MR. WENTWORTH'S SCORE
By W. PETT RIDGE
“Seems to me,” said the Small Hand of the dock at Lords’, “that lookers-on see most of the game.”
The moon was shining down on the quiet, empty cricket ground, and some might have thought that it was under the impression that the day’s match was still being played.
If this had been so the moon was certainly not so brilliant as it looked. But the real fact of the matter is (as the clock knows) that on moonlight nights silent matches are played at Lords’ by ghostly cricketers in top hats and sleeved waistcoats, and Mr. Mynn, of Brasted, revives his reputation for bowling people out before they know it, and bails are sent flying to the delight of the old, old ghosts who, standing near the pavilion, clap their hands and cheer noiselessly. At three o’clock in the morning the moon goes, stumps are drawn for the night, and Willsher and Lipscombe and the rest of the two elevens fade away. The hands of the clock see a this; they see—what is more to the present purpose—many things too that happen by day. And when they come near to each other, as at five minutes to eleven, they either quarrel or give each other an item of news.
“See most of the game,” repeated the Small Hand.
“There’s a sparkling novelty about your remarks,” remarked the Large Hand, “that simply dazzles me. I can’t think how you do it.”
“No occasion to be funny,” said the Small Hand sedately; “or to try to be—which is not quite the same thing. I simply made the remark because I noticed this afternoon a little love affair.”
“Love?” exclaimed the Large Hand with sudden interest.
“Love,” said the Small Hand.
“Let her go, Gallagher,” said the Large Hand cheerfully. “Tell us all about it.
And the Small Hand told this tale:—
“The county was not doing so well in its second innings, and the M.C.C. men looked gratified. As they waited for the new man to come out Miss Mary Leigh noticed with regret that the M.C.C. threw very hard catches to each other, in the humorous manner that the fielding eleven ever assumes when it is winning. Their joyousness seemed to augur badly for the county.
“‘How does the score stand now, Sir Lewis?’ she asked anxiously. “Can you see the board?’
“Sir Lewis Dane put both glasses of his pince-nez to one eye.
“‘Fifty-two,’ he said; ‘six out. Last man scored one. If the new man does not do better than that he will not do very well.’
“‘It does seem such a waste of time,’ said Mary Leigh’s aunt aggrievedly, ‘all this walking to and fro from the pavilion. If they don’t mean to make any runs why on earth don’t they say so and save everybody a lot of——’
“‘It is Mr. Wentworth next,’ cried Mary Leigh excitedly.
“The new batsman strode from the pavilion to the wicket and took the block from the white-coated umpire at the other end.
“‘What I should suggest,’ said Sir Lewis genially, ‘is that you two ladies should permit me to take you in to lunch now. There’s generally a crowd in the interval, and——’
“‘I am very sorry,’ said Mary Leigh, with her eyes on the play, ‘but I can’t eat.’
“‘That is a very wicked thing to say,’ exclaimed her aunt.
“‘You must excuse me, Sir Lewis. Let me stop here and you take aunt. I shall be quite safe.’
“‘There’s some sense in that certainly,’ said Mary Leigh’s aunt grudgingly.
“‘I should much prefer not to leave you here,’ said Sir Lewis solicitously.
“‘But if I beg of you to do so.’
“‘That,’ said Sir Lewis, ‘is different.’ He turned to the aunt. ‘Shall we go?’
“Mary Leigh’s aunt entered upon lunch with great enjoyment. She had once—years ago—been called by someone a remarkable manager, and every day she endeavoured to live up to this ancient character. Her bonnet quite shivered now with her delight of approaching a difficulty that would require all of her amazing powers.
“‘Your niece,’ said Sir Lewis, looking thoughtfully at his claret, ‘appeared extremely anxious to see Mr. Wentworth bat.’
“‘And why,’ said Mary Leigh’s aunt, ‘why, I can’t think—unless it was that she wanted to see him bowled out in his first over.’
