Acton went on his own way, serenely indifferent to his house, which would have made a god of him on the smallest provocation. He cheerfully ignored Bourne, and he had the art of never seeing Phil when they met, in school or out, though, of course, Phil minded this not at all. When the Carthusians were played, Acton spent the afternoon reading with Raven, whose exam, was now very near; and, whilst the two were grinding out all the absurd details of Horace and his patron, “and the poet’s little farm, and the other rot which gains Perry Exhibitions,” the shouts and cheers of the school down at the Acres came floating up the hill to their room.
The school lost their match with the Carthusians—the match which a good St. Amorian would rather win than any two others—and it was plain that Dick, though a useful fellow, could not bottle up the forwards in the Actonian style. This defeat was the last straw to break the back of the school’s patience.
It was customary, after the Carthusian match, for the footer captain to give his eleven a formal tea, Phil arranged the usual preliminaries, sick at heart, and wearily certain as to the result. Three put in an appearance—Vercoe, Baines, and Roberts—and in place of the burly forms of the rest of the St. Amory’s eleven, the sylph-like figures of their fags flitted to Phil’s hall of entertainment with curt little notes. Worcester and the rest “regretted they were unable to avail themselves of the captain’s invitation.”
The tea was not a success.
The school followed the plain lead of the eleven, and as Phil hurried along to chapel the next day no one hooked in with him, as had been done “the day before yesterday!” He was left severely alone.
In plain words, St Amory’s School consigned Phil Bourne to Coventry.
THANKS TO ACTON
After the Carthusian match there was but one topic, or to be strictly accurate, perhaps, two topics of interest in the school—who would be cock-house at footer and who would get the Perry Exhibition.
The rest of the houses knew that Biffen’s house was not now the unconsidered article it was once; that it wasn’t the door-mat upon which any one might wipe his feet before proceeding into the inner circles of the housers’ competition, and there was more than a little curiosity to see how far the “resurrected” house would mount.
But not a single soul dreamt that it would reach the final. The whole school gasped for a fortnight on end as Biffen’s annihilated Dover’s, Hargen’s, Sharpe’s, and Merishall’s seriatim, and at last faced Corker’s house in the final. This was a resurrected house with a vengeance! Corker’s had had a bye in the first round and had been drawn against rather rickety houses since, but they were generally fancied to pull off the final as usual, for Bourne was captain, and they had Hodgson and Roberts of the eleven as well. The wonderful progress of Biffen’s had thrown an awful lot of excitement into the game.