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PHIL, THE FIDDLER
BY HORATIO ALGER, JR.
Among the most interesting and picturesque classes of street
children in New York are the young Italian musicians, who wander
about our streets with harps, violins, or tambourines, playing
wherever they can secure an audience. They become Americanized
less easily than children of other nationalities, and both in
dress and outward appearance retain their foreign look, while
few, even after several years' residence, acquire even a passable
knowledge of the English language.
In undertaking, therefore, to describe this phase of street life,
I found, at the outset, unusual difficulty on account of my
inadequate information. But I was fortunate enough to make the
acquaintance of two prominent Italian gentlemen, long resident in
New York--Mr. A. E. Cerqua, superintendent of the Italian school
at the Five Points, and through his introduction, of Mr. G. F.
Secchi de Casale, editor of the well-known Eco d'Italia--from
whom I obtained full and trustworthy information. A series of
articles contributed by Mr. De Casale to his paper, on the
Italian street children, in whom he has long felt a patriotic
and sympathetic interest, I have found of great service, and I
freely acknowledge that, but for the information thus acquired, I
should have been unable to write the present volume.
My readers will learn with surprise, probably, of the hard life
led by these children, and the inhuman treatment which they
receive from the speculators who buy them from their parents in
Italy. It is not without reason that Mr. De Casale speaks of
them as the "White Slaves" of New York. I may add, in passing,
that they are quite distinct from the Italian bootblacks and
newsboys who are to be found in Chatham Street and the vicinity
of the City Hall Park. These last are the children of resident
Italians of the poorer class, and are much better off than the
musicians. It is from their ranks that the Italian school,
before referred to, draws its pupils.
If the story of "Phil the Fiddler," in revealing for the first
time to the American public the hardships and ill treatment of
these wandering musicians shall excite an active sympathy in
their behalf, the author will feel abundantly repaid for his
NEW YORK, APRIL 2, 1872.
I. PHIL THE FIDDLER
II. PHIL AND HIS PROTECTOR
IV. AN INVITATION TO SUPPER
V. ON THE FERRY BOAT
VI. THE BARROOM
VII. THE HOME OF THE BOYS
VIII. A COLD DAY
IX. PIETRO THE SPY
X. FRENCH'S HOTEL
XI. THE BOYS RECEPTION
XII. GIACOMO'S PRESENTIMENTS
XIII. PHIL FINDS A CAPITALIST
XIV. THE TAMBOURINE GIRL
XV. PHIL'S NEW PLANS
XVI. THE FASHIONABLE PARTY
XVII. THE PADRONE IS ANXIOUS
XVIII. PHIL ELUDES HIS PURSUER
XIX. PIETRO'S PURSUIT
XX. PIETRO'S DISAPPOINTMENT
XXI. THE SIEGE
XXII. THE SIEGE IS RAISED
XXIII. A PITCHED BATTLE
XXIV. THE DEATH OF GIACOMO
XXV. PHIL FINDS A FRIEND
PHIL THE FIDDLER
PHIL THE FIDDLER
"Viva Garibaldi!" sang a young Italian boy in an uptown street,
accompanying himself on a violin which, from its battered
appearance, seemed to have met with hard usage.
As the young singer is to be the hero of my story, I will pause
to describe him. He was twelve years old, but small of his age.
His complexion was a brilliant olive, with the dark eyes peculiar
to his race, and his hair black. In spite of the dirt, his face
was strikingly handsome, especially when lighted up by a smile,
as was often the case, for in spite of the hardships of his lot,
and these were neither few nor light, Filippo was naturally merry
He wore a velveteen jacket, and pantaloons which atoned, by their
extra length, for the holes resulting from hard usage and
antiquity. His shoes, which appeared to be wholly unacquainted
with blacking, were, like his pantaloons, two or three sizes too
large for him, making it necessary for him to shuffle along
It was now ten o'clock in the morning. Two hours had elapsed
since Filippo, or Phil, as I shall call him, for the benefit of
my readers unfamiliar with Italian names, had left the miserable
home in Crosby Street, where he and forty other boys lived in
charge of a middle-aged Italian, known as the padrone. Of this
person, and the relations between him and the boys, I shall
hereafter speak. At present I propose to accompany Phil.
Though he had wandered about, singing and playing, for two hours,
Phil had not yet received a penny. This made him somewhat
uneasy, for he knew that at night he must carry home a
satisfactory sum to the padrone, or he would be brutally beaten;
and poor Phil knew from sad experience that this hard taskmaster
had no mercy in such cases.
The block in which he stood was adjacent to Fifth Avenue, and was
lined on either side with brown-stone houses. It was quiet, and
but few passed through it during the busy hours of the day. But
Phil's hope was that some money might be thrown him from a window
of some of the fine houses before which he played, but he seemed
likely to be disappointed, for he played ten minutes without
apparently attracting any attention. He was about to change his
position, when the basement door of one of the houses opened, and
a servant came out, bareheaded, and approached him. Phil
regarded her with distrust, for he was often ordered away as a
nuisance. He stopped playing, and, hugging his violin closely,
regarded her watchfully.
"You're to come in," said the girl abruptly.
"Che cosa volete?" said Phil, suspiciously.
 "What do you want?"
"I don't understand your Italian rubbish," said the girl.
"You're to come into the house."
In general, boys of Phil's class are slow in learning English.
After months, and even years sometimes, their knowledge is
limited to a few words or phrases. On the other hand, they pick
up French readily, and as many of them, en route for America,
spend some weeks, or months, in the French metropolis, it is
common to find them able to speak the language somewhat. Phil,
however, was an exception, and could manage to speak English a
little, though not as well as he could understand it.
"What for I go?" he asked, a little distrustfully.
"My young master wants to hear you play on your fiddle," said the
servant. "He's sick, and can't come out."
"All right!" said Phil, using one of the first English phrases
he had caught. "I will go."
"Come along, then."
Phil followed his guide into the basement, thence up two flight
of stairs, and along a handsome hall into a chamber. The little
fiddler, who had never before been invited into a fine house,
looked with admiration at the handsome furniture, and especially
at the pictures upon the wall, for, like most of his nation, he
had a love for whatever was beautiful, whether in nature or art.
The chamber had two occupants. One, a boy of twelve years, was
lying in a bed, propped up by pillows. His thin, pale face spoke
of long sickness, and contrasted vividly with the brilliant brown
face of the little Italian boy, who seemed the perfect picture of
health. Sitting beside the bed was a lady of middle age and
pleasant expression. It was easy to see by the resemblance that
she was the mother of the sick boy.
Phil looked from one to the other, uncertain what was required of
"Can you speak English?" asked Mrs. Leigh.
