Generalissimo

The story of the rise and fall of an emperor who ruled only on Fridays and Sundays

A. RAYMOND MULLENS May 1 1930

Generalissimo

The story of the rise and fall of an emperor who ruled only on Fridays and Sundays

A. RAYMOND MULLENS May 1 1930

Generalissimo

The story of the rise and fall of an emperor who ruled only on Fridays and Sundays

A. RAYMOND MULLENS

BEVERLEY TUPPER returned to his desk, sat down, and appropriated seventy-two cents worth of Gribble and Markham's time to the business of

thinking things out.

As the seventy-third cent was about to be filched he reached the summing up of his half hour’s selfexamination. He was a Worm.

He had that morning listened with polite and attentive patience to old Gribhlc’s lengthily expressed opinion of his abilities. He had been told that he had exhibited in the fourteen years during which he had been associated with the firm of Gribble and Markham, Makers of Fine Furniture, a total lack of interest in that firm’s progress and well-being, that solely through his lack of intelligent interest the fortunes of his employers were daily imperilled. Old Gribble had informed his employee that he had reached one certain, definite conclusion; that

unless he, Gribble, vice-president and general manager, gave his personal attention to every matter connected with the operation of the concern’s affairs, these affairs inevitably turned out awry.

Reverley Tupper, organist and choirmaster of Blenheim’s First Presbyterian Church, had been told that, if you looked at the matter in a cold, scientific way, one Tupper was drawing his salary on palpably false pretenses.

And Beverley had suffered Gribble to affront him in this manner.

Well Beverley knew the attitude a man of his acknowdedged standing in the community should have taken. He should have listened to old Gribble with patience and then, smiling the while, have said:

“Listen to me, Gribble. You know perfectly well that I had nothing to do with substituting No. 3334 chairs for the No. 3336 chairs which we didn’t have in stock. You were the old fool who was responsible for that lapse of business judgment. As usual, one of your fits of childish exasperation gummed up the works. You are opinionated, you are muddle-headed, your manners are bad, and your conversation coarse and lacking in the elements of logic. Do wdth your five-cent job what you will. What I have said I have said.”

Had Beverley said thus and so? On the contrary. Gribble had stormed and fumed, and Beverley, after much uneasy shifting of feet and rubbing of hands, had promised to be “more careful in the future.”

Why? Well, the job was a good one as jobs went, and Gribble was vice-president and general manager. Therefore it was in the nature of things that Gribble should be arrogant and unreasonable and that Beverley should emulate the lowly worm—with small hope of ever showing signs of the feeblest of turns.

But if Beverley had been a timid and pusillanimous

Tupper on Friday morning, Beverley seated at the newly installed three-manual organ of the Presbyterian Church on Friday evening was a man new-born.

Rather short, sandy-haired, a bald spot just showing in his back hair, this Beverley was an imperator. The choir is motioned to its feet with a not-to-be-denied gesture of both hands. With infinite sarcasm the tenor soloist is rebuked: “No, don’t hold on to that top G; if the composer had meant you to thrill us, he would, no doubt, have given it ten beats instead of two.” Fierce basses shrink from him as he hisses: “Don’t roar at me, you are supposed to be singing.”

Beverley looks at the serried ranks of choristers standing on either side of the organ. Every eye waits upon his slightest gesture.

It is Friday nights and Sundays that reconcile Beverley to his lowly lot at Gribble and Markham’s. For here he is the nerve centre of things, the controlling force—the Generalissimo.

If only the choir had numbered more contraltos. Beverley had four at his command—and not one of them possessed that thrilling “Abide with Me” boom that delights the heart of the choirmaster. Beverley mourned over his contraltos, or rather his lack of them. But he soon was to be comforted.

The choir rehearsal was over and Beverley was pulling down the roll top of the organ console when Mrs. Gavin Oughtred came over.

“We’ve got the car waiting outside and we’re going to take you home with us. We’ve discovered a wonderful contralto; she’s been studying in London and Paris and Milan and all sorts of places. If we could only get her in the choir. I want you to come along and be ever so persuasive. I know you will, of course.”

It didn’t take more than a glance for Beverley to see that Mrs. Oughtred was in evening dress—very evening dress—and he glanced dubiously at his neat blue sergeclad knees. Mrs. Oughtred understood at once.

“Oh, don’t bother because you’re not dressed. We all know’ that Friday night is choir rehearsal and everyone will . Don’t bother.”

