Ragazzo Storyline

Author's Precis

Ice House

One winter's day, Carlo Gatti selling coffee and waffles at his kiosk near Blackfriar's Bridge, sees an Italian organ-grinder beating his tiny assistant. It reminds Carlo of the dreadful beating he received as a boy - the reason why he ran away from his native village, Dongio, across the Alps 600 miles to Paris to his father in Les Halles in Paris - and why indeed he is here in London.

Closing up the kiosk, Carlo begins his walk back to Holborn, when he sees a pile of rags in the gutter. It is the Italian child, starved and unconscious. He carries him back to his lodgings where he lives with his wife and children, Stephano and Rosa. The child, about six, only knows his name as Ragazzo - boy. He has no memory of where he comes from, but he speaks an Italian dialect. Carlo takes him in as a servant.

The Gatti family live above a shop where artificial flowers are made. Ragazzo meets the women who work there and little Carrie Pye, the daughter of one of the workers.

One day he and Stephano go out with Carlo and his men collecting ice from the Regent's Canal. On return Stephano falls ill and dies in a few days. Ragazzo is drawn closer into the family, and this makes him long to know who he is and where he comes from.

On the night of the funeral, another immigrant, Battista Bolla appears. He is a trained chocolatier. Together he and Carlo set up a chocolate-making business and the family move to Holborn Hill. Carrie comes with them.

Ragazzo begins to learn the back-breaking business of making chocolate by hand. Later a mixing machine is introduced and Carlo submits a model of this for the Great Exhibition. He is at the Exhibition on one of the days, Queen Victoria makes a visit.

Hearing of Carlo's increasing success in London, his two brothers from Paris, decide to come over to seek their fortune. The arrival of these rather superior people cast doubt on Ragazzo's relationship with Rosa and the rest of the family. He is sent to work as a shop boy at Hungerford Hall.

In 1854, a Panorama of the Duke of Wellington's Funeral catches fire at the Hall. Carlo's shop is in danger. Ragazzo runs to Holborn to call Carlo and his men, who help the newly formed Fire Service to save the building.

A year later, Hungerford Market is rebuilt and Carlo has established a new cafe and introduced the penny ice cream to the public for the first time. Ragazzo works as a waiter at the café, until Carlo decides it is he who will introduce the penny ice on the streets of London. He has many adventures and is attacked by a gang of boys.

For several summers he sells ice cream in the Strand. Here he meets a school boy, Tom Crampton, from King's College who tells him about his school. One day Tom invites him to tea and Ragazzo sees the wealth and luxury in which Tom lives.

Back in the cafe, Ragazzo develops ambitions to be a confectioner. Just as he is to ask Carlo for training, Carlo announces a new business venture - the Norwegian Ice Trade. He will import ice from Norway and sell it in London.

Insisting that this is where the big opportunities lie, Carlo appoints Ragazzo as an assistant to one of the deliverymen, to learn the business from the grass roots. He works in the West End. Once again he is pestered by a gang of boys. They involve him in a theft. On the way to the Police Station, he escapes, runs down to the docks and stows away on a Norwegian barque.

In Carlo's interview with the Police about the theft, it is revealed that Ragazzo has a birthmark. A waiter, newly arrived from the Ticino, tells the story of a little boy, Luigi Derighetti, who was stolen from his village, years ago. The Derighettis are related to the Gattis.

The same morning, Ragazzo is discovered on the ship. The Captain takes pity on him and allows him to work his passage. As 'last on', he is made cook and greatly endears himself to the crew.

For a year he serves on the Grimsby run, returning in the winter to Norway, where like other sailors he is employed in the ice business - ploughing the lakes, cutting the ice into blocks and storing it for the spring sailings.

The following autumn the ship returns to London. Ragazzo is recognised by the Weighmaster, Luke Corazza, who tells him his innocence had been proved and that Carlo has important news.

Ragazzo goes to find Carlo. He is in a new restaurant in the Strand. Carlo immediately wants to cheek his identity. A great family party is held in honour of Luigi Derighetti. Carlo is anxious to advance Luigi in the family business. Ragazzo still wants to be a confectioner.

That night he goes with his cousins to Gatti's new Music Hall. A very pretty girl sings an Irish air. He discovers she is his childhood friend, Carrie Pye. He is confused and troubled by his new identity. Who is he, Luigi or Ragazzo? And where does belong? It comes to him that London is his home. He is Ragazzo and always will be. He will be a confectioner and, we suppose, he will marry Carrie.

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