The Princess and Joe Potter

Publisher: DigiLibraries.com
ISBN: N/A
Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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CHAPTER I.

A RUINED MERCHANT.

"Hello, Joe Potter! What you doin' up in this part of the town?"

The boy thus addressed halted suddenly, looked around with what was very like an expression of fear on his face, and then, recognising the speaker, replied, in a tone of relief:

"Oh, it's you, is it, Plums?"

"Of course it's me. Who else did you think it was? Say, what you doin' 'round here? Who's tendin' for you now?"

"Nobody."

"It don't seem as though this was the time of day when you could afford to shut up shop."

"But that's what I have done."

"Got some 'portant business up here at the depot, eh?"

Joe shook his head mournfully, stepped back a few paces that he might lean against the building, and looked about him with a languid air, much as if there was no longer anything pleasing for him in life.

Plums, or to give him his full name, George H. Plummer, gazed at his friend in mild surprise.

Any other boy of Joe Potter's acquaintance would have been astonished at the great change which had come over him; but Plums was not given to excesses of any kind, save in the way of eating. That which would have excited an ordinary lad only served to arouse Plums in a mild degree, and perhaps it was this natural apathy which served to give Master Plummer such an accumulation of flesh. He was what might be called a very fat boy, and was never known to move with sufficient energy to reduce his weight.

Sim Jepson stated that Plums sold newspapers in the vicinity of the Grand Central Station because he lived only a couple of blocks away, and therefore had sufficient time to walk to his place of business during the forenoon.

"How he ever earns enough to pay for fillin' hisself up is more'n I can make out," Master Jepson had said, with an air of perplexity. "By the time he's sold ten papers, he's ate the profits off of twenty, an' acts like he was hungrier than when he begun."

As Plums waited for, rather than solicited, customers, he gazed in an indolent fashion at the dejected-looking friend, who might have served, as he stood leaning against the building on this particular June day, as a statue of misery.

Joe Potter was as thin as his friend was stout, and, ordinarily, as active as Plums was indolent. His listless bearing now served to arouse Master Plummer's curiosity as nothing else could have done.

"Business been good down your way?" he finally asked.

"It's mighty bad. I got stuck on a bunch of bananas, and lost thirty-two cents last week. Then oranges went down till you couldn't hardly see 'em, an' I bought a box when they was worth two dollars. It seems like as if every Italian in the city, what ain't blackin' boots, has started a fruit-stand, an' it's jest knocked the eye out of business."

"I shouldn't think you could afford to lay 'round up here if it is as bad as all that."

"It don't make any difference where I am now, 'cause I've busted; Plums, I've busted. Failed up yesterday, an' have got jest sixteen cents to my name."

"Busted!" Master Plummer exclaimed. "Why, you told me you had more'n seven dollars when you started that fruit-stand down on West Street."

"Seven dollars an' eighty-three cents was the figger, Plums, an' here's what's left of it."

Joe took from his pocket a handful of pennies, counting them slowly to assure himself he had made no mistake in the sum total....