Song of the Lark
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.