“‘I understood that they were good friends?’
“‘Good friends!’ echoed Mary Leigh’s aunt. ‘Why, they positively dislike each other. I am sure the other day—— Do you mind passing the salt? Thank you so much. The other day I happened to overhear them talking to each other, and I was simply astonished. I think myself that it’s a great pity to see two young people so bitterly opposed to each other, but——’ (Mary Leigh’s aunt sighed) ‘I suppose they know best. If I were you, Sir Lewis, I should never ask him to the house when you are married.’
“‘There will be no necessity to do so.’
“‘That’s exactly what T mean. you want to make my niece happy.’
“‘Indeed, yes,’ said Sir Lewis earnestly.
“‘And if you take my advice you will be careful to drop Mr. Wentworth for one. Nothing will gratify dear Mary—and myself—more.’
“‘He seems a pleasant, straightforward sort of fellow.’
“‘Ah!’ said Mary Leigh’s aunt, breaking her bread with a manner of asperity—‘seems! But he has no title——’
“‘That should make no difference.’
“‘He has no title, I was going to say, to quarrel with any lady.’
“‘Least of all,’ agreed Sir Lewis decidedly, ‘the lady who is to be—is to be my wife.’
“Mary Leigh’s aunt took up her glass and looked archly across the table at Sir Lewis as though she were going to drink to his health and happiness.
“‘It is not worth while bothering about this Mr. Wentworth,’ she said soothingly. ‘He leaves the country pretty soon.’
“‘Leaves the country?’
“‘He has an appointment at a consulate in——’
“‘Of course,’ said Sir Lewis self-reproachfully, ‘of course; I remember now. The affair was before me only yesterday at the Colonial Office. But it is not absolutely settled.’
“‘Then I should strongly advise you,’ said Mary Leigh’s aunt strenuously, ‘very strongly advise you to do all in your power to enable him to get the appointment. It will be a good thing for him——.’
“‘It’s rather an unhealthy place.’
“‘A good thing for him to get away and make his life for himself.’
“‘He is more likely to lose it,’ said Sir Lewis.
“‘Well,’ said Mary Leigh’s aunt, ‘that is his look out surely. He has made the application with his eyes open, and young men must buy their experience, there is no other way of getting it. Besides,’ went on the old lady argumentatively, ‘someone will have to go.’
“‘I think,’ said Sir Lewis, ‘that I should prefer it not to be anyone whom your niece knows.’
“‘Nonsense!’ said Mary Leigh’s aunt cheerfully.
“Out in the field, astonishing things were happening. Fours were being hit, threes were being sent to leg, singles were being stolen, the score on the telegraph board increased quickly, and nearly all from the bat of Mr. Frank Wentworth. His colleague at the opposite end was a safe methodical bat, who blocked the ball cautiously and never hit out unless the bowler invited him generously. Frank Wentworth batted perhaps a little recklessly, but he batted with excellent success. When the interval came for lunch the county men appeared at the pavilion and swelled the applause that hailed Wentworth’s temporary departure from the wickets, and a bright-eyed young person under the clock fluttered her tiny be-laced handkerchief until she thought of something, and then she stopped.
“‘What they ought to do,’ said a critic in the member’s stand, ‘is to put on the Flying Scotsman.’
‘But he’s such a dangerous bowler.’
“‘Well,’ said the critic airily, ‘what does that matter?’
“‘It matters to the batsman.’
“‘Oh,’ said the first man, ‘it’s all cricket.’
“Mr. Frank Wentworth, passing near in the interval to the place where Mary Leigh and her aunt and Sir Lewis were standing, flushed a shade ruddier than usual and pulled off his cap. Sir Lewis acknowledged on behalf of his companions, and Frank Wentworth half stopped, but the young lady looked steadily out at the field where patrons were strolling and, her lips tightly pressed together, made no sign of encouragement. Wentworth strolled on with his bodyguard of admirers.