"Si, signora, a little," answered our hero.
"My son is sick, and would like to hear you play a little."
"And sing, too," added the sick boy, from the bed.
Phil struck up the song he had been singing in the street, a song
well known to all who have stopped to listen to the boys of his
class, with the refrain, "Viva Garibaldi." His voice was clear
and melodious, and in spite of the poor quality of his
instrument, he sang with so much feeling that the effect was
The sick boy listened with evident pleasure, for he, too, had a
taste for music.
"I wish I could understand Italian," he said, "I think it must be
a good song."
"Perhaps he can sing some English song," suggested Mrs. Leigh.
"Can you sing in English?" she asked.
Phil hesitated a moment, and then broke into the common street
ditty, "Shoe fly, don't bouder me," giving a quaint sound to the
words by his Italian accent.
"Do you know any more?" asked Henry Leigh, when our hero had
"Not English," said Phil, shaking his head.
"You ought to learn more."
"I can play more," said Phil, "but I know not the words."
"Then play some tunes."
Thereupon the little Italian struck up "Yankee Doodle," which he
played with spirit and evident enjoyment.
"Do you know the name of that?" asked Henry.
Phil shook his head.
"It is 'Yankee Doodle.' "
Phil tried to pronounce it, but the words in his mouth had a
droll sound, and made them laugh.
"How old are you?" asked Henry.
"Then you are quite as old as I am."
"I wish you were as well and strong as he seems to be," said Mrs.
Leigh, sighing, as she looked at Henry's pale face.
That was little likely to be. Always a delicate child, Henry had
a year previous contracted a cold, which had attacked his lungs,
and had gradually increased until there seemed little doubt that
in the long struggle with disease nature must succumb, and early
"How long have you been in this country?"
"How long is that?"
"A year," said Henry. "I know that, because 'annus' means a year
"Si, signor, a year," said Phil.
"And where do you come from?"
"That means from Naples, I suppose."
Most of the little Italian musicians to be found in our streets
are brought from Calabria, the southern portion of Italy, where
they are purchased from their parents, for a fixed sum, or rate
of annual payment. But it is usual for them when questioned, to
say that they come from Naples, that being the principal city in
that portion of Italy, or indeed in the entire kingdom.
"Who do you live with," continued Henry.
"With the padrone."
"And who is the padrone?"
"He take care of me--he bring me from Italy."
"Is he kind to you?"
Phil shrugged his shoulders.
"He beat me sometimes," he answered.
"Beats you? What for?"
"If I bring little money."
"Does he beat you hard?"
"Si, signor, with a stick."
"He must be a bad man," said Henry, indignantly.
"How much money must you carry home?"
"But it isn't your fault, if people will not give you money."
"Non importa. He beat me."
"He ought to be beaten himself."
Phil shrugged his shoulders. Like most boys of his class, to him
the padrone seemed all-powerful. The idea that his oppressive
taskmaster should be punished for his cruelty had never dawned
upon him. Knowing nothing of any law that would protect him, he
submitted to it as a necessity, from which there was no escape
except by running away. He had not come to that yet, but some of
his companions had done so, and he might some day.
After this conversation he played another tune. Mrs. Leigh drew
out her purse, and gave him fifty cents. Phil took his fiddle
under his arm, and, following the servant, who now reappeared,
emerged into the street, and moved onward.
PHIL AND HIS PROTECTOR
To a certain extent Phil was his own master; that is, he was at
liberty to wander where he liked, provided he did not neglect his
business, and returned to the lodging-house at night with the
required sum of money. But woe to him if he were caught holding
back any of the money for his own use. In that case, he would be
beaten, and sent to bed without his supper, while the padrone,
according to the terms of his contract with the distant parent
would withhold from the amount due the latter ten times the sum
kept by the boy. In the middle of the day he was allowed to
spend three cents for bread, which was the only dinner allowed
him. Of course, the boys were tempted to regale themselves more
luxuriously, but they incurred a great risk in doing so.
Sometimes the padrone followed them secretly, or employed others
to do so, and so was able to detect them. Besides, they
traveled, in general, by twos and threes, and the system of
espionage was encouraged by the padrone. So mutual distrust was
inspired, and the fear of being reported made the boys honest.
Phil left the house of Mr. Leigh in good spirits. Though he had
earned nothing before, the fifty cents he had just received made
a good beginning, and inspired in him the hope of getting
together enough to save him a beating, for one night at least.
He walked down toward Sixth Avenue, and turning the corner walked
down town. At length he paused in front of a tobacconist's shop,
and began to play. But he had chosen an unfortunate time and
place. The tobacconist had just discovered a deficiency in his
money account, which he suspected to be occasioned by the
dishonesty of his assistant. In addition to this he had risen
with a headache, so that he was in a decidedly bad humor. Music
had no charms for him at that moment, and he no sooner heard the
first strains of Phil's violin than he rushed from the shop
bareheaded, and dashed impetuously at the young fiddler.
"Get away from my shop, you little vagabond!" he cried. "If I
had my way, you should all be sent out of the country."
Phil was quick to take a hint. He saw the menace in the
shopkeeper's eyes, and, stopping abruptly, ran farther down the
street, hugging his fiddle, which he was afraid the angry
tobacconist might seize and break. This, to him, would be an
irreparable misfortune and subject him to a severe punishment,
though the fault would not be his.
Next he strolled into a side street, and began to play in front
of some dwelling-houses. Two or three young children, who had
been playing in the street, gathered about him, and one of them
gave him a penny. They were clamorous for another tune, but Phil
could not afford to work for nothing, and, seeing no prospects of
additional pay, took his violin, and walked away, much to the
regret of his young auditors, who, though not rich, were
appreciative. They followed him to the end of the block, hoping
that he would play again, but they were disappointed.
Phil played two or three times more, managing to obtain in all
twenty-five cents additional. He reached the corner of
Thirteenth Street just as the large public school, known as the
Thirteenth Street School, was dismissed for its noon
"Give us a tune, Johnny," cried Edward Eustis, one of the oldest
"Yes, a tune," joined in several others.
This was an invitation to which Phil was always willing to
respond. Besides, he knew from experience that boys were more
generous, in proportion to their means, than those of larger
growth, and he hoped to get enough from the crowd around him to
increase his store to a dollar.
The boys gathered around the little minstrel, who struck up an
Italian tune, but without the words.
"Sing, sing!" cried the boys.
Phil began to sing. His clear, fresh voice produced a favorable
impression upon the boys.
"He's a bully singer," said one. "I can't sing much better
"You sing! Your singing would be enough to scare a dozen tom
"Then we should be well matched. Look here, Johnny, can't you
sing something in English?"
