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A short story by George V. Hobart

You Should Worry About A Musical Evening

Title:     You Should Worry About A Musical Evening
Author: George V. Hobart [More Titles by Hobart]

Say! did you ever stray away from home of an evening and go to one of those parlor riots?

Friend wife called it a musicale, but to me it looked like a session of the Mexican congress in a boiler factory.

They pulled it off at Mrs. Luella Frothingham's, over on the Drive.

I like Luella and I like her husband, Jack Frothingham, so it's no secret conclave of the Anvil Association when I whisper them wise that the next time they give a musical evening my address is Forest Avenue, corner of Foliage Street, in the woods.

The Frothinghams are nice people and old friends and they have more money than some people have hay, but that doesn't give them a license to spoil one of my perfectly good evenings by sprinkling a lot of canned music and fricasseed recitations all over it.

The Frothinghams have a skeleton in their closet. Its name is Uncle Heck and he weighs 237--not bad for a skeleton. Uncle Heck is a Joe Morgan. His sole ambition in life is to become politely pickled and fall asleep draped over a gold chair in the drawing room when there's high-class company present.

For that reason the Frothinghams on state occasions put the skids under Uncle Heck and run him off stage till after the final curtain.

On some occasions Uncle Heck breaks through the bars and dashes into the scene of refinement with merry quip and jest to the confusion of his relatives and the ill-concealed amusement of their guests.

This was one of those occasions.

Early in the evening Jack took Uncle Heck to his room, sat him in front of a quart of vintage, and left the old geezer there to slosh around in the surf until sleep claimed him for its own.

But after the wine was gone Uncle Heck put on the gloves with Morpheus, got the decision, marched down stairs and into the drawing room, where he immediately insisted upon being the life of the party.

Uncle Heck moved and seconded that he sing the swan song from Lohengrin, but his idea of a swan was so much like a turkey gobbler that loving friends slipped him the moccasins and elbowed him out of the room.

Then he went out in the butler's pantry, hoping to do an Omar Khayyam with the grape, but, not finding any, he began to recite, "Down in the Lehigh Valley me and my people grew; I was a blacksmith, Cap'n; yes, and a good one, too! Let me sit down a minute, a stone's got into my shoe----"

But it wasn't a stone, and it didn't get into his shoe. It was a potato salad and it got into his face when the Irish cook threw it at him for interfering with her work.

"I'm discouraged," murmured Uncle Heck, and presently he was sleeping with magnificent noises on the sofa in the library.

There were present at the battle in the drawing room Uncle Peter Grant and Aunt Martha; Hep Hardy and his diamond shirt studs; Bunch Jefferson and his wife, Alice; Bud Hawley and his second wife; Phil Merton and his third wife; Dave Mason and his stationary wife; Stub Wilson and his wife, Jennie, who is Peaches' sister, and a few others who asked to have their names omitted.

The mad revels were inaugurated by the Pippin Brothers, who attempted to drag some grouchy music out of guitars that didn't want to give up. The Pippin Brothers part their hair in the middle and always do the march from "The Babes in Toyland" on their mandolins as an encore.

If Victor Herbert ever catches them there'll be a couple of shine chord-chokers away to the bad.

When the Pippin Brothers took a bow and backed off into a vase of flowers we were all invited to listen to a soprano solo by Miss Imogene Glassface.

When Imogene sings she makes faces at herself. When she needs a high note she goes after it like a hen after a lady-bug. Imogene sang "Sleep, Sweetly Sleep!" and then kept us awake with her voice.

Then we had Rufus Kellar Smith, the parlor prestidigitator. Rufus was a bad boy.

He cooked an omelette in a silk hat and when he handed the hat back to Hep Hardy two poached eggs fell out and cuddled up in Hep's hair.

Rufus apologized and said he'd do the trick over again if some one would lend him a hat, but nothing doing. We all preferred our eggs boiled.

Then we had Claribel Montrose in select recitations. She was all the money.

Claribel grabbed "The Wreck of the Hesperus" between her pearly teeth and shook it to death. Then she got a half-Nelson on Poe's "Raven" and put it out of business.

Next she tried an imitation of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. If Juliet talked like that dame did no wonder she took poison.

Then Claribel let down her back hair and started in to give us a mad scene--and it was. Everybody in the room got mad.

