IT was not because its rich heart failed that the Hinterland was abandoned; the reason was simply its mountainous isolation from the railroads, which could not, after all, be induced to come that way. For the same reason it was bought from the gold-seekers by a man who was seeking something else.
He lived in the manager’s house (though by no means as the manager had lived); he let the shaft fill up with water and the hoist decay; he put the silent stamp-mill to uses for which it had not been intended. When its white beams grew dim it was as full of shadows as an ancestral garret; but its corruption was more of rust than of moth, and it gloomed in sudden abysses unknown to attics the most far-reaching. It was a building of many stories, with the floors left out. There were platforms and galleries and bits of staging where steep stairs paused and went breathlessly on. Among sleeping wheels and sagging belts and crowd of beams the stamps hung, ranked like the pipes of a great organ.
The bottom of the mill was floored, and heated by a stove. It was in some sort furnished, and had an air of detachment from the gaunt heights above it. On the rough table there was apt to be an incongruous choice of books and papers. There could be no doubt of the unusual - ness of a piano in such surroundings; but this one was the better suited to their scale for being a concert grand.
Early on a summer morning the man who had bought the Hinterland for solitude sat at the keys, governing them masterfully. He seemed to listen less to what he played than to sounds in the tangled gloom above him. There were two voices up there, hooting and calling to each other with joyful inconsequence and much awakening of sound among the rafters. The man hushed his chords, and gave with precision the single notes of Siegfried’s horn. At this signal the young shouters, boy and girl, presented themselves in cat-like descent of the stairs. Their surefootedness was part of a beauty singularly dependent upon absolute form. They were straight-haired, narrow-eyed, sunburned without mercy; but faultlessly slender, with clear, interested faces. It proved the power of the type that in each a reminder of the other was welcome, — the resemblance between them was their final charm.
The man at the piano smiled as they dropped from the last flight beside him. He kept a breathing of chords beneath his hands. His utterance was deliberate.
“ I wonder if you are ever likely to grow up. It is hard to give you credit for your twenty years.”
“That’s only because we’ve been singing so badly,” said the girl with affectionate impertinence. “Last week you were talking about the ‘mouths of babes.’ Take Kit before me, won’t you ? Poor little Clara’s tired.”
“There are going to be occasions when she ’ll have to sing whether she is tired or not.”
“Yes,” said Clara comfortably, “but this is not one of them; ” and she stretched herself out on the floor. Her skirts clung to her long slenderness. Both her clothes and her brother’s showed an unmistakable cut and style, but elimination was evidently their principle of dress. They carried it so far as to the wearing of sandals, — no compromise called by that name, but the sandal of the Greek, bound with a thong between the toes upon feet accustomed to exposure.
The man at the piano had threatening gray brows and a splendid, unyielding old face. He looked down at Clara, and she relinquished her position of insubordinate rest, and went up the steps of the first platform. This was but the height of a stage above the floor, of loose boards sloping back to the wall of stamps. With a defiant yet business-like appearance of being under fire, Kit and Clara faced their teacher at this elevation, and by turns sent a solitary young voice through the mill. For young voices they were unusual, and they showed a master’s training; but their early finish seemed rather to emphasize in each a certain disappointing quality; they tantalized with a hint of power that was not fulfilled. One could not name the lack.
There were lapses from his standard, however, which the teacher found no difficulty in naming. His dispraise rose into despairing figures of speech.
“ Kit! ” he groaned. “Am I to sit here, after all these years, and hear you breathe ! Give me those notes unveiled! Keep your breath behind them, man! Clear! clear!”
It needed imagination to detect a stain on Kit’s pure tones; his teacher’s irritation may have been roused in part by a subtler insufficiency. With an expression of relief, he turned back the pages of his music, and said, “Now. Together!”
