“That’s right, Worcester. That is the easiest chair. Got that last egg on the toast, Poulett? You’re a treasure, and so I’ll write your mamma. Tea or coffee, Dick? Coffee for Worcester, Grim, tea for me. Pass that cream to Worcester, and you’ve forgotten the knife for the pie. You’re a credit to Sharpe’s, Poulett; but remember that you’ve been poaching for Biffen’s footer captain. That’s something, anyhow. Don’t grin, Poulett; it’s bad form. Going? To Bourne’s, eh? I can recommend you, though it would be no recommendation to him. You can cut, too, Grim, and clear at 9.30. See the door catches.”
Grim scuttled after the renowned egg-poacher, and Worcester and Acton were left alone. When Worcester was fed, and had pushed back his chair, Acton broached the business to which the breakfast was the preliminary.
“Fact is, Worcester, I’ve been thinking how it is that Biffen’s is the slackest house in the place.”
“Oh! it’s got such a plucky reputation, you know. The kids weep when they’re put down for Biffen’s. Give a dog a bad name—”
“But why the bad name?”
“Dunno! Perhaps it’s Biffen. I think so, anyhow. At any rate, there’s not been a fellow from the house in the Lord’s eleven or in the footer eleven, and in the schools Biffen’s crowd always close the rear. By the way, how did you come among our rout?”
“I think mater knew Biffen; that’s the explanation.”
“Rather rough on you.”
“Don’t feel anything, really, Worcester.”
“Well, Biffen has got a diabolical knack of picking up all the loose ends of the school; all the impossible fellows gravitate here: why, look at our Dervishes!” (Dervish was the slang for foreigners at St. Amory’s.)
“We’ve certainly got more than our share of colour.”
“That’s Biffen’s all the world over,” said Dick, with intense heat; “you could match any colour between an interesting orange and a real jet black among our collection. Biffen simply can’t resist a nigger. He must have him. What they come to the place at all for licks me. Can’t the missionaries teach ’em to spell?”
“La haute politique,” suggested Acton.
“Of Sarawack or Timbuctoo?” said Worcester, with scorn. “Bet my boots that Borneo one’s governor went head-hunting in his time, and the darkest African one’s knows what roasted man is.”
Acton laughed, for a nigger was to Worcester as a red rag to a bull. “St. Amory’s for niggers!” Dick would say with intense scorn.
“Anyhow,” said Acton, “I think there’s no need for us to be quite so slack.”
“You’ll pull us up a bit?” said Dick, with genuine admiration.
“Thanks. But I meant the whole house generally.”
“Not much good. We’re Biffen’s, that never did nor never shall, etc.”
“I don’t know. There’s sixty of us, barring your niggers; we ought to get eleven to look at a football with a business eye out of that lot, you know.”