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The Musical boy.

one day when Friend Hopper visited the prison, he found a dark-eyed lad with a very bright expressive countenance His right side was palsied, so that the arm hung down useless. Attracted by his intelligent face, he entered into conversation with him, and found that he had been palsied from infancy. He had been sent forth friendless into the world from an alms-house in Maryland. In Philadelphia, he had been committed to prison as a vagrant, because he drew crowds about him in the street by his wonderful talent of imitating a hand-organ, merely [218] by whistling tunes through his fingers. Friend Hopper, who had imbibed the Quaker idea that music was a useless and frivolous pursuit, said to the boy, ‘Didst thou not know it was wrong to spend thy time in that idle manner?’

With ready frankness the young prisoner replied, ‘No, I did not; and I should like to hear how you can prove it to be wrong. God has given you sound limbs. Half of my body is paralyzed, and it is impossible for me to work as others do. It has pleased God to give me a talent for music. I do no harm with it. It gives pleasure to myself and others, and enables me to gain a few coppers to buy my bread. I should like to have you show me wherein it is wrong.’

Without attempting to do so, Friend Hopper suggested that perhaps he had been committed to prison on account of producing noise and confusion in the streets.

‘I make no riot,’ rejoined the youth. ‘I try to please people by my tunes; and if the crowd around me begin to he noisy, I quietly walk off.’

Struck with the good sense and sincerity of these answers, Friend Hopper said to the jailor, ‘Thou mayest set this lad at liberty. I will be responsible for it.’

The jailer relying on his well-known character, and his intimacy with Robert Wharton, the mayor, [219] did not hesitate to comply with his request. At that moment, the mayor himself came in sight, and Friend Hopper said to the lad, ‘Step into the next room, and play some of thy best tunes till I come.’

‘What's this?’ said Mr. Wharton. ‘Have you got a hand-organ here!’

‘Yes,’ replied Friend Hopper; ‘and I will show it to thee. It is quite curious.’

At first, the mayor could not believe that the sounds he had heard were produced by a lad merely whistling through his fingers. He thought them highly agreeable, and asked to have the tunes repeated.

‘The lad was committed to prison for no other offence than making that noise, which seems to thee so pleasant,’ said Friend Hopper. ‘I dare say thou wouldst like to make it thyself, if thou couldst. I have taken the liberty to discharge him.’

‘Very well,’ rejoined the mayor, with a smile. ‘You have done quite right, Friend Isaac. You may go, my lad. I shall not trouble you. But try not to collect crowds about the streets.’

‘That I cannot help,’ replied the youth. ‘The crowds will come, when I whistle for them; and I get coppers by collecting crowds. But I promise you I will try to avoid their making any riot or confusion.’

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