Ralph Henry Barbour
"Right End Emerson" presents school stories about football, adventure, and school boys by American novelist Ralph Henry Barbour, who wrote some famous works of sports fiction for boys in the early 1900s. Excerpt from "Right End Emerson" "A very gaudy red automobile whirled up the circling drive that led to the white-pillared portico of the big hotel at Pine Harbor, announced its approach with a wheezy groan of the horn and came to a sudden stop before the steps, a stop so disconcerting to the extreme right-hand occupant of the single seat that he narrowly escaped a head-on collision with the wind-shield."
A very gaudy red automobile whirled up the circling drive that led to the white-pillared portico of the big hotel at Pine Harbor, announced its approach with a wheezy groan of the horn and came to a sudden stop before the steps, a stop so disconcerting to the extreme right-hand occupant of the single seat that he narrowly escaped a head-on collision with the wind-shield. Taking advantage of the impetus that had unseated him, he flung his legs over the door and alighted on the well-kept gravel.
“This car may be sort of cranky when it comes to going, Mac,” he said, “but she sure can stop!”
“Well, she got you here,” chuckled Harley McLeod. “Give the kid a hand with the suit-cases, Jimmy. Pile out, Stan, and I’ll take Matilda around to the garage and give her some oats. You fellows register, and tell the guy at the desk that we want one room and no bath; tell him we had a bath last week. Don’t let him soak you, either. We’ve got four more days of this foreign travel before we get home, and the old sock’s mighty near empty. Something about twelve dollars for the crowd will be pretty near right.”
“Fine,” agreed the third member of the trio, sarcastically, viewing as he spoke the long front of the building and its general air of hauteur and expensiveness. “Twelve dollars apiece is likely to be closer to it. If you want economy, Mac, why the dickens do you pick out the swellest joints on the route?”
“Well,” answered McLeod, glancing rearward to see if the suit-cases had been wrested from their place, “we don’t seem to have much luck that way, and that’s a fact. Gee, that place last night pretty nigh ruined me! You do your best, anyway. All clear, Jimmy? Let go their heads! Back in a minute!” The small red car leaped forward impetuously, dashed down the drive to the road, swerved precipitately to the right and was lost to sight—if not to hearing—beyond a hedge. Stanley Hassell joined Jimmy Austen and together they followed a small uniformed youth, laden with three suit-cases, up the steps, across the wide porch and into the hotel.
It was Stanley who took the pen from the politely extended hand of the clerk and inscribed the names of his party on the register. After each name he added “N. Y. City.” This was less truthful than convenient, for although he and Harley McLeod lived in widely separate sections of that far-stretching metropolis, Jimmy hailed from Elizabeth, New Jersey. But, as Stanley had explained soon after the beginning of their two-weeks tour in Mac’s disguised flivver, “Elizabeth, N. J.” was too long to write. Besides, he added, it wouldn’t be long before Elizabeth became a part of New York, anyway, and there was no harm in anticipating.
“We’d like a room for three,” announced Stanley when he had put down the last dot. “With single beds, if possible, and without a bath. As reasonable a room as you have, please.”
The clerk, a carefully attired gentleman, frowned hopelessly. “I’m afraid we haven’t a room with three single beds,” he said, as he consulted a book. “I can give you a nice large room on the front of the house, however. That has a double bed in it, and I can have a cot put in also. I’m afraid that’s the best—”
“What’s the price of it?” interrupted Stanley anxiously.
“How long are you staying?”
“Eight dollars, in that case.”
“For the bunch?” inquired Jimmy eagerly.
The clerk shook his head and smiled again, this time commiseratingly. “Eight dollars a day apiece,” he said in his nicely modulated tones. “Our regular price, gentlemen.”
It was Stanley’s turn to do a little head-shaking. “Look here,” he confided earnestly, “you’ve got us wrong. We weren’t thinking of buying the room; we just want to rent it. Now, what about a room on the back of the house? Something about fifteen dollars for the three of us? We aren’t crazy about the view, anyway; besides, we couldn’t see much at night, could we? You just take another peep into the old book there and talk reasonable!”
