The Baldwin Library
L, i ri ....
ALICE AND DER TAPTA
OLD SCHOOL-ROOM PIANO.
The angels stand around Thy throne,
And wait Thy bidding every one;
As stars around the full bright moon,
Or clouds beneath the setting sun.
And children too, may do God's will,
Each in his lowly earthly place;
For Christ had said, "our angels bright
Always behold the Father's face."
C. F. A.
1 OW, Alice! one turn more, and then we
really must go in."
All right, Miss Thompson; oh, that's
beautiful!" as a dexterous touch of the
swing sent the little girl's feet far up among the white
blossoms of the old pear-tree.
"Now count, and I'll jump out! one, two, three-
there!" and the rosy-faced little figure came to the
ground, not without some longings for just another
4 The Old School-room Piano.
turn, which she knew it would be useless to ask for, as
Miss Thompson was not to be disobeyed.
And truly it was a fair scene, which it seemed hard
to leave for lessons on such a bright spring day. The
old vicarage garden shut in by its high hedge and the
row of chestnuts in bloom by the churchyard, the
glorious blue sky, with soft fleecy clouds floating so
calmly over it, the air balmy with the scent of lilacs and
wallflowers, and with just enough motion in it to cause
the trees to keep up a faint whispering concert, and bend
more gracefully the drooping sprays of the laburnum, half
hiding the gable end of the house, leaving only the
school-room window just visible ; and opposite to it,
above the trees, the old grey tower of the church, with
its weathercock gleaming n the sunlight. Who can
wonder at Alice's half sigh as she turned to Miss
Thompson and asked, Where shall I practise?"
But at the answer, In the school-room," the little
face clouded over quite, and the tone was pettish and
unbecoming in which she muttered, I do hate the old
school-room piano; all the notes are dumb, and I have
to play on it from morning till night: I wish I didn't
Miss Thompson was walking away when she replied
to the little girl's question, so Alice could not tell
whether or not her naughty words were heard. I am
sorry to say she wished Miss Thompson to hear them,
quite forgetting the pain they would give, utterly ignor-
ing the fact that for the last hour her kind friend had
been standing by patiently swinging her. But when
little girls are in a temper they don't think and they
don't care, and Alice was by no means a perfect little
girl; and this Miss Thompson knew, but she also knew
The Old School-room Piano. 5
and felt that she herself was far from perfection,and though
the words which Alice spoke in her anger did wound
her, and for the moment cause to be felt in her heart
something of the weariness and painfulness" of disap-
pointment, a thought came to her aid which very often
did help her to be patient with her pupils-namely,
that she was but a child of larger growth herself, and in
the Great Teacher's school, she also often murmured,
and too readily forgot the times of refreshing which
were ever mingled with the difficult lessons; and sorrow
for the little girl soon took the place of wounded feeling.
She said nothing, for the time was not yet when her
words would do good; when the passion was spent,
and better thoughts returned, then she would speak, and
she prayed God to soften the young heart to hear.
Miss Thompson had something else to do now.
Where was Eleanor? as usual, difficult to find. Eleanor
was four years older than Alice, andinstead of swinging
or playing, she preferred hiding herself with a book in
some sheltered corner of the garden, where she was
tolerably secure from interruption. At the sound of
Miss Thompson's call she raised her head languidly,
saying, "In a minute, Miss Thompson; just let me finish
this chapter, only three lines," and she closed the book,
and followed Miss Thompson into the house with a
dreamy expression on her countenance, which did not
promise much for the singing lesson in prospect in the
On the whole, the commencement of that afternoon's
work was not too satisfactory to the governess, never
contented herself unless she did her very best; for while
Eleanor was droning through her song, she knew quite
well that Alice was strumming most unmercifully on
6 The Old School-room Piano.
the piano in the school-room. But presently, when
the music was despatched, and Eleanor woke up to
-find enjoyment in her German lesson, and Alice, whose
resentment was soon over, was sitting in the window-
seat with her lesson of poetry to learn, there seemed
like a prospect of peace and comfort.
The rest of the time till five o'clock went on very
fairly; the repetition of "Casabianca" was a little in-
terrupted by the kitten's attempts to climb the pear-
tree, a feat in which Alice must needs take interest, but
still on the whole the end was better than the beginning,
and Miss Thompson was one who had learnt to be
thankful for all mercies, little or great.
Mrs. Carew was from home, spending a few days
with an invalid sister, so that the care of her little girls
fell more entirely on Miss Thompson than usual. The
pleasant evening's walk was ended, and she was pon-
dering over what she could best say to Alice, apropos
of her impatience, when she found the task quietly taken
out of her hands, and was not sorry for it.
