Story of an Old Piano (excerpts) written by Mrs. Charles Ferris, 1900.
It has been said that my first years were spent in the City of New York in a music house kept by J.
Thurston, a dealer in musical instruments. I was too young, however, to remember anything of this por-
tion of my existence. My recollection dates from the time the sunlight flashed across my ivory keys in a
large apartment in a "Select Boarding and Day School for Young Ladies." I soon found my mistress
Helen Gilchrist; a slender girl, only fourteen, whose big black eyes often grew misty from homesickness
for the Illinois home so far away in the Western Wilderness.
Two years passed away, when, one day, I was boxed for shipping. I heard talk of a log cabin, and won-
dered much what a log cabin might be. I was put aboard a sailing vessel at the port of New York, and
after weeks of voyaging was landed at the wharf of a city called New Orleans. Here I was stowed away
on the deck of a big steam boat, and was soon steaming up the Mississippi River, landing at a trading
post called Warsaw. Transferred from the boat to a farmer's wagon, I began my journey from Warsaw to
Tennessee Township, McDonough County . . . I was overjoyed to meet my mistress once more and to
see her happiness with her father, mother, and four younger brothers. . . .
People came from miles to see me, the first piano in McDonough County, and the first which many a
grown person had ever seen to admire my polished case, two convenient drawers to hold sheet
music, and hand-carved legs. My sweet tones astonished and delighted them, when the fingers of my
owner drew forth such melodies as "Bonaparte Crossing the Alps," "Haste to the Wedding,"and "Flow
Gently, Sweet Afton." Soon to the western farm house suitors flocked. The favored one was a dignified,
scholarly doctor. . . (her) senior by fifteen years. I felt so glad when she, with all the impetuosity of
eighteen, gave her life into his keeping.
Once more, in 1850, an overland trip was made. Only twelve miles this time, and it is hoped this journey
will be my last! I was brought to Fountain Green, here to this house which has been my house ever
since. The young bride soon made many friends in the new home. Lonely she often was when the
Doctor was absent for days and nights at a time, riding with saddle bags behind him, miles over country
roads, to carry comfort and healing to the sick. . . . For a while my honors were shared with a new
sewing machine. As people came to see me, so they came now from far and near to see this great won-
der - a machine that could stitch and hem. I was quite neglected and felt decidedly `flat.'
My keys have been thumped to quiet babies' cries. Baby fingers have pounded them. They have been
sticky with jam. They have been wet with tears. they have softly resounded to the funeral music as three
little forms have been borne, amid sorrow and tears, across the threshold. They have gleefully peeled
forth at weddings.
Today, as I gaze into that dear face, I realize, for the first time that it has altered. I never thought of her
as having changed -- but the girlish figure broadened into most matronly proportions, with thinned and
faded hair; with hands broadened and worn with tireless, unselfish toil for others.
When my last note is silenced, may it be silenced by her beloved touch! When, for the last time, my lid
is closed, may it be shut by her gentle clasp!
A Matter of Style: 19th Century Furniture
Language Activity: Piano-page 2