Phil, in response to this request, played and sang "Shoo Fly!"
which suiting the boys' taste, he was called upon to repeat.
The song being finished, Edward Eustis took off his cap, and went
around the circle.
"Now, boys, you have a chance to show your liberality," he said.
"I'll start the collection with five cents."
"That's ahead of me," said James Marcus. "Justice to a large and
expensive family will prevent me contributing anything more than
"The smallest favors thankfully received," said Edward.
"Then take that, and be thankful," said Tom Lane, dropping in a
"I haven't got any money," said Frank Gaylord, "but here's an
apple;" and he dropped a large red apple into the cap.
Phil; watching with interest the various contributions, was best
pleased with the last. The money he must carry to the padrone.
The apple he might keep for himself, and it would vary agreeably
his usual meager fare.
"The biggest contribution yet," said Edward.
"Here, Sprague, you are liberal. What'll you give?"
"My note at ninety days."
"You might fail before it comes due."
"Then take three cents. 'Tis all I have; 'I can no more, though
poor the offering be.' "
"Oh, don't quote Shakespeare."
"It isn't Shakespeare; it's Milton."
"Just as much one as the other."
"Here, Johnny," said Edward, after going the rounds, "hold your
hands, and I'll pour out the money. You can retire from business
now on a fortune."
Phil was accustomed to be addressed as Johnny, that being the
generic name for boy in New York. He deposited the money in his
pocket, and, taking his fiddle, played once more in
acknowledgment of the donation. The boys now dispersed, leaving
Phil to go on his way. He took out the apple with the intention
of eating it, when a rude boy snatched it from his hand.
"Give it back," said Phil, angrily.
"Don't you wish you may get it?" said the other, holding it out
of his reach.
The young musician had little chance of redress. his antagonist
was a head taller than himself, and, besides, he would not have
dared lay down his fiddle to fight, lest it might be broken.
"Give it to me," he said, stamping his foot.
"I mean to eat it myself," said the other, coolly. "It's too
good for the likes of you."
"You're a thief."
"Don't you call me names, you little Italian ragamuffin, or I'll
hit you," said the other, menacingly.
"It is my apple."
"I'm going to eat it."
But the speaker was mistaken. As he held the apple above his
head, it was suddenly snatched from him. He looked around
angrily, and confronted Edward Eustis, who, seeing Phil's trouble
from a little distance, had at once come to his rescue.
"What did you do that for?" demanded the thief.
"What did you take the boy's apple for?"
"Because I felt like it."
"Then I took it from you for the same reason."
"Do you want to fight?" blustered the rowdy.
"Then hand me back that apple," returned the other.
"Thank you; I shall only hand it to the rightful owner--that
little Italian boy. Are you not ashamed to rob him?"
"Do you want to get hit?"
"I wouldn't advise you to do it."
The rowdy looked at the boy who confronted him. Edward was
slightly smaller, but there was a determined look in his eye
which the bully, who, like those of his class generally, was a
coward at heart, did not like. He mentally decided that it would
be safer not to provoke him.
"Come here, Johnny, and take your apple," said Edward.
Phil advanced, and received back his property with satisfaction.
"You'd better eat it now. I'll see that he doesn't disturb you."
Phil followed the advice of his new friend promptly. He had
eaten nothing since seven o'clock, and then only a piece of dry
bread and cheese, and the apple, a rare luxury, he did not fail
to relish. His would-be robber scowled at him meanwhile, for he
had promised himself the pleasure of dispatching the fruit.
Edward stood by till the apple was eaten, and then turned away.
The rowdy made a movement as if to follow Phil, but Edward
quickly detected him, and came back.
"Don't you dare touch him," he said, significantly, "or you'll
have to settle accounts with me. Do you see that policeman? I
am going to ask him to have an eye on you. You'd better look out
The other turned at the caution, and seeing the approach of one
of the Metropolitan police quickly vanished. He had a wholesome
fear of these guardians of the public peace, and did not care to
court their attention.
Edward turned away, but in a moment felt a hand tugging at his
coat. Looking around, he saw that it was Phil.
"Grazia, signore," said Phil, gratefully.
"I suppose that means 'Thank you'?"
"All right, Johnny! I am glad I was by to save you from that
After eating the apple Phil decided to buy his frugal dinner.
He, therefore, went into a baker's shop, and bought two penny
rolls and a piece of cheese. It was not a very luxurious repast,
but with the apple it was better than usual. A few steps from
the shop door he met another Italian boy, who was bound to the
"How much money have you, Giacomo?" asked Phil, speaking, of
course, in his native tongue.
"Forty cents. How much have you?"
"A dollar and twenty cents."
"You are very lucky, Filippo."
"A rich signora gave me fifty cents for playing to her sick boy.
Then I sang for some schoolboys, and they gave me some money."
"I am afraid the padrone will beat me to-night."
"He has not beat me for a week."
"Have you had dinner, Filippo?"
"Yes, I had some bread and cheese, and an apple."
"Did you buy the apple?"
"No; one of the schoolboys gave it to me. It was very good,"
said Phil, in a tone of enjoyment. "I had not eaten one for a
"Nor I. Do you remember, Filippo, the oranges we had in Italy?"
"I remember them well."
"I was happy then," said Giacomo, sighing. "There was no padrone
to beat me, and I could run about and play. Now I have to sing
and play all day. I am so tired sometimes,--so tired, Filippo."
"You are not so strong as I, Giacomo," said Phil, looking with
some complacency at his own stout limbs.
"Don't you get tired, Filippo?"
"Yes, often; but I don't care so much for that. But I don't like
"I thought I should die with cold sometimes last winter," said
Giacomo, shuddering. "Do you ever expect to go back to Italy,
"I wish I could go now. I should like to see my dear mother and
"And your father?"
"I don't want to see him," said Giacomo, bitterly. "He sold me
to the padrone. My mother wept bitterly when I went away, but my
father only thought of the money."
Filippo and Giacomo were from the same town in Calabria. They
were the sons of Italian peasants who had been unable to resist
the offers of the padrone, and for less than a hundred dollars
each had sold his son into the cruelest slavery. The boys were
torn from their native hills, from their families, and in a
foreign land were doomed to walk the streets from fourteen to
sixteen hours in every twenty-four, gathering money from which
they received small benefit. Many times, as they trudged through
the streets, weary and hungry, sometimes cold, they thought with
homesick sadness of the sunny fields in which their earliest
years had been passed, but the hard realities of the life they
were now leading soon demanded their attention.
Naturally light-hearted, Filippo, or Phil, bore his hard lot more
cheerfully than some of his comrades. But Giacomo was more
delicate, and less able to bear want and fatigue. His livelier
comrade cheered him up, and Giacomo always felt better after
talking with Phil.
