“How shall we arrange about the compensation, Mr. Beck?” asked Blake. “We ought in that case to give him more than half.”
“Oh, you can give him the whole,” answered Beck carelessly. “If I felt well enough to play, I would do my part, but I think it will be better for me to go home and go to bed.”
His decision was communicated to Philip, who felt impelled by politeness to express his regrets to Mr. Beck.
“I am sorry you don’t feel able to play, Mr. Beck,” he said politely.
“Oh, it’s of no consequence, as they’ve got some one to take my place,” returned Beck coldly.
“I should be glad to hear you play again,” continued Philip.
Paul Beck nodded slightly, but he felt too much mortified to reciprocate Philip’s friendly advances. Half an hour later he left the hall.
The dancers by no means regretted the change of arrangement. They evidently preferred the young musician to his elderly rival. The only one to express regret was Miss Maria Snodgrass.
“I declare it’s a shame Mr. Beck has given up,” she said. “I wanted you to dance with me, Mr. Gray. I am sure if you can dance as well as you can play, you would get along perfectly lovely. Now you’ve got to play, and can’t dance at all.”
“It isn’t leap-year, Maria,” said Jedidiah Burbank, in a jealous tone.
Miss Snodgrass turned upon him angrily:
“You needn’t put in your oar, Jedidiah Burbank!” she said. “I guess I know what I’m about. If it was leap-year fifty times over, I wouldn’t offer myself to you!”
And the young lady tossed her head in a very decided manner.
“Now don’t get mad, Maria!” implored Jedidiah, feeling that at the prompting of jealousy; he had put his foot in it. “I didn’t mean nothing.”
“Then you’d better say nothing next time,” retorted the young lady.
Meanwhile, Philip acknowledged the young lady’s politeness by a smile and a bow, assuring her that if it had been possible, it would have given him great pleasure to dance with her.
“If Mr. Burbank will play for me,” he said with a glance at the young man, “I shall be glad to dance.”
Miss Snodgrass burst out laughing.
“Jedidiah couldn’t play well enough for an old cow to dance by,” she said.
“There ain’t any old cows here,” said Jedidiah, vexed at being ridiculed.
“Well, there are some calves, anyway,” retorted Maria, laughing heartily.
Poor Jedidiah! It is to be feared that he will have a hard time when he becomes the husband of the fair Maria. She will undoubtedly be the head of the new matrimonial firm.
There was nothing further to mar the harmony of the evening. It had begun with indications of a storm, but the clouds had vanished, and when Mr. Beck left the hall, there was nothing left to disturb the enjoyment of those present.
The favorable opinions expressed when Philip commenced playing were repeated again and again, as the evening slipped away.