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The Young Musician; Or, Fighting His Way

The Young Musician; Or, Fighting His Way

Author:Jr. Horatio Alger


“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.”...
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  “As for the boy,” said Squire Pope, with his usual autocratic air, “Ishall place him in the poorhouse.”

  “But, Benjamin,” said gentle Mrs. Pope, who had a kindly and sympatheticheart, “isn't that a little hard?”

  “Hard, Almira?” said the squire, arching his eyebrows. “I fail tocomprehend your meaning.”

  “You know Philip has been tenderly reared, and has always had acomfortable home--”

  “He will have a comfortable home now, Mrs. Pope. Probably you are notaware that it cost the town two thousand dollars last year to maintainthe almshouse. I can show you the item in the town report.”

  “I don't doubt it at all, husband,” said Mrs. Pope gently. “Of courseyou know all about it, being a public man.”

  Squire Pope smiled complacently. It pleased him to be spoken of as apublic man.

  “Ahem! Well, yes, I believe I have no inconsiderable influence in townaffairs,” he responded. “I am on the board of selectmen, and am chairmanof the overseers of the poor, and in that capacity I shall convey PhilipGray to the comfortable and well-ordered institution which the town hasset apart for the relief of paupers.”

  “I don't like to think of Philip as a pauper,” said Mrs. Pope, in adeprecating tone.

  “What else is he?” urged her husband. “His father hasn't left a cent. Henever was a good manager.”

  “Won't the furniture sell for something, Benjamin?”

  “It will sell for about enough to pay the funeral expenses andoutstanding 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. Youmay depend upon it, it is the best thing for the boy. But I must write aletter in time for the mail.”

  Squire Pope rose from the breakfast-table and walked out of the roomwith his usual air of importance. Not even in the privacy of thedomestic 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 ofNorton. He was a portly man, and especially cultivated dignity ofdeportment. Being in easy circumstances, and even rich for the residentof a village, he was naturally looked up to and credited with a worldlysagacity far beyond what he actually possessed.

  At any rate, he may be considered the magnate of Norton. Occasionally hevisited New York, and had been very much annoyed to find that his ruralimportance did not avail him there, and that he was treated with nosort of deference by those whom he had occasion to meet. Somehow, thecitizens of the commercial metropolis never suspected for a singlemoment that he was a great man.

  When Squire Pope had finished his letter, he took his hat, and withmeasured dignity, walked to the village post-office.

  He met several of his neighbors there, and greeted them with affablecondescension. He was polite to those of all rank, as that was essentialto his retaining the town offices, which he would have been unwilling toresign.

  From the post-office the squire, as he remembered the conversation whichhad taken place at the breakfast-table, went to make an official call onthe boy whose fate he had so summarily decided.

  Before the call, it may be well to say a word about Philip Gray, ourhero, and the circumstances which had led to his present destitution.

  His father had once been engaged in mercantile business, but hishealth failed, his business suffered, and he found it best-indeed,necessary--to settle up his affairs altogether and live in quietretirement 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 heleft a boy of fifteen wholly unprovided for.

  Let us go back a week and record what passed at the last interviewbetween Philip and his father before the latter passed into the state ofunconsciousness which preceded death.

  “Are you in pain, father?” asked Philip, with earnest sympathy, as hisfather lay outstretched on the bed, his face overspread by the deathlypallor which was the harbinger of dissolution.

  “Not of the body, Philip,” said Mr. Gray. “That is spared me, but I ownthat 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 myaffairs 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 thecold 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 thatmany of our most successful men had to work their way up from earlypoverty!”

  “Yes, that is true; but a boy cannot always get the chance to earn hisliving. Of one thing I am glad; you have a good education for a boy ofyour age. That is always a help.”

  “Thanks to you, father.”

  “Yes; though an invalid, I have, at all events, been able to giveprivate attention to your education, and to do better for you than thevillage school would have done. I wish I had some relative to whom Imight 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 Iheard a rumor, at one time, that he had visited Australia. But that wastwenty years ago, and as I have heard nothing of him since, I think itprobable that he is dead. Even if he were living, and I knew where hewas, 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, andhave been considerate of my weakness. I will think it over, and try togive you some directions which may be of service to you. Perhaps I maybe able to think of some business friend to whom I can commend you.”

  “You have talked enough, father,” said Philip, noticing his father'sincreasing pallor and the evident exertion with which he spoke. “Restnow, and to-morrow we can talk again.”

  Mr. Gray was evidently in need of rest. He closed his eyes andapparently slept. But he never awoke to consciousness. The conversationabove recorded was the last he was able to hold with his son. For twodays he remained in a kind of stupor, and at the end of that time hedied.

  Philip's grief was not violent. He had so long anticipated his father'sdeath 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 realizedthat he had lost his best earthly friend, and that he was henceforthalone in the world. He did not as yet know that Squire Pope hadconsiderately provided him with a home in the village poorhouse.