On the platform the two singers eyed each other soberly; the notes of the accompaniment lingered to include them, and they sang in unison. It was the fitting of lock and key. These voices had been made upon the same day, and tuned to an indivisible third. They had rushed together, and out of them had risen one voice; but it was rich from the hearts of two. It was more, for the suggested charm which had failed in either one woke in their union and caught the listener’s breath.
To the singers this awakening of power brought a delicious freedom, a happy self-consciousness that became them like a smile, though no smile could find its way to their earnest faces. The teacher did not look at them. In the searching support of his accompaniment one might almost fancy a caress, but he said nothing.
The singers slipped down from their stage. The young man crossed to the table, and turned over some manuscript scores, his eyes interpreting them as the less musically educated read print. The girl stood by the old musician with a little appeal in her attitude.
“Not good, Uncle Gregory?” she questioned.
He faced round at her abruptly. “I ’ve not given you much praise to work on, lately? Is that it?”
Clara’s mouth was tremulous. “We don’t want praise to work on, but we want it when we have worked,” she said. “ The opera is yours, Uncle Gregory, but Kit and I belong to the opera, and you ought n’t to make us sing in the dark.”
Gregory Borgne smiled to himself. “It’s a good place to sing. Madame Mantegna would say, ‘Learn by the footlights, and you’ll be able to sing there.’ I say, ‘Learn in the dark, and you will never notice the footlights.’ But she believes in hard work at the bottom. She will tell you whether you can sing or not.”
“What does she know about it that you don’t know?”
“She has the standards of the world, my dear. You don’t suppose they are made up here in the mountains ? ”
Clara leaned against his shoulder and fingered the keys. “ We may not be makers of standards, but we’re makers of music, Uncle Greg. Tell me, was n’t that music we made just now?”
“Ah, we did n’t make it ‘just now.’”
“But are n’t the years beginning to tell?”
The old musician laid his hand over the fingers on the keys. “It would not be strange if something had happened to my standards. Clara, how do you think it makes a man feel to hear the music that he put his heart and brain into, sung as he heard it in his dreams,—no, as he never even dreamed it, — sung — sung as you and Kit sang it ‘just now With sudden tears in his eyes, he rose and strode out of the mill-room.
Clara turned to her brother. “You were reading. Did you hear?”
“I heard,” said Kit, “and I saw. But we’ve always known he cared like that underneath, even when he ‘poured out his indignation’ on us.”
“The indignation was generally mutual,” said Clara reminiscently.
“ But he never used to think of whether other people would care. Now he does.”
“It’s only certain people. And we’ll make them care.”
Kit frowned thoughtfully. “I believe he will die of it if we don’t. It’s partly the opera and partly us, and we’re so wound up together ” —
“ Oh, Kit, we must. Let’s believe that we can.”
“I believe,” said Kit (evidently the result of conscientious thought), “that there is something queer about our voices.”
Gregory Borgne had tasted early success as a composer, and it had not satisfied him. It may have been due to his nature, or to the nature of the success. There was abundant homage, and one repeated criticism, — that his music was cold. “As they interpret it, —certainly,” Gregory would say; and then, with his gentle insolence: “I have heard none yet who could sing my songs. There is more than coldness in restraint.”
Though the quality of his music might be undetermined, the high restraints of character were written unmistakably on Gregory’s face. If in middle life he became to some extent a hermit, none attributed it to coldness. Those who visited him at the Hinterland carried from there an almost reverent memory of their host, and of his mountains and the musicbroken silence.
Such a memory came home to his younger brother, Christopher Borgne, in the day when his children were made motherless, but not through the dignity of death. In the midst of the disillusioning society which was his choice, he was as much the idealist as Gregory. There was in his social pride something analogous to his brother’s musical conscience, and in both there was a large hope in humanity which sometimes makes intolerance for the failure of the individual. When Christopher Borgne took steps to cut out of his life the woman who had dishonored him, he would have wished to annihilate all memory, to cleanse his thoughts of one face. His children looked at him with her eyes, and he put them out of his sight till the years should deepen over what they recalled.
