“Of course I do!” answered Nick, with another grin. “You see I’m gettin’ along-I’ll be nineteen next month, and I might want to get married by the time I’m twenty-one, especially if the old man should drop off sudden.”
“I understand all that, Nicholas—”
“Call me Nick. I ain’t stuck up if I am most a man. Call me pet names, dearest.”
And Nicholas laughed loudly at his witty quotation.
“Just as you prefer. Nick, then, I understand your object. But what made you think I wanted to sell the violin?”
It was Nick’s turn to be surprised.
“Ain’t there goin’ to be an auction of your father’s things?” he said.
“Yes; but the violin is mine, and I am not going to sell it.”
“You’ll have to,” said Nick.
“What do you mean by that, Nicholas Holden?” said Philip quickly.
“Because you’ll have to sell everything to pay your father’s debt. My father said so this very morning.”
“I think I know my own business best,” said Philip coldly. “I shall keep the violin.”
“Maybe it ain’t for you to say,” returned Nick, apparently not aware of his insolence. “Come, now, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. My father’s got a bill against yours for a dollar and sixty-four cents. I told father I had a use for the fiddle, and he says if you’ll give it to me, he’ll call it square. There, what do you say to that?”
Nicholas leaned back in his chair and looked at Philip through his small, fishy eyes, as if he had made an uncommonly liberal offer. As for Philip, he hardly knew whether to be angry or amused.
“You offer me a dollar and sixty-four cents for my violin?” he repeated.
“Yes. It’s second-hand, to be sure, but I guess it’s in pretty fair condition. Besides, you might help me a little about learnin’ how to play.”
“How much do you suppose the violin cost?” inquired Philip.
“It cost my father twenty-five dollars.”
“Oh, come, now, that’s too thin! You don’t expect a feller to believe such a story as that?”
“I expect to be believed, for I never tell anything but the truth.”
“Oh, well, I don’t expect you do, generally, but when it comes to tradin’, most everybody lies,” observed Nick candidly.
“I have no object in misrepresenting, for I don’t want to sell the violin.”
“You can’t afford to keep it! The town won’t let you!”
“The town won’t let me?” echoed Philip, now thoroughly mystified.
“Of course they won’t. The idea of a pauper bein’ allowed a fiddle to play on! Why, it’s ridiculous!”
“What do you mean?” demanded Philip, who now began to comprehend the meaning of this thick-witted visitor. “What have I got to do with the town, or with paupers?”
“Why, you’re goin’ to the poorhouse, ain’t you?”
“Certainly not!” answered Philip, with flashing eyes.