Chapter 11 Jimmy's Attic
Access to the attic was from a door at the end of the third story hallway. Just being on the third story was something of an adventure as the rooms there were never used except on those occasions when Mr. Day had out-of-town business guests. Since it was a cloudy, stormy day it was nearly dark up there.
Harry had been given a real battery operated flashlight by his Grandpa for his eighth birthday just two months before and he brought it with him knowing they might need it. He opened the door and cautiously sniffed. Harry had read stories about how explorers of Egyptian tombs were sometimes overcome by a mysterious gas when the tombs were opened after thousands of years.
There was nothing but the musty attic smell. There was a narrow stairway that led to the attic itself. Of course, the steps were creaky and it could have been scary, but the wildest thing about this attic was a stuffed deer head that was hung crookedly on the wall opposite the top of the stairs.
Once inside the boys looked around. The attic was a square room with small gabled windows centered on the roof sections which formed each of the four slanting walls. Light entered reluctantly from the dirty window panes. There was no ceiling but bare rafters that came to a central peak. Altogether it would have been a place of nightmares but the boys saw something that caught their interest immediately. Amid all the trunks and boxes and old furniture stood a pump organ.
It was tall and ornate and it was in excellent condition. The thing that excited Harry and Jimmy, however, was the large number of stop knobs that were arranged in two neat rows just above the single keyboard. There were names they recognized such as Flute and String and Diapason, but there were some that they had never seen, too. Names like Aeoline and Sackbut and Erzåhphone. All of these sounds were tried out with each boy taking a turn pumping the pedals or playing the keys, sometimes together. This was such great fun that they educated and amused themselves this way all morning until they were called down for lunch.
Further exploration of the attic was the order of the afternoon. Every nook, every cranny was peered into, every box and trunk opened. One old trunk was full of books, among which was a leather bound volume entitled "The Songs of the South by Stephen Foster."
They found an army uniform in another old trunk. It's jacket was made of gray cloth with blue trimmings and it had gold buttons and a dangling fringe decoration on both the shoulders. Harry put it on and asked how he looked.
“You look like you were swallowed by an army uniform!” giggled Jimmy.
In this same trunk was a fancy box tied about with a pale red ribbon. A hand written note in faded blue ink said:
“My dearest sisters; Please keep these for me ere I return.”
Jimmy carefully pulled the bow. It was a box of letters and very old photographs. Among the pictures of babies and families was a photo of two beautiful young women, one playing a violin and the other a harp. There was writing on the back which identified the ladies: “Agnes and Ester Hudson, my beloved twin sisters.”
Then there was a picture of two soldiers standing at attention side-by-side in front of a cannon. One had a drum hanging by his right side. The other held a cornet in his left hand. Harry read the writing on the back.
It said: “Corporal Apton Tunney Hudson, cornet. Corporal Jackson Duffield Grundy, drum. Forever friends.”
They found yet another picture of the drummer, this time in civilian clothes, apparently posing in a parlor. On the back was written:
“Jackson Duffield Grundy, Born July 17, 1840 died tragically at the hand of the enemy November 4, 1863. My Dearest Jack; No one ever had a closer friend. There will never again be one like you. Farewell, Jack. I shall see you again someday. Apton.”
It made them sad to know the soldier had died so neither boy said anything. They carefully put all the pictures and uniform away exactly as they found them and continued exploring.
Their fascinating plundering brought musical results in the form of three instruments. The first one they found together. It was a drum which looked, from its decorations, like it had been used in a military band. Jimmy thought it looked like the same drum the soldier boy had in the picture. After finding the drum they split up. The second instrument was found by Harry near the first. At least he thought it was an instrument. Whatever it was, it was in a brown leather case which also bore some kind of military insignia along with musical symbols.
Jimmy also found something in a case that had a familiar shape. They brought their treasures over to where the scant afternoon light shone through a window. First they opened Jimmy's case. It was a violin.
This was an exquisite thing. Nestled in royal blue velvet which lined a brown lizard skin case bearing the initials JMD, its lovely shape was made of deep honey colored wood. It had a fragrance of pine about it. There was a bow which was fitted into a molded groove in the lid of the case. In a small compartment, with a little tab on the lid, was an amber cake of rosin, which, glasslike, caught the meager attic light. Four neatly coiled strings were there too, each in its own crackly paper envelope printed with strange, foreign-looking words and symbols.
