English Literature

Full-Back Foster by Ralph Henry Barbour

Full-Back Foster by Ralph Henry Barbour


His name was Myron Warrenton Foster, and he came from Port Foster, Delaware. In age he was seventeen, but he looked more. He was large for his years, but, since he was well proportioned, the fact was not immediately apparent. What did strike you at once were good looks, good health and an air of well-being. The pleasing impression made by the boy’s features was, however, somewhat marred by an expression of self-satisfaction, and it may be that the straight, well-knit figure carried itself with an air of surety that was almost complacent. So, at least, thought one who witnessed Myron’s descent from the New York train that September afternoon.

“There’s a promising-looking chap,” said Jud Mellen, “but he somehow gives you the impression that he’s bought Warne and has come down to look the town over.”


Harry Cater laughed as he picked his trunk check from a handful of coins. “Lots of ’em look that way when they first arrive, Jud. I’m not sure you didn’t yourself,” he added slyly.

“If I did, I soon got over it.” The football captain smiled drily, his gaze following the subject of their remarks. “Just as I suspected,” he continued. “It’s a taxi for his. Four blocks is too far for the poor frail lad.”

“Oh, come, Jud, be fair. Maybe he doesn’t know whether the school’s four blocks or forty. Besides, he’s much too beautifully got up to tramp it. He might get dust on that corking suit of his.”

“It is rather a good-looking outfit, and that’s a fact. Maybe if I was dolled up like that I’d want to ride, too. Well, come on, Katie, and let’s get up there. Practice is at three, and you’ve got only about forty minutes to find yourself in.”

Harry Cater, or “Katie,” as he was known at Parkinson School, had been more charitable than correct in assuming that the new boy was uncertain of the distance between station and school, for the catalogue had definitely said four blocks. But had the distance been two short blocks instead of four long ones it is unlikely that Myron Foster would have walked. Not that he had anything against walking; he recognised it as a[3] healthful and beneficial form of exercise, as well as a pleasant occupation under some circumstances; but he was used to patronising automobiles when it was necessary to get from one place to another. At home there were two cars usually at his service, and when he was away from home a taxi-cab served as well. He couldn’t remember when walking had been a necessity, for prior to the autos there had been carriages, and before the carriages—which had included a pony-cart for his especial use—there had been an English perambulator with easy springs and shining varnished leather top; and beyond that his memory didn’t go.

The vehicle that Myron found himself in brought a smile of amused disdain to his face. It was cheap and small and none too clean, and it made more noise as it whisked over the cobbles than a boiler works. However, when it crossed Adams Street and reached the asphalt it quieted down considerably and its occupant was able to obtain a rather more distinct impression of the little town that was to have the honour of being his place of residence for the ensuing nine months. He rather liked what he could see of it, especially when, having bumped across the trolley tracks on Main Street, he found himself in what was[4] evidently the residential part of Warne. The shops had given way to neat, sometimes rather showy, dwellings on his right, set behind picket fences or lilac hedges, the latter looking sere and frowsy after a hot summer. On his left was a quaint, century-old burying ground in which mossy slate slabs leaned precariously under the cool, deep shadows of giant elms and maples. The church beyond, with its unlovely square steeple, peered through the trees in friendly fashion at the newcomer. At the next intersection the boy caught a glimpse of the inscription “Washington Ave.” on a signboard, and in the next moment had his first view of the school. To his left the campus stretched for two long blocks, a level oblong of green turf intersected by gravel paths and shaded by linden trees. Beyond the campus the school buildings ran in a straight line, or, to be exact, five of them did; there were several others out of position, so to speak, among them that to which he was being whisked. From Maple Street the taxi bounded on two wheels around a corner into a gravelled avenue, past the little brick Administration Building, turned again by the gymnasium and a moment later brought up with a squeaking of brakes in front of Sohmer Hall.

Sohmer was the most recent addition to the[5] dormitories, and the most luxurious. Although it followed the architectural style of the others and, at first glance, looked quite as old and quite as New England, it nevertheless possessed modifications that stood for a convenience and comfort that the other dormitories lacked. The driver of the taxi, a sandy-haired, gum-chewing young man with the cheap air of a village “sport,” looked disdain as Myron pointed to the brown leather kit-bag and remarked carelessly: “You might just fetch that along.”

