CONCERNING TODD AND COTTON
Knowing Acton’s pride—his overwhelming pride—I never expected to see him back at St. Amory’s. I expected that he would almost have moved heaven and earth and got himself taken off the school books and gone to complete his education somewhere else rather than come back to the old place where he had had such a signal thrashing. But, of course, he knew jolly well that we four had our tongues tied, and that the knowledge of his defeat was, so to speak, strictly private property; and that is why, I am pretty sure, he turned up again.
He strolled up and down the High, arm-in-arm with Worcester, in high good humour, on the day we returned; but when I turned the corner and came upon him vis-a-vis he gave me a long, level, steady look of hatred, which told me that he had nursed his wrath to keep it warm. His look made me thoughtful. Young Jack Bourne, too, came sailing along—a breezy miniature copy of Phil, his brother—but when he caught sight of his former patron he blushed like a girl and scuttled into the first available yard.
[Illustration: HE GAVE ME A LONG, STEADY LOOK OF HATRED.]
He was not particularly anxious to meet Acton, for Phil, in the holidays, had given Jack a pretty correct inkling of Acton’s character, and he began to see—in fact, he did see—that Raffles and the shooting and the billiards, and the hocus pocus of “hedging on Grape Shot,” and the trip to London, etc., was only one involved, elaborate plot to strike at Phil. Jack now fully realized that he had played a very innocent fly to Acton’s consummate spider, and he now, when there wasn’t any very pressing necessity, determined to give the spider’s parlour a very wide berth indeed. Acton saw Jack’s little manoeuvre, and smiled gently. He was genuinely fond of Jack, but young Bourne had served his purpose; and now, thought Acton, philosophically, “Jack looks upon me as a monster of iniquity, and he won’t cultivate my acquaintance.” And Phil? Well, Phil regarded the incident as “closed,” and paid no heed to his enemy’s bitter looks, but divided his attention between his books and cricket, keeping, perhaps unnecessarily, a bright outlook upon Master Jack.
Todd had come back to St. Amory’s in a very different frame of mind from that in which he had returned after the Perry fiasco. His three weeks’ holiday had been no end enjoyable; and now, besides a coin or two in his pocket, he had a clean, crisp note in his purse. As he stepped out of the train at the station, the burly figure of Jim Cotton hove in sight, and an eleven-inch palm clapped Gus on the back.
“Hallo! old man. How goes it?”
“Oh!” said Gus, coughing; “I’m all right, Jim, and your biceps seem in their usual working order.”
“They are, Gus. I’ve got a cab out here; we’ll go on together.”