As the two boys were walking together, a heavy hand was laid on
the shoulder of each, and a harsh voice said: "Is this the way
you waste your time, little rascals?"
Both boys started, and looking up, recognized the padrone. He
was a short man, very dark with fierce black eyes and a sinister
countenance. It was his habit to walk about the streets from
time to time, and keep a watch, unobserved, upon his young
apprentices, if they may be so called. If he found them
loitering about, or neglecting their work, they were liable to
receive a sharp reminder.
The boys were both startled at his sudden appearance, but after
the first start, Phil, who was naturally courageous, recovered
his self-possession. Not so with Giacomo, who was the more
afraid because he knew he had gained but little money thus far.
"We are not wasting our time, padrone," said Phil, looking up
"We will see about that. How long have you been together?"
"Only five minutes."
"How much money have you, Filippo?"
"A dollar and twenty cents."
"Good; you have done well. And how is it with you, Giacomo?"
"I have forty cents."
"Then you have been idle," said the padrone, frowning.
"No, signore," said the boy, trembling. "I have played, but they
did not give me much money."
"It is not his fault," said Phil, coming boldly to the defense of
"Attend to your own affairs, little scrape-grace," said the
padrone, roughly. "He might have got as much as you."
"No, padrone; I was lucky. A kind lady gave me fifty cents."
"That is not my affair. I don't care where you get the money.
But if you don't bring home all I expect, you shall feel the
These last words were addressed to Giacomo, who understood their
import only too well. In the miserable lodging where he herded
with thirty or forty others scarcely a night passed without the
brutal punishment of one or more unfortunate boys, who had been
unsuccessful in bringing home enough to satisfy the rapacity of
the padrone. But of this an account will hereafter be given.
"Now, go to work, both of you," said the padrone, harshly.
The two boys separated. Giacomo went uptown, while Phil kept on
his way toward the Astor House. The padrone made his way to the
nearest liquor shop, where he invested a portion of the money
wrung from the hard earnings of his young apprentices.
Toward the close of the afternoon Phil found himself in front of
the Astor House. He had played several times, but was not
fortunate in finding liberal auditors. He had secured but ten
cents during this time, and it seemed doubtful whether he would
reach the sum he wanted. He crossed over to the City Hall Park,
and, feeling tired, sat down on one of the benches. Two
bootblacks were already seated upon it.
"Play us a tune, Johnny," said one.
"Will you give me pennies?" asked Phil doubtfully, for he did
not care, with such a severe taskmaster, to work for nothing.
"Yes, we'll give you pennies."
Upon this, Phil struck up a tune.
"Where's your monkey?" asked one of the boys.
"I have no monkey."
"If you want a monkey, here's one for you," said Tim Rafferty,
putting his hand on his companion's shoulder.
"He's too big," said Phil, laughing.
"Hould yer gab, Tim Rafferty," said the other. "It's you that'll
make a better monkey nor I. Say, Johnny, do you pay your monkeys
"Give me my pennies," said Phil, with an eye to business.
"Play another tune, then."
Phil obeyed directions. When he had finished, a contribution was
taken up, but it only amounted to seven cents. However,
considering the character of the audience, this was as much as
could be expected.
"How much have you made to-day, Johnny?" asked Tim.
"A dollar," said Phil.
"A dollar! That's more nor I have made. I tell you what, boys,
I think I'll buy a fiddle myself. I'll make more money that way
than blackin' boots."
"A great fiddler you'd make, Tim Rafferty."
"Can't I play, then? Lend me your fiddle, Johnny, till I try it
Phil shook his head.
"Give it to me now; I won't be hurtin' it."
"You'll break it."
"Then I'll pay for it."
"It isn't mine."
"Whose is it, then?"
"And who's the padrone?"
"The man I live with. If the fiddle is broken, he will beat me."
"Then he's an ould haythen, and you may tell him so, with Tim
Rafferty's compliments. But I won't hurt it."
Phil, however, feared to trust the violin in unskillful hands.
He knew the penalty if any harm befell it, and he had no mind to
run the risk. So he rose from the seat, and withdrew to a little
distance, Tim Rafferty following, for, though he cared little at
first, he now felt determined to try the fiddle.
"If you don't give it to me I'll put a head on you," he said.
"You shall not have it," said Phil, firmly, for he, too, could be
"The little chap's showing fight," said Tim's companion. "Look
out, Tim; he'll mash you."
"I can fight him wid one hand," said Tim.
He advanced upon our young hero, who, being much smaller, would
probably have been compelled to yield to superior force but for
an interference entirely unexpected by Tim.
AN INVITATION TO SUPPER
Tim had raised his fist to strike the young fiddler, when he was
suddenly pushed aside with considerable force, and came near
measuring his length on the ground.
"Who did that?" he cried, angrily, recovering his equilibrium.
"I did it," said a calm voice.
Tim recognized in the speaker Paul Hoffman, whom some of my
readers will remember as "Paul the Peddler." Paul was proprietor
of a necktie stand below the Astor House, and was just returning
home to supper.
He was a brave and manly boy, and his sympathies were always in
favor of the oppressed. He had met Phil before, and talked with
him, and seeing him in danger came to his assistance.
"What made you push me?" demanded Tim, fiercely.
"What were you going to do to him?" rejoined Paul, indicating
the Italian boy.
"I was only goin' to borrer his fiddle."
"He would have broken it," said Phil.
"You don't know how to play," said Paul. "You would have broken
his fiddle, and then he would be beaten."
"I would pay for it if I did," said Tim.
"You say so, but you wouldn't. Even if you did, it would take
time, and the boy would have suffered."
"What business is that of yours?" demanded Tim, angrily.
"It is always my business when I see a big boy teasing a little
"You'll get hurt some day," said Tim, suddenly.
"Not by you," returned Paul, not particularly alarmed.
Tim would have gladly have punished Paul on the spot for his
interference, but he did not consider it prudent to provoke
hostilities. Paul was as tall as himself, and considerably
stronger. He therefore wisely confined himself to threatening
"Come along with me, Phil," said Paul, kindly, to the little
"Thank you for saving me," said Phil, gratefully. "The padrone
would beat me if the fiddle was broke."
"Never mind about thanks, Phil. Tim is a bully with small boys,
but he is a coward among large ones. Have you had any supper?"
"No," said Phil.
"Won't you come home and take supper with me?"
"You are kind," he said, "but I fear the padrone."
"What will he do to you?"
"He will beat me if I don't bring home enough money."
"How much more must you get?"
"You can play better after a good supper. Come along; I won't
keep you long."
