Chapter VI. The Musical Sense

Mrs. Francis, in the sweetest of tea gowns, was intent upon Dr. Ernestus Parker's book on "Purposeful Motherhood." It was the chapter dealing with the "Musical Sense in Children" which engrossed Mrs. Francis's attention. She had just begun subdivision C in the chapter, "When and How the Musical Sense Is Developed," when she thought of Danny. She fished into the waste-paper basket for her little red note-book, and with her silver mounted pencil she made the following entry:

   AGED 4.

She read on feverishly. She felt herself to be in the throes of a great idea.

Then she called Camilla. Camilla is always so practical, she thought.

To Camilla she elaborated the vital points of Dr. Parker's theory of the awakening of the musical sense, reading here and there from the book, rapidly and unintelligibly. She was so excited she was incoherent. Camilla listened patiently, although her thoughts were with her biscuits in the oven below.

"And now, Camilla," she said when she had gone all over the subject, "how can we awaken the musical sense in Daniel? You know I value your opinion so much."

Camilla was ready.

"Take him to hear Professor Welsman play," she said. "The professor will give his recital here on the 15th."

Mrs. Francis wrote rapidly. "I believe," she said looking up, "your suggestion is a good one. You shall have the credit of it in my notes."

   Plan of awakening mus. sense suggested by C--.

Camilla smiled. "Thank you, Mrs. Francis. You are very kind."

When Camilla went back to the kitchen and took the biscuits from the oven, she laughed softly to herself.

"This is going to be a good time for some further suggestions. Pearl must go with Danny. What a treat it will be for poor little Pearl! Then we must have a new suit for Danny, new dress for Pearl, new cap for D., new hat for P., all suggested by C. There are a few suggestions which C. will certainly make."

On the evening of the professor's recital there were no two happier people in the audience than Pearlie Watson and her brother Daniel Mulcahey Watson; not because the great professor was about to interpret for them the music of the masters--that was not the cause of their happiness--but because of the good supper they had had and the good clothes they wore, their hearts were glad. They had spent the afternoon at Mrs. Francis's (suggested by C.). Danny's new coat had a velvet collar lovely to feel (suggested by C.). Pearl had a wonderful new dress--the kind she had often dreamed of--made out of one of Mrs. Francis's tea gowns. (Not only suggested but made by C.). It had real buttons on it, and there was not one pin needed. Pearl felt she was just as well dressed as the little girl on the starch box. Her only grief was that when she had on her coat--which was also new, and represented one-half month of Camilla's wages--the velvet on her dress did not show. But Camilla, anticipating this difficulty, laid back the fronts in stunning lapels, and to complete the arrangement, put one of her own lace collars around the neck of the coat, the ends coming down over the turned-back fronts. When Pearl looked in the glass she could not believe her eyes!

Mr. Francis did not attend piano recitals, nor the meetings of the Browning Club. Mrs. Francis was often deeply grieved with James for his indifference in regard to these matters. But the musical sense in James continued to slumber and sleep.

The piano recital by Professor Welsman was given under the auspices of the Ladies' Aid of the Methodist Church, the proceeds to be given toward defraying the cost of the repairs on the parsonage.

The professor was to be assisted by local talent, it said on the programmes. Pearl was a little bit disappointed about the programmes. She had told Danny that there would be a chairman who would say: "I see the first item on this here programme is remarks by the chair, but as yez all know I ain't no hand at makin' a speech we'll pass on to the next item." But there was not a sign of a chairman, not even a chair. The people just came up themselves, without anybody telling them, and did their piece and went back. It looked sort of bold to Pearl.

First the choir came in and sang: "Praise Waiteth for Thee, O Lord, in Zion." Pearl did not like the way they treated her friend Dr. Clay. Twice when he began to sing a little piece by himself, doing all right, too, two or three of them broke in on him and took the words right out of his mouth. Pearl had seen people get slapped faces for things like that. Pearl thought it just served them right when the doctor stopped singing and let them have it their own way.

When the professor came up the aisle everybody leaned forward to have a good look at him. "He is just like folks only for his hair," Pearl thought. Pearl lifted Danny on her knee and told him to look alive now. She knew what they were there for.

Then the professor began to play. Indifferently at first after the manner of his kind, clever gymnastics to limber up his fingers perhaps, and perhaps to show how limber they are; runs and trills, brilliant execution, one hand after the other in mad pursuit, crossing over, back again, up and down in the vain endeavour to come up with the other hand; crescendo, diminuendo, trills again!

Danny yawned widely.

"When's he goin' to begin?" he asked, sleepily.

Mrs. Francis watched Danny eagerly. The musical sense was liable to wake up any minute. But it would have to hurry, for Daniel Mulcahey was liable to go to sleep any minute.

Pearl was disgusted with the professor and her thoughts fell into vulgar baseball slang:

"Playin' to the grand stand, ain't ye? instead o' gettin' down to work. That'll do for ketch and toss. Play the game! Deliver the goods!"

Then the professor began the full arm chords with sudden fury, writhing upon the stool as he struck the angry notes from the piano. Pearl's indignation ran high.

"He's lost his head--he's up in the air!" she shouted, but the words were lost in the clang of musical discords.

But wait! Pearl sat still and listened. There was something doing. It was a Welsh rhapsodie that he was playing. It was all there--the mountains and the rivers, and the towering cliffs with glimpses of the sea where waves foam on the rocks, and sea-fowl wheel and scream in the wind, and then a bit of homely melody as the country folk drive home in the moonlight, singing as only the Welsh can sing, the songs of the heart; songs of love and home, songs of death and sorrowing, that stab with sudden sweetness. A child cries somewhere in the dark, cries for his mother who will come no more. Then a burst of patriotic fire, as the people fling defiance at the conquering foe, and hold the mountain passes till the last man falls. But the glory of the fight and the march of many feet trail off into a wailing chant--the death song of the brave men who have died. The widow mourns, and the little children weep comfortless in their mountain home, and the wind rushes through the forest, and the river foams furiously down the mountain, falling in billows of lace over the rocks, and the sun shines over all, cold and pitiless.

"Why, Pearlie Watson, what are you crying for?" Mrs. Francis whispered severely. Pearl's sobs had disturbed her. Danny lay asleep on Pearl's knees, and her tears fell fast on his tangled curls.

"I ain't cryin', I ain't cryin' a bit. You leave me alone," Pearl blubbered rudely, shaking off Mrs Francis's shapely hand.

Mrs. Francis was shocked. What in the world was making Pearl cry?

The next morning Mrs. Francis took out her little red book to enter the result of her experiment, and sat looking long and earnestly at its pages. Then she drew a writing pad toward her and wrote an illuminative article on "Late Hours a Frequent and Fruitful Cause of Irritability in Children."