Turning Crow Calls into Beauty
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Turning Crow Calls into Beauty~~~~
“I can’t do it!”
Eight-year-old Lowri Elen Teresinha Clorus shoved the offensive harp away from her and glared at it. Master Martin looked at her rather reproachfully, like he just suffered the greatest insult, his mustache moving up and down as he surveyed his young pupil.
“Now, now, Miss Lowri,” he said gently. “What did I tell you about treating the harp? It did not do anything wrong to you.”
Lowri crossed her arms and scowled at it. “It did too. It’s not playing for me.”
“That does not give you the right to shove it around like that. Now, let’s try again,” Firmly, Master Martin took her unwilling hands and placed them on the instrument. “There now. Let me hear it.”
The small girl’s face darkened at the prospect of trying again and her hands did not move to touch the instrument’s strings. Standing next to her, Master Martin watched the young girl through his pince nez and frowned at her unwillingness.
“Now, Miss Lowri, won’t you play for me?” he asked.
Lowri shook her head determinately. “I don’t like the stupid harp. I don’t want to learn it.”
“Your father says that you must. All girls of importance learn it at your age.”
“Well I don’t care. I don’t want to.”
“Now, Miss Lowri. Is that the way to respect your father’s wishes?”
Lowri frowned, her face as dark as a storm cloud in spite of the light blond hair that framed her face.
“I think you best be at least trying,” Master Martin said gently. “It is not as hard as you think.”
“I don’t want to and you can’t make me!”
Master Martin paused, his mustache twitching again. Lowri just glared at the instrument, hating the moment when her mother and father decided that she was too old for frolicking in the sun and had to come and learn how to embroider little flowers and how to play an instrument and how to do all sorts of other pointless things. Becoming a lady they called it. More like how to torture little girls she reasoned.
The door opened to her room but even that did not stir the little girl’s brooding.
“Lowri!” her father snapped suddenly, so harshly she jumped. Lowri blinked and brushed back some loose strands of hair from her face, looking at him. Her father––Drystan Clorus––was a rather large man, in both in height and size with brown hair and a short beard. For his forty years, he looked rather young. However, he was the richest man in all of Hidar, her hometown, and deserve to look as young as he did, for he started out with barely nothing. Lowri was not aware of what this vast wealth of his fully offered her; only that being a wealthy merchant’s daughter meant she had to learn how to play a harp.
Lowri stood quickly and brushed off her skirt. “Yes, Papa?”
“What is this that I hear you are doing?” His dark eyes bored down on his youngest without any compassion at her sad plight.
Lowri shifted a little and twirled a blond lock of hair around her finger.
“Are you causing Master Martin trouble?”
“No, Papa,” Lowri lied.
“He is hired to teach you to play an instrument. If you cannot play an instrument, I cannot present you to company and your choice of a husband will be reduced to nearly nothing. It is part of being a lady. Thus, you must learn and you must not give him any problems. Is that understood?”
Lowri shifted a bit, holding onto her skirt tightly. “Yes, sir.”
“Good. If she gives you anymore problems, Martin, I want a to be informed.”
Master Martin bobbed his head. “Yes, sir.”
Lowri’s father nodded and, after a quick glance as his daughter, left.
“Now, Miss Lowri, shall we try again?”
Lowri scowled at the instrument but arranged her hands into positions and slowly ran her fingers over the strings. A sound such as the last warbles of a dying crow managed to escape from the harp. Master Martin winced and began a flurry of corrections. Lowri sighed and leaned her head against the cool wood. She hated all instruments, especially harps.
Lowri lay on her bed, gazing dreamily up at the pink canopy above her. Had it really only been last night? It felt like more like a century ago. Yet, she was certain that it was just last night, for last night had been the night of the ball, the night that every single one of the young girls in town waited for with high expectations. It was not like the normal balls, for if it was just a normal ball it was of no great distinction than any other of the balls throughout the year. However, last night, two of the princes had come, accompanied by their father. Lowri cared nothing for the king. It was Prince Leyton who captured her––and all the girls around her age of twelve––attention. Not only was he remarkably handsome––with his brown hair brushed neatly to the side and his beautiful brown eyes––but because he was only thirteen. Not only that but he had danced with her! It was still incredible to imagine she, Lowri Elen Teresinha Clorus, danced with the prince of the whole land. Yet, she, out of all the other girls, had managed to capture his attention enough for him to ask her to dance, not once but twice! It was a dream come true.
