1st. Arthur Raven, 672
2nd. Theodore Hodgson, 591 marks.
3rd. Augustus Vernon Robert Todd, 114 marks.”
Then out broke the usual uproar, “shivering the silence,” as some one says, “into clamour.” We all cheered for Raven, who scored a popular and unexpected victory, for why should a Fifth Form fellow beat one of the Sixth? Biffen’s crowd kept up the cheering until Corker rose again.
“I can heartily congratulate Raven on his success, for his classical knowledge was distinctly good. Hodgson I can also congratulate, for his papers too were good. As for Augustus Vernon Robert Todd”—we all yelled with laughter as Dr. Moore scrambled in hot haste through Todd’s awful list of names, but were again quiet when he dropped his eye-glasses from his eagle’s beak, a sure sign he was going to “savage” somebody—“as for his performance in this examination, I can only regard it as a very bad practical joke, or as his ballon d’essai for some kindergarten scholarship.”
Raven got up from his seat near the door. He was pale to the lips, but his voice was clear and unhesitating. “If you please, sir, may I say a word?”
“Eh, what?” said Corker. “Say a word? Oh, certainly.”
“I am very glad indeed to hear that I have won the Perry Exhibition. I know in my own mind that I could never have beaten my friend Hodgson if I had not had Acton’s help. I owe the winning of the Exhibition entirely to him, for he has read the whole of the classics with me and helped me in every way in his power. I cannot thank him enough for all he has done, but at least I owe him this open acknowledgment.”
Corker looked no end pleased, and turned round and beamed on Biffen, whose good-natured easy face shone with pleasure and delight.
“Biffen,” said good old Corker, audibly, “your house is fortunate in having Acton, and St. Amory such a good amateur coach in classics. Cock-house, too, bless me!”
And can you wonder that Biffen’s, frenzied with delight, carried Raven and Acton shoulder high through the gas-lit streets?
Whilst the Biffenites were thus shouting their way home, one unhappy youth hurried to his room feeling as though the moon had fallen out of heaven and crushed him—Todd. After that night when he had made the bet with Cotton, he had neither worked for the Perry nor yet left it alone, but loafed about with Cotton as usual, and piffled with the work for the Exhibition. As a last-lap spurt, he had, in the last week or so, desperately stuffed himself with cunning tips leading twistingly to nowhere. Never had any one faced a serious examination with such a rag-bag of tips as Todd, and the examination had found him out with a vengeance. As he slunk along to his quarters, Corker’s words were buzzing in his ears unendingly. “As for Augustus Vernon Robert Todd”—“ballon d’essai”—“Kindergarten!” Oh! it was a sickener, and how the fellows had laughed!