“Perhaps he may. Anyhow, something may turn up between now and the last match—we’ll hope so, anyhow; and until the last cap is given away the fellows generally won’t spot your little game.”
“’Tis only putting off the evil day, Carr,” said Phil, discontentedly.
“A good day to put off.”
Thus, when Hodgson was given the first cap, there was the general comment that he was pretty sure to annex a cap sooner or later, and might as well have it soon. Acton’s turn—so said the school would come later, though Biffen’s house sneered. “Of course, Hodgson is in the Sixth. What else but a Sixth Form fellow is wanted in a footer eleven?”
Sharpe’s house secured the next two caps, and Biffen’s groaned aloud. “Whatever is old Phil about? One might think he was blind in his right eye and straddled in his left. We’ll send him a pair of gig lamps, and then perhaps he may discover Acton—Acton, of Biffen’s.”
The weeks went by, and after a spirited display by Chalmers against the Emeriti, he was given his cap, and for the first time since Biffen’s was a house they had a man in the eleven. But they gasped as Chalmers came out of the pavilion with his blue and silver cap on his curls. “That ass Bourne found the house at last, and then he goes and carefully spots the wrong man. Whatever is the matter with him? To pick Chalmers before Acton! Rot!”
Over tea that night Biffen’s bubbled and choked, and the other houses began to take a lively interest in the next distribution, for this constant passing of Acton was becoming exciting. But still—and I was glad to see it—the school had faith in Phil; they counted on justice being done, as it were, in the last laps. No one mentioned a word to him about the intense curiosity and even anxiety that his odd bestowal of caps had excited amongst them, for Phil has that way with him that can shut up a fellow quicker than you can snap a knife if that fellow is travelling out of bounds.
However, when Place, of Merishall’s, came out of the pavilion a full-blown member of the school eleven there was a scene. The whole body of fellows now thought that the comedy was pretty nearly becoming a tragedy, and they showed their feelings unmistakably. Place was cheered by Merishall’s, but not overwhelmingly, and from the other houses there was an ominous silence. Place, as he trotted out, looked rather puzzled, and a bit undecided how to take his odd reception, and glanced rather helplessly round at the sea of faces all turned anxiously towards him. There would be pretty nearly seven hundred fellows round the pavilion, for there was no end of excitement.
“Keep up your pecker, Place! You’re all right, anyhow!” shouted some one.
The other members came out one by one, and were cheered to the echo, and at last Phil came out with Hodgson. He was rather pale, but had his back very straight. There was a dead silence, and, for the first time since he had been captain, Phil walked down the steps without a friendly cheer. I think even now the old school behaved itself very well—the fellows were not behind the scenes, and didn’t see more than was before their eyes, but there was not a single word thrown out at Phil. Acton came out with Worcester, and the pity was that he didn’t deserve the cheers he got.