« PreviousContinue »
illustrations, to render them more forcible, Mr. Peter Cram arrived at the driest part of the lecture. He said that the science of music might properly be divided into three parts, viz: rhythm, melody, and dynamics. He asked their attention while he attempted to explain briefly what they were. He was proceeding to give the definitions with mathematical precision, when a movement was observed in the middle of the room, and the spectators held in their breath with excitement when they beheld Mr. Weatherby slowly rising to his feet, and evidently about to speak. That profound teacher had listened from the beginning with exemplary patience, but things had now arrived at that pitch of absurdity, that he deemed it his duty to interpose for his townsmen's sake. “Sir,' said he, gazing at Cram so steadily and so sternly, that folks said, after the meeting was out, they wondered that look did n't cut him in two: 'I beg leave to suggest to you that the Tinnecum people do n't care much about the elements of music, of which they have hear'n tell for these two hundred years,
and more; and it is the opinion of those present, that you had better skip over that part of the subject, and give us a sample of your style of singing, and we will try and jine in with you.'
* Ah,' replied Cram, with a patronizing smile, as if he were allaying impatience, and holding back a store of good things which he was not yet ready to dispense, ' we mus' n't be impatient; we must feel our way as we go. You will find these things sort o' dry, Sir, at first, but it won't be long before you get lo love 'em. It won't do to leave
square jest here.' • We insist upon it!' said Mr. Weatherby; and this motion was seconded by an uproarious demonstration on the part of the audience.
• Oh, very well!' replied Cram; 'it doos'nt matter a pin's p’int to me; I calculated to lectur', and I'd jest as leave do it as let it alone. But I've no objection to sing you a psalm-tune, since you 're anxious to hear it; but after that you must buckle to, and stick to the elements. Spellin' comes before readin', and readin' before writin'. Has any on ye got a tunin'-fork ?'
•Ă what!' shouted the inhabitants of Tinnecum, with eager curiosity.
A tunin’-fork, my friends. I left mine to home, to New-Hampshire. It slipped out of my pocket while I was a-splittin' rails.'
• I say there,' shouted a voice in one corner of the room, 'landlord's got one o' them 'ere things.'
. Will somebody be so kind as to go and ask landlord to lend it for the use of the singin' school? Take good keer of it.'
A messenger being despatched, Mr. Cram said that in the mean time he would give them a little exercise for the voice; he therefore requested them to repeat after him the syllable, la! • Them gentlemen,' said he, that's a-settin' on the bedstead, in the corner of the room, please not make so much squeaking. Them boys that's a scrouging each other, will find plenty of room this way. Silence, gentlemen, if you please. Pay attention, and take notice of me. La-la-la, la-la-la! Now all jine in.' 'La-la-la-la-la-la!’ ‘Good!' said Cram; that's enough.' But the inhabitants of Tinnecum proceeded to exclaim ‘La-la-la-la— la!' I tell ye that's enough!' said he. But they thought otherwise, and continued to drown his voice
with the monotonous cry of La-la-la-la-la! Mr. Cram stamped his foot, and strove to command attention; but he might as easily have silenced a sheep-fold; and when he reflected that wherever there was singin'-schools, there would be carryings-on, 'he thought the cheapest plan was to let them have the fun out. When the noise had subsided, he told them that he thought they would get to love the science before long, but they were rather more on the go-ahead plan than the NewHampshire folks.' This raised a prodigious laugh, which put him in a pleasant mood. "Ain't there no gals in this neighborhood !' said he; * I never see a school organized without them.'
*Oh! lots on 'em!' replied the scholars.
• Then jest fork 'em over here!' said he; but no sooner were the words out of his mouth, than a suppressed giggling was heard in the direction of the door, and the landlord's buxom daughters, who had been peeping upon the scene, precipitately fled. This again raised a good deal of laughter and confusion, during which, that no time might be lost, Mr. Cram took out of his pocket a wooden comb, . in two parts,' made at the · New-Hampshire Wooden-Bowl and Fancy Snuff-box Manufactory, and began to slick down' his hair. This nice little operation over, he fumbled for a bit of chalk, and said he was going to give them a little idea of time. He then strode up to the black-board, which consisted of a plate of sheet-iron well rusted, which he said “would have to do,' as Mr. Weatherby did n't feel justified in letting his go out of the school-louse, and wrote some musical characters.
• What 's them things ? cried an ignoramus in the crowd. • Them is minims,' replied he, obligingly.
• We do n't want minims, we want Old Hundred !' exclaimed several.
• Dont be so heady,' replied Cram ; 'you can't do two actions toonce.' · Old Hundred !' exclaimed the assembly, with one consent.
Gentlemen, time is very important; I was going to give you some exercises in beating time; Old Hundred bime-by.'
