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?“
”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 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.“