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Phil, the Fiddler By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 9362

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

Phil woke up the next morning feeling lame and sore. His back bore traces of the flogging he had received the night before. As his eyes opened, they rested upon twenty boys lying about him, and also upon the dark, unsightly walls of the shabby room, and the prospect before him served to depress even his hopeful temperament. But he was not permitted to meditate long. Pietro opened the door, and called out in harsh tones: "Get up, all of you, or the padrone will be here with his stick!"

The invitation was heard and obeyed. The boys got up, yawning and rubbing their eyes, having a wholesome dread of their tyrant and his stick, which no tenderness of heart ever made him reluctant to use. Their toilet did not require long to make. The padrone was quite indifferent whether they were clean or not, and offered them no facilities for washing.

When they were dressed they were supplied with a frugal breakfast-a piece of bread and cheese each; their instruments were given them, and they were started off for a long day of toil.

Phil looked around for Giacomo, who had slept in a different room, but he was not to be seen.

"Is Giacomo sick this morning, Pietro?" he asked of the padrone's nephew.

"He pretends to be sick, little drone!" said Pietro, unfeelingly. "If I were the padrone, I would let him taste the stick again."

Phil felt that he would like to see the brutal speaker suffering the punishment he wanted inflicted on him; but he knew Pietro's power and malice too well to give utterance to the wish. A longing came to him to see Giacomo before he went out. He might have had a secret presentiment of what was coming.

"Signor Pietro," he said, "may I see Giacomo before I go out?"

This request would have been refused without doubt, but that Pietro felt flattered at being addressed as signor, to which his years did not yet entitle him. Phil knew this, and therefore used the title.

"What do you want to see him for?" he asked, suspiciously.

"I want to ask him how he feels."

"Yes, you can go in. Tell him he must get up to-morrow. The padrone will not let him spend his time in idleness."

So Phil, having already his fiddle under his arm, entered the room where Giacomo lay. The other occupants of the room had risen, and the little boy was lying on a hard pallet in the corner. His eyes lighted up with joy as he saw Phil enter.

"I am glad it is you, Filippo," he said; "I thought it was the padrone, come to make me get up."

"How do you feel this morning, Giacomo?"

"I do not feel well, Filippo. My back is sore, and I am so weak."

His eyes were very bright with the fever that had now control, and his cheeks were hot and flushed. Phil put his hand upon them.

"Your cheeks are very hot, Giacomo," he said. "You are going to be sick."

"I know it, Filippo," said the little boy. "I may be very sick."

"I hope not, Giacomo."

"Lean over, Filippo," said Giacomo. "I want to tell you something."

Phil leaned over until his ear was close to the mouth of his little comrade.

"I think I am going to die, Filippo," whispered Giacomo.

Phil started in dismay.

"No, no, Giacomo," he said; "that is nonsense. You will live a great many years."

"I think you will, Filippo. You are strong. But I have always been weak, and lately I am tired all the time. I don't care to live-very much. It is hard to live;" and the little boy sighed as he spoke.

"You are too young to die, Giacomo. It is only because you are sick that you think of it. You will soon be better."

"I do not think so, Filippo. I should like to live for one thing."

"What is that?" asked Phil, gazing with strange wonder at the patient, sad face of the little sufferer, who seemed so ready to part with the life which, in spite of his privations and hardships, seemed so bright to him.

"I should like to go back to my home in Italy, and see my mother again before I die. She loved me."

The almost unconscious emphasis which he laid on the word "she" showed that in his own mind he was comparing her with his father, who had sold him into such cruel slavery.

"If you live, Giacomo, you will go back and see her some day."

"I shall never see her again, Filippo," said the little boy, sadly. "If you ever go back to Italy-when you are older-will you go and see her, and tell her that-that I thought of her when I was sick, and wanted to see her?"

"Yes, Giacomo," said Phil, affected by his little companion's manner.

"Filippo!" called Pietro, in harsh tones.

