At the beginning of the term his father had told him that if he could make a good show in the Perry Exhibition there need not be any more grumbling about his tip. Gus came back to St. Amory’s hysterically anxious to cut out all competitors for the Perry, but the shackles of his old serfdom were still about him. When he showed signs of being restive to the old claims, and recommended Cotton to do his own classics and mathematics, Cotton coolly and calmly demanded repayment of sundry loans contracted of old. Todd had not the pluck to face a term of plain living and high thinking by paying his former patron all he owed him and exhausting all his present tip by so doing, but flabbily, though discontentedly, caved in, and became Cotton’s jackal as before.
Cotton was by no means as bad as his endearing name might make you think. He was a tall, heavy fellow, with a large, determined-looking face. He was wonderfully stupid in the schools, but was quite clever enough to know it. He had some good qualities. He was straight enough in all extra-school affairs, did not lie, nor fear any one; kept his word, and expected you to keep yours.
“You can’t beat Hodgson of the Sixth, Gus, so what is the good of sweating all the term? Hodgson’s got the deuce of a pull over you to start with.”
“I’m not frightened of Hodgson if you wouldn’t bother, Jim.”
“Can’t do without you, old cock. You’re just the fellow to lift my Latin and those filthy mathematics high enough out of the mud to keep the beaks from worrying me to death. I tried Philips for a week, but he did such weird screeds in the ‘unseens’ that Merishall smelt a rat, and was most particular attentive to me, but your leverage is just about my fighting weight.”
Gus had sniffed discontentedly at this dubious compliment; but Cotton had smiled stolidly, and continued to use Gus as his classical and mathematical hack. Besides, there was something about Gus’s easy-going lackadaisical temperament which exactly suited Cotton, and he felt for his grumbling jackal a friendliness apart from Gus’s usefulness to him.
This afternoon had been a fair sample of Todd’s usual half-holiday. Feeling no heart for any serious work for the Perry, he had spent it in reading half a worthless novel, and skimming through a magazine, and feeling muddled and discontented in consequence. He had the uneasy feeling that he was an arrant ass in thus fooling time away, but had not sufficient self-denial to seize upon a quiet afternoon for a little genuine work.
Cotton soon returned from his bath, and the two cronies spent about an hour in getting up the least modicum of their classics which would satisfy Merishall; and then they played chess, by which Gus was one florin richer. A third game was in progress, but Todd managed to tip over the board when he was “going to mate in five moves.” Cotton thereupon said he had had enough, but Gus avariciously tried to reconstruct the positions. He failed dismally, and Cotton laughed sweetly. Now Cotton’s laugh would almost make his chum’s hair curl, so he retorted pretty sweetly himself, “I say, Jim. I can’t get out of my head that awful hammering you fellows got this afternoon. Think Biffen’s lot likely to shape well in the House matches?”