He entrusted them to Gregory, with loving, bitter words. “Shut them up in your mountains, Greg. Feed them on your cold music. Make them good. If any one can, you can do it.”
In addition to his head being somewhat in the clouds, Gregory was humbly mistrustful of himself as a guardian. The twins were at first left largely to Jeanne, his remarkable Swiss housekeeper, and she was equal to the charge. It was a happy life for children. The mountain slopes were free and far about them; their playhouse was the echoing mill. Jeanne’s maternal over-anxiousness was not always companionable; but Paul, her husband, was indulgent, a teller of fairy-tales, and master of the horses, the cow, and the pigeons.
Between Gregory and the children there existed a mutual awe, which was both deepened and bridged on the day when they were found to have a boundless plaything in common. It was almost frightening to Gregory to find how utterly he could music-charm their restless young bodies, how instantly call a light and stillness into their stormy little faces. He turned from the music of the intricate and misunderstood, and played with the music we all understand, to please two babies. But it did not hurt his work. He set their Greek fables to lucid melodies, and they called them “The Hero Songs.” As he smiled and fashioned them, he little knew that they were the germ of his great music allegories, to which later the world denied the name of dramas, but over which it dreamed and wept.
If Kit and Clara brought youth into Gregory’s music, his music fairly ran in their veins. They lived, moreover, on the same nourishment, — nature at her loveliest, the books that Gregory loved, the friends he admitted to his fortress. During certain years there was a tutor, one year a governess; but they were chosen ones, and, under the spell of the place, almost reluctantly instructive. There were letters from without. The father who would not see his children tasked his clever brain in writing to them. Clara’s godmother, a brilliant Frenchwoman, was a guarded correspondent. These were distinct influences. The outside world came to them; but sifted and strained and exquisitely edited, as it comes to the deaf and blind. Yet by the same fate the great windows of expression were generously opened to them. Either the safety of outlets in an isolated life, or pleasant memories of his student days in Vienna, induced Gregory’s resolve that his charges should have the freedom of other languages than their own. They spoke, in fact, three,—French, German,and music; the first two with inaccurate facility, the last with a young eloquence that came in time to be the meaning of life for Gregory.
When their voices began to mature, the extraordinary correspondence between them came to light, and it haunted him like a sign. Humanly, it seemed to him a mystic birth-bond, and an answer to the question in his brother’s ruined life. But it was as an answer to the eternal question of darkness in the world that he built around it the greatest of his music allegories. The inseparableness of joy and sorrow, of good and evil, was surely a theme grand enough to be sung once more. He took the simple story of Pluto and Proserpine, and bereft it of one dominant feature. His Pluto was not the bearded, iron king, — only a stern young death-angel, with life’s hand in his.
The inspiration and the work of Gregory’s manhood culminated in his Proserpine, and Kit and Clara breathed its power till, even in their careless teens, they half understood. It was instinctively, and through no word of Gregory’s, that they connected it somehow with the blot in their family past. When he construed it for them, it was in large generalities, as: “ If sorrow come over your life, my Clara, you will go into the depths of it, and then you will be queen of it, like Proserpine. If you find sin about you, trust in your own strength, and then be worthy of your own trust.” He quoted: “‘Among the dead she breathes alone. ’ The sinful are only dead, — dead to life’s meaning. They will not hurt you.”
To Kit, who was not troubled with selfdistrust, he preached: “Believe in others. Snatch your Proserpine from her daffodil fields, and take her into the deeps with you. If she disappoint you, believe in her still, and you will see her dry her childish tears and meet your kingly faith with a queen’s calm.”
These sayings were not directly applicable, but they mingled with the rich music, the haunting libretto of Proserpine, to create an atmosphere which deepened about the boy and girl. Only they were too hard-worked to realize it.