• Ay, ay, let 's beat time !' said a number.
• That looks like coming to reason,' replied he; ‘now pay strict attention, and I'll show you how it's to be done. I want you should all raise up your right hands, jest as I do.'
All obeyed the summons as far as related to lifting up the hands, only some held up the right, some the left, and others both; and the patched elbows which appeared, reflected abundant credit on the housewives of Tinnecum. • Now,' said he, ‘I want you
should bring down your hand horizontally, and then carry it up ag'in, and say, · Downward beat, upward beat; downward beat, upward beat; downward beat, upward beat.'
The scholars of Tinnecum obeyed this direction with enthusiastic promptitude, stamping with their feet, and jarring the tavern to its foundation, while they shouted lustily, and with tolerable precision, Downward beat, upward beat; downward beat, upward beat; downward beat, upward beat.'
Cram's eye sparkled. He looked round the room with a gratified air. The school was getting into capital order; it was evident they
were becoming interested,' and he reflected to himself, that only leave him alone,' and he would cheat 'em into the elements, before he sang Old Hundred for them. He never see' such scholars, except when he taught school one winter in the walley' of Connecticut. “Now,' said he, we'll have triple time. Make three motions, thus : * Downward beat — hither beat — upward beat.'
The scholars obeyed willingly, repeating the words, Downward beat - hither beat - upward beat; downward beat — hither beat, upward beat.' And this they did for several minutes, and stopped beating when requested.
Cram was delighted; but not to push the scholars on too fast, lest they should become wearied, and relapse into inattention, he entertained them by making a few remarks with respect to the indispensable necessity of keeping correct time. “Ever sence I took to schoolteachin,' said he, 'for which I left a very profitable profession, (the manufacturing of pump-handles,) I set a proper valy on time. There's nothing more important in singing; and I hope my pupils here begins to see it. Is the gentleman that spoke a spell ago satisfied on that p'int ? said he, glancing in the direction of Mr. Weatherby.
Oh yes,' replied the latter, humoring the joke, 'perfectly satisfied ! • Thank’ee, Sir,' said Cram ; •I'm pleased to hear you say so; and now as we're getting on so slick, 'spose an’ we try a lick at the quadruple time? Attention by the bedstead there. Lift up your right hands, gentlemen - are you ready? Downward beat - hither beat, thither beat upward beat; downward beat — hither beat — thither beat — upward beat.'
This pleasant exercise was interrupted by the arrival of the messenger who had gone after a tuning-fork, and who now presented to the breast of Mr. Cram the sharp points of a two-pronged table fork, with an air which seemed to indicate that he had executed his commission to the letter. . Well, really,' thought the professor, as he gazed at the instrument with evident surprise, 'to think that the LongIsland folks never see a tunin’-fork!'He however grinned pleasantly, and endeavored to smooth over the matter, saying that his meaning had been entirely mistaken, and kindly entering into an explanation of the thing required. My friends," said he, a tunin'-fork is not what you suppose it to be, an article to use at the table, and to pick teeth with, but it's something that you get the pitch with.'
* Ah,' is it indeed?' said Mr. Weatherby, speaking from the middle of the room.
Yes, my friend,' replied Cram; 'I would show you mine with pleasure, but I lost it, when I was to home. I would n't have parted with it for a load of shingles.'
Here a considerable confusion took place in different parts of the room, and there was a loud demand for • Old Hundred. Ay ay,' said lie, shaking his head understandingly; 'I have 'nt forgot that yet. I s'pose some of the youngsters would like to have me sing a psalm tune by this time, and some of the old folks too, may be. Bubby,' added he, looking at a white-headed little boy with that affectionate good humor which indicates the love of children, 'Llow your nose first, and then go and tell landlord to send me a tum'ler of water; I'm pretty nigh chok’d. Make haste, and mind, bubby, tell him to put a little apple-brandy into it.'
Cram now began to cough, and clear his throat, preparatory to singing Old Hundred. Standing with his arms a-kimbo, and his feet in the first position, he bent his body slightly forward, and screwing up one
eye, while he gazed eagerly downward with the other, spat with unerring aim through a small knot-hole in the floor; then throwing his head back, and scraping with his right foot the edges of the orifice with an air which seemed to indicate that he had accomplished nothing remarkable, and which he could n't do again if it were necessary, • We 'll try, and guess at the pitch,' said he ; ‘fa, sol, la, fa — sol, la, mi, fa. Fa, mi, la, sol, fa!' Humming over these syllables rapidly, he requested those who thought they could come 'any wheres nigh the tune, to jine in' with him. Then opening the Collection of the NewHampshire Academy, he lifted up his right hand for the purpose of beating time, and began to give a specimen of his powers in good earnest. His voice was really not a bad one, and it was now wonderfully clarified by the apple-brandy: Unhappily, the whole audience undertook to ‘jine in,' and every man setting out upon a different key, produced such wild and warring sounds as it is difficult to imagine. When they had finished the first verse, Cram shook his head, but not upbraidingly, for it was not his intention to discourage them.
