The people of Holston turned out in large numbers. Among the first to appear was the old lady whom the professor had taken up on his way over.
"You're the boy that was so sassy to me this mormin'," she said, peering at Harry through her spectacles.
"I didn't say a word to you," said Harry.
"I'm afraid you're tellin' fibs. I heerd you."
"It was the professor. He put the words in my mouth."
"Well, come to think on't the voice was different from yours. Then there wa'n't nobody in the trunk?"
"No, ma'am," said Harry, smiling.
"It's wonderful, I declare for't. This is my darter, Mrs. Nehemiah Babcock," continued the old lady. "Nancy, this is the ventriloquer's boy. I thought he was sassy to me this mornin'; but he says he didn't speak a word. How much is to pay?" said the old lady.
"I won't charge you anything," said Harry. "Professor Henderson told me, if you came to let you in free, and any of your family."
"Really, now, that's very perlite of the professor," said the old lady. "He's a gentleman if ever there was one. Do you hear, Nancy, we can go in without payin' a cent. That's all on, account of your marm's being acquainted with the professor. I'm glad I come."
The old lady and her party entered the hall, and being early, secured good seats. Tom, her grandson, was glad to be so near, as he was ambitious to assist the professor in case volunteers were called for.
"Will any young gentleman come forward and assist me in the next trick?" asked the professor, after a while.
Tom started from his seat. His grandmother tried to seize him by the coat but he was too quick for her.
"Oh, let him go," said his mother. "He won't come to any harm."
"Is this your first appearance as a magician?" asked the professor.
"Yes, sir," answered Tom, with a grin.
"Very good. I will get you to help me, but you mustn't tell anybody how the tricks are done."
"No, sir, I won't."
"As I am going trust you with a little money, I want to ask you whether you are strictly honest."
"I am glad to hear it. Do you see this piece of gold?"
"What is its value?"
"Ten dollars," answered Tom, inspecting it.
"Very good. I want you hold it for me. I give you warning that I mean to make it pass out of you hand."
"I don't think you can do it, sir."
"Well, perhaps not. You look like a pretty sharp customer. It won't be easy to fool you."
"Nancy," whispered the old lady to her daughter. "I hope you don't allow Tom to talk so."
"Look, mother, see want he's going to do."
"What I propose to do," said the professor, "is to make that coin pass into the box on the table. I may not be able to do it, as the young gentleman is on his guard. However, I will try. Presto, change!"
"It didn't go," said Tom. "I've got it here."
"Have you? Suppose you open your hand."
Tom opened his hand.
"Well, what have you got? Is it the gold piece?"
"No sir," said Tom, astonished; "it's a cent."
"Then, sir, all I can say is, you have treated me badly. In order to prevent my getting the gold piece into the box, you changed it into a cent."
"No, I didn't," said Tom.
"Then perhaps I have succeeded, after all. The fact is, I took out the gold piece and put a penny in its place, so that you might not know the difference. Now here is the key of that box. Will you unlock it?"
Tom unlocked it, only to find another box inside. In fact, it was a perfect nest of boxes. In the very last of all was found the gold coin.
"It's very strange you didn't feel it go out of your hand," said the professor.
"I am afraid you are not quick enough to make a magician. Can you fire a pistol?"
"Yes, sir," said Tom.
"Will any lady lend me a ring?" asked the professor.
One was soon found
"I will load the pistol," said the professor, "and put the ring in with the rest of the charge. It appears to be rather too large. I shall have to hammer it down."
He brought down a hammer heavily upon the ring and soon bent it sufficiently to get it into the pistol.
"Now, sir," he said, "take the pistol, and stand off there. All right, sir. When I give the word, I want you to fire. One, two, three!"
Tom fired, his grandmother uttering a half suppressed shriek at the report. When the smoke cleared away, the professor was holding the ring between his thumb and finger, quite uninjured.
Professor Henderson's attention had been drawn to his companion of the morning. He observed that she had taken off her bonnet. He went up to her, and said, politely, "Madam, will you kindly lend me your bonnet?"
"Massy sakes, what do you want of it?"
"I won't injure it, I assure you."
"You may take it, ef you want to," said the old lady; "but be keerful and don't bend it."
"I will be very careful; but, madam," he said, in seeming surprise, "what have you got in it?"
"You are mistaken. See there, and there, and there"; and he rapidly drew out three onions, four turnips, and a couple of potatoes. "Really, you must have thought you were going to market."
"They ain't mine," gasped the old lady.
"Then it's very strange how they got into your bonnet. And--let me see--here's an egg, too."
"I never see sich doin's."
"Granny, I guess a hen made her nest in your bonnet," whispered Tom.
The old lady shook her head in helpless amazement.