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   Chapter 15 PHIL’S NEW PLANS

Phil, the Fiddler By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8699

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


As the clock struck twelve Phil reached the necktie stand of his friend, Paul Hoffman.

"Just in time," said Paul. "Are you hungry?"

"A little."

"That's right. You're going to dine with me; and I want you to bring a good appetite with you."

"What will your mother say?" asked Phil, doubtfully.

"Wait and see. If you don't like what she says you can go off without eating. Where have you been?"

"I went down to Wall Street."

"On business?" inquired Paul, with a smile.

"No," said Phil, seriously. "I saw Lucia."

"Who is she?"

"I forgot. You don't know Lucia. She lived in my home in Italy, and I used to play with her. She told me of my mother."

"That's lucky, Phil. I hope your mother is well."

"She is not sick, but she is thin. She thinks of me," said Phil.

"Of course she does. You will go home and see her some day."

"I hope so."

"Of course you will," said Paul, confidently.

"I saw the boy who stole my fiddle," continued Phil.

"Tim Rafferty?"

"Yes."

"What did he say?"

"I was with a bootblack-the one they call 'Ragged Dick.' Do you know him?"

"Yes; I know Dick. He is a bully fellow, always joking."

"Dick wanted to lick him, but a policeman came, and he went away."

"Does Dick know that he stole your fiddle?"

"Yes."

"Then he will be sure to punish him. It will save me the trouble."

The walk was not long. Soon they were at Paul's door.

"I have brought company to dinner, mother," said Paul, entering first.

"I am glad to see you, Phil," said Mrs. Hoffman. "Why have you not come before?"

"How is that, Phil? Will you stay now?" said Paul.

Mrs. Hoffman looked at Paul inquiringly.

"Phil was afraid he would not be welcome," he exclaimed.

"He is always welcome," said Mrs. Hoffman.

"Where is your fiddle?" asked Jimmy.

"A boy took it," said Phil, "and threw it into the street, and a wagon went over it and broke it."

Jimmy was quite indignant for his friend, when the story had been told.

"It's lucky for Tim Rafferty that he is not here," said Paul, "or he might suffer."

"If I was a big boy I'd lick him," said Jimmy, belligerently.

"I never saw you so warlike before, Jimmy," said Paul.

To Phil this sympathy seemed pleasant. He felt that he was in the midst of friends, and friends were not so plentiful as not to be valued.

"What are you going to have for dinner, mother?" asked Paul.

"I am sorry, Paul, that I have no warm meat. I have some cold roast beef, some hot potatoes, and an apple pudding."

"You needn't apologize, mother. That's good enough for anybody. It's as good as Phil gets at his boarding house, I am sure. He has got rather tired of it, and isn't going to stay."

"Are you going to leave the padrone?" asked Mrs. Hoffman, with interest.

"Si, signora," said Phil.

"Will he let you go?"

"I shall run away," said Phil.

"You see, mother, Phil would be sure of a beating if he went home without his fiddle. Now he doesn't like to be beaten, and the padrone gives harder beatings than you do, mother."

"I presume so," said Mrs. Hoffman, smiling. "I do not think I am very severe."

"No, you spoil the rod and spare the child."

"Is Phil going to stay in the city?"

"No; the padrone would get hold of him if he did. He is going to New Jersey to make his fortune."

"But he will need a fiddle."

"I am going to lend him money enough to buy one. I know a pawnbroker who has one for sale. I think I can get it for three or four dollars. When Phil gets it he is going around giving concerts. How much can you make in a day, Phil?"

"Sometimes I make two dollars," answered Phil.

"That is excellent, especially when you are your own padrone. You will be able to save up money. You will have to buy a pocketbook, Phil."

"Where will you sleep, Phil?" asked Jimmy, interested.

Phil shrugged his shoulders. He had not thought of that question particularly.

"I don't know," he said. "I can sleep anywhere."