It is vain to deny that Beverley was tickled—tickled pink. Mrs. Oughtred was the outstanding social light of Blenheim. Her husband was the president of the

Oughtred Washing Machine Company, most active of local Rotarians, thrice mayor of the city, director in four of Blenheim’s largest industrial concerns. What Oughtred represented to every right-thinking male in Blenheim went thrice for Mrs. Oughtred where their wives were concerned. The portals of the Oughtred’s impressive house, “Bienvenu” had never yet been thrown wide for Beverley. It was, in truth, as easy for a portly man to get through the eye of a needle as .

So with a tumult of questioning and fears affrighting him, Beverley found himself an insignificant factor in the process of his introduction to Mrs. Christine Peupronnel. Mrs. Oughtred pronounced the name with a careful and exquisite incorrectness. She added an explanation: “Monsieur Peupronnel, up until the

moment of his death, was attached to the embassy at Bassy-sur-Loire.”

Beverley bowed—he’d read somewhere that this was a safer bet than sticking out your hand to a distinguished stranger—and murmured, indistinctly:

“Glad to meet you, Mrs ... I didn’t quite catch the name?” Mrs. Peupronnel laughed, a low, rich and exciting laugh which Beverley recognized at once as emanating from a first-class contralto vocal apparatus. “Mrs. Oughtred has been telling me about the wonderful work you’ve been doing at her church. We must have a long talk about music even talking about it will help. I feel literally starved for music.”

A little later in the evening they did indeed talk. That is, Mrs. Peupronnel delivered a sort of travelogue and abridged Who’s Who in Music combined. Beverley upheld the musical honor of Blenheim by clucking encouragingly at intervals, “Well J never ... at Bologna they do that ... I knew there was a . . . now . . leaning tower there, but J. didn’t know

Raviolozzi lived there.” Mrs. Peup.onnel announced her intention of joining the First Presbyterian choir. “No solos, of course, I just want to do my little bit to help music in Blenheim—and you.”

TN HIS bed that night, Beverley tried to realize what

the advent of Mrs. Peupronnel would mean to his choir. It was hard to imagine her there. He shut his eyes and tried to picture her as she had sat beside him on the tapestry-covered chaise-longue.

A regal woman! All shimmering and glittering in a costume of silver. A tall woman, with—

Beverley felt that he should not have noticed this a sumptuous bust and a discreet opulence of curve.

Then he was wafted away on clouds of reminiscent glory when he recollected that she had sung Gluck’s “Divinités du Styx,” and he hadn’t quite made a total mess of the accompaniment despite his unfamiliarity with the music.

And her smile when the aria was finished and her “You played that beautifully, Mr.

Tupper.”

And this superb creature was to be planked down among his four contraltos. Little Miss Trine, whose loudest declamation was a hoarse apology;

Norah Grimes, conscientious as only a school-teacher can be and utterly incapable of one single tone resonant with emotion; Mrs. Gadderley, a powerful figure in the politics of the church but a musical washout; and last, his present soloist, Esther Thatcher, with her small, pleasant voice, really not a contralto but a mezzo-soprano, who strove so hard to sing as he wanted her to, and only succeeded in proving her whole-hearted loyalty and devotion to his own weedy person. What effect would the gorgeous Mrs. Peupronnel have on this little company of kindly crows?

He gave it up.

The next Friday night brought the complete solution. Mrs. Peupronnel made an effective entrance, thirty-five minutes late. She swept into the choir-loft with an impetuous dignity which made everyone feel that they had been born cripples.

“Where do I sit? Here? Oh, how jolly! I shall be right opposite you, but you mustn’t flirt with me. I’m sure he has been flirting with you, hasn’t he?” she laughed at poor astonished little Esther Thatcher. “Well, never mind, we’ll keep in countenance, won’t we?”

Then, very civilly, she contradicted him, controverted his authority. They were practising a Roman “Jubilate Deo” of César Franck’s, and all the while he beat a solemn one-two-three-four at Mrs. Devenish, his

soprano soloist, she tapped an impatient foot. When the solo was finished she laughed at him lightly. “Oh, really, Mr. Tupper, not so slow as all that. I knew Verrinot, Franck’s favorite pupil, and he showed me just exactly the tempo.”

To his everlasting shame, Tupper explained that he was taking the solo thus slowly, “just to give Mrs. Devenish a chance.”

For three almost unendurable weeks it was a repetition of the same thing. Mrs. Peupronnel always seemed to have known someone who knew the composer intimately and this someone’s views on tempo varied radically from Beverley’s.