Phil made no more objection. He was a healthy boy, and his
wanderings had given him a good appetite. So he thanked Paul,
and walked along by his side. One object Paul had in inviting
him was, the fear that Tim Rafferty might take advantage of his
absence to renew his assault upon Phil, and with better success
"How old are you, Phil?" he asked.
"And who taught you to play?"
"No one. I heard the other boys play, and so I learned."
"Do you like it?"
"Sometimes; but I get tired of it."
"I don't wonder. I should think playing day after day might
tire you. What are you going to do when you become a man?"
Phil shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't know," he said. "I think I'll go back to Italy."
"Have you any relations there?"
"I have a mother and two sisters."
"And a father?"
"Yes, a father."
"Why did they let you come away?"
"The padrone gave my father money."
"Don't you hear anything from home?"
"I am not a signore," said Paul, smiling. "You may call me Paul.
Is that an Italian name?"
"Me call it Paolo."
"That sounds queer to me. What's James in Italian?"
"Then I have a little brother Giacomo."
"How old is he?"
"Eight years old."
"My sister Bettina is eight years. I wish I could see her."
"You will see her again some day, Phil. You will get rich in
America, and go back to sunny Italy."
"The padrone takes all my money."
"You'll get away from the old rascal some day. Keep up good
courage, Phil, and all will come right. But here we are. Follow
me upstairs, and I will introduce you to my mother and Giacomo,"
said Paul, laughing at the Italian name he had given his little
Mrs. Hoffman and Jimmy looked with some surprise at the little
fiddler as he entered with Paul.
"Mother," said Paul, "this is one of my friends, whom I have
invited to take supper with us."
"He is welcome," said Mrs. Hoffman, kindly. "Have you ever
spoken to us of him?"
"I am not sure. His name is Phil--Phil the fiddler, we call
"Filippo," said the young musician.
"We will call you Phil; it is easier to speak," said Paul. "This
is my little brother Jimmy. He is a great artist."
"Now you are laughing at me, Paul," said the little boy.
"Well, he is going to be a great artist some day, if he isn't one
yet. Do you think, Jimmy, you could draw Phil, here, with his
"I think I could," said the little boy, slowly, looking carefully
at their young guest; "but it would take some time."
"Perhaps Phil will come some day, and give you a sitting."
"Will you come?" asked Jimmy.
"I will come some day."
Meanwhile Mrs. Hoffman was preparing supper. Since Paul had
become proprietor of the necktie stand, as described in the last
volume, they were able to live with less regard to economy than
before. So, when the table was spread, it presented quite a
tempting appearance. Beefsteak, rolls, fried potatoes, coffee,
and preserves graced the board.
"Supper is ready, Paul," said his mother, when all was finished.
"Here, Phil, you may sit here at my right hand," said Paul. "I
will put your violin where it will not be injured."
Phil sat down as directed, not without feeling a little awkward,
yet with a sense of anticipated pleasure. Accustomed to bread
and cheese alone, the modest repast before him seemed like a
royal feast. The meat especially attracted him, for he had not
tasted any for months, indeed seldom in his life, for in Italy it
is seldom eaten by the class to which Phil's parents belonged.
"Let me give you some meat, Phil," said Paul. "Now, shall we
drink the health of the padrone in coffee?"
"I will not drink his health," said Phil. "He is a bad man."
"Who is the padrone?" asked Jimmy, curiously.
"He is my master. He sends me out to play for money."
"And must you give all the money you make to him?"
"Yes; if I do not bring much money, he will beat me."
"Then he must be a bad man. Why do you live with him?"
"He bought me from my father."
"He bought you?" repeated Jimmy, puzzled.
"He hires him for so much money," explained Paul.
"But why did your father let you go with a bad man?" asked
"He wanted the money," said Phil. "He cared more for money than
What wonder that the boys sold into such cruel slavery should be
estranged from the fathers who for a few paltry ducats sell the
liberty and happiness of their children. Even where the contract
is for a limited terms of years, the boys in five cases out of
ten are not returned at the appointed time. A part, unable to
bear the hardships and privations of the life upon which they
enter, are swept off by death, while of those that survive, a
part are weaned from their homes, or are not permitted to go
"You must not ask too many questions, Jimmy." said Mrs. Hoffman,
fearing that he might awaken sad thoughts in the little musician.
She was glad to see that Phil ate with a good appetite. In truth
he relished the supper, which was the best he remembered to have
tasted for many a long day.
"Is Italy like America?" asked Jimmy, whose curiosity was
excited to learn something of Phil's birthplace.
"It is much nicer," said Phil, with a natural love of country.
"There are olive trees and orange trees, and grapes--very many."
"Are there really orange trees? Have you seen them grow?"
"I have picked them from the trees many times."
"I should like that, but I don't care for olives."
"They are good, too."
"I should like the grapes."
"There are other things in Italy which you would like better,
Jimmy," said Paul.
"What do you mean, Paul?"
"The galleries of fine paintings."
"Yes, I should like to see them. Have you seen them?"
Phil shook his head. The picture galleries are in the cities,
and not in the country district where he was born.
"Sometime, when I am rich, we will all go to Italy, Jimmy; then,
if Phil is at home, we will go and see him."
"I should like that, Paul."
Though Jimmy was not yet eight years old, he had already
exhibited a remarkable taste for drawing, and without having
received any instruction, could copy any ordinary picture with
great exactness. It was the little boy's ambition to become an
artist, and in this ambition he was encouraged by Paul, who
intended, as soon as he could afford it, to engage an instructor
ON THE FERRY BOAT
When supper was over, Phil bethought himself that his day's work
was not yet over. He had still a considerable sum to obtain
before he dared go home, if such a name can be given to the
miserable tenement in Crosby Street where he herded with his
companions. But before going he wished to show his gratitude to
Paul for his protection and the supper which he had so much and
so unexpectedly enjoyed.
"Shall I play for you?" he asked, taking his violin from the top
of the bureau, where Paul had placed it.
"Will you?" asked Jimmy, his eyes lighting up with pleasure.
"We should be very glad to hear you," said Mrs. Hoffman.
Phil played his best, for he felt that he was playing for
friends. After a short prelude, he struck into an Italian song.
Though the words were unintelligible, the little party enjoyed
"Bravo, Phil!" said Paul. "You sing almost as well as I do."
"You sing about as well as you draw," said the little boy.
"There you go again with your envy and jealousy," said Paul, in
an injured tone. "Others appreciate me better."
"Sing something, and we will judge of your merits," said his
"Not now," said Paul, shaking his head. "My feelings are too
deeply injured. But if he has time, Phil will favor us with
So the little fiddler once more touched the strings of his
violin, and sang the hymn of Garibaldi.
