Song of the Lark
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