Perceptibly, the centre of authority shifted from him, Beverley, to the travelled and magnificent contralto. Again and again, miserably, he tried to attract the attention of his once adoring choir to himself. With an air of the lightest nonchalance he transposed sections of difficult anthems in the hope of arousing amazement and admiration. The choir, apparently, thought it no more than an organist should be willing to do. Even his big effect, learned from attendance at an organ recital of Courboin’s, failed to stir them. And he had counted on it so utterly. From a chord played with the organ going great guns, he selected one note and this note, after shutting off the huge pipes, he caused to be sounded by a tiny, plaintive reed, as if the little voice said, “You see I was only one note of a chord just now, but, see, how lovely I am when Tupper lets me be heard by myself.” He might just as well have played a vulgar tune on a badly tuned banjo for all the attention it commanded.

In short, Mrs. Peupronnel was the glittering cynosure of the choir’s collective eyes, and he, Tupper, was nothing more than a fairly competent organ accompanist.

And so the walls little Beverley Tupper had erected around himself by virtue of his genuine musicianship,

niture factory’s office who didn’t have enough assertiveness to keep a church choir loyal to him. It isn’t good for even the humblest of us to have no small reserve of self-respect on which to draw.

It had been a trying rehearsal for Beverley. Mrs. Peupronnel was going to sing “O Rest in the Lord”— she had been induced to overcome her aversion to singing solos—and, as usual Beverley’s accompaniment didn’t exactly suit her. Very sweetly, she had told him that she had been coached in the aria by SehumannHeink—and Schumann-Heink, of course

As he was wrapping his muffler around his thin neck, preparatory to bracing the particularly nipping weather outside, Esther Thatcher came to him. She had a copy of an anthem in her hand. “Mr. Tupper,” she said to him shyly she always spoke shyly, although some of the other female members of the choir had accused her of having “bold eyes” “Mr. Tupper, 1 wonder if you’d look over this anthem of Tertius Noble’s. I heard them do it at St. Bartholemew’s when I was in New York and I thought it was splendid.”

Beverley regarded her large, adoring eyes with bilious suspicions. No doubt, little Esther Thatcher had fallen under the spell of the magnifical Peupronnel. “I suppose there’s a whacking big contralto solo in it, eh?” he questioned bitterly. Esther looked at him for just a moment with level-eyed amusement. “Yes, there’s quite a contralto solo in it, Mr. Tupper. I think you’ll feel that we ought to try and sing the anthem."

He had taken off his shoes, rubbers, spats and socks, and was warming his gelid feet before the gas fire in his one, but pleasant room, before he thought of the anthem Esther Thatcher had given him. Well, he reflected, he’d better take a look at it; heaven knew, he couldn’t afford to offend even the humblest member of his choir!

He straightened out the sheet on his lean knee and bent his wearied mind to concentration. Hmmm! Nice writing enough; that little bit of fugato, but why, particularly? Then he came to the contralto solo and his whole frame was instant intent. Holy smoke, what a beastly difficult thing to sing! Why, he’d have a hard time even puzzling the thing out at the piano. How he’d like to give it to Mrs. Peupronnel, cold turkey. What kind of a fist of it would she make, he wondered.

Then it dawned on him. Of course! That was just exactly what Esther Thatcher had intended him to do. Just hand out the copies to the choir and when the diplomat’s widow came to the baffling perplexities of the solo, say: “Contralto solo, Mrs.

Peupronnel; really, quite simple when you take a look at it.” Well he knew that a dozen looks wouldn’t make the way plain for her. Let her dig vip a recollection of some pupil of Tertius Nobel’s to help her solve its perplexities!

lie went over to his piano, and for the next hour, hammered the baffling melody and rhythm into his head. At last, he sighed contentedly and going to a small desk, ordered fifty copies of the Noble opus to be delivered at once to the First Presbyterian Church, Blenheim.

Then he undressed, put on a clean suit of pyjamas, stretched himself out comfortably in bed, and, for the first time in three torturing weeks slept the sweet, tranquil, untroubled sleep of a tired child.

TT HAD been four months * now, since Beverley Tupper had placed the fifty copies of the Tertius Noble anthem in section 264 of the choir library. For four whole months»these fifty innocent sheets of Tngh explosive which could so easily encompass Mrs. Peupronnel’s destruction had lain in their appointed niche, and Beverley had left them undisturbed There were a number of reasons for this. Firstly, while Mrs. Peupronnel abated not a whit of her authority, her coming had not been without its consolations for Beverley. There was, for example, the matter of the recital she gave in the Masonic Temple Auditorium. Beverley had played for her, and played, he felt, every bit as well as the dominant contralto had sung. Nobody save Esther Thatcher had indicated that they agreed with his opinion, but, still everybody had told him, “How nicely he played, and what a fine thing it was for Blenheim that Mrs. Peupronnel didn’t have to get an accompanist from out of town.” A backhanded compliment, enough, but still a compliment.

