After the Lord’s match there were two burning subjects of conversation: Who should be captain in my place? and which house should be the cock house at cricket? Every house captain looked with dread upon the house of Corker, great alike at cricket and footer, and it was agreed that very probably Phil Bourne would once more lead his men on to victory. Biffen’s house did not stand much chance, for there was no superlative Acton at cricket; but it was, indeed, mainly through his efforts that Biffen’s was as good as it was. You may remember that Acton had taken under his patronage those dark-skinned dervishes, Singh Ram and Runjit Mehtah. They were unquestionably the best pair of fellows in the school in strictly gymnastic work; and when summer came they showed that they would, sooner or later, do something startling with the bat. The Biffenite captain, Dick Worcester, did not altogether relish their proficiency. “It’s just my luck to have my eleven filled up with niggers,” he observed to Acton in half-humourous disgust; but Biffenites pinned their faith on Worcester, the dervishes, and Acton, and, to the huge delight of Grim, Rogers, Wilson, Thurston, and other enthusiastic junior Biffenites, the resurrected house survived the first two rounds.
The third round they were to meet Taylor’s lot, a good house, and the hopes of Grim and Co. were tinged with considerable doubt.
On the particular afternoon when this important match was to be played, Todd had strolled off to the Lodestone stream, laden with all the necessary tackle for the slaying of a few innocent perch. The year’s final lists of the forms were due also in the evening on the various notice-boards.
Gus had redeemed his promise made at the beginning of the term, and had worked hard for a prominent position on the list, and his attempt to capture the history medal had been, he thought, fairly satisfactory. He would soon know his fate, however, in both directions. Meanwhile, to allay his anxiety as to the results, he had unpatriotically given the cricket-fields a wide berth, and thus deprived Taylor’s of the privilege of his cheer in the house match. He and Cotton had an invitation to dine with Taylor that evening, so, after telling Jim his programme for the afternoon, he had trudged down the lane which Jack Bourne knew so well.
The afternoon was hot: the one-o’clock sun made Gus think that perhaps there was more cruelty than usual in luring the fishes out of the cool waters of the Lodestone; but, nevertheless, he philosophically baited his hook, and cast forth. The sport was not exciting, and by-and-by Gus found himself wondering, not why the fish were so shy, but whence came the faint, delicate perfume of cigars, which undoubtedly reached his nostrils? The Lodestone Farm was a quarter of a mile away, and obviously the scent could not travel thus far, and since Gus was alone on the banks of the stream, running sluggishly towards the moat, the constant whiffs of cigars reaching him seemed somewhat mysterious. Gus looked again carefully, but could see no one, and yet there was undoubtedly some one smoking very near him.