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- The Young Musician - 4/43 -


"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.

"Couldn't say."

"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 yon 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.

"Of course they won't. The idea of a pauper bein' allowed a fiddle to play on! Why, it's ridiculous!"

"What do you mean?" demanded Philip, who now began to comprehend the meaning of this thick-witted visitor. "What have I got to do with the town, or with paupers?"

"Why, you're goin' to the poorhouse, ain't you?"

"Certainly not!" answered Philip, with flashing eyes.

"I guess you're mistaken," said Nick coolly. "Squire Pope was over to our shop this mornin', and he told dad that the seleckmen were goin' to send you there after the auction."

Philip's eyes flashed angrily. He felt insulted and outraged. Never for a moment had he conceived the idea that any one would regard him as a candidate for the poorhouse.

He had an honorable pride in maintaining himself, and would rather get along on one meal a day, earned by himself in honest independence, than be indebted to public charity even for a luxurious support.

"Squire Pope doesn't know what he's talking about," retorted Philip, who had to exercise some self-restraint not to express himself more forcibly "and you can tell him so when you see him. I am no more likely to go to the poorhouse than you are!"

"Come, that's a good one," chuckled Nick. "Talk of me goin' to the poorhouse, when my father pays one of the biggest taxes in town! Of course, it's different with you."

"You'll have to excuse me now," said Philip, determined to get rid of his disagreeable companion. "I have something to do."

"Then you won't sell me the fiddle, Phil?"

"No, I won't," answered our hero, with scant ceremony.

"Then I'll have to bid it off at the auction. Maybe I'll get it cheaper."

And Mr. Nicholas Holden at length relieved Philip of his company.

CHAPTER IV.

THE AUCTION.

It so happened that Nick Holden met Squire Pope on the village street, and, being rather disappointed at the result of his negotiations with Philip, thought it might be a good idea to broach the subject to the squire, who, as he knew, had taken it upon himself to superintend the sale of Mr. Gray's goods."

"I say, squire, I've just been over to see Phil Gray."

"Ahem! Well, how does he seem to feel?"

"Kinder stuck up, I reckon. He said he wouldn't go to the poorhouse, and I might tell you so."

"I apprehend," said the squire, in his stately way, "he will be under the necessity of going, whether he likes it or not."

"Just so; that's what I told him!" interjected Nick.

"And he should be grateful for so comfortable a home," continued the public man.

"Well, I dunno," said Nick. "They do say that old Tucker most starves the paupers. Why his bills with dad are awful small."

"The town cannot afford to pamper the appetites of its beneficiaries," said the squire. "Where is Philip now?"

"I guess he's at home. I offered to buy his fiddle, but he said he was going to keep it. I offered him a dollar and sixty-four cents--the same as dad's bill against his father, but he wouldn't take it."

"Really, Nicholas, your offer was very irregular--extremely irregular. It should have been made to me, as the administrator of the late Mr. Gray, and not to a boy like Philip."

"Will you sell me the fiddle for dad's bill, squire?" asked Nicholas eagerly.

"You are premature, Nicholas--"

"What's that?"

"I mean you must wait till the auction. Then you will have a chance to bid on the instrument, if you want to secure it."

"Phil says it's his, and won't be for sale at the auction."

"Then Philip is mistaken. He is only a boy. The estate will be settled by those who are older and wiser than he."

"I guess you'll find him hard to manage, squire," said Nick, laughing.

"We shall see--we shall see," returned the squire.

And, with a dignified wave of the hand, he cotinued on his walk.

After the visit of Nicholas, Philip thought it most prudent to convey the violin which he prized so much to the house of his friend, Frank Dunbar, where he had been invited to take his meals.

He was willing to have the furniture sold to defray his father's small debts, but the violin was his own. It had not even been given him by his father. Though the latter purchased it, the money which it cost had been given to Philip by a friend of the family. He rightly thought that he had no call to sell it now.

"Frank," said he to his boy-friend, "I want you to put away my violin safely, and keep it until after the auction."

"Of course I will, Phil; but won't you want to play on it!"


The Young Musician - 4/43

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