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Home -> P.G. Wodehouse -> A Prefect's Uncle -> Chapter 7

A Prefect's Uncle - Chapter 7

1. Chapter 1

2. Chapter 2

3. Chapter 3

4. Chapter 4

5. Chapter 5

6. Chapter 6

7. Chapter 7

8. Chapter 8

9. Chapter 9

10. Chapter 10

11. Chapter 11

12. Chapter 12

13. Chapter 13

14. Chapter 14

15. Chapter 15

16. Chapter 16

17. Chapter 17

18. Chapter 18


The M.C.C. match opened auspiciously. Norris, for the first time that
season, won the toss. Tom Brown, we read, in a similar position, 'with
the usual liberality of young hands', put his opponents in first.
Norris was not so liberal. He may have been young, but he was not so
young as that. The sun was shining on as true a wicket as was ever
prepared when he cried 'Heads', and the coin, after rolling for some
time in diminishing circles, came to a standstill with the dragon
undermost. And Norris returned to the Pavilion and informed his
gratified team that, all things considered, he rather thought that they
would bat, and he would be obliged if Baker would get on his pads and
come in first with him.

The M.C.C. men took the field--O. T. Blackwell, by the way, had shrunk
into a mere brother of the century-making A. T.--and the two School
House representatives followed them. An amateur of lengthy frame took
the ball, a man of pace, to judge from the number of slips. Norris
asked for 'two leg'. An obliging umpire informed him that he had got
two leg. The long bowler requested short slip to stand finer, swung his
arm as if to see that the machinery still worked, and dashed wildly
towards the crease. The match had begun.

There are few pleasanter or more thrilling moments in one's school
career than the first over of a big match. Pleasant, that is to say, if
you are actually looking on. To have to listen to a match being started
from the interior of a form-room is, of course, maddening. You hear the
sound of bat meeting ball, followed by distant clapping. Somebody has
scored. But who and what? It may be a four, or it may be a mere single.
More important still, it may be the other side batting after all. Some
miscreant has possibly lifted your best bowler into the road. The
suspense is awful. It ought to be a School rule that the captain of the
team should send a message round the form-rooms stating briefly and
lucidly the result of the toss. Then one would know where one was. As
it is, the entire form is dependent on the man sitting under the
window. The form-master turns to write on the blackboard. The only hope
of the form shoots up like a rocket, gazes earnestly in the direction
of the Pavilion, and falls back with a thud into his seat. 'They
haven't started yet,' he informs the rest in a stage whisper.
'Si-_lence_,' says the form-master, and the whole business must be
gone through again, with the added disadvantage that the master now has
his eye fixed coldly on the individual nearest the window, your only
link with the outer world.

Various masters have various methods under such circumstances. One more
than excellent man used to close his book and remark, 'I think we'll
make up a little party to watch this match.' And the form, gasping its
thanks, crowded to the windows. Another, the exact antithesis of this
great and good gentleman, on seeing a boy taking fitful glances through
the window, would observe acidly, 'You are at perfect liberty, Jones,
to watch the match if you care to, but if you do you will come in in
the afternoon and make up the time you waste.' And as all that could be
seen from that particular window was one of the umpires and a couple of
fieldsmen, Jones would reluctantly elect to reserve himself, and for
the present to turn his attention to Euripides again.

If you are one of the team, and watch the match from the Pavilion, you
escape these trials, but there are others. In the first few overs of a
School match, every ball looks to the spectators like taking a wicket.
The fiendish ingenuity of the slow bowler, and the lightning speed of
the fast man at the other end, make one feel positively ill. When the
first ten has gone up on the scoring-board matters begin to right
themselves. Today ten went up quickly. The fast man's first ball was
outside the off-stump and a half-volley, and Norris, whatever the state
of his nerves at the time, never forgot his forward drive. Before the
bowler had recovered his balance the ball was half-way to the ropes.
The umpire waved a large hand towards the Pavilion. The bowler looked
annoyed. And the School inside the form-rooms asked itself feverishly
what had happened, and which side it was that was applauding.

Having bowled his first ball too far up, the M.C.C. man, on the
principle of anything for a change, now put in a very short one.
Norris, a new man after that drive, steered it through the slips, and
again the umpire waved his hand.

The rest of the over was more quiet. The last ball went for four byes,
and then it was Baker's turn to face the slow man. Baker was a steady,
plodding bat. He played five balls gently to mid-on, and glanced the
sixth for a single to leg. With the fast bowler, who had not yet got
his length, he was more vigorous, and succeeded in cutting him twice
for two.

With thirty up for no wickets the School began to feel more
comfortable. But at forty-three Baker was shattered by the man of pace,
and retired with twenty to his credit. Gethryn came in next, but it was
not to be his day out with the bat.