Gregory had concluded that he had a message to the world, and that the world must hear it. The children of his training should startle its banality with his music on their lips, — the music that was made for them, nay, made of them; that bound their mated voices in coiling fugue and strong duet, and veil on veil of meaning. A stage should be stripped of its silly trappings to make a setting for these singers of the mill, and the great orchestra that had played his symphonies and left him cold should stir his heart as it rose to bear their voices.
In the meantime no professionals could have been more sternly under training. Gregory had taught them to work, and he spared neither them nor himself. When Clara’s thinness gave him compunctions, he spoke of her to the usually anxious Jeanne, who answered briefly: “ I’ve seen her the same from hard riding. It’s no matter at her age.” She longed to say to the white-haired guardian that at his it did matter.
Certain of Gregory’s musical associates had heard his pupils sing, and, unable to analyze the charm that confused them, had smiled and talked about the magic of the mountains. Now at last that friend from among the famous professionals was coming, of whom Gregory said teasingly to the children, “Madame Mantegna will tell you whether you can sing or not.”
What Madame Mantegna said was that they could not act.
Even the standards of the world differ, however. Another of its ambassadors, while professing to have no knowledge of voices, was skeptical of these two on the risky ground that he had never seen a singer yet who could act, and these youngsters could. He was a decorator by profession; by vocation, according to his own blithe assurance, a scene-painter. His views on the subject were peculiar, and he never yet had put them into practice; but they coincided with Gregory’s, as did also his theories of acting. He combatted Madame Mantegna on the subject.
“It is extraordinarily like nature, of course, but it is n’t: nature would break down and be self-conscious. It’s an art as broad as a philosophy of life, and it’s been rubbed into them for years. Not trained ? They are trained within an inch of their lives, — and then trained not to show it. That’s acting!” Madame Mantegna’s great laugh would embrace his assertion that Gregory Borgne was “no mere musician. He’s a giant. He writes his own librettos, and, I tell you, he has trained his own singers.”
The enthusiast approached Kit on the subject, and his opinions were confirmed, though with a comical irritation at the unmusical point of view.
“Of course we’ve been taught to act! If you don’t move properly and keep quiet between times, it interferes with the dignity of things. But it’s not the acting, Mr. Vinton, it’s the music that we’re doing it for!”
At the bottom of Kit’s disgust was probably Vinton’s ill-disguised joy in the personal appearance of the actors. He pleaded his ignorance of music. “I’m not even sure what your voice is called. Is it a tenor ? ”
“It’s half a voice,”growled Kit. “Clara has the other half; ” — which remark was more illuminating to Vinton than one more courteous and technical would have been.
Kit withdrew, and grumbled to Clara. “He’s the most frivolous person! I suppose artists get like that from only looking at the outside of things.”
“I don’t know,” Clara considered. “He saw the mill in the early morning when it’s all shadows, and he said he could n’t make us a better Hades than that. I said we used it for the Elysian Fields, too, and he said he supposed that in the end they were made of the same things. That sounded like Uncle Gregory.”
Madame Mantegna relinquished none of her lifelong convictions, but she set them aside with a magnificent generosity. From a friendly interest in the furthering of Gregory’s project she arrived at accepting even with enthusiasm the rôle of Ceres. In all the music allegories the second part is given to the soprano (Clara’s voice was low), but this is only one of their unconventionalities.
“I long for their publication!” Mantegna would exclaim. “They are heavenly beautiful! But no more dramatic than an étude, — Proserpine the least so. Why did you not choose Pandora, or The Man with One Sandal ?”
Gregory shook his head. “Proserpine is of the same blood as its singers. And it is the story of life’s two voices.”
“Ah, yes! That meaning you find in the children’s.”
“ And you ? ”
“Ah!” she would laugh. “There is no mystery. They can sing!”
But there was something that kept the restless Mantegna fascinated, and loyal to the incredible little opera.
