It was no easy matter to convince Heinrich that it was finished. Hard to say That though they could not meet (he saw her wince) She still must keep the locket to allay Suspicion in her husband. She would pay Him from her savings bit by bit — the oath He swore at that was startling to them both.
Her resolution taken, Frau Altgelt Adhered to it, and suffered no regret. She found her husband all that she had felt His music to contain. Her days were set In his as though she were an amulet Cased in bright gold. She joyed in her confining; Her eyes put out her looking-glass with shining.
Charlotta was so gay that old, dull tasks Were furbished up to seem like rituals. She baked and brewed as one who only asks The right to serve. Her daily manuals Of prayer were duties, and her festivals When Theodore praised some dish, or frankly said She had a knack in making up a bed.
So Autumn went, and all the mountains round The city glittered white with fallen snow, For it was Winter. Over the hard ground Herr Altgelt's footsteps came, each one a blow. On the swept flags behind the currant row Charlotta stood to greet him. But his lip Only flicked hers. His Concert-Meistership
Was first again. This evening he had got Important news. The opera ordered from Young Mozart was arrived. That old despot, The Bishop of Salzburg, had let him come Himself to lead it, and the parts, still hot From copying, had been tried over. Never Had any music started such a fever.
The orchestra had cheered till they were hoarse, The singers clapped and clapped. The town was made, With such a great attraction through the course Of Carnival time. In what utter shade All other cities would be left! The trade In music would all drift here naturally. In his excitement he forgot his tea.
Lotta was forced to take his cup and put It in his hand. But still he rattled on, Sipping at intervals. The new catgut Strings he was using gave out such a tone The "Maestro" had remarked it, and had gone Out of his way to praise him. Lotta smiled, He was as happy as a little child.
From that day on, Herr Altgelt, more and more, Absorbed himself in work. Lotta at first Was patient and well-wishing. But it wore Upon her when two weeks had brought no burst Of loving from him. Then she feared the worst; That his short interest in her was a light Flared up an instant only in the night.
`Idomeneo' was the opera's name, A name that poor Charlotta learnt to hate. Herr Altgelt worked so hard he seldom came Home for his tea, and it was very late, Past midnight sometimes, when he knocked. His state Was like a flabby orange whose crushed skin Is thin with pulling, and all dented in.
He practised every morning and her heart Followed his bow. But often she would sit, While he was playing, quite withdrawn apart, Absently fingering and touching it, The locket, which now seemed to her a bit Of some gone youth. His music drew her tears, And through the notes he played, her dreading ears
Heard Heinrich's voice, saying he had not changed; Beer merchants had no ecstasies to take Their minds off love. So far her thoughts had ranged Away from her stern vow, she chanced to take Her way, one morning, quite by a mistake, Along the street where Heinrich had his shop. What harm to pass it since she should not stop!
It matters nothing how one day she met Him on a bridge, and blushed, and hurried by. Nor how the following week he stood to let Her pass, the pavement narrowing suddenly. How once he took her basket, and once he Pulled back a rearing horse who might have struck Her with his hoofs. It seemed the oddest luck
How many times their business took them each Right to the other. Then at last he spoke, But she would only nod, he got no speech From her. Next time he treated it in joke, And that so lightly that her vow she broke And answered. So they drifted into seeing Each other as before. There was no fleeing.
Christmas was over and the Carnival Was very near, and tripping from each tongue Was talk of the new opera. Each book-stall Flaunted it out in bills, what airs were sung, What singers hired. Pictures of the young "Maestro" were for sale. The town was mad. Only Charlotta felt depressed and sad.
Each day now brought a struggle 'twixt her will And Heinrich's. 'Twixt her love for Theodore And him. Sometimes she wished to kill Herself to solve her problem. For a score Of reasons Heinrich tempted her. He bore Her moods with patience, and so surely urged Himself upon her, she was slowly merged
Into his way of thinking, and to fly With him seemed easy. But next morning would The Stradivarius undo her mood. Then she would realize that she must cleave Always to Theodore. And she would try To convince Heinrich she should never leave, And afterwards she would go home and grieve.
All thought in Munich centered on the part Of January when there would be given `Idomeneo' by Wolfgang Mozart. The twenty-ninth was fixed. And all seats, even Those almost at the ceiling, which were driven Behind the highest gallery, were sold. The inches of the theatre went for gold.
