctor; she's given us a good deal to think about."


The next time Dr. Archie came to Moonstone, he came to be a pall-bearer
at Mrs. Kronborg's funeral. When he last looked at her, she was so
serene and queenly that he went back to Denver feeling almost as if he
had helped to bury Thea Kronborg herself. The handsome head in the
coffin seemed to him much more really Thea than did the radiant young
woman in the picture, looking about at the Gothic vaultings and greeting
the Hall of Song.



IV


ONE bright morning late in February Dr. Archie was breakfasting
comfortably at the Waldorf. He had got into Jersey City on an early
train, and a red, windy sunrise over the North River had given him a
good appetite. He consulted the morning paper while he drank his coffee
and saw that "Lohengrin" was to be sung at the opera that evening. In
the list of the artists who would appear was the name "Kronborg." Such
abruptness rather startled him. "Kronborg": it was impressive and yet,
somehow, disrespectful; somewhat rude and brazen, on the back page of
the morning paper. After breakfast he went to the hotel ticket office
and asked the girl if she could give him something for "Lohengrin,"
"near the front." His manner was a trifle awkward and he wondered
whether the girl noticed it. Even if she did, of course, she could
scarcely suspect. Before the ticket stand he saw a bunch of blue posters
announcing the opera casts for the week. There was "Lohengrin," and
under it he saw:--


ELSA VON BRABANT...Thea Kronborg.


That looked better. The girl gave him a ticket for a seat which she said
was excellent. He paid for it and went out to the cabstand. He mentioned
to the driver a number on Riverside Drive and got into a taxi. It would
not, of course, be the right thing to call upon Thea when she was going
to sing in the evening. He knew that much, thank goodness! Fred
Ottenburg had hinted to him that, more than almost anything else, that
would put one in wrong.

When he reached the number to which he directed his letters, he
dismissed the cab and got out for a walk. The house in which Thea lived
was as impersonal as the Waldorf, and quite as large. It was above 116th
Street, where the Drive narrows, and in front of it the shelving bank
dropped to the North River. As Archie strolled about the paths which
traversed this slope, below the street level, the fourteen stories of
the apartment hotel rose above him like a perpendicular cliff. He had no
idea on which floor Thea lived, but he reflected, as his eye ran over
the many windows, that the outlook would be fine from any floor. The
forbidding hugeness of the house made him feel as if he had expected to
meet Thea in a crowd and had missed her. He did not really believe that
she was hidden away behind any of those glittering windows, or that he
was to hear her this evening. His walk was curiously uninspiring and
unsuggestive. Presently remembering that Ottenburg had encouraged him to
study his lesson, he went down to the opera house and bought a libretto.
He had even brought his old "Adler's German and English" in his trunk,
and after luncheon he settled down in his gilded suite at the Waldorf
with a big cigar and the text of "Lohengrin."

The opera was announced for seven-forty-five, but at half-past seven
Archie took his seat in the right front of the orchestra circle. He had
never been inside the Metropolitan Opera House before, and the height of
the audience room, the rich color, and the sweep of the balconies were
not without their effect upon him. He watched the house fill with a
growing feeling of expectation. When the steel curtain rose and the men
of the orchestra took their places, he felt distinctly nervous. The
burst of applause which greeted the conductor keyed him still higher. He
found that he had taken off his gloves and twisted them to a string.
When the lights went down and the violins began the overture, the place
looked larger than ever; a great pit, shadowy and solemn. The whole
atmosphere, he reflected, was somehow more serious than he had
anticipated.

After the curtains were drawn back upon the scene beside the Scheldt, he
got readily into the swing of the story. He was so much interested in
the bass who sang KING HENRY that he had almost forgotten for what he
was waiting so nervously, when the HERALD began in stentorian tones to
summon ELSA VON BRABANT. Then he began to realize that he was rather
frightened. There was a flutter of white at the back of the stage, and
women began to come in: two, four, six, eight, but not the right one. It
flashed across him that this was something like buck-fever, the
paralyzing moment that comes upon a man when his first elk looks at him
through the bushes, under its great antlers; the moment when a man's
mind is so full of shooting that he forgets the gun in his hand until
the buck nods adieu to him from a distant hill.

All at once, before the buck had left him, she was there. Yes,
unquestionably it was she. Her eyes were downcast, but the head, the
cheeks, the chin--there could be no mistake; she advanced slowly, as if
she were walking in her sleep. Some one spoke to her; she only inclined
her head. He spoke again, and she bowed her head still lower. Archie had
forgotten his libretto, and he had not counted upon these long pauses.
He had expected her to appear and sing and reassure him. They seemed to
be waiting for her. Did she ever forget? Why in thunder didn't she--She
made a sound, a faint one. The people on the stage whispered together
and seemed confounded. His nervousness was absurd. She must have done
this often before; she knew her bearings. She made another sound, but he
could make nothing of it. Then the King sang to her, and Archie began to
remember where they were in the story. She came to the front of the
stage, lifted her eyes for the first time, clasped her hands and began,
"EINSAM IN TRUBEN TAGEN."

Yes, it was exactly like buck-fever. Her face was there, toward the
house now, before his eyes, and he positively could not see it. She was
singing, at last, and he positively could not hear her. He was conscious
of nothing but an uncomfortable dread and a sense of crushing
disappointment. He had, after all, missed her. Whatever was there, she
was not there--for him.

The King interrupted her. She began again, "IN LICHTER WAFFEN SCHEINE."
Archie did not know when his buckfever passed, but presently he found
that he was sitting quietly in a darkened house, not listening to but
dreaming upon a river of silver sound. He felt apart from the others,
drifting alone on the melody, as if he had been alone with it for a long
while and had known it all before. His power of attention was not great
just then, but in so far as it went he seemed to be looking through an
exalted calmness at a beautiful woman from far away, from another sort
of life and feeling and understanding than his own, who had in her face
something he had known long ago, much brightened and beautified. As a
lad he used to believe that the faces of people who died were like that
in the next world; the same faces, but shining with the light of a new
understanding. No, Ottenburg had not prepared him!

What he felt was admiration and estrangement. The homely reunion, that
he had somehow expected, now seemed foolish. Instead of feeling proud
that he knew her better than all these people about him, he felt
chagrined at his own ingenuousness. For he did not know her better. This
woman he had never known; she had somehow devoured his little friend, as
the wolf ate up Red Ridinghood. Beautiful, radiant, tender as she was,
she chilled his old affection; that sort of feeling was not appropriate.
She seemed much, much farther away from him than she had seemed all
those years when she was in Germany. The ocean he could cross, but there
was something here he could not cross. There was a moment, when she
turned to the King and smiled that rare, sunrise smile of her childhood,
when he thought she was coming back to him. After the HERALD'S second
call for her champion, when she knelt in her impassioned prayer, there
was again something familiar, a kind of wild wonder that she had had the
power to call up long ago. But she merely reminded him of Thea; this was
not the girl herself.

After the tenor came on, the doctor ceased trying to make the woman
before him fit into any of his cherished recollections. He took her, in
so far as he could, for what she was then and there. When the knight
raised the kneeling girl and put his mailed hand on her hair, when she
lifted to him a face full of worship and passionate humility, Archie
gave up his last reservation. He knew no more about her than did the
hundreds around him, who sat in the shadow and looked on, as he looked,
some with more understanding, some with less. He knew as much about
ORTRUDE or LOHENGRIN as he knew about ELSA--more, because she went
further than they, she sustained the legendary beauty of her conception
more consistently. Even he could see that. Attitudes, movements, her
face, her white arms and fingers, everything was suffused with a rosy
tenderness, a warm humility, a gracious and yet--to him--wholly
estranging beauty.

During the balcony singing in the second act the doctor's thoughts were
as far away from Moonstone as the singer's doubtless were. He had begun,
indeed, to feel the exhilaration of getting free from personalities, of
being released from his own past as well as from Thea Kronborg's. It was
very much, he told himself, like a military funeral, exalting and
impersonal. Something old died in one, and out of it something new was
born. During the duet with ORTRUDE, and the splendors of the wedding
processional, this new feeling grew and grew. At the end of the act
there were many curtain calls and ELSA acknowledged them, brilliant,
gracious, spirited, with her far-breaking smile; but on the whole she
was harder and more self-contained before the curtain than she was in
the scene behind it. Archie did his part in the applause that greeted
her, but it was the new and wonderful he applauded, not the old and
dear. His personal, proprietary pride in her was frozen out.

He walked about the house during the ENTR'ACTE, and here and there among
the people in the foyer he caught the name "Kronborg." On the staircase,
in front of the coffeeroom, a long-haired youth with a fat face was
discoursing to a group of old women about "die Kronborg." Dr. Archie
gathered that he had crossed on the boat with her.

After the performance was over, Archie took a taxi and started for
Riverside Drive. He meant to see it through to-night. When he entered
the reception hall of the hotel before which he had strolled that
morning, the hall porter challenged him. He said he was waiting for Miss
Kronborg. The porter looked at him suspiciously and asked whether he had
an appointment. He answered brazenly that he had. He was not used to
being questioned by hall boys. Archie sat first in one tapestry chair
and then in another, keeping a sharp eye on the people who came in and
went up in the elevators. He walked about and looked at his watch. An
hour dragged by. No one had come in from the street now for about twenty
minutes, when two women entered, carrying a great many flowers and
followed by a tall young man in chauffeur's uniform. Archie advanced
toward the taller of the two women, who was veiled and carried her head
very firmly. He confronted her just as she reached the elevator.
Although he did not stand directly in her way, something in his attitude
compelled her to stop. She gave him a piercing, defiant glance through
the white scarf that covered her face. Then she lifted her hand and
brushed the scarf back from her head. There was still black on her brows
and lashes. She was very pale and her face was drawn and deeply lined.
She looked, the doctor told himself with a sinking heart, forty years
old. Her suspicious, mystified stare cleared slowly.

"Pardon me," the doctor murmured, not knowing just how to address her
here before the porters, "I came up from the opera. I merely wanted to
say good-night to you."

Without speaking, still looking incredulous, she pushed him into the
elevator. She kept her hand on his arm while the cage shot up, and she
looked away from him, frowning, as if she were trying to remember or
realize something. When the cage stopped, she pushed him out of the
elevator through another door, which a maid opened, into a square hall.
There she sank down on a chair and looked up at him.

"Why didn't you let me know?" she asked in a hoarse voice.

Archie heard himself laughing the old, embarrassed laugh that seldom
happened to him now. "Oh, I wanted to take my chance with you, like
anybody else. It's been so long, now!"

She took his hand through her thick glove and her head dropped forward.
"Yes, it has been long," she said in the same husky voice, "and so much
has happened."

"And you are so tired, and I am a clumsy old fellow to break in on you
to-night," the doctor added sympathetically. "Forgive me, this time." He
bent over and put his hand soothingly on her shoulder. He felt a strong
shudder run through her from head to foot.

Still bundled in her fur coat as she was, she threw both arms about him
and hugged him. "Oh, Dr. Archie, DR. ARCHIE,"--she shook him,--"don't
let me go. Hold on, now you're here," she laughed, breaking away from
him at the same moment and sliding out of her fur coat. She left it for
the maid to pick up and pushed the doctor into the sitting-room, where
she turned on the lights. "Let me LOOK at you. Yes; hands, feet, head,
shoulders--just the same. You've grown no older. You can't say as much
for me, can you?"

She was standing in the middle of the room, in a white silk shirtwaist
and a short black velvet skirt, which somehow suggested that they had
`cut off her petticoats all round about.' She looked distinctly clipped
and plucked. Her hair was parted in the middle and done very close to
her head, as she had worn it under the wig. She looked like a fugitive,
who had escaped from something in clothes caught up at hazard. It
flashed across Dr. Archie that she was running away from the other woman
down at the opera house, who had used her hardly.

He took a step toward her. "I can't tell a thing in the world about you,
Thea--if I may still call you that."

She took hold of the collar of his overcoat. "Yes, call me that. Do: I
like to hear it. You frighten me a little, but I expect I frighten you
more. I'm always a scarecrow after I sing a long part like that--so
high, too." She absently pulled out the handkerchief that protruded from
his breast pocket and began to wipe the black paint off her eyebrows and
lashes. "I can't take you in much to-night, but I must see you for a
little while." She pushed him to a chair. "I shall be more recognizable
to-morrow. You mustn't think of me as you see me to-night. Come at four
to-morrow afternoon and have tea with me. Can you? That's good."

She sat down in a low chair beside him and leaned forward, drawing her
shoulders together. She seemed to him inappropriately young and
inappropriately old, shorn of her long tresses at one end and of her
long robes at the other.

"How do you happen to be here?" she asked abruptly. "How can you leave a
silver mine? I couldn't! Sure nobody'll cheat you? But you can explain
everything tomorrow." She paused. "You remember how you sewed me up in a
poultice, once? I wish you could to-night. I need a poultice, from top
to toe. Something very disagreeable happened down there. You said you
were out front? Oh, don't say anything about it. I always know exactly
how it goes, unfortunately. I was rotten in the balcony. I never get
that. You didn't notice it? Probably not, but I did."

Here the maid appeared at the door and her mistress rose. "My supper?
Very well, I'll come. I'd ask you to stay, doctor, but there wouldn't be
enough for two. They seldom send up enough for one,"--she spoke
bitterly. "I haven't got a sense of you yet,"--turning directly to
Archie again. "You haven't been here. You've only announced yourself,
and told me you are coming to-morrow. You haven't seen me, either. This
is not I. But I'll be here waiting for you to-morrow, my whole works!
Goodnight, till then." She patted him absently on the sleeve and gave
him a little shove toward the door.



V


WHEN Archie got back to his hotel at two o'clock in the morning, he
found Fred Ottenburg's card under his door, with a message scribbled
across the top: "When you come in, please call up room 811, this hotel."
A moment later Fred's voice reached him over the telephone.

"That you, Archie? Won't you come up? I'm having some supper and I'd
like company. Late? What does that matter? I won't keep you long."

Archie dropped his overcoat and set out for room 811. He found Ottenburg
in the act of touching a match to a chafing-dish, at a table laid for
two in his sitting-room. "I'm catering here," he announced cheerfully.
"I let the waiter off at midnight, after he'd set me up. You'll have to
account for yourself, Archie."

The doctor laughed, pointing to three wine-coolers under the table. "Are
you expecting guests?"

"Yes, two." Ottenburg held up two fingers,--"you, and my higher self.
He's a thirsty boy, and I don't invite him often. He has been known to
give me a headache. Now, where have you been, Archie, until this
shocking hour?"

"Bah, you've been banting!" the doctor exclaimed, pulling out his white
gloves as he searched for his handkerchief and throwing them into a
chair. Ottenburg was in evening clothes and very pointed dress shoes.
His white waistcoat, upon which the doctor had fixed a challenging eye,
went down straight from the top button, and he wore a camelia. He was
conspicuously brushed and trimmed and polished. His smoothly controlled
excitement was wholly different from his usual easy cordiality, though
he had his face, as well as his figure, well in hand. On the
serving-table there was an empty champagne pint and a glass. He had been
having a little starter, the doctor told himself, and would probably be
running on high gear before he got through. There was even now an air of
speed about him.

