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- Facing the World - 10/22 -
Harry could hardly refrain from laughing when he heard this introduction.
"One would think I was a well-known singer," he said to himself.
He came forward, and, standing before the audience, with his face a little flushed, made a graceful bow. Then, pausing an instant, he commenced the song announced. He had not sung two lines before the professor, who waited the result with some curiosity and some anxiety, found that he could sing. His voice was high, clear, and musical, and his rendition was absolutely correct. The fact was, Harry had taken lessons in a singing school at home, and had practiced privately also, so that he had reason to feel confidence in himself.
The song was listened to with earnest attention and evident enjoyment by all. When the last strain died away, and Harry made his farewell bow, there was an enthusiastic burst of applause, emphasized by the clapping of hands and the stamping of feet.
"You did yourself proud, my boy!" said the gratified Professor. "They want you on again."
This seemed evident from the noise.
"Can't you sing something else?"
"Very well, sir."
Harry was certainly pleased with this evidence of popular favor. He had never before sung a solo before an audience, and, although he had felt that he could, he was glad to find that he had not overestimated his powers.
Once more he stood before the audience.
"I thank you for your kindness," he said. "I will now sing you a comic song."
He sang a song very popular at that time, the words and air of which were familiar to all. While it did not afford him so good a chance to show his musical capacity, it was received with much greater favor than the first song.
There was a perfect whirlwind of applause, and a third song was called for.
"I would rather not sing again, professor," said Harry.
"You needn't. They would keep you singing all the evening if you would allow it. Better leave off when they are unsatisfied."
"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "Master Vane thanks you for your kind applause, but he makes it an unvarying rule never to sing but two songs in an evening. He never broke that rule but once, and that was at the special request of the governor-general of Canada. I shall now have the pleasure of performing for your amusement, one of my most popular experiments."
"Well, you have pleased the people, and that is the main point. By Jove! my boy, you've got a lovely voice."
"I am glad you think so, sir."
"You will prove a very valuable addition to my entertainments. I mean to show my appreciation, too. How much did I agree to give you?"
"Five dollars a week if business was good."
"It's bound to be good. I'll raise your wages to ten dollars a week, if you'll agree to sing one song, and two, if called for, at each of my evening entertainments."
"I'll do it, sir," said Harry, promptly. "It's a surprise to me, though, to find my voice so valuable to me."
"It's a popular gift, my boy; and all popular gifts are valuable. When I get my new bill printed, I must have your name on it."
They left Conway about noon the next day.
The Foxes, were destined to hear of Harry's success. The Conway _Citizen_ was taken in the family, and, much to their astonishment, this is what they found, prominently placed, in the next number:
"The magical entertainment of Professor Hemenway, on Thursday evening, was even more successful than usual. He had had the good fortune to secure the services of a young vocalist named Harry Vane, who charmed both young and old by two popular selections. His voice and execution are both admirable, and we predict for him a brilliant future."
Mr. Fox read this aloud in evident wonder and excitement.
"Did you ever hear the like?" he said.
"Who'd have thought it?" chimed in Mrs. Fox.
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Then commenced a round of travel--what the professor called a professional tour. By day they traveled in the wagon, carrying their paraphernalia with them, stopping at the principal towns, and giving evening entertainments. At many of these places the magician was well known, and his tricks were not new. But he had an attraction in his young assistant, who was regularly advertised on the posters as the "celebrated young vocalist, whose songs are everywhere received with admiring applause."
Indeed it was very near the truth. Harry was really a fine singer, and his fresh, attractive face and manly appearance won him a welcome in all the towns on their route. Sometimes a young girl in the audience threw him a bouquet. This made him blush and smile, and the donor felt rewarded.
Where was it going to end? Was he to continue in the service of the professor, and in time become himself a magician and a traveling celebrity? Harry was not sure about it. He saw that it would pay him better than most kinds of business, and he also discovered that Professor Hemenway was even better off than he had represented. Yet, he was not quite ready to select the same profession, but, being only sixteen, felt that he could afford to remain in it a while longer.
One day the professor gave him a surprise.
"Harry," he said, as they were jogging along a dusty road, "do you think you would like to travel?"
"I am traveling now," answered Harry, with a smile.
"True, but I don't mean that. Would you like to go on a long journey?"
"I should like nothing better," replied Harry, promptly.
"I'll tell you what I've been thinking about. I recently read in some paper that a man in my line had made a trip to Australia, and reaped a rich harvest. Everywhere he was received with enthusiasm, and made as much money, in one month as he would do here in four. Now why shouldn't I go to Australia?"
Harry's eyes sparkled.
"It would be a fine thing to do," he said.
"Then you would be willing to accompany me?"
"I would thank you for taking me," answered the boy.
"That is well!" said the professor, in a tone of satisfaction. "I confess I shouldn't like to go alone. It would be a great undertaking, but with a companion it would seem different. But, is there anyone who would object to your going?"
"Yes," answered Harry, smiling, "Mr. Fox, my 'guardeen,' would."
"We won't mind Mr. Fox. Very well, then, Harry, we will consider it settled. I shall rely on you to help me by your singing there as you do here. As to your wages, I may be able to pay you more."
"Never mind about that, professor. It will cost you a good deal to get us there. I am perfectly willing to work for the same sum I do now, or even less, on account of the extension of the trip."
"Then you leave that matter to me. I won't take advantage of your confidence, but you shall prosper if I do."
"How soon do you propose to go, professor?" asked Harry, with interest.
"As soon as possible. I shall ascertain when the first packet leaves Boston, and we will take passage in her."
The professor's decision pleased Harry. He had been a good scholar in geography--indeed, it was his favorite study--and had, besides, read as many books of travel as he could lay his hands on. Often he had wondered if it ever would be his fortune to see some of the distant countries of which he read with so much interest. Though he had cherished vague hopes, he had never really expected it. Now, however, the unattainable seemed within his grasp. He would not have to wait until he was a rich man, but when still a boy he could travel to the opposite side of the world, paying his expenses as he went along.
Two weeks passed. Each day they halted in some new place, and gave an evening performance. This life of constant motion had, at first, seemed strange to Harry. Now he was accustomed to it. He never felt nervous when he appeared before an audience to sing, but looked upon it as a matter of course.
At last they reached Boston. They were to give two entertainments at a hall at the south end. It was the first large city in which Harry had sung, but he received a welcome no less cordial than that which had been accorded to him in country towns.
They were staying at a modest hotel, comfortable, but not expensive. Harry was sitting in the reading room, when a servant brought in a card. It bore the rather remarkable name of
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