And then, surprisingly enough, old Gribble had complimented him on his playing at the concert. Gribble! The fierce if foolish furniture factor; the masterful one; the feared of all his staff. Yes, Gribble

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Generalissimo

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had said nice things to him, Beverley, about his playing at a concert. It was astounding! More, after his little speech of congratulation he had said to Beverley:

“A marvellous voice Mrs. Peupronnel has, hasn’t she? Such color, such timbre” —he pronounced the word “timber”— “such phrasing.” And then Gribble had blushed. Beverley had attributed the blush to Gribble’s first wrestle with a French word.

Marvellously, after this little scene Gribble was a milder Gribble to Beverley. He consulted him on musical terms which he manfully confessed had baffled him. He asked Beverley’s opinion of the respective merits of Strauss and Wolf as song writers. In a way, he almost seemed to defer to Beverley at times. Beverley was soothed but mystified.

Then, too, the matter of the Noble anthem had established a curious but delightful intimacy between the delaurelled little organist and Esther Thatcher. She, no less than he, knew what a frightful instrument rested in section 2G4 of the choir library, and the mutually shared knowledge comforted both of them when Mrs. Peupronnel’s knowledge of musical celebrities was hard to bear.

He started to call at the Thatcher home; he found Thatcher mère et père as soothing as their child. He found himself invited to homes he had never entered before, homes in which were installed properly tuned pianos, and which were inhabited by people whose ears were attuned to good music. People who didn’t talk when Beverley played—even when he played an eighteen-minute Beethoven sonata. Beverley’s life took on new color and verve—he was, in a sense, an important integer in a salon.

So for four months Beverley felt a new contentment with life, a peace, a less careful regard for his authority as organist and choirmaster, a sense of tender relaxation. Let Mrs. Peupronnel dazzle his choir as she might, while there was Esther Thatcher and her musically discriminating friends . . .

AND then Mrs. Peupronnel did it. It appeared that the distinguished organist Jolyon Gascoigne would pass through Blenheim on his way to the nearby metropolis where he was booked for an important organ recital, and that Mrs. Peupronnel had persuaded him to stay with her over Sunday—“knew him when i he was studying with Widor, my dear

Mrs. Oughtred. Such a charming man. And play . . . !”—and had further persuaded him to play a few organ numbers after the Sunday evening service.

Not that Beverley minded Gascoigne coming and playing on the First Presbyterian Church’s organ—not a bit. He was, in point of fact, not a little delighted at the thought of meeting the great man on such intimate terms. But Gascoigne. The insufferably conceited ass had met him at the church on Saturday afternoon and Beverley had unlocked the organ console and stood by respectfully while the master tried out his darling’s paces. But what did Gascoigne do? Just gave the crescendo pedal a twirl, listened with his head on one side, pressed two or three combination pistons and commented airily: “Just the usual three-manual

outfit. Quite nice, though.”

“Just the usual three-manual outfit,” the organ which he, Beverley, had practically written the specifications for. Just the usual ... ! His organ, his pet, the talk of Blenheim, treated in this cavalier fashion !

And then the organ numbers. Beverley, the service through, sat down in one of the choir chairs and composed himself to listen. Critically, a little, perhaps, but determined to profit by the lesson Jolyon Gascoigne was to give him.

And the airy scoffer at organs of great price had proceeded to make his dulcetvoiced darling sound like a gigantic and badly tuned concertina. Every reed that Beverley knew must be used sparingly— every organ has them—he exploited as solo stops. He seems to have an unusual fondness for the particularly blatant Keraulophon—the one bad stop, Beverley admitted, the organ possessed.

And the blighter couldn’t even play. Listen to that pedalling in the Bach Fugue! All right, Gascoigne, start at that furious tempo if you like and see what a mess you make of things when you come to the pedal solo! A mess? You couldn’t hear the boom of the rich pedal pipes for the infernal chatter the ass made by the sand dance his boots performed on the pedals.

When the last number had been played, Beverley’s soul was sick with shame for the man. How congratulate him? How spare his feelings? How keep from showing that whatever he might do with other organs, at the keyboard of the First Presbyterian organ he was a hopeless blunderer.

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