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Title: The Substitute
Author: Fred M. White
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eBook No.: 1600191h.html
Language: English
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The Substitute

by

Fred M. White

Cover Image

Published under syndication in, e.g.:
The Express and Telegraph, Adelaide, Australia, September 9, 1905
The Sunday Strand and Home Magazine, Australia (date not ascertained)

This e-book edition: Project Gutenberg Australia, 2016

>

I.

I DON'T suppose the thing would have happened at all if it hadn't been for the governors of the school. What do they do when a new headmaster is wanted for a school like Manby? Why, appoint a man because he had been a wrangler, or a first class classic, or something of that kind. And that's just what they did when poor old Rasford died three years ago.

Most of the old under-masters drifted away, as they generally do when a new "head" comes, and old Chesterton naturally filled their places with rowing men, because he had been bow of the Cambridge boat himself for three years. The next two years we lost the Sanger School match, and M.C.C. beat us in an innings both times. I share the same study with Sutton, who is our captain, and we came to the conclusion that something would have to be done. Mind you, there was nothing the mater with our "pro." Garland, but then Garland couldn't do everything. We always played him against M.C.C.—which is a twelve a-side match, and, though he bowled well and made twenty-five in pretty good form, he got stale very soon the season I'm speaking of, from having too much do. There wasn't a single master who was any good except Hunt, of the lower fourth, and he fancies himself tremendously. Thinks he can bat, too; but then we don't want bats amongst the masters, and, what we yearned for was a tricky bowler, who could vary his pace and sling them in half a day without tiring.

But it was no use wishing and hoping. We lost matches on three following Saturdays, and the chaps were getting out of heart altogether. Misfortunes never come singly, so when old Garland, the "pro.," strained a muscle in his thigh, owing to a slip on a wet wicket, we began to regard the matter as hopeless. Garland would not be able to bowl again for weeks, so the doctor said, and Garland almost cried about it. On his own account he went and interviewed the "head," with the suggestion that another man should be engaged at once; but the "head" didn't see it at all.

But Garland wasn't to be beaten like that. He wrote a letter to Lord Beringford, who used to be at Manby years ago and who is now captain of a crack county, and Beringford wrote back that he was sending down a young fellow who was a fine all-round cricketer, and that the man was coming down entirely at his expense. The "head" could say nothing after that.

Scott—for that was the new man's name—turned up one day after second lesson. We found him on the Redan, where the nets are, quite as much at home as if he had been there for years. His flannels were better cut than Richmond's, who is the masher of the eleven, he had a silk shirt like Ranji's, and his manners were just a little free, I thought.

"Put the pads on and bustle him about a bit," Sutton said to me. "Lay on the wood."

I can hit a bit, and I meant to make Scott go all the way. But somehow the programme didn't seem to work out quite as Sutton and I had arranged it. I couldn't get the new man away, and when he had clean bowled me twice in about four overs I gave Sutton a chance. But it was just the same with Sutton, who is going to make a class bat, mind you. Scott stuck him up over and over again, and as to the rest of the eleven he simply made lead soldiers of them. Garland came and looked on as pleased as if he had made a century for the Players. So pleased he was that he kept on calling Scott "sir" all the time.

"I shan't be sticking them up like this in a month's time," Scott said pleasantly. "There's some real good stuff here to work upon, Garland."

It might have been one of the masters speaking for the deferential way that Garland took it, only he didn't wink at us, as he does when the masters' backs are turned.

You never saw a lot of chaps come on like we did in the next fortnight, and you never saw a "pro." who put his heart into it like Scott either. He was always at it, morning, noon, and night, always giving us fresh tips and wrinkles, and nobody was more delighted than he when we began to gain confidence and hit him. But no slogging, mind. If you began that game Scott simply ordered you from the wickets.

And you went, too! He'd look at you with those clear grey eyes of his, and it made you feel like you do when the "head" sends for a chap. Sutton said it was quite right. The next Saturday we took on the Elland Wanderers—mostly 'Varsity bats—and beat them by 117 runs. I got 54—my best that season.