Kit and Clara stood in no particular awe of this celebrity. Her rhapsodies of colloquial French amused them. They rather disapproved of her manner, — her effusiveness toward Gregory, who never appeared to notice it, and toward themselves, making them mirthfully uncomfortable. But on her professional side they understood and admired her. She was glorious, they said, when she sang. If her acting was to them affected, they recognized it as simply a different school of training; and she was vast and motherly, said the slender, loose-belted Clara, “as Ceres ought to be.”
When Mantegna had returned to the city, when the last month at the Hinterland was passing, that cool adherence to the work in hand which had been trained into Kit and Clara began to give way before a sense of culmination in their lives. One drowsy noon they sat in the frame of a big mill window, eating bread and milk with singers’ appetites. Below them there was an alarming drop into treetops, and a dusty, empty road which wound away into a little ravine and disappeared. Beyond it —
Blue after blue.
Kit regarded the prospect gloomily. “How long since the dust in that road has been stirred up?” he demanded.
Clara was too hungry to be figurative. “Since Paul rode over it last night with the mail,” she said.
“ I suppose,” mused Kit, “the prophets do come from the wilderness; and the oracles were in the mountains. But I should like to think crowded thoughts for awhile.”
“Kit, what are you talking about?”
“I was thinking of the things Uncle Gregory says. He mixes them up with everything else so you don’t notice at the time, but afterwards you remember. He says the city gives you the law of life in thousands and thousands of words, and they ’re so different from each other you don’t see that they belong to a law at all. The mountains, he says, give it in only a few words, and the same ones day after day until you learn. And then he says” —
“And then,” smiled Clara, “he says, ‘Don’t forget what the mountains taught, when you hear the city saying it another way.’”
“I guess the city is going to test more than our voices, Kit.”
There was a strong look in Kit’s face. He remarked, under his breath, “I should rather bet it was! Well, Uncle Greg has taught us the law. It won’t be his fault if we forget.”
“I don’t see why it should be harder among other men and women. They are trying not to forget, too.”
“Some of them don’t try.”
Clara gave a little hurt sound.
“Some of them have forgotten long ago. Some of them never even knew. That’s what Proserpine means.”
“Kit! It means a great deal more than that. But, at least, you would like to sing among them, would n’t you, — the multitude?”
“My dear girl, I should like to live among them.”
“Ah, you are restless!” smiled Clara.
Her next remark confessed to something akin.
“I hope father won’t write again this month. His letters make one feel excited, and think of outside things when one ought to be working.”
“Probably he will, though. He must have ours by now, and know all about the opera. Will he come and see us, d’ you suppose ? In the characters of other people I should think he might.”
There was a pause. Allusion to the broken family always silenced them to each other.
Kit poured milk into his bowl. “These important voices must be fed,” he observed.
“Uncle Gregory has written, too,” said Clara. “And, do you know, I think he is disturbed, — that he’s not sure of father’s approval.”
“It’s late now for disapproval.”
The same thought was in Gregory’s mind that night, as he paced the hill before his house, passing and repassing the little, dark windows behind which his charges slept. There was a light in his study. Opened upon the overture to Proserpine lay the letter from his brother that was wringing his heart. Fragments of it repeated themselves to him through hours of thought.
. . . “I was all but resolved to see them again. Perhaps my only hesitation was a feeling that, having shrunk from responsibility, I had not earned the right to share its fruits, to claim them at the end of difficult childhood. But it seems it is to end before the footlights. ... I asked that they be kept out of temptation. You have chosen a road that inevitably leads into it. I thought of your music as the crowning beauty in the life you could give them. You have sacrificed them to it. I forgot that genius was inhuman. . . . You kept faith with me for a while, my brother; their letters prove it. For that I thank you. Take the reward of your care. But I forget: you have taken it already. Well, enjoy it at its fullest. You will have no word of interference, or of anything else, from me. You have made my children fatherless,”
Gregory wrestled with these phrases till far into the dawn. It was, in fact, too late to turn back now. If his letter had conveyed so little of his project’s deeper meaning, to abandon the opera would not restore his brother’s faith, or make him believe his children nobly reared. There was but one language in which Gregory could explain, — that of the music his brother cursed. He longed to say to him, as it was said by Philip of old, “Come and see.”
