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- The Young Musician - 20/43 -
"I believe it cost twenty-five dollars. My father gave it to me."
"Sho! I didn't think fiddles cost so much."
"Some cost a great deal more."
"Seems a good deal to lay out, but you'll get your money back, if you can get enough to do."
"I hope so."
"Well, you must excuse me now. I've got to slick up, and go after Mary Ann Temple. She'd have been awfully disappointed if we'd had to give it up."
"Is she fond of dancing?"
"You'd better believe she is. Why, that girl could dance for four hours stiddy--without wiltin'!"
"How late do you keep it up?"
"Till eleven or twelve. You won't be sleepy, will you?"
"If I am, I will get up later to-morrow morning."
"That's all right. You can get up jest as late as you like. Lucy will save you some breakfast. We don't allow no one to go hungry here. But I must be off. You will go to the hall along with Jonas and Lucy. They'll introduce you round and see that you are taken care of." Philip congratulated himself on being so well provided for, at least for one night. The future was uncertain, but with the money which he was to receive for his services, he would be able to get along for two or three days, and he might, perhaps, if successful, obtain another similar engagement.
He had a new reason for being thankful that Squire Pope had not succeeded in depriving him of his violin, for this was likely to prove a breadwinner.
He continued to practice till it was time to go over to the hall.
A LIVELY EVENING.
Schoolhouse Hall, as may be inferred, was a large hall, occupying the second story of the Center Schoolhouse, and though not originally intended for dancing-parties, answered very well for that purpose.
The hall was tolerably well filled when Philip entered in company with Jonas Webb and his wife.
Philip had effaced, as well as he could, the stains of travel, had arrayed himself in a clean shirt and collar, brushed his hair neatly, and, being naturally a very good-looking boy, appeared to very good advantage, though he certainly did look young.
As he walked through the hall, with his violin under his arm, he attracted the attention of all, it having been already made known that in place of the veteran Paul Beck--a man of fifty or more--an unknown boy would furnish the music for the evening.
Philip could not avoid hearing some of the remarks which his appearance excited. "What! that little runt play the fiddle?" said one countrified young man, in a short-waisted blue coat, and tow-colored hair, plastered down on either side of his head with tallow. "I don't believe he can play any more than I can."
"I hope he can," retained his partner--a plump, red-cheeked, young farmer's daughter. "He's very good-looking, anyhow."
"He isn't anything to brag of," said her partner jealously.
"Oh, how can you say so, Jedidiah. I See what beautiful black hair and eyes he's got, and such a lovely color on his cheeks!"
Now, Jedidiah, in appearance, was just the reverse of Philip. His hair, as already stated, was tow-color, his face was tanned, and the color rather resembled brick-dust than the deep red of our hero's cheeks.
His partner was a rustic flirt, and he was disposed to be jealous, not being certain how far she favored him. He, therefore, took offense at his partner's admiration of the young fiddler.
"He looks very common to me," said Jedidiah pettishly. "You've got a strange taste, Maria."
"Perhaps I have, and perhaps I haven't," retorted Maria, tossing her head.
"Perhaps you're in love with him?" continued Jedidiah, in a tone meant to be sarcastic,
"I should be if he was a little older," said the young lady, rather enjoying her lover's displeasure.
"I don't believe he can play at all," growled Jedidiah. "He's fooled Abner Webb, like as not. It's a pity we couldn't have Paul Beck."
"Very likely he can play better than Paul Beck," said Maria--not because she thought so, but because she knew it would tease her partner.
"Don't be a fool, Maria," said Jedidiah, scarcely conscious of the impoliteness of his speech.
The young lady, however, resented it at once.
"I am sure you are very polite, Mr. Jedidiah Burbank--so polite that I think you had better find another partner!"
"Excuse me, Maria," said Jedidiah hastily, alarmed at the prospect of being left without a partner. "Of course, I didn't mean anything."
"If you didn't mean it, what made you say it?" retorted Maria, tossing her head. "I ain't used to being called a fool. I never knew a gentleman to make such a remark to a lady. I think you'd better find some other partner."
"I take it all back," said Jedidiah, in alarm. "I was only in fun."
"I don't like that kind of fun," said Maria, in a tone of dignified coldness.
"Then I won't joke you again. I guess he can play well enough, if Abner says so."
Miss Maria Snodgrass allowed herself to be propitiated, more especially as she herself might have been left without a partner, had she adhered to her determination and sent Jedidiah adrift.
He took his place in a quadrille, not exactly wishing Philip to fail, but rather hoping that he would prove a poor performer, in order that he might have a little triumph over Maria, who had the bad taste to prefer the young musician's appearance to his.
Meanwhile Philip, following Jonas Webb across the room, had been introduced to Frank Ingalls, who acted as manager.
"I am glad to see you, Mr. Gray," said Ingalls. "I hope we sha'n't make you work too hard. We are very fond of dancing here."
"I don't get tired very easily," answered Philip. "I hope you will be satisfied with my playing."
"No fear of that, Mr. Ingalls, I've heerd him play at home, and I tell you he can do it."
"Thank you, Mr. Webb," said Philip, bowing his acknowledgment of the compliment.
"I guess we may as well commence, Mr. Gray," said Mr. Ingalls. "The boys seem to be getting impatient. Here's the order of dances for the evening."
"Very well, Mr. Ingalls."
The manager raised his voice, and said, "Gentlemen and ladies, you already know that Beck is sick, and cannot be with us this evening, as he engaged to do. In his place we have engaged a young musician, who has already gained a great reputation in his profession--"
Philip was rather surprised to hear this, but it was not for him to gainsay it.
"Let me introduce to you Mr. Philip Gray."
Philip bowed and smiled, and, putting his violin in position, immediately commenced a lively air.
In less than five minutes the manager felt perfectly at ease concerning the young musician. It was clear that Philip understood his business. Philip himself entered into the spirit of his performance. His cheek flushed, his eyes sparkled, and he almost outdid himself.
When the first dance was concluded, there was a murmur of approval throughout the ballroom. The dancers were both surprised and pleased.
"He's a smart boy!" said more than one. "He plays as well as Paul Beck, and Paul's been play-in' for more'n twenty years."
"As well? I never heard Paul Beck play as well as that," said another.
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