"Been, Freddy?"--the doctor at last took up his question. "I expect I've
been exactly where you have. Why didn't you tell me you were coming on?"

"I wasn't, Archie." Fred lifted the cover of the chafingdish and stirred
the contents. He stood behind the table, holding the lid with his
handkerchief. "I had never thought of such a thing. But Landry, a young
chap who plays her accompaniments and who keeps an eye out for me,
telegraphed me that Madame Rheinecker had gone to Atlantic City with a
bad throat, and Thea might have a chance to sing ELSA. She has sung it
only twice here before, and I missed it in Dresden. So I came on. I got
in at four this afternoon and saw you registered, but I thought I wouldn't
butt in. How lucky you got here just when she was coming on for
this. You couldn't have hit a better time." Ottenburg stirred the
contents of the dish faster and put in more sherry. "And where have you
been since twelve o'clock, may I ask?"

Archie looked rather self-conscious, as he sat down on a fragile gilt
chair that rocked under him, and stretched out his long legs. "Well, if
you'll believe me, I had the brutality to go to see her. I wanted to
identify her. Couldn't wait."

Ottenburg placed the cover quickly on the chafing-dish and took a step
backward. "You did, old sport? My word! None but the brave deserve the
fair. Well,"--he stooped to turn the wine,--"and how was she?"

"She seemed rather dazed, and pretty well used up. She seemed
disappointed in herself, and said she hadn't done herself justice in the
balcony scene."

"Well, if she didn't, she's not the first. Beastly stuff to sing right
in there; lies just on the `break' in the voice." Fred pulled a bottle
out of the ice and drew the cork. Lifting his glass he looked meaningly
at Archie. "You know who, doctor. Here goes!" He drank off his glass
with a sigh of satisfaction. After he had turned the lamp low under the
chafing-dish, he remained standing, looking pensively down at the food
on the table. "Well, she rather pulled it off! As a backer, you're a
winner, Archie. I congratulate you." Fred poured himself another glass.
"Now you must eat something, and so must I. Here, get off that bird cage
and find a steady chair. This stuff ought to be rather good; head
waiter's suggestion. Smells all right." He bent over the chafing-dish
and began to serve the contents. "Perfectly innocuous: mushrooms and
truffles and a little crab-meat. And now, on the level, Archie, how did
it hit you?"

Archie turned a frank smile to his friend and shook his head. "It was
all miles beyond me, of course, but it gave me a pulse. The general
excitement got hold of me, I suppose. I like your wine, Freddy." He put
down his glass. "It goes to the spot to-night. She WAS all right, then?
You weren't disappointed?"

"Disappointed? My dear Archie, that's the high voice we dream of; so
pure and yet so virile and human. That combination hardly ever happens
with sopranos." Ottenburg sat down and turned to the doctor, speaking
calmly and trying to dispel his friend's manifest bewilderment. "You
see, Archie, there's the voice itself, so beautiful and individual, and
then there's something else; the thing in it which responds to every
shade of thought and feeling, spontaneously, almost unconsciously. That
color has to be born in a singer, it can't be acquired; lots of
beautiful voices haven't a vestige of it. It's almost like another
gift--the rarest of all. The voice simply is the mind and is the heart.
It can't go wrong in interpretation, because it has in it the thing that
makes all interpretation. That's why you feel so sure of her. After
you've listened to her for an hour or so, you aren't afraid of anything.
All the little dreads you have with other artists vanish. You lean back
and you say to yourself, `No, THAT voice will never betray.' TREULICH
GEFUHRT, TREULICH BEWACHT."

Archie looked envyingly at Fred's excited, triumphant face. How
satisfactory it must be, he thought, to really know what she was doing
and not to have to take it on hearsay. He took up his glass with a sigh.
"I seem to need a good deal of cooling off to-night. I'd just as lief
forget the Reform Party for once.

"Yes, Fred," he went on seriously; "I thought it sounded very beautiful,
and I thought she was very beautiful, too. I never imagined she could be
as beautiful as that."

"Wasn't she? Every attitude a picture, and always the right kind of
picture, full of that legendary, supernatural thing she gets into it. I
never heard the prayer sung like that before. That look that came in her
eyes; it went right out through the back of the roof. Of course, you get
an ELSA who can look through walls like that, and visions and
Grail-knights happen naturally. She becomes an abbess, that girl, after
LOHENGRIN leaves her. She's made to live with ideas and enthusiasms, not
with a husband." Fred folded his arms, leaned back in his chair, and
began to sing softly:--


"Ein Ritter nahte da."


"Doesn't she die, then, at the end?" the doctor asked guardedly.

Fred smiled, reaching under the table. "Some ELSAS do; she didn't. She
left me with the distinct impression that she was just beginning. Now,
doctor, here's a cold one." He twirled a napkin smoothly about the green
glass, the cork gave and slipped out with a soft explosion. "And now we
must have another toast. It's up to you, this time."

The doctor watched the agitation in his glass. "The same," he said
without lifting his eyes. "That's good enough. I can't raise you."

Fred leaned forward, and looked sharply into his face. "That's the
point; how COULD you raise me? Once again!"

"Once again, and always the same!" The doctor put down his glass. "This
doesn't seem to produce any symptoms in me to-night." He lit a cigar.
"Seriously, Freddy, I wish I knew more about what she's driving at. It
makes me jealous, when you are so in it and I'm not."

"In it?" Fred started up. "My God, haven't you seen her this blessed
night?--when she'd have kicked any other man down the elevator shaft, if
I know her. Leave me something; at least what I can pay my five bucks
for."

"Seems to me you get a good deal for your five bucks," said Archie
ruefully. "And that, after all, is what she cares about,--what people
get."

Fred lit a cigarette, took a puff or two, and then threw it away. He was
lounging back in his chair, and his face was pale and drawn hard by that
mood of intense concentration which lurks under the sunny shallows of
the vineyard. In his voice there was a longer perspective than usual, a
slight remoteness. "You see, Archie, it's all very simple, a natural
development. It's exactly what Mahler said back there in the beginning,
when she sang WOGLINDE. It's the idea, the basic idea, pulsing behind
every bar she sings. She simplifies a character down to the musical idea
it's built on, and makes everything conform to that. The people who
chatter about her being a great actress don't seem to get the notion of
where SHE gets the notion. It all goes back to her original endowment,
her tremendous musical talent. Instead of inventing a lot of business
and expedients to suggest character, she knows the thing at the root,
and lets the musical pattern take care of her. The score pours her into
all those lovely postures, makes the light and shadow go over her face,
lifts her and drops her. She lies on it, the way she used to lie on the
Rhine music. Talk about rhythm!"

The doctor frowned dubiously as a third bottle made its appearance above
the cloth. "Aren't you going in rather strong?"

Fred laughed. "No, I'm becoming too sober. You see this is breakfast
now; kind of wedding breakfast. I feel rather weddingish. I don't mind.
You know," he went on as the wine gurgled out, "I was thinking to-night
when they sprung the wedding music, how any fool can have that stuff
played over him when he walks up the aisle with some dough-faced little
hussy who's hooked him. But it isn't every fellow who can see--well,
what we saw tonight. There are compensations in life, Dr. Howard Archie,
though they come in disguise. Did you notice her when she came down the
stairs? Wonder where she gets that brightand-morning star look? Carries
to the last row of the family circle. I moved about all over the house.
I'll tell you a secret, Archie: that carrying power was one of the first
things that put me wise. Noticed it down there in Arizona, in the open.
That, I said, belongs only to the big ones." Fred got up and began to
move rhythmically about the room, his hands in his pockets. The doctor
was astonished at his ease and steadiness, for there were slight lapses
in his speech. "You see, Archie, ELSA isn't a part that's particularly
suited to Thea's voice at all, as I see her voice. It's over-lyrical for
her. She makes it, but there's nothing in it that fits her like a glove,
except, maybe, that long duet in the third act. There, of course,"--he
held out his hands as if he were measuring something,--"we know exactly
where we are. But wait until they give her a chance at something that
lies properly in her voice, and you'll see me rosier than I am
to-night."

Archie smoothed the tablecloth with his hand. "I am sure I don't want to
see you any rosier, Fred."

Ottenburg threw back his head and laughed. "It's enthusiasm, doctor.
It's not the wine. I've got as much inflated as this for a dozen trashy
things: brewers' dinners and political orgies. You, too, have your
extravagances, Archie. And what I like best in you is this particular
enthusiasm, which is not at all practical or sensible, which is
downright Quixotic. You are not altogether what you seem, and you have
your reservations. Living among the wolves, you have not become one.
LUPIBUS VIVENDI NON LUPUS SUM."

The doctor seemed embarrassed. "I was just thinking how tired she
looked, plucked of all her fine feathers, while we get all the fun.
Instead of sitting here carousing, we ought to go solemnly to bed."

"I get your idea." Ottenburg crossed to the window and threw it open.
"Fine night outside; a hag of a moon just setting. It begins to smell
like morning. After all, Archie, think of the lonely and rather solemn
hours we've spent waiting for all this, while she's been--reveling."

Archie lifted his brows. "I somehow didn't get the idea to-night that
she revels much."

"I don't mean this sort of thing." Fred turned toward the light and
stood with his back to the window. "That," with a nod toward the
wine-cooler, "is only a cheap imitation, that any poor stiff-fingered
fool can buy and feel his shell grow thinner. But take it from me, no
matter what she pays, or how much she may see fit to lie about it, the
real, the master revel is hers." He leaned back against the window sill
and crossed his arms. "Anybody with all that voice and all that talent
and all that beauty, has her hour. Her hour," he went on deliberately,
"when she can say, 'there it is, at last, WIE IM TRAUM ICH. As in my
dream I dreamed it, as in my will it was.'"


He stood silent a moment, twisting the flower from his coat by the stem
and staring at the blank wall with haggard abstraction. "Even I can
say to-night, Archie," he brought out slowly, "'As in my dream I dreamed
it, as in my will it was.' Now, doctor, you may leave me. I'm beautifully
drunk, but not with anything that ever grew in France."

The doctor rose. Fred tossed his flower out of the window behind him and
came toward the door. "I say," he called, "have you a date with
anybody?"

The doctor paused, his hand on the knob. "With Thea, you mean? Yes. I'm
to go to her at four this afternoon--if you haven't paralyzed me."

"Well, you won't eat me, will you, if I break in and send up my card?
She'll probably turn me down cold, but that won't hurt my feelings. If
she ducks me, you tell her for me, that to spite me now she'd have to
cut off more than she can spare. Good-night, Archie."



VI


IT was late on the morning after the night she sang ELSA, when Thea
Kronborg stirred uneasily in her bed. The room was darkened by two sets
of window shades, and the day outside was thick and cloudy. She turned
and tried to recapture unconsciousness, knowing that she would not be
able to do so. She dreaded waking stale and disappointed after a great
effort. The first thing that came was always the sense of the futility
of such endeavor, and of the absurdity of trying too hard. Up to a
certain point, say eighty degrees, artistic endeavor could be fat and
comfortable, methodical and prudent. But if you went further than that,
if you drew yourself up toward ninety degrees, you parted with your
defenses and left yourself exposed to mischance. The legend was that in
those upper reaches you might be divine; but you were much likelier to
be ridiculous. Your public wanted just about eighty degrees; if you gave
it more it blew its nose and put a crimp in you. In the morning,
especially, it seemed to her very probable that whatever struggled above
the good average was not quite sound. Certainly very little of that
superfluous ardor, which cost so dear, ever got across the footlights.
These misgivings waited to pounce upon her when she wakened. They
hovered about her bed like vultures.

She reached under her pillow for her handkerchief, without opening her
eyes. She had a shadowy memory that there was to be something unusual,
that this day held more disquieting possibilities than days commonly
held. There was something she dreaded; what was it? Oh, yes, Dr. Archie
was to come at four.

A reality like Dr. Archie, poking up out of the past, reminded one
of disappointments and losses, of a freedom that was no more:
reminded her of blue, golden mornings long ago, when she used to waken
with a burst of joy at recovering her precious self and her precious
world; when she never lay on her pillows at eleven o'clock like
something the waves had washed up. After all, why had he come? It had
been so long, and so much had happened. The things she had lost, he
would miss readily enough. What she had gained, he would scarcely
perceive. He, and all that he recalled, lived for her as memories. In
sleep, and in hours of illness or exhaustion, she went back to them and
held them to her heart. But they were better as memories. They had
nothing to do with the struggle that made up her actual life. She felt
drearily that she was not flexible enough to be the person her old
friend expected her to be, the person she herself wished to be with him.

Thea reached for the bell and rang twice,--a signal to her maid to order
her breakfast. She rose and ran up the window shades and turned on the
water in her bathroom, glancing into the mirror apprehensively as she
passed it. Her bath usually cheered her, even on low mornings like this.
Her white bathroom, almost as large as her sleepingroom, she regarded as
a refuge. When she turned the key behind her, she left care and vexation
on the other side of the door. Neither her maid nor the management nor
her letters nor her accompanist could get at her now.

When she pinned her braids about her head, dropped her nightgown and
stepped out to begin her Swedish movements, she was a natural creature
again, and it was so that she liked herself best. She slid into the tub
with anticipation and splashed and tumbled about a good deal. Whatever
else she hurried, she never hurried her bath. She used her brushes and
sponges and soaps like toys, fairly playing in the water. Her own body
was always a cheering sight to her. When she was careworn, when her mind
felt old and tired, the freshness of her physical self, her long, firm
lines, the smoothness of her skin, reassured her. This morning, because
of awakened memories, she looked at herself more carefully than usual,
and was not discouraged. While she was in the tub she began to whistle
softly the tenor aria, "AH! FUYEZ, DOUCE IMAGE," somehow appropriate to
the bath. After a noisy moment under the cold shower, she stepped out on
the rug flushed and glowing, threw her arms above her head, and rose on
her toes, keeping the elevation as long as she could. When she dropped
back on her heels and began to rub herself with the towels, she took up
the aria again, and felt quite in the humor for seeing Dr. Archie. After
she had returned to her bed, the maid brought her letters and the
morning papers with her breakfast.

"Telephone Mr. Landry and ask him if he can come at half-past three,
Theresa, and order tea to be brought up at five."


When Howard Archie was admitted to Thea's apartment that afternoon, he
was shown into the music-room back of the little reception room. Thea
was sitting in a davenport behind the piano, talking to a young man whom
she later introduced as her friend Mr. Landry. As she rose, and came to
meet him, Archie felt a deep relief, a sudden thankfulness. She no
longer looked clipped and plucked, or dazed and fleeing.

