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Phil, the Fiddler By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 10738

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

It was the evening before Christmas. Until to-day the winter had been an open one, but about one o'clock in the afternoon the snow began to fall. The flakes came thicker and faster, and it soon became evident that an old-fashioned snowstorm had set in. By seven o'clock the snow lay a foot deep on the level, but in some places considerably deeper, for a brisk wind had piled it up in places.

In a handsome house, some rods back from the village street, lived Dr. Drayton, a physician, whose skill was so well appreciated that he had already, though still in the prime of life, accumulated a handsome competence.

He sat this evening in his library, in dressing-gown and slippers, his wife nearby engaged in some needlework.

"I hope you won't be called out this evening, Joseph," said Mrs. Drayton, as a gust of wind tattled the window panes.

"I echo that wish, my dear," said the doctor, looking up from the last number of the Atlantic Monthly. "I find it much more comfortable here, reading Dr. Holmes' last article."

"The snow must be quite deep."

"It is. I found my ride from the north village this afternoon bleak enough. You know how the wind sweeps across the road near the Pond schoolhouse. I believe there is to be a Christmas-eve celebration in the Town Hall this evening, is there not?"

"No; it has been postponed till to-morrow evening."

"That will be better. The weather and walking will both be better. Shall we go, Mary?"

"If you wish it," she said, hesitatingly.

Her husband understood her hesitation. Christmas day was a sad anniversary for them. Four years before, their only son, Walter, a boy of eight, had died just as the Christmas church bells were ringing out a summons to church. Since then the house had been a silent one, the quiet unbroken by childish noise and merriment. Much as the doctor and his wife were to each other, both felt the void which Walter's death had created, and especially as the anniversary came around which called to mind their great loss.

"I think we had better go," said the doctor; "though God has bereft us of our own child, it will be pleasant for us to watch the happy faces of others."

"Perhaps you are right, Joseph."

Half an hour passed. The doctor continued reading the Atlantic, while his wife, occupied with thoughts which the conversation had called up, kept on with her work.

Just then the bell was heard to ring.

"I hope it is not for you, Joseph," said his wife, apprehensively.

"I am afraid it is," said the doctor, with a look of resignation.

"I thought it would be too good luck for me to have the whole evening to myself."

"I wish you were not a doctor," said Mrs. Drayton.

"It is rather too late to change my profession, my dear," said her husband, good-humoredly. "I shall be fifty next birthday. To be sure, Ellen Jones tells me that in her class at the Normal School there is a maiden lady of sixty-two, who has just begun to prepare herself for the profession of a teacher. I am not quite so old as that."

Here the servant opened the door, ushering in a farm laborer.

"Good-evening, Abner," said the doctor, recognizing him, as, indeed, he knew every face within half a dozen miles. "Anything amiss at home?"

"Mrs. Felton is took with spasms," said Abner. "Can you come right over?"

"What have you done for her?"

"Put her feet in warm water, and put her to bed. Can you come right over?"

"Yes," said the doctor, rising and exchanging his dressing-gown for a coat, and drawing on his boots. "I will go as soon as my horse is ready."

Orders were sent out to put the horse to the sleigh. This was quickly done, and the doctor, fully accoutered, walked to the door.

"I shall be back as soon as I can, Mary," he said.

"That won't be very soon. It is a good two-miles' ride."

"I shan't loiter on the way, you may be sure of that. Abner, I am ready."

The snow was still falling, but not quite so fast as early in the afternoon. The wind, however, blew quite as hard, and the doctor found all his wrappings needful.

At intervals on the road he came to deep drifts of snow through which the horse had some difficulty in drawing the sleigh, but at length he arrived at the door of his patient. He found that the violence of her attack was over, and, satisfied of this, left a few simple directions, which he considered sufficient. Nature would do the rest.

"Now for home!" he said to himself. "I hope this will be my last professional call this evening. Mary will be impatient for my return."

He gave the reins to his horse, who appeared to feel that he was bound homeward, and traveled with more alacrity than he had come.

He, too, no doubt shared the doctor's hope that this was the last service required of him before the morrow.

Doctor Drayton had completed rather more than half his journey, when, looking to the right, his attention was drawn to a small, dark object, nearly covered with snow.

Instinctively he reined up his horse.

"Good heavens!" he exclaimed, "it must be a boy. God grant he is not frozen!"

He leaped from his sleigh, and lifted the insensible body.

"It is an Italian boy, and here is his violin. The poor child may be dead," he said to himself in a startled tone. "I must carry him home, and see what I can do for him."

