“No, no!” exclaimed several—Mr. Blake and Miss Snodgrass being among them.
“Mr. Gray, you were regularly engaged,” said one of the committee.
“That’s true,” answered Philip, “and,” he couldn’t help adding, “I should be justified in insisting upon playing; but since Mr. Beck seems to feel so bad about it, I will give way to him.”
He spoke manfully, and there was no sign of weakness or submission about him. He asserted his rights, while he expressed his willingness to surrender them.
There was a little consultation among the committee. They were all disgusted with the conduct of Paul Beck, and were unwilling that he should triumph. At the same time, as they might need his services at some future time, they did not wish wholly to alienate him.
Finally, they announced their decision through Andrew Blake.
“We are not willing to accept Mr. Gray’s resignation wholly,” he said, “but we propose that he and Mr. Beck shall divide the evening’s work between them—each to receive half the usual compensation.”
There was considerable applause, for it seemed to be a suitable compromise, and would enable the company to compare the merits of the rival musicians.
“I agree,” said Philip promptly.
“What do you say, Mr. Beck?” asked Andrew Blake.
Now, while Paul Beck did not like to give up half the honor, he felt thoroughly convinced that Philip was only a beginner, and that he, as an experienced player, could easily eclipse him, and thus gain a triumph which would be very gratifying to his pride.
As for the compensation, to do him justice, he did not much care for that, being a man of very good means. He played more for glory than for pay—though he, of course, had no objection to receiving compensation.
“I have no objections,” he said. “If you want to give the boy a chance to practice a little, I am willing.”
Philip understood the sneer, and he secretly determined to do his best.
The committee was much pleased at the satisfactory conclusion of what had threatened to be a very troublesome dispute, and it was arranged, Philip consenting, that Mr. Beck should play first.
The old musician played, in a confident manner, a familiar dancing-tune, accompanying his playing with various contortions of the face and twistings of his figure, supposed to express feeling. It was a fair performance, but mechanical, and did not indicate anything but very ordinary talent. His time was good, and dancers always found his playing satisfactory.
When Paul Beck had completed his task, he looked about him complacently, as if to say, “Let the boy beat that if he can,” and sat down.
Philip had listened to Mr. Beck with attention. He was anxious to learn how powerful a rival he had to compete with. What he heard did not alarm him, but rather gave him confidence.