格式: AZW3, DOCX, EPUB, MOBI, PDF, TXT
The Young Musician ; Or, Fighting His Way试读：
CHAPTER I. A CANDIDATE FOR THE POORHOUSE.
“As for the boy,” said Squire Pope, with his usual autocratic air, “I shall place him in the poorhouse.”
“But, Benjamin,” said gentle Mrs. Pope, who had a kindly and sympathetic heart, “isn’t that a little hard?”
“Hard, Almira?” said the squire, arching his eyebrows. “I fail to comprehend your meaning.”
“You know Philip has been tenderly reared, and has always had a comfortable home—”
“He will have a comfortable home now, Mrs. Pope. Probably you are not aware that it cost the town two thousand dollars last year to maintain the almshouse. I can show you the item in the town report.”
“I don’t doubt it at all, husband,” said Mrs. Pope gently. “Of course you know all about it, being a public man.”
Squire Pope smiled complacently. It pleased him to be spoken of as a public man.
“Ahem! Well, yes, I believe I have no inconsiderable influence in town affairs,” he responded. “I am on the board of selectmen, and am chairman of the overseers of the poor, and in that capacity I shall convey Philip Gray to the comfortable and well-ordered institution which the town has set apart for the relief of paupers.”
“I don’t like to think of Philip as a pauper,” said Mrs. Pope, in a deprecating tone.
“What else is he?” urged her husband. “His father hasn’t left a cent. He never was a good manager.”
“Won’t the furniture sell for something, Benjamin?”
“It will sell for about enough to pay the funeral expenses and outstanding debts-that is all.”
“But it seems so hard for a boy well brought up to go to the poorhouse.”
“You mean well, Almira, but you let your feelings run away with you. You may depend upon it, it is the best thing for the boy. But I must write a letter in time for the mail.”
Squire Pope rose from the breakfast-table and walked out of the room with his usual air of importance. Not even in the privacy of the domestic circle did he forget his social and official importance.
Who was Squire Pope?
We already know that he held two important offices in the town of Norton. He was a portly man, and especially cultivated dignity of deportment. Being in easy circumstances, and even rich for the resident of a village, he was naturally looked up to and credited with a worldly sagacity far beyond what he actually possessed.
At any rate, he may be considered the magnate of Norton. Occasionally he visited New York, and had been very much annoyed to find that his rural importance did not avail him there, and that he was treated with no sort of deference by those whom he had occasion to meet. Somehow, the citizens of the commercial metropolis never suspected for a single moment that he was a great man.
When Squire Pope had finished his letter, he took his hat, and with measured dignity, walked to the village post-office.
He met several of his neighbors there, and greeted them with affable condescension. He was polite to those of all rank, as that was essential to his retaining the town offices, which he would have been unwilling to resign.
From the post-office the squire, as he remembered the conversation which had taken place at the breakfast-table, went to make an official call on the boy whose fate he had so summarily decided.
Before the call, it may be well to say a word about Philip Gray, our hero, and the circumstances which had led to his present destitution.
His father had once been engaged in mercantile business, but his health failed, his business suffered, and he found it best-indeed, necessary—to settle up his affairs altogether and live in quiet retirement in Norton.
The expenses of living there were small, but his resources were small, also, and he lived just long enough to exhaust them.
It was this thought that gave him solicitude on his death-bed, for he left a boy of fifteen wholly unprovided for.
Let us go back a week and record what passed at the last interview between Philip and his father before the latter passed into the state of unconsciousness which preceded death.
“Are you in pain, father?” asked Philip, with earnest sympathy, as his father lay outstretched on the bed, his face overspread by the deathly pallor which was the harbinger of dissolution.
“Not of the body, Philip,” said Mr. Gray. “That is spared me, but I own that my mind is ill at ease.”
“Do you mind telling me why, father!”
“No; for it relates to you, my son, or, rather, to your future. When my affairs are settled, I fear there will be nothing left for your support. I shall leave you penniless.”
“If that is all, father, don’t let that trouble you.”
“I am afraid, Philip, you don’t realize what it is to be thrown upon the cold charities of the world.”
“I shall work for my living,” said Philip confidently.
“You will have to do that, I’m afraid, Philip.”
“But I am not afraid to work, father. Didn’t you tell me one day that many of our most successful men had to work their way up from early poverty!”
“Yes, that is true; but a boy cannot always get the chance to earn his living. Of one thing I am glad; you have a good education for a boy of your age. That is always a help.”
