“I must explain myself more clearly. I am Professor Lorenzo Riccabocca, the famous elocutionist and dramatic reader.”
“Doubtless you have heard of me?” said the professor inquiringly.
“I have never lived in large places,” answered Philip, in some embarrassment, “or no doubt your name would be familiar to me.”
“To be sure, that must make a difference. For years,” said the professor, “I have given dramatic readings to crowded houses, and everywhere my merits have been conceded by the educated and refined.”
Philip could not help wondering how it happened in that case that the professor should look so seedy. A genius appreciated so highly ought to have brought in more gold and silver.
Perhaps Professor Riccabocca understood Philip’s expressive look, for he went to to say:
“The public has repaid me richly for the exercise of my talent; but, alas, my young friend, I must confess that I have no head for business. I invested my savings unwisely, and ascertained a month since that I had lost all.”
“That was a great pity!” said Philip sympathizingly.
“It was, indeed! It quite unmanned me!” said the professor, wiping away a tear. “I felt that all ambition was quite gone, and I was mad and sick. Indeed, only a week since I rose from a sick-bed. But Lorenzo is himself again!” he exclaimed, striking his breast energetically. “I will not succumb to Fate. I will again court the favor of the public, and this time I will take care of the ducats my admirers bestow upon me.”
“I should think that was a good plan,” said Philip.
“I will begin at once. Nearby is a town devoted to the mammon of trade, yet among its busy thousands there must be many that will appreciate the genius of Lorenzo Riccabocca.”
“I hope so,” answered Philip politely.
He could not help thinking that the professor was rather self-conceited, and he hardly thought it in good taste for him to refer so boastfully to his genius.
“I wish you, Mr. Gray, to assist me in my project,” continued the professor.
“How can I do so, sir?” inquired Philip.
“Let me tell you. I propose that we enter into a professional partnership, that we give an entertainment partly musical, partly dramatic. I will draw up a program, including some of my most humorous recitations and impersonations, while interspersed among them will be musical selections contributed by yourself. Do you comprehend?”
“Yes,” answered Philip, nodding.
“And what do you think of it?”
“I think well of it,” replied the boy-musician.
He did think well of it. It might not draw a large audience, this mixed entertainment, but it would surely pay something; and it would interfere with no plans of his own, for, in truth, he had none.
“Then you will cooperate with me?” said the professor.