Dr. Archie neglected to take account of the young man to whom he was
presented. He kept Thea's hands and held her where he met her, taking in
the light, lively sweep of her hair, her clear green eyes and her throat
that came up strong and dazzlingly white from her green velvet gown. The
chin was as lovely as ever, the cheeks as smooth. All the lines of last
night had disappeared. Only at the outer corners of her eyes, between
the eye and the temple, were the faintest indications of a future
attack--mere kitten scratches that playfully hinted where one day the
cat would claw her. He studied her without any embarrassment. Last night
everything had been awkward; but now, as he held her hands, a kind of
harmony came between them, a reestablishment of confidence.

"After all, Thea,--in spite of all, I still know you," he murmured.

She took his arm and led him up to the young man who was standing beside
the piano. "Mr. Landry knows all about you, Dr. Archie. He has known
about you for many years." While the two men shook hands she stood
between them, drawing them together by her presence and her glances.
"When I first went to Germany, Landry was studying there. He used to be
good enough to work with me when I could not afford to have an
accompanist for more than two hours a day. We got into the way of
working together. He is a singer, too, and has his own career to look
after, but he still manages to give me some time. I want you to be
friends." She smiled from one to the other.

The rooms, Archie noticed, full of last night's flowers, were furnished
in light colors, the hotel bleakness of them a little softened by a
magnificent Steinway piano, white bookshelves full of books and scores,
some drawings of ballet dancers, and the very deep sofa behind the
piano.

"Of course," Archie asked apologetically, "you have seen the papers?"

"Very cordial, aren't they? They evidently did not expect as much as I
did. ELSA is not really in my voice. I can sing the music, but I have to
go after it."

"That is exactly," the doctor came out boldly, "what Fred Ottenburg said
this morning."

They had remained standing, the three of them, by the piano, where the
gray afternoon light was strongest. Thea turned to the doctor with
interest. "Is Fred in town? They were from him, then--some flowers that
came last night without a card." She indicated the white lilacs on the
window sill. "Yes, he would know, certainly," she said thoughtfully.
"Why don't we sit down? There will be some tea for you in a minute,
Landry. He's very dependent upon it," disapprovingly to Archie. "Now
tell me, Doctor, did you really have a good time last night, or were you
uncomfortable? Did you feel as if I were trying to hold my hat on by my
eyebrows?"

He smiled. "I had all kinds of a time. But I had no feeling of that
sort. I couldn't be quite sure that it was you at all. That was why I
came up here last night. I felt as if I'd lost you."

She leaned toward him and brushed his sleeve reassuringly. "Then I
didn't give you an impression of painful struggle? Landry was singing at
Weber and Fields' last night. He didn't get in until the performance was
half over. But I see the TRIBUNE man felt that I was working pretty
hard. Did you see that notice, Oliver?"

Dr. Archie looked closely at the red-headed young man for the first
time, and met his lively brown eyes, full of a droll, confiding sort of
humor. Mr. Landry was not prepossessing. He was undersized and clumsily
made, with a red, shiny face and a sharp little nose that looked as if
it had been whittled out of wood and was always in the air, on the scent
of something. Yet it was this queer little beak, with his eyes, that
made his countenance anything of a face at all. From a distance he
looked like the groceryman's delivery boy in a small town. His dress
seemed an acknowledgment of his grotesqueness: a short coat, like a
little boys' roundabout, and a vest fantastically sprigged and dotted,
over a lavender shirt.

At the sound of a muffled buzz, Mr. Landry sprang up.

"May I answer the telephone for you?" He went to the writing-table and
took up the receiver. "Mr. Ottenburg is downstairs," he said, turning to
Thea and holding the mouthpiece against his coat.

"Tell him to come up," she replied without hesitation. "How long are you
going to be in town, Dr. Archie?"

"Oh, several weeks, if you'll let me stay. I won't hang around and be a
burden to you, but I want to try to get educated up to you, though I
expect it's late to begin."

Thea rose and touched him lightly on the shoulder. "Well, you'll never
be any younger, will you?"

"I'm not so sure about that," the doctor replied gallantly.

The maid appeared at the door and announced Mr. Frederick Ottenburg.
Fred came in, very much got up, the doctor reflected, as he watched him
bending over Thea's hand. He was still pale and looked somewhat
chastened, and the lock of hair that hung down over his forehead was
distinctly moist. But his black afternoon coat, his gray tie and gaiters
were of a correctness that Dr. Archie could never attain for all the
efforts of his faithful slave, Van Deusen, the Denver haberdasher. To be
properly up to those tricks, the doctor supposed, you had to learn them
young. If he were to buy a silk hat that was the twin of Ottenburg's, it
would be shaggy in a week, and he could never carry it as Fred held his.

Ottenburg had greeted Thea in German, and as she replied in the same
language, Archie joined Mr. Landry at the window. "You know Mr.
Ottenburg, he tells me?"

Mr. Landry's eyes twinkled. "Yes, I regularly follow him about, when
he's in town. I would, even if he didn't send me such wonderful
Christmas presents: Russian vodka by the half-dozen!"

Thea called to them, "Come, Mr. Ottenburg is calling on all of us.
Here's the tea."

The maid opened the door and two waiters from downstairs appeared with
covered trays. The tea-table was in the parlor. Thea drew Ottenburg with
her and went to inspect it. "Where's the rum? Oh, yes, in that thing!
Everything seems to be here, but send up some currant preserves and
cream cheese for Mr. Ottenburg. And in about fifteen minutes, bring some
fresh toast. That's all, thank you."

For the next few minutes there was a clatter of teacups and responses
about sugar. "Landry always takes rum. I'm glad the rest of you don't.
I'm sure it's bad." Thea poured the tea standing and got through with it
as quickly as possible, as if it were a refreshment snatched between
trains. The tea-table and the little room in which it stood seemed to be
out of scale with her long step, her long reach, and the energy of her
movements. Dr. Archie, standing near her, was pleasantly aware of the
animation of her figure. Under the clinging velvet, her body seemed
independent and unsubdued.

They drifted, with their plates and cups, back to the music-room. When
Thea followed them, Ottenburg put down his tea suddenly. "Aren't you
taking anything? Please let me." He started back to the table.

"No, thank you, nothing. I'm going to run over that aria for you
presently, to convince you that I can do it. How did the duet go, with
Schlag?"

She was standing in the doorway and Fred came up to her: "That you'll
never do any better. You've worked your voice into it perfectly. Every
NUANCE--wonderful!"

"Think so?" She gave him a sidelong glance and spoke with a certain
gruff shyness which did not deceive anybody, and was not meant to
deceive. The tone was equivalent to "Keep it up. I like it, but I'm
awkward with it."

Fred held her by the door and did keep it up, furiously, for full five
minutes. She took it with some confusion, seeming all the while to be
hesitating, to be arrested in her course and trying to pass him. But she
did not really try to pass, and her color deepened. Fred spoke in
German, and Archie caught from her an occasional JA? SO? muttered rather
than spoken.

When they rejoined Landry and Dr. Archie, Fred took up his tea again. "I
see you're singing VENUS Saturday night. Will they never let you have a
chance at ELIZABETH?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "Not here. There are so many singers here,
and they try us out in such a stingy way. Think of it, last year I came
over in October, and it was the first of December before I went on at
all! I'm often sorry I left Dresden."

"Still," Fred argued, "Dresden is limited."

"Just so, and I've begun to sigh for those very limitations. In New York
everything is impersonal. Your audience never knows its own mind, and
its mind is never twice the same. I'd rather sing where the people are
pig-headed and throw carrots at you if you don't do it the way they like
it. The house here is splendid, and the night audiences are exciting. I
hate the matinees; like singing at a KAFFEKLATSCH." She rose and turned
on the lights.

"Ah!" Fred exclaimed, "why do you do that? That is a signal that tea is
over." He got up and drew out his gloves.

"Not at all. Shall you be here Saturday night?" She sat down on the
piano bench and leaned her elbow back on the keyboard. "Necker sings
ELIZABETH. Make Dr. Archie go. Everything she sings is worth hearing."

"But she's failing so. The last time I heard her she had no voice at
all. She IS a poor vocalist!"

Thea cut him off. "She's a great artist, whether she's in voice or not,
and she's the only one here. If you want a big voice, you can take my
ORTRUDE of last night; that's big enough, and vulgar enough."

Fred laughed and turned away, this time with decision. "I don't want
her!" he protested energetically. "I only wanted to get a rise out of
you. I like Necker's ELIZABETH well enough. I like your VENUS well
enough, too."

"It's a beautiful part, and it's often dreadfully sung. It's very hard
to sing, of course."

Ottenburg bent over the hand she held out to him. "For an uninvited
guest, I've fared very well. You were nice to let me come up. I'd have
been terribly cut up if you'd sent me away. May I?" He kissed her hand
lightly and backed toward the door, still smiling, and promising to keep
an eye on Archie. "He can't be trusted at all, Thea. One of the waiters
at Martin's worked a Tourainian hare off on him at luncheon yesterday,
for seven twenty-five."

Thea broke into a laugh, the deep one he recognized. "Did he have a
ribbon on, this hare? Did they bring him in a gilt cage?"

"No,"--Archie spoke up for himself,--"they brought him in a brown sauce,
which was very good. He didn't taste very different from any rabbit."

"Probably came from a push-cart on the East Side." Thea looked at her
old friend commiseratingly. "Yes, DO keep an eye on him, Fred. I had no
idea," shaking her head. "Yes, I'll be obliged to you."

"Count on me!" Their eyes met in a gay smile, and Fred bowed himself
out.



VII


ON Saturday night Dr. Archie went with Fred Ottenburg to hear
"Tannhauser." Thea had a rehearsal on Sunday afternoon, but as she was
not on the bill again until Wednesday, she promised to dine with Archie
and Ottenburg on Monday, if they could make the dinner early.

At a little after eight on Monday evening, the three friends returned to
Thea's apartment and seated themselves for an hour of quiet talk.

"I'm sorry we couldn't have had Landry with us tonight," Thea said, "but
he's on at Weber and Fields' every night now. You ought to hear him, Dr.
Archie. He often sings the old Scotch airs you used to love."

"Why not go down this evening?" Fred suggested hopefully, glancing at
his watch. "That is, if you'd like to go. I can telephone and find what
time he comes on."

Thea hesitated. "No, I think not. I took a long walk this afternoon and
I'm rather tired. I think I can get to sleep early and be so much ahead.
I don't mean at once, however," seeing Dr. Archie's disappointed look.
"I always like to hear Landry," she added. "He never had much voice, and
it's worn, but there's a sweetness about it, and he sings with such
taste."

"Yes, doesn't he? May I?" Fred took out his cigarette case. "It really
doesn't bother your throat?"

"A little doesn't. But cigar smoke does. Poor Dr. Archie! Can you do
with one of those?"

"I'm learning to like them," the doctor declared, taking one from the
case Fred proffered him.

"Landry's the only fellow I know in this country who can do that sort of
thing," Fred went on. "Like the best English ballad singers. He can sing
even popular stuff by higher lights, as it were."

Thea nodded. "Yes; sometimes I make him sing his most foolish things for
me. It's restful, as he does it. That's when I'm homesick, Dr. Archie."

"You knew him in Germany, Thea?" Dr. Archie had quietly abandoned his
cigarette as a comfortless article. "When you first went over?"

"Yes. He was a good friend to a green girl. He helped me with my German
and my music and my general discouragement. Seemed to care more about my
getting on than about himself. He had no money, either. An old aunt had
loaned him a little to study on.--Will you answer that, Fred?"

Fred caught up the telephone and stopped the buzz while Thea went on
talking to Dr. Archie about Landry. Telling some one to hold the wire,
he presently put down the instrument and approached Thea with a startled
expression on his face.

"It's the management," he said quietly. "Gloeckler has broken down:
fainting fits. Madame Rheinecker is in Atlantic City and Schramm is
singing in Philadelphia tonight. They want to know whether you can come
down and finish SIEGLINDE."

"What time is it?"

"Eight fifty-five. The first act is just over. They can hold the curtain
twenty-five minutes."

Thea did not move. "Twenty-five and thirty-five makes sixty," she
muttered. "Tell them I'll come if they hold the curtain till I am in the
dressing-room. Say I'll have to wear her costumes, and the dresser must
have everything ready. Then call a taxi, please."

Thea had not changed her position since he first interrupted her, but
she had grown pale and was opening and shutting her hands rapidly. She
looked, Fred thought, terrified. He half turned toward the telephone,
but hung on one foot.

"Have you ever sung the part?" he asked.

"No, but I've rehearsed it. That's all right. Get the cab." Still she
made no move. She merely turned perfectly blank eyes to Dr. Archie and
said absently, "It's curious, but just at this minute I can't remember a
bar of 'Walkure' after the first act. And I let my maid go out." She
sprang up and beckoned Archie without so much, he felt sure, as knowing
who he was. "Come with me." She went quickly into her sleeping-chamber
and threw open a door into a trunk-room. "See that white trunk? It's not
locked. It's full of wigs, in boxes. Look until you find one marked
`Ring 2.' Bring it quick!" While she directed him, she threw open a
square trunk and began tossing out shoes of every shape and color.

Ottenburg appeared at the door. "Can I help you?"

She threw him some white sandals with long laces and silk stockings
pinned to them. "Put those in something, and then go to the piano and
give me a few measures in there--you know." She was behaving somewhat
like a cyclone now, and while she wrenched open drawers and closet
doors, Ottenburg got to the piano as quickly as possible and began to
herald the reappearance of the Volsung pair, trusting to memory.

In a few moments Thea came out enveloped in her long fur coat with a
scarf over her head and knitted woolen gloves on her hands. Her glassy
eye took in the fact that Fred was playing from memory, and even in her
distracted state, a faint smile flickered over her colorless lips. She
stretched out a woolly hand, "The score, please. Behind you, there."

Dr. Archie followed with a canvas box and a satchel. As they went
through the hall, the men caught up their hats and coats. They left the
music-room, Fred noticed, just seven minutes after he got the telephone
message. In the elevator Thea said in that husky whisper which had so
perplexed Dr. Archie when he first heard it, "Tell the driver he must do
it in twenty minutes, less if he can. He must leave the light on in the
cab. I can do a good deal in twenty minutes. If only you hadn't made me
eat--Damn that duck!" she broke out bitterly; "why did you?"

"Wish I had it back! But it won't bother you, to-night. You need
strength," he pleaded consolingly.

But she only muttered angrily under her breath, "Idiot, idiot!"

Ottenburg shot ahead and instructed the driver, while the doctor put
Thea into the cab and shut the door. She did not speak to either of them
again. As the driver scrambled into his seat she opened the score and
fixed her eyes upon it. Her face, in the white light, looked as bleak as
a stone quarry.

As her cab slid away, Ottenburg shoved Archie into a second taxi that
waited by the curb. "We'd better trail her," he explained. "There might
be a hold-up of some kind." As the cab whizzed off he broke into an
eruption of profanity.

"What's the matter, Fred?" the doctor asked. He was a good deal dazed by
the rapid evolutions of the last ten minutes.

