Nicolo's Little Friend by H. A. F.

NICOLO, Nicolo, where are you? Where have you hidden yourself? Come here; I want you.”

It was a very bright-eyed little girl who spoke these words—under a bright sky, too—the sunny sky of Italy.

But Nicolo, a boy some years older than herself, looked far from bright or happy; he was lying full length on the ground in the sunlight; but his face was overcast and melancholy.

“Lazy fellow!” said little Gianetta, laughingly, as she came up to him; “I am out of breath calling to you. Come along; I want you. Mother has done with me, and we can make some music together.”

But Nicolo shook his head, though he smiled at his little friend.

“What is it?” asked Gianetta. “Why can’t you come? Is it the father again?”

Nicolo sighed. He was a cheerful, happy-tempered boy by nature. And yet Gianetta often found him looking very sad.

“Tiresome, bad man!” broke forth the little girl. “He has been scolding you again; but no. Stop; I will say no wicked things of him, for he is your father; and we must honor our parents, be they bad or good, Father Clement says. But tell me, Nicolo, what has he said or done?”

“It is nothing,” said Nicolo, rousing himself at length—“nothing, my little Gianetta; but it wearies me. It is the old tale; he likes not my music—thinks it an excuse for idleness. Listen, little one. I make my plans now. I cannot bear this life. I must do as he wishes—learn a trade or somewhat, and give up my violin.”

“That you never shall do,” said Gianetta, earnestly. “You think me naughty, Nicolo; but I am not. I only see it plainer than you or your father. God has given you this talent,—this great one,—and you shall not hide it, you shall not  bury it.” The little girl’s face was so eager, that Nicolo smiled at her.

But she went on, more excitedly:—

“Get up this moment, Nicolo, and come in with me. We will play somewhat together. Your father never scolds you when I am by. And you shall not give up your music.”

The boy, half in earnest, and half amused, let the child drag him into a little house near, put his violin into his arms, and then seat herself at the piano, while in the distance sat Nicolo’s father, gloomily watching the pair.

“Begin,” said Gianetta, “and tell me when I play wrongly.”

But for such a mere child, Gianetta played with marvellous correctness. As for Nicolo, his countenance cleared with every sound that he drew from his beloved violin; he forgot his gloomy father; he thought no longer of his dull, sad home. He was wrapped in that wonderful content which the possession of some great talent gives.

With the last chord the brightness faded, however, out of his face.

“Take me home now,” said the little girl.

Home was only across the street; but Gianetta wanted another word in private with her friend.

“Nicolo,” she said, gravely, “never speak more of giving up the music; it is not to be. I am sorry for you, my poor boy; I know it is a hard life, but—”

“But I will make a name for myself at last,” said Nicolo, catching her enthusiasm; “and then, perhaps, my father will have faith in me. Till then I will be brave, little one; so good night.”

It was a hard life for Nicolo—his mother dead, his father with no care for his son’s one great passion—music. Many a time the boy’s spirit failed, and he even grew to doubt his own powers under the cold glance and cruel taunts which daily met him.

He was sitting one day, feeling even sadder than usual,—discontented even with the sounds he drew from his instrument,—when Gianetta’s mother stood in the doorway.

“The child is ill,” she said, hurriedly—“very ill, and calls ever for you. Come.”

So Nicolo went, and, though tossed with fever, his little friend smiled on him. There was, however, a longing look in her eyes; but her parched lips could not form a word.

“Is it the violin?” asked Nicolo, softly.

She smiled again, and Nicolo fetched his treasure.

“A sleeping song?” he questioned.

The little face grew calm and soft at his question. Sweetly the music floated through the room, stilling the little sufferer, and comforting the watchers. When he had finished, Gianetta stretched out her arms.

“Thank you, dear Nicolo,” she said; “that was pleasant. Now I shall sleep; but you must never sleep; you have much else to do; you must go out into the world, and be famous—go away far, far from here. Do you mind my words? Will you remember them?”

And she lay back exhausted on her pillow, never more to ask for music in this world. Gianetta was listening even then to the angels’ song.

That night Nicolo sat beside the dead body of his little friend. Lights burned, flowers were scattered round her, and prayers were said without ceasing in all those long hours. It was the custom of the country; it did not disturb the dead, and it comforted the living.

And when morning dawned, the friendless boy went back to his little room across the road, and there he poured out his heart in a farewell strain to his dear companion who had thus suddenly been snatched from him.

There was no more now to be done but  to fulfil her last command—to go out into the world, and to make himself famous.

Did he do so?

Ask those who love music, and hold dear all great names in its roll of fame, if they ever heard of Nicolo Paganini; for it is of his boyhood that I write.

How far he owed his success in life to a little girl, each reader may judge for himself. She certainly inspired him with courage when he was very down-hearted; and through all his brilliant career, I think he at least must always have remembered her with gratitude.