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The harper left early the next morning, but his music stayed with me all day. The melodies he played teased at my mind, half-forgotten. I thought I might go mad unless I could hear them again. I wanted to hum a bit as I worked, but father was unusually silent that day, and I didn’t want to disturb him. He had a long, thoughtful look on his face, sad and deep.
That night, after supper, when Father would usually sit and watch the fire and talk of the doings of the day, instead he went out with a lantern. I watched him going toward the barn, a single lone light bobbing in the dark. Some time later the light reappeared, coming closer and closer, until I could see Father was carrying something. A bundle all wrapped up in leather and tied with cord.
On the outside, the leather was mildewed and rat-chewed. Mother made a pinched face of disapproval when Father set it down on the table, but she didn’t say anything. Layer by layer the wrappings came off. My sister and I watched eagerly. “What is it, Da?” my sister asked, but he never said a word.
When the last layer of leather wrappings came unwound, at first I was sorely disappointed to see nothing but a bundle of oddly-shaped pieces of wood. But then I watched as Father set one here and another there, and a familiar outline took shape.
“It’s a harp!” I breathed out the words. A sudden hope lit up in me, a hope I hadn’t dared to admit to myself. Ever since I’d heard the harper’s music last night, I'd had an ache in my bones. I wanted to make that music myself. I had to.
Father didn’t seem to hear us, didn’t seem to see us. The only thing in the room was the bones of this unfinished harp. He fit the pieces together, two at a time, studied the joints, then dropped the pieces to the table and and buried his face in his hands.
“What is it?” I asked. “What’s the matter?”
“It’s been too long,” Father said. “The wood has warped, the pieces no longer fit. I canna finish this harp now.”
“But you know how to make one,” I said. “Can you make another? Start again from the beginning?”
Father took a small bundle from among the pile and opened it up. A gleam of metal shone in the firelight. Fine wires of brass coiled tight in a ring. Father carefully unwound one from the others. “The wires are still good,” he said, his voice dull, almost as if it didn't matter.
“I’ll help you,” I said. “Please?”
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