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THE SONG OF
THE LARK

BY

WILLA SIBERT GATHER



M // -was a Tuond rous lovely storm that drove me I *
LENAU S "Don Juan."




BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

0toer?i&e pre^s Cam^ritige



COPYRIGHT, 1915, BY WILLA SIBERT GATHER
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Published October zqif







TO
ISABELLE McCLUNG



On uplands,
At morning,

The world was young, the winds were free;
A garden fair,
In that blue desert air,
Its guest invited me to be.



421585




CONTENTS

PART I. FRIENDS OF CHILDHOOD . . i

II. THE SONG OF THE LARK . . 159

III. STUPID FACES . . . . . . 247

IV. THE ANCIENT PEOPLE . 293
V. DOCTOR ARCHIE S VENTURE . . . 343

VI. KRONBORG 383

EPILOGUE 481



THE SONG OF THE LARK
PART I

FRIENDS OF CHILDHOOD



THE SONG OF THE LARK

PART I

FRIENDS OF CHILDHOOD

I

DR. HOWARD ARCHIE had just come up from a
game of pool with the Jewish clothier and two travel
ing men who happened to be staying overnight in Moon
stone. His offices were in the Duke Block, over the drug
store. Larry, the doctor s man, had lit the overhead light
in the waiting-room and the double student s lamp on the
desk in the study. The isinglass sides of the hard-coal
burner were aglow, and the air in the study was so hot that
as he came in the doctor opened the door into his little
operating-room, where there was no stove. The waiting-
room was carpeted and stiffly furnished, something like a
country parlor. The study had worn, unpainted floors, but
there was a look of winter comfort about it. The doctor s
flat-top desk was large and well made; the papers were in
orderly piles, under glass weights. Behind the stove a wide
bookcase, with double glass doors, reached from the floor
to the ceiling. It was filled with medical books of every
thickness and color. On the top shelf stood a long row of
thirty or forty volumes, bound all alike in dark mottled
board covers, with imitation leather backs.

As the doctor in New England villages is proverbially
old, so the doctor in small Colorado towns twenty-five
years ago was generally young. Dr. Archie was barely
thirty. He was tall, with massive shoulders which he held
stiffly, and a large, well-shaped head. He was a distin
guished-looking man, for that part of the world, at least.

3



THE S G- OF THE LARK



Tnere* was* something individual in the way in which his*
reddish-brown hair, parted cleanly at the side, bushed over
his high forehead. His nose was straight and thick, and his
eyes were intelligent. He wore a curly, reddish mustache
and an imperial, cut trimly, which made him look a little
like the pictures of Napoleon III. His hands were large and
well kept, but ruggedly formed, and the backs were shaded
j with crinkly reddish hair. He wore a blue suit of woolly,
wide-waled serge ; the traveling men had known at a glance
that it was made by a Denver tailor. The doctor was al
ways well dressed.

Dr. Archie turned up the student s lamp and sat down in
the swivel chair before his desk. He sat uneasily, beating
a tattoo on his knees with his fingers, and looked about him
as if he were bored. He glanced at his watch, then absently
took from his pocket a bunch of small keys, selected one
and looked at it. A contemptuous smile, barely percepti
ble, played on his lips, but his eyes remained meditative.
Behind the door that led into the hall, under his buffalo-
skin driving-coat, was a locked cupboard. This the doctor
opened mechanically, kicking aside a pile of muddy over
shoes. Inside, on the shelves, were whiskey glasses and
decanters, lemons, sugar, and bitters. Hearing a step in
the empty, echoing hall without, the doctor closed the cup
board again, snapping the Yale lock. The door of the
waiting-room opened, a man entered and came on into
the consulting-room.

"Good-evening, Mr. Kronborg," said the doctor care
lessly. "Sit down."

His visitor was a tall, loosely built man, with a thin
brown beard, streaked with gray. He wore a frock coat, a
broad-brimmed black hat, a white lawn necktie, and steel-
rimmed spectacles. Altogether there was a pretentious and
important air about him, as he lifted the skirts of his coat
and sat down.

"Good-evening, doctor. Can you step around to the



FRIENDS OF CHILDHOOD

house with me? I think Mrs. Kronborg will need you this
evening." This was said with profound gravity and, curi
ously enough, with a slight embarrassment.

"Any hurry?" the doctor asked over his shoulder as he
went into his operating-room.

