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The Street of Seven Stars

Chapter 20
The Portier was almost happy that morning. For one thing, he had won honorable
mention at the Schubert Society the night before; for another, that night the Engel was to
sing Mignon, and the Portier had spent his Christmas tips for a ticket. All day long he had
been poring over the score.
"'Kennst du das Land wo die Citronen bluhen?'" he sang with feeling while he polished
the floors. He polished them with his feet, wearing felt boots for the purpose, and
executing in the doing a sort of ungainly dance--a sprinkle of wax, right foot forward and
back, left foot forward and back, both feet forward and back in a sort of double shuffle;
more wax, more vigorous polishing, more singing, with longer pauses for breath. "
'Knowest thou the land where the lemon trees bloom?' " he bellowed--sprinkle of wax,
right foot, left foot, any foot at all. Now and then he took the score from his pocket and
pored over it, humming the air, raising his eyebrows over the high notes, dropping his
chin to the low ones. It was a wonderful morning. Between greetings to neighbors he
sang--a bit of talk, a bit of song.
"'Kennst du das Land'--Good-morning, sir--the old Rax wears a crown. It will snow soon.
'Kennst du das Land wo die Citronen'--Ah, madam the milk Frau, and are the cows frozen
up to-day like the pump? No? Marvelous! Dost thou know that to-night is Mignon at the
Opera, and that the Engel sings? 'Kennst du das Land'--"
At eleven came Rosa with her husband, the soldier from Salzburg with one lung. He was
having a holiday from his sentry duty at the hospital, and the one lung seemed to be a
libel, for while the women had coffee together and a bit of mackerel he sang a very fair
bass to the Portier's tenor. Together they pored over the score, and even on their way to
the beer hall hummed together such bits as they recalled.
On one point they differed. The score was old and soiled with much thumbing. At one
point, destroyed long since, the sentry sang A sharp: the Portier insisted on A natural.
They argued together over three Steins of beer; the waiter, referred to, decided for A flat.
It was a serious matter to have one's teeth set, as one may say, for a natural and then to be
shocked with an unexpected half-tone up or down! It destroyed the illusion; it
disappointed; it hurt.
The sentry stuck to the sharp--it was sung so at the Salzburg opera. The Portier snapped
his thumb at the Salzburg opera. Things were looking serious; they walked back to the
locale in silence. The sentry coughed. Possibly there was something, after all, in the one-
lung rumor.
It was then that the Portier remembered Harmony. She would know; perhaps she had the
score.
 
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