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- The Young Musician - 2/43 -

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.



"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!"

"Yes, Frank."

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

The Young Musician - 2/43

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