Mrs. Crocker left the room. Bayliss, preparing to follow her
example, was arrested by an exclamation from the table.
His master's voice.
"Say, Bayliss, come here a minute. Want to ask you something."
The butler approached the table. It seemed to him that his
employer was not looking quite himself this morning. There was
something a trifle wild, a little haggard, about his expression.
He had remarked on it earlier in the morning in the Servants'
As a matter of fact, Mr. Crocker's ailment was a perfectly simple
one. He was suffering from one of those acute spasms of
home-sickness, which invariably racked him in the earlier Summer
months. Ever since his marriage five years previously and his
simultaneous removal from his native land he had been a chronic
victim to the complaint. The symptoms grew less acute in Winter
and Spring, but from May onward he suffered severely.
Poets have dealt feelingly with the emotions of practically every
variety except one. They have sung of Ruth, of Israel in bondage,
of slaves pining for their native Africa, and of the miner's
dream of home. But the sorrows of the baseball bug, compelled by
fate to live three thousand miles away from the Polo Grounds,
have been neglected in song. Bingley Crocker was such a one, and
in Summer his agonies were awful. He pined away in a country
where they said "Well played, sir!" when they meant "'at-a-boy!"
"Bayliss, do you play cricket?"
"I am a little past the age, sir. In my younger days . . ."
"Do you understand it?"
"Yes, sir. I frequently spend an afternoon at Lord's or the Oval
when there is a good match."
Many who enjoyed a merely casual acquaintance with the butler
would have looked on this as an astonishingly unexpected
revelation of humanity in Bayliss, but Mr. Crocker was not
surprised. To him, from the very beginning, Bayliss had been a
man and a brother who was always willing to suspend his duties in
order to answer questions dealing with the thousand and one
problems which the social life of England presented. Mr.
Crocker's mind had adjusted itself with difficulty to the
niceties of class distinction: and, while he had cured himself of
his early tendency to address the butler as "Bill," he never
failed to consult him as man to man in his moments of perplexity.
Bayliss was always eager to be of assistance. He liked Mr.
Crocker. True, his manner might have struck a more sensitive man
than his employer as a shade too closely resembling that of an
indulgent father towards a son who was not quite right in the
head: but it had genuine affection in it.
Mr. Crocker picked up his paper and folded it back at the
sporting page, pointing with a stubby forefinger.
"Well, what does all this mean? I've kept out of watching cricket
since I landed in England, but yesterday they got the poison
needle to work and took me off to see Surrey play Kent at that
place Lord's where you say you go sometimes."
"I was there yesterday, sir. A very exciting game."
"Exciting? How do you make that out? I sat in the bleachers all
afternoon, waiting for something to break loose. Doesn't anything
ever happen at cricket?"
The butler winced a little, but managed to smile a tolerant
smile. This man, he reflected, was but an American and as such
more to be pitied than censured. He endeavoured to explain.
"It was a sticky wicket yesterday, sir, owing to the rain."
"The wicket was sticky, sir."
"I mean that the reason why the game yesterday struck you as slow
was that the wicket--I should say the turf--was sticky--that is
to say wet. Sticky is the technical term, sir. When the wicket is
sticky, the batsmen are obliged to exercise a great deal of
caution, as the stickiness of the wicket enables the bowlers to
make the ball turn more sharply in either direction as it strikes
the turf than when the wicket is not sticky."
"That's it, is it?"
"Thanks for telling me."
"Not at all, sir."
Mr. Crocker pointed to the paper.
"Well, now, this seems to be the box-score of the game we saw
yesterday. If you can make sense out of that, go to it."
The passage on which his finger rested was headed "Final Score,"
and ran as follows:
Hayward, c Wooley, b Carr ....... 67
Hobbs, run out ................... 0
Hayes, st Huish, b Fielder ...... 12
Ducat, b Fielder ................ 33
Harrison, not out ............... 11
Sandham, not out ................. 6
Extras .......................... 10
Total (for four wickets) ....... 139
Bayliss inspected the cipher gravely.
"What is it you wish me to explain, sir?"