Herr Altgelt was a shadow worn so thin With work, he hardly printed black behind The candle. He and his old violin Made up one person. He was not unkind, But dazed outside his playing, and the rind, The pine and maple of his fiddle, guarded A part of him which he had quite discarded.
It woke in the silence of frost-bright nights, In little lights, Like will-o'-the-wisps flickering, fluttering, Here — there — Spurting, sputtering, Fading and lighting, Together, asunder — Till Lotta sat up in bed with wonder, And the faint grey patch of the window shone Upon her sitting there, alone. For Theodore slept.
The twenty-eighth was last rehearsal day, 'Twas called for noon, so early morning meant Herr Altgelt's only time in which to play His part alone. Drawn like a monk who's spent Himself in prayer and fasting, Theodore went Into the kitchen, with a weary word Of cheer to Lotta, careless if she heard.
Lotta heard more than his spoken word. She heard the vibrating of strings and wood. She was washing the dishes, her hands all suds, When the sound began, Long as the span Of a white road snaking about a hill. The orchards are filled With cherry blossoms at butterfly poise. Hawthorn buds are cracking, And in the distance a shepherd is clacking His shears, snip-snipping the wool from his sheep. The notes are asleep, Lying adrift on the air In level lines Like sunlight hanging in pines and pines, Strung and threaded, All imbedded In the blue-green of the hazy pines. Lines — long, straight lines! And stems, Long, straight stems Pushing up To the cup of blue, blue sky. Stems growing misty With the many of them, Red-green mist Of the trees, And these Wood-flavoured notes. The back is maple and the belly is pine. The rich notes twine As though weaving in and out of leaves, Broad leaves Flapping slowly like elephants' ears, Waving and falling. Another sound peers Through little pine fingers, And lingers, peeping. Ping! Ping! pizzicato, something is cheeping. There is a twittering up in the branches, A chirp and a lilt, And crimson atilt on a swaying twig. Wings! Wings! And a little ruffled-out throat which sings. The forest bends, tumultuous With song. The woodpecker knocks, And the song-sparrow trills, Every fir, and cedar, and yew Has a nest or a bird, It is quite absurd To hear them cutting across each other: Peewits, and thrushes, and larks, all at once, And a loud cuckoo is trying to smother A wood-pigeon perched on a birch, "Roo — coo — oo — oo —" "Cuckoo! Cuckoo! That's one for you!" A blackbird whistles, how sharp, how shrill! And the great trees toss And leaves blow down, You can almost hear them splash on the ground. The whistle again: It is double and loud! The leaves are splashing, And water is dashing Over those creepers, for they are shrouds; And men are running up them to furl the sails, For there is a capful of wind to-day, And we are already well under way. The deck is aslant in the bubbling breeze. "Theodore, please. Oh, Dear, how you tease!" And the boatswain's whistle sounds again, And the men pull on the sheets: "My name is Hanging Johnny, Away-i-oh; They call me Hanging Johnny, So hang, boys, hang." The trees of the forest are masts, tall masts; They are swinging over Her and her lover. Almost swooning Under the ballooning canvas, She lies Looking up in his eyes As he bends farther over. Theodore, still her lover!
The suds were dried upon Charlotta's hands, She leant against the table for support, Wholly forgotten. Theodore's eyes were brands Burning upon his music. He stopped short. Charlotta almost heard the sound of bands Snapping. She put one hand up to her heart, Her fingers touched the locket with a start.
Herr Altgelt put his violin away Listlessly. "Lotta, I must have some rest. The strain will be a hideous one to-day. Don't speak to me at all. It will be best If I am quiet till I go." And lest She disobey, he left her. On the stairs She heard his mounting steps. What use were prayers!
He could not hear, he was not there, for she Was married to a mummy, a machine. Her hand closed on the locket bitterly. Before her, on a chair, lay the shagreen Case of his violin. She saw the clean Sun flash the open clasp. The locket's edge Cut at her fingers like a pushing wedge.
A heavy cart went by, a distant bell Chimed ten, the fire flickered in the grate. She was alone. Her throat began to swell With sobs. What kept her here, why should she wait? The violin she had begun to hate Lay in its case before her. Here she flung The cover open. With the fiddle swung
Over her head, the hanging clock's loud ticking Caught on her ear. 'Twas slow, and as she paused The little door in it came open, flicking A wooden cuckoo out: "Cuckoo!" It caused The forest dream to come again. "Cuckoo!" Smashed on the grate, the violin broke in two.
"Cuckoo! Cuckoo!" the clock kept striking on; But no one listened. Frau Altgelt had gone.