"Matter enough!" Fred growled, buttoning his overcoat with a shiver.
"What a way to sing a part for the first time! That duck really is on my
conscience. It will be a wonder if she can do anything but quack!
Scrambling on in the middle of a performance like this, with no
rehearsal! The stuff she has to sing in there is a fright--rhythm,
pitch,--and terribly difficult intervals."

"She looked frightened," Dr. Archie said thoughtfully, "but I thought
she looked--determined."

Fred sniffed. "Oh, determined! That's the kind of rough deal that makes
savages of singers. Here's a part she's worked on and got ready for for
years, and now they give her a chance to go on and butcher it. Goodness
knows when she's looked at the score last, or whether she can use the
business she's studied with this cast. Necker's singing BRUNNHILDE; she
may help her, if it's not one of her sore nights."

"Is she sore at Thea?" Dr. Archie asked wonderingly.

"My dear man, Necker's sore at everything. She's breaking up; too early;
just when she ought to be at her best. There's one story that she is
struggling under some serious malady, another that she learned a bad
method at the Prague Conservatory and has ruined her organ. She's the
sorest thing in the world. If she weathers this winter through, it'll be
her last. She's paying for it with the last rags of her voice. And
then--" Fred whistled softly.

"Well, what then?"

"Then our girl may come in for some of it. It's dog eat dog, in this
game as in every other."

The cab stopped and Fred and Dr. Archie hurried to the box office. The
Monday-night house was sold out. They bought standing room and entered
the auditorium just as the press representative of the house was
thanking the audience for their patience and telling them that although
Madame Gloeckler was too ill to sing, Miss Kronborg had kindly consented
to finish her part. This announcement was met with vehement applause
from the upper circles of the house.

"She has her--constituents," Dr. Archie murmured.

"Yes, up there, where they're young and hungry. These people down here
have dined too well. They won't mind, however. They like fires and
accidents and DIVERTISSEMENTS. Two SIEGLINDES are more unusual than one,
so they'll be satisfied."


After the final disappearance of the mother of Siegfried, Ottenburg and
the doctor slipped out through the crowd and left the house. Near the
stage entrance Fred found the driver who had brought Thea down. He
dismissed him and got a larger car. He and Archie waited on the
sidewalk, and when Kronborg came out alone they gathered her into the
cab and sprang in after her.

Thea sank back into a corner of the back seat and yawned. "Well, I got
through, eh?" Her tone was reassuring. "On the whole, I think I've given
you gentlemen a pretty lively evening, for one who has no social
accomplishments."

"Rather! There was something like a popular uprising at the end of the
second act. Archie and I couldn't keep it up as long as the rest of them
did. A howl like that ought to show the management which way the wind is
blowing. You probably know you were magnificent."

"I thought it went pretty well," she spoke impartially. "I was rather
smart to catch his tempo there, at the beginning of the first
recitative, when he came in too soon, don't you think? It's tricky in
there, without a rehearsal. Oh, I was all right! He took that
syncopation too fast in the beginning. Some singers take it fast
there--think it sounds more impassioned. That's one way!" She sniffed,
and Fred shot a mirthful glance at Archie. Her boastfulness would have
been childish in a schoolboy. In the light of what she had done, of the
strain they had lived through during the last two hours, it made one
laugh,--almost cry. She went on, robustly: "And I didn't feel my dinner,
really, Fred. I am hungry again, I'm ashamed to say,--and I forgot to
order anything at my hotel."

Fred put his hand on the door. "Where to? You must have food."

"Do you know any quiet place, where I won't be stared at? I've still got
make-up on."

"I do. Nice English chop-house on Forty-fourth Street. Nobody there at
night but theater people after the show, and a few bachelors." He opened
the door and spoke to the driver.

As the car turned, Thea reached across to the front seat and drew Dr.
Archie's handkerchief out of his breast pocket.

"This comes to me naturally," she said, rubbing her cheeks and eyebrows.
"When I was little I always loved your handkerchiefs because they were
silk and smelled of Cologne water. I think they must have been the only
really clean handkerchiefs in Moonstone. You were always wiping my face
with them, when you met me out in the dust, I remember. Did I never have
any?"

"I think you'd nearly always used yours up on your baby brother."

Thea sighed. "Yes, Thor had such a way of getting messy. You say he's a
good chauffeur?" She closed her eyes for a moment as if they were tired.
Suddenly she looked up. "Isn't it funny, how we travel in circles? Here
you are, still getting me clean, and Fred is still feeding me. I would
have died of starvation at that boarding-house on Indiana Avenue if he
hadn't taken me out to the Buckingham and filled me up once in a while.
What a cavern I was to fill, too. The waiters used to look astonished.
I'm still singing on that food."

Fred alighted and gave Thea his arm as they crossed the icy sidewalk.
They were taken upstairs in an antiquated lift and found the cheerful
chop-room half full of supper parties. An English company playing at the
Empire had just come in. The waiters, in red waistcoats, were hurrying
about. Fred got a table at the back of the room, in a corner, and urged
his waiter to get the oysters on at once.

"Takes a few minutes to open them, sir," the man expostulated.

"Yes, but make it as few as possible, and bring the lady's first. Then
grilled chops with kidneys, and salad."

Thea began eating celery stalks at once, from the base to the foliage.
"Necker said something nice to me tonight. You might have thought the
management would say something, but not they." She looked at Fred from
under her blackened lashes. "It WAS a stunt, to jump in and sing that
second act without rehearsal. It doesn't sing itself."

Ottenburg was watching her brilliant eyes and her face. She was much
handsomer than she had been early in the evening. Excitement of this
sort enriched her. It was only under such excitement, he reflected, that
she was entirely illuminated, or wholly present. At other times there
was something a little cold and empty, like a big room with no people in
it. Even in her most genial moods there was a shadow of restlessness, as
if she were waiting for something and were exercising the virtue of
patience. During dinner she had been as kind as she knew how to be, to
him and to Archie, and had given them as much of herself as she could.
But, clearly, she knew only one way of being really kind, from the core
of her heart out; and there was but one way in which she could give
herself to people largely and gladly, spontaneously. Even as a girl she
had been at her best in vigorous effort, he remembered; physical effort,
when there was no other kind at hand. She could be expansive only in
explosions. Old Nathanmeyer had seen it. In the very first song Fred had
ever heard her sing, she had unconsciously declared it.

Thea Kronborg turned suddenly from her talk with Archie and peered
suspiciously into the corner where Ottenburg sat with folded arms,
observing her. "What's the matter with you, Fred? I'm afraid of you when
you're quiet,--fortunately you almost never are. What are you thinking
about?"

"I was wondering how you got right with the orchestra so quickly, there
at first. I had a flash of terror," he replied easily.

She bolted her last oyster and ducked her head. "So had I! I don't know
how I did catch it. Desperation, I suppose; same way the Indian babies
swim when they're thrown into the river. I HAD to. Now it's over, I'm
glad I had to. I learned a whole lot to-night."

Archie, who usually felt that it behooved him to be silent during such
discussions, was encouraged by her geniality to venture, "I don't see
how you can learn anything in such a turmoil; or how you can keep your
mind on it, for that matter."

Thea glanced about the room and suddenly put her hand up to her hair.
"Mercy, I've no hat on! Why didn't you tell me? And I seem to be wearing
a rumpled dinner dress, with all this paint on my face! I must look like
something you picked up on Second Avenue. I hope there are no Colorado
reformers about, Dr. Archie. What a dreadful old pair these people must
be thinking you! Well, I had to eat." She sniffed the savor of the grill
as the waiter uncovered it. "Yes, draught beer, please. No, thank you,
Fred, NO champagne.--To go back to your question, Dr. Archie, you can
believe I keep my mind on it. That's the whole trick, in so far as stage
experience goes; keeping right there every second. If I think of
anything else for a flash, I'm gone, done for. But at the same time, one
can take things in--with another part of your brain, maybe. It's
different from what you get in study, more practical and conclusive.
There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm. You
learn the delivery of a part only before an audience."

"Heaven help us," gasped Ottenburg. "Weren't you hungry, though! It's
beautiful to see you eat."

"Glad you like it. Of course I'm hungry. Are you staying over for
`Rheingold' Friday afternoon?"

"My dear Thea,"--Fred lit a cigarette,--"I'm a serious business man now.
I have to sell beer. I'm due in Chicago on Wednesday. I'd come back to
hear you, but FRICKA is not an alluring part."

"Then you've never heard it well done." She spoke up hotly. "Fat German
woman scolding her husband, eh? That's not my idea. Wait till you hear
my FRICKA. It's a beautiful part." Thea leaned forward on the table and
touched Archie's arm. "You remember, Dr. Archie, how my mother always
wore her hair, parted in the middle and done low on her neck behind, so
you got the shape of her head and such a calm, white forehead? I wear
mine like that for FRICKA. A little more coronet effect, built up a
little higher at the sides, but the idea's the same. I think you'll
notice it." She turned to Ottenburg reproachfully: "It's noble music,
Fred, from the first measure. There's nothing lovelier than the WONNIGER
HAUSRATH. It's all such comprehensive sort of music--fateful. Of course,
FRICKA KNOWS," Thea ended quietly.

Fred sighed. "There, you've spoiled my itinerary. Now I'll have to come
back, of course. Archie, you'd better get busy about seats to-morrow."

"I can get you box seats, somewhere. I know nobody here, and I never ask
for any." Thea began hunting among her wraps. "Oh, how funny! I've only
these short woolen gloves, and no sleeves. Put on my coat first. Those
English people can't make out where you got your lady, she's so made up
of contradictions." She rose laughing and plunged her arms into the coat
Dr. Archie held for her. As she settled herself into it and buttoned it
under her chin, she gave him an old signal with her eyelid. "I'd like to
sing another part to-night. This is the sort of evening I fancy, when
there's something to do. Let me see: I have to sing in `Trovatore'
Wednesday night, and there are rehearsals for the `Ring' every day this
week. Consider me dead until Saturday, Dr. Archie. I invite you both to
dine with me on Saturday night, the day after `Rheingold.' And Fred must
leave early, for I want to talk to you alone. You've been here nearly a
week, and I haven't had a serious word with you. TAK FOR MAD, Fred, as
the Norwegians say."



VIII


THE "Ring of the Niebelungs" was to be given at the Metropolitan on four
successive Friday afternoons. After the first of these performances,
Fred Ottenburg went home with Landry for tea. Landry was one of the few
public entertainers who own real estate in New York. He lived in a
little three-story brick house on Jane Street, in Greenwich Village,
which had been left to him by the same aunt who paid for his musical
education.

Landry was born, and spent the first fifteen years of his life, on a
rocky Connecticut farm not far from Cos Cob. His father was an ignorant,
violent man, a bungling farmer and a brutal husband. The farmhouse,
dilapidated and damp, stood in a hollow beside a marshy pond. Oliver had
worked hard while he lived at home, although he was never clean or warm
in winter and had wretched food all the year round. His spare, dry
figure, his prominent larynx, and the peculiar red of his face and hands
belonged to the choreboy he had never outgrown. It was as if the farm,
knowing he would escape from it as early as he could, had ground its
mark on him deep. When he was fifteen Oliver ran away and went to live
with his Catholic aunt, on Jane Street, whom his mother was never
allowed to visit. The priest of St. Joseph's Parish discovered that he
had a voice.

Landry had an affection for the house on Jane Street, where he had first
learned what cleanliness and order and courtesy were. When his aunt died
he had the place done over, got an Irish housekeeper, and lived there
with a great many beautiful things he had collected. His living expenses
were never large, but he could not restrain himself from buying graceful
and useless objects. He was a collector for much the same reason that he
was a Catholic, and he was a Catholic chiefly because his father used to
sit in the kitchen and read aloud to his hired men disgusting
"exposures" of the Roman Church, enjoying equally the hideous stories
and the outrage to his wife's feelings.

At first Landry bought books; then rugs, drawings, china. He had a
beautiful collection of old French and Spanish fans. He kept them in an
escritoire he had brought from Spain, but there were always a few of
them lying about in his sitting-room.

While Landry and his guest were waiting for the tea to be brought,
Ottenburg took up one of these fans from the low marble mantel-shelf and
opened it in the firelight. One side was painted with a pearly sky and
floating clouds. On the other was a formal garden where an elegant
shepherdess with a mask and crook was fleeing on high heels from a
satin-coated shepherd.

"You ought not to keep these things about, like this, Oliver. The dust
from your grate must get at them."

"It does, but I get them to enjoy them, not to have them. They're
pleasant to glance at and to play with at odd times like this, when one
is waiting for tea or something."

Fred smiled. The idea of Landry stretched out before his fire playing
with his fans, amused him. Mrs. McGinnis brought the tea and put it
before the hearth: old teacups that were velvety to the touch and a
pot-bellied silver cream pitcher of an Early Georgian pattern, which was
always brought, though Landry took rum.

Fred drank his tea walking about, examining Landry's sumptuous
writing-table in the alcove and the Boucher drawing in red chalk over
the mantel. "I don't see how you can stand this place without a heroine.
It would give me a raging thirst for gallantries."

Landry was helping himself to a second cup of tea. "Works quite the
other way with me. It consoles me for the lack of her. It's just
feminine enough to be pleasant to return to. Not any more tea? Then sit
down and play for me. I'm always playing for other people, and I never
have a chance to sit here quietly and listen."

Ottenburg opened the piano and began softly to boom forth the shadowy
introduction to the opera they had just heard. "Will that do?" he asked
jokingly. "I can't seem to get it out of my head."

"Oh, excellently! Thea told me it was quite wonderful, the way you can
do Wagner scores on the piano. So few people can give one any idea of
the music. Go ahead, as long as you like. I can smoke, too." Landry
flattened himself out on his cushions and abandoned himself to ease with
the circumstance of one who has never grown quite accustomed to ease.

Ottenburg played on, as he happened to remember. He understood now why
Thea wished him to hear her in "Rheingold." It had been clear to him as
soon as FRICKA rose from sleep and looked out over the young world,
stretching one white arm toward the new Gotterburg shining on the
heights. "WOTAN! GEMAHL! ERWACHE!" She was pure Scandinavian, this
FRICKA: "Swedish summer"! he remembered old Mr. Nathanmeyer's phrase.
She had wished him to see her because she had a distinct kind of
loveliness for this part, a shining beauty like the light of sunset on
distant sails. She seemed to take on the look of immortal loveliness,
the youth of the golden apples, the shining body and the shining mind.
FRICKA had been a jealous spouse to him for so long that he had forgot
she meant wisdom before she meant domestic order, and that, in any
event, she was always a goddess. The FRICKA of that afternoon was so
clear and sunny, so nobly conceived, that she made a whole atmosphere
about herself and quite redeemed from shabbiness the helplessness and
unscrupulousness of the gods. Her reproaches to WOTAN were the pleadings
of a tempered mind, a consistent sense of beauty. In the long silences
of her part, her shining presence was a visible complement to the
discussion of the orchestra. As the themes which were to help in weaving
the drama to its end first came vaguely upon the ear, one saw their
import and tendency in the face of this clearest-visioned of the gods.