When peace was finally restored Mrs. Frothingham informed us that the rest of the "paid" talent had disappointed her and she'd have to depend on the volunteers. Then she whispered to Miss Gladiola Hungerschnitz, whereupon that young lady giggled her way over to the piano and began to knock its teeth out.

The way Gladiola went after one of Beethoven's sonatas and slapped its ears was pitiful.

Gladiola learned to injure a piano at a conservatory of music. She can take a Hungarian rhapsody and turn it into a goulash in about 32 bars.

At the finish of the sonata we all applauded Gladiola just as loudly as we could, in the hope that she would faint with surprise and stop playing, but no such luck.

She tied a couple of chords together and swung that piano like a pair of Indian clubs.

First she did "My Old Kentucky Home," with variations, until everybody who had a home began to weep for fear it might get to be like her Kentucky home.

The variations were where she made a mistake and struck the right note.

Then Gladiola moved up to the squeaky end of the piano and gave an imitation of a Swiss music box.

It sounded to me like a Swiss cheese.

Presently Gladiola ran out of raw material and subsided, while we all applauded her with our fingers crossed, and two very thoughtful ladies began to talk fast to Gladiola so as to take her mind off the piano.

This excitement was followed by another catastrophe named Minnehaha Jones, who picked up a couple of soprano songs and screeched them at us.

Minnehaha is one of those fearless singers who vocalize without a safety-valve. She always keeps her eyes closed so she can't tell just when her audience gets up and leaves the room.

The next treat was a duet on the flute and trombone between Clarence Smith and Lancelot Diffenberger, with a violin obligate on the side by Hector Tompkins.

Never before have I seen music so roughly handled.

It looked like a walk-over for Clarence, but in the fifth round he blew a couple of green notes and Lancelot got the decision.

Then, for a consolation prize, Hector was led out in the middle of the room, where he assassinated Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana so thoroughly that it will never be able to enter a fifty-cent table d'hôte restaurant again.

Almost before the audience had time to recover Peaches' sister, Jennie, was coaxed to sing Tosti's "Good Bye!"

I'm very fond of sister Jennie, but I'm afraid if Mr. Tosti ever heard her sing his "Good Bye" he would say, "the same to you, and here's your hat."

Before Jennie married and moved West I remember she had a very pretty mezzo-concertina voice, but she's been so long away helping Stub Wilson to make Milwaukee famous that nowadays her top notes sound like a cuckoo clock after it's been up all night.

I suppose it's wrong for me to pull this about our own flesh and blood, but when a married woman with six fine children, one of them at Yale, walks sideways up to a piano and begins to squeak, "Good bye, summer! Good bye, summer!" just as if she were calling the dachshund in to dinner, I think it's time she declined the nomination.

Then Bud Hawley, after figuring it all out that there was no chance of his getting arrested, sat down on the piano stool and made a few sad statements, which in their original state form the basis of a Scotch ballad called "Loch Lomond."

Bud's system of speaking the English language is to say with his voice as much of a word as he can remember and then finish the rest of it with his hands.

Imagine what Bud would do to a song with an oat-meal foundation like "Loch Lomond."

When Bud barked out the first few bars, which say, "By yon bonnie bank and by yon bonnie brae," everybody within hearing would have cried with joy if the piano had fallen over on him and flattened his equator.

And when he reached the plot of the piece, where it says, "You take the high road and I'll take the low road," Uncle Peter took a drink, Phil Merton took the same, Stub took an oath, and I took a walk.

And all the while Bud's wife sat there, with the glad and winning smile of a swordfish on her face, listening with a heart full of pride while her crime-laden husband chased that helpless song all over the parlor, and finally left it unconscious under the sofa.

At this point Hep Hardy got up and volunteered to tell some funny stories and this gave us all a good excuse to put on our overshoes and say "Good night" to our hostess without offending anybody.

Hep Hardy and his funny stories are always used to close the show.

"John," said Peaches after we got home; "I want to give a musicale, may I?"

"Certainly, old girl," I answered. "We'll give one in the nearest moving picture theater. If we don't like the show all we have to do is to close our eyes and thank our lucky stars there's nothing to listen to."

"Oh! aren't you hateful!" she pouted.

Maybe I am at that.

[The end]
George V. Hobart's short story: You Should Worry About A Musical Evening