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   Chapter 4 AN INVITATION TO SUPPER

Phil, the Fiddler By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8743

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


Tim had raised his fist to strike the young fiddler, when he was suddenly pushed aside with considerable force, and came near measuring his length on the ground.

"Who did that?" he cried, angrily, recovering his equilibrium.

"I did it," said a calm voice.

Tim recognized in the speaker Paul Hoffman, whom some of my readers will remember as "Paul the Peddler." Paul was proprietor of a necktie stand below the Astor House, and was just returning home to supper.

He was a brave and manly boy, and his sympathies were always in favor of the oppressed. He had met Phil before, and talked with him, and seeing him in danger came to his assistance.

"What made you push me?" demanded Tim, fiercely.

"What were you going to do to him?" rejoined Paul, indicating the Italian boy.

"I was only goin' to borrer his fiddle."

"He would have broken it," said Phil.

"You don't know how to play," said Paul. "You would have broken his fiddle, and then he would be beaten."

"I would pay for it if I did," said Tim.

"You say so, but you wouldn't. Even if you did, it would take time, and the boy would have suffered."

"What business is that of yours?" demanded Tim, angrily.

"It is always my business when I see a big boy teasing a little one."

"You'll get hurt some day," said Tim, suddenly.

"Not by you," returned Paul, not particularly alarmed.

Tim would have gladly have punished Paul on the spot for his interference, but he did not consider it prudent to provoke hostilities. Paul was as tall as himself, and considerably stronger. He therefore wisely confined himself to threatening words.

"Come along with me, Phil," said Paul, kindly, to the little fiddler.

"Thank you for saving me," said Phil, gratefully. "The padrone would beat me if the fiddle was broke."

"Never mind about thanks, Phil. Tim is a bully with small boys, but he is a coward among large ones. Have you had any supper?"

"No," said Phil.

"Won't you come home and take supper with me?"

Phil hesitated.

"You are kind," he said, "but I fear the padrone."

"What will he do to you?"

"He will beat me if I don't bring home enough money."

"How much more must you get?"

"Sixty cents."

"You can play better after a good supper. Come along; I won't keep you long."

Phil made no more objection. He was a healthy boy, and his wanderings had given him a good appetite. So he thanked Paul, and walked along by his side. One object Paul had in inviting him was, the fear that Tim Rafferty might take advantage of his absence to renew his assault upon Phil, and with better success than before.

"How old are you, Phil?" he asked.

"Twelve years."

"And who taught you to play?"

"No one. I heard the other boys play, and so I learned."

"Do you like it?"

"Sometimes; but I get tired of it."

"I don't wonder. I should think playing day after day might tire you. What are you going to do when you become a man?"

Phil shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't know," he said. "I think I'll go back to Italy."

"Have you any relations there?"

"I have a mother and two sisters."

"And a father?"

"Yes, a father."

"Why did they let you come away?"

"The padrone gave my father money."

"Don't you hear anything from home?"

"No, signore."

"I am not a signore," said Paul, smiling. "You may call me Paul. Is that an Italian name?"

"Me call it Paolo."

"That sounds queer to me. What's James in Italian?"

"Giacomo."

"Then I have a little brother Giacomo."

"How old is he?"

"Eight years old."

"My sister Bettina is eight years. I wish I could see her."

"You will see her again some day, Phil. You will get rich in America, and go back to sunny Italy."

"The padrone takes all my money."

"You'll get away from the old rascal some day. Keep up good courage, Phil, and all will come right. But here we are. Follow me upstairs, and I will introduce you to my mother and Giacomo," said Paul, laughing at the Italian name he had given his little brother.

Mrs. Hoffman and Jimmy looked with some surprise at the little fiddler as he entered with Paul.

"Mother," said Paul, "this is one of my friends, whom I have invited to take supper with us."

"He is welcome," said Mrs. Hoffman, kindly. "Have you ever spoken to us of him?"

"I am not sure. His name is Phil-Phil the fiddler, we ca

ll him."

"Filippo," said the young musician.

"We will call you Phil; it is easier to speak," said Paul. "This is my little brother Jimmy. He is a great artist."

"Now you are laughing at me, Paul," said the little boy.

"Well, he is going to be a great artist some day, if he isn't one yet. Do you think, Jimmy, you could draw Phil, here, with his fiddle?"

"I think I could," said the little boy, slowly, looking carefully at their young guest; "but it would take some time."

"Perhaps Phil will come some day, and give you a sitting."

"Will you come?" asked Jimmy.

"I will come some day."

Meanwhile Mrs. Hoffman was preparing supper. Since Paul had become proprietor of the necktie stand, as described in the last volume, they were able to live with less regard to economy than before. So, when the table was spread, it presented quite a tempting appearance. Beefsteak, rolls, fried potatoes, coffee, and preserves graced the board.

"Supper is ready, Paul," said his mother, when all was finished.

"Here, Phil, you may sit here at my right hand," said Paul. "I will put your violin where it will not be injured."

Phil sat down as directed, not without feeling a little awkward, yet with a sense of anticipated pleasure. Accustomed to bread and cheese alone, the modest repast before him seemed like a royal feast. The meat especially attracted him, for he had not tasted any for months, indeed seldom in his life, for in Italy it is seldom eaten by the class to which Phil's parents belonged.

"Let me give you some meat, Phil," said Paul. "Now, shall we drink the health of the padrone in coffee?"

"I will not drink his health," said Phil. "He is a bad man."

"Who is the padrone?" asked Jimmy, curiously.

"He is my master. He sends me out to play for money."

"And must you give all the money you make to him?"

"Yes; if I do not bring much money, he will beat me."

"Then he must be a bad man. Why do you live with him?"

"He bought me from my father."

"He bought you?" repeated Jimmy, puzzled.

"He hires him for so much money," explained Paul.

"But why did your father let you go with a bad man?" asked Jimmy.

"He wanted the money," said Phil. "He cared more for money than for me."

What wonder that the boys sold into such cruel slavery should be estranged from the fathers who for a few paltry ducats sell the liberty and happiness of their children. Even where the contract is for a limited terms of years, the boys in five cases out of ten are not returned at the appointed time. A part, unable to bear the hardships and privations of the life upon which they enter, are swept off by death, while of those that survive, a part are weaned from their homes, or are not permitted to go back.

"You must not ask too many questions, Jimmy." said Mrs. Hoffman, fearing that he might awaken sad thoughts in the little musician.

She was glad to see that Phil ate with a good appetite. In truth he relished the supper, which was the best he remembered to have tasted for many a long day.

"Is Italy like America?" asked Jimmy, whose curiosity was excited to learn something of Phil's birthplace.

"It is much nicer," said Phil, with a natural love of country. "There are olive trees and orange trees, and grapes-very many."

"Are there really orange trees? Have you seen them grow?"

"I have picked them from the trees many times."

"I should like that, but I don't care for olives."

"They are good, too."

"I should like the grapes."

"There are other things in Italy which you would like better, Jimmy," said Paul.

"What do you mean, Paul?"

"The galleries of fine paintings."

"Yes, I should like to see them. Have you seen them?"

Phil shook his head. The picture galleries are in the cities, and not in the country district where he was born.

"Sometime, when I am rich, we will all go to Italy, Jimmy; then, if Phil is at home, we will go and see him."

"I should like that, Paul."

Though Jimmy was not yet eight years old, he had already exhibited a remarkable taste for drawing, and without having received any instruction, could copy any ordinary picture with great exactness. It was the little boy's ambition to become an artist, and in this ambition he was encouraged by Paul, who intended, as soon as he could afford it, to engage an instructor for Jimmy.

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