On several occasions after this the organist came to the chapel on purpose to listen to Handel as the latter played, and he was so struck by the boy's genius that he determined to surprise the Duke by letting Handel play His Highness out of chapel. Accordingly, on the following Sunday, when the service was concluded, the organist lifted Handel on to the organ-stool, and desired him to play.
The Duke and his friends had risen to their feet as Handel began to play, but the Duke instantly detected a difference in the playing, and, glancing towards the organ-loft, he was astonished to behold the figure of a child bending over the keys. But as he listened his astonishment became greater, for it was no longer the child's figure that arrested his attention, but the melody which was pouring forth from the instrument. Instead of walking out of the chapel, the Duke remained standing where he had risen, with his gaze riveted upon the child player, and of course the members of the household likewise kept their places. At length, when Handel ceased to play, the Duke turned to those about him with the inquiry: 'Who is that child? Does anybody know his name?' As no one present seemed to know, the organist was sent for to explain matters. After a few words from this official the Duke commanded that Handel should be brought before him. When the boy appeared he patted him on the head, and praised his performance, telling him that he was sure that he would make a good musician.
For some time this secret practising continued without arousing suspicion on the part of the other inmates of the house. One night, however, when the child had resorted to his favourite spot, he was suddenly missed by those below, and, as it was known that he had been sent to bed, some fears were felt as to what could have become of him. The servants were summoned, but could give no account of him; the father was fetched from his study, whither he had retired, and a search began. The alarm increased when it was ascertained that the child was in none of the living-rooms of the house, and it was decided that the garrets and lofts must be searched. Calling for a lantern, the surgeon ascended the stairs leading to the lumber-room; it was possible that the boy might have found his way thither on some childish expedition, and there fallen asleep. Great was the father's surprise, on reaching the top-most landing, to hear faint musical sounds proceeding from behind the closed door. Noiselessly retracing his steps, he summoned the rest of the household, and then, ascending the stairs in a body, they paused outside to listen. Sure enough the old garret was full of melodic sounds! Now near, now far off, they seemed to the listeners to be wafted from another world; there was something uncanny about it, and the maids gazed into each other's faces with a scared expression, as the master softly lifted the latch, and, having peeped into the room, beckoned silently to the rest to follow him.
Handel's birthplace, Halle, Saxony.
George Frederick Handel, as the boy was named, was the son of a surgeon of Halle, Lower Saxony, in which town the child was born on February 23, 1685. Even before he could speak little George had shown a remarkable fondness for music, and the only toys he cared for were such as were capable of producing musical sounds. With this love for music, however, the father showed no sympathy whatever; he regarded the art with contempt, as something beneath the serious notice of one who aspired to be a gentleman, and that his child should have expressed an earnest desire to be taught to play only served to make him angry.
With his mouth curved into a cruel smile, Christoph seized the manuscript book and the copy, and, taking them from the room, hid them away in a new place where Sebastian could not possibly find them
Wood, inlaid with ivory and tortoise-shell, engraved. Two sets of tuning pegs, the lower containing fourteen, and the higher, ten.
On the middle of the neck is an ovl plate of mother-of-pearl, bering the German inscription, Gott der Herr ist Sonne und Schield ("God, the Lord, is sun and shield.") About 1700