THE REGENERATION OF BIFFEN’S HOUSE
To say that Acton was upset by our visit and our conversation and Bourne’s ultimatum would be beside the mark; he was furious, and when he had cooled down somewhat, his anger settled into a long, steady stretch of hate towards us both, but especially towards Bourne. He simmered over many plans for getting “even” with him, and when he had finally mapped out a course he proceeded, as some one says, “diligently to ensue it;” for Acton was not of that kind to be “awkward” as occasion arose, but there was method in all his schemes.
It so happened that Worcester was captain of Biffen’s house, and also of Biffen’s “footer” team. My own opinion was that poor old Worcester would have given a lot to be out of such a house as Biffen’s, and I know he utterly despised himself for having in a moment of inexplicable weakness consented to be permanent lead to Biffen’s awful crowd on the Acres. He died a thousand deaths after each (usual) annihilation. Worcester and Acton had nothing in common, and, except that they were in the same house and form, they would not probably have come to nodding terms. Worcester, of course, looked up to the magnificent “footer” player as the average player looks up to the superlative. After the first game of the season, when Acton had turned out in all his glory, Dick had thereupon offered to resign his captaincy, even pressing, with perhaps suspicious eagerness, Acton’s acceptance of that barren honour. But Acton did not bite. Captains were supposed to turn out pretty well every day with their strings, and Acton was not the sort of fellow to have his hands tied in any way. So he had gently declined.
“No, old man. Wouldn’t dream of ousting you. You’ll get a good team out of Biffen’s yet. Plenty of raw material.”
“That’s just it,” said Worcester, naively; “it is so jolly raw.”
“Well, cook it, old man.”
“It only makes hash,” said Worcester, with a forlorn smile at his own joke.
But now Acton thought that the captaincy of Biffen’s might dovetail into his schemes for the upsetting of Bourne, and therefore Dick’s proposal was to be reconsidered. Thus it was that Worcester got a note from Acton asking him to breakfast.
Worcester came, and his eyes visibly brightened when he spotted Acton’s table, for there was more than a little style about Acton’s catering, and Worcester had a weakness for the square meal. Acton’s fag, Grim, was busy with the kettle, and there was as reinforcement in Dick’s special honour, young Poulett, St. Amory’s champion egg-poacher, sustaining his big reputation in a large saucepan. Worcester sank into his chair with a sigh of satisfaction at sight of little Poulett; he was to be in clover, evidently.