Mr. Kronborg coughed behind his hand, and contracted
his brows. His face threatened at every moment to break
into a smile of foolish excitement. He controlled it only by
calling upon his habitual pulpit manner. "Well, I think it
would be as well to go immediately. Mrs. Kronborg will be
more comfortable if you are there. She has been suffering
for some time."

The doctor came back and threw a black bag upon his
desk. He wrote some instructions for his man on a pre
scription pad and then drew on his overcoat. "All ready,"
he announced, putting out his lamp. Mr. Kronborg rose
and they tramped through the empty hall and down the
stairway to the street. The drug store below was dark, and
the saloon next door was just closing. Every other light on
Main Street was out.

On either side of the road and at the outer edge of the
board sidewalk, the snow had been shoveled into breast
works. The town looked small and black, flattened down
in the snow, muffled and all but extinguished. Overhead
the stars shone gloriously. It was impossible not to notice
them. The air was so clear that the white sand hills to the
east of Moonstone gleamed softly. Following the Reverend
Mr. Kronborg along the narrow walk, past the little dark,
sleeping houses, the doctor looked up at the flashing night
and whistled softly. It did seem that people were stupider
than they need be ; as if on a night like this there ought to
be something better to do than to sleep nine hours, or to
assist Mrs. Kronborg in functions which she could have
performed so admirably unaided. He wished he had gone
down to Denver to hear Fay Temple ton sing "See-Saw."
Then he remembered that he had a personal interest in this

5



THE SONG OF THE LARK

family, after all. They turned into another street and saw
before them lighted windows; a low story-and-a-half house,
with a wing built on at the right and a kitchen addition at
the back, everything a little on the slant roofs, windows,
and doors. As they approached the gate, Peter Kron-
borg s pace grew brisker. His nervous, ministerial cough
annoyed the doctor. "Exactly as if he were going to give
out a text," he thought. He drew off his glove and felt
in his vest pocket. "Have a troche, Kronborg," he said,
producing some. "Sent me for samples. Very good for a
rough throat."

"Ah, thank you, thank you. I was in something of a
hurry. I neglected to put on my overshoes. Here we are,
doctor." Kronborg opened his front door seemed de
lighted to be at home again.

The front hall was dark and cold ; the hatrack was hung
with an astonishing number of children s hats and caps and
cloaks. They were even piled on the table beneath the
hatrack. Under the table was a heap of rubbers and over
shoes. While the doctor hung up his coat and hat, Peter
Kronborg opened the door into the living-room. A glare of
light greeted them, and a rush of hot, stale air, smelling of
warming flannels.

At three o clock in the morning Dr. Archie was in the
parlor putting on his cuffs and coat there was no spare
bedroom in that house. Peter Kronborg s seventh child,
a boy, was being soothed and cosseted by his aunt, Mrs.
Kronborg was asleep, and the doctor was going home. But
he wanted first to speak to Kronborg, who, coatless and
fluttery, was pouring coal into the kitchen stove. As the
doctor crossed the dining-room he paused and listened.
From one of the wing rooms, off to the left, he heard rapid,
distressed breathing. He went to the kitchen door.

"One of the children sick in there?" he asked, nodding
toward the partition.

6




NDS OF CHILDHOOD

Kronborg hung up the stove-lifter and dusted his fingers.
"It must be Thea. I meant to ask you to look at her. She
has a croupy cold. But in my excitement Mrs. Kronborg
is doing finely, eh, doctor? Not many of your patients with
such a constitution, I expect."

"Oh, yes. She s a fine mother. " The doctor took up the
lamp from the kitchen table and unceremoniously went
into the wing room. Two chubby little boys were asleep
in a double bed, with the coverlids over their noses and
their feet drawn up. In a single bed, next to theirs, lay a
little girl of eleven, wide awake, two yellow braids sticking
up on the pillow behind her. Her face was scarlet and her
eyes were blazing.

The doctor shut the door behind him. " Feel pretty sick,
Thea?" he asked as he took out his thermometer. "Why
did n t you call somebody?"

She looked at him with greedy affection. " I thought you
were here," she spoke between quick breaths. "There is a
new baby, is n t there? Which?"

"Which?" repeated the doctor.

"Brother or sister?"

He smiled and sat down on the edge of the bed. " Bro
ther," he said, taking her hand. "Open."

"Good. Brothers are better," she murmured as he put
the glass tube under her tongue.

