Aunt Rachel A Rustic Sentimental Comedy

Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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A quartette party—three violins and a 'cello—sat in summer evening weather in a garden. This garden was full of bloom and odor, and was shut in by high walls of ripe old brick. Here and there were large-sized plaster casts—Venus, Minerva, Mercury, a goat-hoofed Pan with his pipes, a Silence with a finger at her lips. They were all sylvan green and crumbled with exposure to the weather, so that, in spite of cheapness, they gave the place a certain Old-world and stately aspect to an observer who was disposed to think so and did not care to look at them too curiously. A square deal table with bare top and painted legs was set on the grass-plot beneath a gnarled apple-tree whose branches were thick with green fruit, and the quartette party sat about this table, each player with his music spread out before him on a portable little folding stand.

Three of the players were old, stout, gray, and spectacled. The fourth was young and handsome, with dreamy gray-blue eyes and a mass of chestnut-colored hair. There was an audience of two—an old man and a girl. The old man stood at the back of the chair of the youngest player, turning his music for him, and beating time with one foot upon the grass. The girl, with twined fingers, leaned both palms on the trunk of the apple-tree, and reposed a clear-colored cheek on her rounded arm, looking downward with a listening air. The youngest player never glanced at the sheets which the old man so assiduously turned for him, but looked straight forward at the girl, his eyes brightening or dreaming at the music. The three seniors ploughed away business-like, with intent frownings, and the man who played the 'cello counted beneath his breath, "One, two, three, four—one, two, three, four," inhaling his breath on one set of figures and blowing on the next.

The movement closed, and the three seniors looked at each other like men who were satisfied with themselves and their companions.

"Lads," said the man with the 'cello, in a fat and comfortable voice, "that was proper! He's a pretty writer, this here Bee-thoven. Rewben, the hallygro's a twister, I can tell thee. Thee hadst better grease thy elbow afore we start on it. Ruth, fetch a jug o' beer, theer's a good wench. I'm as dry as Bill Duke. Thee canst do a drop, 'Saiah, I know."

"Why, yes," returned the second-fiddle. "Theer's a warmish bit afore us, and it's well to have summat to work on."

The girl moved away slowly, her fingers still knitted and her palms turned to the ground. An inward-looking smile, called up by the music, lingered in her eyes, which were of a warm, soft brown.

"Reuben," said the second-fiddle, "thee hast thy uncle's method all over. I could shut my eyes an' think as I was five-and-twenty 'ear younger, and as he was a-playin'. Dost note the tone, Sennacherib?"

"Note it?" said the third senior. "It's theer to be noted. Our 'Saiah's got it drove into him somehow, as he's the one in Heydon Hay as God A'mighty's gi'en a pair of ears to."

"An' our Sennacherib," retorted Isaiah, "is the one as carries Natur's license t' offer the rough side of his tongue to everybody."

"I know it's a compliment," said the younger man, "to say I have my uncle's hand, though I never heard my uncle play."

"No, lad," said the old man who stood behind his chair....