“Oh!” said Jim, with sudden interest, “you’ve asked Todd, have you?”
“Of course. Gus seemed rather waxy that he should be called upon. One might almost fancy he hadn’t got the five shillings.”
“Todd evidently is a miserable miser,” said Jim, with a bitter smile at the thought of Gus’s insolvent condition. “He isn’t the same fellow he used to be.”
“Jove, no!” said Philips; “he’s come on no end this term. He’s an improvement on the old Gus.”
“Yes,” said Jim, angrily; “the beaks have got him into their nets. But he ought to subscribe to the Penfold, when he’s the biggest smug in Taylor’s.”
“And you ought too, Jim, since you’ve the biggest money-bags.”
“All right,” said Jim, “I’ll subscribe. ’Twill look better if we all subscribe.”
“You’re a funny ass, Cotton. I thought I was going to draw you blank. What’s the reason for your sudden change of mind?”
“I don’t want to be bracketed equal with Toddy.”
“That’s settled, then,” said Philips, who was puzzled at Jim’s sudden change of front. “And now let’s see to Merishall’s work for the morning.”
The subscriptions for a tablet in the great Penfold’s honour were not hard to obtain, the upper form fellows in Taylor’s dunning the rest of the house without mercy, and, to the great wonder of all, the foremost of the duns was James Cotton, Esq. The way he squeezed half-crowns out of the fags was reckoned little short of marvellous, and before the week was out every Taylor fellow had subscribed bar Gus. Jim’s exertions were rewarded by the office of secretary to the Penfold Fund.
“We’ll get a house list, Philips, and pin up a proper subscription list on the notice-board. The thing will look more ship-shape then. By the way, what was it the Penfold did? Is he dead?”
“You are a funny fellow, Cotton. Here you are sweating the half-crowns out of the fags and you don’t know why you’re doing it.”
“That is just what I do know,” said Jim, smiling serenely.
When the list was pinned up on the board, and opposite each fellow’s name appeared the half-crown or crown he had contributed, it made a brave show. Towards the end of the list opposite the name of Todd, A.V.R., there had occurred a dismal blank thoughtfully filled by secretary Cotton with a couple of beautifully even lines ruled in staring red ink. This vivid dash of colour on the white paper gave poor Gus quite an unsolicited advertisement, and since none of the other fellows knew of Gus’s circumstances, it practically put him in the pillory as a tight-fisted old screw. This result was exactly what Jim Cotton had in his mind when he fell in with the tablet scheme so enthusiastically. Pretty mean, wasn’t it?