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CRICKET-MATCHES IN THE SCHOOL CLOSE.
greatly excited and resolved on having their country dance too, and the great flag flapped lazily in the gentle western breeze. Altogether it was a sight which would have made glad the heart of our brave old founder, Lawrence Sheriff, if he were half as good a fellow as I take him to have been. It was a cheerful sight to see; but what made it so valuable in the sight of the captain of the school eleven was, that he there saw his young hands shaking off their shyness and awe of the Lords' men, as they crossed hands and capered about on the grass together; for the strangers entered into it all, and threw away their cigars, and danced and shouted like boys; while old Mr. Aislebie stood by looking on, in his white hat, leaning on a bat, in benevolent enjoyment. “ This hop will be worth thirty runs to us tomorrow, and will be the making of Raggles and Johnson,” thinks the young leader, as he revolves many things in his mind, standing by the side of Mr. Aislebie, whom he will not leave for a minute, for he feels that the character of the school for courtesy is resting on his shoulders.
But when a quarter to nine struck, and he saw old Thomas beginning to fidget about with the keys in his hand, he thought of the Doctor's parting monition, and stopped the cornopean at once, notwithstanding the loud-voiced remonstrances from all sides; and the crowd scattered away from the close, the eleven all going into the school-house, where supper and beds were provided for them by the Doctor's orders.
Deep had been the consultations at supper as to
THE MARYLEBONE MATCH.
the order of going in, who should bowl the first over, whether it would be best to play steady or freely; and the youngest hands declared that they shouldn't be a bit nervous, and praised their opponents as the jolliest fellows in the world, except, perhaps, their old friends the Wellesburn men. How far a little good-nature from their elders will go with the right scrt of boys!
The morning had dawned bright and warm, to the intense relief of many an anxious youngster, up betimes to mark the signs of the weather. The eleven went down in a body before breakfast, for a plunge in the cold bath in the corner of the close. The ground was in splendid order, and soon after ten o'clock, before spectators had arrived, all was ready, and two of the Lords' men took their places at the wicket; the school with the usual liberality of young hands, having put their adversaries in first. Old Bailey stepped up to the wicket, and called play, and the match has begun.
“ Oh, well bowled! well bowled, Johnson!” cries the captain, catching up the ball and sending it high above the rook trees, while the third Marylebone man walks away from the wicket, and old Bailey gravely sets up the middle stump again and puts the bails on.
“ How many runs ?” Away scamper three boys to the scoring table, and are back again in a minute amongst the rest of the eleven, who are collected together in a knot between wicket. “ Only eighteen
THE MARYLEBONE MATCH,
runs, and three wickets down ! » “Huzza, for old Rugby!” sings out Jack Raggles, the long-stop, 'toughest and burliest of boys, commonly called “ Swiper Jack;” and forthwith stands on his head, and brandishes his legs in the air in triumph, till the next boy catches hold of his heels and throws him over on to his back.
« Steady there, don't be such an ass, Jack,” says the captain, "we haven't got the best wicket yet. Ah, look out now at cover-point,” adds he, as he
a long-armed, bare-headed, slashing looking player coming to the wicket. “ And, Jack, mind your hits, he steals more runs than any man in England."
And they all find that they have got their work to do now; the new comer's off-hitting is tremendous, and his running like a flash of lightning. He is never in his ground, except when his wicket is down. Nothing in the whole game so trying to boys; he has stolen three byes in the first ten minutes, and Jack Raggles is furious, and begins throwing over savagely to the further wicket, until he is sternly stopped by the captain. It is all that the young gentleman can do to keep his team steady, but he knows that everything depends on it, and faces his work bravely. The score creeps up to fifty, the boys begin to look blank, and the spectators, who are now mustering strong, are very silent. The ball Aies off his bat to all parts of the field, and he gives no rest and no catches to any
But cricket is full of glorious chances, and the goddess who presides over it loves to bring
THE MARYLEBONE MATCH,
down the most skilful players. Johnson, the young bowler, is getting wild, and bowls a ball almost wide to the off; the batter steps out and cuts it beautifully to where cover-point is standing very deep, in fact alınost off the ground. The ball comes skimming and twisting along about three feet from the ground; he rushes at it, and it sticks somehow or other in the fingers of his left hand, to the utter astonishment of himself and the whole field. Such a catch hasn't been made in the close for years, and the cheering is maddening. Pretty cricket," says the captain, throwing himself on the ground by the deserted wicket with a long breath; he feels that a crisis has passed.
I wish I had space to describe the whole match ; how the captain stumped the next man off a legshooter, and bowled slow cobs to old Mr. Aislebie, who came in for the last wicket. How the Lords' men were out by half-past twelve o'clock for ninetyeight runs. How the captain of the school eleven went in first to give his men pluck, and scored twenty-five in beautiful style ; how Rugby was only four behind in the first innings. What a glorious dinner they had in the fourth-form school, and how the cover-point hitter sang the most topping comic songs, and old Mr. Aislebie made the best speeches that ever were heard, afterwards. But I haven't space, that's the fact, and so you must fancy it all, and carry yourselves on to half-past seven o'clock, when the school are again in, with five wickets down and only thirty-two runs to make to win. The Marylebone men played carelessly in their second
SOME OLD FRIENDS.
innings, but they are working like horses now to save the match.
There is much healthy, hearty, happy life scattered up and down the close; but the group to which I beg to call your special attention is there, on the slope of the island, which looks towards the cricketground. It consists of three figures; two are seated on a bench, and one on the ground at their feet. The first, a tall, slight, and rather gaunt man, with a bushy eyebrow and a dry humourous smile, is evidently a clergyman. He is carelessly dressed, and looks rather used up, which isn't much to be wondered at, seeing that he has just finished six weeks of examination work; but there he basks, and spreads himself out in the evening sun, bent on enjoying life, though he doesn't quite know what to do with his arms and legs. Surely it is our friend the young Master, whom we have had glimpses of before, but his face has gained a great deal since we last came across him.
And by his side, in white flannel shirt and trousers, straw hat, the captain's belt, and the untanned yellow cricket shoes which all the eleven wear, sits a strapping figure near six feet high, with ruddy tanned face and whiskers, curly brown hair, and a laughing dancing eye. He is leaning forward with his elbows resting on his knees, and dandling his favourite bat, with which he has made thirty or forty runs to-day, in his strong brown hands. It is Tom Brown, grown into a young man nineteen years old, a præpostor and captain of the eleven, spending his last day as a Rugby boy, and let us hope as much wiser as he is