“Thanks to you, father.”
“Yes; though an invalid, I have, at all events, been able to give private attention to your education, and to do better for you than the village school would have done. I wish I had some relative to whom I might consign you, but you will be alone in the world.”
“Have I no relatives?” asked Philip.
“Your mother was an only child, and I had but one brother.”
“What became of him, father?”
“He got into trouble when he was a young man, and left the country. Where he went to I have no idea. Probably he went first to Europe, and I heard a rumor, at one time, that he had visited Australia. But that was twenty years ago, and as I have heard nothing of him since, I think it probable that he is dead. Even if he were living, and I knew where he was, I am not sure whether he would make a safe guardian for you.”
“Have you any advice to give me, father?” asked Philip, after a pause. “Whatever your wishes may be, I will try to observe them.”
“I do not doubt it, Philip. You have always been an obedient son, and have been considerate of my weakness. I will think it over, and try to give you some directions which may be of service to you. Perhaps I may be able to think of some business friend to whom I can commend you.”
“You have talked enough, father,” said Philip, noticing his father’s increasing pallor and the evident exertion with which he spoke. “Rest now, and to-morrow we can talk again.”
Mr. Gray was evidently in need of rest. He closed his eyes and apparently slept. But he never awoke to consciousness. The conversation above recorded was the last he was able to hold with his son. For two days he remained in a kind of stupor, and at the end of that time he died.
Philip’s grief was not violent. He had so long anticipated his father’s death that it gave him only a mild shock.
Friends and neighbors made the necessary arrangements for the funeral, and the last services were performed. Then, at length, Philip realized that he had lost his best earthly friend, and that he was henceforth alone in the world. He did not as yet know that Squire Pope had considerately provided him with a home in the village poorhouse.
CHAPTER II. PHILIP AT HOME.
When the funeral was over, Frank Dunbar, whom Philip regarded as his most intimate friend, came up to him.
“Philip,” he said, “my mother would like to have you spend a few days with us while you are deciding what to do.”
“Thank you, Frank!” answered Philip. “But until the auction I shall remain at home. I shall soon enough be without a home.”
“But it will be very lonely for you,” objected Frank.
“No; I shall have my thoughts for company. When I am alone I can think best of my future plans.”
“Won’t you come to our house to meals, then?”
“Thank you, Frank! I will do that.”
“When is the auction to be?”
“To-day is Monday. It is appointed for Thursday.”
“I hope there will be something left for you.”
“There will be about enough left to pay my father’s small debts and his funeral expenses. I would not like to have him indebted to others for those. I don’t think there will be anything over.”
Frank looked perplexed.
“I am sorry for you, Phil,” he said. “I wish we were rich, instead of having hard work to make both ends meet. You would not lack for anything then.”
“Dear Frank,” said Philip earnestly, “I never doubted your true friendship. But I am not afraid that I shall suffer. I am sure I can earn my living.”
“But why do you shut yourself up alone, Philip?” asked Frank, not satisfied to leave his friend in what he considered the gloomy solitude of a house just visited by death.
“I want to look over my father’s papers. I may find out something that I ought to know, and after the auction it will be too late. Father had some directions to give me, but he did not live long enough to do it. For three days I have the house to myself. After that I shall perhaps never visit it again.”
“Don’t be downhearted, Philip,” said Frank, pressing his hand with boyish sympathy.
“I don’t mean to be, Frank. I am naturally cheerful and hopeful. I shall miss my poor father sadly: but grieving will not bring him back. I must work for my living, and as I have no money to depend upon, I cannot afford to lose any time in forming my plans.”
“You will come over to our house and take your meals!”
Frank Dunbar’s father was a small farmer, who, as Frank had said, found it hard work to make both ends meet. Among all the village boys, he was the one whom Philip liked best, though there were many others whose fathers were in hotter circumstances. For this, however, Philip cared little. Rich or poor, Frank suited him, and they had always been known as chums, to adopt the term used by the boys in the village.
It may be thought that as Philip’s circumstances were no better, such an intimacy was natural enough. But Philip Gray possessed special gifts, which made his company sought after. He was a fine singer, and played with considerable skill on the violin—an accomplishment derived from his father, who had acted as his teacher. Then he was of a cheerful temperament, and this is a gift which usually renders the possessor popular, unless marred by positive defects or bad qualities. There were two or three young snobs in the village who looked down upon Philip on account of his father’s poverty, but most were very glad to associate with our hero, and have him visit their homes. He was courteous to all, but made—no secret of his preference for Frank Dunbar.