In the scene between FRICKA and WOTAN, Ottenburg stopped. "I can't seem
to get the voices, in there."

Landry chuckled. "Don't try. I know it well enough. I expect I've been
over that with her a thousand times. I was playing for her almost every
day when she was first working on it. When she begins with a part she's
hard to work with: so slow you'd think she was stupid if you didn't know
her. Of course she blames it all on her accompanist. It goes on like
that for weeks sometimes. This did. She kept shaking her head and
staring and looking gloomy. All at once, she got her line--it usually
comes suddenly, after stretches of not getting anywhere at all--and
after that it kept changing and clearing. As she worked her voice into
it, it got more and more of that `gold' quality that makes her FRICKA so
different."

Fred began FRICKA'S first aria again. "It's certainly different. Curious
how she does it. Such a beautiful idea, out of a part that's always been
so ungrateful. She's a lovely thing, but she was never so beautiful as
that, really. Nobody is." He repeated the loveliest phrase. "How does
she manage it, Landry? You've worked with her."

Landry drew cherishingly on the last cigarette he meant to permit
himself before singing. "Oh, it's a question of a big personality--and
all that goes with it. Brains, of course. Imagination, of course. But
the important thing is that she was born full of color, with a rich
personality. That's a gift of the gods, like a fine nose. You have it,
or you haven't. Against it, intelligence and musicianship and habits of
industry don't count at all. Singers are a conventional race. When Thea
was studying in Berlin the other girls were mortally afraid of her. She
has a pretty rough hand with women, dull ones, and she could be rude,
too! The girls used to call her DIE WOLFIN."

Fred thrust his hands into his pockets and leaned back against the
piano. "Of course, even a stupid woman could get effects with such
machinery: such a voice and body and face. But they couldn't possibly
belong to a stupid woman, could they?"

Landry shook his head. "It's personality; that's as near as you can come
to it. That's what constitutes real equipment. What she does is
interesting because she does it. Even the things she discards are
suggestive. I regret some of them. Her conceptions are colored in so
many different ways. You've heard her ELIZABETH? Wonderful, isn't it?
She was working on that part years ago when her mother was ill. I could
see her anxiety and grief getting more and more into the part. The last
act is heart-breaking. It's as homely as a country prayer meeting: might
be any lonely woman getting ready to die. It's full of the thing every
plain creature finds out for himself, but that never gets written down.
It's unconscious memory, maybe; inherited memory, like folk-music. I
call it personality."

Fred laughed, and turning to the piano began coaxing the FRICKA music
again. "Call it anything you like, my boy. I have a name for it myself,
but I shan't tell you." He looked over his shoulder at Landry, stretched
out by the fire. "You have a great time watching her, don't you?"

"Oh, yes!" replied Landry simply. "I'm not interested in much that goes
on in New York. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll have to dress." He rose
with a reluctant sigh. "Can I get you anything? Some whiskey?"

"Thank you, no. I'll amuse myself here. I don't often get a chance at a
good piano when I'm away from home. You haven't had this one long, have
you? Action's a bit stiff. I say," he stopped Landry in the doorway,
"has Thea ever been down here?"

Landry turned back. "Yes. She came several times when I had erysipelas.
I was a nice mess, with two nurses. She brought down some inside
window-boxes, planted with crocuses and things. Very cheering, only I
couldn't see them or her."

"Didn't she like your place?"

"She thought she did, but I fancy it was a good deal cluttered up for
her taste. I could hear her pacing about like something in a cage. She
pushed the piano back against the wall and the chairs into corners, and
she broke my amber elephant." Landry took a yellow object some four
inches high from one of his low bookcases. "You can see where his leg is
glued on,--a souvenir. Yes, he's lemon amber, very fine."

Landry disappeared behind the curtains and in a moment Fred heard the
wheeze of an atomizer. He put the amber elephant on the piano beside him
and seemed to get a great deal of amusement out of the beast.



IX


WHEN Archie and Ottenburg dined with Thea on Saturday evening, they were
served downstairs in the hotel dining-room, but they were to have their
coffee in her own apartment. As they were going up in the elevator after
dinner, Fred turned suddenly to Thea. "And why, please, did you break
Landry's amber elephant?"

She looked guilty and began to laugh. "Hasn't he got over that yet? I
didn't really mean to break it. I was perhaps careless. His things are
so over-petted that I was tempted to be careless with a lot of them."

"How can you be so heartless, when they're all he has in the world?"

"He has me. I'm a great deal of diversion for him; all he needs. There,"
she said as she opened the door into her own hall, "I shouldn't have
said that before the elevator boy."

"Even an elevator boy couldn't make a scandal about Oliver. He's such a
catnip man."

Dr. Archie laughed, but Thea, who seemed suddenly to have thought of
something annoying, repeated blankly, "Catnip man?"

"Yes, he lives on catnip, and rum tea. But he's not the only one. You
are like an eccentric old woman I know in Boston, who goes about in the
spring feeding catnip to street cats. You dispense it to a lot of
fellows. Your pull seems to be more with men than with women, you know;
with seasoned men, about my age, or older. Even on Friday afternoon I
kept running into them, old boys I hadn't seen for years, thin at the
part and thick at the girth, until I stood still in the draft and held
my hair on. They're always there; I hear them talking about you in the
smoking room. Probably we don't get to the point of apprehending
anything good until we're about forty. Then, in the light of what is
going, and of what, God help us! is coming, we arrive at understanding."

"I don't see why people go to the opera, anyway,--serious people." She
spoke discontentedly. "I suppose they get something, or think they do.
Here's the coffee. There, please," she directed the waiter. Going to the
table she began to pour the coffee, standing. She wore a white dress
trimmed with crystals which had rattled a good deal during dinner, as
all her movements had been impatient and nervous, and she had twisted
the dark velvet rose at her girdle until it looked rumpled and weary.
She poured the coffee as if it were a ceremony in which she did not
believe. "Can you make anything of Fred's nonsense, Dr. Archie?" she
asked, as he came to take his cup.

Fred approached her. "My nonsense is all right. The same brand has gone
with you before. It's you who won't be jollied. What's the matter? You
have something on your mind."

"I've a good deal. Too much to be an agreeable hostess." She turned
quickly away from the coffee and sat down on the piano bench, facing the
two men. "For one thing, there's a change in the cast for Friday
afternoon. They're going to let me sing SIEGLINDE." Her frown did not
conceal the pleasure with which she made this announcement.

"Are you going to keep us dangling about here forever, Thea? Archie and
I are supposed to have other things to do." Fred looked at her with an
excitement quite as apparent as her own.

"Here I've been ready to sing SIEGLINDE for two years, kept in torment,
and now it comes off within two weeks, just when I want to be seeing
something of Dr. Archie. I don't know what their plans are down there.
After Friday they may let me cool for several weeks, and they may rush
me. I suppose it depends somewhat on how things go Friday afternoon."

"Oh, they'll go fast enough! That's better suited to your voice than
anything you've sung here. That gives you every opportunity I've waited
for." Ottenburg crossed the room and standing beside her began to play
"DU BIST DER LENZ."

With a violent movement Thea caught his wrists and pushed his hands away
from the keys.

"Fred, can't you be serious? A thousand things may happen between this
and Friday to put me out. Something will happen. If that part were sung
well, as well as it ought to be, it would be one of the most beautiful
things in the world. That's why it never is sung right, and never will
be." She clenched her hands and opened them despairingly, looking out of
the open window. "It's inaccessibly beautiful!" she brought out sharply.

Fred and Dr. Archie watched her. In a moment she turned back to them.
"It's impossible to sing a part like that well for the first time,
except for the sort who will never sing it any better. Everything hangs
on that first night, and that's bound to be bad. There you are," she
shrugged impatiently. "For one thing, they change the cast at the
eleventh hour and then rehearse the life out of me."

Ottenburg put down his cup with exaggerated care. "Still, you really
want to do it, you know."

"Want to?" she repeated indignantly; "of course I want to! If this were
only next Thursday night--But between now and Friday I'll do nothing but
fret away my strength. Oh, I'm not saying I don't need the rehearsals!
But I don't need them strung out through a week. That system's well
enough for phlegmatic singers; it only drains me. Every single feature
of operatic routine is detrimental to me. I usually go on like a horse
that's been fixed to lose a race. I have to work hard to do my worst,
let alone my best. I wish you could hear me sing well, once," she turned
to Fred defiantly; "I have, a few times in my life, when there was
nothing to gain by it."

Fred approached her again and held out his hand. "I recall my
instructions, and now I'll leave you to fight it out with Archie. He
can't possibly represent managerial stupidity to you as I seem to have a
gift for doing."

As he smiled down at her, his good humor, his good wishes, his
understanding, embarrassed her and recalled her to herself. She kept her
seat, still holding his hand. "All the same, Fred, isn't it too bad,
that there are so many things--" She broke off with a shake of the head.

"My dear girl, if I could bridge over the agony between now and Friday
for you--But you know the rules of the game; why torment yourself? You
saw the other night that you had the part under your thumb. Now walk,
sleep, play with Archie, keep your tiger hungry, and she'll spring all
right on Friday. I'll be there to see her, and there'll be more than I,
I suspect. Harsanyi's on the Wilhelm der Grosse; gets in on Thursday."

"Harsanyi?" Thea's eye lighted. "I haven't seen him for years. We always
miss each other." She paused, hesitating. "Yes, I should like that. But
he'll be busy, maybe?"

"He gives his first concert at Carnegie Hall, week after next. Better
send him a box if you can."

"Yes, I'll manage it." Thea took his hand again. "Oh, I should like
that, Fred!" she added impulsively. "Even if I were put out, he'd get
the idea,"--she threw back her head,--"for there is an idea!"

"Which won't penetrate here," he tapped his brow and began to laugh.
"You are an ungrateful huzzy, COMME LES AUTRES!"

Thea detained him as he turned away. She pulled a flower out of a
bouquet on the piano and absently drew the stem through the lapel of his
coat. "I shall be walking in the Park to-morrow afternoon, on the
reservoir path, between four and five, if you care to join me. You know
that after Harsanyi I'd rather please you than anyone else. You know a
lot, but he knows even more than you."

"Thank you. Don't try to analyze it. SCHLAFEN SIE WOHL!" he kissed her
fingers and waved from the door, closing it behind him.

"He's the right sort, Thea." Dr. Archie looked warmly after his
disappearing friend. "I've always hoped you'd make it up with Fred."

"Well, haven't I? Oh, marry him, you mean! Perhaps it may come about,
some day. Just at present he's not in the marriage market any more than
I am, is he?"

"No, I suppose not. It's a damned shame that a man like Ottenburg should
be tied up as he is, wasting all the best years of his life. A woman
with general paresis ought to be legally dead."

"Don't let us talk about Fred's wife, please. He had no business to get
into such a mess, and he had no business to stay in it. He's always been
a softy where women were concerned."

"Most of us are, I'm afraid," Dr. Archie admitted meekly.

"Too much light in here, isn't there? Tires one's eyes. The stage lights
are hard on mine." Thea began turning them out. "We'll leave the little
one, over the piano." She sank down by Archie on the deep sofa. "We two
have so much to talk about that we keep away from it altogether; have
you noticed? We don't even nibble the edges. I wish we had Landry here
to-night to play for us. He's very comforting."

"I'm afraid you don't have enough personal life, outside your work,
Thea." The doctor looked at her anxiously.

She smiled at him with her eyes half closed. "My dear doctor, I don't
have any. Your work becomes your personal life. You are not much good
until it does. It's like being woven into a big web. You can't pull
away, because all your little tendrils are woven into the picture. It
takes you up, and uses you, and spins you out; and that is your life.
Not much else can happen to you."

"Didn't you think of marrying, several years ago?"

"You mean Nordquist? Yes; but I changed my mind. We had been singing a
good deal together. He's a splendid creature."

"Were you much in love with him, Thea?" the doctor asked hopefully.

She smiled again. "I don't think I know just what that expression means.
I've never been able to find out. I think I was in love with you when I
was little, but not with any one since then. There are a great many ways
of caring for people. It's not, after all, a simple state, like measles
or tonsilitis. Nordquist is a taking sort of man. He and I were out in a
rowboat once in a terrible storm. The lake was fed by glaciers,--ice
water,--and we couldn't have swum a stroke if the boat had filled. If we
hadn't both been strong and kept our heads, we'd have gone down. We
pulled for every ounce there was in us, and we just got off with our
lives. We were always being thrown together like that, under some kind
of pressure. Yes, for a while I thought he would make everything right."
She paused and sank back, resting her head on a cushion, pressing her
eyelids down with her fingers. "You see," she went on abruptly, "he had
a wife and two children. He hadn't lived with her for several years, but
when she heard that he wanted to marry again, she began to make trouble.
He earned a good deal of money, but he was careless and always
wretchedly in debt. He came to me one day and told me he thought his
wife would settle for a hundred thousand marks and consent to a divorce.
I got very angry and sent him away. Next day he came back and said he
thought she'd take fifty thousand."

Dr. Archie drew away from her, to the end of the sofa.

"Good God, Thea,"--He ran his handkerchief over his forehead. "What sort
of people--" He stopped and shook his head.

Thea rose and stood beside him, her hand on his shoulder. "That's
exactly how it struck me," she said quietly. "Oh, we have things in
common, things that go away back, under everything. You understand, of
course. Nordquist didn't. He thought I wasn't willing to part with the
money. I couldn't let myself buy him from Fru Nordquist, and he couldn't
see why. He had always thought I was close about money, so he attributed
it to that. I am careful,"--she ran her arm through Archie's and when he
rose began to walk about the room with him. "I can't be careless with
money. I began the world on six hundred dollars, and it was the price of
a man's life. Ray Kennedy had worked hard and been sober and denied
himself, and when he died he had six hundred dollars to show for it. I
always measure things by that six hundred dollars, just as I measure
high buildings by the Moonstone standpipe. There are standards we can't
get away from."

Dr. Archie took her hand. "I don't believe we should be any happier if
we did get away from them. I think it gives you some of your poise,
having that anchor. You look," glancing down at her head and shoulders,
"sometimes so like your mother."

"Thank you. You couldn't say anything nicer to me than that. On Friday
afternoon, didn't you think?"

"Yes, but at other times, too. I love to see it. Do you know what I
thought about that first night when I heard you sing? I kept remembering
the night I took care of you when you had pneumonia, when you were ten
years old. You were a terribly sick child, and I was a country doctor
without much experience. There were no oxygen tanks about then. You
pretty nearly slipped away from me. If you had--"

Thea dropped her head on his shoulder. "I'd have saved myself and you a
lot of trouble, wouldn't I? Dear Dr. Archie!" she murmured.

"As for me, life would have been a pretty bleak stretch, with you left
out." The doctor took one of the crystal pendants that hung from her
shoulder and looked into it thoughtfully. "I guess I'm a romantic old
fellow, underneath. And you've always been my romance. Those years when
you were growing up were my happiest. When I dream about you, I always
see you as a little girl."

