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A Busy Year at the Old Squire's by C. A. Stephens

Bear Tone meanwhile was teaching his singing schools


The

other pupils were somewhat neglected that winter; but no one complained, for it was such a pleasure to hear Bear-Tone and Helen sing. Many visitors came; and once the old Squire attended a meeting, in order to hear Bear-Tone's remarkable pupil. In Days of Old when Knights were Bold, dear old Juanita, and Roll on, Silver Moon, were some of their favorite songs, Still a "goat," and always a "goat," I am not capable of describing music; but school and visitors sat enchanted when Helen and Bear-Tone sang.

Helen's parents were opposed to having their daughter become a professional singer. They were willing that she should sing in church and at funerals, but not in opera. For a long time Bear-Tone labored to convince them that a voice like Helen's has a divine mission in the world, to please, to touch and to ennoble the hearts of the people.

At last he induced them to let him take Helen to Portland, in order that a well-known teacher there might hear her sing and give an opinion. Bear-Tone was to pay the expenses of the trip himself.

The city teacher was enthusiastic over the girl and urged that she be given opportunity for further study; but in view of the opposition at home that was not easily managed. But Bear-Tone would not be denied. He sacrificed the scanty earnings of a whole winter's round of singing schools in country school districts to send her to the city for a course

of lessons.

The next year the question of her studying abroad came up. If Helen were to make the most of her voice, she must have it trained by masters in Italy and Paris. Her parents were unwilling to assist her to cross the ocean.

Bear-Tone was a poor man; his singing schools never brought him more than a few hundred dollars a year. He owned a little house in a neighboring village, where he kept "bachelor's hall"; he had a piano, a cabinet organ, a bugle, a guitar and several other musical instruments, including one fairly valuable old violin from which he was wont of an evening to produce wonderfully sweet, sad strains.

No one except the officials of the local savings bank knew how Bear-Tone raised the money for Helen Thomas's first trip abroad, but he did it. Long afterwards people learned that he had mortgaged everything he possessed, even the old violin, in order to provide the necessary money.

Helen went to Europe and studied for two years. She made her debut at Milan, sang in several of the great cities on the Continent, and at last, with a reputation as a great singer fully established, returned home four years later to sing in New York.

Bear-Tone meanwhile was teaching his singing schools, as usual, in the rural districts of Maine. Once or twice during those two years of study he had managed to send a little money to Helen, to help out with the expenses. Now he postponed his three bi-weekly schools for one week and made his first and only trip to New York--the journey of a lifetime. Perhaps he had at first hoped that he might meet her and be welcomed. If so, he changed his mind on reaching the metropolis. Aware of his uncouthness, he resolved not to shame her by claiming recognition. But he went three times to hear her sing, first in Aida, then in Faust, and afterwards in Les Huguenots; heard her magic notes, saw her in all her queenly beauty--but saw her from the shelter of a pillar in the rear of the great opera house. On the fifth day he returned home as quietly as he had gone.


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