The gentleman seemed inclined to be haughty for a moment, but Stanley’s smile was captivating and he went back to the book good-naturedly enough. “There’s a room on the third floor,” he announced at last. “It’s rather small, but perhaps it will do. The rate is sixteen-fifty.”
Stanley mused a moment, mentally dividing sixteen dollars and fifty cents by three, and then nodded. “All right,” he agreed. “Guess that’ll have to do.”
“Front! Show the gentlemen to 87!”
“Say,” broke in Jimmy with very evident anxiety, “that includes meals, doesn’t it?”
This time the clerk smiled quite humanly. “Certainly,” he replied. “We are on the American Plan.”
“Idiot!” breathed Stanley as they turned away.
“That’s all right,” replied Jimmy doggedly. “It’s just as well to be sure. Look at the time they held us up for seven dollars apiece and then we found we had to pay extra to eat!”
“That was in a city, you chump,” reminded Stanley. They bade the boy with the luggage wait a minute, but Harley McLeod came hurrying in just then and they began the ascent of the stairs. Harley showed a wrathful countenance.
“Those robbers want three dollars for the car!” he sputtered.
“Three dollars for the car?” echoed Jimmy. “Let ’em have it, I say. It’s worth five, maybe, but three dollars is three dollars, and the room’s costing us sixteen-fifty—”
“What!” exclaimed Harley, standing stock-still on the landing. “Sixteen dollars?”
“And fifty cents,” confirmed Jimmy cheerfully. “The fifty cents is for the food.”
Harley McLeod stared darkly at Stanley. “You’re a swell little bargainer, you are! Why, that’s five and a half apiece!”
“Well, what of it?” asked Stanley huffily. “We had to pay six and a half last night, didn’t we? Say, if you don’t like the way I do it, why don’t you do it yourself? If you think you can get better terms—”
“That includes the meals, Mac,” interrupted Jimmy soothingly. “I asked the Duke of Argyle, and he said so.”
“Oh, shut up,” begged Harley. “Gosh, these summer hotels are regular robber dens! All right, I’ve still got a few sous left, and when I’m broke I’ll borrow from Jimmy. Say, where is this room? On the roof?”
“Third floor, sir,” answered the bell-boy. “Nice and cool up here.”
“Ought to be if altitude has anything to do with temperature,” agreed Harley with sarcasm. “What time’s dinner, son?”
“Seven, sir, and runs to eight-thirty.”
“And it’s only a bit after five,” groaned Jimmy. “I’ll tell you one thing, fellows, right now, and that’s this: When the Earl of Buckminster down there charged me five-fifty he committed a fatal error. If I don’t eat five-fifty worth of food at dinner to-night you fellows can throw me in the ocean!”
“Not so horrid,” commented Stanley as they strode after the boy into the apartment. “Small, but sufficient, eh?”
“Do they think we’re going to sleep three in a bed?” demanded Harley, aghast.
“They’re going to put in a cot for you,” said Jimmy comfortingly.
“For me!” Harley viewed him coldly. “How do you attain that condition, Jimmy? What’s the matter with your sleeping on the cot?”
Jimmy shook his head. “I don’t rest well on the things,” he answered. “Maybe Stan had better—”
“We’ll draw lots,” said Stanley. He tossed a dime to the grinning bell-boy and then pulled three strands from the tattered fringe of the straw matting rug. “Short piece gets the cot. Help yourself, Mac.”
Stanley himself fell heir to the shortest straw and good-naturedly accepted his fate. “I’m the smallest, anyway,” he said. “Let’s wash up and look the place over. Any one for a swim?”
“I’d like a swim,” said Jimmy, “but it always gives me a fierce appetite, and I’m hungry enough right now to chew nails! Let’s sit on the porch and look wealthy. You don’t get so hungry if you sit still.”
