As for his bet with Cotton about cock-house, why, he had, when he saw those goals put on at the last moment, felt a cold shiver run down his back. He had crawled off the Acres a sick and sorry and miserable wretch. Cotton had, being rather riled at his chum’s temper for the last month, hinted, in unmistakable terms, that the debt was to be paid on return after holidays. Todd contemplated the ravishing prospect of the future with unmixed feelings. Between the upper and nether millstones of the lost Exhibition and the lost bet he had been crashed, annihilated!
When he had shut the study door, in sheer despair of spirit, he laid his head on the table and—Well, did he blub? All I know is, the Rev. E. Taylor knocked at the door once, twice, thrice, and Todd heard him not. The house master came in and surveyed the bowed form of poor Gus with a good-natured smile, tempered with some scorn. He took the liberty of loudly poking Gus’s decaying fire, whereat the young gentleman sprang up instanter.
“I knocked, Todd, but I suppose you were thinking too deeply to hear me.”
“Sorry, sir,” said Gus, hurriedly getting the master a chair, “and, as a matter of fact, I was thinking.”
“What an awful ass I’ve been, sir!” “I don’t know quite about the ass, but you’ve certainly not been an epitome of all that’s wise this term. It was on that very subject that I came here to have a word with you before we go for the holidays.”
Gus looked blankly into the grate.
“This exhibition of yours, Todd, in the examination is just the answer you might expect to the problem you’ve set yourself. ’How can I get something of value by doing nothing for it?’ I must say... etc.” Taylor spoke very much to the point to Todd for about half an hour, taking the ribs out of Gus’s conceit one by one, until he felt very much like a damp, damaged gamp, and about as helpless. One by one he took him through the catalogue of the aimless, stupid, footling performances in the term, and Gus blankly wondered how the dickens Taylor knew quite so much of his doings, He felt that the house master was not a bad imitation of Corker on a flaying expedition. I must say that Taylor’s performance was a considerable trifle above the average “beak’s wigging,” but the sting of his discourse was in the tail. “Now, Todd, would you like me to ask Dr. Moore to transfer you to some other house, where your very intimate friends will not absorb so much of your time?”
Todd blushed purple at this very broad hint.
“I’d rather stay where I am; I am not quite an incapable, sir.”
“No; I don’t think you are—not quite. Dr. Moore, however, is somewhat out of patience with you, and proposes drastic measures.”
“Home?” inquired Todd, with gloomy conviction.
“Yes,” said the house master. “Dr. Moore has written your father. But you are coming back next term, when you will have the chance of showing that that awful performance in the Exhibition is not your true form. I hope you’ll take it.”