There was one rule from which Dr. Moore never swerved a hair’s breadth. Compared to this particular law the stringency of the Old Game regulation for Thursday was lax indeed. He never had departed from it, and he never would depart from it. If any fellow took it into his head to slip out of his house after lights out at ten on any pretence whatever he was expelled. There was some legend in connection with this severity, what exactly none of us rightly knew, but according to the tale the escapade of two fellows years ago, when Corker was new to the place, had resulted in one of the fellows being shot. Twice had he expelled fellows while I was at school—Remington and Cunningham—and I cannot ever forget the old man’s deathlike face as he told them to go. Some fellows broke out and were not found out, for Corker wasn’t going to have any barred windows as in some places. Any one could break out any night he liked, but he knew what he might expect if he were caught. There was no help. Remington had been found out, and though there had been Remingtons in the school since Anne’s reign, Corker was inexorable. He was expelled.
In a word, Acton determined to go to London and to take young Bourne with him, and so risk certain expulsion for both, supposing they were discovered. He had no intention of being expelled, though; for he liked the life at St. Amory’s, where incense floated round him all day long, but he meant, when he had accomplished the ruin of Jack, to let Bourne senior know it. Acton gloated in advance over Phil’s anger, shame, and consternation, and—this was the cream of the joke—his utter inability to do anything except keep silence and chew the bitter cud of hopeless rage against him—the man to whom he would not give the footer cap. Acton never thought of Jack’s share in the matter at all, and yet he was genuinely fond of him; all he thought of was what would be Philip’s hopeless rage.
Phil, of course, could say nothing to Corker, for he knew it would be hopeless. And Acton knew that Phil’s pride could never bear the idea of Jack—a Bourne—being expelled from the old place. Therefore he would keep silence. I don’t think I used the wrong adjective when I said it was subtle. The only question was—could he so manage that Jack would go? And Acton for good reasons was pretty certain that he could.
Jack was staidly taking a turn up and down the pavement with Grim when, on passing by Biffen’s house, he heard a whistle from one of the windows, and, on looking up, he saw Acton.
“I want you, Bourne, for five minutes—if you can spare them.”
“Of course he can,” said Grim, sotto voce. “Aren’t you a monitor? Jack, my boy, Acton wants to knight you—or something. You’ll find his boots in the bottom cupboard, if you want to black ’em very much. I suppose, being only a common or garden fag, my feelings aren’t to be considered for a moment. When you were—for once—talking sensibly for a Corker fag, you are called away to——”