They paused by the open window. "Do you? Nearly all my dreams, except
those about breaking down on the stage or missing trains, are about
Moonstone. You tell me the old house has been pulled down, but it stands
in my mind, every stick and timber. In my sleep I go all about it, and
look in the right drawers and cupboards for everything. I often dream
that I'm hunting for my rubbers in that pile of overshoes that was
always under the hatrack in the hall. I pick up every overshoe and know
whose it is, but I can't find my own. Then the school bell begins to
ring and I begin to cry. That's the house I rest in when I'm tired. All
the old furniture and the worn spots in the carpet--it rests my mind to
go over them."

They were looking out of the window. Thea kept his arm. Down on the
river four battleships were anchored in line, brilliantly lighted, and
launches were coming and going, bringing the men ashore. A searchlight
from one of the ironclads was playing on the great headland up the
river, where it makes its first resolute turn. Overhead the night-blue
sky was intense and clear.

"There's so much that I want to tell you," she said at last, "and it's
hard to explain. My life is full of jealousies and disappointments, you
know. You get to hating people who do contemptible work and who get on
just as well as you do. There are many disappointments in my profession,
and bitter, bitter contempts!" Her face hardened, and looked much older.
"If you love the good thing vitally, enough to give up for it all that
one must give up for it, then you must hate the cheap thing just as
hard. I tell you, there is such a thing as creative hate! A contempt
that drives you through fire, makes you risk everything and lose
everything, makes you a long sight better than you ever knew you could
be." As she glanced at Dr. Archie's face, Thea stopped short and turned
her own face away. Her eyes followed the path of the searchlight up the
river and rested upon the illumined headland.

"You see," she went on more calmly, "voices are accidental things. You
find plenty of good voices in common women, with common minds and common
hearts. Look at that woman who sang ORTRUDE with me last week. She's new
here and the people are wild about her. `Such a beautiful volume of
tone!' they say. I give you my word she's as stupid as an owl and as
coarse as a pig, and any one who knows anything about singing would see
that in an instant. Yet she's quite as popular as Necker, who's a great
artist. How can I get much satisfaction out of the enthusiasm of a house
that likes her atrociously bad performance at the same time that it
pretends to like mine? If they like her, then they ought to hiss me off
the stage. We stand for things that are irreconcilable, absolutely. You
can't try to do things right and not despise the people who do them
wrong. How can I be indifferent? If that doesn't matter, then nothing
matters. Well, sometimes I've come home as I did the other night when
you first saw me, so full of bitterness that it was as if my mind were
full of daggers. And I've gone to sleep and wakened up in the Kohlers'
garden, with the pigeons and the white rabbits, so happy! And that saves
me." She sat down on the piano bench. Archie thought she had forgotten
all about him, until she called his name. Her voice was soft now, and
wonderfully sweet. It seemed to come from somewhere deep within her,
there were such strong vibrations in it. "You see, Dr. Archie, what one
really strives for in art is not the sort of thing you are likely to
find when you drop in for a performance at the opera. What one strives
for is so far away, so deep, so beautiful"--she lifted her shoulders
with a long breath, folded her hands in her lap and sat looking at him
with a resignation that made her face noble,--"that there's nothing one
can say about it, Dr. Archie."

Without knowing very well what it was all about, Archie was passionately
stirred for her. "I've always believed in you, Thea; always believed,"
he muttered.

She smiled and closed her eyes. "They save me: the old things, things
like the Kohlers' garden. They are in everything I do."

"In what you sing, you mean?"

"Yes. Not in any direct way,"--she spoke hurriedly,--"the light, the
color, the feeling. Most of all the feeling. It comes in when I'm
working on a part, like the smell of a garden coming in at the window. I
try all the new things, and then go back to the old. Perhaps my feelings
were stronger then. A child's attitude toward everything is an artist's
attitude. I am more or less of an artist now, but then I was nothing
else. When I went with you to Chicago that first time, I carried with me
the essentials, the foundation of all I do now. The point to which I
could go was scratched in me then. I haven't reached it yet, by a long
way."

Archie had a swift flash of memory. Pictures passed before him. "You
mean," he asked wonderingly, "that you knew then that you were so
gifted?"

Thea looked up at him and smiled. "Oh, I didn't know anything! Not
enough to ask you for my trunk when I needed it. But you see, when I set
out from Moonstone with you, I had had a rich, romantic past. I had
lived a long, eventful life, and an artist's life, every hour of it.
Wagner says, in his most beautiful opera, that art is only a way of
remembering youth. And the older we grow the more precious it seems to
us, and the more richly we can present that memory. When we've got it
all out,--the last, the finest thrill of it, the brightest hope of
it,"--she lifted her hand above her head and dropped it,--"then we stop.
We do nothing but repeat after that. The stream has reached the level of
its source. That's our measure."

There was a long, warm silence. Thea was looking hard at the floor, as
if she were seeing down through years and years, and her old friend
stood watching her bent head. His look was one with which he used to
watch her long ago, and which, even in thinking about her, had become a
habit of his face. It was full of solicitude, and a kind of secret
gratitude, as if to thank her for some inexpressible pleasure of the
heart. Thea turned presently toward the piano and began softly to waken
an old air:--


"Ca' the yowes to the knowes,
Ca' them where the heather grows,
Ca' them where the burnie rowes,
My bonnie dear-ie."


Archie sat down and shaded his eyes with his hand. She turned her head
and spoke to him over her shoulder. "Come on, you know the words better
than I. That's right."


"We'll gae down by Clouden's side, Through the hazels spreading wide,
O'er the waves that sweetly glide, To the moon sae clearly. Ghaist nor
bogle shalt thou fear, Thou'rt to love and Heav'n sae dear, Nocht of ill
may come thee near, My bonnie dear-ie!"


"We can get on without Landry. Let's try it again, I have all the words
now. Then we'll have `Sweet Afton.' Come: `CA' THE YOWES TO THE
KNOWES'--"



X


OTTENBURG dismissed his taxicab at the 91st Street entrance of the Park
and floundered across the drive through a wild spring snowstorm. When he
reached the reservoir path he saw Thea ahead of him, walking rapidly
against the wind. Except for that one figure, the path was deserted. A
flock of gulls were hovering over the reservoir, seeming bewildered by
the driving currents of snow that whirled above the black water and then
disappeared within it. When he had almost overtaken Thea, Fred called to
her, and she turned and waited for him with her back to the wind. Her
hair and furs were powdered with snowflakes, and she looked like some
rich-pelted animal, with warm blood, that had run in out of the woods.
Fred laughed as he took her hand.

"No use asking how you do. You surely needn't feel much anxiety about
Friday, when you can look like this."

She moved close to the iron fence to make room for him beside her, and
faced the wind again. "Oh, I'm WELL enough, in so far as that goes. But
I'm not lucky about stage appearances. I'm easily upset, and the most
perverse things happen."

"What's the matter? Do you still get nervous?"

"Of course I do. I don't mind nerves so much as getting numbed," Thea
muttered, sheltering her face for a moment with her muff. "I'm under a
spell, you know, hoodooed. It's the thing I WANT to do that I can never
do. Any other effects I can get easily enough."

"Yes, you get effects, and not only with your voice. That's where you
have it over all the rest of them; you're as much at home on the stage
as you were down in Panther Canyon--as if you'd just been let out of a
cage. Didn't you get some of your ideas down there?"

Thea nodded. "Oh, yes! For heroic parts, at least. Out of the rocks, out
of the dead people. You mean the idea of standing up under things, don't
you, meeting catastrophe? No fussiness. Seems to me they must have been
a reserved, somber people, with only a muscular language, all their
movements for a purpose; simple, strong, as if they were dealing with
fate bare-handed." She put her gloved fingers on Fred's arm. "I don't
know how I can ever thank you enough. I don't know if I'd ever have got
anywhere without Panther Canyon. How did you know that was the one thing
to do for me? It's the sort of thing nobody ever helps one to, in this
world. One can learn how to sing, but no singing teacher can give
anybody what I got down there. How did you know?"

"I didn't know. Anything else would have done as well. It was your
creative hour. I knew you were getting a lot, but I didn't realize how
much."

Thea walked on in silence. She seemed to be thinking.

"Do you know what they really taught me?" she came out suddenly. "They
taught me the inevitable hardness of human life. No artist gets far who
doesn't know that. And you can't know it with your mind. You have to
realize it in your body, somehow; deep. It's an animal sort of feeling.
I sometimes think it's the strongest of all. Do you know what I'm
driving at?"

"I think so. Even your audiences feel it, vaguely: that you've sometime
or other faced things that make you different."

Thea turned her back to the wind, wiping away the snow that clung to her
brows and lashes. "Ugh!" she exclaimed; "no matter how long a breath you
have, the storm has a longer. I haven't signed for next season, yet,
Fred. I'm holding out for a big contract: forty performances. Necker
won't be able to do much next winter. It's going to be one of those
between seasons; the old singers are too old, and the new ones are too
new. They might as well risk me as anybody. So I want good terms. The
next five or six years are going to be my best."

"You'll get what you demand, if you are uncompromising. I'm safe in
congratulating you now."

Thea laughed. "It's a little early. I may not get it at all. They don't
seem to be breaking their necks to meet me. I can go back to Dresden."

As they turned the curve and walked westward they got the wind from the
side, and talking was easier.

Fred lowered his collar and shook the snow from his shoulders. "Oh, I
don't mean on the contract particularly. I congratulate you on what you
can do, Thea, and on all that lies behind what you do. On the life
that's led up to it, and on being able to care so much. That, after all,
is the unusual thing."

She looked at him sharply, with a certain apprehension. "Care? Why
shouldn't I care? If I didn't, I'd be in a bad way. What else have I
got?" She stopped with a challenging interrogation, but Ottenburg did
not reply. "You mean," she persisted, "that you don't care as much as
you used to?"

"I care about your success, of course." Fred fell into a slower pace.
Thea felt at once that he was talking seriously and had dropped the tone
of half-ironical exaggeration he had used with her of late years. "And
I'm grateful to you for what you demand from yourself, when you might
get off so easily. You demand more and more all the time, and you'll do
more and more. One is grateful to anybody for that; it makes life in
general a little less sordid. But as a matter of fact, I'm not much
interested in how anybody sings anything."

"That's too bad of you, when I'm just beginning to see what is worth
doing, and how I want to do it!" Thea spoke in an injured tone.

"That's what I congratulate you on. That's the great difference between
your kind and the rest of us. It's how long you're able to keep it up
that tells the story. When you needed enthusiasm from the outside, I was
able to give it to you. Now you must let me withdraw."

"I'm not tying you, am I?" she flashed out. "But withdraw to what? What
do you want?"

Fred shrugged. "I might ask you, What have I got? I want things that
wouldn't interest you; that you probably wouldn't understand. For one
thing, I want a son to bring up."

"I can understand that. It seems to me reasonable. Have you also found
somebody you want to marry?"

"Not particularly." They turned another curve, which brought the wind to
their backs, and they walked on in comparative calm, with the snow
blowing past them. "It's not your fault, Thea, but I've had you too much
in my mind. I've not given myself a fair chance in other directions. I
was in Rome when you and Nordquist were there. If that had kept up, it
might have cured me."

"It might have cured a good many things," remarked Thea grimly.

Fred nodded sympathetically and went on. "In my library in St. Louis,
over the fireplace, I have a property spear I had copied from one in
Venice,--oh, years ago, after you first went abroad, while you were
studying. You'll probably be singing BRUNNHILDE pretty soon now, and
I'll send it on to you, if I may. You can take it and its history for
what they're worth. But I'm nearly forty years old, and I've served my
turn. You've done what I hoped for you, what I was honestly willing to
lose you for--then. I'm older now, and I think I was an ass. I wouldn't
do it again if I had the chance, not much! But I'm not sorry. It takes a
great many people to make one--BRUNNHILDE."

Thea stopped by the fence and looked over into the black choppiness on
which the snowflakes fell and disappeared with magical rapidity. Her
face was both angry and troubled. "So you really feel I've been
ungrateful. I thought you sent me out to get something. I didn't know
you wanted me to bring in something easy. I thought you wanted
something--" She took a deep breath and shrugged her shoulders. "But
there! nobody on God's earth wants it, REALLY! If one other person
wanted it,"--she thrust her hand out before him and clenched it,--"my
God, what I could do!"

Fred laughed dismally. "Even in my ashes I feel myself pushing you! How
can anybody help it? My dear girl, can't you see that anybody else who
wanted it as you do would be your rival, your deadliest danger? Can't
you see that it's your great good fortune that other people can't care
about it so much?"

But Thea seemed not to take in his protest at all. She went on
vindicating herself. "It's taken me a long while to do anything, of
course, and I've only begun to see daylight. But anything good
is--expensive. It hasn't seemed long. I've always felt responsible to
you."

Fred looked at her face intently, through the veil of snowflakes, and
shook his head. "To me? You are a truthful woman, and you don't mean to
lie to me. But after the one responsibility you do feel, I doubt if
you've enough left to feel responsible to God! Still, if you've ever in
an idle hour fooled yourself with thinking I had anything to do with it,
Heaven knows I'm grateful."

"Even if I'd married Nordquist," Thea went on, turning down the path
again, "there would have been something left out. There always is. In a
way, I've always been married to you. I'm not very flexible; never was
and never shall be. You caught me young. I could never have that over
again. One can't, after one begins to know anything. But I look back on
it. My life hasn't been a gay one, any more than yours. If I shut things
out from you, you shut them out from me. We've been a help and a
hindrance to each other. I guess it's always that way, the good and the
bad all mixed up. There's only one thing that's all beautiful--and
always beautiful! That's why my interest keeps up."

"Yes, I know." Fred looked sidewise at the outline of her head against
the thickening atmosphere. "And you give one the impression that that is
enough. I've gradually, gradually given you up."

"See, the lights are coming out." Thea pointed to where they flickered,
flashes of violet through the gray tree-tops. Lower down the globes
along the drives were becoming a pale lemon color. "Yes, I don't see why
anybody wants to marry an artist, anyhow. I remember Ray Kennedy used to
say he didn't see how any woman could marry a gambler, for she would
only be marrying what the game left." She shook her shoulders
impatiently. "Who marries who is a small matter, after all. But I hope I
can bring back your interest in my work. You've cared longer and more
than anybody else, and I'd like to have somebody human to make a report
to once in a while. You can send me your spear. I'll do my best. If
you're not interested, I'll do my best anyhow. I've only a few friends,
but I can lose every one of them, if it has to be. I learned how to lose
when my mother died.--We must hurry now. My taxi must be waiting."

The blue light about them was growing deeper and darker, and the falling
snow and the faint trees had become violet. To the south, over Broadway,
there was an orange reflection in the clouds. Motors and carriage lights
flashed by on the drive below the reservoir path, and the air was
strident with horns and shrieks from the whistles of the mounted
policemen.

Fred gave Thea his arm as they descended from the embankment. "I guess
you'll never manage to lose me or Archie, Thea. You do pick up queer
ones. But loving you is a heroic discipline. It wears a man out. Tell me
one thing: could I have kept you, once, if I'd put on every screw?"

