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   Chapter 9 PIETRO THE SPY

Phil, the Fiddler By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8133

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


Though from motives of policy the grocer had permitted the boys to warm themselves by his fire, he felt only the more incensed against them on this account, and when Mr. Pomeroy had gone determined to get rid of them.

"Haven't you got warm yet?" he asked. "I can't have you in my way all day."

"We will go," said Phil. "Come, Giacomo."

He did not thank the grocer, knowing how grudgingly permission had been given.

So they went out again into the chill air, but they had got thoroughly warmed, and were better able to bear it.

"Where shall we go, Filippo?" asked the younger boy.

"We will go back to New York. It is not so cold there."

Giacomo unhesitatingly assented to whatever Phil proposed. He was not self-reliant, like our hero, but always liked to have someone to lean upon.

They made their way back to Fulton Ferry in a leisurely manner, stopping here and there to play; but it was a bad day for business. The cold was such that no one stopped to give them anything, except that one young man dropped ten cents in Phil's hand as he hurried by, on his way home.

At length they reached the ferry. The passengers were not so many in number as usual. The cabin was so warm and comfortable that they remained on board for two or three trips, playing each time. In this way they obtained about thirty cents more. They would have remained longer, but that one of the deck hands asked, "How many times are you going across for two cents?" and this made them think it prudent to go.

When six o'clock came Giacomo asked Phil, who acted as treasurer, how much money they had.

"Two dollars," answered Phil.

"That is only one dollar for each."

"Yes, Giacomo."

"Then we shall be beaten," said the little boy, with a sigh.

"I am afraid so."

"And get no supper."

"Yes," said Phil; "unless," he added, "we get some supper now."

"With this money?" asked Giacomo, startled at the boldness of the suggestion.

"Yes; we shall be beaten at any rate. It will be no worse for us if we get some supper."

"Will you buy some bread?"

"No," said Phil, daringly. "I am going to buy some meat."

"What will the padrone say?"

"I shall not tell the padrone."

"Do you think he will find out?"

"No. Besides, we ought to have some supper after walking about all day."

Evidently Phil had begun to think, and the essential injustice of laboring without proper compensation had impressed his youthful mind. Giacomo was more timid. He had not advanced as far as Phil, nor was he as daring. But I have already said that he was guided in a great measure by Phil, and so it proved in this case.

Phil, having made up his mind, set about carrying his plan into execution. Only a block distant was a cheap restaurant, where plates of meat were supplied to a poor class of customers at ten cents per plate.

"Let us go in here," he said.

Giacomo followed, but not without trepidation. He knew that what they were about to do would be a heinous crime in the eyes of the padrone. Even Phil had never ventured upon such direct rebellion before. But Mr. Pomeroy's suggestion that he should run away was beginning to bear fruit in his mind. He had not come to that yet, but he might. Why should he not earn money for his own benefit, as well as for the padrone? True, he was bound to the latter by a legal contract entered into by his father, but Phil, without knowing much about law, had an indistinct idea that the contract was a one-sided one, and was wholly for the advantage of the other party. The tyrant is always in danger of losing his hold upon the victim when the latter begins to think.

They entered the restaurant, and sat down at a table.

The tables were greasy. The floor was strewed with sawdust. The waiters were dirty, and the entire establishment was neither neat nor inviting. But it was democratic. No customers were sent away because they were unfashionably attired. The only requisite was money enough to defray their bills. Nevertheless Giacomo felt a little in awe even of the dirty waiters. His

frugal meals were usually bought at the baker's shop, and eaten standing in the street. Sitting down at a table, even though it was greasy, seemed a degree of luxury to which he was not entitled. But Phil more easily adapted himself to circumstances. He knew that he had as much right there as any other customer.

Presently a waiter presented himself.

"Have you ordered?" he asked.

"Give me some roast beef," said Phil. "What will you have, Giacomo?"

"The same as you, Filippo," said Giacomo, in Italian.

"What's that?" asked the waiter, thinking he had named some dish.

"He will have some roast beef, too. Will you have some coffee, Giacomo?"

"If you have it," answered the smaller boy.

So Phil gave the double order, and very soon the coffee and meat were placed before them. I suspect that few of my readers would have regarded these articles with any relish. One need not be fastidious to find fault with the dark-hued beverage, which was only a poor imitation of coffee, and the dark fragments of meat, which might have been horseflesh so far as appearance went. But to the two Italian boys it was indeed a feast. The coffee, which was hot, warmed their stomachs, and seemed to them like nectar, while the meat was as palatable as the epicure finds his choicest dishes. While eating, even Giacomo forgot that he was engaged in something unlawful, and his face was lighted up with rare satisfaction.

"It is good," said Phil, briefly, as he laid down his knife and fork, after disposing of the last morsel upon his plate.

"I wish I could have such a supper every day," said Giacomo.

"I will when I am a man," said Phil.

"I don't think I shall ever be a man," said Giacomo, shaking his head.

"Why not?" asked Phil, regarding him with surprise.

"I do not think I shall live."

"What makes you think so, Giacomo?" said Phil, startled.

"I am not strong, Filippo," said the little boy, "I think I get weaker every day. I long so much to go back to Italy. If I could see my mother once more, I would be willing to die then."

"You must not think of such things, Giacomo," said Phil, who, like most healthy boys, did not like to think of death. "You will get strong when summer comes. The weather is bad now, of course."

"I don't think I shall, Filippo. Do you remember Matteo?"

"Yes, I remember him."

Matteo was a comrade who had died six months before. He was a young boy, about the size and age of Giacomo.

"I dreamed of him last night, Filippo. He held out his hand to me."

"Well?"

"I think I am going to die, like him."

"Don't be foolish, Giacomo," said Phil. But, though he said this, even he was startled by what Giacomo had told him. He was ignorant, and the ignorant are prone to superstition; so he felt uncomfortable, but did not like to acknowledge it.

"You must not think of this, Giacomo," he said. "You will be an old man some day."

"That's for you, Filippo. It isn't for me," said the little boy.

"Come, let us go," said Phil, desirous of dropping the subject.

He went up to the desk, and paid for both, the sum of thirty cents.

"Now, come," he said.

Giacomo followed him out, and they turned down the street, feeling refreshed by the supper they had eaten. But unfortunately they had been observed. As they left the restaurant, they attracted the attention of Pietro, whom chance had brought thither at an unfortunate time. His sinister face lighted up with joy as he realized the discovery he had made. But he wished to make sure that it was as he supposed. They might have gone in only to play and sing.

He crossed the street, unobserved by Phil and Giacomo, and entered the restaurant.

"Were my two brothers here?" he asked, assuming relationship.

"Two boys with fiddles?"

"Yes; they just went out."

"Did they get supper?"

"Yes; they had some roast beef and coffee."

"Thank you," said Pietro, and he left the restaurant with his suspicions confirmed.

"I shall tell the padrone," he said to himself.

"They will feel the stick to-night."

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