For when Mr. Carew came into the drawing-room,
Alice claimed him as her especial property, and sitting
on his knee, with her arm round his neck, she began
coaxingly, "Papa, I wish you would get us another
"Another piano! why, my little girl, papa is not
made of money, and I should have thought two pianos
in a house sufficient for the same number of little
Oh! but, papa, I don't often play on this one,
mamma is afraid I might spoil it, and really that old
thing in the school-room is too horrid. Why, all the
notes are dumb !"
The Old School-room Piano. 7
All the notes! then how could you manage to make
the noise I heard this afternoon ?"
Oh, papa, I thought you were out," said Alice, with
Well, never mind what I heard: how could you
play if all the keys were dumb ?"
"Oh, well, papa! you know I didn't mean all-
I like to be able to take my little daughter at her
word," said Mr. Carew, gravely. Come, tell me how
many notes there are dumb ?"
Well, papa, there's that horrid C, the third space in
the treble, and A sharp above the line, and the lowest
F in the bass."
"Is that all ?"
"Can't you get us a new one?"
No, Alice, I cannot, I really cannot, at least not yet;
but don't you think your hard usage may have struck
the keys dumb ?"
Alice hung her head.
I do not like to hear the poor piano abused, my
child; it has done good service some time. Its maker's
name is an excellent one, and though old it is a Broad-
wood still: you would not think of hating or making
game of old Jemmy Lowe because he is bent doublewith
rheumatism, and has no teeth, and wheezes so fear-
"Oh no, no but then he is a man ; that's different;
and we know he has worked and had some one to love
him once: I don't see how the old school-room piano
can be like him."
8 The Old School-room Piano.
"No, not quite, certainly," said her father; but if it
could speak it would tell you marvellous things and
touching sights it has witnessed, such as you would
little dream of; and for the pleasure it has assuredly
given to some one, speak of it kindly, my child, and
learn patience from the dumb notes that once were
sweet enough. I should not like," he continued, "to
think if I should live to grow old and be infirm, that
you would forget I once was active, and in your for-
getfulness grumble at serving me."
Oh, please don't say any more, please don't, papa!
I am very sorry, I am indeed !" the tears were coming,
and Mr. Care did not check them. By and by Alice
raised her head. "Papa, I wont grumble about it any
more, indeed I wont; I'm very sorry."
Mr. Carew kissed the sad little face, and stroked the
fair head on his shoulder, and presently when bed-time
came, and Miss Thompson went to see Alice safe for,
the night, she threw her arms round Miss Thompson's
neck, and said humbly, I wont be cross about prac-
tising any more, Miss Thompson, I wont indeed!"
Towards morning the little girl had a strange dream,
and I think we shall better understand it if we go into
dreamland with her.
She fancied she was practising in the school-room,
and banging the keys in anger because they were out of
tune, when suddenly the whole keyboard raised its
voice at once, and in a tone of remonstrance said, "If
you will keep quiet, I will tell you a story." Alice
obeyed. Once upon a time," the piano began, thirty
years ago, I was quite young, and though I say it, I was
very good-looking, not to say quite pretty, because my
dress, though of the brightest rosewood, was plain,
The Old School-room Piano. 9
and only relieved by some rich crimson' silk placed
before me in neat folds."
That old faded stuff!" thought Alice, but she kept
I was in a long, wide hall; numbers of pianos were
there too. Grand pianos, square pianos, cottage pianos,
and cabinets like myself. I spent some months there
very quietly, being always well attended to, covered at
night and well dusted in the morning. 'Tis true I was
occasionally put to torture by customers, who wanted
to try before buying-and very trying they were some-
times to my nerves and those of my companions. But
one day a gentleman and lady came, and I thought I
never had seen two more charming people. He seemed
so careful of her, and she leaned so trustingly on him,
it was a very pretty picture indeed to my mind. They
were engaged to be married, and had come in search of
a piano for their new home.
The lady attracted towards me struck a few chords
tenderly with her soft little hand, and after some in-
quiries of my master, which were evidently satisfactory,
he was asked to forward me to Lime Cottage, Roe-
"Though I certainly felt some pain in leaving my
old friends, yet I had some ambition in me, and longed
to be of real use, such as I had never been yet to any
one. I was packed securely in a wooden case, and as
it was quite dark I could not by any means see where
I was going. When the light shone upon me once
more it was in an elegant little drawing-room. There
was a pretty paper on the walls-white and gold-a
soft crimson carpet, curtains, and table cover of the same
colour, and pretty chintz-covered sofa and chairs.
so The Old School-room Piano.
