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New Release! Chant Compendium 8 with beautiful Gregorian chant

Everyone loves to read the adventures of Tom Playfair!

Tom Playfair
or, Making a Start

“And are you really and truly a fool?” asked Tom. —Page 56.

Chapter I

No. answer.
“Tommy—do you hear me? Get up this moment, sir. Do you think this house is a hotel? Every one’s at breakfast except yourself.”
Miss Meadow, Tom Playfair’s maternal aunt, stood without the door of Master Playfair’s sleeping apartment. She paused for a moment, partly to gain her breath (having come up three pairs of stairs to arouse Tom) and partly to await some reply from our sleeping hero. The silence, however, was simply emphasized by the ticking of the great clock in the hall.
“Tommy!” she resumed at length, in a higher key, “do you hear me?”
Her strained ears caught the dull sound as of some one turning lazily in his bed.
“Now you’re awake, sir, jump right up, and dress for your breakfast.”
“Sho! scat!” came a yawning voice from the room.
“Dear me!” cried poor Miss Meadow, “the boy doesn’t mind me in the least.”
“What’s the trouble, Jane?” queried Mr. Playfair, who just then issued from his room.
“I can’t get that Tommy out of bed. He’s growing worse every day, George. Last week he was late for school five times.”
“I’ll fix that, Jane,” said Mr. Playfair. And he took one step toward Tom’s sleeping-room, when the door of that apartment opened a few inches, discovering a young face peering anxiously from beneath a mass of tangled hair.
“Pa,” said the apparition, “I’m dressing just as fast as I know how. I heard you, auntie, and I’m coming right away.”
Then the door closed. Tom, it must be explained, had been composing himself for another nap, when the whispered dialogue between his aunt and his father had brought him out of bed with most unwonted celerity. The wily lad deemed it best not to wait for an order from his father. Hence the apparition.
“If you are not at the breakfast table in two minutes, sir, you shall hear from me,”
and with these sternly delivered words Mr. Playfair conducted Miss Meadow to breakfast. Little more than a minute later, a stout, healthy, dark-complexioned lad of ten emerged from his room ready and eager for the labor and heat of the day. His rosy face and jet-black hair gave token of a hasty toilet. His shoes were partially buttoned, his sturdy legs were encased in a pair of bright red stockings and rather tight knickerbockers, and his chubby cheeks wore an air of serenity, which coupled with his naturally handsome features made him a pleasing sight to all lovers of the genuine American boy.
Hastily descending the stairs (which he did by taking from three to four steps at a bound), Tom very quickly presented himself in the dining room, and ignoring the presence of the cat, in the teasing of which he spent a considerable portion of his valuable time, he seated himself at table, and fell to with great good will. But trouble was brewing. Besides Mr. Playfair and Miss Meadow, there was at table a young man, brother to Tom’s aunt, and the bane of our hero’s life. Mr. Charles Meadow was not a bad young man, but he had, despite this negative good quality, a large and constantly increasing stock of small faults, one of which was an inordinate delight in teasing and browbeating Tom. It is fair to say, however, that in the indulgence of this fault Mr. Meadow did not always come off with flying colors. Tom contrived to gain a victory now and then, and thus added a zest to the domestic war, which would otherwise have been too onesided to be interesting. Strangely enough, Mr. Playfair held himself, in general, strictly neutral; and it was only when the campaign gave signs of unusual bitterness that he felt himself called upon to interfere. On the present occasion young Mr. Meadow had been awaiting with ill-concealed anxiety Tom’s appearance.
“Oh, so here you are at last, are you?” he began as Tom seated himself at the table. In the tranquility of a healthy appetite applied to its proper purpose, Tom ignored the enemy’s hostile flag.
“Look here, young man,” continued Mr. Meadow, “were you at my room again last night?”
“How could a fellow get in your old room when you had it locked?” queried Tom with virtuous indignation.
“Never mind the ‘how,’ but did you go into my room last night?”
“Say, Aunt Jane, please put a little more sugar in this coffee. You never do give me enough.”
