Jack certainly did not like this cavalier treatment, but found it rather a bore pottering about the yard, “looking at the beastly ducks;” but Acton was so profusely apologetic when he did come out that Jack generally smoothed his ruffled plumes and pedalled home at peace with himself and all the world.
“The fact is, Jack,” said Acton, “young Hill has arranged for me to have the stable for our practice, for old Hill himself was rather against it, and as he has a prejudice against St. Amory fellows generally, but especially when they’re of the Junior School—some of your tribe scuttled his punt for him on the moat, didn’t you?—I thought you would not mind humouring the man’s amiabilities. The Coon and he talk rot—sporting rot—and it would only bore you to listen to it.”
Jack said, “It does not matter in the least. I’d as soon look at the ducks as listen to Hill. It’s a bit infra dig., though, that he should object.”
As a matter of fact, young Hill received letters for Acton which dealt with many things, the burden of most of them being “betting,” and the other sweet things of the sporting shop. Acton was, as you will have seen, not the very green innocent who would come to much harm in this lovely form of diversion.
[Illustration: A LITTLE YELLOW, EAR-TORN DOG BUSTLED OUT OF SOME SHED.]
About a fortnight after the visits to the Lodestone had commenced, the Coon brought down with him a long-legged, thin-faced, horsey-looking individual, who introduced himself to Bourne as Raffles of Rotherhithe, and who laid himself out to be excessively friendly to Jack. He took, evidently, quite a professional interest in the sparring, and told Acton that “his left was quite a colourable imitation of the Coon’s.”
“Not colourable, anyhow,” said Acton, with a wink at Jack.
“What do you think, sir, of Alabama’s ’blind hook’?”
Jack, who had not the remotest idea what a “blind hook” was, said it “was simply stunning.”
“Exactly my idea, sir. I see you know above a bit about the noble art.”
Raffles, as he would have said in his own special slang, worked the “friendly lay” so well upon Jack, that that young gentleman was captured to the last gun; you can do an awful lot of execution by deferring to the opinion of a young man of sixteen, or thereabouts, as to the merit of relying exclusively on the left.
When the sparring was over, Raffles shuffled out with Jack into the yard and whistled. A little yellow, ear-torn dog bustled out of some shed and trotted demurely by Mr. Raffles’ right boot.
“See that dog, Mr. Bourne?”
“By the way, Raffles, how did you know my name was Bourne?” asked Jack.
“Mr. Acting mentioned that it was so. No offence, I hope, sir?”
“Oh no!” said Jack.
“Mr. Acting mentioned to me as how Warmint might amuse you.”
“Warmint! What the deuce is that?”