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   Chapter 16 THE FASHIONABLE PARTY

Phil, the Fiddler By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 12369

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


Eliakim Henderson, for this was the pawnbroker's name, did not remember Paul, though on one occasion our hero had called upon him. Nearly all his customers came to pawn articles, not to purchase, and Eliakim naturally supposed that the two boys had come on this errand. Before entering, Paul said to Phil, "Don't say anything; leave me to manage."

As they entered, Phil espied a fiddle hanging up behind the counter, and he saw at a glance that it was better than the one he had been accustomed to play upon. But to his surprise, Paul did not refer to it at first.

"What will you give me on this coat?" asked Paul, indicating the one he had on.

He had no intention of selling it, but preferred to come to the fiddle gradually, that the pawnbroker might not think that was his main object, and so charge an extra price.

Eliakim scanned the garment critically. It was nearly new and in excellent condition, and he coveted it.

"I will give you a dollar," said he, naming a price low enough to advance upon.

"That is too little," said Paul, shaking his head.

"I might give you fifty cents more, but I should lose if you didn't redeem it."

"I don't think you would. I paid ten dollars for it."

"But it is old."

"No, it isn't; I have only had it a few weeks."

"How much do you want on it?" asked Eliakim, scanning Paul sharply, to see how much he seemed in want of money.

"I don't want any to-day. If I should want some next week, I will come in."

"It will be older next week," said Eliakim, not wanting to lose the bargain, for he hoped it would not be redeemed.

"Never mind; I can get along till then."

"Can I do no business with you this morning?" asked Eliakim, disappointed.

"I don't know," said Paul, looking carelessly around. "My friend here would like a fiddle, if he can get one cheap. What do you ask for that one up there?"

Eliakim took down the fiddle with alacrity. He had had it on hand for a year without securing a customer. It had originally been pawned by a poor musician, for a dollar and a quarter, but the unfortunate owner had never been able to redeem it. Among his customers, the pawnbroker had not found one sufficiently musical to take it off his hands. Here was a slight chance, and he determined to effect a sale if he could.

"It is a splendid instrument," he said, enthusiastically, brushing off the dust with a dirty cotton handkerchief. "I have had many chances to sell it."

"Why didn't you sell it, then?" demanded Paul, who did not believe a word of this.

"Because it was only pawned. I kept it for the owner."

"Oh, well; if you can't sell it, it doesn't matter."

"It is for sale now," said Eliakim, quickly. "He has not come for it, and I shall keep it no longer. Just try it. See what a sp-l-endid instrument it is!" said the pawnbroker, dwelling on the adjective to give emphasis to it.

Paul tried it, but not knowing how to play, of course created only discord. He did not offer it to Phil, because the young Italian boy would have made it sound too well and so enhanced the price.

"It don't sound very well," said he, indifferently; "but I suppose it will do to learn on. What do you want for it?"

"Five dollars," said Eliakim, studying the face of Paul, to observe the effect of his announcement.

"Five dollars," repeated Paul. "Take it back, then, and wait till A. T. Stewart wants one. I haven't got five dollars to throw away."

But the pawnbroker did not expect to get his first price. He named it, in order to have a chance to fall.

"Stay," he said, as Paul made a motion to leave; "what will you give me for it?"

"I'll give you a dollar and a half," said Paul, turning back.

"A dollar and a half!" exclaimed Eliakim, holding up both hands in horror. "Do you want to ruin me?"

"No, I think you want to ruin me. I am willing to pay a fair price."

"You may have it for three dollars and a half."

"No doubt you'd be glad to get that. Come, Phil, we'll go."

"Stay; you may have it for three dollars, though I shall lose by it."

"So should I, if I paid you that price. I can wait till some other time."

But Eliakim did not intend to let this chance slip. He had found the fiddle rather unsalable, and feared if he lost his chance of disposing of it, it might remain on his hands for a year more. He was willing, therefore, to take less than the profit he usually calculated upon in the sale of articles which remained unredeemed.

"You may have it for two dollars and a half," he said.

As far as Paul could judge, though he did not know much about the price of violins, this was a reasonable price. But he knew that Eliakim must have got it for considerably less, or he would not so soon have come down to this sum. He did not hesitate, therefore, to try to get it a little cheaper.

"I'll give you two dollars and a quarter," he said, "and not a penny more."

Eliakim tried hard to get ten cents more, but Paul saw that he was sure of his purchase, and remained obdurate. So, after a pretense of putting up the fiddle, the pawnbroker finally said, "You may have it, but I tell you that I shall lose money."

"All right," said Paul; "hand it over."

"Where is the money?" asked Eliakim, cautiously.

Paul drew from his pocket a two-dollar bill and twenty-five cents in currency, and received the fiddle. The pawnbroker scrutinized the money closely, fearing that it might be bad; but finally, making up his mind on that point, deposited it in his money drawer.

"Well, Phil, we may as well go," said Paul. "We've got through our business."

The pawnbroker heard this, and a sudden suspicion entered his mind that Paul had been too sharp for him.

"I might have got twenty-five cents more," he thought regretfully; and this thought disturbed the complacency he felt at first.

"Well, Phil, how do you like it?" asked Paul, as they emerged into the street.

"Let me try it," said Phil, eagerly.

He struck up a tune, which he played through, his face expressing the satisfaction he felt.

"Is it as good as your old one?"

"It is much better," said Phil. "I will pay you for it;" and he drew out the money the sail

ors had given him in the morning.

