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The Orchestrome
by [?]

The orchestrome was on Lady Sandlingbury’s stall at the bazaar. Her ladyship came up to Eliza in the friendliest way, and said, “My dear lady, I am convinced that you need an orchestrome. It’s the sweetest instrument in the world, worth at least five pounds, and for one shilling you have a chance of getting it. It is to be raffled.” Eliza objects, on principle, to anything like gambling; but as this was for the Deserving Inebriates, which is a good cause, she paid her shilling. She won the orchestrome, and I carried it home for her.

* * * * *

Six tunes were given with the orchestrome; each tune was on a slip of perforated paper, and all you had to do was to put in a slip and touch the spring.

We tried it first with “The Dandy Coloured Coon.” It certainly played something, but it was not right. There was no recognizable tune about it.

“This won’t do at all,” I said.

“Perhaps that tune’s got bent or something,” said Eliza. “Put in another.”

I put in “The Lost Chord” and “The Old Folks at Home,” and both were complete failures–a mere jumble of notes, with no tune in them at all. I confess that this exasperated me.

“You see what you’ve done?” I said. “You’ve fooled away a shilling. Nothing is more idiotic than to buy a thing without trying it first.”

“Why didn’t you say that before, then?” said Eliza. “I don’t believe there’s anything really wrong with it–just some little thing that’s got out of order, and can be put right again.”

“Wrong! Why, it’s wrong all through. Not one scrap of any of the tunes comes out right. I shall take it back to Lady Sandlingbury at once.”

“Oh, don’t do that!”

But my mind was made up, and I went back to the bazaar, and up to Lady Sandlingbury’s stall. Eliza wouldn’t come with me.

“I beg your ladyship’s pardon,” I said, “but your ladyship supplied me with this orchestrome, and your ladyship will have to take it back again.”

“Dear me! what’s all the trouble?”

I started the instrument, and let her hear for herself. She smiled, and turned to another lady who was helping her. The other lady was young, and very pretty, but with a scornful kind of amused expression, and a drawling way of speaking–both of which I disliked extremely.

“Edith,” said Lady Sandlingbury, “here’s this angry gentleman going to put us both in prison for selling him a bad orchestrome. He says it won’t work.”

“Doesn’t matter, does it?” said the other lady. “I mean to say, as long as it will play, you know.” At this rather stupid remark they both laughed, without so much as looking at me.

“I don’t want to make myself in any way unpleasant, your ladyship,” I said; “but this instrument was offered for raffle as being worth five pounds, and it’s not worth five shillings.”

“Come, now,” said Lady Sandlingbury, “I will give you five shillings for it. There you are! Now you can be happy, and go and spend your money.” I thanked her. She took the orchestrome and started it, and it played magnificently. Nothing could have been more perfect. “These things do better,” she said, “when you don’t put the tunes in wrong end first, so that the instrument plays them backwards.”

“I think your ladyship might have told me that before,” I said.

“Oh! you were so angry, and you didn’t ask me. Edith, dear, do go and be civil to some people, and make them take tickets for another raffle.”

“I call this sharp practice,” I said, “if not worse, and—-“

Here the other lady interrupted me.

“Could you, please, go away, unless you want to buy something? Thanks, so much!”

I went. I am rather sorry for it now. I think it would have been more dignified to have stopped and defied them.

Eliza appeared to think that I had made myself ridiculous. I do not agree with her. I do think, however, that when members of the aristocracy practise a common swindle in support of a charity, they go to show that rank is not everything. If Miss Sakers happens to ask us whether we are going to the bazaar in support of the Deserving Inebriates next year, I have instructed Eliza to reply: “Not if Lady Sandlingbury and her friend have a stall.” I positively refuse to meet them, and I do not care twopence if they know it.