With a little squeal, Lowri rolled over onto her belly and hugged the pillow. It was glorious, much too glorious, to think about. After all her dreams, to have him ask her for just the one dance was something she would never trade in the whole world. And when he asked her a second time, she nearly died. All of the other girls were so jealous of her and she would doubtlessly be questioned about it for quite some time. Already, she could imagine the conversations over tea.
Someone rapped on her door and opened it without being told to enter.
Lowri looked up, brushing back a strand of her light blond hair. In the past four years, she had begun to grow from a little girl to a blooming, beautiful young lady, with very light blond hair that flowed down most of her back and was the envy of many girls. Her blue eyes could laugh along with anyone but could also turn to ice without a moment’s notice. Now, at the age of twelve, she was learning to flirt and all sorts of new possibilities were opening up for her. She could easily get the attention of a young man three years her senior and many of her friends said she would soon become an expert in coquetry, by far surpassing Miss Jana, the best girl in town at fifteen.
However, it was only Miss Lyna who just barged into her room, her new teacher for the harp, not Mister Heddwyn with a message that one of her friends wished for her to come to tea or, better yet, one of her friends coming to gossip. Four years, although it may have changed her appearance, it had not changed her opinion of the harp. She would still prefer to be out riding or gossiping with her friends than learning how to play such a silly instrument, especially when it did not readily comply with her clumsy fingers.
“Now, Miss Lowri, I assume you have The Ides completed,” she said in her normal brisk manner.
Lowri frowned. “For the most part.”
Sighing, Lowri slipped off of the bed and went to where the harp stood forlornly in the corner. She hated the song she was assigned last week because it was so slow and had such a sad ending. However, Miss Lyna did not care for her young pupil’s opinion of the music that she chose and made her practice it anyway, for it showed certain parts of music better than most songs, but which and where parts, Lowri still was not certain. Miss Lyna expected that a song she gave her to be mastered in a week’s time and if it was not, it was her student’s fault for not practicing, even if her student practiced all week long. Miss Lyna’s strictness was rather irritating and the only good thing about her versus Master Mater was that she only came twice a week and left Lowri alone for the other days, although harp lessons were replaced with other seeming frivolous lessons, none of them things she wanted to do and still went under the classification as bothersome tasks.
Lowri slipped into the seat and looked for a moment at the harp. The wood, although shiny, did not seem as beautiful as Miss Lyna thought and the strings did not move as smoothly as she said they would, no matter how much Lowri tried to make them. Never did they make the sound that either of them wanted to hear either, at least not under Lowri’s clumsy hands.
“Miss Lowri?” Miss Lyna said in a bored voice.
Lowri took a deep breath and began to play. The normal crow screeches came out under her untrained fingers. Almost instantly Miss Lyna ordered a halt.
“What is that?” she screeched.
“It is The Ides, like you asked for,” Lowri said innocently.
“And when was the last time you tuned that instrument?” the teacher demanded.
Lowri paused, gazing up into space. Her mind jumped from day to day as she tried to recall the answer.
“That is what I thought,” she said. “Tune it now and then we will try again.”
Lowri frowned at the instrument. If there was anything she hated worse than playing it, it was tuning it. It took forever to actually get it done and even when it was finally tuned, it got out of tuned so fast that she could never get anything played.
“Hurry up, Miss Lowri. I do not like to have my time wasted away while you stare at nothing. Tune it.”
Lowri signed and began, playing a string, turning it and trying again. The time stretched on forever, with Miss Lyna’s tapping foot reminding her all the time of the time being wasted, when she could be dreaming or riding––anything but messing with the impossible instrument.
Finally, it was done. However, the song that she practiced once or twice, and really did not sound that bad to her, sounded atrocious to Miss Lyna and she immediately made her student play it again, then criticized everything that she did incorrectly. After the first few remarks, Lowri stopped listening and watched a robin hop from one branch to another outside of her bedroom window.
“Now, play the first part again, Miss Lowri, and let us at least try for some improvement,” Miss Lyna interrupted her thoughts. Shaking her graying head she sighed. “And here I thought you could play for your father’s company possibly at the end of the week. What a foolish woman am I when it comes to your ability.”
