Orpheus in Mayfair and Other Short Stories
The Cricket Match
An Incident At A Private School
To Winston Churchill
It was a Saturday afternoon in June. St. James's School was playing a cricket
match against Chippenfield's. The whole school, which consisted of forty boys,
with the exception of the eleven who were playing in the match, were gathered
together near the pavilion on the steep, grassy bank which faced the cricket
ground. It was a swelteringly hot day. One of the masters was scoring in the
pavilion; two of the boys sat under the post and board where the score was
recorded in big white figures painted on the black squares. Most of the boys were
sitting on the grass in front of the pavilion.
St. James's won the toss and went in first. After scoring 5 for the first wicket they
collapsed; in an hour and five minutes their last wicket fell. They had only made
27 runs. Fortune was against St. James's that day. Hitchens, their captain, in
whom the school confidently trusted, was caught out in his first over. And
Wormald and Bell minor, their two best men, both failed to score.
Then Chippenfield's went in. St. James's fast bowlers, Blundell and Anderson
minor, seemed unable to do anything against the Chippenfield's batsmen. The
first wicket went down at 70.
The boys who were looking on grew listless: three of them, Gordon, Smith, and
Hart minor, wandered off from the pavilion further up the slope of the hill, where
there was a kind of wooden scaffolding raised for letting off fireworks on the 5th
of November. The headmaster, who was a fanatical Conservative, used to burn
on that anniversary effigies of Liberal politicians such as Mr. Gladstone and Mr.
Chamberlain, who was at that time a Radical; while the boys whose politics were
Conservative, and who formed the vast majority, cheered, and kicked the
Liberals, of whom there were only eight.
Smith, Gordon, and Hart minor, three little boys aged about eleven, were in the
third division of the school. They were not in the eleven, nor had they any hopes
of ever attaining that glory, which conferred the privilege of wearing white flannel
instead of grey flannel trousers, and a white flannel cap with a red Maltese cross
on it. To tell the truth, the spectacle of this seemingly endless game, in which
they did not have even the satisfaction of seeing their own side victorious, began
to weigh on their spirits.
They climbed up on to the wooden scaffolding and organised a game of their
own, an utterly childish game, which consisted of one boy throwing some dried
horse chestnuts from the top of the scaffolding into the mouth of the boy at the
bottom. They soon became engrossed in their occupation, and were thoroughly
enjoying themselves, when one of the masters, Mr. Whitehead by name, came
towards them with a face like thunder, biting his knuckles, a thing which he did
when he was very angry.
"Go indoors at once," he said. "Go up to the third division school- room and do
two hours' work. You can copy out the Greek irregular verbs."