“Well, I will not fail here. If you like I’ll give you my word of honour we shall not be caught, and, if by a miracle of ill-luck we should be, I shall see you through. I’ll take every iota of blame on my own shoulders. You’ll find yourself captain of the school one day yet.”
“If I were expelled, Acton,” said Jack, with intense conviction, “the pater would kill me first, and die himself afterwards; and as for Phil——”
“Jack,” said Acton, “I must see the business through myself. You can’t do it, I see. I must lose the L30.”
Jack got up and walked up and down the room in agony.
For five minutes Acton watched his wretched prey torn to pieces by his conflicting fears—his shame of leaving Acton in the lurch, and his dread of discovery.
“Acton,” said Jack at length, “I can’t leave you in the lurch. I’ll go with you to London.”
Acton clasped Jack’s hand, and said, “Jack, you are a brick. I can only say I thank you.” He had landed his fish, as he knew he would.
Half an hour afterwards Jack said, almost cheerfully, for Acton had been doing his best to smooth poor Bourne’s ruffled feathers—
“But how are we to go to town?”
“I’ve got a plan,” said Acton; “but I must turn it over in my mind first. If you’ll look in, young ’un, after tea, I’ll tell you how we do it. I’m going to see about it now. Once again, Jack, I thank you. You do stand by a fellow when he’s down on his luck.”
Acton and Jack went out—the monitor to make arrangements for the escapade, and Jack to Grim’s quarters, where he was due for tea, which he demolished with comparative cheerfulness, for Jack’s confidence in Acton was illimitable. After he had taken the jump he was not—is not now—the kind of boy to look back.
At six young Bourne left his friend Grim among a waste of empty teacups, plates, and jam-pots, and went to Acton’s room.
“I’ve arranged all,” said that worthy. “I’ve seen the proprietor of the hotel down at Bring, and he’s going to have a smart dog-cart and a smarter horse to do the dozen miles between here and Charing Cross ready for us at nine. He says we shall be rattled into town within the hour. So if we aren’t in time to spot Raffles we are down on our luck with a vengeance. Your room is on the ground floor, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” said Jack, “overlooking Corker’s flowerbeds.”
“Well, pull up the window after supper as quietly as you can, and slip into the garden. Then scoot through the field, and you’ll find me waiting for you in the hotel stables. You can pass the word to your chums in Corker’s that you aren’t going to be on show after supper, and then they won’t be routing you out.”
“My chums are mostly in Biffen’s,” said Jack. “Grim and Rogers, etc.”
“Good omen,” said Acton. “Leave your window so that you can easily shove it up when you come back, and leave your school cap behind, and bring a tweed instead. Got such an article?”