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The Fate of Young Chubb by Max Adeler

When Mr. Chubb, the elder, returned from Europe, he brought with him from Geneva, a miniature musical-box, long and very narrow, and altogether of hardly greater dimensions, say, then a large pocket- knife. The instrument played four cheerful little tunes, for the benefit of the Chubb family, and they enjoyed it. Young Henry Chubb enjoyed it to such an extent that one day, just after the machine had been wound up ready for action he got to sucking the end of it, and in a moment of inadvertence it slipped, and he swallowed it. The only immediate consequence of the accident was that a harmonic stomach-ache was organized upon the interior of Henry Chubb and he experienced a restlessness which he well knew would defy the soothing tendencies of peppermint and make a mockery of paregoric.

And Henry Chubb kept his secret in his own soul and in his stomach, also determined to hide his misery from his father, and to spare the rod to the spoiled child—spoiled, at any rate, as far as his digestive apparatus was concerned.

But that evening, at the supper table, Henry had eaten but one mouthful of bread, when strains of wild, mysterious music were suddenly wafted from under the table. The family immediately made an effort to discover whence the sounds came, although Henry Chubb set there filled with agony and remorse and bread and tunes, and desperately asserted his belief that the music came from the cellar where the hired girl was concealed with a harp. He well knew that Mary Ann was unfamiliar with the harp, but he was frantic with anxiety to hide his guilt. Thus it is that one crime leads to another.

But he could not disguise the truth forever, and that very night, while the family was at prayers, Henry all at once began to hiccup, and the musicbox started off without warning, with "way down on the Swanee River," with variations. Whereupon the paternal Chubb arose from his knees and grasped Henry kindly but firmly by his hair and shook him up, and inquired what he meant by such conduct.

And Henry asserted that he was practicing something for a Sunday-school celebration, which old Chubb intimated was a singularly thin explanation.

Then they tried to get up that music-box, and every time they would seize Henry by the leg and shake him over the sofa-cushion, or would pour some fresh variety of emetic down his throat, the instrument would give some fresh sport, and joyously grind out "Listen to the Mocking Bird," or "Thou'lt Never Cease to love."

At last, they were compelled to permit that musical box to remain within the sepulchral recesses of the epigastrium of young Chubb. To say that the unfortunate victim of the disaster was made miserable by his condition, would be to express in the feeblest manner the state of his mind. The more music there was in his stomach, the wilder and more chaotic became the discord in his soul. As likely as not, it would occur that while he lay asleep in bed in the middle of the night, the works would begin to revolve, and would play "Home, Sweet Home," for two or three hours, unless the peg happened to slip, when the cylinder would switch back again to "way down upon the Swanee River" and would rattle out that tune with variations and fragments of the scales, until Henry's brother would kick him out of bed in wild despair, and sit on him in a vain effort to subdue the serenade, which, how ever, invariably proceeded with fresh vigor when subjected to unusual pressure.

And when Henry Chubb went to church it frequently occurred that, in the very midst of the most solemn portion of the sermon, he would feel a gentle disturbance under the lower button of his jacket, and presently, when everything was hushed, the undigested engine would give a preliminary buzz, and then reel off "Listen to the Mocking Bird," and "Thou'lt Never Cease to Love," and scales and exercises, until the clergyman would stop and glare at Henry over his spectacles, and whisper to one of the deacons.

Then the sexton would suddenly tack up the aisle and clutch the unhappy Mr. Chubb by the collar, and scud down the aisle again to the accompaniment of "Home Sweet Home," and then incarcerate Henry in the upper portion of the steeple until after church. But the end came at last, and the miserable boy found peace. One day, while he was sitting in school, endeavoring to learn his multiplication table to the tune of "Thou'lt Cease to Love," his gastric juice triumphed. Something or other in the music-box gave way all at once, the springs were unrolled with alarming force, and Henry Chubb, as he felt the fragments of the instruments hurled right and left among his vitals, tumbled over on the floor and expired.

At the post-mortem examination they found several pieces of "Home, Sweet Home" in his liver, while one of his lungs was severely torn by a fragment of "Way down upon the Swanee river."

Particles of "Listen to the Mocking Bird" were removed from his heart and breast-bone, and three brass pegs of "Thou'lt Never Cease to Love" were found firmly driven into his fifth rib.

They had no music at the funeral. They lifted the machinery out of him and buried him quietly in the cemetery. Whenever the Chubbs buy musical boxes now, they get them as large as a piano, and chain them to the wall.