"He has a beautiful voice," said Mrs. Hoffman to Paul.
"Yes, Phil sings much better than most of his class. Shall I
bring him up here again?"
"Any time, Paul. We shall always be glad to see him."
Here Phil took his cap and prepared to depart.
"Good-by," he said in English. "I thank you all for your
"Will you come again?" said Mrs. Hoffman. "We shall be glad to
"Do come," pleaded Jimmy, who had taken a fancy to the dark-eyed
Italian boy, whose brilliant brown complexion contrasted strongly
with his own pale face and blue eyes.
These words gave Phil a strange pleasure. Since his arrival in
America he had become accustomed to harsh words and blows; but
words of kindness were strangers to his ears. For an hour he
forgot the street and his uninviting home, and felt himself
surrounded by a true home atmosphere. He almost fancied himself
in his Calabrian home, with his mother and sisters about him --in
his home as it was before cupidity entered his father's heart and
impelled him to sell his own flesh and blood into slavery in a
foreign land. Phil could not analyze his own emotions, but these
were the feelings which rose in his heart, and filed it with
"I thank you much," he said. "I will come again some day."
"Come soon, Phil," said Paul. "You know where my necktie stand
is. Come there any afternoon between four and five, and I will
take you home to supper. Do you know the way out, or shall I go
"I know the way," said Phil.
He went downstairs and once more found himself on the sidewalk.
It was but six o'clock, and five or six hours were still before
him before he could feel at liberty to go home. Should he return
too early, he would be punished for losing the possible gains of
the hour he had lost, even if the sum he brought home were
otherwise satisfactory. So, whatever may be his fatigue, or
however inclement the weather, the poor Italian boy is compelled
to stay out till near midnight, before he is permitted to return
to the hard pallet on which only he can sleep off his fatigues.
Again in the street, Phil felt that he must make up for lost
time. Now six o'clock is not a very favorable time for street
music; citizens who do business downtown have mostly gone home to
dinner. Those who have not started are in haste, and little
disposed to heed the appeal of the young minstrel. Later the
saloons will be well frequented, and not seldom the young
fiddlers may pick up a few, sometimes a considerable number of
pennies, by playing at the doors of these places, or within, if
they should be invited to enter; but at six there is not much to
After a little reflection, Phil determined to go down to Fulton
Ferry and got on board the Brooklyn steamboat. He might get a
chance to play to the passengers, and some, no doubt, would give
him something. At any rate, the investment would be small, since
for one fare, or two cents, he might ride back and forward
several times, as long as he did not step off the boat. He,
therefore, directed his steps toward the ferry, and arrived just
in time to go on board the boat.
The boat was very full. So large a number of the people in
Brooklyn are drawn to New York by business and pleasure, that the
boats, particularly in the morning from seven to nine, and in the
afternoon, from five to seven, go loaded down with foot
passengers and carriages.
Phil entered the ladies' cabin. Though ostensibly confined to
ladies' use, it was largely occupied also by gentlemen who did
not enjoy the smoke which usually affects disagreeably the
atmosphere of the cabin appropriated to their own sex. Our young
musician knew that to children the hearts and purses of ladies
are more likely to open than those of gentlemen, and this guided
Entering, he found every seat taken. He waited till the boat had
started, and then, taking his position in the center of the rear
cabin, he began to play and sing, fixing at once the attention of
the passengers upon himself.
"That boy's a nuisance; he ought not to be allowed to play on the
boat," muttered an old gentleman, looking up from the columns of
the Evening Post.
"Now, papa," said a young lady at his side, "why need you object
to the poor boy? I am sure he sings very nicely. I like to hear
"You know, papa, you have no taste for music. Why, you went to
sleep at the opera the other evening."
"I tried to," said her father, in whom musical taste had a very
limited development. "It was all nonsense to me."
"He is singing the Hymn of Garibaldi. What a sweet voice he has!
Such a handsome little fellow, too!"
"He has a dirty face, and his clothes are quite ragged."
"But he has beautiful eyes; see how brilliant they are. No
wonder he is dirty and ragged; it isn't his fault, poor boy. I
have no doubt he has a miserable home. I'm going to give him
"Just as you like, Florence; as I am not a romantic young damsel,
I shall not follow your example."'
By this time the song was finished, and Phil, taking off his cap,
went the rounds. None of the contributions were larger than five
cents, until he came to the young lady of whom we have spoken
above. She drew a twenty-five-cent piece from her portemonnaie,
and put it into Phil's hand, with a gracious smile, which pleased
the young fiddler as much as the gift, welcome though that
"Thank you, lady," he said.
"You sing very nicely," she replied.
Phil smiled, and dirty though his face was, the smile lighted it
up with rare beauty.
"Do you often come on these boats?" asked the young lady.
"Sometimes, but they do not always let me play," said Phil.
"I hope I shall hear you again. You have a good voice."
"Thank you, signorina."
"You can speak English. I tried to speak with one of you the
other day, but he could only speak Italian."
"I know a few words, signorina."
"I hope I shall see you again," and the young lady, prompted by a
natural impulse of kindness, held out her hand to the little
musician. He took it respectfully, and bending over, touched it
with his lips.
The young lady, to whom this was quite unexpected, smiled and
blushed, by no means offended, but she glanced round her to see
whether it was observed by others.
"Upon my word, Florence," said her father, as Phil moved away,
"you have got up quite a scene with this little ragged musician.
I am rather glad he is not ten or twelve years older, or there
might be a romantic elopement."
"Now, papa, you are too bad," said Florence. "Just because I
choose to be kind to a poor, neglected child, you fancy all sorts
of improbable things."
"I don't know where you get all your foolish romance from--not
from me, I am sure."
"I should think not," said Florence, laughing merrily. "Your
worst enemy won't charge you with being romantic, papa."
"I hope not," said her father, shrugging his shoulders. "But the
boat has touched the pier. Shall we go on shore, or have you any
further business with your young Italian friend?"
"Not to-day, papa."
The passengers vacated the boat, and were replaced by a smaller
number, on their way from Brooklyn to New York.
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
"I need not play any more," he thought. "I shall not be beaten
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
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
"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.
"Then I'll pour a glass down your throat, too," returned Jack,
"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
"You are always luckier than I, Filippo."
"I am stronger, Giacomo. It does not tire me so much to walk
"You can sing, too. I cannot sing very much, and I do not get so
"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
"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.
THE HOME OF THE BOYS
It was a quarter-past eleven when Phil and Giacomo entered the
shabby brick house which they called home, for want of a better.