"No, Phil," said his friend, "you may need that money. Keep it, and pay me when you have more."

"But I shall be away."

"You will come to the city some day. When you do you will know where to find me. Now go and play a tune to Jimmy. He is waiting for you. If you remain in the streets, your old enemy, Tim Rafferty, may want to borrow your fiddle again."

"You are very kind to me, Paolo," said Phil, raising his dark eyes with a sudden impulse of gratitude.

"It's nothing, Phil," said Paul, modestly; "you would do the same for me if I needed it."

"Yes, I would," said Phil; "but I am poor, and I cannot help you."

"You won't be poor always, Phil," said Paul, cheerfully, "nor I either, I hope. I mean to be a merchant some time on a bigger scale than now. As for you, you will be a great player, and give concerts at the Academy of Music."

Phil laughed, but still seemed pleased at the prophecy.

"Well, Phil, I must bid you good-by for a little while, or my clerks will be cheating me. I will see you at supper."

"Addio, Paolo," said Phil.

"Addio," said Paul, laughing. "Wouldn't I make a good Italian?"

Paul returned to his stand, and Phil took the direction of Mrs. Hoffman's rooms. While on his way he heard the sound of a hand-organ, and, looking across the way, saw, with some uneasiness, his old enemy Pietro, playing to a crowd of boys.

"I hope he won't see me," said Phil to himself.

He was afraid Pietro would remember his old violin, and, seeing the difference in the instrument he now had, inquire how he got it. He might, if not satisfied on this point, take Phil home with him, which would be fatal to his plans. He thought it prudent, therefore, to turn down the next street, and get out of sight as soon as possible. Fortunately for him Pietro had his back turned, so that he did not observe him. Nothing would have pleased him better than to get the little fiddler into trouble, for, besides being naturally malicious, he felt that an exhibition of zeal in his master's service would entitle him to additional favors at the hands of the padrone, whom he hoped some day to succeed.

"Oh, what a beautiful fiddle!" said Jimmy, in admiration, as Phil reappeared. "Do you think I could play on it?"

Phil shook his head, smiling.

"Don't let Jimmy have it. He would only spoil it," said Mrs. Hoffman. "I don't think he would succeed as well in music as in drawing."

"Will you play something?" asked Jimmy.

Phil willingly complied, and for half an hour held Jimmy entranced with his playing. The little boy then undertook to teach Phil how to draw, but at this Phil probably cut as poor a figure as his instructor would have done at playing on the violin.

So the afternoon wore away, happily for all three, and at five Paul made his appearance. When supper was over Phil played again, and this attracting the attention of the neighbors, Mrs. Hoffman's rooms were gradually filled with visitors, who finally requested Phil to play some dancing tunes. Finding him able to do so, an impromptu dance was got up, and Mrs. Hoffman, considerably to her surprise, found that she was giving a dancing-party. Paul, that nothing might be left out, took a companion with him and they soon reappeared with cake and ice cream, which were passed around amid great hilarity; and it was not until midnight that the last visitor went out, and the sound of music and laughter was hushed.

"You are getting fashionable in your old age, mother," said Paul, gayly. "I think I shall send an account of your party to the Home Journal."

"I believe it is usual to describe the dresses of the ladies," said Mrs. Hoffman, smiling.

"Oh, yes, I won't forget that. Just give me a piece of paper and see how I will do it."

Paul, whose education, I repeat here, was considerably above that of most boys in his position, sat down and hastily wrote the following description, which was read to the great amusement of his auditors:

"Mrs. Hoffman, mother of the well-known artist, Jimmy Hoffman, Esq., gave a fashionable party last evening. Her spacious and elegant apartments were crowded with finely dressed gentlemen and ladies from the lower part of the city. Signor Filippo, the great Italian musician, furnished the music. Mrs. Hoffman appeared in a costly calico dress, and had a valuable gold ring on one of her fingers. Her son, the artist, was richly dressed in a gray suit, purchased a year since. Miss Bridget Flaherty, of Mott Street, was the belle of the occasion, and danced with such grace and energy that the floor came near giving away beneath her fairy tread. [Miss Flaherty, by the way, weighed one hundred and eighty pounds.] Mr. Mike Donovan, newspaper merchant, handed round refreshments with his usual graceful and elegant deportment. Miss Matilda Wiggins appeared in a magnificent print dress, imported from Paris by A. T. Stewart, and costing a shilling a yard. No gloves were worn, as they are now dispensed with in the best society. At a late hour the guests dispersed. Mrs. Hoffman's party will long be remembered as the most brilliant of the season."

"I did not know you had so much talent for reporting, Paul," said his mother. "You forgot one thing, however."

"What is that?"

"You said nothing of yourself."

"I was too modest, mother. However, if you insist upon it, I will do so. Anything at all to please you."

Paul resumed his writing and in a short time had the following:

"Among those present we observed the handsome and accomplished Paul Hoffman, Esq., the oldest son of the hostess. He was elegantly dressed in a pepper-and-salt coat and vest, blue necktie, and brown breeches, and wore a six-cent diamond breastpin in the bosom of his shirt. His fifteen-cent handkerchief was perfumed with cologne which he imported himself at a cost of ten cents per bottle. He attracted general admiration."

"You seem to have got over your modesty, Paul," said his mother.

"I am sleepy," said Jimmy, drowsily rubbing his eyes.

As this expressed the general feeling, they retired to bed at once, and in half an hour were wandering in the land of dreams.

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