“How did you get that, Jim?” said Gus, surveying the brawny limb with interest.
“Acton brought me down like a house, my boy.”
“Oh yes; but you’ve got to go down if he catches you in his swing.”
“You fellows must have played beautifully to let Biffen’s mob maul you to that extent.”
“Gus, my boy, instead of frowsing up here all the afternoon with your books, you should have been on the touch-line watching those Biffenites at their new tricks. Your opinion then would have a little avoirdupois. As it is, you Perry Exhibit, it is worth exactly nothing.”
“You’re deucedly classical to-night, Jim.”
“Oh, I’m sick of this forsaken match and all the compliments we’ve had over it. I’m going now to have a tub, and then we’ll get that Latin paper through, and, thirdly, I’ll have the chessmen out.”
“Sony, I can’t, Jim,” said Todd, discontentedly. “There is that beastly Perry Scholarship—I must really do something for that!”
“Thomas Rot, Esq.!” said Cotton. “Haven’t you been a-cramming and a-guzzling for that all this afternoon? You’ve a duty towards your chums, Toddy, so I tell you.”
“That’s all very well, Jim, for you, who are going to break some crammer’s heart, and then crawl into the Army through the Militia, but my pater wants me to do something in the Perry, I tell you.”
“Chess!” said Cotton, disregarding Todd’s bleat, and then, with a sly smile, he added, “Shilling a game, Gus, and you know you always pull off the odd one.”
“All right,” said Todd, swallowing the bait with forlorn eagerness; “I’ll have the board set out if you must come in.”
“Oh, I must!” said Cotton, with a half-sneer at Todd’s anxiety to pick up a small sum. “Clear the table, and we’ll make a snug evening of it.”
Todd’s method of clearing a table was novel, if not original. He carried it bodily into Cotton’s room, and then returned with his friend’s mahogany, which was undoubtedly more ornamental than his own.
Acton was absolutely right when he sneeringly called Gus “Cotton’s jackal.” Todd was exactly of the material which makes a good jackal, though he never became quite Jim Cotton’s toady. He was a sharp, selfish individual, good-looking in an aimless kind of way, with a slack, feeble mouth, and a wandering, indecisive glance. He had a quick, shallow cleverness, which could get up pretty easily enough of inexact knowledge to pass muster in the schools. Old Corker knew his capabilities to a hair, and would now and then, when Gus offered up some hazy, specious guess-work, blister him with a little biting sarcasm. Todd feared the Doctor as he feared no one else. Todd’s chief private moan was that he never had any money. His father was a rich man, but had some ideas which were rather rough on his weak-kneed son. He tipped poor Gus as though he were some thrifty hairdresser’s son, and Todd had to try to ruffle it with young Amorians on as many shillings as they had crowns. Not a lad who ever had naturally any large amount of self-respect, the little he had soon went, and he became, while still a fag, a hewer of wood and drawer of water to his better-tipped cronies. His destiny finished when, on his entry into the Fifth, Jim Cotton claimed him, and subsidized him as his man.