Lessons learned while reading the ballad collection of Francis James Child.
by David Kessler
You won't believe what has happened to me. I am a travelling
musician of some skill, if I may say so, and I recently came to this area to perform and earn
some money. I went to a local estate where, I had been told there was a wedding planned,
and was welcomed in to play for the guests at the reception. I finished my first set and
took a break to get some food. That's when things got strange.
had set my harp down on a stone, and was halfway across the room when it began to play all by
itself! The tune was a haunting rendition of an old murder ballad. The bride turned
white, like she had seen a ghost, and went absolutely mad. (You should have heard the way
she carried on.)
The constable was called in and, during the questioning,
I mentioned that I had constructed the harp myself out of the breastbone of a blonde I had found
washed up on the beach, a few miles downstream.
So here I am, writing to
you from the gaol in hopes that you can tell me what to do. They're treating me like I'm
the one who killed the girl! They don't understand how hard it is to get quality musical
instruments these days without having a patron.
Rotting in gaol
Dear Rotting in gaol,
Emotions often run high at weddings. You should explain to the
constable that, far from committing a punishable offense, you have done the community a great
service by uncovering a crime and providing a valuable lead toward its resolution. The
blonde you found on the beach might never have been discovered without you, and the culprit never
brought to justice.
While your methods seem unorthodox (might we
recommend you spend your gaol time reading on the methods of Sherlock Holmes, who was
content to play on a wooden violin when solving mysteries), the reaction to your "haunted
harp routine" must bring to mind the words of Queen Gertrude of Denmark, when she noted,
"Methinks he doth protest too much". A thorough questioning of the mad bride is
sure to reveal that she knows something about the murdered girl.
Persevere! And trust that the guilty will be found out. Also understand that,
as in Denmark, itinerant performers are often ill-used on the road to ultimate justice.
Francis J. Child