"I must go," said Phil, starting to his feet.

"Kiss me before you go," said Giacomo.

Phil bent over and kissed the feverish lips of the little boy,

and then hurried out of the room. He never saw Giacomo again; and this, though he knew it not, was his last farewell to his little comrade.

So Phil commenced his wanderings. He was free in one way-he could go where he pleased. The padrone did not care where he picked up his money, as long as he brought home a satisfactory amount. Phil turned to go up town, though he had no definite destination in view. He missed Giacomo, who lately had wandered about in his company, and felt lonely without him.

"Poor Giacomo!" he thought. "I hope he will be well soon."

"Avast there, boy!" someone called. "Just come to anchor, and give us a tune."

Phil looked up and saw two sailors bearing down upon him (to use a nautical phrase) with arms locked, and evidently with more liquor aboard than they could carry steadily.

"Give us a tune, boy, and we'll pay you," said the second.

Phil had met such customers before, and knew what would please them. He began playing some lively dancing tunes, with so much effect that the sailors essayed to dance on the sidewalk, much to the amusement of a group of boys who collected around them.

"Go it, bluejacket! Go it, boots!" exclaimed the boys, designating them by certain prominent articles of dress.

The applause appeared to stimulate them to further efforts, and they danced and jumped high in air, to the hilarious delight of their juvenile spectators. After a time such a crowd collected that the attention of a passing policeman was attracted.

"What's all this disturbance?" he demanded, in tones of authority.

"We're stretching our legs a little, shipmate," said the first sailor.

"Then you'd better stretch them somewhere else than in the street."

"I thought this was a free country," hiccoughed the second.

"You'll find it isn't if I get hold of you," said the officer.

"Want to fight?" demanded the second sailor, belligerently.

"Boy, stop playing," said the policeman. "I don't want to arrest these men unless I am obliged to do it."

Phil stopped playing, and this put a stop to the dance. Finding there was no more to be seen, the crowd also dispersed. With arms again interlocked, the sailors were about to resume their walk, forgetting to "pay the piper." But Phil was not at all bashful about presenting his claims. He took off his cap, and going up to the jolly pair said, "I want some pennies."

Sailors are free with their money. Parsimony is not one of their vices. Both thrust their hands into their pockets, and each drew out a handful of scrip, which they put into Phil's hands, without looking to see how much it might be.

"That's all right, boy, isn't it?" inquired the first.

"All right," answered Phil, wondering at their munificence. He only anticipated a few pennies, and here looked to be as much as he was generally able to secure in a day. As soon as he got a good chance he counted it over, and found four half dollars, three quarters, and four tens-in all, three dollars and fifteen cents. At this rate, probably, the sailors' money would not last long. However this was none of Phil's business. It was only nine o'clock in the forenoon, and he had already secured enough to purchase immunity from blows at night. Still there was one thing unsatisfactory about it. All this money was to go into the hands of the padrone. Phil himself would reap none of the benefit, unless he bought his dinner, as he had purchased supper the evening before. But for this he had been severely punished, though he could not feel that he had done very wrong in spending the money he himself earned. However, it would be at least three hours before the question of dinner would come up.

He put the money into the pocket of his ragged vest, and walked on.

It was not so cold as the day before. The thermometer had risen twenty-five degrees during the night-a great change, but not unusual in our variable climate. Phil rather enjoyed this walk, notwithstanding his back was a little lame.

He walked up the Bowery to the point where Third and Fourth avenues converge into it. He kept on the left-hand side, and walked up Fourth Avenue, passing the Cooper Institute and the Bible House, and, a little further on, Stewart's magnificent marble store. On the block just above stood a book and periodical store, kept, as the sign indicated, by Richard Burnton. Phil paused a moment to look in at the windows, which were filled with a variety of attractive articles. Suddenly he was conscious of his violin being forcibly snatched from under his arm. He turned quickly, and thought he recognized Tim Rafferty, to whom the reader was introduced in the third chapter of this story.

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