Grief held back to give room for one slim hope, — that perhaps, unbidden, he would come.
Some weeks later Christopher Borgne left the streets of a brilliant city night, and stepped into the opera house. The overture was finished, lights down, as he followed his usher, and he took his seat at the rising of the curtain. He had timed himself carefully, for there would be friends whom he would not wish to speak to that night, and who conceivably might wish to avoid him. It was a full house. There were many who came for the music of Gregory Borgne, or to hear Mantegna. But there was also expectation in regard to the new singers, who had been, reservedly, it is true, but effectually advertised,—a process under which two men present had writhed. The business side of his concert days had never bothered Gregory, but he shuddered at the printing of “his children’s” pictures no less than their outraged father.
Immediately on the rising of the curtain Christopher Borgne’s fastidious taste approved the stage-setting. Vinton had not attempted to make his meadows of Enna realistic, or to cover the impossibility of doing so by mists of veiling or cold blue distances. They were as much a decoration and a background as though they had been woven in an arras, — indeed, his low greens had a textile richness. Against them a chorus of nymphs stirred and wreathed in slow dance and song. Borgne did not distinguish at first what it was that gave them a look of appropriateness, a congruity not usually discoverable between a chorus girl and the Greek dress. In the place of rouge and whitening, their skins were slightly darkened. The idea had occurred to Vinton at the Hinterland, watching Kit and Clara in their white clothes and sun-brownness. But the sun does not paint opaquely. Clara herself was now the fairest of the nymphs, as hers was among them all the only fine, transparent face. Christopher Borgne noticed that face; but she mingled so unobtrusively with the others that she had no appearance of the leading lady. As they drew backward and melted into the wings, she separated from them, as though by accident, and drifted toward the orchestra. Her eyes swept the house an instant with a child-like bewilderment, almost alarm. It passed at once, and she recovered her look of unconsciousness, — a thing no less trained than the assurance of the chorus-girls, yet as far removed as her whole personality from theirs. They were gone, and she stood alone. One expected her to sing, but she did not. She stood listening. To him who watched her with such double earnest she was not yet realized as his daughter, — she was Proserpine, with the daffodils in her hands, chosen of darkness, — waiting. The moan of the orchestra broke into a cry, and the light went out. When it came in gloom again Pluto and Proserpine stood together. Their voices rose above the instruments, one in strength and one in fear, one in wild entreaty, the other in pure relentlessness; yet over all an inviolable chord.
It may have been this persistence of unity which gave such impressiveness to the strange little opera as it drifted, dim and unaccented, through the hours. It made possible an extraordinary absence of gesture in the acting of the two main parts. It was less as if the singers moved than as if the music moved them. Their motions seemed no more deliberate than the vibrations of an instrument under the player’s hand.
But there was one attitude, purely natural, which, as the allegory unfolded, took the semblance of a haunting bit of acting. It was an awestruck attention, — keen as the gaze of a listening hound. Rehearsals had not taken from Kit and Clara their first wonder at the voice of a great orchestra. Related in their thoughts to another new and awful note, — the roar of the street, — that Titan power of sound, when it swelled in the familiar bars of Proserpine, was to them the voice of the city, made of many voices, saying with overwhelming words the home thoughts they had been simply taught. Again and again it broke through their concentration, and gave them listening faces. And that look of listening took its place like a recurring note in the music of Proserpine, and like those pauses in the march of life when we seem to hear its meaning.
The second act had opened upon a pale world of the dead, — its mists more drear than its shadows, — crowded with dim shapes, and still empty, — aimless. Through this underworld, their full tones cutting the chorus of the dead, moved the two young singers, with their strong faces. The orchestra’s wild hopelessness surged to meet them. Their normal human look combined powerfully with their closeness to the time-worn ideal of the old Greeks. She wore that simplest of all dresses; his brown limbs were bared to knee and shoulder; but their modern, intensified faces showed, modeled by thought and wan, above the footlights. The intricate music wound about them. They sang, — and all the contradictions and conflicts in the world seemed to melt into that twohearted voice.
