Song of the Lark HTML version

Chapter I.7
Thea's twelfth birthday had passed a few weeks before her memorable call upon
Mrs. Tellamantez. There was a worthy man in Moonstone who was already
planning to marry Thea as soon as she should be old enough. His name was
Ray Kennedy, his age was thirty, and he was conductor on a freight train, his run
being from Moonstone to Denver. Ray was a big fellow, with a square, open
American face, a rock chin, and features that one would never happen to
remember. He was an aggressive idealist, a freethinker, and, like most railroad
men, deeply sentimental. Thea liked him for reasons that had to do with the
adventurous life he had led in Mexico and the Southwest, rather than for anything
very personal. She liked him, too, because he was the only one of her friends
who ever took her to the sand hills. The sand hills were a constant tantalization;
she loved them better than anything near Moonstone, and yet she could so
seldom get to them. The first dunes were accessible enough; they were only a
few miles beyond the Kohlers', and she could run out there any day when she
could do her practicing in the morning and get Thor off her hands for an
afternoon. But the real hills--the Turquoise Hills, the Mexicans called them-were
ten good miles away, and one reached them by a heavy, sandy road. Dr. Archie
sometimes took Thea on his long drives, but as nobody lived in the sand hills, he
never had calls to make in that direction. Ray Kennedy was her only hope of
getting there.
This summer Thea had not been to the hills once, though Ray had planned
several Sunday expeditions. Once Thor was sick, and once the organist in her
father's church was away and Thea had to play the organ for the three Sunday
services. But on the first Sunday in September, Ray drove up to the Kronborgs'
front gate at nine o'clock in the morning and the party actually set off. Gunner
and Axel went with Thea, and Ray had asked Spanish Johnny to come and to
bring Mrs. Tellamantez and his mandolin. Ray was artlessly fond of music,
especially of Mexican music. He and Mrs. Tellamantez had got up the lunch
between them, and they were to make coffee in the desert.
When they left Mexican Town, Thea was on the front seat with Ray and
Johnny, and Gunner and Axel sat behind with Mrs. Tellamantez. They objected
to this, of course, but there were some things about which Thea would have her
own way. "As stubborn as a Finn," Mrs. Kronborg sometimes said of her, quoting
an old Swedish saying. When they passed the Kohlers', old Fritz and Wunsch
were cutting grapes at the arbor. Thea gave them a businesslike nod. Wunsch
came to the gate and looked after them. He divined Ray Kennedy's hopes, and
he distrusted every expedition that led away from the piano. Unconsciously he
made Thea pay for frivolousness of this sort.
As Ray Kennedy's party followed the faint road across the sagebrush, they
heard behind them the sound of church bells, which gave them a sense of
escape and boundless freedom. Every rabbit that shot across the path, every
sage hen that flew up by the trail, was like a runaway thought, a message that