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   Chapter 17 THE PADRONE IS ANXIOUS

Phil, the Fiddler By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 7125

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


The next morning Paul and Phil rose later that usual. They slept longer, in order to make up for the late hour at which they retired. As they sat down to breakfast, at half-past eight, Paul said: "I wonder whether the padrone misses you, Phil?"

"Yes," said Phil; "he will be very angry because I did not come back last night."

"Will he think you have run away?"

"I do not know. Some of the boys stay away sometimes, because they are too far off to come home."

"Then he may expect you to-night. I suppose he will have a beating ready for you."

"Yes, he would beat me very hard," said Phil, "if he thought I did not mean to come back."

"I should like to go and tell him that he need not expect you. I should like to see how he looks."

"He might beat you, too, Paolo."

"I should like to see him try it," said Paul, straightening up with a consciousness of strength. "He might find that rather hard."

Phil looked admiringly at the boy who was not afraid of the padrone. Like his comrades, he had been accustomed to think of the padrone as possessed of unlimited power, and never dreamed of anybody defying him, or resisting his threats. Though he had determined to run away, his soul was not free from the tyranny of his late taskmaster, and he thought with uneasiness and dread of the possibility of his being conveyed back to him.

"Well, mother," said Paul, glancing at the clock as he rose from the breakfast table, "it is almost nine o'clock-rather a late hour for a business man like me."

"You are not often so late, Paul."

"It is lucky that I am my own employer, or I might run the risk of being discharged. I am afraid the excuse that I was at Mrs. Hoffman's fashionable party would not be thought sufficient. I guess I won't have time to stop to shave this morning."

"You haven't got anything to shave," said Jimmy.

"Don't be envious, Jimmy. I counted several hairs this morning. Well, Phil, are you ready to go with me? Don't forget your fiddle."

"When shall we see you again, Philip?" said Mrs. Hoffman.

"I do not know," said the little minstrel.

"Shall you not come to the city sometimes?"

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

"Whenever you do come, Phil," said Paul, "come right to me. I will take care of you. I don't think the padrone will carry us both off, and he would have to take me if he took you."

"Good-by, Philip," said Mrs. Hoffman, offering her hand. "I hope you will prosper."

"So do I, Phil," said Jimmy.

Phil thus took with him the farewells and good wishes of two friends who had been drawn to him by his attractive face and good qualities. He could not help wishing that he might stay with them permanently, but he knew that this could not be. To remain in the same city with the padrone was out of the question.

Meanwhile we return to the house which Phil had forsaken, and inquire what effect was produced by his non-appearance.

It was the rule of the establishment that all the boys should be back by midnight. Phil had generally returned an hour before that time. When, therefore, it was near midnight, the padrone looked uneasily at the clock.

"Have you seen Filippo?" he asked, addressing his nephew.

"No, signore," answered Pietro. "Filippo has not come in."

"Do you think he has run away?" asked the padrone, suspiciously.

"I don't know," said Pietro.

"Have you any reason to think he intended to run away?"

"No," said Pietro.

"I should not like to lose him. He brings me more money than most of the boys."

"He may c

ome in yet."

"When he does," said the padrone, frowning, "I will beat him for being so late. Is there any boy that he would be likely to tell, if he meant to run away?"

"Yes," said Pietro, with a sudden thought, "there is Giacomo."

"The sick boy?"

"Yes. Filippo went in this morning to speak to him. He might have told him then."

"That is true. I will go and ask him."

Giacomo still lay upon his hard pallet, receiving very little attention. His fever had increased, and he was quite sick. He rolled from one side to the other in his restlessness. He needed medical attention, but the padrone was indifferent, and none of the boys would have dared to call a doctor without his permission. As he lay upon his bed, the padrone entered the room with a hurried step.

"Where is Giacomo?" he demanded, harshly.

"Here I am, signore padrone," answered the little boy, trembling, as he always did when addressed by the tyrant.

"Did Filippo come and speak with you this morning, before he went out?"

"Si, signore."

"What did he say?"

"He asked me how I felt."

"What did you tell him?"

"I told him I felt sick."

"Nothing more?"

"I told him I thought I should die.'

"Nonsense!" said the padrone, harshly; "you are a coward. You have a little cold, that is all. Did he say anything about running away?"

"No, signore."

"Don't tell me a lie!" said the tyrant, frowning.

"I tell you the truth, signore padrone. Has not Filippo come home?"

"No."

"I do not think he has run away," said the little boy.

"Why not?"

"I think he would tell me."

"So you two are friends, are you?"

"Si, signore; I love Filippo," answered Giacomo, speaking the last words tenderly, and rather to himself than to the padrone. He looked up to Phil, though little older than himself, with a mixture of respect and devotion, leaning upon him as the weak are prone to lean upon the strong.

"Then you will be glad to hear," said the padrone, with a refinement of cruelty, "that I shall beat him worse than last night for staying out so late."

"Don't beat him, padrone," pleaded Giacomo, bursting into tears. "Perhaps he cannot come home."

"Did he ever speak to you of running away?" asked the padrone, with a sudden thought.

Giacomo hesitated. He could not truthfully deny that Filippo had done so, but he did not want to get his friend into trouble. He remained silent, looking up at the tyrant with troubled eyes.

"Why do you not speak? Did you hear my question?" asked the padrone, with a threatening gesture.

Had the question been asked of some of the other boys present, they would not have scrupled to answer falsely; but Giacomo had a religious nature, and, neglected as he had been, he could not make up his mind to tell a falsehood. So, after a pause, he faltered out a confession that Phil had spoken of flight.

"Do you hear that, Pietro?" said the padrone, turning to his nephew. "The little wretch has doubtless run away."

"Shall I look for him to-morrow?" asked Pietro, with alacrity, for to him it would be a congenial task to drag Phil home, and witness the punishment.

"Yes, Pietro. I will tell you where to go in the morning. We must have him back, and I will beat him so that he will not dare to run away again."

The padrone would have been still more incensed could he have looked into Mrs. Hoffman's room and seen the little fiddler the center of a merry group, his brown face radiant with smiles as he swept the chords of his violin. It was well for Phil that he could not see him.

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