A Wagner Matinee part 6

During the intermission before the second half, I questioned my aunt and found that the “Prize Song” was not new to her. Some years before there had drifted to the farm in Red Willow County a young German, a tramp cow-puncher, who had sung in the chorus at Bayreuth when he was a boy, along with the other peasant boys and girls. On a Sunday morning he used to sit on his gingham-sheeted bed in the hands` bedroom which opened off the kitchen, cleaning the leather of his boots and saddle, singing the “Prize Song,” while my aunt went about her work in the kitchen.

Boyish face

She had hovered over him until she had prevailed upon him to join the country church, though his sole fitness for this step, in so far as I could gather, lay in his boyish face, and his possession of this divine melody. Shortly afterward, he had gone to town on the Fourth of July, been drunk for several days, lost his money at a faro table, ridden a saddled Texas steer on a bet, and d

A Wagner Matinee part 5

The overture closed, my aunt released my coat sleeve, but she said nothing. She sat staring dully at the orchestra. What, I wondered, did she get from it? She had been a good pianist in her day, I knew, and her musical education had been broader than that of most music teachers of a quarter of a century ago. She had often told me of Mozart`s operas and Meyerbeer`s, and I could remember hearing her sing, years ago, certain melodies of Verdi.

When I had fallen ill, with a fever in her house she used to sit by my cot in the evening when the cool night wind blew in through the faded mosquito netting tacked over the window and I lay watching a certain bright star that burned redmbove the cornfield and sing “Home to our mountains, O let us return!” in a way fit-to break the heart of a Vermont boy near dead of home-sickness already.

Seething turmoil

I watched her closely through the prelude to Tristan and Isolde, trying vainly to conjecture what that

A Wagner Matinee part 4

The matinee audience was made up chiefly of women. One lost the contour of faces and figures, indeed any effect of line whatever, and there was only the color of bodices past counting, the shimmer of fabrics soft and fine, silky and sheer; red, mauve, pink, blue, lilac, purple, ticru, rose, yellow, cream, and white, all the colors that an impressionist finds in a sunlit landscape, with here and there the dead shadow of a frock coat. My Aunt Georgiana regarded them as though they had been so many daubs of tube-paint on a palette.

Old Maggie

When the musicians came out and took their places, she gave a little stir of anticipation, and looked with quickening interest down over the rail at that invariable grouping, perhaps the first wholly familiar thing that had greeted her eye since she had left old Maggie and her weakling calf. I could feel how all those details sank into her soul, for I had not forgotten how they had sunk into mine when I came fresh from plowin

A Wagner Matinee part 3

When my aunt appeared on the morning after her arrival in Boston, she was still in a semi-somnambulant state. She seemed not to realize that she was in the city where she had spent her youth, the place longed for hungrily half a lifetime. She had been so wretchedly train-sick throughout the journey that she had no recollection of anything but her discomfort, and, to all intents and purposes, there were but a few hours of nightmare between the farm in Red Willow County and my study on Newbury Street.

I had planned a little pleasure for her that afternoon, to repay her for some of the glorious moments she had given me when we used to milk together in the straw-thatched cowshed and she, because I was more than usually tired, or because her husband had spoken sharply to me, would tell me of the splendid performance of the Huguenots she had seen in Paris, in her youth.

Symphony Orchestra

At two o`clock the Symphony Orchestra was to give a Wagner program,

A Wagner Matinee part 2

Whatever shock Mrs. Springer experienced at my aunt`s appearance, she considerately concealed. As for myself, I saw my aunt`s battered figure with that feeling of awe and respect with which we behold explorers who have left their ears and fingers north of Franz- Joseph Land or their health somewhere along the Upper Congo.

My Aunt Georgiana had been a music teacher at the Boston Conservatory, somewhere back in the later sixties. One summer, while visiting in the little village among the Green Mountains where her ancestors had dwelt for generations, she had kindled the callow fancy of my uncle, Howard Carpenter, then an idle, shiftless boy of twenty-one. When she returned to her duties in Boston, Howard followed her, and the upshot of this infatuation was that she eloped with him, eluding the reproaches of her family and the criticism of her friends by going with him to the Nebraska frontier.

Carpenter

Carpenter, who, of course, had no money, took u

A Wagner Matinee part 1

Willa Gather (1876-1947)

Willa Sibert Cather was born at Winchester, Va., in 1876. She was for some years engaged in newspaper work, and was until 1912 associate editor of McClure`s Magazine. Her novels, My Antonia and A Lost Lady, are among the best modern American fiction. In Jier volume Touth and the Bright Medusa she offers a variety of well-written short stories. Miss Cather described with honesty and power the characters and scenes she knew and understood.

A Wagner Matinee is reprinted from Youth and the Bright Medusa. Copyright, 1920, by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, and William Heinemann, London, by whose permission it is here used.

A Wagner Matinee

I received one morning a letter, written in pale ink on glossy blue-lined note-paper, and bearing the postmark of a little Nebraska village. This communication, worn and rubbed, looking as if it had been carried for some days in a coat pocket that was none too clean, was from my Uncle Ho