That night Bourne and I crossed over to Biffen’s, and waylaid Acton in his den. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t another room like his in the whole school. No end of swell pictures—foreign mostly; lovely little books, which, I believe, were foreign also; an etching of his own place up in Yorkshire; carpets, and rugs, and little statuettes—swagger through and through; a little too much so, I believe, for the rules, but Biffen evidently had not put his foot down. Acton was standing on the hearthrug with his back to the fire, and on seeing us he politely offered us chairs with the air of a gentleman and a something of grace, which was a trifle foreign.
I saw that Acton’s polite cordiality nettled Bourne more than a little, but he solemnly took a chair, and in his blunt, downright fashion, plunged headlong into the business.
“Only came to say a word or two, Acton, about Thursday’s match.”
“A very good one,” he remarked, with what Corker calls “detached interest.” “Aspinall’s accident was more than unfortunate.”
“The fact is,” said Bourne, bluntly, “neither Carr nor I believe it was an accident.”
“No? What was it, then? Every one else thought it was, though.”
“We know better. We know that you deliberately fouled him, and——”
Acton paled, and his eyes glittered viciously, though he said calmly, “That is a lie.”
“And,” continued Bourne, “though there is not a fellow even a respectable second to you at ‘footer,’ I shall not give you your cap as long as I am captain of the eleven. That is all I came to say.”
Acton said quite calmly (why was he so uncommonly cool, I asked myself?)—though his face was red and white alternately: “Then listen carefully to what I say. I particularly wanted to have my footer cap—why, does not concern any one but myself—and I don’t fancy losing it because a couple of fellows see something that a hundred others couldn’t see, for the sufficient reason that there wasn’t anything to see. I shall make no row about it; and, since you can dole out the caps to your own pet chums, and no one can stop you—do it! but I think you’ll regret it all the same. I’m not going to moan about it—that isn’t my way; but I really think you’ll regret it. That is all; though”—this with a mocking sneer—“why it requires two of you to come and insult a man in his own room I don’t understand.”
“I came to say that if you’d apologize to Aspinall things might straighten.”
“Might straighten! Oh, thanks!” he said, his face looking beastly venomous. “I think you’d better go, really.”
So we went, and I could not but feel that Bourne was right when he said on parting, “Our friend will make himself superbly disagreeable over this, take my word for it! But he won’t get into the eleven, and I won’t have a soul know that old Aspinall’s scar is the work of a fellow in St. Amory’s, either. If they have to know, he must tell them himself.”