When Philip parted from Frank, and entered the humble dwelling which had been his own and his father’s home for years, there was a sense of loneliness and desolation which came over him at first.
His father was the only relative whom he knew, and his death, therefore, left the boy peculiarly, alone in the world. Everything reminded him of his dead father. But he did not allow himself to dwell upon thoughts that would depress his spirits and unfit him for the work that lay before him.
He opened his father’s desk and began to examine his papers. There was no will, for there was nothing to leave, but in one compartment of the desk was a thick wallet, which he opened.
In it, among some receipted bills, was an envelope, on which was written, in his father’s well-known hand:
“The contents of this envelope are probably of no value, but it will be as well to preserve the certificate of stock. There is a bare possibility that it may some day be worth a trifle.”
Philip opened the envelope and found a certificate for a hundred shares of the Excelsior Gold Mine, which appeared to be located in California. He had once heard his father speak of it in much the same terms as above.
“I may as well keep it,” reflected Philip. “It will probably amount to nothing, but there won’t be much trouble in carrying around the envelope.” He also found a note of hand for a thousand dollars, signed by Thomas Graham.
Attached to it was a slip of paper, on which he read, also in his father’s writing:
“This note represents a sum of money lent to Thomas Graham, when I was moderately prosperous. It is now outlawed, and payment could not be enforced, even if Graham were alive and possessed the ability to pay. Five years since, he left this part of the country for some foreign country, and is probably dead, and I have heard nothing from him in all that time. It will do no harm, and probably no good, to keep his note.”
“I will keep it,” decided Philip. “It seems that this and the mining shares are all that father had to leave me. They will probably never yield me a cent, but I will keep them in remembrance of him.”
Phillip found his father’s watch. It was an old-fashioned gold watch, but of no great value even when new. Now, after twenty years’ use, it would command a very small price at the coming sale.
Ever since Philip had been old enough to notice anything, he remembered this watch, which was so closely identified with his father that more than anything else it called him to mind. Philip looked at it wistfully as it lay in his hand. “I wish I could keep it,” he said to himself. “No one else will value it much, but it would always speak to me of my father. I wonder if I might keep it?”
Philip had a mind to put it into his pocket, but the spirit of honesty forbade.
“It must be sold,” he said, with a sigh. “Without it there wouldn’t be enough to pay what we owe, and when I leave Norton, I don’t want any one to say that my father died in his debt.”
There was nothing else in the desk which called for particular notice or appeared to be of any special value. After a careful examination, Philip closed it and looked around at the familiar furniture of the few rooms which the house contained.
There was one object which he personally valued more than anything else. This was his violin, on which he had learned all that he knew of playing. His father had bought it for him four years before. It was not costly, but it was of good tone, and Philip had passed many pleasant hours in practicing on it.
“I can take this violin, at any rate,” said Philip to himself. “It belongs to me, and no one else has a claim on it. I think I will take it with me and leave it at Frank Dunbar’s, so that it needn’t get into the sale.”
He put back the violin into the case and laid it on one side. Then he sat down in the arm-chair, which had been his father’s favorite seat, and tried to fix his mind upon the unknown future which lay before him.
He had sat there for half an hour, revolving in his mind various thoughts and plans, when he heard a tap on the window, and looking up, saw through the pane the coarse, red face of Nick Holden, a young fellow of eighteen, the son of the village butcher.
“Let me in!” said Nick; “I want to see you on business.”
CHAPTER III. NICK HOLDEN’S CALL.
Philip had never liked Nick Holden. He was a coarse, rough-looking boy, his reddish face one mass of freckles, and about as unattractive as a person could be, without absolute deformity. This, however, was not the ground for Philip’s dislike.
With all his unattractiveness, Nick might have possessed qualities which would have rightly made him popular. So far from this, however, he was naturally mean, selfish, and a bully, with very slight regard for truth.
Will it be believed that, in spite of his homely face, Nick really thought himself good-looking and aspired to be a beau? For this reason he had often wished that he possessed Philip’s accomplishment of being able to play upon the violin.
His conversational powers were rather limited, and he felt at a loss when he undertook to make himself fascinating to the young ladies in the village. If he could only play on the violin like Philip he thought he would be irresistible.
He had therefore conceived the design of buying Philip’s instrument for a trifle, judging that our hero would feel compelled to sell it.
