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Elsie Venner eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 416 pages of information about Elsie Venner.

So, if she can sing, or play on any musical instrument, all her wickedness will run off through her throat or the tips of her fingers.  How many tragedies find their peaceful catastrophe in fierce roulades and strenuous bravuras!  How many murders are executed in double-quick time upon the keys which stab the air with their dagger-strokes of sound!  What would our civilization be without the piano?  Are not Erard and Broadwood and Chickering the true humanizers of our time?  Therefore do I love to hear the all-pervading tum tum jarring the walls of little parlors in houses with double door-plates on their portals, looking out on streets and courts which to know is to be unknown, and where to exist is not to live, according to any true definition of living.  Therefore complain I not of modern degeneracy, when, even from the open window of the small unlovely farmhouse, tenanted by the hard-handed man of bovine flavors and the flat-patterned woman of broken-down countenance, issue the same familiar sounds.  For who knows that Almira, but for these keys, which throb away her wild impulses in harmless discords would not have been floating, dead, in the brown stream which slides through the meadows by her father’s door,—­or living, with that other current which runs beneath the gas-lights over the slimy pavement, choking with wretched weeds that were once in spotless flower?

Poor Elsie!  She never sang nor played.  She never shaped her inner life in words:  such utterance was as much denied to her nature as common articulate speech to the deaf mute.  Her only language must be in action.  Watch her well by day and by night, old Sophy! watch her well! or the long line of her honored name may close in shame, and the stately mansion of the Dudleys remain a hissing and a reproach till its roof is buried in its cellar!

CHAPTER XXIV.

On his tracks.

“Able!” said the old Doctor, one morning, “after you’ve harnessed Caustic, come into the study a few minutes, will you?”

Abel nodded.  He was a man of few words, and he knew that the “will you” did not require an answer, being the true New-England way of rounding the corners of an employer’s order,—­a tribute to the personal independence of an American citizen.

The hired man came into the study in the course of a few minutes.  His face was perfectly still, and he waited to be spoken to; but the Doctor’s eye detected a certain meaning in his expression, which looked as if he had something to communicate.

“Well?” said the Doctor.

“He’s up to mischief o’ some kind, I guess,” said Abel.  “I jest happened daown by the mansion-haouse last night, ‘n’ he come aout o’ the gate on that queer-lookin’ creator’ o’ his.  I watched him, ‘n’ he rid, very slow, all raoun’ by the Institoot, ‘n’ acted as ef he was spyin’ abaout.  He looks to me like a man that’s calc’latin’ to do some kind of ill-turn to somebody.  I should n’t like to have him raoun’ me, ’f there wa’n’t a pitchfork or an eel-spear or some sech weep’n within reach.  He may be all right; but I don’t like his looks, ‘n’ I don’t see what he’s lurkin’ raoun’ the Institoot for, after folks is abed.”

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