“Sure!” jeered the driver, pushing back a battered straw imitation of a Panama hat from his heated brow and grinning widely. “And maybe you’d like me to unpack it for you, kid, and hang up your things? I ain’t got nothing else to do, and a quarter’s a lot of money, and——”

“I haven’t asked you what I owed yet, have I?” said Myron. “If carrying that bag is worth another quarter why not carry it and get the money? I dare say I can scrape up a half somehow!”

“Oh, whyn’t you say so?” muttered the other. “How’d I know you was John D. Vanderbilt? Where’s it going?”

“Number 17, wherever that is. Second floor, I think.”


“Most of you guys,” continued the driver affably as he led the way up the slate stairway, “expects us to lug trunks and everything and don’t want to slip us anything extra. Nothing doing! I’m willing to be obliging, see, but I ain’t in business for my health, mister. Here you are, sir. Number 17, you said? Door’s unlocked. Gee, some room, ain’t it? What about your trunk, sir? Want me to fetch it for you?”

“No, it’s coming by express. That’s all, thanks. Here you are. There’s a quarter for the ride, a quarter for the bag and a quarter for a tip. All right?”

“Sure! You’re a real gentleman, mister. Say, any time you want a taxi or—or anything, see, you send for me. Name’s Eddie Moses. Telephone to Benton’s cigar store and they’ll give me the call.”

“All right, Eddie. All doors open out.”

“That so? Oh, all right. You can be sassy with me any time you like for a quarter!” And Mr. Eddie Moses, chuckling at his wit, took himself away, leaving Myron at leisure to look around his quarters.

Number 17 Sohmer consisted of two rooms, a good-sized square study and a sleeping room off it. The study windows—there were two of them—overlooked[7] the campus, although this afternoon, since the lindens still held their leaves, the view was restricted to so much of the campus as lay between the hall and the path that stretched from the gymnasium to the main gate on Washington Avenue. The bedroom also had a window with a similar outlook. This apartment was only large enough to hold the two single beds, the two chiffoniers and the two straight-backed chairs constituting its furnishing, and Myron soon turned back from the doorway and removed his gaze to the study again. There were, he decided, possibilities in the study. Of course he would get rid of the present junk, but it must serve until his furniture came from home, which ought to be in another three or four days. It had been his mother’s idea to ship the things from his grey and yellow room at Warrenton Hall. She thought Myron would be less homesick if surrounded by the familiar objects of home. Myron’s own idea had been to purchase a new outfit in Philadelphia, but when he had seen how set his mother had been on her plan he had not insisted. The only thing that troubled him now was that, recalling the number and generous proportions of the articles on the way, he feared the study would be far too small to hold them! Why, his couch alone would[8] take up almost all of the end of the room where the windows were! Well, he would just have to use what he could and store the other things somewhere: or send them home again.

He had tossed his hat on the stained table that occupied the centre of the study—in shape that hat was not unlike the one worn by Eddie Moses, but all similarity ended right there—and now he removed his jacket of steel-grey, serge-like material, rolled up the sleeves of a pale yellow silk shirt and passed into the bedroom to wash. It may be well to state in passing that Myron affected grey and yellow, both in his room furnishings and in his attire. It was a conceit of Mrs. Foster’s. She was fond of colour combinations and, could she have had her way, would have prescribed for every member of her household. But Myron was the only one who consented to be guided by her taste. He didn’t care a rap whether his wallpaper was grey with yellow stripes or purple with pink daisies, only, having been told that grey-and-yellow suited him wonderfully he accepted it as a fact, said that it “looked all right, he supposed,” and was soon a willing slave to the grey-and-yellow habit. Mrs. Foster’s attempt to persuade her husband to pin his taste to brown-and-lilac, however,[9] was a wretched failure. Mr. Foster snorted disgustedly and went right on buying green and magenta neckties and socks that made his wife shudder.

