THE LAST CAP
While Acton was thus making such strenuous exertions to lift Biffen’s out of the mire, Bourne was finding out the whole unpainted beauty of the situation—as far as it concerned himself.
The experimental footer elevens were chosen in what, I believe, is the usual manner. The old members of the school eleven formed a committee, and chose fellows to play in the weekly matches, and if any one of them showed special talent he was, of course, retained, and by-and-by the captain gave him his school cap, and he was henceforth a full-blown member of the eleven, with a seat on the committee like any of the old gang.
There were left of the last year’s team five players—Bourne, Mivart, Vercoe, Baines, and Roberts. The final promotion of fellows into the eleven, however, rested with the captain alone, and when he considered any fellow good enough he signified the same by presenting him with the blue and silver cap of St. Amory.
The giving away of a cap had become quite a function. Whenever there was the rumour that some one was to have a cap after a match, pretty well the whole school swarmed round the pavilion, and when the new member came out in all the glory of his new blue and silver he got the cheers which his play or popularity deserved, and especially did the new member’s house distinguish themselves in the shouting.
Thus Bourne had six caps at his disposal, and since “Socker” had been introduced, the last cap was always given so that when the school played the last match—the Carthusians—the eleven would be complete.
Bourne saw at once the cloud which was rising on the horizon when, at the first committee meeting to choose the eleven against “The Cognoscenti” Mivart said, “Well, Bourne, we’ve got your partner for to-morrow ready made. I think we may put that new chap Acton down right off.”
“Rather,” said Vercoe. “He can’t be left out.”
“Best back we’ve seen for an age-barring Phil, of course,” said Baines.
“And the others we’ll have to fight over, as usual. My choice is Hodgson for centre.”
“Too lazy, Roberts. Mine is Chalmers.”
“Rot! He’s a winger.”
And so the selection of an eleven against the Cognoscenti went on in the usual old-fashioned style.
Bourne dropped into my study afterwards and said, gloomily; “On the whole, Carr, had I not better tell the fellows that they may elect Acton for our school fixtures, but he cannot have his cap? That will take the bull by the horns from the beginning.”
“By no means. The other fellows have nothing whatever to do with giving caps away; that is your business entirely. Besides, who knows? Acton may not care to play when he knows he cannot get his cap.”
“I’d be agreeably surprised if he didn’t. But that won’t be his little game. Take my word for it, he’ll turn out on every blessed occasion, play like a master of the game, and give us no end of trouble.”