The large doors opened to the auditorium for Merchant Drystan Clorus and he walked in with his wife beside him. Behind them, their children followed: Jena, the eldest and betrothed to a excellent young man about ten miles away, Rohan, his only son who would be starting to take over the business soon, and then his youngest, and by far the prettiest, Lowri in the rear, trying to look around at all of the activity without looking as if she was. It was unseemly for a proper lady to stare, her mother always reminded her, but that did not mean a proper lady did not want to stare. Quietly, Lowri followed her brother up the stairs to their balcony seat that they always occupied when they attended a concert in this hall.
Lowri did not particularly care for any concert; she had heard more than enough piano soloist in her short thirteen years to last her a lifetime and a half. However, there was the promise that many of her friends would be here and, after a few songs, she could slip away from her father’s seat and join them in theirs, for all of the well-to-do owned balconies in the auditorium and she could visit nearly whichever one of them that she wished without causing any disruptions.
Lowri glanced over the other seats, hoping to catch sight of someone who she wanted to join. However, the room was dim and she could not see much beyond her own balcony, except for the stage. She craned her neck a little to try and see better but to no avail.
“Lowri!” her mother snapped.
Lowri jumped and turned, looking at her mother with an expression of innocence that was so common on her face yet so often not real. “What, Mother?”
“Stop squirming,” she said, with a voice much firmer than her body appeared to be able to hold. Mrs. Clorus had slowly declining health for the past several years and now she seemed just to be a skeleton of her normal self. Still, she managed to be strong enough to rebuke her youngest’s curious ways.
Lowri bowed her head slightly in faked humility but the moment her mother’s head turned, she looked back at the crowd. Lights were being dimmed, signaling the prelude to the performance. Most performances had a musician who was trying to get established as an introduction to the real musician. In reality, Rohan said, it was so that those who were late would not miss anything. To be in this hall was quite an honor and only the most promising musicians came. However, because those who played the prelude were new musicians, their concerts were generally worse than the real performers and Lowri paid less attention to them than she did to the real performer, who barely got much attention as it was.
Sighing, she leaned back and opened her fan, absently playing with it as the man came onto stage to announce that Henry Gale was to honor them with his presence and, although he was probably beyond the status of an introduction musician, they were still honored that he was willing to play for them. Then, a few lamps were lit around the stage and the musician walked on stage.
Lowri gazed at the vast darkness of where the ceiling should be, twisting her hair around her finger idly. It had to be like this: boring. These musicians that were above playing the introduction, her father said, were always the ones who were old enough they should have learned ten years ago they would not succeed as a musician.
Suddenly, the strands of harp music drifted through the hall. The beautiful sounds echoed around the room and bounced back, lingering in the air for a moment before dissipating, like the waves on the shore. Lowri pushed herself up to peer over the edge of the balcony and see what it actually looked like. The music came again, like a wave crashing against the shore, and suddenly his hands were dancing across the strings of the harp, moving so fast that she could not keep track of them. The music rose and fell in dramatic tones, washing over her, dancing, falling, rising, swirling. It came over her in such beauty that she never expected such a difficult instrument produce, not the instrument that only gave her crow calls.
Suddenly, there was a pause, an applaud––rather loud applause for an introduction musician––and he continued, his hands once again moving up and down the instrument, moving with such precision and speed that she could hardly believe it. She gazed enraptured as the sound came from it. Never in her life had she heard such pretty music, such strands that sounded as if it came from heaven.
It was on the third song that the man paused and straightened a little.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he addressed the crowd, “I would like to present to you a song never before heard by public ears: Rose Petals.”
There was a hush, so silent that the slightest sound could be heard, and he gazed at the balconies, seeming to search his mind for the right notes. When he looked up, his eyes met hers and her heart nearly stopped. Staring back at her was a young man, only a few years her senior, with curly brown hair that fell slightly over his forehead and bright, excited, dreamy eyes. Never had she seen such a handsome young man in her whole life. He smiled faintly before he turned back to his harp and his fingers once more beginning to dance across the strings, creating the music that again filled the large hall and washed over her in absolute beauty.
In that moment, Lowri fell in love with the harp.