There were choice pictures on the walls, and delicate
ornaments on the mantelpiece, bright flowers in the
bow window, and books lining the recesses by the fire-
place. To me, accustomed to bare walls, this room was
a little paradise, and I have never felt a thrill of plea-
sure more intense than when, responsive to the touch of
the dear lady's fingers, I for the first time, accompanied
her clear young voice in that sweetest of all sweet
'Mid pleasures and palaces tho' we may roam,
Be it ever so humble there's no place like home.'
Oh, the peace and happiness of that home! I could
dwell for ever on its undisturbed harmony, on its
"' Constant flow of love that knew no fall,'
on its kind words and gentle deeds, on its pure and holy
joys. I could tell of little faces that grew up in it; of little
voices that joined in the two which so often mingled
with my own, of merry dances to which I lent my aid,
of solemn hymns in which the heart's music made
melody. But there came a time when all these glad
sounds were hushed, when the crimson curtains were
closely drawn, and the footsteps fell on the carpet with
a subdued tread; and by and by when the sunlight
came in again, I looked in vain for one well-known
face; and my mistress wore a widow's cap, and I knew
that the little ones were fatherless. How often I longed
to speak some comfort to them, but no one invited me!
So the sad days passed on, and one cold morning a
strange man came with my mistress into the room, a
book in one hand, and a pencil in the other.
He seemed to me to look very impertinently into
the books which my master had read so often aloud;
The Old School-room Piano. 1
it struck me as being irreverent in him to jump himself
up and down to try the spring of the easy-chair in which
my dear master had so often reclined when the day's
work was over, and his little ones clustered around him ;
there was something most revolting to me in the way he
criticised the pictures and handled the ornaments on
which those dear eyes had so often rested; but I never
knew how precious I was in my lady's eyes till he drew
his thick fingers roughly over my keys, and she turned,
oh i so pale, and drew him away. I felt then, though
she did not speak, that this rude waking of my well-
loved tones went nearer towards completing the break-
ing of her heart than anything else, and I knew that for
the sake of fond memories of happy, happy hours, I was
more sacred to her than all.
A week after this the curtains were taken down, the
carpet pulled up, chairs and sofa and stools heaped to-
gether, and the room was crowded with faces I had
never seen, and mounted on a stool, with a desk before
him, was a little man with an ivory hammer in his hand,
who kept continually calling out fabulous merits in
what he termed the very superior furniture, to induce
people to buy.
I was so interested in watching the fate of my old
companions, that I quite forgot I too was for dis-
posal, till the little man shouted Lot 45! a very
excellent toned cabinet rosewood piano maker,
Broadwood-new within the last eight years, cost when
new, eighty guineas. How much for the piano ?'
"After a little time, and a good deal of noise and
disputing, I was knocked down to the highest bidder,
who paid thirty pounds for me, and looked well pleased
with his bargain.
12 The Old School-room Piano.
My new possessor was a dark-complexioned man,
with a fine head, deep, expressive eyes, and black hair,
which he wore rather long, parted in the middle. I
spent six years with him, but it was quite a different
life from that I had led before. Herr Schmidt used to
practise on me constantly most beautiful music, and
besides this, three or four evenings in the week for some
months in the year, ladies and gentlemen used to come
for rehearsals. I remember once a fair young girl came
to sing; she looked very sad, and well she might, for
her mother had died the night before. Perhaps you
wonder how she could sing at all ? I will tell you.
She had little brothers and a sister dependent on her,
and if she had given way to her grief they would have
starved; so she put her own feelings on one side, and
with true heroism did her duty nobly, but it thrilled
me through and through to hear her sing from such an
aching heart the words on which her dear ones' bread
Another time I well recollect: my master for weeks
and weeks drooped and sighed, not impatient sighs, such
as little girls heave when they cannot get their own
way, but sighs which came from some very low depths
in his heart. Poor man! he was in debt.
After every practice he would glide insensibly into
some funereal wail or mournful strain, but I rejoiced
that I was in some degree able to comfort him, for his
fingers would linger with tender fondness over my keys,
as if I at least sympathized with him.
One evening a gentleman came, I did not know
who he was, but he paid Herr Schmidt a goodly sum of
money, which I suppose had been owing to him some
time. At any rate when he was gone, Herr Schmidt
The Old School-room Piano. 13
snatched up his hat, slammed the door after him, and
was absent about ten minutes. On his return he seated
himself before me, and oh the power of gratitude he
threw into that masterpiece from Mozart's' Twelfth
Mass,' the Gloria in Excelsis.'"
