“Am I not coming out strong?” said Acton, laughing to himself, “when I set the very niggers a-struggling for the greater glory of Biffen’s—or is it Acton’s? Then, there’s that exhibition, which we must try to get for this double-superlative house. Raven must beat that Sixth prig Hodgson, the very bright particular star of Corker’s. Would two hours’ classics, on alternate nights, meet his case? He shall have ’em, bless him! He shall know what crops Horace grew on his little farm, and all the other rot which gains Perry Exhibitions. Hodgson may strong coffee and wet towel per noctem; but, with John Acton as coach, Raven shall upset the apple-cart of Theodore Hodgson. There’s Todd in for the Perry, too, I hear. Hodgson may be worth powder and shot, but I’m hanged if Raven need fear Cotton’s jackal! If only half of my plans come off, still that will put Philip Bourne in a tighter corner than he’s ever been in before. Therefore—en avant!”
COTTON AND HIS JACKAL
As I said before, the victory of the despised Biffenites over the Fifth Form eleven—a moderate one, it is true—caused quite a little breeze of surprise to circulate around the other houses, which had by process of time come to regard that slack house as hopeless in the fields or in the schools. Over all the tea-tables that afternoon the news was commented on with full details; how Chalmers had gained in deadliness just as much as he had lost in selfishness, and how Raven and Worcester had worked like horses, and mown down the opposition—“Fifth Form opposition!” said the fags, with a lift of the eyebrows—like grass, and as for Biffen’s new captain, well, if there was one player who could hold a candle to him it must be Phil Bourne, and he only.
In the Rev. E. Taylor’s house, Cotton senior, who answered to the name of “Jim” among his familiars, and was “Bully Cotton” to his enemies—every Amorian below the Fifth, and a good sprinkling elsewhere—and Augustus Vernon Robert Todd, who was “Gus” to every one, sat at tea together in Todd’s room. Cotton had been one of the slain that afternoon on the Acres, and was still in his footer clothes, plus a sweater, which almost came up to his ears. There was a bright fire in the grate, and though Todd’s room was not decorative compared with most of the other fellows’ dens, yet it was cheerful enough. Cotton had come back from the match hungry and a trifle bruised from a smart upset, only to find his own fire out, and preparations for tea invisible. Having uttered dire threats against his absent, erring fag, he moved into his friend’s room, and the two clubbed together their resources, and the result was a square meal, towards which Cotton contributed something like 19/20, A.V.R. Todd’s share being limited to the kettle, the water, and the fire. When Cotton had satisfied his footer appetite, he turned down his stocking and proceeded vigorously to anoint with embrocation his damaged leg, the pungent scent of the liniment being almost ornamental in its strength.