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rumbling of recent thunder rolled in the distance. Flashes of lightning ever and anon told of an atmosphere still charged with electricity, even if this had not been proclaimed by the sulphurous and stifling air.
But what is this discord that bursts upon the darkness ?
Squeakings and shriekings, groanings and gaspings, grumblings in veiled basso profondo alternating with squeals in agonising alto, confusion worse confounded of sbarps and flats, dominants and subdominants, crotchets and quavers, diplomatic semitones and undiplomatic protests—mingled equawkings as of strings violently pulled many ways, blarings as of brass, wailings as of wind
Never did more horrible charivari make night more hideous.
“ Not cats, Master,” growled Toby, from his post of guard at the bed-side ; "only the Berlin Orchestra tuning for the European Concert.”
It was hard to believe that the long-promised Concert was coming off at last. But Ponch can trust his watch-dog.
The Master was wide-awake at once, up and dressed, and deep in the list of the principal performers which Toby had banded to him.
BEACONSFIELD and BISMARCK, to alternate the duties of Conductor and First-Fiddle; SALISBURY for BEACONSFIELD'S Second-Fiddle ; SoBOUVALOFF, Big-Drum and Leader of the Russian Horn Band; ANDRASSY, Ophicleide; WADDINGTON, Flute and French Cor de Chasse ; CORTI, Viol da Gamba; MEHEMET, Cymbals, Tambourine, and Turkish Crescent; Roumanian Guzla, Greek Lyre, Jew's-harp, and other minor instruments incidental to the Concert, by Messrs. BRATIANO, DELYANNIS, the Leaders of the Israelitish Alliance, and others.
" Quite a star-orchestra," murmured the Master. “What a pity they didn't get it together two years ago! Why should Europe have had to wade her way to her concert through a sea of blood, across a waste of war strewed with hideous wreck of massacre, athwart misery untold-famine and death, and outrage worse than death ? And what a discord by way of introduction! But the more trouble in tuning, the more chance, let us hope, of harmony to come."
So saying, but with a sigh of misgiving, Punch made his way to the concert-room through a double row of Special Correspondents who bowed respectfully as he passed.
BEACONSFIELD, báton in hand, was at his side in a twinkling-leaving his seat, for a moment, to SALISBURY, his Second-Fiddle, who seemed ill at ease under the new responsibility. Was he thinking of the Conference of Constantinople, and what it came to ?
“What can I do for you, my dear and illustrious confrère ? " exclaimed BEACONSFIELD, blandly, as he made a movement to take PUNOH's hand.
“Let me see your programme," said Punch, politely waiving the proffered courtesy.
“Of course I have settled it all beforehand with SCHOUVALOFF and BISMARCK—but only provisionally," hastily observed BEACONSFIELD.
“Somebody must settle," rejoined the Master, “or we should have the music in a nice muddle. But you ought to have taken me into council."
BEACONSFIELD, for once, blushed, as he handed Punch & paper.
“ taste is barbaric. They uuderstand nothing but brass and wind; and their best players are always making false notes. have modified the Panslav Movement very considerably; cut short the Russian March, and altogether suppressed Ignatieff's Overture to the Siege of Constantinople; besides curtailing their Bulgarian symphony, of which there was ridiculously to much. It is true we have given them the. Blaue Donau 'Waltz, with the Sofia, Schum'a, and Varna variations, the Bessarabian scherzo, and the Batoum barcarole, but en revanche we have restored the Balkan passages for the Turkish band."
“ But how about the integrity and independence of the Ottoman'?”
BEACONSFIELD shrugged his shoulders. “A mere façon de parler. We know what that sort of thing means," he added, with a smile. "All very well for a Jingo air at the Music Halls, but in a European Concort !”—and he winked, and all but whistled as he put his finger to his nose, with an air of infinite significance. “ But there was no alternative. ANDRASSY has been very troublesome. We all know he bas a difficult part to play, but he will play it in his own time and way, no matter at what risk of the general barmony. It is arranged that the Viennese troupe are to lead the Bosnian and Herzegovinian Concerto. If they don't find themselves in a mess before they have done—but that is their affair. As for England—”
“You will allow me a voice," interposed Puncii, firmly, “when it comes to the English part of the programme. Though I am not precisely a Wagnerian, in the European Concert England must go in for the Music of the Future,' with Peace and Progress, Justice and National Right, for her key-notes. Ah, if we could only cut down the military bands, German and French, Austrian and Russ, alike! Amidst the overpowering din of big drums and trumpets, trombones, fifes, and bugles, the European Concert may yet end in a worse charivari than this with which it opens."
“At all events, I hope you 'll like my setting of Humpty Dumpty?'” anxiously whispered BEACONSFIELD, “whatever the Turks may have to say to it.”
• The less of that air the better," said Punch; " at least, without an English Conductor for the Turkish instruments, and one whom England can trust. At any rate, you had better let me give you a lead. Here is my Music-Book.”
So saying, Punch placed on the stand his
Seventy-Fourtly Volume, ,
and with BEACONSFIELD still nominally in possession of the búton, but well under Puncu's eye, proceeded to Educate the Educator.