Ah !" said Alice, that was what I blundered over
You had not been in trouble," continued the
piano; if you had, and had been relieved, I hope you
would have been as thankful as he was. I shall never
forget the depth and the sweetness, the strength and
the pathos, the soul's joy thrown into that glorious
"Some time after this Herr Schmidt went to Italy,
and I was sold to a lady who kept a school, where I
was often sadly puzzled.
I was placed in what was called the library, and
now I will tell you one of the things which puzzled
Every morning my mistress, her teachers and pupils,
stood up and sang to my music words such as these-
"'Let all thy converse be sincere,
Thy conscience as the noon-day clear;
For God's all-seeing eye surveys,
Thy secret thoughts, thy works and ways.'
When the hymn was over they dispersed in different
directions, but there seemed a grievous want of the
spirit of the hymn in their daily tasks. For instance,
one of the teachers whose duty it was to superintend
the practice of the younger children, instead of doing it
heartily, would sit back in her chair, occasionally, saying
listlessly, when the pupils made some worse mistake
than usual, Come, my dear, be careful!' and there her
14 The Old School-room Piano.
efforts ended. I used to wonder whether she really
believed in the all-seeing Eye spoken of in the hymn, so
strange I thought it that she should so entirely ignore
its existence. After she left, another teacher came, a
contrast in every respect; one of those in whom God's
Spirit is a living moving power, and to whom His favour
is an all-sufficient reward. She never seemed as if she
could do enough to improve her pupils, and though
possessed of plenty of spirit, it was marvellously ruled,
held in with a tight rein indeed. I often was surprised
to see her, for her task was a difficult one, as it seems
to me a teacher's always is: surely their pupils might
make it a little easier.
Then again, it has always been a mystery to me
that little girls should make such a trouble of the fin-
gering, as if scales had never been invented. I have
known them to take extraordinary pains to twist the
third finger over the first, or screw all together over
two keys, striking C with the thumb, and E with the
little finger. Then the counting; why, all the teachers
in the world cannot make a girl count if she will not
open her mouth. And then, too, I have heard some
children sigh and grumble over a difficult passage, and
because the teacher has insisted on persevering practice
of the same, condemn her as cross and savage, just for
doing her duty.
Nor were those who played by themselves much
better. Certainly there were a few exceptions, but the
majority were careless, usually hurrying over the easy
parts, and scrambling through the difficult. All this
seemed to me very strange, because on a musical even-
ing when I was taken into the drawing-room to assist
in gratifying the company with double duets or trios,
The Old School-room Piano. i5
those who had treated me in the worst manner when
only the teacher was by, would often fill me with as-
tonishment by their brilliant achievements when they
had an object in view for which they cared. I think
the secret was, their morning hymn was gone through
as a form, and they did not think, or quite forgot, they
could carry it out in their little daily tasks; as if these
were not the very means of improvement which God
had given them. The patient teacher's face used to
haunt me daily, hourly, and I cannot but believe that
in that bright world the girls sang of so carelessly, all
will be set straight, and she will find that her trials with
those troublesome little ones were not quite in vain.
After I had been there ten years, your papa bought
me of the lady, who then gave up school, and I put the
question to you, little maiden, in all humility, whether
you have treated me as a piano deserves to be treated?
I had no dumb notes when I came, very few harsh
tones; why, then, do you always ill-use me so ? Does
it please Miss Thompson, does it please your parents,
does it please your Father in heaven, to see you abusing
His precious gifts of sweet, comforting, and ennobling
music, and showing, too, such sinful impatience? Oh,
Alice! Alice! beware lest you make other sweet notes
dumb for ever by your harsh, rough usuage. True
patience endureth to the end, and charity never faileth;
but oh the joys you deaden, the hopes you crush by
your wilfulncss let me beseech you, trifle with them no
The piano ceased, and Alice woke with a start as
Eleanor touched her arm.
Oh, Eleanor !" she said, I thought I heard the
16 The Old School-room Piano.
I dare say you did; I have been practising the last
quarter of an hour."
Is it very late ?"
"Nearly seven. But be quick, Alice; I promised
papa last night I would go to see Betty Morris before
breakfast, and if you are quick you can come too."
Oh, Eleanor, I have had such a dream."
But Eleanor was gone, and Alice had to concentrate
her powers on dressing quickly, but at breakfast she
Oh, papa! I had such a curious dream," and forth-
with related it, keeping back only the serious thoughts
it had roused in her; but these she began with penitence
that day to put into practice, and even persuaded papa
to have the long-despised instrument mended; and I
am happy to be able to say on good authority, that
from that time, though often tempted, she has never
once wilfully ill-used the Old School-room Piano.