Song of the Lark
"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
"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."