"Of course he will stop at the first-class hotels, Jimmy," said Paul, "like all men of distinction. I shouldn't wonder if he married an heiress in six months, and went back to Italy on a bridal tour."

"He is too young to be married," said Jimmy, who, it will be perceived, understood everything literally.

"I don't know but he is," said Paul, "but he

isn't too old to be hungry. So, mother, whenever dinner is ready we shall be."

"It is all ready except peeling the potatoes, Paul."

"We can do that ourselves. It is good exercise, and will sharpen our appetites. You will have to eat fast or there won't be much left. Jimmy is the most tremendous eater I ever saw, and won't leave much for the rest of us, if we give him the chance."

"Now, Paul," expostulated Jimmy, feeling aggrieved at this charge, "you know I don't eat as much as you do."

"Hear him talk, Phil. I don't eat more than enough to keep a fly alive."

"It must be a pretty large fly, Paul," said Jimmy, slyly.

"Good joke, Jimmy. Mother, you must give Jimmy twelve potatoes to-day instead of the ten he usually eats."

"Oh, Paul, how can you tell such stories?" exclaimed Jimmy, shocked at such an extravagant assertion. Phil laughed, for there was something ludicrous in the idea of Jimmy, who was a slight boy of seven, making away with such a large quantity, and the little boy began to see that it was a joke at his expense.

The dinner went off well. All had a good appetite, and did full justice to Mrs. Hoffman's cookery. The pudding in particular was pronounced a success. It was so flaky and well-seasoned, and the sauce, flavored with lemon, was so good, that everyone except Mrs. Hoffman took a second piece. For the first time since he had left Italy, Phil felt the uncomfortable sensation of having eaten too much. However, with the discomfort was the pleasant recollection of a good dinner, and to the mind of the little fiddler the future brightened, as it is very apt to do under such circumstances, and he felt ready to go out and achieve his fortune.

"Why won't you stop with us to-night, Phil, and start on your journey to-morrow?" asked Mrs. Hoffman. "I am sure Jimmy would be glad of your company."

"Yes, Phil, stay," said Paul.

Phil hesitated. It was a tempting invitation, but, on the other hand, if he remained in the city till the next day he might be in danger from the padrone.

He expressed this fear.

"I am afraid the padrone would catch me," he said.

"No, he won't. You can go out with me and buy the fiddle now, and then come back and play to mother and Jimmy. To-morrow morning I will go with you to the Jersey City Ferry myself, and if we meet the padrone, I'll give him a hint to be off."

Phil still hesitated, but finally yielded to the united request. But it was now one o'clock, and Paul must be back to his business. Phil took his cap and went with him to purchase the fiddle, promising to come back directly.

They went into Chatham Street, and soon halted before a small shop, in front of which were three gilt balls, indicating that it was a pawnbroker's shop.

Entering, they found themselves in a small apartment, about twelve feet front by twenty in depth, completely filled with pawnable articles in great variety a large part, however, consisting of clothing; for when the poor have occasion to raise money at a pawnbroker's, they generally find little in their possession to pawn except their clothing. Here was a shawls pawned for a few shillings by a poor woman whose intemperate husband threw the burden of supporting two young children upon her. Next to it was a black coat belonging to a clerk, who had been out of employment for three months, and now was out of money also. Here was a child's dress, pawned by the mother in dire necessity to save the child from starving. There was a plain gold ring, snatched by a drunken husband from the finger of his poor wife, not to buy food, but to gratify his insatiable craving for drink.

Over this scene of confusion presided a little old man with blear eyes and wrinkled face, but with a sharp glance, fully alive to his own interests. He was an Englishman born, but he had been forty years in America. He will be remembered by those who have read "Paul the Peddler." Though nearly as poverty-stricken in appearance as his poorest customers, the old man was rich, if reports were true. His business was a very profitable one, allowing the most exorbitant rates of interest, and, being a miser, he spent almost nothing on himself, so that his hoards had increased to a considerable amount.

He looked up sharply, as Paul and Phil entered, and scanned them closely with his ferret-like eyes.

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