"Now, be still, I want to count." Dr. Archie reached
for her hand and took out his watch. When he put her
hand back under the quilt he went over to one of the win
dows they were both tight shut and lifted it a little
way. He reached up and ran his hand along the cold, un-
papered wall. "Keep under the covers; I ll come back to
you in a moment," he said, bending over the glass lamp
with his thermometer. He winked at her from the door
before he shut it.

Peter Kronborg was sitting in his wife s room, holding
the bundle which contained his son. His air of cheerful



THE SONG OF THE LARK

importance, his beard and glasses, even his shirt-sleeves,
annoyed the doctor. He beckoned Kronborg into the liv
ing-room and said sternly :

"You ve got a very sick child in there. Why did n t you
call me before ? It s pneumonia, and she must have been
sick for several days. Put the baby down somewhere,
please, and help me make up the bed-lounge here in the
parlor. She s got to be in a warm room, and she s got to
be quiet. You must keep the other children out. Here, this
thing opens up, I see," swinging back the top of the car
pet lounge. "We can lift her mattress and carry her in
just as she is. I don t want to disturb her more than is
necessary."

Kronborg was all concern immediately. The two men
took up the mattress and carried the sick child into the parlor.
"I ll have to go down to my office to get some medicine,
Kronborg. The drug store won t be open. Keep the covers
on her. I won t be gone long. Shake down the stove and
put on a little coal, but not too much ; so it 11 catch quickly,
I mean. Find an old sheet for me, and put it there to warm."

The doctor caught his coat and hurried out into the dark
street. Nobody was stirring yet, and the cold was bitter.
He was tired and hungry and in no mild humor. "The
idea ! " he muttered ; " to be such an ass at his age, about the
seventh! And to feel no responsibility about the little girl.
Silly old goat! The baby would have got into the world
somehow; they always do. But a nice little girl like that

she s worth the whole litter. Where she ever got it
from " He turned into the Duke Block and ran up the
stairs to his office.

Thea Kronborg, meanwhile, was wondering why she
happened to be in the parlor, where nobody but company

usually visiting preachers ever slept. She bad mo
ments of stupor when she did not see anything, and mo
ments of excitement when she felt that something unusual
and pleasant was about to happen, when she saw every-

8



FRIENDS OF CHILDHOOD

thing clearly in the red light from the isinglass sides of the
hard-coal burner the nickel trimmings on the stove
itself, the pictures on the wall, which she thought very
beautiful, the flowers on the Brussels carpet, Czerny s
"Daily Studies" which stood open on the upright piano.
She forgot, for the time being, all about the new baby.

When she heard the front door open, it occurred to her
that the pleasant thing which was going to happen was
Dr. Archie himself. He came in and warmed his hands at
the stoye. As he turned to her, she threw herself wearily
toward him, half out of her bed. She would have tumbled
to the floor had he not caught her. He gave her some medi
cine and went to the kitchen for something he needed. She
drowsed and lost the sense of his being there. When she
opened her eyes again, he was kneeling before the stove,
spreading something dark and sticky on a white cloth, with
a big spoon ; batter, perhaps. Presently she felt him taking
off her nightgown. He wrapped the hot plaster about her
chest. There seemed to be straps which he pinned over her
shoulders. Then he took out a thread and needle and be
gan to sew her up in it. That, she felt, was too strange;
she must be dreaming anyhow, so she succumbed to her
drowsiness.

Thea had been moaning with every breath since the
doctor came back, but she did not know it. She did not
realize that she was suffering pain. When she was con
scious at all, she seemed to be separated from her body; to
be perched on top of the piano, or on the hanging lamp,
watching the doctor sew her up. It was perplexing and
unsatisfactory, like dreaming. She wished she could waken
up and see what was going on.

The doctor thanked God that he had persuaded Peter
Kronfcorg to keep out of the way. He could do better by
the child if he had her to himself. He had no children of his
own. His marriage was a very unhappy one. As he lifted
and undressed Thea, he thought to himself what a beauti-



THE SONG OF THE LARK

ful thing a little girl s body was, like a flower. It was
so neatly and delicately fashioned, so soft, and so milky
white. Thea must have got her hair and her silky skin from
her mother. She was a little Swede, through and through.
Dr. Archie could not help thinking how he would cherish
a little creature like this if she were his. Her hands, so lit
tle and hot, so clever, too, he glanced at the open exer
cise book on the piano. When he had stitched up the flax-
seed jacket, he wiped it neatly about the edges, where the
paste had worked out on the skin. He put on her the clean
nightgown he had warmed before the fire, and tucked the
blankets about her. As he pushed back the hair that had
fuzzed down over her eyebrows, he felt her head thought
fully with the tips of his fingers. No, he could n t say
that it was different from any other child s head, though
he believed that there was something very different about
her. He looked intently at her wide, flushed face, freckled
nose, fierce little mouth, and her delicate, tender chin the
one soft touch in her hard little Scandinavian face, as if
some fairy godmother had caressed her there and left a
cryptic promise. Her brows were usually drawn together
defiantly, but never when she was with Dr. Archie. Her
affection for him was prettier than most of the things that
went to make up the doctor s life in Moonstone.