“What I want to know,” pursued the unrelenting uncle, “is whether you went into my room last night.”
“If you stayed at home, and went to bed early, instead of running round the town nights,” answered Tom, still desirous of shifting the battle-ground, “you wouldn’t be asking such questions.”
At this moment Mary the cook entered the dining-room with a plate of pancakes. If Tom had a preference, it was for this dish.
“Whoop!” he cried, and his eyes glistened. A smile of triumph passed over Mr. Meadow’s countenance; just as Tom was about to help himself liberally to the food of his preference, his persecutor took possession of the plate, and having helped Mr. Playfair and Miss Meadow to several cakes, he placed the rest upon his own plate.
Tom waxed angry.
“Oh! you think you’re funny, don’t you? May be you don’t use hair-dye for that strawcolored mustache of yours—I spelled it on a big bottle.”
Mr. Playfair smile, Miss Meadow tittered, Mr. Meadow blushed deeply. Recovering himself, he returned to the charge.
“Aha!” he cried, directing his forefinger at Tom. “So you have been in my room?”
I was Tom’s turn to blush; he was fairly caught. “How did you get in, sir?” continued Mr. Meadow, pursuing his advantage.
“Button-hook,” answered Tom, with the falling inflection.
“Exactly—that’s just what I thought, and that’s just the way you ruined the lock of the pantry last week.”
Mr. Playfair’s face took on an air of concern; he glanced severely at the culprit.
“Well, drawled Tom, “I guess it isn’t fair to lock up ripe apples. They don’t give a fellow any show in this house.”
“Tommy!”—an electric shock seemed to convulse our little pantry-burglar at the low, stern tones of his father’s voice,—“Tommy, have you been forcing locks with a buttonhook again?”
The roses in Tom’s cheeks grew out of all bounds, till the “roots of his hair were stirred”; he dropped his knife and fork, and with a despairing expression hung his head.
“This is getting too bad,” Mr. Playfair continued.
“I don’t like to say it, but such conduct is more fit for a young thief than for a little boy whom his father wishes to make a gentleman.”
At the word “thief” there was a subdued boo-hoo, followed by the sound of heavy breathing.
“You may well cry, sir,” pursued the parent, “for you have every reason to be ashamed of yourself.”
“I j-j-just d-d-did it for f-fun,” he sobbed.
“Oh, you’re exceedingly funny!” broke in Mr. Meadow with infinite sarcasm.
This last remark filled his cup of sorrow to overflowing; stifling an incipient sob and muttering that he “didn’t want no breakfast,” he departed into the welcome solitude of the hall. The word “thief” still rang in his ears, and sigh upon sigh bursting at short intervals from his passion-racked bosom
testified his appreciation of the term. Presently Mr. Meadow, on his way down town, where he held the honorable position of assistant book-keeper in a St. Louis hardware store, issued from the dining-room. At the sight of him, Tom’s grief hardened into the sterner form of anger.
“You’ll pay for this, Mr. Give-away,” he muttered, shaking a diminutive fist at Mr. Meadow. “I’m going to see Miss Larkin today—I will, I will!—and I’ll just tell her all the mean things you say to me, how your mustache is dyed—see if I don’t,—I’ll spoil your chances there.”
Mr. Meadow, who had a soft spot in his heart (devoted almost exclusively to said Miss Larkin), was taken back not a little at this threat.
“You young scamp,” he roared with more earnestness than dignity, “if you go near that young lady with any of your wretched stories, I’ll give you a cowhiding.”
“Ugh! you give-away!” cried Tom with ineffable disgust.
“So, sir; that’s the language you use to your uncle,” said Mr. Playfair, who as he opened the dining-room door had caught these words.
“Go up to your room, sir, and don’t leave it till nine o’clock. Jane,” he continued, looking into the dining-room, “please tell Tommy when it is nine.”
Mr. Playfair left the house with a stern cast of countenance. Tom was scarcely five when his mother died. The boy was good— but the want of a mother’s care and refining influence was very evident. Then too, Mr. Playfair reflected, the child stood in great danger of having his disposition ruined. Petted by Miss Meadow, he was growing selfish; teased by Mr. Meadow, he was becoming bold.
“Yes,” he muttered, “I shall have to take some decisive step, or the boy will be spoiled.”