"Why, the whole thing. What's it all about?"
"It's perfectly simple, sir. Surrey won the toss, and took first
knock. Hayward and Hobbs were the opening pair. Hayward called
Hobbs for a short run, but the latter was unable to get across
and was thrown out by mid-on. Hayes was the next man in. He went
out of his ground and was stumped. Ducat and Hayward made a
capital stand considering the stickiness of the wicket, until
Ducat was bowled by a good length off-break and Hayward caught at
second slip off a googly. Then Harrison and Sandham played out
Mr. Crocker breathed heavily through his nose.
"Yes!" he said. "Yes! I had an idea that was it. But I think I'd
like to have it once again, slowly. Start with these figures.
What does that sixty-seven mean, opposite Hayward's name?"
"He made sixty-seven runs, sir."
"Sixty-seven! In one game?"
"Why, Home-Run Baker couldn't do it!"
"I am not familiar with Mr. Baker, sir."
"I suppose you've never seen a ball-game?"
"A baseball game?"
"Then, Bill," said Mr. Crocker, reverting in his emotion to the
bad habit of his early London days, "you haven't lived. See
Whatever vestige of respect for class distinctions Mr. Crocker
had managed to preserve during the opening stages of the
interview now definitely disappeared. His eyes shone wildly and
he snorted like a war-horse. He clutched the butler by the sleeve
and drew him closer to the table, then began to move forks,
spoons, cups, and even the contents of his plate about the cloth
with an energy little short of feverish.
"Watch!" said Mr. Crocker, with the air of an excitable high
priest about to initiate a novice into the Mysteries.
He removed a roll from the basket.
"You see this roll? That's the home plate. This spoon is first
base. Where I'm putting this cup is second. This piece of bacon
is third. There's your diamond for you. Very well, then. These
lumps of sugar are the infielders and the outfielders. Now we're
ready. Batter up? He stands here. Catcher behind him. Umps behind
"Umps, I take it, sir, is what we would call the umpire?"
"Call him anything you like. It's part of the game. Now here's
the box, where I've put this dab of marmalade, and here's the
pitcher, winding up."
"The pitcher would be equivalent to our bowler?"
"I guess so, though why you should call him a bowler gets past
"The box, then, is the bowler's wicket?"
"Have it your own way. Now pay attention. Play ball! Pitcher's
winding up. Put it over, Mike, put it over! Some speed, kid! Here
it comes, right in the groove. Bing! Batter slams it and streaks
for first. Outfielder--this lump of sugar--boots it. Bonehead!
Batter touches second. Third? No! Get back! Can't be done. Play
it safe. Stick around the sack, old pal. Second batter up.
Pitcher getting something on the ball now besides the cover.
Whiffs him. Back to the bench, Cyril! Third batter up. See him
rub his hands in the dirt. Watch this kid. He's good! He lets
two alone, then slams the next right on the nose. Whizzes around
to second. First guy, the one we left on second, comes home for
one run. That's a game! Take it from me, Bill, that's a _game!_"
Somewhat overcome with the energy with which he had flung himself
into his lecture, Mr. Crocker sat down and refreshed himself with
"Quite an interesting game," said Bayliss. "But I find, now that
you have explained it, sir, that it is familiar to me, though I
have always known it under another name. It is played a great
deal in this country."
Mr. Crocker started to his feet.
"It is? And I've been five years here without finding it out!
When's the next game scheduled?"
"It is known in England as Rounders, sir. Children play it with a
soft ball and a racquet, and derive considerable enjoyment from
it. I had never heard of it before as a pastime for adults."
Two shocked eyes stared into the butler's face.
"Children?" The word came in a whisper.
"You--you didn't say a soft ball?"
A sort of spasm seemed to convulse Mr. Crocker. He had lived five
years in England, but not till this moment had he realised to the
full how utterly alone he was in an alien land. Fate had placed
him, bound and helpless, in a country where they called baseball
Rounders and played it with a soft ball.
- Щекн Итрч
- Also Ran
- Второпях Впопыхаевич Невтерпеж