“The pig bleeds,” said Acton, cheerfully. “You have him now, Bourne; he’s too sick to have an ounce of fight left in him. Time!”
The next round wasn’t a round really; it was a procession, with Bourne, as fresh as paint from his success, following up the other blubbing with rage, pain, and sickness. Before Acton called, the fellow dropped to the ground and howled dismally.
“Get your coat, Jack, and then come here. He’s done. Stand back, you others.”
Jack came back.
“Now, you pig, get up and apologize to this gentleman for having knocked him into the snow-heap. I suppose your pig’s eyes couldn’t see he was only half your size.” Acton got hold of the fellow by the collar and jerked him to his feet. “Apologize.”
The fellow would not understand; he snivelled obstinately, and struggled aimlessly in Acton’s grasp.
“Good,” said Acton, grimly. With his flat hand he gave the fellow a thundering cuff which sent him sprawling. Acton then caught him by the scruff of his neck and threw him headlong into the snow-heap.
“Come along, Bourne,” he said, with a smile. “You have fought a good fight this day, and no mistake. That fellow will have a fit the next and every time he sees the smallest St. Amory’s fag’s cap.”
“I say, Acton, you’re an awful brick to back me up like that.”
“Don’t mention it, Bourne. Come and have some tea with me, and I’ll pour oil into your wounds, or at any rate, I’ll paint ’em.”
So young Bourne had tea with Acton, and his host went out afterwards to Dann’s the chemist’s and brought back a camel’s-hair brush and some lotion. Thanks to this, Jack’s scars appeared as very honourable wounds indeed.
From that day Jack thought Acton the finest fellow in St. Amory’s.
“He did not spread-eagle that fool,” he said to himself, “but let me have the glory of pounding the ugly brute into jelly, and made me go in and win when I was ready to give in to the cad. Why did not Phil give him his cap? There’s something rotten somewhere.”
As for Acton, as I said before, he regarded this little incident as a treasure trove upon which he could draw almost unlimitedly in his campaign against Bourne. “I’ll strike at Bourne, senr., through his young brother. I’ll train him up in the way he should go, and when our unspeakable prig of a Philip sees what a beautiful article young Jack finally emerges, he’ll wish he’d left me alone. Jack, my boy, I’m sorry, but I’m going to make you a bad boy, just to give your elder brother something to think about. You’re going to become a terrible monster of iniquity, just to shock your reverend brother.”
Acton took not the smallest interest in the usual Easter Term games. Footer was only played occasionally, but there was one blessing, the fellows need not play the usual Thursday Old Game. As for cross-country running, paper chases, et hoc genus omne, Acton refused to have anything to do with them. “That sort,” he said to Dick Worcester, “isn’t in the same street with footer.”