Some two hours later the three boys were conducted across a large dining-room by an awe-inspiring head-waiter and seated at a table set for four. Jimmy looked approvingly at the crowded menu and passed it across to Harley. “Let’s not be choosey,” he suggested. “Let’s start right at the top and take things as they come.”
“Well, we can’t eat three kinds of soup,” said Harley.
“I could,” Jimmy replied. “But I’m going to have some clams first. Which soup is the fillingest?”
A boy of about their own age, which is to say seventeen or eighteen, began pouring water into the glasses, which led Jimmy to observe for the first time that the waiters were all masculine and youthful, though most of them were older than their own attendant. Just then Harley’s foot collided painfully with Jimmy’s ankle and the latter emitted a loud howl of anguish that attracted the disapproving curiosity of the neighboring diners.
“Shut up, you idiot!” whispered Stanley severely.
“That’s all right,” returned Jimmy aggrievedly, rubbing the injured ankle under the table, “but he pretty near killed me with that big hoof of his! Gee, Mac, what’s the prodigious conception?”
“Sorry,” muttered Harley, his eyes on the menu. “Do we all want clams? All right, clams for three, then.” This latter to the waiter at his elbow.
“Will you order your soup and fish now, please?” asked the waiter. “It saves time.”
“Sure. Let’s see. I’ll have the cream of celery. What’s yours, Stan?”
“Same, I guess.”
“Oxen tails for me,” said Jimmy. “And a large portion of that bluing fish.”
The waiter took himself off and Harley leaned toward Jimmy with a scowl. “Didn’t you see who that was, you dumb-bell?”
“See who what was?” asked Jimmy, glancing around blankly.
“The waiter, of course.”
“No, who was he? Charlie Chaplin?”
“Emerson, one of our fellows. You know him. A junior, I think.”
Jimmy shook his head. “I don’t know any Emerson, Mac. You mean the chap that’s waiting on us is an Alton fellow?”
“Sure! What did you think I kicked you for?”
“I thought you just wanted to show your love for me. What’s he doing here?”
“Waiting on table,” replied Stanley. “Haven’t you any eyes?”
“Yes, but I mean— Well, it seems a funny thing for an Alton fellow, doesn’t it?”
“Guess all these waiters are students,” returned Stanley. “College men, a lot of them. I suppose Emerson needs the money.”
“Well, yes, he would,” agreed Jimmy readily, “if he’s staying at this joint. I must have a look at him. I dare say I know him by sight. What’s he do?”
Harley shrugged. “Nothing much, I guess. Seems to me, though, he was playing on the second team last fall.”
Harley nodded, and Stanley confirmed him. “Yes, he’s been on the second a couple of years. You’ll remember him when you see him, Jimmy, for you must have played with him year before last.”
“Well, if he isn’t any faster on the field than he is here,” Jimmy grumbled, “it’s no wonder he’s never made the first. Do you fellows know him? I didn’t notice any warm hand-clasps!”
“Oh, I know him to nod to,” replied Harley, “but you don’t exactly expect to find your school fellows waiting on table in a public hotel. I dare say he doesn’t want to be recognized. Anyway, he didn’t speak to me.”
“Suppose he thought it was up to you to signal first,” said Jimmy. “After all, Mac, waiting in a summer hotel isn’t much different from waiting at college, and lots of corking chaps have done that. Here he is now, I guess. Making good time through a broken field, too! Just missed a tackle then! If that other fellow had got him it would have been good-by, clams! Yes, I’ve seen him lots of times, but I never knew his name.”
While the waiter placed the orders on the table Jimmy observed him. He was a well-made boy, slim yet muscular, a fact not entirely hidden by the ill-fitting waiter’s jacket that he wore. He had brown eyes, rather quiet seeming eyes, and brown hair that was very carefully brushed away from his forehead, and a fairly short nose. On the whole, Jimmy decided, Emerson, so far as his appearance went, was a credit to Alton Academy. That he had recognized the trio was very evident to the observer, and that he had no intention of making use of his slight acquaintance with Harley was equally evident. He spoke only when addressed and then carefully avoided the speaker’s eyes. Jimmy didn’t know whether Emerson felt any embarrassment, but he somehow wished that the impressive head waiter had seated them elsewhere. It was rather jarring to be served in this fashion by a chap you were likely to meet on the Green a week or so hence!