Jimmy lifted the Violin from the case. There, underneath the instrument, was a yellowed folded paper with fancy printing on the front that read: “The Fernandina Arts Committee presents Violinist Joseph M. Day and Organist Camellia J. Day in concert at the Episcopal Church of Our Savior.”
Just a few days before Jimmy had gone with his mother to a program in the social hall of their church. A lady played the piano and a man played the violin. Jimmy noticed how he tightened and put rosin on the bow, then how the man held the bow in his right hand, and how he placed the violin under his chin to play. But Jimmy had especially listened and watched carefully as the man plucked the strings and adjusted the pegs to make the strings match certain notes on the piano.
He remembered the notes as a kind of melody starting on an “g” and moving up by five notes each time. He thought about this and played the notes on the pump organ: “g” then “d” then “a” and the last, an “e”.
Harry said: “That sounds interesting. What is it?”
“I don't know,” Jimmy said thoughtfully, “I believe that you're supposed to make the strings on the violin match those notes, though.”
“By turning these pegs. Here, play this “g,” Jimmy carefully turned one of the pegs while plucking at its string until its pitch matched the one Harry was holding on the organ.
Harry said, “So far, so good!” a phrase he'd heard his dad say. “Go ahead and do the next one.”
And so they did until all four strings had been matched to the notes.
“OK,” said Harry, “now what?”
Jimmy put the violin under his chin as the man had done. He took the bow and pulled it across the strings just as he remembered. He and Harry were a little startled when a musical tone actually came from the instrument.
“Wow!” said Harry, “How do you play a song on it?”
Jimmy said nothing but concentrated on pressing his finger tips on the strings against the long narrow board close to where the pegs were. Harry thought it sounded a lot like a cat meowing at midnight, but he did recognize the first seven notes of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” He began to giggle and so did Jimmy. Soon they were laughing so hard tears came to their eyes.
When the laughter became giggles again Jimmy said, “Let's open your case now.”
Harry put the case down with the military symbols on top. He loosened the two shiny buckles that held the case closed. Inside was a golden gleaming cornet resting on a red velvet cushion. Harry picked the thing up and turned it over in his hands. There were three push buttons which had opalescent mother of pearl tops.
Something seemed to be missing “Where do you blow in it?” he thought out loud, “Maybe an extra part goes in this open pipe here.”
Jimmy replied, “Maybe there is a hidey hole like in the violin case.”
Harry quickly found the compartment and opened it. Inside was a soft leather bag with something solid and heavy in it. He loosened the drawstrings on the bag and found inside a piece of metal. It was shaped like a little cup on a stem and there was a hole that went all the way from the bottom of the cup out the end of the stem. The pipe on one end of the cornet looked like the stem would fit into it, and so it did.
Harry remembered one of Jimmy's books that had a painting of a boy blowing a bugle as he stood in front of a waving American flag. This instrument was a lot like a bugle. The book was in Jimmy's room. Jimmy ran and got it.
Harry looked closely at how the boy's lips fit onto the little cup. Harry placed his mouth on the cup the same way and blew hard. Nothing happened. Harry had such a funny look on his face that Jimmy began to laugh again. Scowling, Harry tried to ignore him and he raised the horn and took a deep breath to blow again. By this time Harry began to think this was funny too. What started out to be a mighty blow turned into a sputter of his lips, which were on the little cup. Suddenly there was aloud squawk from the cornet! Harry and Jimmy looked at each other in open mouthed shock -- a split second later the laughter started again.
Harry and Jimmy began to spend a lot of time in the attic even on days when there was no rain. They began to look at books in the library on the violin and the cornet. And sometimes, when Jimmy's mother could hear faint musical sounds coming from three flights up, she smiled and thought about the old Victrola and records that Jimmy and Harry must have found.
Sure enough, the boys did find the old Victrola and records. It was quite some time later though, after they had taught themselves how to play melodies on a lovely old violin and a shiny cornet, taking turns accompanying each other on the pump organ.