The ghost of a smile flitted over Cotton’s lips as he said—
“The entire school, from the meanest fag up to Carr, was laughing at me, and, by Jove! Jim, your laugh was the loudest and longest.”
“It was your tips I was thinking of, and Corker’s frothing through your list of names,” said Cotton, apologetically.
“All right,” said Todd, acidly. “If you had left me alone I wouldn’t have wanted those tips, and as for my names, I did not christen myself. If you want half an hour to shake out your work roughly I’ll do it, but I can’t do more, Jim, honour bright.”
“I don’t want that!” said Cotton, angrily, gathering up his books.
“Am deucedly glad you don’t. And here, Jim, is the other half of the money. Since I’m not obliging you in any way, why should you me?”
“You’re logical, Todd, at any rate,” said Jim, with half a sneer.
“Didn’t know you could spot logic when you heard it, Cotton,” said Gus, with an equal amount of acid, and yet good-naturedly too.
“I suppose I clean you out?”
“You do. I’ve got a shilling to look at when you’ve taken up that heap.”
“Is that your last word?”
“It is, but there’s no need to quarrel—we’re as we were before I began to take your hire, Jim.”
“Not quite,” said Cotton, who was hit by Gus’s decision. “I’ll leave you to your odd shilling and your forsaken tips.”
He stumped off to his own room, and called Todd pet names till bedtime. What made Cotton so angry was that, deep down in his own mind, he knew that Gus was about to do a sensible and a manly thing, and just because he himself was going to suffer by it he had not moral courage enough to speak out openly his better mind.
But Gus, smiling at Cotton’s bad temper, took out his books, drew up a scheme for study, bolted his door, and commenced to work. He slacked off when the bell went half an hour before lights out, and spent the time left him in boring a hole in his solitary shilling. He then slipped it on his watch-guard, prepared boldly to face a term of ten weeks without a stiver.
RAFFLES OF ROTHERHITHE
Twice a week, on half-holidays, Acton and Bourne ran over to the farm, to find the Coon waiting for them in the stable, smoking an enormous cigar as usual, and reading sporting papers on the corn-chest. Young Hill, the farmer’s son, generally put in an appearance when the boxing was about over, and to Jack’s utter disgust, plainly showed that he would rather that Jack was anywhere else than with Acton when the gloves had been laid aside. He seemed to have some business with Acton concerning which he evidently did not want Jack to hear a single syllable.
Jack did not quite see at first that he was one too many after the boxing was over, and that Hill, at any rate, did not mean there should be a fourth to the deliberations of himself, Acton, and the Coon. Jack, however, soon tumbled that he was de trop, and the minute young Hill came in Jack would stalk solemnly and formally out of the stable and kick up his heels in the farmyard until such time as Acton should be ready for the run to school.