“‘I shall have to go in half an hour,’ said Sir Lewis looking up at the clock regretfully. ‘An unsportsmanlike Government will not allow its permanent officials to absent themselves for long even with such——’
“He coughed and bowed.
“‘Even with such excellent and charming excuses as I have.’
“‘We can stay, aunt?’
“‘Certainly not,’ said Mary Leigh’s aunt decidedly, ‘certainly not. We shall go at the same time.’
“‘I would much rather see the match finished, aunt.’
“‘Don’t be absurd,’ said the middle-aged lady with some acrimony.
“‘I am sure there is no reason,’ interposed Sir Lewis, ‘why you should not both stay if you care to. They are just clearing the ground.’
“‘I must beg of you. Sir Lewis,’ said Mary Leigh’s aunt, ‘not to interfere. I have a good reason for desiring Mary to accompany me home at once.’
“‘I am not sure,’ he said gravely, ‘that I have not some right to speak on behalf of your niece.’
“‘Yes, yes, yes, Sir Lewis, I know that.’ She was a general not accustomed to find her strategies thwarted and it annoyed her a good deal to find an attempt being made in this direction. ‘I know all about that; but on this occasion——’
“‘I am not going, aunt,’ said Mary Leigh decidedly, ‘until Frank—until Mr. Wentworth is out.’
“‘That settles it,’ remarked Sir Lewis good-humouredly.
“‘A growing habit of yours, Mary, of taking matters into your own hands, is one that will have to be checked.’
“‘I am not sure,’ said Mary Leigh trembling, and with some increase of colour. ‘that I ought not to have adopted the habit before.’
“‘It certainly suits you,’ remarked Sir Lewis.
“Play! The Flying Scotsman has been put on at the nursery end, and the Flying Scotsman is a six-foot-three youth with an enormous length of arm and a delivery that is terribly swift. Moreover the ground has become rather hard and the first fierce ball bumps and goes up high over Frank Wentworth’s head in a disconcerting manner. The next is touched neatly to slip and the Flying Scotsman says something to himself in his native tongue. The third ball goes again to slip, this time for three, and the M.C.C. captain looks with pained regret at the long bowler.
That’s five already,’ says Mary Leigh delightedly. “He only wants six more to make the century.’
“Her gloved hands tremble as she holds the field-glasses.
“‘Bravo!’ cry the patrons.
“A fine leg hit for four deserves its bravo! and even at Lords’, where emotions are held in rein, the commendation is given loudly.
“‘Ninety-eight!’ cries Mary Leigh; ‘only two more?”
“She would have been puzzled to give a clear analysis of her feelings at this moment. But it is certain that the information given by her aunt in regard to the sturdy young batsman out there, is momentarily forgotten. She is genuinely anxious that he shall make his century, so that the county may resound with praise of his name. They both love their county. There had been a time when they thought they had loved each other.
“Last ball of the over. Be careful, long-armed Flying Scotsman. The captain is preparing a caustic remark for you, to be fired if this ball is scored off. Take a good look at the wicket, Flying Scotsman; count your steps carefully.
“The ball flies from his hand, pitches, rises in a most unexpected manner and—— Good heavens! Mr. Frank Wentworth down on the worn grass in a confused senseless heap. Mr. Frank Wentworth with a face whitened through its ruddy colour and with a nasty wound on the forehead. A slight figure in gray defying all tradition came swiftly across the grass.
“‘I’m awfully sorry,’ said the Flying Scotsman sincerely. ‘I ought not to be put on to bowl when the ground’s like this. Is he hurt much?’
“‘It is rather bad,’ said the doctor. ‘Two of you please take him up very carefully will you? Are any of his people here I wonder?’
“‘I am here,’ said Mary Leigh promptly. ‘I can do anything that is wanted in the way of nursing.’
“‘Good,’ said the doctor. ‘Are you two men ready? Go slowly now.’
“‘Shall we stop the game, doctor?’ asked the M.C.O. captain.
