The Missing Chord (Henry)

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The Missing Chord
Summary of the Short Story
from the Collection «Heart of the West»
Microsummary: A man recounted how his wife's father bought her a piano-playing machine instead of a real piano, and she pretended to play it to spare his feelings before he passed away.

A man named Rush Kinney lived on a sheep ranch in Texas. One day, he visited his neighbor, Cal Adams, who lived with his daughter Marilla. Rush and Marilla were in love, and he hoped to marry her someday.

Rush Kinney — narrator; sheep rancher; caring, patient, and devoted to his wife.
Marilla — Rush's wife; loving daughter; kind, loyal, and talented in playing piano.
Uncle Cal — Marilla's father; sheep rancher; knowledgeable, proud, and devoted to his daughter.

Cal was an old man who thought he knew everything about everything, including music. He decided to buy Marilla a piano, as she had always wanted one.

I'm going to San Antone on the last load of wool, and select an instrument for her myself.

Cal went to San Antonio to buy the piano, and when he returned, he was very sick with pneumonia. Marilla was overjoyed with the piano, but she didn't play it for her father, even though he asked her to. Instead, she told him that she had played it when he was asleep, and that it was a wonderful instrument.

As Cal's condition worsened, Marilla continued to refuse to play the piano for him. Eventually, Cal passed away, and after the funeral, Marilla showed Rush the piano. It turned out that Cal had accidentally bought a machine that played the piano, rather than an actual piano. Marilla had kept this secret from her father to spare his feelings.

And that was the piano that Uncle Cal had selected; and standing by it was the good, fine, all-wool girl that never let him know it.

After Marilla and Rush got married, he bought her a real piano, and she played it happily. The story demonstrates the love and devotion Marilla had for her father, as well as the importance of music in their lives.