The guard’s whistle went and Acton sprang in. “Good-bye.”
As the train moved, Grim said, “Three cheers for Acton!”
“Hip, hip, hurrah! Hip, hip, hurrah!”
“A groan for Bourne!” Acton smiled good naturedly to his henchmen. As he glided past he said to himself softly, “And yet I have not quite hoed all my row out either, Bourne. Wait, my friend, wait!”
[Illustration: AS THE TRAIN MOVED, GRIM SAID, “THREE CHEERS!”]
THE YOUNG BROTHER
When St. Amory’s reassembled after the holidays Acton found himself firmly established in the good graces of the fellows, and, indeed, he was not far from being the most popular fellow in the place, but poor Phil was looked coldly upon by those who had been his chiefest friends, and, by those who knew little of him, he passed for a jealous bounder. Acton played up to his cards in beautiful style, and acted the forgiving innocent splendidly; but Phil, who was only a very honest fellow, did not play anything to speak of. Those who gave him the cold shoulder once never had a second chance of showing it him, for Phil was no end proud; but he had still one or two friends, who condoned his passing of Acton for the “footer” cap on the ground of “insufficient information” thereon. Roberts and Baines and Vercoe were not a bad trio to have for friends either. Acton was now in the Sixth, and a monitor.
His main idea was to keep Bourne in the bad books of the school until such time as he could direct their ill-favour into channels favourable to himself and unfavourable for Phil. A lucky chance seemed to open to him an easy method of striking at Bourne, and Acton almost hugged himself with joy at his windfall.
About a week after the holidays Acton had been skating on the Marsh, and as he was returning he came across Jack Bourne engaged in a desperate fight with a young yokel. There was a small crowd of loafers, who were delighted at this little turn up, and were loud in their advice to the fellow to give “the young swell a good hiding.”
This little crowd, as I said, caught Acton’s eye, and when he perceived that one of the fighters was a St. Amory fellow, he hurried up to see what was the little game.
Young Bourne was getting the worst of it. The yokel was a year or two older, was taller, and stones heavier. It was an unequal fight. Bourne was standing up to his man pluckily, and, thanks to the “agricultural” style of the clodhopper, was not taking nearly so much harm as he should have done. He was, however, pretty low down in the mouth, for there was not a friendly eye to encourage him, nor a friendly shout to back him up. On the contrary, the mob howled with delight as their man got “home,” and encouraged him: “Gow it, Dick! Knock the stuffin’ out of ’im!”
Acton had not been noticed, but he thrust himself into the mob, and said, “Stand back, you little beggars, or I’ll massacre the lot of you. Give the boy room, you filthy pigs!” The “pigs” scuttled back, and for the first time Bourne really had fair play.