‘“Nothing would justify that. I’ll tell them to send the next man out. This way, Mrs. Wentworth.’
The young lady would have smiled at the doctor’s error but that her thoughts were occupied in a serious direction. She pushed back the wet hair from Frank Wentworth’s forehead and the two men carried him across to the hotel. When Frank Wentworth opened his eyes he caught sight of her and closed them again with a sigh of contentment.
“‘There’s nothing like one’s own wife,’ said the doctor cheerfully. ‘He’ll get over it in less than no time if you only look after him. Can you stay here for half an hour whilst I run home and make up something?’
“‘That’s right. Not more than half an hour?’
“‘There is no hurry,’ said Mary Leigh.
“When the aunt discovered the young lady, Mary had already had a quiet—a very quiet talk with the damaged, grateful young cricketer. This quiet talk had exposed the careful strategy of Mary Leigh’s aunt, and when the young person addressed that relative in the passage near to the door she was not inexcusably inclined to speak quite plainly.
“‘In my young days,’ declared Mary Leigh’s aunt, ‘no girl would ever have dared to argue in this way.’
“‘I hope that in your young days,’ said the young lady, ‘they had no cause to do so.’
“‘I have taken a great deal of trouble to ensure your welfare, a great deal of trouble, I must say, and this is all the return I get for it. And in fact for two pins I daresay you would be inclined to upbraid me for what I have done.’
“‘The pins are not indispensable,’ said Mary Leigh. ‘You have nearly made my life very unhappy. If I had not discovered that you had told me untruths in regard to Mr. Wentworth I should have——’
“‘Well, well,’ said the old lady impatiently, ‘it’s no use harping on that. We can’t reverse the past. Sir Lewis will make a very good husband, and you ought to think yourself a very lucky girl, and I dare say some day you will see how ungrateful you have been. I’m sure I’ve done and said everything I could to make you happy.’
“‘I beg pardon,’ said Sir Lewis. ‘I couldn’t help hearing my name mentioned.’ He turned to Mary Leigh. ‘My dear," he said pleasantly, ‘tell me all about it.’
“And Mary Leigh, with many interruptions from the perturbed, aggrieved and finally indignant aunt, did so. When the recital was over Sir Lewis took the young lady’s hand with a pleasant paternal air that became him so much better than the one he had recently assumed.
“‘This last month,’ he said gravely, ‘this last month must be cancelled. We must erase it from our memories. Tell young Mr. Wentworth to get better soon, and give—give him my congratulations, and tell him that I’ll see that he gets a better place than Sierra Leone. And don’t forget to mention that the county has won the match by two wickets.’
“‘I am so glad,’ said Mary Leigh thankfully.
“Sir Lewis Dane conducted Mary Leigh’s aunt to her carriage in the St. John’s Wood Road with as much courtesy as though he had no grievance whatever against her. Mary Leigh’s aunt talked confusedly about the Eastern Question until Sir Lewis was about to close the door.
“‘After all,’ remarked Mary Leigh’s aunt, ‘after all. Sir Lewis, you must admit that I did my best.’
“‘I don’t wish, madam,’ he said suavely, ‘to pain your feelings. But all that I can say is that if this is doing your best, may I be spared from ever seeing you do your worst.
The Large Hand had travelled busily during the time that the Small Hand had been telling this story, and it spoke now from twenty-five minutes past the hour. The moon had gone under a cloud, and on the green grass the phantom cricketers (whom only Time can see) were hurrying off because it was the supper interval.
“Going to marry and live happily ever afterwards, I suppose?” asked the Large Hand.
“Ex-actly,” said the Small Hand.
“Precious old-fashioned way of ending,” grumbled the Large Hand. “Been done over and over again.”
“I know,” said the Small Hand cheerfully, “I know It’s only in modern novels that sensible people do anything else.”
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.
The longest-living author of this work died in 1930, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 92 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.
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