Christopher Borgne was sharing with an added and personal intensity the wave of magnetism that went through the house. He lost himself in it, and for a space let it cloud his swift perceptions. Then, movement by movement, passage by passage, a meaning to what he saw and heard stole into being. His brother’s voice, become through his genius the voice of humanity, was whispering in his ear. He roused himself as if from a trance. When was it that Pluto had given his queen the cleft pomegranate seeds, and she had taken them, with her daring eyes in his ? To Christopher the scene had burned with the suggestion of his own refusal, once, when a gift was left him from his dead love. The last act was drawing near its close. That was his daughter leaning in Mantegna’s arms, her sweet profile raised to the older, coarser face. She drew away,—for a few last moments she was Proserpine again, claimed by her destiny, her half-unwilling hand in the dark young king’s. Then the curtain dropped, and the cry of the instruments sank and died into a hush, preceding the uncertain and bewildered applause.
As the audience streamed down into the street, there might be heard contradictory reasons for the composer’s not appearing in answer to his call. The singers’ refusal might be an artistic objection to anticlimax, but it was rumored of Gregory that, either through illness or emotion, he was suddenly and utterly prostrated, and had been taken insensible to his carriage. This account was no exaggeration of what had so quietly occurred.
When Gregory woke from his long unconsciousness, the first dawn was whitening at the window, and stealing into one of those expressionless hotel rooms which yet may be the setting of the most human crises. There were three watchers by his bed, — his niece and nephew, and a man of rugged brows and gray-streaked hair, whose face looked to him now as it had in their far-off youth.
“Kit,” he said.
The boy at his other side started to his feet, and then sat down again, seeing it was his father that was meant. He leaned his head on his hands. He was realizing his own youth, and how these men had lived and loved before he was born. They talked together through long hours. Gregory’s words were faint and broken, the younger man’s quiet tones vibrant with emotion.
“You have not trained them for the stage, Greg, you have trained them for life. It is not enough to say, ‘You have done what I asked.’ You have done what, in my wretched unbelief, I thought impossible, and did not ask. And then I weakly, grossly, misunderstood you.”
“No. When you had my explanation, the only one I could make, you understood. I wrote that music with your children in my house, and my heart was torn for you. I wrote it for myself, too. I have been ambitious. And I’ve loved beauty more, perhaps, than a man should, even at its highest, — it is not always truth; but this time I have found it true.”
“And I loved it,” said the younger brother, “and took it into my life, and found it false.”
“Yes, you risked all for it once, but one must risk again. For the sake of the one chance, take a thousand. Kit, never again turn life away because you are afraid of it.” His thoughts wandered. “For years I’ve watched them, — playing in the mill, —and you — might have watched them, too.” His eyes turned to the brightening window, and he muttered, “‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust.’ ” He looked at Kit and Clara with a great, unseeing gaze. “See them on the hill in the sunlight,” he murmured. “ My beautiful children! That is their element. Sun from above, not lights from below.”
Later he asked for music, and the pale young singers struggled to answer the demand. Their voices rose strangely in the hushed room; first in fragments of Proserpine. Then they slipped into one of the “ Hero Songs ” he had made for them, years ago, and Clara’s soft tones trembled into sobs.
Yet is it not well for a man to die in the hour of his greatest happiness ? Gregory never heard the critics’ comments upon the inspiration of his life. He did not know that Proserpine was never staged again; that the world said of it what Mantegna had said. And it is not always given a man to see in his own failure the larger success.
There were many in that audience of Proserpine’s one night who never forgot it. The music found its way into the homes of thousands. To its two first singers it brought, a home. And its subtle score, once learned so well, lay forever in their hearts. They lived that veiled and ghostly lesson with a great reality.