Song of the Lark HTML version

Chapter I.4
And it was Summer, beautiful Summer!" Those were the closing words of Thea's
favorite fairy tale, and she thought of them as she ran out into the world one
Saturday morning in May, her music book under her arm. She was going to the
Kohlers' to take her lesson, but she was in no hurry.
It was in the summer that one really lived. Then all the little overcrowded
houses were opened wide, and the wind blew through them with sweet, earthy
smells of garden-planting. The town looked as if it had just been washed. People
were out painting their fences. The cottonwood trees were a-flicker with sticky,
yellow little leaves, and the feathery tamarisks were in pink bud. With the warm
weather came freedom for everybody. People were dug up, as it were. The very
old people, whom one had not seen all winter, came out and sunned themselves
in the yard. The double windows were taken off the houses, the tormenting
flannels in which children had been encased all winter were put away in boxes,
and the youngsters felt a pleasure in the cool cotton things next their skin.
Thea had to walk more than a mile to reach the Kohlers' house, a very
pleasant mile out of town toward the glittering sand hills,--yellow this morning,
with lines of deep violet where the clefts and valleys were. She followed the
sidewalk to the depot at the south end of the town; then took the road east to the
little group of adobe houses where the Mexicans lived, then dropped into a deep
ravine; a dry sand creek, across which the railroad track ran on a trestle. Beyond
that gulch, on a little rise of ground that faced the open sandy plain, was the
Kohlers' house, where Professor Wunsch lived. Fritz Kohler was the town tailor,
one of the first settlers. He had moved there, built a little house and made a
garden, when Moonstone was first marked down on the map. He had three sons,
but they now worked on the railroad and were stationed in distant cities. One of
them had gone to work for the Santa Fe, and lived in New Mexico.
Mrs. Kohler seldom crossed the ravine and went into the town except at
Christmas-time, when she had to buy presents and Christmas cards to send to
her old friends in Freeport, Illinois. As she did not go to church, she did not
possess such a thing as a hat. Year after year she wore the same red hood in
winter and a black sunbonnet in summer. She made her own dresses; the skirts
came barely to her shoe-tops, and were gathered as full as they could possibly
be to the waistband. She preferred men's shoes, and usually wore the cast-offs
of one of her sons. She had never learned much English, and her plants and
shrubs were her companions. She lived for her men and her garden. Beside that
sand gulch, she had tried to reproduce a bit of her own village in the Rhine
Valley. She hid herself behind the growth she had fostered, lived under the
shade of what she had planted and watered and pruned. In the blaze of the open
plain she was stupid and blind like an owl. Shade, shade; that was what she was
always planning and making. Behind the high tamarisk hedge, her garden was a
jungle of verdure in summer. Above the cherry trees and peach trees and golden
plums stood the windmill, with its tank on stilts, which kept all this verdure alive.