The windows grew gray. He heard a tramping on the
attic floor, on the back stairs, then cries: "Give me my
shirt ! " "Where s my other stocking? "

" I 11 have to stay till they get off to school," he reflected,
"or they ll be in here tormenting her, the whole lot of
them."




II

FOR the next four days it seemed to Dr. Archie that
his patient might slip through his hands, do what he
might. But she did not. On the contrary, after that she
recovered very rapidly. As her father remarked, she must
have inherited the "constitution " which he was never tired
of admiring in her mother.

One afternoon, when her new brother was a week old, the
doctor found Thea very comfortable and happy in her bed
in the parlor. The sunlight was pouring in over her shoulders,
the baby was asleep on a pillow in a big rocking-chair beside
her. Whenever he stirred, she put out her hand and rocked
him. Nothing of him was visible but a flushed, puffy fore
head and an uncompromisingly big, bald cranium. The
door into her mother s room stood open, and Mrs. Kronborg
was sitting up in bed darning stockings. She was a short,
stalwart woman, with a short neck and a determined-looking
head. Her skin was very fair, her face calm and unwrinkled,
and her yellow hair, braided down her back as she lay in
bed, still looked like a girl s. She was a woman whom
Dr. Archie respected; active, practical, unruffled; good-
humored, but determined. Exactly the sort of woman to
take care of a flighty preacher. She had brought her hus
band some property, too, one fourth of her father s broad
acres in Nebraska, but this she kept in her own name.
She had profound respect for her husband s erudition and
eloquence. She sat under his preaching with deep humility,
and was as much taken in by his stiff shirt and white neck
ties as if she had not ironed them herself by lamplight the
night before they appeared correct and spotless in the pul
pit. But for all this, she had no confidence in his adminis
tration of worldly affairs. She looked to him for morning

II



THE SONG OF THE LARK

prayers and grace at table ; she expected him to name the
babies and to supply whatever parental sentiment there
was in the house, to remember birthdays and anniver
saries, to point the children to moral and patriotic ideals.
It was her work to keep their bodies, their clothes, and
their conduct in some sort of order, and this she accom
plished with a success that was a source of wonder to her
neighbors. As she used to remark, and her husband ad
miringly to echo, she "had never lost one." With all his
flightiness, Peter Kronborg appreciated the matter-of-fact,
punctual way in which his wife got her children into the
world and along in it. He believed, and he was right in
believing, that the sovereign State of Colorado was much
indebted to Mrs. Kronborg and women like her.

Mrs. Kronborg believed that the size of every family was
decided in heaven. More modern views would not have
startled her; they would simply have seemed foolish
thin chatter, like the boasts of the men who built the tower
of Babel, or like Axel s plan to breed ostriches in the chicken
yard. From what evidence Mrs. Kronborg formed her
opinions on this and other matters, it would have been
difficult to say, but once formed, they were unchangeable.
She would no more have questioned her convictions than
she would have questioned revelation. Calm and even-
tempered, naturally kind, she was capable of strong pre
judices, and she never forgave.

When the doctor came in to -see Thea, Mrs. Kronborg
was reflecting that the washing was a week behind, and de
ciding what she had better do about it. The arrival of a
new baby meant a revision of her entire domestic schedule,
and as she drove her needle along she had been working out
new sleeping arrangements and cleaning days. The doctor
had entered the house without knocking, after making
noise enough in the hall to prepare his patients. Thea
was reading, her book propped up before her in the sun
light.

12



FRIENDS OF CHILDHOOD

"Must n t do that; bad for your eyes," he said, as Thea
shut the book quickly and slipped it under the covers.

