Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 127.djvu/834

This page needs to be proofread.

822

FOOTBALL.

work accomplished by Wesley is marvellous. But he was blessed in no common measure with a vigorous mind and a strong body. The man who, at eighty-two, could write that many years had past since he had felt any such thing as weariness, might well be capable of achievements which astonish persons endowed with ordinary constitutions.




From Chambers' Journal.

FOOTBALL.

BY AN OBSERVANT FOREIGNER.

There was a time when I regarded Poland as a land of patriotic heroes; but after living for a few months among the Hebrews of Warsaw, I began to see reasons for altering my opinion. At another period of my life I looked upon Italy, from a distance, as the abode of sunshine, art, and pleasure; but after living among brigands for nearly three weeks, I returned to my native France a wiser although a poorer man. I had discovered that hearsay, unless softened down by the admixture of a large grain of salt, should not be taken as truth, and that what is ordinarily called romance, resolves itself, upon actual acquaintance, into the least attractive forms of villainy, immorality, extortion, and dirt. Although my eyes had thus been on two occasions opened by a process of painful experience, I could not altogether rid myself of an idea that Utopia existed somewhere or other for me ; and where should it await me, I asked, if not in merry England. So I determined to explore the mysteries of England. We steamed up the Thames in a fog, thickened by the melancholy gloom of ubiquitous smoke, and broken in one place by a dull red spot, which, I was informed, denoted the place where the island sun ought to be. It was three o'clock in the afternoon, but it was nearly dark; and along the riverside the gas-lamps were already lighted, when I went ashore and waited until my baggage was hurled pell-mell upon the quay. After certain formalities had been gone through, I drove to the house of an English friend in Kensington, and soon had the pleasure of finding myself in one of the much-vaunted "sweet homes" of England. Ah! there are carpets everywhere, and gas and water upon every floor. And there are great, guillotine-like windows opening on to balconies covered with pots of smoky flowers. Inside, everything has its covering or ornament. The pianoforte is surmounted by a mat, on which rests a bust of some German composer; and the chairs and lounges are clothed with lace. In the fireplace is a fire hot enough to roast a cow; and at its side are three steel utensils, which remind me of instruments of torture; and a coal-scuttle of the size of a bath.

But these things must not delay me, for my host, knowing that I have come to explore, has suggested that we go to see a football match on the afternoon of the next day, which is Saturday.

Saturday afternoon is, it appears, the great holiday of the English nation. Most of the shops are closed, many of the theatres are open, and amusement becomes the sole aim of the people whom the first Napoleon called "a nation of shop-keepers."

At one o'clock my friend and I set out for Clapham, where the football match is to be played. We go by train. My friend, by the way, tells me that football is a national pastime, and that it is universal throughout the country. It is, he says, as popular, or more so than cricket. Although it is damp and cold, I feel myself elated at the prospect of seeing the sport, especially as in the compartment with us are two fair-haired young men, who, I am informed, are going to take part in the game. They wear thick scarlet stockings of woollen, and knickerbockers of white flannel. Above, they are enveloped in a short, heavy coat. They have no cravats, and on their heads they have small caps of scarlet velvet with tassels of silver. One of them carries a large ball of leather, not just quite round, and which seems very hard, but is wonderfully light. They are good enough to allow me to examine it. I discover that it is tightly laced up with leather thongs over an inner case of india-rubber, which, I am told, is inflated by the breath until it becomes very hard.

At Clapham Junction we alight, and proceed to the common, a large open space covered with turf, on which are a few trees. The situation is picturesque, and there is a pleasant breeze; but the air is damp, and there is much fog. A certain space having been marked out by small flags, two tall poles are erected at both ends of the course, and between them is stretched a piece of tape at a height from the ground of four or five mètres. The length of the course is about one hundred and twenty mètres, and its breadth about eighty. The object