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The Errand Boy; or, How Phil Brent Won Success, a fiction by Horatio Alger

Chapter 6. Signor Orlando

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So Phil reached New York in very fair spirits. He found himself, thanks to the liberality of Mr. Grant, in a better financial position than when he left home.

As he left the depot and found himself in the streets of New York, he felt like a stranger upon the threshold of a new life. He knew almost nothing about the great city he had entered, and was at a loss where to seek for lodgings.

"It's a cold day," said a sociable voice at his elbow.

Looking around, Phil saw that the speaker was a sallow-complexioned young man, with black hair and mustache, a loose black felt hat, crushed at the crown, giving him rather a rakish look.

"Yes, sir," answered Phil politely.

"Stranger in the city, I expect?"

"Yes, sir."

"Never mind the sir. I ain't used to ceremony. I am Signor Orlando."

"Signor Orlando!" repeated Phil, rather puzzled.

"Are you an Italian?"

"Well, yes," returned Signor Orlando, with a wink, "that's what I am, or what people think me; but I was born in Vermont, and am half Irish and half Yankee."

"How did you come by your name, then?"

"I took it," answered his companion. "You see, dear boy, I'm a professional."

"A what?"

"A professional--singer and clog-dancer. I believe I am pretty well known to the public," continued Signor Orlando complacently. "Last summer I traveled with Jenks & Brown's circus. Of course you've heard of THEM. Through the winter I am employed at Bowerman's Varieties, in the Bowery. I appear every night, and at two matinees weekly."

It must be confessed that Phil was considerably impressed by the professional character of Signor Orlando. He had never met an actor, or public performer of any description, and was disposed to have a high respect for a man who filled such a conspicuous position. There was not, to be sure, anything very impressive about Signor Orlando's appearance. His face did not indicate talent, and his dress was shabby. But for all that he was a man familiar with the public--a man of gifts.

"I should like to see you on the stage," said Phil respectfully.

"So you shall, my dear boy--so you shall. I'll get you a pass from Mr. Bowerman. Which way are you going?"

"I don't know," answered Phil, puzzled. "I should like to find a cheap boarding-house, but I don't know the city."

"I do," answered Signor Orlando promptly. "Why not come to my house?"

"Have you a house?"

"I mean my boarding-house. It's some distance away. Suppose we take a horse-car?"

"All right!" answered Phil, relieved to find a guide in the labyrinth of the great city.

"I live on Fifth Street, near the Bowery--a very convenient location," said Orlando, if we may take the liberty to call him thus.

"Fifth Avenue?" asked Phil, who did not know the difference.

"Oh, no; that's a peg above my style. I am not a Vanderbilt, nor yet an Astor."

"Is the price moderate?" asked Phil anxiously. "I must make my money last as long as I can, for I don't know when I shall get a place."

"To be sure. You might room with me, only I've got a hall bedroom. Perhaps we might manage it, though."

"I think I should prefer a room by myself," said Phil, who reflected that Signor Orlando was a stranger as yet.

"Oh, well, I'll speak to the old lady, and I guess she can accommodate you with a hall bedroom like mine on the third floor."

"What should I have to pay?"

"A dollar and a quarter a week, and you can get your meals where you please."

"I think that will suit me," said Phil thoughtfully.

After leaving the car, a minute's walk brought them to a shabby three-story house of brick. There was a stable opposite, and a group of dirty children were playing in front of it.

"This is where I hang out," said Signor Orlando cheerfully. "As the poet says, there is no place like home."

If this had been true it was not much to be regretted, since the home in question was far from attractive.

Signor Orlando rang the bell, and a stout woman of German aspect answered the call.

"So you haf come back, Herr Orlando," said this lady. "I hope you haf brought them two weeks' rent you owe me."

"All in good time, Mrs. Schlessinger," said Orlando. "But you see I have brought some one with me."

"Is he your bruder now?" asked the lady.

"No, he is not, unfortunately for me. His name is----"

Orlando coughed.

"Philip Brent," suggested our hero.

"Just so--Philip Brent."

"I am glad to see Mr. Prent," said the landlady.

"And is he an actor like you, Signor Orlando?"

"Not yet. We don't know what may happen. But he comes on business, Mrs. Schlessinger. He wants a room."

The landlady brightened up. She had two rooms vacant, and a new lodger was a godsend.

"I vill show Mr. Prent what rooms I haf," she said. "Come up-stairs, Mr. Prent."

The good woman toiled up the staircase panting, for she was asthmatic, and Phil followed. The interior of the house was as dingy as the exterior, and it was quite dark on the second landing.

She threw open the door of a back room, which, being lower than the hall, was reached by a step.

"There!" said she, pointing to the faded carpet, rumpled bed, and cheap pine bureau, with the little six-by-ten looking-glass surmounting it. "This is a peautiful room for a single gentleman, or even for a man and his wife."

"My friend, Mr. Brent, is not married," said Signor Orlando waggishly.

Phil laughed.

"You will have your shoke, Signor Orlando," said Mrs. Schlessinger.

"What is the price of this room?" asked Phil.

"Three dollars a week, Mr. Prent, I ought to have four, but since you are a steady young gentleman----"

"How does she know that?" Phil wondered.

"Since you are a steady young gentleman, and a friend of Signor Orlando, I will not ask you full price."

"That is more than I can afford to pay," said Phil, shaking his head.

"I think you had better show Mr. Brent the hall bedroom over mine," suggested the signor.

Mrs. Schlessinger toiled up another staircase, the two new acquaintances following her. She threw open the door of one of those depressing cells known in New York as a hall bedroom. It was about five feet wide and eight feet long, and was nearly filled up by a cheap bedstead, covered by a bed about two inches thick, and surmounted at the head by a consumptive-looking pillow. The paper was torn from the walls in places. There was one rickety chair, and a wash-stand which bore marks of extreme antiquity.

"This is a very neat room for a single gentleman," remarked Mrs. Schlessinger.

Phil's spirits fell as he surveyed what was to be his future home. It was a sad contrast to his neat, comfortable room at home.

"Is this room like yours, Signor Orlando?" he asked faintly.

"As like as two peas," answered Orlando.

"Would you recommend me to take it?"

"You couldn't do better."

How could the signor answer otherwise in presence of a landlady to whom he owed two weeks' rent?

"Then," said Phil, with a secret shudder, "I'll take it if the rent is satisfactory."

"A dollar and a quarter a week," said Mrs. Schlessinger promptly.

"I'll take it for a week."

"You won't mind paying in advance?" suggested the landlady. "I pay my own rent in advance."

Phil's answer was to draw a dollar and a quarter from his purse and pass it to his landlady.

"I'll take possession now," said our hero. "Can I have some water to wash my face?"

Mrs. Schlessinger was evidently surprised that any one should want to wash in the middle of the day, but made no objections.

When Phil had washed his face and hands, he went out with Signor Orlando to dine at a restaurant on the Bowery. _

Read next: Chapter 7. Bowerman's Varieties

Read previous: Chapter 5. An Overbearing Conductor

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