7:17 pm - Saturday May 26, 2018

The Missing Chord-by O Henry-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name:The Missing Chord

Written by: O Henry

Category:Fiction, Classics,Children

 

Page 1:

I stopped overnight at the sheep-ranch of Rush Kinney, on the Sandy Fork of the Nueces. Mr. Kinney and I had been strangers up to the time when I called “Hallo!” at his hitching-rack; but from that moment until my departure on the next morning we were, according to the Texas code, undeniable friends.

After supper the ranchman and I lugged our chairs outside the two-room house, to its floorless gallery roofed with chaparral and sacuista grass. With the rear legs of our chairs sinking deep into the hardpacked loam, each of us reposed against an elm pillar of the structure and smoked El Toro tobacco, while we wrangled amicably concerning the affairs of the rest of the world.

As for conveying adequate conception of the engaging charm of that prairie evening, despair waits upon it. It is a bold chronicler who will undertake the description of a Texas night in the early spring. An inventory must suffice.

The ranch rested upon the summit of a lenient slope. The ambient prairie, diversified by arroyos and murky patches of brush and pear, lay around us like a darkened bowl at the bottom of which we reposed as dregs. Like a turquoise cover the sky pinned us there. The miraculous air, heady with ozone and made memorably sweet by leagues of wild flowerets, gave tang and savour to the breath. In the sky was a great, round, mellow searchlight which we knew to be no moon, but the dark lantern of summer, who came to hunt northward the cowering spring. In the nearest corral a flock of sheep lay silent until a groundless panic would send a squad of them huddling together with a drumming rush. For other sounds a shrill family of coyotes yapped beyond the shearing-pen, and whippoorwills twittered in the long grass. But even these dissonances hardly rippled the clear torrent of the mocking-birds’ notes that fell from a dozen neighbouring shrubs and trees. It would not have been preposterous for one to tiptoe and essay to touch the stars, they hung so bright and imminent.

Mr. Kinney’s wife, a young and capable woman, we had left in the house. She remained to busy herself with the domestic round of duties, in which I had observed that she seemed to take a buoyant and contented pride. In one room we had supped. Presently, from the other, as Kinney and I sat without, there burst a volume of sudden and brilliant music. If I could justly estimate the art of piano-playing, the construer of that rollicking fantasia had creditably mastered the secrets of the keyboard. A piano, and one so well played, seemed to me to be an unusual thing to find in that small and unpromising ranch- house. I must have looked my surprise at Rush Kinney, for he laughed in his soft, Southern way, and nodded at me through the moonlit haze of our cigarettes.

“You don’t often hear as agreeable a noise as that on a sheep-ranch,” he remarked; “but I never see any reason for not playing up to the arts and graces just because we happen to live out in the brush. It’s a lonesome life for a woman; and if a little music can make it any better, why not have it? That’s the way I look at it.”

“A wise and generous theory,” I assented. “And Mrs. Kinney plays well. I am not learned in the science of music, but I should call her an uncommonly good performer. She has technic and more than ordinary power.”

The moon was very bright, you will understand, and I saw upon Kinney’s face a sort of amused and pregnant expression, as though there were things behind it that might be expounded.

“You came up the trail from the Double-Elm Fork,” he said promisingly. “As you crossed it you must have seen an old deserted jacal to your left under a comma mott.”

“I did,” said I. “There was a drove of javalis rooting around it. I could see by the broken corrals that no one lived there.”

“That’s where this music proposition started,” said Kinney. “I don’t mind telling you about it while we smoke. That’s where old Cal Adams lived. He had about eight hundred graded merinos and a daughter that was solid silk and as handsome as a new stake-rope on a thirty-dollar pony. And I don’t mind telling you that I was guilty in the second degree of hanging around old Cal’s ranch all the time I could spare away from lambing and shearing. Miss Marilla was her name; and I had figured it out by the rule of two that she was destined to become the chatelaine and lady superior of Rancho Lomito, belonging to R. Kinney, Esq., where you are now a welcome and honoured guest.

