'It's thought a tough job in general, is it, sir?'
'Two hundred marks for compersition,' continued the man. 'Now how many would they have given me for this bit of a try, Mr Biffen?'
'Well, well; I can't exactly say. But you improve; you improve, decidedly. Peg away for another week or two.'
'Oh, don't fear me, sir! I'm not easily beaten when I've set my mind on a thing, and I'll break up the compersition yet, see if I don't!'
Again his fist descended upon the table in a way that reminded one of the steam-hammer cracking a nut.
The lesson proceeded for about ten minutes, Reardon, under pretence of reading, following it with as much amusement as anything could excite in him nowadays. At length Mr Baker stood up, collected his papers and books, and seemed about to depart; but, after certain uneasy movements and glances, he said to Biffen in a subdued voice:
'Perhaps I might speak to you outside the door a minute, sir?'
He and the teacher went out, the door closed, and Reardon heard sounds of muffled conversation. In a minute or two a heavy footstep descended the stairs, and Biffen re-entered the room.
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