1636 The Devil’s Opera – Snippet 40

She stepped to one side and Franz stepped forward. “One, two, three,” he counted. The three violinists began, playing unison notes, low-pitched and regular on the beat. At the end of the second measure, Marla opened her mouth.

“Do you hear the people sing,

          Logau sat, transfixed. He almost forgot to breathe. God above, the woman’s voice was like nothing he had ever heard. He had heard her sing from a distance once, but to be in this room, to sit almost within arm’s reach of her, and to hear her sing so . . . so indescribably. For once, he, the man of words, had no words at hand that could describe such a sensation.

The song was short, and all too soon Marla’s voice ceased sounding. Logau twitched and sat up straight, taking a deep breath.

“Good,” Marla said matter-of-factly. “We’ll work the parts some more later, but that was good. Now with the German words, so Herr Logau — Friedrich — can hear his work and judge its fitness. From the top, gentlemen.”

Again Franz gave the count; again the violins began the low rhythmic pulsing. Again Marla’s lips opened, and beauty poured forth.

Logau forced himself to ignore the siren song of Marla’s voice and concentrate on the words. Image followed image: angry men singing, men who would no longer be slaves, men responding to the sound of the drums, all for the sake of tomorrow. Then came the verse calling these men forth to stand forth and be a part of reaching that future.

The chorus of angry men sounded again. It was followed by the second verse calling men to sacrifice and martyrdom. And then the chorus again, the final time, flutes skirling and violins somehow evoking martial airs.

The last line rang out, and the song again came to a close. Logau closed his eyes for a moment, calming his heart. He opened them again, to find the gaze of all the others fixed on him.

He licked his lips, for a moment uncertain. “Frau Marla, are you sure . . .” He cleared his throat and tried again. “Are you certain you want to sing this song, now, the way things are?”

“Now, yes, by all means now,” Marla replied forcefully. “This song was made for this time. I will stand before the face of the chancellor and throw this in his teeth if I must. Just watch me.”

Logau looked around the room, suddenly aware that he was an alien in this group. Thomas and Hermann echoed Marla’s smile. The others, even young Johann Amsel, who was not much more than a youth, wore hard-eyed expressions. He was struck by the resemblance to a painting he had once seen of Alexander the Great surrounded by his captains. He saw in this room that same edge, that same ferocity, that same obdurate hardness that was in the faces of the captains in that picture. Being on the receiving end of those stares was not a comfortable sensation.

He stood, gave a slight bow to Marla, and addressed her formally. “As you will, Frau Linder.” He was not astonished to hear that his voice was a bit unsteady. He stepped to the table and collected his hat, then turned to face them all again. “And do you know when you will unleash this upon an unsuspecting world?”

Marla’s face softened, the smile slipping away. “On January 19th, at the Green Horse Tavern.”

Logau gave a final nod. “I will be there.” He settled his hat on his head, touched his walking stick to the brim. “Good day to you, Frau Linder, meine Herren.”


          After the door closed behind Logau, Marla sighed and looked around. “That’s all for today, guys. Can we meet at our house in two days?”

There were murmurs of assent as the others cased instruments and gathered coats. They left quietly, leaving Marla standing with Franz. He set his violin on the table and came and stood behind her, wrapping his arms around her beneath her chin and resting his hands on the opposite shoulders. She leaned back against him, drained, almost exhausted, and pressed her hands against her face for a moment. “Am I crazy to be doing this?” She dropped her hands and turned in his embrace to rest her head on his shoulder.

“God, Franz, I . . .” Her voice broke, and she could feel tears forming in her eyes.

“Shh, shh,” Franz said. His hand rose to cup the back of her head, beneath the rubber band that was holding her pony tail. “If you feel it needs to be done, then it is not a crazy thing.”

“It’s just that . . . I don’t know . . . I never cared about politics in my whole life, but what the chancellor wants to do . . . that world would kill me. I couldn’t live in it. And it would kill my babies. I’ve already lost Alison. I can’t . . . I can’t . . .” Marla gulped.

“Shh,” Franz said again. His embrace strengthened, until she felt for a moment as if she were held in oak. “It is enough that you feel this must be done. We will do it; for you, and for Alison’s memory.”