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Конкурс переводов - Тур 53 (январь 2006 г.)
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Отрывок

Mrs. Crocker left the room. Bayliss, preparing to follow her example, was arrested by an exclamation from the table.

"Say!"

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' Hall.

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."

"Eh?"

"The wicket was sticky, sir."

"Come again."

"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?"

"Yes, sir."

"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:

                SURREY

             First Innings

    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 time."

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?"

"Yes, sir."

"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?"

"Ball-game, sir?"

"A baseball game?"

"Never, sir."

"Then, Bill," said Mr. Crocker, reverting in his emotion to the bad habit of his early London days, "you haven't lived. See here!"

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.

"Bayliss!"

"Sir?"

"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 catcher."

"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 me."

"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 cold coffee.

"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.

"A racquet?"

"Yes, sir."

"You--you didn't say a soft ball?"

"Yes, sir."

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.

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