Because this is the kind of thing I do, I bought the book of The Music Machine on eBay. I mentioned before that I encountered it once, but that was at least ten years ago, so while I basically remembered the plot, I didn't really know the specifics. So here it is, The Music Machine by Samuel Wright, fifteen chapters, 142 pages, one illustration per chapter.
Chapter One - The Forest
The whole thing begins as a story-within-a-story as Stevie and Nancy implore their grandfather to tell them a story. So he pulls a book off the shelf and starts reading them a story about themselves. In this story, Stevie and Nancy are sitting on a hill, making up stories, when Nancy decides she wants to explore the nearby woods, so they both roll down the hill and end up not in Wiley Woods but someplace else entirely. This place is described in tons of detail, which is fine and all, but I know they're in Agapeland (and the kids at home do, too, since they specifically asked for a story about Agapeland), so I'd rather Mr. Wright cut to the chase. Anyway, Nancy wants to explore, but Stevie would rather stay where they are than get lost, but he goes along eventually. And they encounter birds and butterflies, but nobody else, and Stevie starts to hear music that Nancy can't, although she does hear it eventually. While they follow the music, Nancy concludes that the forest is enchanted, which is something she'll bring up about just about everything she encounters throughout the book, so I'm just mentioning it now. Finally they reach a clearing, which Nancy insists is a Royal Meadow, and they see something that they have no clue what it is. They don't get to find out, either, because we go straight to
Chapter Two - Mr. Pimms
In an entirely different forest, late in the afternoon, a bunch of short, ugly figures are sitting by a fire. Then a dapper young man in a top hat comes out of the woods and starts yelling at them for making a fire while the sun is still out. They are Boogwart, Snard, and Growdy, three Pudgians, and he is Mr. Pimms of the chapter title, apparently a human. The point of this chapter is to introduce this crew, since they will soon be setting the plot in motion. The Pudgians are not very smart and rather uncouth, but Mr. Pimms is by all appearances a gentleman, even dressed in an ascot, with a prized ring that he wears under his gloves. Which is what you would do if you wore gloves all the time, but I never thought about it before. He also has a pet rat named Oswald.
Their meeting is to discuss how to pull off a vaguely referred to "plan," which Mr. Pimms masterminded. He plies them with flattery, and the drink doesn't hurt, either. The chapter ends with them vaguely finalizing their plans, and going their separate ways.
Chapter Three - The Music Machine
I'd really rather not get back to the kids, but the story has to proceed, and it really can't until they find out what that thing they saw in the first chapter is, so here we are, back with Stevie and Nancy as they try to figure out just what this treasure chest with a smoke stack, buttons, and levers is all about. Nancy thinks it must make candy and Stevie gets mad her, convinced this is a machine for SCIENCE! And then Nancy starts pushing all the buttons but nothing happens, so Stevie's all "I will solve this with SCIENCE!" but he doesn't do any better than she did. Nothing they do works, and it's starting to get dark. So Stevie's all "I wanted to stay where we were, and now we're lost in an enchanted forest," to Nancy, and then they hear something coming, and it takes forever to get there. Long enough for Nancy to freak out three times and for them to hide behind the chest. And something touches Stevie's head...
Chapter Four - A Pleasant Surprise
The kids freak for another two paragraphs before finally they turn around see Mr. Conductor, who, like on the album, introduces himself at The Conductor. Also like on the album, he already knows Stevie and Nancy, and so they press him for answers about where they are and how they got there. He answers the obvious one (they're in Agapeland) but never actually tells them how they got there. Stevie's more interested in how they'll get back, but Mr. Conductor assures them that they'll go home when the time is right and nobody will ever know they were gone. How very C.S. Lewis. After finding out that Mr. Conductor (along with "many interesting people") lives in the forest, Nancy gets it in her head that he's some kind of prince, and Stevie finally connects that the thing that touched his head at the end of the last chapter is the same stick Mr. Conductor is holding. Mr. Conductor explains that it's a baton that he uses to conduct music, and the kids remember what lead to this whole encounter: the music they heard in the forest. So finally Mr. Conductor tells them that the contraptions is the Music Machine and it was what made the music they heard.
The narrator explains how the Music Machine is what brings life to Agapeland, and that without it, the land would die, but it's okay because nothing's ever happened to it. *cough cough* foreshadowing *cough cough* And Mr. Conductor tells them how to use the Music Machine, and to demonstrate he sticks an antique musical note (made out of what? It isn't specified) in the machine, and it makes the usual noises before playing its theme song. Mr. Conductor conducts during the song, but since it's a machine, does that really do any good? Also, the lyrics are part of the text. This happens anytime a song is mentioned, with the copyright information appearing at the bottom of the page.
After the song, Mr. Conductor invites the kids to put something in, but all they have is a piece of string, but Mr. Conductor puts it in anyway, all smug, and the String Song from the album plays. When the string comes out, Stevie puts it back in his pocket, thinking it might be useful someday. Foreshadowing? (I don't remember. Sorry.) So they spend the rest of the day putting things in the Music Machine, but eventually it gets dark. Mr. Conductor tells them he has a place for them to sleep, but first he has to polish the entire Music Machine, since Stevie and Nancy got their fingerprints all over it. While he does this, there's more foreshadowy talk about how important the Music Machine is, and Mr. Conductor tells them about an upcoming festival (in the season of Dosca *_*) where they get Sacred Writings that go in the Music Machine and create the music for another year. These documents MUST be put in by the seventh day of the festival, or else. Also, the documents come from Majesty, the king (and apparently creator) of all Agapeland.
Then there's a lot of going through Agapeland description that I'm skipping before they get to a clearing where Mr. Conductor has the kids plant a seed. He pours some water of the seed and BLAMMO! It grows into a huge tree with a house inside. Inside the house is their dinner, and while they eat Mr. Conductor warns them about that other place, the Anti-Agapeland, called Aire (Kingdom of the Air, eh? I'm not sure if that's clever or just blatant.) Then he tucks the kids into bed, promising to show them more of Agapeland tomorrow. But the narrator warns us that evil is afoot...
And that's about all I can take right now. I'll get the next few chapters up in a couple of days.