• It doos 'nt sound much like it,' said he, but I never calculate to look for too much from new beginners. Try it again.'
The second attempt, however, resulted much worse than the first; and some of the profane so far forgot themselves, as to intermingle all manner of hideous sounds, and even to sing the air of that popular song called . Jim along Josey.'
• That will do,' said Cram, decidedly ; 'there is room for improvement. I'm glad I come to this place; and I feel as if I was sent here by a particular Providence. My friends, singin' is a science which comes pretty tough at first ; but it goes slick afterwards; and if you pay the attention that you had ought to, in three months I'll make you know pretty nigh as much as I know myself.'
While this harangue was going on, a certain wight of Tinnecum, who had an eye,' got behind Mr. Cram, and chalked his full-length portrait on the black-board ; and as the plot of this little farce was rapidly approaching its dénouement, no sooner was this perceived, than a burst of undisguised laughter proceeded from the crowd. Ha !' said Cram, turning around, ' a very pretty picter! Music and drawing is twin sciences.' Another laugh, and cheers hearty and thrice repeated, followed this oracular saying. Cram smiled. He certainly did not know why the audience should laugh at every thing he said, but he supposed as business had been transacted first, that play must come afterward.
But a solemn pause now succeeded, unbroken for several seconds by a single word or motion; and Mr. Cram was on the point of requesting those persons who calculated to jine the singin'-school,' to come forward to the table and subscribe their names,' when Squire Sharkey, a man universally known and respected in the town of Tinnecum, left his seat, went up to Cram, and leisurely casting his eye about the room, called out in a clear, distinct voice :
* Will Mr. Weatherby please to walk this way? A breathless anticipation pervaded the audience, as that gentleman slowly arose, cast aside his cloak, and approached, as he was desired.
* Mr. Cram,' said the Squire, looking him full in the face, and speaking loudly, so that every one might hear :
Permit me to introduce to your particular acquaintance, Mr. Jonas WEATHERBY, Instructor of District School Number Three, and Chorister of the Presbyterian Meeting-house in this town!'
This tremendous announcement was followed by great excitement, whispering, and suppressed exclamations, all through the assembly, who seemed to think that Mr. Cram ought certainly to sink through the earth. That personage did look particularly foolish. A sickly smile came over him, and his head rolled from side to side, as if it desired a hiding-place. But he was too ingenious to suffer himself to become the victim of a predicament. In a little while he recovered his selfpossession, or, to make use of one of his own expressions, ‘he slicked up.' He scratched his head in deep study, and at last, starting as if with some bright idea, and gazing eagerly at the Tinnecum schoolmaster, 'Look a-here,' said he, ''spose an’ we take the school on sheers ?
He made the suggestion so much on the impulse of the moment, that he was almost frightened when he had said it; and he paused immediately, to observe what the effect would be. Mr. Weatherby nodded his head and smiled; then he looked at Squire Sharkey, and he smiled. Cram mistook the expression of that profound contempt, and proposed that they should sing a duet. Before this offer could be met, one of the candles was suddenly extinguished, in an instant after another, then a third, and (it grieves me to record so gross an instance of misconduct,) in the midst of the greatest tumult and confusion, a fourth was hurled at Mr. Cram by some unknown hand, and hit him on the bridge of the nose. Bewildered, and scarcely knowing what he did, he grasped the remaining candle upon the table convulsively, and when that shared the fate of the others, being pushed and pulled about in the dark, he roared loudly for quarter.
But the better class of the inhabitants of Tinnecum did not permit this scene to continue. They struck a light, and took Mr. Cram under their protection. He shook from head to foot like an aspen leaf, nor could he divest himself of the idea that he was mobbed, and in immirent danger of being murdered. He came within an ace, however, of turning the tables upon his oppressors. It seems that he had all his life been subject to spasms, as he himself called them; in other words, to epileptic attacks, of a strong character. But as these came on at regular intervals, generally at the change of the moon, he so timed his operations that they should never clash with singingmeetir gs. But now, whether owing to miscalculation, or to the agitation of his brain, or from what cause it is difficult to say, without giving any previous notice, he sprang from his feet with a yell absolutely terrific, and the moment that he touched the ground, began to whirl round like a dancing dervis, and throwing out his long arms, to dash down every thing within his reach. Benches, table, black-board, were strewn around in confusion, and a valuable Slickville clock, which stood on the mantel, was for several minutes in imminent jeopardy. Those who were in the room went out of the doors and windows