FICTION

The Faraway Music Company

The violin or the viola? His first love or Mama? Papa didn’t know the answer. But Mama did

ROBERT FONTAINE June 15 1947
FICTION

The Faraway Music Company

The violin or the viola? His first love or Mama? Papa didn’t know the answer. But Mama did

ROBERT FONTAINE June 15 1947

The Faraway Music Company

FICTION

The violin or the viola? His first love or Mama? Papa didn’t know the answer. But Mama did

ROBERT FONTAINE

WHEN we arrived breathlessly at the Dominion Theatre where my father used to play for the vaudeville show, we found the lobby cluttered with firemen and their clumsy equipment.

“My violin is in there!” my father exclaimed. All the way up Sparks Street it was only the fire that danced in his head. Now he thought of the violin.

“Do violins burn?” I asked, pulling up my long stockings which had fallen from the run.

“They are among the first to go.” He turned to a man who was standing there with a hose. “How is everything going?”

“The water is rising,” the man said grimly. We looked at our feet and the water was up to our ankles.

“Let’s go,” my father cried. We ran into the theatre proper and the water was still deeper. A man in rubber boots stopped us.

“I want my violin,” my father said. “It is in the dressing room.”

“There are no dressing rooms. Last night there was a party backstage. The candles set fire to the scrims. Everything is a hollow shell.”

“My violin is 200 years old and it is the only one I can play on with any precision and loveliness.”

“You can’t even look for it,” the man said.

“I represent the Maple Leaf Fire and Casualty Company.”

“I,” said my father after a moment’s dreamy thought, “am the Faraway Music Company. Without my violin I cannot work. I will be at home all day and my wife will be angry. She does not like me around all day. She says it does not give her a chance to clean.”

“We’ll get you a brand-new violin,” the man said. “I don’t want a brand-new violin,” my father retorted. But we saw it was no use. Even I was prevented from swimming around to see if I could locate the instrument.

We went home sadly. We told my mother the story. ’

“You should have taken the piano. The piano is not floating around, I bet.”

“The piano is burned to the ground,” my father said.

“Ah, well,” my mother said, “you can get another violin.”

My father looked at her, his face scarlet. Then he smiled and his rage vanished. “That is like saying,” he observed quietly, “I can get another wife.” My mother smiled and small tears made sparkling gems of her eyes.

“I will stop this sweeping. One can sweep and sweep until one sweeps the heart bare.”

“You see,” Papa said to me, laughing, “already the tragedy has made us closer.”

That night we all went to the Chateau for a dinner of onion soup, duckling, peach Melba and a little Burgundy. It was my father’s way of forgetting his sorrow for the moment. Mr. Granada, the proprietor, approached us between the duckling and the peach Melba.

ILLUSTRATED “Once more I ask you, seeing the

by CLOUTIER tragedy that I understand has befallen

you and your violin—I ask you to form a trio for dinner music here.”

My father shrugged and sipped his Burgundy. “A good year,” he observed raising his glass to Mama.

“A very small trio!” Mr. Granada persisted. “For the boy’s sake. Think of the pride of announcing to his schoolmates that, he eats free at the Chateau and may use the swimming pool for half price.”

I jumped up, delighted.

“How small a trio?” my father joked. “Three pieces only,” Mr. Granada said earnestly. “We have already the cello and violin. We need only the viola. “I play the violin,” Papa announced. Mr. Granada shrugged. “He who plays the violin is already master of the viola.”

“The violin,” my father said wistfully, “is my first love.”

My mother Continued on page 42

Continued on page 42

The Faraway Music Company

Continued from page 24

squeezed his hand and smiled beautifully. “You did not marry your first love.”

“Ah!” mv father said thoughtfully, and I believe I observed a wink dance between my mother and Mr. Granada who now went on eagerly: “Exactly.

We have here then the entire soul of the matter. The violin? The shrill ecstacy

of first love, full of light dreams and foolish hopes. This we need, but cannot subsist on. It is as if all my menus consisted solely of crepes Suzette. We come now to the viola. The vioja is mature love and marriage. The viola is the rare roast beef of music. It has depth and warmth and nourishment. Yet, like rare roast beef, it is not lacking in brightness and a certain piquancy.”

“You are causing me to think,” my father admitted, after downing another large glass of Burgundy.

The following day we received from

the insurance company the following letter:

“Deal Sir: We regret to report that your violin, which was sighted several times floating about, has sunk. As an admirer of the arts and a boyhood student of the violin, I regret the tragedy. The world of today, torn between materialism and love, needs the mysterious answer that music forever supplies. However, the Maple Leaf Insurance Company did not make the world, nor is it in any position to alter it. However, due to excellent management and honest dealings, we are in a position to forward to you our cheque for $657.94 which is the value of the violin agreed upon by a selection of disinterested experts and based on fragments of the instrument which were found floating in the lobby, northeast of the Smoking Room. We hope this satisfactorily settles your claim. We call your attention to our New Tornado and Earthquake policy. Our salesman will be glad to call. Very truly yours, etc.

P.S. Mr. Granada of the Chateau was among the appraisers, so you may be sure our estimate was accurate as Mr. Granada is a man of absolute integrity.”

“They flatter me,” my father said. “Especially Mr. Granada, who knows the value of my violin.”

Then he looked at the cheque, smelled it, felt it and held it up to the sunlight which was streaming through the window.

“Pretty, isn’t it?” he observed. “All silver and blue.”

He sat in his chair and puffed thoughtfully on a cigar.

“We have reached a turning point.

Do I wish the ecstacy of first love . . . or the depth of . . . uh . . . Mama? The violin is my first love. She was 17 and had great blue eyes like shaded mountain lakes. Her voice was high and thin as the gentle spring wind in the birches. The yellow of her hair was the color of flowers with translucent gold petals . . .”

“She sounds beautiful,” I said huskily.

“That is the violin. The viola is your mother, deep, warm, rich, complex. She knows the ways of causing comfort and peace. There is a vibrance to her, a rich tone of living, shall I say? There are overtones of affection and understanding that seem to take on an independence in the air long after the chord is finished. Understand?”

“No,” I said promptly.

“But,” my father went on, ignoring me, “we must remember that Mama is always house cleaning, that she is becoming a bit plump and wears too frequently her hair in curl papers. Come, help me make a choice . . . the violin, my first love? Or . . .?” “Mama,” I said promptly.

Mama, who had been at the door at the end, smiled flirtatiously and with gentle arrogance. “There is really no other choice, you know,” she said gently.

After that we went often to hear, the trio and we were always happy about it. Papa, too, was never disappointed. In fact one day he confided:

“You know, there is so much richness and depth to the viola that one could play a trio with that instrument alone!” My mother smiled with great satisfaction. “See,” she said archly, “that you remain faithful to it.” ★