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The Magic Spinet by Mrs. J. E. McConaughy

 

The gay people of Paris were one day invited to attend a musical entertainment, in which "a magic spinet" was to be the chief attraction. Its wonders were set forth in glowing terms, and a large audience gathered at the appointed time to witness its performance. The poor musician, whose all was at stake, looked on the assembly with rejoicing eyes, but perhaps with a little trembling lest his "magic" should not work as perfectly as at rehearsals.

After some playing by himself and his two little children, all stepped back, and, at the word of command, the instrument repeated the whole symphony. This marvel was well received, when the musician pretended to wind up his machine by a very hard-working winch, which made a terrible racket.

Now the wise ones thought it all explained. "Only a foolish contrivance of weights and springs, like a barrel-organ," they said. That was just what the musician wished them to think, as it would make his triumph more decided. He now proceeded to show them that the instrument had a mind capable of hearing and obeying. Calling his children away, he waved his wand, and in an authoritative voice commanded, "Spinet, play"—such a tune.

The instrument obediently played the tune. Then the order was given, "Spinet, be silent," and all was quiet.

"Spinet, give us a light flourish," and it instantly warbled forth the gayest melody, which was received with rapturous applause. Then the whole sentiment of the audience was changed, and all admitted that Jean Baptiste Raisin, the musician, was also a great magician.

Evening after evening he repeated his performance, and the gold poured in beyond his fondest dreams. His reputation spread far and wide, and at last reached the King. He would have this novelty brought to court, and let the Queen and the royal ladies enjoy such a wonderful entertainment.

Jean was not used to courts, but his passion for money was growing fast, and he determined fairly to outdo himself in such a golden harvest field. His instrument was "instructed" to a most unusual degree, and at the appointed time was in good working order at the palace of Versailles. Everything proceeded famously until the organist carried on his old trick of "winding up." Royal ears were not used to such horrid discords as followed the working of that winch. The delicate nerves of all the ladies were dreadfully shocked, the Queen's in particular.

But I suppose a Queen's curiosity is much like other people's. She must have a view of the evil spirit inside the instrument, which seemed to play so unwillingly, judging from the shrieks it gave out on being wound up. The poor organist protested he had "lost the key." But that was of no avail.

"Can not some one break it open?" asked the King. Royalty has a very persuasive way, so Jean was forced at last to open the box; and what do you think they found within? A poor trembling little lad, not six years old, who operated a set of keys inside, which his father had constructed for him. The whole instrument was planned with this performance in view, the lad's small size and wonderful musical talent making the deception possible.

It was plain that the little one was half fainting with the stifled air he had breathed so long; and ready hands reached out to help him, and kind voices soothed and comforted him. When he was refreshed, all wished to hear him play in fair sight, and the praising and petting and confections and gold coins showered upon him would have turned a wiser head. Defeat was turned into a grand victory.

His father now invented a comedy, in which little Louis acted an important part.

A company appeared seated about a table, with a big black-pudding before them. When the pudding was cut, a great outcry was heard within. Soon it began to roll about the plates, and at last out hopped a little pig. They chased it about awhile with skewers, and finally, just as it was caught, it changed into an imp, with horns and hoofs, and a sabre by its side. Of course the company were greatly frightened, and tumbled down on the stage, pell-mell, all in a heap. But one sad day a performer thrust too hard with his sharp skewer, and poor little Louis performed and played no more. They laid him away in the pleasant cemetery, and very soon a heartbroken little sister, who could not be comforted, was laid beside him.