Song of the Lark
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