The fast bowler, who was now bowling excellently, sent down one rather
wide of the off-stump. The Bishop made most of his runs from off balls,
and he had a go at this one. It was rising when he hit it, and it went
off his bat like a flash. In a School match it would have been a
boundary. But today there was unusual talent in the slips. The man from
Middlesex darted forward and sideways. He took the ball one-handed two
inches from the ground, and received the applause which followed the
effort with a rather bored look, as if he were saying, 'My good sirs,
_why_ make a fuss over these trifles!' The Bishop walked slowly
back to the Pavilion, feeling that his luck was out, and Pringle came

A boy of Pringle's character is exactly the right person to go in in an
emergency like the present one. Two wickets had fallen in two balls,
and the fast bowler was swelling visibly with determination to do the
hat-trick. But Pringle never went in oppressed by the fear of getting
out. He had a serene and boundless confidence in himself.

The fast man tried a yorker. Pringle came down hard on it, and forced
the ball past the bowler for a single. Then he and Norris settled down
to a lengthy stand.

'I do like seeing Pringle bat,' said Gosling. 'He always gives you the
idea that he's doing you a personal favour by knocking your bowling
about. Oh, well hit!'

Pringle had cut a full-pitch from the slow bowler to the ropes.
Marriott, who had been silent and apparently in pain for some minutes,
now gave out the following homemade effort:

A dashing young sportsman named Pringle,
On breaking his duck (with a single),
Observed with a smile,
'Just notice my style,
How science with vigour I mingle.'

'Little thing of my own,' he added, quoting England's greatest
librettist. 'I call it "Heart Foam". I shall not publish it. Oh, run it

Both Pringle and Norris were evidently in form. Norris was now not far
from his fifty, and Pringle looked as if he might make anything. The
century went up, and a run later Norris off-drove the slow bowler's
successor for three, reaching his fifty by the stroke.

'Must be fairly warm work fielding today,' said Reece.

'By Jove!' said Gethryn, 'I forgot. I left my white hat in the House.
Any of you chaps like to fetch it?'

There were no offers. Gethryn got up.

'Marriott, you slacker, come over to the House.'

'My good sir, I'm in next. Why don't you wait till the fellows come out
of school and send a kid for it?'

'He probably wouldn't know where to find it. I don't know where it is
myself. No, I shall go, but there's no need to fag about it yet. Hullo!
Norris is out.'

Norris had stopped a straight one with his leg. He had made fifty-one
in his best manner, and the School, leaving the form-rooms at the exact
moment when the fatal ball was being bowled, were just in time to
applaud him and realize what they had missed.

Gethryn's desire for his hat was not so pressing as to make him deprive
himself of the pleasure of seeing Marriott at the wickets. Marriott
ought to do something special today. Unfortunately, after he had played
out one over and hit two fours off it, the luncheon interval began.

It was, therefore, not for half an hour that the Bishop went at last in
search of the missing headgear. As luck would have it, the hat was on
the table, so that whatever chance he might have had of overlooking the
note which his uncle had left for him on the empty cash-box
disappeared. The two things caught his eye simultaneously. He opened
the note and read it. It is not necessary to transcribe the note in
detail. It was no masterpiece of literary skill. But it had this merit,
that it was not vague. Reading it, one grasped, its meaning

The Bishop's first feeling was that the bottom had dropped out of
everything suddenly. Surprise was not the word. It was the arrival of
the absolutely unexpected.

Then he began to consider the position.

Farnie must be brought back. That was plain. And he must be brought
back at once, before anyone could get to hear of what had happened.
Gethryn had the very strongest objections to his uncle, considered
purely as a human being; but the fact remained that he was his uncle,
and the Bishop had equally strong objections to any member of his
family being mixed up in a business of this description.

Having settled that point, he went on to the next. How was he to be
brought back? He could not have gone far, for he could not have been
gone much more than half an hour. Again, from his knowledge of his
uncle's character, he deduced that he had in all probability not gone
to the nearest station, Horton. At Horton one had to wait hours at a
time for a train. Farnie must have made his way--on his
bicycle--straight for the junction, Anfield, fifteen miles off by a
good road. A train left Anfield for London at three-thirty. It was now
a little past two. On a bicycle he could do it easily, and get back
with his prize by about five, if he rode hard. In that case all would
be well. Only three of the School wickets had fallen, and the pitch was
playing as true as concrete. Besides, there was Pringle still in at one
end, well set, and surely Marriott and Jennings and the rest of them
would manage to stay in till five. They couldn't help it. All they had
to do was to play forward to everything, and they must stop in. He
himself had got out, it was true, but that was simply a regrettable
accident. Not one man in a hundred would have caught that catch. No,
with luck he ought easily to be able to do the distance and get back in
time to go out with the rest of the team to field.

He ran downstairs and out of the House. On his way to the bicycle-shed
he stopped, and looked towards the field, part of which could be seen
from where he stood. The match had begun again. The fast bowler was
just commencing his run. He saw him tear up to the crease and deliver
the ball. What happened then he could not see, owing to the trees which
stood between him and the School grounds. But he heard the crack of
ball meeting bat, and a great howl of applause went up from the
invisible audience. A boundary, apparently. Yes, there was the umpire
signalling it. Evidently a long stand was going to be made. He would
have oceans of time for his ride. Norris wouldn't dream of declaring
the innings closed before five o'clock at the earliest, and no bowler
could take seven wickets in the time on such a pitch. He hauled his
bicycle from the shed, and rode off at racing speed in the direction of

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