The reader will now understand the object which led to Nick’s call so soon after the funeral of Mr. Gray. He was afraid some one else might forestall him in gaining possession of the coveted instrument.
When Philip saw who his visitor was, he was not overjoyed. It was with reluctance that he rose and gave admission to Nick.
“I thought I would call around and see you, Phil,” said Nick, as he sat down in the most comfortable chair in the room.
“Thank you,” responded Phil coldly.
“The old man went off mighty sudden,” continued Nicholas, with characteristic delicacy.
“Do you mean my father?” inquired Philip.
“Of course I do. There ain’t any one else dead, is there!”
“I had been expecting my poor father’s death for some time,” said Philip gravely.
“Just so! He wa’n’t very rugged. We’ve all got to come to it sooner or later. I expect dad’ll die of apoplexy some time-he’s so awful fat,” remarked Nicholas cheerfully. “If he does, it’s lucky he’s got me to run the business. I’m only eighteen, but I can get along as well as anybody. I’m kinder smart in business.”
“I am glad you are smart in anything,” thought Philip; for he knew that Nick was a hopeless dunce in school duties.
“I hope your father’ll live a good while,” he said politely.
“Yes, of course,” said Nick lightly. “I’d be sorry to have the old man pop off; but then you never can tell about such a thing as that.”
Philip did not relish the light way in which Nick referred to such a loss as he was suffering from, and, by way of changing the subject, said:
“I believe you said you came on business, Nicholas?”
“Yes; that’s what I wanted to come at. It’s about your fiddle.”
“My violin!” said Philip, rather surprised.
“Oh, well, fiddle or violin! what’s the odds? I want to buy it.”
“To play on, of course! What did you think I wanted it for?”
“But you can’t play, can you?”
“Not yet; but I expect you could show me some—now, couldn’t you?”
“What put it into your head to want to play on the violin?” asked Philip, with some curiosity.
“Why, you see, the girls like it. It would be kind of nice when I go to a party, or marm has company, to scrape off a tune or two-just like you do. It makes a feller kinder pop’lar with the girls, don’t you see?” said Nick, with a knowing grin.
“And you want to be popular with the young ladies!” said Philip, smiling, in spite of his bereavement, at the idea being entertained by such a clumsy-looking caliban as Nick Holden.
“Of course I do!” answered Nick, with another grin. “You see I’m gettin’ along-I’ll be nineteen next month, and I might want to get married by the time I’m twenty-one, especially if the old man should drop off sudden.”
“I understand all that, Nicholas—”
“Call me Nick. I ain’t stuck up if I am most a man. Call me pet names, dearest.”
And Nicholas laughed loudly at his witty quotation.
“Just as you prefer. Nick, then, I understand your object. But what made you think I wanted to sell the violin?”
It was Nick’s turn to be surprised.
“Ain’t there goin’ to be an auction of your father’s things?” he said.
“Yes; but the violin is mine, and I am not going to sell it.”
“You’ll have to,” said Nick.
“What do you mean by that, Nicholas Holden?” said Philip quickly.
“Because you’ll have to sell everything to pay your father’s debt. My father said so this very morning.”
“I think I know my own business best,” said Philip coldly. “I shall keep the violin.”
“Maybe it ain’t for you to say,” returned Nick, apparently not aware of his insolence. “Come, now, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. My father’s got a bill against yours for a dollar and sixty-four cents. I told father I had a use for the fiddle, and he says if you’ll give it to me, he’ll call it square. There, what do you say to that?”
Nicholas leaned back in his chair and looked at Philip through his small, fishy eyes, as if he had made an uncommonly liberal offer. As for Philip, he hardly knew whether to be angry or amused.
“You offer me a dollar and sixty-four cents for my violin?” he repeated.
“Yes. It’s second-hand, to be sure, but I guess it’s in pretty fair condition. Besides, you might help me a little about learnin’ how to play.”
“How much do you suppose the violin cost?” inquired Philip.
“It cost my father twenty-five dollars.”
“Oh, come, now, that’s too thin! You don’t expect a feller to believe such a story as that?”
“I expect to be believed, for I never tell anything but the truth.”
“Oh, well, I don’t expect you do, generally, but when it comes to tradin’, most everybody lies,” observed Nick candidly.
“I have no object in misrepresenting, for I don’t want to sell the violin.”
“You can’t afford to keep it! The town won’t let you!”
“The town won’t let me?” echoed Philip, now thoroughly mystified.