Thea hurried him along, talking rapidly, as if to get it over. "You
might have kept me in misery for a while, perhaps. I don't know. I have
to think well of myself, to work. You could have made it hard. I'm not
ungrateful. I was a difficult proposition to deal with. I understand
now, of course. Since you didn't tell me the truth in the beginning, you
couldn't very well turn back after I'd set my head. At least, if you'd
been the sort who could, you wouldn't have had to,--for I'd not have
cared a button for that sort, even then." She stopped beside a car that
waited at the curb and gave him her hand. "There. We part friends?"

Fred looked at her. "You know. Ten years."

"I'm not ungrateful," Thea repeated as she got into her cab.

"Yes," she reflected, as the taxi cut into the Park carriage road, "we
don't get fairy tales in this world, and he has, after all, cared more
and longer than anybody else." It was dark outside now, and the light
from the lamps along the drive flashed into the cab. The snowflakes
hovered like swarms of white bees about the globes.

Thea sat motionless in one corner staring out of the window at the cab
lights that wove in and out among the trees, all seeming to be bent upon
joyous courses. Taxicabs were still new in New York, and the theme of
popular minstrelsy. Landry had sung her a ditty he heard in some theater
on Third Avenue, about:

"But there passed him a bright-eyed taxi
With the girl of his heart inside."

Almost inaudibly Thea began to hum the air, though she was thinking of
something serious, something that had touched her deeply. At the
beginning of the season, when she was not singing often, she had gone
one afternoon to hear Paderewski's recital. In front of her sat an old
German couple, evidently poor people who had made sacrifices to pay for
their excellent seats. Their intelligent enjoyment of the music, and
their friendliness with each other, had interested her more than
anything on the programme. When the pianist began a lovely melody in the
first movement of the Beethoven D minor sonata, the old lady put out her
plump hand and touched her husband's sleeve and they looked at each
other in recognition. They both wore glasses, but such a look! Like
forget-menots, and so full of happy recollections. Thea wanted to put
her arms around them and ask them how they had been able to keep a
feeling like that, like a nosegay in a glass of water.



XI


DR. ARCHIE saw nothing of Thea during the following week. After several
fruitless efforts, he succeeded in getting a word with her over the
telephone, but she sounded so distracted and driven that he was glad to
say good-night and hang up the instrument. There were, she told him,
rehearsals not only for "Walkure," but also for "Gotterdammerung," in
which she was to sing WALTRAUTE two weeks later.

On Thursday afternoon Thea got home late, after an exhausting rehearsal.
She was in no happy frame of mind. Madame Necker, who had been very
gracious to her that night when she went on to complete Gloeckler's
performance of SIEGLINDE, had, since Thea was cast to sing the part
instead of Gloeckler in the production of the "Ring," been chilly and
disapproving, distinctly hostile. Thea had always felt that she and
Necker stood for the same sort of endeavor, and that Necker recognized
it and had a cordial feeling for her. In Germany she had several times
sung BRANGAENA to Necker's ISOLDE, and the older artist had let her know
that she thought she sang it beautifully. It was a bitter disappointment
to find that the approval of so honest an artist as Necker could not
stand the test of any significant recognition by the management. Madame
Necker was forty, and her voice was failing just when her powers were at
their height. Every fresh young voice was an enemy, and this one was
accompanied by gifts which she could not fail to recognize.

Thea had her dinner sent up to her apartment, and it was a very poor
one. She tasted the soup and then indignantly put on her wraps to go out
and hunt a dinner. As she was going to the elevator, she had to admit
that she was behaving foolishly. She took off her hat and coat and
ordered another dinner. When it arrived, it was no better than the
first. There was even a burnt match under the milk toast. She had a sore
throat, which made swallowing painful and boded ill for the morrow.
Although she had been speaking in whispers all day to save her throat,
she now perversely summoned the housekeeper and demanded an account of
some laundry that had been lost. The housekeeper was indifferent and
impertinent, and Thea got angry and scolded violently. She knew it was
very bad for her to get into a rage just before bedtime, and after the
housekeeper left she realized that for ten dollars' worth of
underclothing she had been unfitting herself for a performance which
might eventually mean many thousands. The best thing now was to stop
reproaching herself for her lack of sense, but she was too tired to
control her thoughts.

While she was undressing--Therese was brushing out her SIEGLINDE wig in
the trunk-room--she went on chiding herself bitterly. "And how am I ever
going to get to sleep in this state?" she kept asking herself. "If I
don't sleep, I'll be perfectly worthless to-morrow. I'll go down there
to-morrow and make a fool of myself. If I'd let that laundry alone with
whatever nigger has stolen it--WHY did I undertake to reform the
management of this hotel to-night? After to-morrow I could pack up and
leave the place. There's the Phillamon--I liked the rooms there better,
anyhow--and the Umberto--" She began going over the advantages and
disadvantages of different apartment hotels. Suddenly she checked
herself. "What AM I doing this for? I can't move into another hotel
to-night. I'll keep this up till morning. I shan't sleep a wink."

Should she take a hot bath, or shouldn't she? Sometimes it relaxed her,
and sometimes it roused her and fairly put her beside herself. Between
the conviction that she must sleep and the fear that she couldn't, she
hung paralyzed. When she looked at her bed, she shrank from it in every
nerve. She was much more afraid of it than she had ever been of the
stage of any opera house. It yawned before her like the sunken road at
Waterloo.

She rushed into her bathroom and locked the door. She would risk the
bath, and defer the encounter with the bed a little longer. She lay in
the bath half an hour. The warmth of the water penetrated to her bones,
induced pleasant reflections and a feeling of well-being. It was very
nice to have Dr. Archie in New York, after all, and to see him get so
much satisfaction out of the little companionship she was able to give
him. She liked people who got on, and who became more interesting as
they grew older. There was Fred; he was much more interesting now than
he had been at thirty. He was intelligent about music, and he must be
very intelligent in his business, or he would not be at the head of the
Brewers' Trust. She respected that kind of intelligence and success. Any
success was good. She herself had made a good start, at any rate, and
now, if she could get to sleep--Yes, they were all more interesting than
they used to be. Look at Harsanyi, who had been so long retarded; what a
place he had made for himself in Vienna. If she could get to sleep, she
would show him something to-morrow that he would understand.

She got quickly into bed and moved about freely between the sheets. Yes,
she was warm all over. A cold, dry breeze was coming in from the river,
thank goodness! She tried to think about her little rock house and the
Arizona sun and the blue sky. But that led to memories which were still
too disturbing. She turned on her side, closed her eyes, and tried an
old device.

She entered her father's front door, hung her hat and coat on the rack,
and stopped in the parlor to warm her hands at the stove. Then she went
out through the diningroom, where the boys were getting their lessons at
the long table; through the sitting-room, where Thor was asleep in his
cot bed, his dress and stocking hanging on a chair. In the kitchen she
stopped for her lantern and her hot brick. She hurried up the back
stairs and through the windy loft to her own glacial room. The illusion
was marred only by the consciousness that she ought to brush her teeth
before she went to bed, and that she never used to do it. Why--? The
water was frozen solid in the pitcher, so she got over that. Once
between the red blankets there was a short, fierce battle with the cold;
then, warmer--warmer. She could hear her father shaking down the
hard-coal burner for the night, and the wind rushing and banging down
the village street. The boughs of the cottonwood, hard as bone, rattled
against her gable. The bed grew softer and warmer. Everybody was warm
and well downstairs. The sprawling old house had gathered them all in,
like a hen, and had settled down over its brood. They were all warm in
her father's house. Softer and softer. She was asleep. She slept ten
hours without turning over. From sleep like that, one awakes in shining
armor.


On Friday afternoon there was an inspiring audience; there was not an
empty chair in the house. Ottenburg and Dr. Archie had seats in the
orchestra circle, got from a ticket broker. Landry had not been able to
get a seat, so he roamed about in the back of the house, where he
usually stood when he dropped in after his own turn in vaudeville was
over. He was there so often and at such irregular hours that the ushers
thought he was a singer's husband, or had something to do with the
electrical plant.

Harsanyi and his wife were in a box, near the stage, in the second
circle. Mrs. Harsanyi's hair was noticeably gray, but her face was
fuller and handsomer than in those early years of struggle, and she was
beautifully dressed. Harsanyi himself had changed very little. He had
put on his best afternoon coat in honor of his pupil, and wore a pearl
in his black ascot. His hair was longer and more bushy than he used to
wear it, and there was now one gray lock on the right side. He had
always been an elegant figure, even when he went about in shabby clothes
and was crushed with work. Before the curtain rose he was restless and
nervous, and kept looking at his watch and wishing he had got a few more
letters off before he left his hotel. He had not been in New York since
the advent of the taxicab, and had allowed himself too much time. His
wife knew that he was afraid of being disappointed this afternoon. He
did not often go to the opera because the stupid things that singers did
vexed him so, and it always put him in a rage if the conductor held the
tempo or in any way accommodated the score to the singer.

When the lights went out and the violins began to quaver their long D
against the rude figure of the basses, Mrs. Harsanyi saw her husband's
fingers fluttering on his knee in a rapid tattoo. At the moment when
SIEGLINDE entered from the side door, she leaned toward him and
whispered in his ear, "Oh, the lovely creature!" But he made no
response, either by voice or gesture. Throughout the first scene he sat
sunk in his chair, his head forward and his one yellow eye rolling
restlessly and shining like a tiger's in the dark. His eye followed
SIEGLINDE about the stage like a satellite, and as she sat at the table
listening to SIEGMUND'S long narrative, it never left her. When she
prepared the sleeping draught and disappeared after HUNDING, Harsanyi
bowed his head still lower and put his hand over his eye to rest it. The
tenor,--a young man who sang with great vigor, went on:--


"WALSE! WALSE! WO IST DEIN SCHWERT?"


Harsanyi smiled, but he did not look forth again until SIEGLINDE
reappeared. She went through the story of her shameful bridal feast and
into the Walhall' music, which she always sang so nobly, and the
entrance of the oneeyed stranger:--

"MIR ALLEIN WECKTE DAS AUGE."

Mrs. Harsanyi glanced at her husband, wondering whether the singer on
the stage could not feel his commanding glance. On came the CRESCENDO:--


"WAS JE ICH VERLOR, WAS JE ICH BEWEINT WAR' MIR GEWONNEN."

(All that I have lost, All that I have mourned, Would I then have won.)

Harsanyi touched his wife's arm softly.

Seated in the moonlight, the VOLSUNG pair began their loving inspection
of each other's beauties, and the music born of murmuring sound passed
into her face, as the old poet said,--and into her body as well. Into
one lovely attitude after another the music swept her, love impelled
her. And the voice gave out all that was best in it. Like the spring,
indeed, it blossomed into memories and prophecies, it recounted and it
foretold, as she sang the story of her friendless life, and of how the
thing which was truly herself, "bright as the day, rose to the surface"
when in the hostile world she for the first time beheld her Friend.
Fervently she rose into the hardier feeling of action and daring, the
pride in hero-strength and hero-blood, until in a splendid burst, tall
and shining like a Victory, she christened him:--

"SIEGMUND--SO NENN ICH DICH!"


Her impatience for the sword swelled with her anticipation of his act,
and throwing her arms above her head, she fairly tore a sword out of the
empty air for him, before NOTHUNG had left the tree. IN HOCHSTER
TRUNKENHEIT, indeed, she burst out with the flaming cry of their
kinship: "If you are SIEGMUND, I am SIEGLINDE!" Laughing, singing,
bounding, exulting,--with their passion and their sword,--the VOLSUNGS
ran out into the spring night.

As the curtain fell, Harsanyi turned to his wife. "At last," he sighed,
"somebody with ENOUGH! Enough voice and talent and beauty, enough
physical power. And such a noble, noble style!"

"I can scarcely believe it, Andor. I can see her now, that clumsy girl,
hunched up over your piano. I can see her shoulders. She always seemed
to labor so with her back. And I shall never forget that night when you
found her voice."

The audience kept up its clamor until, after many reappearances with the
tenor, Kronborg came before the curtain alone. The house met her with a
roar, a greeting that was almost savage in its fierceness. The singer's
eyes, sweeping the house, rested for a moment on Harsanyi, and she waved
her long sleeve toward his box.

"She OUGHT to be pleased that you are here," said Mrs. Harsanyi. "I
wonder if she knows how much she owes to you."

"She owes me nothing," replied her husband quickly. "She paid her way.
She always gave something back, even then."

"I remember you said once that she would do nothing common," said Mrs.
Harsanyi thoughtfully.

"Just so. She might fail, die, get lost in the pack. But if she
achieved, it would be nothing common. There are people whom one can
trust for that. There is one way in which they will never fail."
Harsanyi retired into his own reflections.

After the second act Fred Ottenburg brought Archie to the Harsanyis' box
and introduced him as an old friend of Miss Kronborg. The head of a
musical publishing house joined them, bringing with him a journalist and
the president of a German singing society. The conversation was chiefly
about the new SIEGLINDE. Mrs. Harsanyi was gracious and enthusiastic,
her husband nervous and uncommunicative. He smiled mechanically, and
politely answered questions addressed to him. "Yes, quite so." "Oh,
certainly." Every one, of course, said very usual things with great
conviction. Mrs. Harsanyi was used to hearing and uttering the
commonplaces which such occasions demanded. When her husband withdrew
into the shadow, she covered his retreat by her sympathy and cordiality.
In reply to a direct question from Ottenburg, Harsanyi said, flinching,
"ISOLDE? Yes, why not? She will sing all the great roles, I should
think."

The chorus director said something about "dramatic temperament." The
journalist insisted that it was "explosive force," "projecting power."

Ottenburg turned to Harsanyi. "What is it, Mr. Harsanyi? Miss Kronborg
says if there is anything in her, you are the man who can say what it
is."

The journalist scented copy and was eager. "Yes, Harsanyi. You know all
about her. What's her secret?"

Harsanyi rumpled his hair irritably and shrugged his shoulders. "Her
secret? It is every artist's secret,"--he waved his hand,--"passion.
That is all. It is an open secret, and perfectly safe. Like heroism, it
is inimitable in cheap materials."

The lights went out. Fred and Archie left the box as the second act came
on.

Artistic growth is, more than it is anything else, a refining of the
sense of truthfulness. The stupid believe that to be truthful is easy;
only the artist, the great artist, knows how difficult it is. That
afternoon nothing new came to Thea Kronborg, no enlightenment, no
inspiration. She merely came into full possession of things she had been
refining and perfecting for so long. Her inhibitions chanced to be fewer
than usual, and, within herself, she entered into the inheritance that
she herself had laid up, into the fullness of the faith she had kept
before she knew its name or its meaning.

Often when she sang, the best she had was unavailable; she could not
break through to it, and every sort of distraction and mischance came
between it and her. But this afternoon the closed roads opened, the
gates dropped. What she had so often tried to reach, lay under her hand.
She had only to touch an idea to make it live.

