My Antonia Book 2, Chapters 6 and 7
Winter has come to Black Hawk. Jim thinks that the weather makes the town seem even more bleak and dreary. He no longer lingers outside in the darkening shade unless he is with a group of people, or he is standing outside the church lamps. The color of the lamps brightens the dismal coldness of the winter.
Saturday evenings at the Harlings' cheer Jim up and provide much-needed entertainment. Mrs. Harling plays the piano and Frances teaches the younger children how to dance. Antonia would make cookies or taffy for them and then tell stories about her life on the country or what she remembered of Bohemia. One story she tells them is about a tramp who killed himself by jumping into the Iversons' threshing machine. Jim thinks that Antonia and Mrs. Harling are alike in many ways: they are independent, they love children and good food, and they are quick to defend those in poorer situations. To Jim, Antonia and Mrs. Harling have a "hearty joviality, a relish of life, not overdelicate, but very invigorating." Book 2, Chapter 6, pg. 116. He could not imagine Antonia living with anyone else in Black Hawk other than the Harlings.
Blind d'Arnault's arrival at Black Hawk also lifts Jim's feelings of depression and monotony during the dismal winter months. Blind d'Arnault, a black pianist, gives a concert at the Opera House and stays at The Boys' Home. Jim sneaks into the parlor of The Boys' Home to glimpse Blind d'Arnault. He recognizes important men of Black Hawk society in the parlor waiting for Blind d'Arnault to play for them. Jim's first thought of Blind d'Arnault is that he has the happiest face he has ever seen since Virginia. Blind d'Arnault is genuinely happy and content making music, and he had been since he was a child. Several teachers all found him to be extraordinary on the piano - he had perfect pitch and an amazing memory. He never forgot any song or note he heard. Whenever he would play, he would block out everything around him and keep on playing.
The men hear sounds coming from the room next door. The sounds turn out to be Lena, Tiny, Antonia, and their friend Mary, all dancing with each other to Blind d'Arnault's music. They try to flee, but the men persuade them to stay and dance with them. Antonia seems scared at first to dance, but soon gets caught up in the energy. Jim remarks that the country girls' beauty and their fresh vigor attract the men.