“There’s no telling, old man. But if they get moderate luck they’ll be waltzing about in the final.”
“That’s absolute blazing idiocy!” said Todd, knocking over more chessmen in his astonishment.
“All right, Gus. To talk absolute blazing idiocy is my usual habit, of course. They may carry off the final even, but that, perhaps, is a tall order.”
Todd nursed his astonishment for a full five minutes, whistling occasionally, as at some very fantastic idea. At last he said more seriously: “Aren’t you now, Jim, really pulling my leg?”
“No, honour bright! Biffen’s are really eye-openers.”
Gus said with infinite slyness: “Look here, I’ll bet you evens Biffen’s don’t pull off the final.”
“Oh, that is rot, Gus, to talk about betting, for you can’t pay if you lose.”
Gus had not too much sensitiveness in his character, but this unmeant insult stung him.
“You’ve no right to say that. I’ve paid all I’ve ever betted with you.”
Cotton considered heavily in his own mind for a moment. “That is almost true, but—”
“Well, what do you mean—” began Todd, in a paddy.
“All right,” said Cotton; “shut up, confound you! I’ll take you.”
“Three quid Biffen’s are not cock-house at ‘footer.’”
“Done,” said Cotton, unwillingly pulling out his note-book; “and straight, Todd, I shall expect you to pay if you lose.”
“Oh, shut up, Cotton, you cad! I shall pay if I lose, man. What do you want to keep on insulting me like that for?”
“Steady, Gus. You’ll have Taylor up if you howl like that. I meant nothing.”
“Nothing!” said Gus in a fury, seeking for something particularly sweet to say to his patron. “I jolly well hope, then, that if our house should meet ’em in the rounds you will do your little best to put a stopper on their career. Don’t, for the sake of pulling off your bet, present ’em with a few goals. You ‘keep’ for our house, you know.”
“Oh, dash it all, Todd,” said Cotton, in a white rage, “you are a bounder! Think I’d sell my side?” he demanded furiously.
“Ah!” said Gus, delighted at having got through Cotton’s skin. “You don’t stomach insults any more than I do. Then why do you ladle them out so jolly freely to me?”
“That was a particularly low one,” said Cotton angrily; “and anyway, you avaricious beggar, you’ve got thundering good terms, for it is hardly likely that Biffen’s can really be cock-house. There’s Corker’s house, with Bourne and Hodgson and a few more good men. You’re a sight more likely to see my three sovs, that I am yours.”
“I hope so,” said Gus, with some relief at the anticipation of this pleasant prospect.
Then the anger of the two simmered down, each having given and received some very choice compliments, and as these little breezes were usual between the two, ten minutes afterwards they were amiably entertaining each other. Cotton was putting up a pair of dumb-bells three hundred times, and his crony was counting and criticising his form. The Perry Exhibition did not enter Todd’s head, but his bet—“such a gilt-edged one,” he chuckled—was never once out of it. And Todd’s bet had some momentous consequences for him, too.