“I will say that old Cal wasn’t distinguished as a sheepman. He was a little, old stoop-shouldered hombre about as big as a gun scabbard, with scraggy white whiskers, and condemned to the continuous use of language. Old Cal was so obscure in his chosen profession that he wasn’t even hated by the cowmen. And when a sheepman don’t get eminent enough to acquire the hostility of the cattlemen, he is mighty apt to die unwept and considerably unsung.

“But that Marilla girl was a benefit to the eye. And she was the most elegant kind of a housekeeper. I was the nearest neighbour, and I used to ride over to the Double-Elm anywhere from nine to sixteen times a week with fresh butter or a quarter of venison or a sample of new sheep-dip just as a frivolous excuse to see Marilla. Marilla and me got to be extensively inveigled with each other, and I was pretty sure I was going to get my rope around her neck and lead her over to the Lomito. Only she was so everlastingly permeated with filial sentiments toward old Cal that I never could get her to talk about serious matters.

“You never saw anybody in your life that was as full of knowledge and had less sense than old Cal. He was advised about all the branches of information contained in learning, and he was up to all the rudiments of doctrines and enlightenment. You couldn’t advance him any ideas on any of the parts of speech or lines of thought. You would have thought he was a professor of the weather and politics and chemistry and natural history and the origin of derivations. Any subject you brought up old Cal could give you an abundant synopsis of it from the Greek root up to the time it was sacked and on the market.

“One day just after the fall shearing I rides over to the Double-Elm with a lady’s magazine about fashions for Marilla and a scientific paper for old Cal.

“While I was tying my pony to a mesquite, out runs Marilla, ‘tickled to death’ with some news that couldn’t wait.

“‘Oh, Rush,’ she says, all flushed up with esteem and gratification, ‘what do you think! Dad’s going to buy me a piano. Ain’t it grand? I never dreamed I’d ever have one.”

“‘It’s sure joyful,’ says I. ‘I always admired the agreeable uproar of a piano. It’ll be lots of company for you. That’s mighty good of Uncle Cal to do that.’

“‘I’m all undecided,’ says Marilla, ‘between a piano and an organ. A parlour organ is nice.’

“‘Either of ’em,’ says I, ‘is first-class for mitigating the lack of noise around a sheep-ranch. For my part,’ I says, ‘I shouldn’t like anything better than to ride home of an evening and listen to a few waltzes and jigs, with somebody about your size sitting on the piano- stool and rounding up the notes.’

“‘Oh, hush about that,’ says Marilla, ‘and go on in the house. Dad hasn’t rode out to-day. He’s not feeling well.’

“Old Cal was inside, lying on a cot. He had a pretty bad cold and cough. I stayed to supper.

“‘Going to get Marilla a piano, I hear,’ says I to him.

“‘Why, yes, something of the kind, Rush,’ says he. ‘She’s been hankering for music for a long spell; and I allow to fix her up with something in that line right away. The sheep sheared six pounds all round this fall; and I’m going to get Marilla an instrument if it takes the price of the whole clip to do it.’

“‘Star wayno,’ says I. ‘The little girl deserves it.’

“‘I’m going to San Antone on the last load of wool,’ says Uncle Cal, ‘and select an instrument for her myself.’

“‘Wouldn’t it be better,’ I suggests, ‘to take Marilla along and let her pick out one that she likes?’

“I might have known that would set Uncle Cal going. Of course, a man like him, that knew everything about everything, would look at that as a reflection on his attainments.

“‘No, sir, it wouldn’t,’ says he, pulling at his white whiskers. ‘There ain’t a better judge of musical instruments in the whole world than what I am. I had an uncle,’ says he, ‘that was a partner in a piano-factory, and I’ve seen thousands of ’em put together. I know all about musical instruments from a pipe-organ to a corn-stalk fiddle. There ain’t a man lives, sir, that can tell me any news about any instrument that has to be pounded, blowed, scraped, grinded, picked, or wound with a key.’

Filed in: Children, Fantasy, Fiction

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