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

Chapter 7. Bowerman's Varieties

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The restaurant to which he was taken by Signor Orlando was thronged with patrons, for it was one o'clock. On the whole, they did not appear to belong to the highest social rank, though they were doubtless respectable. The table-cloths were generally soiled, and the waiters had a greasy look. Phil said nothing, but he did not feel quite so hungry as before he entered.

The signor found two places at one of the tables, and they sat down. Phil examined a greasy bill of fare and found that he could obtain a plate of meat for ten cents. This included bread and butter, and a dish of mashed potato. A cup of tea would be five cents additional.

"I can afford fifteen cents for a meal," he thought, and called for a plate of roast beef.

"Corn beef and cabbage for me," said the signor.

"It's very filling," he remarked aside to Phil.

"They won't give you but a mouthful of beef."

So it proved, but the quality was such that Phil did not care for more. He ordered a piece of apple pie afterward feeling still hungry.

"I see you're bound to have a square meal," said the signor.

After Phil had had it, he was bound to confess that he did not feel uncomfortably full. Yet he had spent twice as much as the signor, who dispensed with the tea and pie as superfluous luxuries.

In the evening Signor Orlando bent his steps toward Bowerman's Varieties.

"I hope in a day or two to get a complimentary ticket for you, Mr. Brent," he said.

"How much is the ticket?" asked Phil.

"Fifteen cents. Best reserved seats twenty-five cents.'

"I believe I will be extravagant for once," said Phil, "and go at my own expense."

"Good!" said the signor huskily. "You'll feel repaid I'll be bound. Bowerman always gives the public their money's worth. The performance begins at eight o'clock and won't be out until half-past eleven."

"Less than five cents an hour," commented Phil.

"What a splendid head you've got!" said Signor Orlando admiringly. "I couldn't have worked that up. Figures ain't my province."

It seemed to Phil rather a slender cause for compliment, but he said nothing, since it seemed clear that the computation was beyond his companion's ability.

As to the performance, it was not refined, nor was the talent employed first-class. Still Phil enjoyed himself after a fashion. He had never had it in his power to attend many amusements, and this was new to him. He naturally looked with interest for the appearance of his new friend and fellow-lodger.

Signor Orlando appeared, dressed in gorgeous array, sang a song which did credit to the loudness of his voice rather than its quality, and ended by a noisy clog-dance which elicited much applause from the boys in the gallery, who shared the evening's entertainment for the moderate sum of ten cents.

The signor was called back to the stage. He bowed his thanks and gave another dance. Then he was permitted to retire. As this finished his part of the entertainment he afterward came around in citizen's dress, and took a seat in the auditorium beside Phil.

"How did you like me, Mr. Brent?" he asked complacently.

"I thought you did well, Signor Orlando. You were much applauded."

"Yes, the audience is very loyal," said the proud performer.

Two half-grown boys heard Phil pronounce the name of his companion, and they gazed awe-stricken at the famous man.

"That's Signor Orlando!" whispered one of the others.

"I know it," was the reply.

"Such is fame," said the Signor, in a pleased tone to Phil. "People point me out on the streets."

"Very gratifying, no doubt," said our hero, but it occurred to him that he would not care to be pointed out as a performer at Bowerman's. Signor Orlando, however, well-pleased with himself, didn't doubt that Phil was impressed by his popularity, and perhaps even envied it.

They didn't stay till the entertainment was over. It was, of course, familiar to the signor, and Phil felt tired and sleepy, for he had passed a part of the afternoon in exploring the city, and had walked in all several miles.

He went back to his lodging-house, opened the door with a pass-key which Mrs. Schlessinger had given him, and climbing to his room in the third story, undressed and deposited himself in bed.

The bed was far from luxurious. A thin pallet rested on slats, so thin that he could feel the slats through it, and the covering was insufficient. The latter deficiency he made up by throwing his overcoat over the quilt, and despite the hardness of his bed, he was soon sleeping soundly.

"To-morrow I must look for a place," he said to Signor Orlando. "Can you give me any advise?"

"Yes, my dear boy. Buy a daily paper, the Sun or Herald, and look at the advertisements. There may be some prominent business man who is looking out for a boy of your size."

Phil knew of no better way, and he followed Signor Orlando's advice.

After a frugal breakfast at the Bowery restaurant, he invested a few pennies in the two papers mentioned, and began to go the rounds.

The first place was in Pearl Street.

He entered, and was directed to a desk in the front part of the store.

"You advertised for a boy," he said.

"We've got one," was the brusque reply.

Of course no more was to be said, and Phil walked out, a little dashed at his first rebuff.

At the next place he found some half a dozen boys waiting, and joined the line, but the vacancy was filled before his turn came.

At the next place his appearance seemed to make a good impression, and he was asked several questions.

"What is your name?"

"Philip Brent."

"How old are you?"

"Just sixteen."

"How is your education?"

"I have been to school since I was six."

"Then you ought to know something. Have you ever been in a place?"

"No, sir."

"Do you live with your parents?"

"No, sir; I have just come to the city, and am lodging in Fifth Street."

"Then you won't do. We wish our boys to live with their parents."

Poor Phil! He had allowed himself to hope that at length he was likely to get a place. The abrupt termination of the conversation dispirited him.

He made three more applications. In one of them he again came near succeeding, but once more the fact that he did not live with his parents defeated his application.

"It seems to be very hard getting a place," thought Phil, and it must be confessed he felt a little homesick.

"I won't make any more applications to-day," he decided, and being on Broadway, walked up that busy thoroughfare, wondering what the morrow would bring forth.

It was winter, and there was ice on the sidewalk. Directly in front of Phil walked an elderly gentleman, whose suit of fine broadcloth and gold spectacles, seemed to indicate a person of some prominence and social importance.

Suddenly he set foot on a treacherous piece of ice. Vainly he strove to keep his equilibrium, his arms waving wildly, and his gold-headed cane falling to the sidewalk. He would have fallen backward, had not Phil, observing his danger in time, rushed to his assistance. _

Read next: Chapter 8. The House In Twelfth Street

Read previous: Chapter 6. Signor Orlando

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