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musical tone in it whatever. It simply consisted in a series of repeated sounds produced somewhere beneath his waistcoat, and then prolonged through all the line of the hymn with iterated monotone. And yet Steel had a tune-book, at which he always diligently gazed. Indeed, I have at times heard him miss the words, and only utter, or attempt to utter, the notes of the music. This would be in some difficult passage where all attention had to be directed to the music, and the words were, therefore, neglected and passed over. It was often to me a psychologic and physiologic question how it came to pass that this man, who was a very honest fellow, could keep that book of notes before him and pretend to sing bass, while all the while he only grovelled along among the attempted notes of his voice like a wounded bird that can only flap its wing along the ground and never rise for flight. That he thought he sang bass, and that he thought he sang separate notes, I am quite willing to believe ; but that he did not, I also prepared to take a solemn affidavit. There was in fact some peculiar breach between his ideas and his voice, or between the voice and the ear. This, I never could quite decide. There is no doubt that the notes of the book presented to his mind musical ideas, with intervals, changes in pitch, and all the belongings of musical notation, but on the road from thought to will, so as to give expression to these, the music fell away and left only the wretched groans which were so distinctly uttered; or, on the other hand, that he, thinking he sang different notes, did yet when he heard himself not detect that he was just harping, or rather grinding, or rumbling on in a terrible monotone.
Whatever may have been the explanation, here was the fact ; indeed, these two facts—and awful facts they were—Judkins and Steel together near to my pew. As I have said, this became a great deal worse when the schoolmaster introduced a passion for part-singing. Judkins tried to set up a part, Steel took the bass ; and what between the shakes and quavers of the one and the groans of the other, my ears were well-nigh destroyed ; certainly all comfort in the hymns departed.
Often have I felt inclined to speak to them, but there is nothing on which men are more touchy than their voices if they think they are something of singers. Many a friendship has dissolved because Achates has taken to learning to sing, and Æneas did not appreciate his powers, never thinking him likely to rival Braham or Mario. I am quite sure the son of Peleus would never have given over sulking in his tent, and gone forth to avenge his friend Patroclus if Patroclus had ventured to doubt whether Achilles managed at all respectably in the second which he took to the charming soprano of the fair Briseis. Never, gentle reader, if thou art a wife, breathe the slightest suspicion that he whom thou honourest, and hast sworn moreover to love and obey, if he at all devotes himself to the muse of song, is not blessed with the richest of voices and the most delicate of musical tastes. If be not true he will resent it, and if it be true, as probably he will only be too conscious it is, thy criticisms will have the unfortunate effect of making more poignant the disappointment which he himself feels. Nay, reader, never criticise (unless, of course, thou art paid for one of those articles which in the public press follow a great concert, and properly treat of the voices of men and women who can sing, or if they cannot deserve the sharpest rebuke), never criticise a singer, never object to his voice, his expression, but just say, “Thank you, thank
you; very choice;" and if it be painful don't ask him again, but in the name of all that is pleasant don't hurt a man's feelings on perhaps his most sensitive point.
What a long digression I have been tempted to indulge, so must with due apology return to Messrs. Judkins and Steel, to whom I felt, notwithstanding the excruciation to which I was subjected, I dare not express my fondest wish, but quietly and patiently trusted that something might turn up which would either translate my neighbours or so change the singing that Othello's occupation would be gone.
Providence at length was kind to me. We had a tea-meeting, at which, a very rare occurrence, I managed to be present. After tea was over, and when the meeting became something of a general conversation, in which any one might get up and speak, Charles Harford rose, and to the surprise of everybody proposed that something should be done for the improvement of the singing at Salem. He was the eldest son of perhaps the chief man at Salem, Squire Harford, as he was called, who lived at the Grange some two miles out of town, a member of an old Nonconformist family, the links of whose relationship went upward to the days of the earliest Puri. tans, and whose connexions in America had made some stir in the colony days, and were quite great people at Boston and Connecticut. The English branch had been satisfied with a kind of hereditary Dissent, and while they lived on capital terms with all the Church people, not excepting even the old rector, they just quietly went to chapel, and occupied the square pew at the entrance of Salem, as their fathers had done for nearly two hundred years. It was not often any of them took public part in the affairs of our conventicle. But when they did they were always listened to with respect, and their words had considerable weight, for they were supposed to represent the feeling of the more educated and cultured portion of the congregation,-a class who, even in the most democratic of societies, will always command attention and regard.