Mrs. Kronborg called from her bed: " Bring the baby
here, doctor, and have that chair. She wanted him in there
for company. *

Before the doctor picked up the baby, he put a yellow
paper bag down on Thea s coverlid and winked at her.
They had a code of winks and grimaces. When he went in
to chat with her mother, Thea opened the bag cautiously,
trying to keep it from crackling. She drew out a long bunch
of white grapes, with a little of the sawdust in which they
had been packed still clinging to them. They were called
Malaga grapes in Moonstone, and once or twice during the
winter the leading grocer got a keg of them. They were
used mainly for table decoration, about Christmas-time.
Thea had never had more than one grape at a time before.
When the doctor came back she was holding the almost
transparent fruit up in the sunlight, feeling the pale-green
skins softly with the tips of her fingers. She did not thank
him; she only snapped her eyes at him in a special way
which he understood, and, when he gave her his hand,
put it quickly and shyly under her cheek, as if she were
trying to do so without knowing it and without his
knowing it.

Dr. Archie sat down in the rocking-chair. "And how s
Thea feeling to-day?"

He was quite as shy as his patient, especially when a
third person overheard his conversation. Big and hand
some and superior to his fellow townsmen as Dr. Archie
was, he was seldom at his ease, and like Peter Kronborg
he often dodged behind a professional manner. There
was sometimes a contraction of embarrassment and self-
consciousness all over his big body, which made him awk
ward likely to stumble, to kick up rugs, or to knock over
chairs. If any one was very sick, he forgot himself, but he
had a clumsy touch in convalescent gossip.

13



THE SONG OF THE LARK

Thea curled up on her side and looked at him with
pleasure. "All right. I like to be sick. I have more fun then
than other times."

"How s that?"

" I don t have to go to school, and I don t have to prac
tice. I can read all I want to, and have good things,"
she patted the grapes. "I had lots of fun that time I
mashed my finger and you would n t let Professor Wunsch
make me practice. Only I had to do left hand, even then.
I think that was mean."

The doctor took her hand and examined the forefinger,
where the nail had grown back a little crooked. "You
must n t trim it down close at the corner there, and then it
will grow straight. You won t want it crooked when you re
a big girl and wear rings and have sweethearts."

She made a mocking little face at him and looked at his
new scarf-pin. "That s the prettiest one you ev-er had.
I wish you d stay a long while and let me look at it. What
is it?"

Dr. Archie laughed. "It s an opal. Spanish Johnny
brought it up for me from Chihuahua in his shoe. I had it
set in Denver, and I wore it to-day for your benefit."

Thea had a curious passion for jewelry. She wanted
every shining stone she saw, and in summer she was always
going off into the sand hills to hunt for crystals and agates
and bits of pink chalcedony. She had two cigar boxes full
of stones that she had found or traded for, and she imagined
that they were of enormous value. She was always plan
ning how she would have them set.

" What are you reading? " The doctor reached under the
covers and pulled out a book of Byron s poems. "Do you
like this?"

She looked confused, turned over a few pages rapidly,
and pointed to "My native land, good-night." "That,"
she said sheepishly.

"How about Maid of Athens ?"



FRIENDS OF CHILDHOOD

She blushed and looked at him suspiciously. "I like
There was a sound of revelry, " she muttered.

The doctor laughed and closed the book. It was clumsily
bound in padded leather and had been presented to the
Reverend Peter Kronborg by his Sunday-School class as
an ornament for his parlor table.

" Come into the office some day, and I 11 lend you a nice
book. You can skip the parts you don t understand. You
can read it in vacation. Perhaps you ll be able to under
stand all of it by then."

Thea frowned and looked fretfully toward the piano.
" In vacation I have to practice four hours every day, and
then there ll be Thor to take care of." She pronounced it
"Tor."

"Thor? Oh, you ve named the baby Thor?" exclaimed
the doctor.

Thea frowned again, still more fiercely, and said quickly,
"That s a nice name, only maybe it s a little old-
fashioned." She was very sensitive about being thought a
foreigner, and was proud of the fact that, in town, her
father always preached in English; very bookish English,
at that, one might add.

Born in an old Scandinavian colony in Minnesota, Peter
Kronborg had been sent to a small divinity school in
Indiana by the women of a Swedish evangelical mission,
who were convinced of his gifts and who skimped and
begged and gave church suppers to get the long, lazy youth
through the seminary. He could still speak enough Swed
ish to exhort and to bury the members of his country
church out at Copper Hole, and he wielded in his Moon
stone pulpit a somewhat pompous English vocabulary he
had learned out of books at college. He always spoke
of "the infant Saviour," "our Heavenly Father, "etc. The
poor man had no natural, spontaneous human speech. If



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