Of course, there was a fly in the ointment. It was Hunt, of the lower fourth. He had done most of the cricket coaching, such as it was, and he didn't like playing second fiddle to Scott. Of course he must have recognised that he had met his master, but he wouldn't admit it. He'd stand by the nets and criticise Scott's bowling till Scott fairly invited him to put on the pads.

We'd never seen Scott really bowl till then. It was a bit of a revelation to all of us. Hunt stood it until he saw all of us grinning at him, and then he threw down the bat and declared that Scott's bowling was not bowling at all, but palpably shying.

"Rot, my good fellow," says Scott, as cool as you please. "You leave the boys to me and stick to your pons asinorum, or your De Bello Gallico, or whatever is the branch that you shine in. Don't come here making a nuisance of yourself any more."

Hunt turned as red as his own hair, and flicked Scott pretty sharply across the face with his batting-glove. The next minute he was on his back—the result of a pretty undercut on which Scott didn't seem to waste any energy. It was all over before we could really realise what had happened, and Hunt was half-way across towards the school with his handkerchief to his mouth.

"I'm exceedingly sorry, boys," Scott said as cool as you please, though he was white as my pads. "I very much regret losing my temper, but this is not the first time that Mr. Hunt has insulted me. I might have waited till after the M.C.C. match."

Of course we all knew what that meant. Scott would have to go. Hunt was no gentleman, but he was a master, and the substitute had assaulted him. Still, all our sympathies were on the side of Scott. What to do we didn't know.

"I'll tell you," said Sutton. "I'll see Mason after third lesson and tell him everything. If old Mason can help us out I'm sure he will."

Mason takes the fifth form and is the most popular master in the school. Not the slightest use at cricket, of course, but then, strictly speaking, I suppose cricket isn't quite the only thing.

Mason looked precious grave when Sutton told him everything, but he was bound to admit that there was a good deal to be said for Scott. Fortunately the "head" was away till late that evening, so that there was no chance of immediate action. We were all at the nets again after tea, when I saw Mason and Hunt, talking very earnestly together just in front of the chapel. It was a pretty long confab. Presently Hunt went away, and Mason came back to us and watched for a time.

"I should like you to come round to my house after supper," he said to Scott. "I have a few words to say to you."

"Very well, sir," Scott said quietly. "I shall be very pleased."

It was getting late that night when Long, one of the monitors, asked me to take some work of his over to Mason's. As it happened, Mason and Scott were talking on the door-step. They were laughing and chatting together as if they had been friends all their lives.

"So you think it will be all right?" I heard Scott say.

"Of course it will, my dear chap," said Mason. "If you had asked me an hour ago I should have said no. But since you have told me everything I can promise you that it will be settled. Strictly between ourselves, Hunt is not a gentleman. And what is more in your favor, he is a fearful snob."

I had long suspected it myself, but I was glad to hear Mason confirm me. I waited till the two shook hands—shook hands, mind you—and then I came forward with my work.

"Do you really think it is all right, sir?" I couldn't help asking; "I mean about Mr. Hunt and Scott? We have got a real chance of winning the M.C.C. match this year, and if we do that it will buck us up wonderfully for the Sanger match."

Mason laughed in that pleasant way of his, and quietly kicked me off the door-step.

"Go along, you inconsequent young gladiator," he said. "How dare you try and establish a diplomatic relationship with so sacred a personage as a master. Nothing will stand in the way of your winning both of those matches. But tell a boy like you anything, certainly not."

But there, you could see that he was laughing all the time, and so I laughed too. Good old sort is Mason.

II.

SUTTON agreed with me that it was a queer thing, but all the same we decided to say nothing to the other fellows in the eleven about it. Besides, Mason had told us pretty plainly that Scott would play in the M.C.C. match and when Mason tells you anything you can rely upon it coming out all right. It was a "half" next day, and Scott came down to the nets as usual, looking more like the "I.Z." than a common or garden professional. He was a bit grim and quiet as Hunt came up, and Hunt looked pretty sheepish I can tell you.