So he took up tenderly our young hero-

for our readers will have guessed that it was Phil-and put both him and his violin into the sleigh. Then he drove home with a speed which astonished even his horse, who, though anxious to reach his comfortable stable, would not voluntarily have put forth so great an exertion as was now required of him.

I must explain that Phil had for the last ten days been traveling about the country, getting on comfortably while the ground was bare of snow. To-day, however, had proved very uncomfortable. In the city the snow would have been cleared off, and would not have interfered so much with traveling.

He had bought some supper at a grocery store, and, after spending an hour there, had set out again on his wanderings. He found the walking so bad that he made up his mind to apply for a lodging at a house not far back; but a fierce dog, by his barking, had deterred him from the application. The road was lonely, and he had seen no other house since. Finally, exhausted by the effort of dragging himself through the deep snow, and, stiff with cold, he sank down by the side of the road, and would doubtless have frozen had not the doctor made his appearance opportunely.

Mrs. Drayton was alarmed when her husband entered the sitting-room, bearing Phil's insensible form.

She jumped to her feet in alarm.

"Who is it, Joseph?" she asked.

"A poor Italian boy, whom I found by the side of the road."

"Is he dead?" asked the doctor's wife, quickly.

"I think not. I will restore him if there is any life left in him."

It was fortunate for Phil that he had been discovered by a skillful physician, who knew the most effectual means of bringing him to. The flame of life was burning low, and a little longer exposure would have closed the earthly career of our young hero. But he was spared, as we hope, for a happy and useful career.

By the application of powerful restoratives Phil was at length brought round. His chilled limbs grew warm, and his heart began to beat more steadily and strongly. A bed was brought down to the sitting-room, and he was placed in it.

"Where am I?" he asked faintly, when he opened his eyes.

"You are with friends, my boy. Don't ask questions now. In the morning, you may ask as many as you like."

Phil closed his eyes languidly, and soon fell into a sound sleep.

Nature was doing her work well and rapidly.

In the morning Phil woke up almost wholly restored.

As he opened his eyes, he met the kind glances of the doctor and his wife.

"How do you feel this morning?" asked the doctor.

"I feel well," said Phil, looking around him with curiosity.

"Do you think you could eat some breakfast?" asked Dr. Drayton, with a smile.

"Yes, sir," said Phil.

"Then, my lad, I think I can promise you some as soon as you are dressed. But I see from your looks you want to know where you are and how you came here. Don't you remember the snow-storm yesterday?"

Phil shuddered. He remembered it only too well.

"I found you lying by the side of the road about half-past eight in the evening. I suppose you don't remember my picking you up?"

"No, sir."

"You were insensible. I was afraid at first you were frozen. But I brought you home, and, thanks to Providence, you are all right again."

"Where is my fiddle?" asked Phil, anxiously.

"It is safe. There it is on the piano."

Phil was relieved to see that his faithful companion was safe. He looked upon it as his stock in trade, for without it he would not have known how to make his livelihood.

He dressed quickly, and was soon seated at the doctor's well-spread table. He soon showed that, in spite of his exposure and narrow escape from death, he had a hearty appetite. Mrs. Drayton saw him eat with true motherly pleasure, and her natural love of children drew her toward our young hero, and would have done so even had he been less attractive.

"Joseph," she said, addressing her husband, "I want to speak to you a moment."

He followed her out of the room.

"Well, my dear?" he said.

"I want to ask a favor."

"It is granted in advance."

"Perhaps you will not say so when you know what it is."

"I can guess it. You want to keep this boy."

"Are you willing?"

"I would have proposed it, if you had not. He is without friends and poor. We have enough and to spare. We will adopt him in place of our lost Walter."

"Thank you, Joseph. It will make me happy. Whatever I do for him, I will do for my lost darling."

They went back into the room. They found Phil with his cap on and his fiddle under his arm.

"Where are you going, Philip?" asked the doctor.

"I am going into the street. I thank you for your kindness."

"Would you not rather stay with us?"

Phil looked up, uncertain of his meaning.

"We had a boy once, but he is dead. Will you stay with us and be our boy?"

Phil looked in the kind faces of the doctor and his wife, and his face lighted up with joy at the unexpected prospect of such a home, with people who would be kind to him.

"I will stay," he said. "You are very kind to me."

So our little hero had drifted into a snug harbor. His toils and privations were over. And for the doctor and his wife it was a glad day also. On Christmas Day four years before they had lost a child. On this Christmas, God had sent them another to fill the void in their hearts.

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