But Jimmy soon forgot that, for he was extremely hungry, the food was excellent, the waiter, in spite of having two other tables to serve, attended to their wants in quite professional fashion and the dinner passed off pleasantly and expeditiously. Toward the last of it Stanley presented a problem to them. “Say, fellows, how about tips?” he asked.
Harley frowned. “I was wondering,” he said. “Of course these fellows must take tips. I’ll bet the hotel doesn’t pay them much. But, just the same, it sort of goes against the grain, Stan.”
“Leave it till morning,” advised Jimmy. “Then we can slip a dollar under a plate when he isn’t looking.”
“A dollar!” ejaculated Harley. “Listen to the millionaire! It’s always been fifty cents for the bunch so far.”
“Oh, well, this is different,” replied Jimmy. “This guy’s one of us, you see. You can’t be a piker with one of your own School!”
And so the matter was left, and they moved from the dining-room rather ponderously and sighingly seated themselves in three rocking chairs on the broad veranda and, almost in silence, watched a huge orange-colored moon arise beyond the rim of the quiet ocean. The longest speech of the ensuing quarter of an hour was made by Jimmy. “Allowing fifty cents for breakfast and a dollar for my third of the bed to-night, I figure that I’ll be just twenty-five cents ahead of the house when we go our way!”
Later, having decided to play some pool as an aid to digestion, Jimmy paused as they passed through the lobby and fixed what he afterwards explained was an expression of triumphant gloat on the clerk behind the desk. This expression he continued until the clerk, happening to glance toward him, returned his look with one of mingled surprise and concern. Thereupon Jimmy ceased gloating and hurried after the others, who, meanwhile, had reached the billiard room just in time to secure the last pool table ahead of two disgruntled elderly plutocrats in dinner-jackets. These latter gentlemen, grumbling their displeasure, seated themselves, behind large and expensive cigars, on a leathern divan and watched the play of the trio with basilisk stares that interfered seriously with Stanley’s game. Harley and Jimmy refused to be intimidated, but after five games, all won by Harley, they acknowledged defeat and yielded the table to the besiegers. However, it was just on nine o’clock then, and, as Stanley wisely observed, they were paying good money for that room and so might as well make use of it. At ten they were fast asleep, as was befitting those who had traveled one hundred and eight miles since morning in Matilda!
Yet it was well after nine o’clock the next day when they descended for breakfast. They were unanimous in declaring regretfully that they were not really hungry, but they managed to do fairly well with cereal, eggs, steak, hot biscuits and coffee. Their waiter again attended to them in a manner that was beyond criticism, and Jimmy acknowledged a warm admiration for his skill and dexterity. “Some garsong, if you ask me,” said Jimmy. “Has everything under perfect control and hasn’t dropped a plate yet!”
“I feel a bit mean about not speaking to him,” said Stanley. “After all, he’s one of us, and we know it, and he knows we know it, and—”
“Yes, and he doesn’t want us to do anything of the sort,” interrupted Jimmy. “The chap’s incog. Let us—let us respect his wishes, eh?”
Harley looked relieved. “Jimmy’s right, I think. Besides, it isn’t as if we were personal friends. We only know him by sight, as you might say. Who’s got a dollar?”
Jimmy produced a crumpled bill with less hesitation than usual and curled it cunningly under his plate. Then they departed hurriedly before the waiter returned. Half an hour later Matilda jumped away on the next lap of her journey, honking asthmatically as she disappeared from sight.
Russell Emerson, clearing the dishes from the table lately occupied by his school-mates, discovered the crumpled dollar bill and frowned at it. Then the frown vanished and he shrugged his shoulders and slipped the money philosophically into his pocket.