“I thought you were the only fellow who could show Hodgson anything.”
“No,” said Phil. “I never was as good as Hodgson. I always made a point of making him go all the way to win on principle, but he always had a pull more or less over me. You see, Hodgson is lazy, and he wanted some one to challenge the right to represent the school, or I don’t fancy he’d have put in enough good work to stand much chance against the Eton man. Therefore I stepped into the breach, and, by sweating him, have made Hodgson from a very fair boxer into a good one—good, but nothing super-excellent.”
“Then who’s been lying low all this time?”
“Acton?” said I, in utter astonishment. “Why, didn’t our dear Theodore dress him down once for losing his temper in the gym?”
“He did, my boy, and Acton repaid the compliment to-night—with interest. He opened our eyes for us. I’m telling the bare truth when I say that he simply played with Theodore, and at the third round he as good as knocked him out.”
I stared into the fire for a minute or two, thinking out this news.
“Eureka!” said I. “I’ve found it!”
“The reason Acton crops up here. He cannot forget an injury. Hodgson humbled him once, and so Acton must needs take away from Theodore his own peculiar pet ambition, which is to represent St. Amory’s at Aldershot in the Heavy.”
“I wish,” said Phil, gloomily, “Biffen’s Beauty’s schemes always worked out so well for the school’s honour. He’ll represent St. Amory’s without a doubt.”
“Is he so very good, then?”
“Super-excellent, old fellow! Prodigious!” said Phil, with genuine admiration. “We’ll all sleep with both ears on the pillow when the telegram comes from Aldershot. Such a left! He has a swinging, curly stroke which he uses after an artful little feint which would win the final by itself. Hodgson really seemed trying to catch quick-silver when he tried to get home on Acton. Where did Acton learn all this? The sergeant hasn’t got that artful mis-hit in his bag of tricks.”
“Don’t speculate on Acton’s doings or where he picks up what he knows. It’s too intricate.”
“What a pity one can’t go and shake his hand as one would like to do. He is a marvel—this dark horse,” said Phil, with genuine regret, as always when speaking of Acton.
“Our bete noir,” said I, without winking.
“You heathen,” said Phil, laughing. “That was almost a pun. But I’m afraid I’m a bit selfish in my joy about Acton. Since he’s a certainty, I can devote all my mighty mind to rackets. I don’t think there is a better pair in the place than Vercoe and self at present.”
“Oh, thou modest one!”
“‘Toby’ always finishes up ’When you and Mr. Vercoe goes to Queen’s Club, Mr. Bourne, I advise you, etc.’ So, ‘Toby’ evidently has no doubt who’s to go there.”