In the evening, while Jim was moodily planted before a small pile of books, he received a visitor, no less a personage than Philips, Jim’s occasional hack.
“Well,” said Jim, surlily, “what do you want?”
“I’ll tell you in a minute, old boy. Can I have a chair?”
“Can’t you see I’m busy?” said Cotton, unamiably.
“You look like it, more or less, certainly.”
“Well, I’ve no time for any oratory to-night, Philips, and that is all about it.”
“I’ll give you a leg-up for Merishall in the morning if you’re decently civil.”
“All right, then,” said Jim, thawing instantly. “What’s the matter?”
“Ever heard of Penfold?”
“No; what was the animal?”
“Well, he was the brightest and most particular star that Taylor ever had in his house; that is, until you pitched your tent among us.”
“Don’t rot, Philips. What has the Penfold done?”
“Made a chemical discovery which stamps him as one of the first half-dozen chemists in the world.”
“Oh,” said Jim, wearily; “most interestin’, very.”
“Here only ten years ago, and, ’pon honour, this was his very den.”
“Have noticed the place to be stuffy,” said Jim, with no enthusiasm, “and now that is explained. Suppose he lived with his nose in books and test-tubes?”
“And,” said Philips, ignoring Jim’s heavy wit, “the Fifth and Sixth Form fellows in Taylor’s think we ought to take notice of it somehow.”
“Now, I wouldn’t,” said Cotton, critically; “I’d keep a thing like that dark.”
“If he’d pulled stroke at Cambridge, or anything like that——”
“We thought a tablet on the wall, or something of that sort, would meet the case. Corker’s dining-hall is lined with ’em.”
“Get to the point,” said Jim, grimly.
“A sub. of five shillings among seniors, and half a crown among the kids, would meet the case, I think.”
“And did you think I’d spring a crown for a marble tablet to a mug like Penfold?”
“Rather,” said Philips.
“Well,” said Jim, “life would be worth living here if it weren’t for the unearthly smugging, but as it is St. Amory’s is about as lively as a workhouse. I’m not forking out on this occasion. Taylor’s smugs must do all that is necessary to be done.”
“Well,” said Philips, “all the other fellows have given in their names, bar you and Todd.”