Chapter II

The mournful wail that swept at dismal intervals through Mr. Playfair’s house touched the sympathetic chord of compassion in the heartstrings of gentle Aunt Jane. Stealing softly up to Tom’s room, she entered on tiptoe. Master Tom, his hair dishevelled, and the channels of grief plainly traced upon his cheeks, was lying prone upon his bed. The sight of her compassionate face opened a new flood of tears.
“Don’t cry, Tommy,” she said softly. “I wish I was dead,” cried that young gentleman.
“Now, now, Tommy,” exclaimed the horrified and too credulous aunt, “don’t talk that way: it is sinful, and I’m sure you don’t mean it.”

The son of Irish immigrant parents, Francis J. Finn, S.J. was born on October 4, 1859 in St. Louis, Missouri; there he grew up, attending parochial schools. As a boy, Francis was deeply impressed with Cardinal Wiseman’s famous novel of the early Christian martyrs, Fabiola. After that, religion really began to mean something to him. Eleven-year-old Francis was a voracious reader; he read the works of Charles Dickens, devouring Nicholas Nickleby and The Pickwick Papers. From his First Communion at age 12, Francis began to desire to become a Jesuit priest; but then his fervor cooled, his grades dropped, and his vocation might have been lost except for Fr. Charles Coppens. Fr. Coppens urged Francis to apply himself to his Latin, to improve it by using an all-Latin prayerbook, and to read good Catholic books. Fr. Finn credited the saving of his vocation to this advice and to his membership in the Sodality of Our Lady. Francis began his Jesuit novitiate and seminary studies on March 24, 1879. As a young Jesuit scholastic, he suffered from repeated bouts of sickness. He would be sent home to recover, would return in robust health, then would come down with another ailment. Normally this would have been seen as a sign that he did not have a vocation, yet his superiors kept him on. Fr. Finn commented, “God often uses instruments most unfit to do His work.” During his seminary days Mr. Finn was assigned as prefect of St. Mary’s boarding school or “college” in St. Mary’s, Kansas (which became the fictional “St. Maure’s”). There he learned— often the hard way—how to teach and discipline boys. One afternoon while supervising a class who were busy writing a composition, Mr. Finn thought of how they represented to him the typical American Catholic boy. With nothing else to do, he took up pencil and paper. “Why not write about such boys as are before me?” he asked himself. In no time at all he had dashed off the first chapter of Tom Playfair. When he read it aloud to the class, they loved it! Of course they wanted more. Francis was finally ordained to the priesthood around 1891. This was the year that Tom Playfair was published. Fr. Finn’s publisher, Benziger Brothers, was to call Tom Playfair “the most successful book for boys and girls ever published in the English language.” Fr. Finn would write 27 books in all, which would be translated into as many as ten languages, and even into Braille. Fr. Finn spent many years of his priestly life at St. Xavier’s in Cinncinati. There he was well loved, and it is said that wherever he went—if he took a taxi, ate at a restaurant, attended a baseball game—people would not take his money for their services, but instead would press money into his hand for his many charities. Children especially loved him. It is said that at his death in 1928, children by the thousands turned out to mourn their departed friend. It was Fr. Finn’s lifelong conviction that “One of the greatest things in the world is to get the right book into the hands of the right boy or girl. No one can indulge in reading to any extent without being largely influenced for better or worse.” According to the American Catholic Who’s Who, Fr. Finn is “universally acknowledged the foremost Catholic writer of fiction for young people.”

Biographical sketch from various sources, including an article in Crusade magazine which was based on Fr. Finn’s memoirs as edited and published by Fr. Daniel A. Lord, S.J., in a book entitled Fr. Finn, S.J.

Taken from Tom Playfair, or Making a Start by TAN Books & Publishers, Inc.

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