Song of the Lark
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.