In fact, the only one who seemed to derive any pleasure from Bourne’s prowess in the field was Acton himself. He used to sit near the flag-staff, and when Phil made his splendid late cut, whose applause was so generous as his? whose joy so great? Acton’s manoeuvres were on the highest artistic levels, I can assure you, and in the eyes of the fellows generally, his was a case of persecuted forgiving virtue. Acton, too, kept in old Corker’s good books, and his achievements in the way of classics made the old master beam upon him with his keen blue eye.
I saw with dismay how persistently unpopular Phil remained, and I heard the charms of Acton sung daily by monitor after monitor, until I saw that Acton had captured the whole body bar Phil’s own staunch friends, Baines, Roberts, and Vercoe. And then it dawned upon me that Acton was making a bid for the captaincy himself, and when I had convinced myself that this was his object, I felt angrier than I can remember. I thereupon wrote to Aspinall, gave him a full, true, and particular account of Acton’s campaign against Phil, and asked him to release me—and Phil—from our promise of secrecy regarding the football-match accident. His reply comforted me, and I knew that, come what might, I had a thunderbolt in my pocket in Aspinall’s letter, which could knock Acton off the Captain’s chair if he tried for that blissful seat.
I told him so, to save trouble later on, and he heard me out with a far from pretty sneer, which, however, did not quite conceal his chagrin. But though I made sure of his being out of the hunt, I could not make sure of Phil being elected, and in a short time Mivart was mentioned casually as the likeliest fellow to take my place. I have nothing whatever to say against Mivart; he was a good fellow, but he was not quite up to Phil’s level.
Phil knew of these subterranean workings of his enemy, but he was too proud a fellow to try and make any headway against the mining.
“If they elect Mivart they will elect a good man, that is all, though I’d give a lot, old man, to take your place.”
Thus things went on until Lord’s came and ended in the usual draw. Phil’s selection of the Eleven was in every way satisfactory, and his score for first wicket had made St. Amory’s safe from defeat, but, despite all, his unpopularity was pronounced.
The election was going to take place in a week, and Mivart, thanks to Acton’s careful “nursing,” was evidently going to romp home in the election with something like a sixteen to four majority. Vercoe determined to propose Phil, and Baines was only too delighted to second it; but Phil’s cronies had no more hope of his success than Phil had himself.
WHY BIFFEN’S LOST