That day, after morning school, Biffen’s held a meeting, and thereat Acton was proposed captain by Worcester and seconded by Raven; and Biffen’s confirmed Worcester’s qualified opinion of their sense by electing him nem. con.
From that day Acton threw his heart and soul into the regeneration of Biffen’s. There did not pass an afternoon but that he turned out for footer, and coached, encouraged, bullied, stormed, praised each individual member of the team with the strictest impartiality and Spartan justice.
The smallest fault was dragged out into the light of day, and commented on with choice fulness, and any clever concerted piece of work got its due reward. Acton would stand no half-hearted play; he wanted the last ounce out of his men. The fellows stared a bit at first at his deadly earnestness, so unlike Dick’s disgusted resignation at their shortcomings; but they found the change refreshing on the whole, for they could stand a lot of bullying from a fellow like Acton, who never seemed to make a mistake, or to have an off-day, and who could give stones and a beating to the best man among them. They respected his skill, and buckled to the work in hand. In about a fortnight there was a suggestion of style about the moving of some of the fellows up the field. Worcester backed up Acton with whole-hearted enthusiasm, and Raven was lost in wonder at the forward movement. This backing Acton found rather useful, for Dick and Raven were as popular as any in St. Amory’s.
Some of the fellows were inclined to turn restive after about a fortnight, when the novelty of earnestness in football had worn off, but Acton’s demands were as inexorable as ever. Matters came to a head (probably, as I expect, to the new captain’s inward satisfaction) when his girding upset Chalmers—about the best forward of Biffen’s regenerated lot. There was to be a match with some of the Fifth for the Saturday, and Acton had arranged a preliminary canter the day before to test his attack. Chalmers was the winger, but on the day he was tremendously selfish, and stuck to the ball until he was robbed or knocked off it. Now, Acton loathed the “alone I did it” type of forward, and asked Chalmers pretty acidly what his inside man was for. This riled Chalmers considerably, for he had a large private opinion about his own play, and he said pretty hotly, “Mind your own business, Acton.”
Acton said very coolly, “I am going to do so. Please remember, Chalmers, this is not a one-horse show.”
“Seems distinctly like it, judging by the fellow who’s been doing all the talking for the last age.”
“Play the game, and don’t be an ass.”
“I object to being called an ass,” said Chalmers, in a white rage.
“Well, mule, then,” said Acton, cheerfully. “Anything to oblige you, Chalmers, bar your waltzing down the touch-line to perdition. You’re not a Bassett nor a Bell yet, you know.”