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   Chapter 3 GIACOMO

Phil, the Fiddler By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8154

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


After eating the apple Phil decided to buy his frugal dinner. He, therefore, went into a baker's shop, and bought two penny rolls and a piece of cheese. It was not a very luxurious repast, but with the apple it was better than usual. A few steps from the shop door he met another Italian boy, who was bound to the same padrone.

"How much money have you, Giacomo?" asked Phil, speaking, of course, in his native tongue.

"Forty cents. How much have you?"

"A dollar and twenty cents."

"You are very lucky, Filippo."

"A rich signora gave me fifty cents for playing to her sick boy. Then I sang for some schoolboys, and they gave me some money."

"I am afraid the padrone will beat me to-night."

"He has not beat me for a week."

"Have you had dinner, Filippo?"

"Yes, I had some bread and cheese, and an apple."

"Did you buy the apple?"

"No; one of the schoolboys gave it to me. It was very good," said Phil, in a tone of enjoyment. "I had not eaten one for a long time."

"Nor I. Do you remember, Filippo, the oranges we had in Italy?"

"I remember them well."

"I was happy then," said Giacomo, sighing. "There was no padrone to beat me, and I could run about and play. Now I have to sing and play all day. I am so tired sometimes,-so tired, Filippo."

"You are not so strong as I, Giacomo," said Phil, looking with some complacency at his own stout limbs.

"Don't you get tired, Filippo?"

"Yes, often; but I don't care so much for that. But I don't like the winter."

"I thought I should die with cold sometimes last winter," said Giacomo, shuddering. "Do you ever expect to go back to Italy, Filippo?"

"Sometime."

"I wish I could go now. I should like to see my dear mother and my sisters."

"And your father?"

"I don't want to see him," said Giacomo, bitterly. "He sold me to the padrone. My mother wept bitterly when I went away, but my father only thought of the money."

Filippo and Giacomo were from the same town in Calabria. They were the sons of Italian peasants who had been unable to resist the offers of the padrone, and for less than a hundred dollars each had sold his son into the cruelest slavery. The boys were torn from their native hills, from their families, and in a foreign land were doomed to walk the streets from fourteen to sixteen hours in every twenty-four, gathering money from which they received small benefit. Many times, as they trudged through the streets, weary and hungry, sometimes cold, they thought with homesick sadness of the sunny fields in which their earliest years had been passed, but the hard realities of the life they were now leading soon demanded their attention.

Naturally light-hearted, Filippo, or Phil, bore his hard lot more cheerfully than some of his comrades. But Giacomo was more delicate, and less able to bear want and fatigue. His livelier comrade cheered him up, and Giacomo always felt better after talking with Phil.

As the two boys were walking together, a heavy hand was laid on the shoulder of each, and a harsh voice said: "Is this the way you waste your time, little rascals?"

Both boys started, and looking up, recognized the padrone. He was a short man, very dark with fierce black eyes and a sinister countenance. It was his habit to walk about the streets from time to time, and keep a watch, unobserved, upon his young apprentices, if they may be so called. If he found them loitering about, or neglecting their work, they were liable to receive a sharp reminder.

The boys were both startled at his sudden appearance, but after the first start, Phil, who was naturally courageous, recovered his self-possession. Not so with Giacomo, who was the more afraid because he knew he had gained but little money thus far.

"We are not wasting our time, padrone," said Phil, looking up fearlessly.

"We will see about that. How long have you been together?"

"Only five minutes."

"How much money have you, Filippo?"

"A dollar and twenty cents."

"Good; you have done well. And how is it with you, Giacomo?"

"I have forty cen

ts."

"Then you have been idle," said the padrone, frowning.

"No, signore," said the boy, trembling. "I have played, but they did not give me much money."

"It is not his fault," said Phil, coming boldly to the defense of his friend.

"Attend to your own affairs, little scrape-grace," said the padrone, roughly. "He might have got as much as you."

"No, padrone; I was lucky. A kind lady gave me fifty cents."

"That is not my affair. I don't care where you get the money. But if you don't bring home all I expect, you shall feel the stick."

These last words were addressed to Giacomo, who understood their import only too well. In the miserable lodging where he herded with thirty or forty others scarcely a night passed without the brutal punishment of one or more unfortunate boys, who had been unsuccessful in bringing home enough to satisfy the rapacity of the padrone. But of this an account will hereafter be given.

"Now, go to work, both of you," said the padrone, harshly.

The two boys separated. Giacomo went uptown, while Phil kept on his way toward the Astor House. The padrone made his way to the nearest liquor shop, where he invested a portion of the money wrung from the hard earnings of his young apprentices.

Toward the close of the afternoon Phil found himself in front of the Astor House. He had played several times, but was not fortunate in finding liberal auditors. He had secured but ten cents during this time, and it seemed doubtful whether he would reach the sum he wanted. He crossed over to the City Hall Park, and, feeling tired, sat down on one of the benches. Two bootblacks were already seated upon it.

"Play us a tune, Johnny," said one.

"Will you give me pennies?" asked Phil doubtfully, for he did not care, with such a severe taskmaster, to work for nothing.

"Yes, we'll give you pennies."

Upon this, Phil struck up a tune.

"Where's your monkey?" asked one of the boys.

"I have no monkey."

"If you want a monkey, here's one for you," said Tim Rafferty, putting his hand on his companion's shoulder.

"He's too big," said Phil, laughing.

"Hould yer gab, Tim Rafferty," said the other. "It's you that'll make a better monkey nor I. Say, Johnny, do you pay your monkeys well?"

"Give me my pennies," said Phil, with an eye to business.

"Play another tune, then."

Phil obeyed directions. When he had finished, a contribution was taken up, but it only amounted to seven cents. However, considering the character of the audience, this was as much as could be expected.

"How much have you made to-day, Johnny?" asked Tim.

"A dollar," said Phil.

"A dollar! That's more nor I have made. I tell you what, boys, I think I'll buy a fiddle myself. I'll make more money that way than blackin' boots."

"A great fiddler you'd make, Tim Rafferty."

"Can't I play, then? Lend me your fiddle, Johnny, till I try it a little."

Phil shook his head.

"Give it to me now; I won't be hurtin' it."

"You'll break it."

"Then I'll pay for it."

"It isn't mine."

"Whose is it, then?"

"The padrone's."

"And who's the padrone?"

"The man I live with. If the fiddle is broken, he will beat me."

"Then he's an ould haythen, and you may tell him so, with Tim Rafferty's compliments. But I won't hurt it."

Phil, however, feared to trust the violin in unskillful hands. He knew the penalty if any harm befell it, and he had no mind to run the risk. So he rose from the seat, and withdrew to a little distance, Tim Rafferty following, for, though he cared little at first, he now felt determined to try the fiddle.

"If you don't give it to me I'll put a head on you," he said.

"You shall not have it," said Phil, firmly, for he, too, could be determined.

"The little chap's showing fight," said Tim's companion. "Look out, Tim; he'll mash you."

"I can fight him wid one hand," said Tim.

He advanced upon our young hero, who, being much smaller, would probably have been compelled to yield to superior force but for an interference entirely unexpected by Tim.

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