“It’s four hundred, if Merishall takes it,” said Rogers, with dire conviction.
“Not for me,” said Grim, beaming cheerfully around; “I’m all right. I’ll tell Merishall that the door was locked; but as for you five idiots, who oughtn’t to be here at all—well! What the dickens did you want to call old Toddy all those fancy names for, you silly cuckoos?”
“Oh, look here, Grim, you artful bounder,” shouted Poulett, bitterly, “you’ve got us into this mess. Why didn’t you say Todd was behind those back benches?”
“Yes, why?” shouted the rest of the raging fags. “We’ll scrag you for this, darling. Cuckoos are we? Scrag him—put him in the scrum.”
W.E. Grim had a very bad five minutes, but when he crawled out of the scrum, hot, damaged, and dusty, he said viciously—
“I hope Merishall gives you a thou., you beastly cads. You’ve mucked up my afternoon, and I’m hanged if I don’t tell Lancaster.”
Ten minutes after roll-call the janitor let them out, and shortly afterwards a wretched procession of five emerged from Merishall’s room with two hundred lines from Virgil hanging over each head for a missed call-over without excuse. Grim worked an artistic revenge on his scrummagers by calling personally the next half-holiday to inquire if they would prefer to analyze a green salt or to play a six-a-side against Merishall’s lot. In every instance a Virgil hurtled towards his head. Having done his duty to his friends, he left them to pious AEneas and the slope of Avernus, whilst he got another salt from the science-master, and, with Gus, possessed the laboratory in peace.
ACTON’S TRUMP CARD
On the Saturday before we should go home Acton was due at Aldershot, and would return the same night, as the fellows hoped, with his laurels thick upon him. Bourne and Vercoe were staying at school a week later than we, for the rackets did not come off until our holidays had commenced. Toby had begged for this almost with tears in his eyes, for he had a mortal dread of the relaxing process of a week at home.
“You’d have no ’ands, Mr. Bourne, no spring, no eyes, when you toed the mark at Kensington. I’ll send you fit if I have you here.”
So Vercoe and Phil agreed to stay.
And now Acton determined to put into operation his long-thought-of scheme for the paying off of the score against Phil. It was subtle, and founded on a perfect knowledge of Bourne’s character, and a perfect disregard of the consequences to any one—even including himself. Acton would have willingly martyred himself, if he could have inflicted a little of the torments on Bourne too.