The night sounds drifted slowly through Lowri’s window: an owl, some crickets, a few other birds, the trees. She lay snuggled deep in her bed, thinking back on that night. She had seen the young man––Henry Gale––after the concert but she had been unable to talk to him, although she wanted to. To be able to create such music, when he was not that much older than her, it was fantastic.
Lowri glanced at the harp that stood in the corner of her room. A fine layer of dust had settled on the instrument since she stopped playing several months ago. Her father had given up on her ever playing it and stopped hiring teachers but the harp stayed in her room as a silent ghost to her failure to play. Now, her mother was talking about possibly trying another instrument, perhaps something easier, like the piano. Lowri did not like the thought, but, then again, she did not like the thought of learning an instrument in the first place.
Until now that was. The strings that yielded so easily to the young musician could not be just because he was talented, though everyone was saying that. They had to yield to others as well. Others had to know how wonderful the music could sound, or no one would bother to play that instrument.
Lowri glanced at her hands and frowned a little. It would be nearly impossible for her to teach these clumsy hands to play as he did. Yet… if she could….
Quietly, Lowri slipped out of her bed and padded over to the harp. She ran a hand over the strings and such a horrid sound came from it that she cringed. It needed to be tuned desperately. Brushing off the seat, Lowri sat down and began once again the long process of tuning the instrument. Adjusting, Playing. Listening. Adjusting. Playing. Listening. Lowri closed her eyes, letting the sounds of night and the sound of the harp envelop her in a cloud of thoughts, desires and dreams.
As the last strand of the harp died, Lowri looked up at the guests that sat in the parlor and absently brushed back a strand of hair. Her father gazed thoughtfully out into space, his hands folded over his large stomach. The other guests, friends of her father from another town, seemed equal pensive. The lady was the first to rouse herself.
“A wonderful song, Miss Lowri. Absolutely wonderful!” Lady Reynard said, beaming approvingly.
Lowri smiled and bowed her head slightly in acknowledgment. “Thank you, Lady Reynard. I do enjoy it.”
“Isn’t she wonderful, Edwari?” the older women asked her husband. “Such a talented young girl. And only at fifteen.”
The older man nodded his balding head sleepily. “Yes, indeed, my wife. You should be proud of your daughter, Drystan.”
Her father smiled faintly and pushed himself up the in the chair. “I am indeed. I never actually thought that she would come this far.”
There was something in his eyes that Lowri caught, although she could not say what it was exactly. Yet, the flash of something filled her with so much happiness that it did not matter what it was. Perhaps, just perhaps, her mind reasoned, he was proud of her and not ashamed that she wanted to attract all the young men of town.
“So, now, Miss Lowri, do tell me what song it was?” Lady Reynard prodded.
Lowri glanced at the harp, a faint blush coming to her cheeks. She had not intended to play that song, since it was truly her first attempt to write her own music. It was easier, almost safer, to play songs that others wrote and already won the approval of many. Yet, it suddenly flowed out at the very end of her little concert for the three adults here and she could not stop it. Now, she was glad that she did.
“I––call it Tears In the Morn,“ Lowri said.
“So you wrote it?” Lady Reynard asked.
Lowri paused and then nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Oh!” She beamed and clapped her hands. “Such a talented young lady we have. Most certainly. And beautiful. And to imagine that you wrote it. How marvelous. How simply marvelous. You know, Edwadi, we really should consider her as a possible wife for our Larkin, when she’s older that is.”
Lowri smiled faintly, letting the praise wash over her, as she glowed inwardly. It had not been easy to learn to the play the harp, even when she did finally set her mind to it two and a half years ago. In fact, it had caused her many hardships as she labored over the careful precision and timing of the strings. Yet, it always seemed that just when things became the hardest, Henry Gale was scheduled to come into town. He had indeed become a great harpist––performing his own just six months after she first saw him––and she never failed to attend his concerts. All it took was one attendance and she once again was ready to play. The way he had with music never failed to lift her spirits and invigorate her.
Yet it had not been that hard either. Indeed, it was harder to imagine that she fought against learning it for so long. Now, it was her greatest friend and comfort––something she would never give up for the whole world. All it took was one little push during one concert by one dark-haired boy just about her age who managed to captivate her interest in the instrument long enough to give her a desire to learn, to improve and to become the harpist she was today. Indeed, when she thought about it that way, it was truly very simple.