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   Chapter 6 THE BARROOM

Phil, the Fiddler By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8511

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


Phil did not leave the boat. He lingered in the cabin until the passengers were seated, and after the boat was again under way began to play. This time, however, he was not as fortunate as before. While in the midst of a tune one of the men employed on the boat entered the cabin. At times he would not have interfered with him, but he happened to be in ill humor, and this proved unfortunate for Phil.

"Stop your noise, boy," he said.

Phil looked up.

"May I not play?"

"No; nobody wants to hear you."

The young fiddler did not dare to disobey. He saw that for the present his gains were at an end. However, he had enough to satisfy the rapacity of the padrone, and could afford to stop. He took a seat, and waited quietly till the boat landed. One of the lady passengers, as she passed him on her way out of the cabin, placed ten cents in his hand. This led him to count up his gains. He found they amounted to precisely two dollars and fifty cents.

"I need not play any more," he thought. "I shall not be beaten to-night."

He found his seat so comfortable, especially after wandering about the streets all day, that he remained on the boat for two more trips. Then, taking his violin under his arm, he went out on the pier.

It was half-past seven o'clock. He would like to have gone to his lodging, but knew that it would not be permitted. In this respect the Italian fiddler is not as well off as those who ply other street trades. Newsboys and bootblacks are their own masters, and, whether their earnings are little or great, reap the benefit of them themselves. They can stop work at six if they like, or earlier; but the little Italian musician must remain in the street till near midnight, and then, after a long and fatiguing day, he is liable to be beaten and sent to bed without his supper, unless he brings home a satisfactory sum of money.

Phil walked about here and there in the lower part of the city. As he was passing a barroom he was called in by the barkeeper.

"Give us a tune, boy," he said.

It was a low barroom, frequented by sailors and a rough set of customers of similar character. The red face of the barkeeper showed that he drank very liberally, and the atmosphere was filled with the fumes of bad cigars and bad liquor. The men were ready for a good time, as they called it, and it was at the suggestion of one of them that Phil had been invited in.

"Play a tune on your fiddle, you little ragamuffin," said one.

Phil cared little how he was addressed. He was at the service of the public, and what he chiefly cared for was that he be paid for his services.

"What shall I play?" he asked.

"Anything," hiccoughed one. "It's all the same to me. I don't know one tune from another."

The young fiddler played one of the popular airs of the day. He did not undertake to sing, for the atmosphere was so bad that he could hardly avoid coughing. He was anxious to get out into the street, but he did not wish to refuse playing. When he had finished his tune, one of those present, a sailor, cried, "That's good. Step up, boys, and have a drink."

The invitation was readily accepted by all except Phil. Noticing that the boy kept his place, the sailor said, "Step up, boy, and wet your whistle."

Phil liked the weak wines of his native land, but he did not care for the poisonous decoctions of be found in such places.

"I am not thirsty," he said.

"Yes, you are; here, give this boy a glass of brandy."

"I do not want it," said Phil.

"You won't drink with us," exclaimed the sailor, who had then enough to be quarrelsome. "Then I'll make you;" and he brought down his fist so heavily upon the counter as to make the glasses rattle. "Then I'll make you. Here, give me a glass, and I'll pour it down his throat."

The fiddler was frightened at his vehemence, and darted to the door. But the sailor was too quick for him. Overtaking Phil, he dragged him back with a rough grasp, and held out his hand for the glass. But an unexpected friend now turned up.

"Oh, let the boy go, Jack," said a fellow sailor. "If he don't want to drink, don't force him."

But his persecutor was made ugly by his potations, and swore that Phil should drink before he left the barroom.

"That he shall not," said his new friend.

"Who is to prevent it?" demanded Jack, fiercely.

"I will."

"Then I'll pour a glass down your throat, too," returned Jack, menacingly.

"No need of that. I am ready enough to drink. But the boy shan't drink, if he don't want to."

"He shall!" retorted the first sailor, with an oath.

Still holding Phil by the shoulder with one hand, with the other he took a glass which had just been filled with brandy; he was about to pour it down his throat, when the glass was suddenly dashed from his hand and broke upon the floor.

With a fresh oath Jack released his hold on Phil, and, maddened with rage, threw himself upon the other. Instantly there was a general melee. Phil did not wait to see the result. He ran to the door, and, emerging into the street, ran away till he had placed a considerable distance between himself and the disorderly and drunken party in the barroom. The fight there continued until the police, attracted by the noise, forced an entrance and carried away the whole party to the station-house, where they had a chance to sleep off their potations.

Freed from immediate danger, the young fiddler kept on his way. He had witnessed such scenes before, as he had often been into barrooms to play in the evening. He had not been paid for his trouble, but he cared little for that, as the money would have done him no good. He would only have been compelled to pass it over to the padrone. These boys, even at a tender age, are necessarily made familiar with the darker side of metropolitan life. Vice and crime are displayed before their young eyes, and if they do not themselves become vicious, it is not for the want of knowledge and example.

It would be tedious to follow Phil in his wanderings. We have already had a glimpse of the manner in which the days passed with him; only it is to be said that this was a favorable specimen. He had been more fortunate in collecting money than usual. Besides, he had had a better dinner than usual, thanks to the apple, and a supper such as he had not tasted for months.

About ten o'clock, as he was walking on the Bowery, he met Giacomo, his companion of the morning.

The little boy was dragging one foot after the other wearily. There was a sad look on his young face, for he had not been successful, and he knew too well how he would be received by the padrone. Yet his face lighted up as he saw Phil. Often before Phil had encouraged him when he was despondent. He looked upon our young hero as his only friend; for there was no other of the boys who seemed to care for him or able to help him.

"Is it you, Filippo?" he said.

"Yes, Giacomo. What luck have you had?"

"Not much. I have only a little more than a dollar. I am so tired; but I don't dare go back. The padrone will beat me."

An idea came to Phil. He did not know how much money he had; but he was sure it must be considerably more than two dollars, Why should he not give some to his friend to make up his deficiencies, and so perhaps save him from punishment?

"I have had better luck," he said. "I have almost three dollars."

"You are always luckier than I, Filippo."

"I am stronger, Giacomo. It does not tire me so much to walk about."

"You can sing, too. I cannot sing very much, and I do not get so much money."

"Tell me just how much money you have, Giacomo."

"I have a dollar and thirty cents," said Giacomo, after counting the contents of his pockets.

Meanwhile Phil had been doing the same thing. The result of his count was that he found he had two dollars and eighty cents.

"Listen, Giacomo," he said. "I will give you enough to make two dollars."

"But then you will be beaten."

"No; I shall have two dollars and five cents left. Then neither of us will get beaten."

"How kind you are, Filippo!"

"Oh, it is nothing. Besides, I do not want to carry too much, or the padrone will expect me to bring as much every day, and that I cannot do. So it will be better for us both."

The transfer was quickly made, and the two boys kept together until they heard the clock strike eleven. It was now so late that they determined to return to their miserable lodging, for both were tired and longed for sleep.

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