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a web of many textures

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Page 49


An amusing instance of an involuntary performance
happened, some years ago, in a church not far from
Boston. The organist was a splendid musician, but had
an infirmity with which, we are glad to believe, very
few of his brethren are now troubled, — he would crook
his elbow after dinner, and was too ready to “look upon
the wine when it is red.” It made very little difference,
however, in his playing, even though he had
dipped in “potations pottle deep.” One Sunday, he came
to church remarkably hilarious. There was an unusually
bright sparkle in his eye, and his white fingers ran
over the keys in most profuse liquidity, producing
sounds that, while they were very beautiful, were so
undisguised that even the dullest could not but understand
that there was something queer about the organist,
and that their own solemnly-dedicated organ was
playing anything but the legitimate airs of their Zion.
People nudged one another, the more rigid with frowning
looks, some with surprise, and others, of the undevout,
with an appreciating grin. The pastor hesitated
when giving out the first hymn; but the organ never
did so well, and redeemed itself from the obloquy of its
recent suspicious conduct. The congregation rose for the
prayer, — the people did so in those days, — when, just
at the hush of the performance, while all were intently
listening to catch the voice of the pastor, as it emerged
from the hoarse whisper of the opening, the organ gave
a frightful scream, that smote the ear like the laughter
of fiends, echoing from every nook and corner of the
old church. The pastor stopped in his prayer, and
opened his eyes; the audience turned round, and every
eye was bent on the organ-loft. The organist had risen


Page 50
with the rest, but his efforts to preserve his equilibrium
had proved unavailing, and he had tumbled over upon
the key-board, producing the fearful “involuntary,” as
he reached his hands out to save himself. Conscious
of the disorder, and confused by the looks turned upon
him, he recovered himself, and, holding out his hand
towards the minister, said in an unsteady but patronizing
voice, “Or ri, sir; drive on!” This broke the
back of all propriety, and it was thought that the prayer
which followed did the audience but little good.
Another organist was engaged before the next Sunday.