Having washed his hands and face and dried them on a handkerchief—a soft, pure-linen affair with a monogram worked in one corner in grey and yellow—Myron opened his kit-bag and unpacked, stowing the things neatly and systematically in one of the chiffoniers. He would, he reflected, get them to take the other chiffonier and the other bed out. As he was to occupy Number 17 alone there was no need of them. When the bag was unpacked and set in a corner of the closet he donned his jacket again and strolled to a window. The campus was livening up. Although the foliage hid the other buildings very effectually he could hear the patter of feet on gravel and steps, voices in shouts or laughter and, from somewhere, the tuning of a banjo. As he looked down, leaning from the sill, two lads came across the grass and paused a little further along under a window. They were in flannels, and one carried a racket. They tilted their heads and hailed:

“O Jimmy! Jimmy Lynde! He-e-ey, Jimmy! Jimmy-y-y!”


After a moment a voice answered from a neighbouring window: “Hello, Gus, you old rascal! ’Lo, Petey! How’s everything?”

“Lovely. Come and have a game. Channing’s over there, and he and Pete’ll play you and me. Huh? Oh, forget it! There’s oodles of time for that. All right, hustle along. We’ll go on over. Get a move on!”

The two waved and turned toward the gymnasium. Myron felt a trifle lonesome when they had gone, for it came to him that he was a stranger in a strange land. He wondered how long it would be before fellows stopped under his window and called to him. It probably didn’t take long to get acquainted, he decided, but still he sort of wished he knew at least one of his school-fellows as a starter. Perhaps, after all, it would have been nicer to have had a room-mate. Personally, he hadn’t cared much one way or the other, but his mother had exclaimed in horror at the idea of his sharing his room with a strange boy. “Why, you can’t tell what sort of a person he might be, Myron dear,” she had protested. “Of course we know that Parkinson is one of the nicest schools and that some of the very best people send their sons there, but nowadays it’s quite impossible to keep the wrong sort out of anywhere.[11] It would be awful if you found yourself with some dreadful low kind of boy.” So Myron had said, “Oh, all right, Mater,” and dismissed the notion. And maybe she was right, too, for it would be a frightful bore to have to live in such close quarters with some “roughneck.” On the whole he guessed he was better off alone, even if he did feel rather lonely for a few days.

He recalled the fact that he hadn’t yet registered at the Office, or wherever you did register, but he had until six to do that, and a glance at a handsome thin-case gold watch showed that the time was still short of three. But it was dull up here, and stuffy, too, and he guessed he’d go down and look the place over. As he turned from his window he became aware of the fact that the dormitory was no longer quiet. Doors opened and closed, feet shuffled on the stairs and there were sounds of talking and singing and whistling. It certainly sounded more cheerful, he thought. The taxi driver had closed the door behind him, and now Myron started across the study to open it. Maybe if it was open some one might see him and drop in. He put his hat back on the table, deciding not to go out just yet. As he reached his hand toward the doorknob there were sounds of heavy footsteps outside. Then something[12] thumped against the door, a voice muttered——

Myron pulled the portal open. Framed in the doorway stood a veritable giant of a boy, a battered valise in each hand, a ragged-edged stiff straw hat tilted far back from his perspiring countenance and a none too clean handkerchief dangling from inside a wilted collar.

“Atta boy!” said the stranger genially, and then, to Myron’s amazement, he piled into the study, fairly sweeping the other aside, dropped his bags with mighty thuds on the floor and mopped his broad face with the dangling handkerchief. “Geewhillikins, but that’s some tote, kiddo!” he observed with an all-encompassing grin. “I’m sweating like a horse!”

“It is warm,” replied Myron in a voice that was quite otherwise. “But haven’t you—er—made a mistake?”

“Watyer mean, mistake?” asked the other, puzzled.

“In the room. This is seventeen.”

“Sure! That’s all right. I just came from the Office. That Hoyt guy said seventeen. And, say, kiddo, it’s some swell dive, ain’t it? Guess you and I are lucky guys, all right, to get it, eh?”


Categories: English Literature

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