“I see,” said I, warmly, “and I will sink the rules and all the rest, and trust to a little rough justice being done on an arrant scamp.”
“Thanks,” said Phil. “With you as second and a good cause, I ought to teach Acton a little genuine lesson.”
“I’d rather trust in a good straight left.”
“All right, then. I’ll see Acton now, and bring him to the point.”
“Do, and let me have the result.”
Phil swung off in that cool, level-headed fashion which is peculiarly his own. He had thought the matter out thoroughly in that five minutes’ brown study, and now that he had put his hand to the plough he would not look back. I liked the set shoulders and his even step down the corridor. Surely something must reach Acton now! He walked down the street, turned in at Biffen’s yard, and mounted up to Acton’s room. He knocked firmly on the partly open door, and when he heard Acton’s “Come in,” walked solidly in.
Acton smiled amiably when he saw his visitor, and, with his half-foreign politeness, drew out a chair.
“No, thanks,” said Phil, icily; “but, if you’ve no objection, I’d like to close your door. May I?”
“By all means.”
“My opinion of you, Acton——”
“Why trouble about that, Bourne; I know it.”.
——“is that you’re an unmitigated cad.”
“Gently, friend, gently,” said Acton, half getting up.
“You, by your foul play, have disfigured poor Aspinall for life——”
“Bourne, you’re a monomaniac on that subject. I’ve had the pleasure of telling you once before that you were a liar.”
“And you did not get your ‘footer’ cap for it, which seems such a paltry punishment for so villainous a crime.”
“That is stale, stale,” said Acton, coolly.
“You entice my brother to London, which means expulsion for him if it is found out by Dr. Moore.”
“I believe that’s the rule.”
“The expulsion of Jack would bring disgrace on an honest name in the school and give pain to an honest gentleman——”
“The pity o’ ’t,” said Acton, with a sneer.
“And so, since you, by a kind of malicious fate, seem to escape all proper punishment——”
“You should be a parson, Bourne.”
“I’m going to try to give you your deserts myself.”
“An avenging angel. Oh, ye gods!”
“Do you mind turning out at the old milling ground at seven sharp to-morrow morning?”
“The mornings are chilly,” said Acton, with a snigger. “Besides, I don’t really see what pressing obligation I’m under to turn out at that time for the poor pleasure of knocking you down.”
“I never thought you were a coward.”
“But we must bring you to book somehow. Will you fight—now?”
Before he had time to avoid the blow Phil had struck him lightly on the face. For one half second a veritable devil peeped out of Acton’s eyes as he sprung at Phil. But Phil quickly backed, and said coolly, “No—no, sir! Let us do the thing decently and in order. You can try to do all you wish to-morrow morning very much at your ease. I apologize for striking you in your own room, but necessity, you know——”