The criticisms which Harford offered upon the singing were given with great tact and were generally well received. Each of the singers of course blamed all the rest of the choir, and considered that the remarks did not apply at all to him or herself; so with the congregation. Judkins handed it over to Steel, and Steel sent it quite as generously to Judkins. The upshot of the whole thing was that a committee was appointed to consider the question, and report as soon as possible to the church. The committee consisted of tłe minister, the deacons, four of the younger members of the church -young Harford among them—the schoolmaster, and myself, I declined the honour, but they urged that if I would serve they would, with my permission, hold the meeting in this study, and so relieve me from the only difficulty which I felt existed in my case my inability at all times to get about. I believe little Judkins was terribly disappointed that he was not appointed; but I took an opportunity of quietly telling him that if he would call upon me some day, and tell me what he thought about it, I would promise to let his views be known to the committee. A day was soon fixed upon, and at the appointed hour the committee trooped into my chamber, and we soon fell to the work of consultation. Various plans were suggested, among them that of Judkins, who had been to me and entrusted me with his ideas. He seemed to be quite opposed to the noticn of a special choir. He thought that there should be several persons in different parts of the chapel, who should lead the people in their neighbourhoods, all of these leaders acting under the supreme guidance of the precentor in the desk. In some cases, he would suggest, that the leaders should take the parts rather than the air, and he offered for his share in the singing arrangements of Salem to undertake the tenor of his corner. I promised to lay before the committee his idea, devoutly trusting that it would not be adopted, and if it were, determining that I at least would be obliged to emigrate to the Primitive Methodists, a little lower down the street. But I need not say Judkins's scheme was dismissed, not to my surprise as you may suppose, but to my profound gratitude. Some thought we might try a lady leader, others proposed the dismemberment of the choir and the trusting to the leader alone. But a choir is not unlike Frankenstein's man -it is easier to create than to destroy. He had called up the spirit (pardon me, O lads and lasses who sang there! Bless me! some of you are matrons and fathers now), and it was not so lightly to be laid ; one or two even inclined to a return to the fashion of our fathers, and have no singing at all. It was evident that we were in a hopeless case. I looked at Charles Harford, and saw at once that he had something on his mind, but was just waiting to see how the tide of opinion turned. At last I thought I would end the doubt and uncertainty by proposing that which might receive the most distinct and definite yes or no, so I moved that the committee advise the church and congregation to obtain an organ in order to render the singing more effective. This at a glance I perceived was Harford's idea. The minister I saw was quite content with it. It startled three of the deacons, but the two others were not displeased, while only one of the four members seemed to be opposed to the plan. But I need not tell the reader all the story, how we discussed the pros and cons, how the subject was looked at from all sides, how at last we agreed to recommend the church to adopt the proposal, how a meeting was called, and how after much discussion it was almost unanimously decided to obtain an organ, and three or four were appointed to make all the necessary arrangements and manage the entire affair.
It was soon noised abroad through our little town that Salem was going to have an organ. Three hundred and fifty pounds were at once subscribed, and we determined to secure an instrument which should compete even with the new one they had lately put up at the parish church. We wrote to Blowem and Stop, the celebrated builders in Soho, London, and at once opened negotiations with that most respectable and celebrated firm for one of their best instruments. That was a great day in the annals of Salem when the first boxes made their appearance under the charge of a brightlooking little man and two workmen, who were sent down from London for the work. The gallery opposite the pulpit was chosen as the location of the organ. A space had been already cleared ready for operation, and we expected that a few days would suffice for the setting up of the instrument. It struck me as being not a little awkward that the men should have been sent down at the end of the week, for that would certainly cause the gallery to be unoccupied for one Sunday. But I suppose those eminent builders are so closely pressed that they can only send their men at certain times. We must be duly thankful that they can come at all. Still, here they were, and on the Saturday morning they set to work. The gallery for that Sunday had to be given over to them, and no one was allowed to go up into that part of the chapel. The result of this was not a little distressing; all the occupants of that gallery were obliged to come on to the ground floor or into the other galleries. This naturally made us somewhat fuller than usual. Added to this, it had been noised abroad that Salem's new organ was come. Accordingly all the idle boys and a great many of the “hangers on” at the other chapels and churches paid us a visit of inspection. I shall not forget the morning in a hurry. There was the empty gallery and the crowded chapel. The regular attendants were somewhat curious, and many glances were cast up towards the place which the organ was to occupy. Then, of course, all the curiosity-mongers had little else to do than try and catch some portion of the scene and conjecture what they could not see. There was incessant shifting and restlessness, sometimes even a whisper would be exchanged, and on the whole the worship and sermon of that day were not edifying in the highest degree. Our minister caught the prevailing spirit, and the organ committee, I need not tell you, were several degrees from comfort. Ah, well, never mind, Mr. Vane!” said Harford. “ We shall be all right next Sunday."
On Monday I betook myself to the chapel pretty early, as I wished to see something of organ-building. The place was closed and the doors were locked. I listened ; heard no sound. Calling a lad who was passing, whom I recognised as one of the Sundayschool, I begged him to run round to the house of Naophylax and see if the keys were there. In a moment that official appeared. “Oh, yes, sir, here's the keys; but the gentleman from London says he won't be here to-day; he has to go over to Paulborough to see the organ at the cathedral; there's something the matter with it; but he will be back to-morrow.” My mind was filled with misgiving, and I wondered how many Sundays would elapse before Salem's singing was perfected. The morrow came, but brought no organ-builder. On the Thursday I received a letter from Paulborough, saying that he was very sorry, but found the organ there in such a condition that it needed instant attending to, and as it had to be put into workable order each day for the service, and could only be mended between the hours of worship, he was obliged to keep the men with him at the cathedral. However, he hoped to arrange everything by the next week, and would then get on rapidly with our instrument.
Next Sunday was worse than ever. The organ was supposed to be finished, and there was a general rush of the townsfolk to hear the music. To see the disappointment depicted upon the faces of he visitors! They appeared to regard it as a personal affront, and every nose and mouth was twisted into an expression which I could not help interpreting as, “Of course, what else could you expect from these Dissenters?” Then unfortunate rumours got abroad. It was said that it was found impossible to raise the money ; that Mr. Harford, who had guaranteed the fund, had refused to fulfil his
engagement, because it was doubted whether his niece would be allowed to play the organ. That Blowem and Stop had sent orders to cease setting up the instrument, and had commanded their men to return instantly to town ; that the deacons would not allow the boxes and tools to be removed from the gallery ; that a suit ad been already instituted in the Court of King's Bench for