While she was on the stage she was conscious that every movement was the
right movement, that her body was absolutely the instrument of her idea.
Not for nothing had she kept it so severely, kept it filled with such
energy and fire. All that deep-rooted vitality flowered in her voice,
her face, in her very finger-tips. She felt like a tree bursting into
bloom. And her voice was as flexible as her body; equal to any demand,
capable of every NUANCE. With the sense of its perfect companionship,
its entire trustworthiness, she had been able to throw herself into the
dramatic exigencies of the part, everything in her at its best and
everything working together.

The third act came on, and the afternoon slipped by. Thea Kronborg's
friends, old and new, seated about the house on different floors and
levels, enjoyed her triumph according to their natures. There was one
there, whom nobody knew, who perhaps got greater pleasure out of that
afternoon than Harsanyi himself. Up in the top gallery a gray-haired
little Mexican, withered and bright as a string of peppers beside a'dobe
door, kept praying and cursing under his breath, beating on the brass
railing and shouting "Bravo! Bravo!" until he was repressed by his
neighbors.

He happened to be there because a Mexican band was to be a feature of
Barnum and Bailey's circus that year. One of the managers of the show
had traveled about the Southwest, signing up a lot of Mexican musicians
at low wages, and had brought them to New York. Among them was Spanish
Johnny. After Mrs. Tellamantez died, Johnny abandoned his trade and went
out with his mandolin to pick up a living for one. His irregularities
had become his regular mode of life.

When Thea Kronborg came out of the stage entrance on Fortieth Street,
the sky was still flaming with the last rays of the sun that was sinking
off behind the North River. A little crowd of people was lingering about
the door--musicians from the orchestra who were waiting for their
comrades, curious young men, and some poorly dressed girls who were
hoping to get a glimpse of the singer. She bowed graciously to the
group, through her veil, but she did not look to the right or left as
she crossed the sidewalk to her cab. Had she lifted her eyes an instant
and glanced out through her white scarf, she must have seen the only man
in the crowd who had removed his hat when she emerged, and who stood
with it crushed up in his hand. And she would have known him, changed as
he was. His lustrous black hair was full of gray, and his face was a
good deal worn by the EXTASI, so that it seemed to have shrunk away from
his shining eyes and teeth and left them too prominent. But she would
have known him. She passed so near that he could have touched her, and
he did not put on his hat until her taxi had snorted away. Then he
walked down Broadway with his hands in his overcoat pockets, wearing a
smile which embraced all the stream of life that passed him and the
lighted towers that rose into the limpid blue of the evening sky. If the
singer, going home exhausted in her cab, was wondering what was the good
of it all, that smile, could she have seen it, would have answered her.
It is the only commensurate answer.


Here we must leave Thea Kronborg. From this time on the story of her
life is the story of her achievement. The growth of an artist is an
intellectual and spiritual development which can scarcely be followed in
a personal narrative. This story attempts to deal only with the simple
and concrete beginnings which color and accent an artist's work, and to
give some account of how a Moonstone girl found her way out of a vague,
easy-going world into a life of disciplined endeavor. Any account of the
loyalty of young hearts to some exalted ideal, and the passion with
which they strive, will always, in some of us, rekindle generous
emotions.




EPILOGUE


MOONSTONE again, in the year 1909. The Methodists are giving an
ice-cream sociable in the grove about the new court-house. It is a warm
summer night of full moon. The paper lanterns which hang among the trees
are foolish toys, only dimming, in little lurid circles, the great
softness of the lunar light that floods the blue heavens and the high
plateau. To the east the sand hills shine white as of old, but the
empire of the sand is gradually diminishing. The grass grows thicker
over the dunes than it used to, and the streets of the town are harder
and firmer than they were twenty-five years ago. The old inhabitants
will tell you that sandstorms are infrequent now, that the wind blows
less persistently in the spring and plays a milder tune. Cultivation has
modified the soil and the climate, as it modifies human life.

The people seated about under the cottonwoods are much smarter than the
Methodists we used to know. The interior of the new Methodist Church
looks like a theater, with a sloping floor, and as the congregation
proudly say, "opera chairs." The matrons who attend to serving the
refreshments to-night look younger for their years than did the women of
Mrs. Kronborg's time, and the children all look like city children. The
little boys wear "Buster Browns" and the little girls Russian blouses.
The country child, in made-overs and cut-downs, seems to have vanished
from the face of the earth.

At one of the tables, with her Dutch-cut twin boys, sits a fair-haired,
dimpled matron who was once Lily Fisher. Her husband is president of the
new bank, and she "goes East for her summers," a practice which causes
envy and discontent among her neighbors. The twins are well-behaved
children, biddable, meek, neat about their clothes, and always mindful
of the proprieties they have learned at summer hotels. While they are
eating their icecream and trying not to twist the spoon in their mouths,
a little shriek of laughter breaks from an adjacent table. The twins
look up. There sits a spry little old spinster whom they know well. She
has a long chin, a long nose, and she is dressed like a young girl, with
a pink sash and a lace garden hat with pink rosebuds. She is surrounded
by a crowd of boys,--loose and lanky, short and thick,--who are joking
with her roughly, but not unkindly.

"Mamma," one of the twins comes out in a shrill treble, "why is Tillie
Kronborg always talking about a thousand dollars?"

The boys, hearing this question, break into a roar of laughter, the
women titter behind their paper napkins, and even from Tillie there is a
little shriek of appreciation. The observing child's remark had made
every one suddenly realize that Tillie never stopped talking about that
particular sum of money. In the spring, when she went to buy early
strawberries, and was told that they were thirty cents a box, she was
sure to remind the grocer that though her name was Kronborg she didn't
get a thousand dollars a night. In the autumn, when she went to buy her
coal for the winter, she expressed amazement at the price quoted her,
and told the dealer he must have got her mixed up with her niece to
think she could pay such a sum. When she was making her Christmas
presents, she never failed to ask the women who came into her shop what
you COULD make for anybody who got a thousand dollars a night. When the
Denver papers announced that Thea Kronborg had married Frederick
Ottenburg, the head of the Brewers' Trust, Moonstone people expected
that Tillie's vain-gloriousness would take another form. But Tillie had
hoped that Thea would marry a title, and she did not boast much about
Ottenburg,--at least not until after her memorable trip to Kansas City
to hear Thea sing.

Tillie is the last Kronborg left in Moonstone. She lives alone in a
little house with a green yard, and keeps a fancywork and millinery
store. Her business methods are informal, and she would never come out
even at the end of the year, if she did not receive a draft for a good
round sum from her niece at Christmas time. The arrival of this draft
always renews the discussion as to what Thea would do for her aunt if
she really did the right thing. Most of the Moonstone people think Thea
ought to take Tillie to New York and keep her as a companion. While they
are feeling sorry for Tillie because she does not live at the Plaza,
Tillie is trying not to hurt their feelings by showing too plainly how
much she realizes the superiority of her position. She tries to be
modest when she complains to the postmaster that her New York paper is
more than three days late. It means enough, surely, on the face of it,
that she is the only person in Moonstone who takes a New York paper or
who has any reason for taking one. A foolish young girl, Tillie lived in
the splendid sorrows of "Wanda" and "Strathmore"; a foolish old girl,
she lives in her niece's triumphs. As she often says, she just missed
going on the stage herself.

That night after the sociable, as Tillie tripped home with a crowd of
noisy boys and girls, she was perhaps a shade troubled. The twin's
question rather lingered in her ears. Did she, perhaps, insist too much
on that thousand dollars? Surely, people didn't for a minute think it
was the money she cared about? As for that, Tillie tossed her head, she
didn't care a rap. They must understand that this money was different.

When the laughing little group that brought her home had gone weaving
down the sidewalk through the leafy shadows and had disappeared, Tillie
brought out a rocking chair and sat down on her porch. On glorious, soft
summer nights like this, when the moon is opulent and full, the day
submerged and forgotten, she loves to sit there behind her rose-vine and
let her fancy wander where it will. If you chanced to be passing down
that Moonstone street and saw that alert white figure rocking there
behind the screen of roses and lingering late into the night, you might
feel sorry for her, and how mistaken you would be! Tillie lives in a
little magic world, full of secret satisfactions. Thea Kronborg has
given much noble pleasure to a world that needs all it can get, but to
no individual has she given more than to her queer old aunt in
Moonstone. The legend of Kronborg, the artist, fills Tillie's life; she
feels rich and exalted in it. What delightful things happen in her mind
as she sits there rocking! She goes back to those early days of sand and
sun, when Thea was a child and Tillie was herself, so it seems to her,
"young." When she used to hurry to church to hear Mr. Kronborg's
wonderful sermons, and when Thea used to stand up by the organ of a
bright Sunday morning and sing "Come, Ye Disconsolate." Or she thinks
about that wonderful time when the Metropolitan Opera Company sang a
week's engagement in Kansas City, and Thea sent for her and had her stay
with her at the Coates House and go to every performance at Convention
Hall. Thea let Tillie go through her costume trunks and try on her wigs
and jewels. And the kindness of Mr. Ottenburg! When Thea dined in her
own room, he went down to dinner with Tillie, and never looked bored or
absent-minded when she chattered. He took her to the hall the first time
Thea sang there, and sat in the box with her and helped her through
"Lohengrin." After the first act, when Tillie turned tearful eyes to him
and burst out, "I don't care, she always seemed grand like that, even
when she was a girl. I expect I'm crazy, but she just seems to me full
of all them old times!"--Ottenburg was so sympathetic and patted her
hand and said, "But that's just what she is, full of the old times, and
you are a wise woman to see it." Yes, he said that to her. Tillie often
wondered how she had been able to bear it when Thea came down the stairs
in the wedding robe embroidered in silver, with a train so long it took
six women to carry it.

Tillie had lived fifty-odd years for that week, but she got it, and no
miracle was ever more miraculous than that. When she used to be working
in the fields on her father's Minnesota farm, she couldn't help
believing that she would some day have to do with the "wonderful,"
though her chances for it had then looked so slender.

The morning after the sociable, Tillie, curled up in bed, was roused by
the rattle of the milk cart down the street. Then a neighbor boy came
down the sidewalk outside her window, singing "Casey Jones" as if he
hadn't a care in the world. By this time Tillie was wide awake. The
twin's question, and the subsequent laughter, came back with a faint
twinge. Tillie knew she was short-sighted about facts, but this
time--Why, there were her scrapbooks, full of newspaper and magazine
articles about Thea, and half-tone cuts, snap-shots of her on land and
sea, and photographs of her in all her parts. There, in her parlor, was
the phonograph that had come from Mr. Ottenburg last June, on Thea's
birthday; she had only to go in there and turn it on, and let Thea speak
for herself. Tillie finished brushing her white hair and laughed as she
gave it a smart turn and brought it into her usual French twist. If
Moonstone doubted, she had evidence enough: in black and white, in
figures and photographs, evidence in hair lines on metal disks. For one
who had so often seen two and two as making six, who had so often
stretched a point, added a touch, in the good game of trying to make the
world brighter than it is, there was positive bliss in having such deep
foundations of support. She need never tremble in secret lest she might
sometime stretch a point in Thea's favor.--Oh, the comfort, to a soul
too zealous, of having at last a rose so red it could not be further
painted, a lily so truly auriferous that no amount of gilding could
exceed the fact!

Tillie hurried from her bedroom, threw open the doors and windows, and
let the morning breeze blow through her little house.

In two minutes a cob fire was roaring in her kitchen stove, in five she
had set the table. At her household work Tillie was always bursting out
with shrill snatches of song, and as suddenly stopping, right in the
middle of a phrase, as if she had been struck dumb. She emerged upon the
back porch with one of these bursts, and bent down to get her butter and
cream out of the ice-box. The cat was purring on the bench and the
morning-glories were thrusting their purple trumpets in through the
lattice-work in a friendly way. They reminded Tillie that while she was
waiting for the coffee to boil she could get some flowers for her
breakfast table. She looked out uncertainly at a bush of sweet-briar
that grew at the edge of her yard, off across the long grass and the
tomato vines. The front porch, to be sure, was dripping with crimson
ramblers that ought to be cut for the good of the vines; but never the
rose in the hand for Tillie! She caught up the kitchen shears and off
she dashed through grass and drenching dew. Snip, snip; the
short-stemmed sweet-briars, salmon-pink and golden-hearted, with their
unique and inimitable woody perfume, fell into her apron.

After she put the eggs and toast on the table, Tillie took last Sunday's
New York paper from the rack beside the cupboard and sat down, with it
for company. In the Sunday paper there was always a page about singers,
even in summer, and that week the musical page began with a sympathetic
account of Madame Kronborg's first performance of ISOLDE in London. At
the end of the notice, there was a short paragraph about her having sung
for the King at Buckingham Palace and having been presented with a jewel
by His Majesty.

Singing for the King; but Goodness! she was always doing things like
that! Tillie tossed her head. All through breakfast she kept sticking
her sharp nose down into the glass of sweet-briar, with the old
incredible lightness of heart, like a child's balloon tugging at its
string. She had always insisted, against all evidence, that life was
full of fairy tales, and it was! She had been feeling a little down,
perhaps, and Thea had answered her, from so far. From a common person,
now, if you were troubled, you might get a letter. But Thea almost never
wrote letters. She answered every one, friends and foes alike, in one
way, her own way, her only way. Once more Tillie has to remind herself
that it is all true, and is not something she has "made up." Like all
romancers, she is a little terrified at seeing one of her wildest
conceits admitted by the hardheaded world. If our dream comes true, we
are almost afraid to believe it; for that is the best of all good
fortune, and nothing better can happen to any of us.

When the people on Sylvester Street tire of Tillie's stories, she goes
over to the east part of town, where her legends are always welcome. The
humbler people of Moonstone still live there. The same little houses sit
under the cottonwoods; the men smoke their pipes in the front doorways,
and the women do their washing in the back yard. The older women
remember Thea, and how she used to come kicking her express wagon along
the sidewalk, steering by the tongue and holding Thor in her lap. Not
much happens in that part of town, and the people have long memories. A
boy grew up on one of those streets who went to Omaha and built up a
great business, and is now very rich. Moonstone people always speak of
him and Thea together, as examples of Moonstone enterprise. They do,
however, talk oftener of Thea. A voice has even a wider appeal than a
fortune. It is the one gift that all creatures would possess if they
could. Dreary Maggie Evans, dead nearly twenty years, is still
remembered because Thea sang at her funeral "after she had studied in
Chicago."

However much they may smile at her, the old inhabitants would miss
Tillie. Her stories give them something to talk about and to conjecture
about, cut off as they are from the restless currents of the world. The
many naked little sandbars which lie between Venice and the mainland, in
the seemingly stagnant water of the lagoons, are made habitable and
wholesome only because, every night, a foot and a half of tide creeps in
from the sea and winds its fresh brine up through all that network of
shining waterways. So, into all the little settlements of quiet people,
tidings of what their boys and girls are doing in the world bring real
refreshment; bring to the old, memories, and to the young, dreams.



THE END





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