From fifteen to twenty of their companions had already arrived,
and the padrone was occupied in receiving their several
contributions. The apartment was a mean one, miserably
furnished, but seemed befitting the principal occupant, whose
dark face was marked by an expression of greed, and alternately
showed satisfaction or disappointment as the contents of the
boys' pockets were satisfactory or otherwise. Those who had done
badly were set apart for punishment.
He looked up as the two boys entered.
"Well, Filippo," he said, harshly, "how much have you got?"
Phil handed over his earnings. They were up to the required
limit, but the padrone looked only half satisfied.
"Is that all you have?" he asked, suspiciously.
"It is all, signore."
"You have not done well this afternoon, then. When I met you at
twelve o'clock you had more than a dollar."
"It was because a good signora gave me fifty cents."
The padrone, still suspicious, plunging his hands into Phil's
pockets, but in vain. He could not find another penny.
"Take off your shoes and stockings," he said, still unsatisfied.
Phil obediently removed his shoes and stockings, but no money was
found concealed, as the padrone half suspected. Sometimes these
poor boys, beset by a natural temptation, secrete a portion of
their daily earnings. Whenever they are detected, woe betide
them. The padrone makes an example of them, inflicting a cruel
punishment, in order to deter other boys from imitating them.
Having discovered nothing, he took Phil's violin, and proceeded
"Now for you," he said.
Giacomo handed over his money. The padrone was surprised in
turn, but his surprise was of a different nature. He had
expected to find him deficient, knowing that he was less
enterprising than Phil. He was glad to get more money than he
expected, but a little disappointed that he had no good excuse
for beating him; for he had one of those hard, cruel natures that
delight in inflicting pain and anguish upon others.
"Take care that you do as well to-morrow," he said. "Go and get
One of the larger boys was distributing bread and cheese to the
hungry boys. Nearly all ate as if famished, plain and uninviting
as was the supper, for they had been many hours without food.
But Phil, who, as we know, had eaten a good supper at Mrs.
Hoffman's, felt very little appetite. He slyly gave his bread to
one of the boys, who, on account of the small sum he brought
home, had been sentenced to go without. But the sharp eyes of
the padrone, which, despite his occupation, managed to see all
that was going on, detected this action, and he became suspicious
that Phil had bought supper out of his earnings.;
"Why did you give your bread to Giuseppe?" he demanded.
"Because I was not hungry," answered Phil.
"Why were you not hungry? Did you buy some supper?"
"Then you should be hungry."
"A kind lady gave me some supper."
"How did it happen?"
"I knew her son. His name is Paolo. He asked me to go home with
him. Then he gave me a good supper."
"How long were you there? You might have been playing and
brought me some more money," said the padrone, who, with
characteristic meanness, grudged the young fiddler time to eat
the meal that cost him nothing.
"It was not long, signore."
"You can eat what is given you, but you must not waste too much
A boy entered next, who showed by his hesitating manner that he
did not anticipate a good reception. The padrone, accustomed to
judge by appearances, instantly divined this.
"Well, Ludovico," he said, sharply, "what do you bring me?"
"Pardon, padrone," said Ludovico, producing a small sum of money.
"I could not help it."
"Seventy-five cents," repeated the padrone, indignantly. "You
have been idle, you little wretch!"
"No, padrone. Indeed, I did my best. The people would not give
"Where did you go?"
"I was in Brooklyn."
"You have spent some of the money."
"You have been idle, then. No supper to-night. Pietro, my
Pietro was one of the older boys. He was ugly physically, and
his disposition corresponded with his appearance. He could have
few good traits, or he would not have possessed the confidence of
the padrone. He was an efficient assistant of the latter, and
co-operated with him in oppressing the other boys. Indeed, he
was a nephew of the padrone's, and for this reason, as well as
his similarity of disposition, he was treated with unusual
indulgence. Whenever the padrone felt suspicious of any of the
boys, he usually sent them out in company with Pietro, who acted
as a spy, faithfully reporting all that happened to his
Pietro responded with alacrity to the command of the padrone, and
produced a stout stick, which he handed to his uncle.
"Now strip off your jacket," said the padrone, harshly.
"Spare me, padrone! Do not beat me! It was not my fault," said
the unhappy Ludovico, imploringly.
"Take off your jacket!" repeated the padrone, pitilessly.
One look of that hard face might have taught Ludovico, even if he
had not witnessed the punishment so often inflicted on other
boys, that there was no hope for him.
"Help him, Pietro," said the padrone.
Pietro seized Ludovico's jacket, and pulled it off roughly. Then
he drew off the ragged shirt which the boy wore underneath, and
his bare back was exposed to view.
"Hold him, Pietro!"
In Pietro's firm grasp, the boy was unable to stir. The padrone
whirled the stick aloft, and brought it down upon the naked
flesh, leaving behind a fearful wheal.
Ludovico shrieked aloud, and again implored mercy, but in vain,
for the stick descended again and again.
Meanwhile the other boys looked on, helpless to interfere. The
more selfish were glad that they had escaped, though not at all
sure but it would be their turn next evening. There were others
who felt a passive sympathy for their unlucky comrade. Others
were filled with indignation at the padrone, knowing how cruel
and unjust were his exactions. Among these was Phil. Possessed
of a warm and sympathetic heart, he never witnessed these cruel
punishments without feeling that he would like to see the padrone
suffering such pain as he inflicted upon others.
"If I were only a man," he often thought, "I would wrench the
stick from his hand, and give him a chance to feel it."
But he knew too well the danger of permitting his real sentiments
to be reflected in his face. It would only bring upon him a
share of the same punishment, without benefiting those who were
unfortunate enough to receive it.
When Ludovico's punishment was ended, he was permitted to go to
bed, but without his supper. Nor was his the only case. Five
other boys were subjected to the same punishment. The stick had
no want of exercise on that evening. Here were nearly forty
boys, subjected to excessive fatigue, privation, and brutal
treatment daily, on account of the greed of one man. The hours
that should been given in part to instruction, and partly to such
recreation as the youthful heart craves, were devoted to a
pursuit that did nothing to prepare them for the duties of life.
And this white slavery--for it merits no better name--is
permitted by the law of two great nations. Italy is in fault in
suffering this traffic in her children of tender years, and
America is guilty as well in not interfering, as she might, at
all events, to abridge the long hours of labor required of these
boys, and forcing their cruel guardians to give them some
One by one the boys straggled in. By midnight all had returned,
and the boys were permitted to retire to their beds, which were
poor enough. This, however, was the least of their troubles.
Sound are the slumbers of young however hard the couch on which
it rests, especially when, as with all the young Italian boys,
the day has been one of fatigue.
