But Nils himself was not aware of it. Occasionally, while he played, the Nixy's haunting strain would flit through his brain, or hover about it, where he could feel it, as it were, but yet be unable to catch it. This was his regret--his constant chase for those elusive notes that refused to be captured.
But he consoled himself many a time with the reflection that it was the fiddle's fault, not his own. With a finer instrument, capable of rendering more delicate shades of sound, he might yet surprise the Nixy's strain, and record it unmistakably in black and white.
The foreign musician and his American friend departed, but returned at the end of two weeks. They then offered to accompany Nils on a concert tour through all the capitals of Europe and the large cities of America, and to insure him a sum of money which fairly made him dizzy.
Nils begged for time to consider, and the next day surprised them by declining the startling offer.
He was a peasant, he said, and must remain a peasant. He belonged here in his native valley, where he could do good, and was happy in the belief that he was useful.
Out in the great world, of which he knew nothing, he might indeed gather wealth, but he might lose his peace of mind, which was more precious than wealth. He was content with a moderate prosperity, and that he had already attained. He had enough, and more than enough, to satisfy his modest wants, and to provide those who were dear to him with reasonable comfort in their present condition of life.
The strangers were amazed at a man's thus calmly refusing a fortune that was within his easy grasp, for they did not doubt that Nils, with his entirely unconventional manner of playing, and yet with that extraordinary moving quality in his play, would become the rage both in Europe and America, as a kind of heaven-born, untutored genius, and fill both his own pockets and theirs with shekels.
They made repeated efforts to persuade him, but it was all in vain. With smiling serenity, he told them that he had uttered his final decision. They then took leave of him, and a month after their departure there arrived from Germany a box addressed to Nils. He opened it with some trepidation, and it was found to contain a Cremona violin --a genuine Stradivarius.