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   Chapter 5 ON THE FERRY BOAT

Phil, the Fiddler By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8627

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

When supper was over, Phil bethought himself that his day's work was not yet over. He had still a considerable sum to obtain before he dared go home, if such a name can be given to the miserable tenement in Crosby Street where he herded with his companions. But before going he wished to show his gratitude to Paul for his protection and the supper which he had so much and so unexpectedly enjoyed.

"Shall I play for you?" he asked, taking his violin from the top of the bureau, where Paul had placed it.

"Will you?" asked Jimmy, his eyes lighting up with pleasure.

"We should be very glad to hear you," said Mrs. Hoffman.

Phil played his best, for he felt that he was playing for friends. After a short prelude, he struck into an Italian song. Though the words were unintelligible, the little party enjoyed the song.

"Bravo, Phil!" said Paul. "You sing almost as well as I do."

Jimmy laughed.

"You sing about as well as you draw," said the little boy.

"There you go again with your envy and jealousy," said Paul, in an injured tone. "Others appreciate me better."

"Sing something, and we will judge of your merits," said his mother.

"Not now," said Paul, shaking his head. "My feelings are too deeply injured. But if he has time, Phil will favor us with another song."

So the little fiddler once more touched the strings of his violin, and sang the hymn of Garibaldi.

"He has a beautiful voice," said Mrs. Hoffman to Paul.

"Yes, Phil sings much better than most of his class. Shall I bring him up here again?"

"Any time, Paul. We shall always be glad to see him."

Here Phil took his cap and prepared to depart.

"Good-by," he said in English. "I thank you all for your kindness."

"Will you come again?" said Mrs. Hoffman. "We shall be glad to have you."

"Do come," pleaded Jimmy, who had taken a fancy to the dark-eyed Italian boy, whose brilliant brown complexion contrasted strongly with his own pale face and blue eyes.

These words gave Phil a strange pleasure. Since his arrival in America he had become accustomed to harsh words and blows; but words of kindness were strangers to his ears. For an hour he forgot the street and his uninviting home, and felt himself surrounded by a true home atmosphere. He almost fancied himself in his Calabrian home, with his mother and sisters about him-in his home as it was before cupidity entered his father's heart and impelled him to sell his own flesh and blood into slavery in a foreign land. Phil could not analyze his own emotions, but these were the feelings which rose in his heart, and filed it with transient sadness.

"I thank you much," he said. "I will come again some day."

"Come soon, Phil," said Paul. "You know where my necktie stand is. Come there any afternoon between four and five, and I will take you home to supper. Do you know the way out, or shall I go with you?"

"I know the way," said Phil.

He went downstairs and once more found himself on the sidewalk. It was but six o'clock, and five or six hours were still before him before he could feel at liberty to go home. Should he return too early, he would be punished for losing the possible gains of the hour he had lost, even if the sum he brought home were otherwise satisfactory. So, whatever may be his fatigue, or however inclement the weather, the poor Italian boy is compelled to stay out till near midnight, before he is permitted to return to the hard pallet on which only he can sleep off his fatigues.

Again in the street, Phil felt that he must make up for lost time. Now six o'clock is not a very favorable time for street music; citizens who do business downtown have mostly gone home to dinner. Those who have not started are in haste, and little disposed to heed the appeal of the young minstrel. Later the saloons will be well frequented, and not seldom the young fiddlers may pick up a few, sometimes a considerable number of pennies, by playing at the doors of these places, or within, if they should be invited to enter; but at six there is not much to be done.

After a little reflection, Phil determined to go down to Fulton Ferry and got on board the Brooklyn steamboat. He might get a chance to play to the passengers, and some, no doubt, would give him something. At any rate, the investment woul

d be small, since for one fare, or two cents, he might ride back and forward several times, as long as he did not step off the boat. He, therefore, directed his steps toward the ferry, and arrived just in time to go on board the boat.

The boat was very full. So large a number of the people in Brooklyn are drawn to New York by business and pleasure, that the boats, particularly in the morning from seven to nine, and in the afternoon, from five to seven, go loaded down with foot passengers and carriages.

Phil entered the ladies' cabin. Though ostensibly confined to ladies' use, it was largely occupied also by gentlemen who did not enjoy the smoke which usually affects disagreeably the atmosphere of the cabin appropriated to their own sex. Our young musician knew that to children the hearts and purses of ladies are more likely to open than those of gentlemen, and this guided him.

Entering, he found every seat taken. He waited till the boat had started, and then, taking his position in the center of the rear cabin, he began to play and sing, fixing at once the attention of the passengers upon himself.

"That boy's a nuisance; he ought not to be allowed to play on the boat," muttered an old gentleman, looking up from the columns of the Evening Post.

"Now, papa," said a young lady at his side, "why need you object to the poor boy? I am sure he sings very nicely. I like to hear him."

"I don't."

"You know, papa, you have no taste for music. Why, you went to sleep at the opera the other evening."

"I tried to," said her father, in whom musical taste had a very limited development. "It was all nonsense to me."

"He is singing the Hymn of Garibaldi. What a sweet voice he has! Such a handsome little fellow, too!"

"He has a dirty face, and his clothes are quite ragged."

"But he has beautiful eyes; see how brilliant they are. No wonder he is dirty and ragged; it isn't his fault, poor boy. I have no doubt he has a miserable home. I'm going to give him something."

"Just as you like, Florence; as I am not a romantic young damsel, I shall not follow your example."'

By this time the song was finished, and Phil, taking off his cap, went the rounds. None of the contributions were larger than five cents, until he came to the young lady of whom we have spoken above. She drew a twenty-five-cent piece from her portemonnaie, and put it into Phil's hand, with a gracious smile, which pleased the young fiddler as much as the gift, welcome though that undoubtedly was.

"Thank you, lady," he said.

"You sing very nicely," she replied.

Phil smiled, and dirty though his face was, the smile lighted it up with rare beauty.

"Do you often come on these boats?" asked the young lady.

"Sometimes, but they do not always let me play," said Phil.

"I hope I shall hear you again. You have a good voice."

"Thank you, signorina."

"You can speak English. I tried to speak with one of you the other day, but he could only speak Italian."

"I know a few words, signorina."

"I hope I shall see you again," and the young lady, prompted by a natural impulse of kindness, held out her hand to the little musician. He took it respectfully, and bending over, touched it with his lips.

The young lady, to whom this was quite unexpected, smiled and blushed, by no means offended, but she glanced round her to see whether it was observed by others.

"Upon my word, Florence," said her father, as Phil moved away, "you have got up quite a scene with this little ragged musician. I am rather glad he is not ten or twelve years older, or there might be a romantic elopement."

"Now, papa, you are too bad," said Florence. "Just because I choose to be kind to a poor, neglected child, you fancy all sorts of improbable things."

"I don't know where you get all your foolish romance from-not from me, I am sure."

"I should think not," said Florence, laughing merrily. "Your worst enemy won't charge you with being romantic, papa."

"I hope not," said her father, shrugging his shoulders. "But the boat has touched the pier. Shall we go on shore, or have you any further business with your young Italian friend?"

"Not to-day, papa."

The passengers vacated the boat, and were replaced by a smaller number, on their way from Brooklyn to New York.

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