A COLD DAY
The events thus far recorded in the life of our young hero took
place on a day toward the middle of October, when the temperature
was sufficiently mild to produce no particular discomfort in
those exposed to it. We advance our story two months, and behold
Phil setting out for his day's wandering on a morning in
December, when the keen blasts swept through the streets, sending
a shiver through the frames even of those who were well
protected. How much more, then, must it be felt by the young
street musician, who, with the exception of a woolen tippet, wore
nothing more or warmer than in the warmer months! Yet, Phil,
with his natural vigorous frame, was better able to bear the
rigor of the winter weather than some of his comrades, as
Giacomo, to whom the long hours spent in the streets were laden
with suffering and misery.
The two boys went about together when they dared to do so, though
the padrone objected, but for what reason it did not seem
manifest, unless because he suspected that two would plan
something prejudicial to his interests. Phil, who was generally
more successful than Giacomo, often made up his smaller
comrade's deficiencies by giving him a portion of his own gains.
It was a raw day. Only those who felt absolutely obliged to be
out were to be seen in the streets; but among these were our two
little fiddlers. Whatever might be the weather, they were
compelled to expose themselves to its severity. However the boys
might suffer, they must bring home the usual amount. But at
eleven o'clock the prospects seemed rather discouraging. They
had but twenty-five cents between them, nor would anyone stop to
listen to their playing.
"I wish it were night, Filippo," said Giacomo, shivering with
"So do I, Giacomo. Are you very cold?"
"Yes," said the little boy, his teeth chattering. "I wish I were
back in Italy. It is never so cold there."
"No, Giacomo; you are right. But I would not mind the cold so
much, if I had a warm overcoat like that boy," pointing out a boy
clad in a thick overcoat, and a fur cap drawn over his ears,
while his hands were snugly incased in warm gloves.
He, too, looked at the two fiddlers, and he could not help
noticing how cold they looked.
"Look here, you little chaps, are you cold? You look as if you
had just come from Greenland."
"Yes," said Phil. "We are cold."
"Your hands look red enough. Here is an old pair of gloves for
one of you. I wish I had another pair. They are not very thick,
but they are better than none."
He drew a pair of worsted gloves from his pocket, and handed them
"Thank you," said Phil; but having received them, he gave them to
"You are colder than I am, Giacomo," he said. "Take them."
"But you are cold, too, Filippo."
"I will put my hands in my pockets. Don't mind me."
Of course this conversation took place in Italian; for, though
Phil had learned considerable English, Giacomo understood but a
few words of it.
The gloves afforded some protection, but still both boys were
very cold. They were in Brooklyn, having crossed the ferry in
the morning. They had wandered to a part not closely built up,
where they were less sheltered, and experienced greater
"Can't we go in somewhere and get warm? pleaded Giacomo.
"Here is a grocery store. We will go in there."
Phil opened the door and entered. The shopkeeper, a
peevish-looking man, with lightish hair, stood behind the counter
weighing out a pound of tea for a customer.
"What do you want here, you little vagabonds?" he exclaimed,
harshly, as he saw the two boys enter.
"We are cold," said Phil. "May we stand by your stove and get
"Do you think I provide a fire for all the vagabonds in the
city?" said the grocer, with a brutal disregard of their evident
Phil hesitated, not knowing whether he was ordered out or not.
"Clear out of my store, I say!" said the grocer, harshly. "I
don't want you in here. Do you understand?"
At this moment a gentleman of prepossessing appearance entered
the store. He heard the grocer's last words, and their
inhumanity made him indignant.
"What do these boys want, Mr. Perkins?" he said.
"They want to spend their time in my shop. I have no room for
"We are cold," said Phil. "We only want to warm ourselves by the
"I don't want you here," said the grocer, irritably.
"Mr. Perkins," said the gentleman, sharply, "have you no
humanity? What harm can it do you to let these poor boys get
warm by your fire? It will cost you nothing; it will not
diminish your personal comfort; yet you drive them out into the
The grocer began to perceive that he was on the wrong tack. The
gentleman who addressed him was a regular and profitable
customer, and he did not like to incur his ill will, which would
"They can stay, Mr. Pomeroy," he said, with an ill grace, "since
you ask it."
"I do not ask it. I will not accept, as a personal favor, what
you should have granted from a motive of humanity, more
especially as, after this exhibition of your spirit, I shall not
trade here any longer."
By this time the grocer perceived that he had made a mistake.
"I hope you will reconsider that, Mr. Pomeroy," he said,
abjectly. "The fact is, I had no objections to the boys warming
themselves, but they are mostly thieves, and I could not keep my
eyes on them all the time."
"I think you are mistaken. They don't look like thieves. Did
you ever have anything stolen by one of this class of boys?"
"Not that I know of," said the grocer, hesitatingly; "but it is
likely they would steal if they got a chance."
"We have no right to say that of anyone without good cause."
"We never steal," said Phil, indignantly; for he understood what
"Of course he says so," sneered the grocer. "Come and warm
yourselves, if you want to."
The boys accepted this grudging invitation, and drew near the
stove. They spread out their hands, and returning warmth proved
very grateful to them.
"Have you been out long?" asked the gentleman who had interceded
in their behalf, also drawing near the stove.
"Since eight, signore."
"Do you live in Brooklyn?"
"No; in New York."
"And do you go out every day?"
"How long since you came from Italy?"
"Would you like to go back?"
"He would," said Phil, pointing to his companion. "I would like
to stay here, if I had a good home."
"What kind of a home have you? With whom do you live?"
"With the padrone."
"I suppose that means your guardian?"
"Yes, sir," answered Phil.
"Is he kind to you?"
"He beats us if we do not bring home enough money."
"Your lot is a hard one. What makes you stay with him? Don't
the boys ever run away?"
"What does the padrone do in that case?"
"He tries to find them."
"And if he does--what then?"
"He beats them for a long time."
"Evidently your padrone is a brute. Why don't you complain to
Phil shrugged his shoulders, and did not answer. He evidently
thought the suggestion an impracticable one. These boys are wont
to regard the padrone as above all law. His power seems to them
absolute, and they never dream of any interference. And, indeed,
there is some reason for their cherishing this opinion. However
brutal his treatment, I know of no case where the law has stepped
in to rescue the young victim. This is partly, no doubt, because
the boys, few of whom can speak the English language, do not know
their rights, and seldom complain to outsiders--never to the
authorities. Probably, in some cases, the treatment is less
brutal than I have depicted; but from the best information I can
obtain from trustworthy sources, I fear that the reality, if
anything, exceeds the picture I have drawn.
"I think I should enjoy giving your padrone a horsewhipping,"
said the gentleman, impetuously. "Can such things be permitted
in the nineteenth century?"