Pearson’s Magazine (UK), September 1906


When the snow-flakes fall on the fields outside, when the tempest howls and roars,

And the family circle rallies round the piled-up logs indoors,

When the red-hot chestnut, snatched from the bars, elicits an anguished “Oo!”

Then grandpapa takes his pipe from his mouth, and tells his chestnut, too.

He calls for silence in trembling voice, that sounds o’er the general din;

He asks his grandson, Cuthbert John, to stop kicking Edgar’s shin;

He spanks little James, and Arthur, too; Joe goes to bed with a wail;

Then, silence obtained, he heaves a sigh, and begins this stirring tale.

“The men of Chickenham-infra-Mud were tidy fellows all,

Some were good with the bat, you see, and some were good with the ball;

They bowled and batted like Englishmen; they worked in the field like niggers,

And two of their men had averages pretty nearly in double figures!

“And we were tidy fellows, too; we hadn’t a doubt or fear;

Or if we had we soon swamped that with a quart or so of beer;

And our captain made us a little speech before he went out to spin,

‘England expects!’ he said to us. ‘My lads, we have got to win!’

“Well, we lost the toss, and they batted first; the wicket was good and true,

Except where it had been walked on by a cow and a horse or two;

And we hadn’t had time to cut the grass, so perhaps it was rather long,

Say, seven inches—or ten, perhaps—still that was nothing wrong.

“Our captain bowled the opening ball; it flew at the middle stump,

But it hit on a mole-hill near the crease, which was rather too big to jump;

The next was a real good pitched-up one, and right on the head it caught

The batsman—he hadn’t time to dodge. So that was One for Nought.

“But the next man in was one of their cracks, and we couldn’t get him out;

Our hearts began to sink like lead as he knocked the ball about;

He hit to the right and he hit to the left and he hit in the air; and then

He tripped in a hole and sat on the stumps!—still, the score was well-nigh ten!

“And so the game went on; and the sun sank low in the gleaming west,

And we couldn’t help thinking the Pigbury team was coming out second best;

For when, at length, their last man fell, we saw with faces blue

That the total score of the Chickenham side was as much as twenty-two.

“But still we were boys of the bull-dog breed. We smiled at the setting sun;

‘Their score may be big,’ said we, ‘but come! a game’s not lost till it’s won.

They chuckle now, but they’ve much to do ere the dauntless souls they squash

Of the men who were picked to defend the fame of Pigbury-super-Splosh.’

“But things went badly with us at first, for Higgins was bowled for duck,

And Giles and Jenkins and Thomson, too, were all of them out of luck;

And when I went in, the side’s last hope, nineteen was our total score;

To save you doing the sum, I’ll add that we wanted four runs more.

“There I stood with my bat in my hand, and my heart in my dried-up mouth;

I looked to the north, I looked to the east, I looked to the west and south

(As I’d seen these swells at the Oval do ere the bowler they defied);

Then the first ball whizzed through the air like a flash—and the umpire shouted ‘Wide!’

“Again I faced their man of pace, and a black mist hung o’er my eyes,

And I heard a roaring inside my ears like the sea when the breakers rise;

I seemed to be standing alone in space, and I wished I could run and hide;

Then the second ball hummed through the air like a wasp—and the umpire shouted ‘Wide!’

“Now those who looked on were deathly still, and the sweat stood out on my brow,

As I grasped my hat in my aching hands, I whispered the one word, ‘Now!’

The bowler’s form through the lifting mist for a moment I descried,

Then the third ball shrieked through the air like a shell—and the umpire shouted ‘Wide!’

“And now we were even! One more to get! Oh, the hours that I had to wait!

I heard the bowler shout aloud that he would get one in straight.

Shouted aloud! And an answering cry goes up as my wickets fall!

But clear and thin through that fearsome din comes the umpire’s voice, ‘No Ball ! ! !’

*  *  *  *

“Well, they carried me home on their shoulders, lads, and they gave me three times three;

There wasn’t a man in the village more popular then than me.

I’m old, lads, now—aye, old and bent, but a thrill goes through my blood

When I think how I saved that hard-fought fight with Chickenham-infra-Mud.”