"I'm exceedingly sorry, sir, for what happened yesterday," Scott said, taking off his cap. "I hope you will accept my most sincere apologies."

Hunt muttered something in his sour way but he didn't seem to have the best of it. He said something to the effect that it was best in these degenerate days to be a cricket professional than a mere schoolmaster, and, upon my word, when I come to think of it, Hunt wasn't very far wrong. I wouldn't mind being Rhodes or Hayward myself.

The eventful Thursday came at last and with it the M.C.C. match. It was a two days' fixture, and the weather on the first day left nothing to be desired, as the newspaper reporters say. They won the toss and elected to bat on a perfect wicket. That was a bit of bad luck to begin with.

Scott didn't come out until just as we were taking the field. The M.C.C. captain was standing by the pavilion as our "pro." appeared. He first looked at Scott and whistled.

"Ho, ho!" he said. "My dear chap, what is the meaning of——"

"For goodness sake, dry up," I heard Scott say. "I'll tell you presently. But if you give me away, Broadbent—not that you are likely to do anything of the kind."

Well it was no business of mine. We had all our work cut out, for the M.C.C. were a pretty warm lot, and there were some slashing bats amongst them—Brownlow and Parkinson, for instance, and Black, who is good for a century any time. Leslie bowled at the one end and Scott at the other, whilst Parkinson and Black defended. Sounds like a newspaper report, doesn't it?

The batsmen scored pretty freely off Leslie, but they could do very little with Scott. Still, the score mounted slowly, and 80 was on the board as the result of an hour and a quarter's play. At this point Scott crossed over and asked Sutton to put him on at the other end. There was a bit of a spot there, he said, that was likely to suit him. Four overs did Scott send down from the garden end, and he had Black in difficulties all the time. Then he gave him a fast straight yorker that laid his off stump low, and the fellows yelled. Black's was a cheap wicket for 37. By luncheon-time five men were out for 144. The innings closed for 192, which was a pretty poor score considering the wicket. But it was more than we got, anyway. By half-past six we were all out for 168, Scott failing to score. Sutton ran him out very foolishly, I think, calling for a run and then stopping. I was going to say something to Scott, but he dodged me and sneaked round to the back of the pavilion, as if he had been ashamed of something.

"The 'head', wants you in the pavilion," I said. "He's talking to Sir James Seabright——"

"Say I've gone," Scott whispered. "It's all right, my dear boy. After to-morrow it won't matter, but I particularly desire not to see Sir James," and he ran off the field.

Well, I couldn't say anything after that. It was nearly tea-time before we got those chaps out again, and this time they made 244, Scott getting seven pickets for 90 runs, in all fifteen wickets for 177, which you will admit is pretty fair on a wicket that is all in favour of the batsmen. This left us 269 to get to win, and about two and a half hours to do it in. There was just a chance, of course, and in the pavilion Sir James Seabright, who is a big swell in our neighborhood, and takes the keenest interest in school cricket, promised us all sorts of things if we brought it off. Awful quick, passionate-tempered old chap, got a touch of something out in India, so the fellows said. But that isn't the M.C.C. match. I went in first with Scott, and as I was leaving the pavilion I saw the old baronet put up his glasses and glare at Scott as he walked to the wicket.

"Bless my soul," he exclaimed. "Who's that crossing over to the wicket? Upon my word."

I explained that it was a new "pro.," who was taking the place of the old one.

"He was the one who bowled so well," I said.

"A most remarkable likeness," Sir James muttered. "I didn't notice it yesterday. I never saw such a likeness in my life. But it's my fancy. Never knew myself to give way to fancies before."

Well, I wasn't wondering much about the old gentleman at that moment, as you may imagine. I had my innings to think of, and nervous work it was. I managed to smother the first over or two, more by good luck than anything else, and then I began to see the ball clearly. Marchant was bowling at one end and Dixon at the other—first one with a big break, and the other one very fast with no break at all. But they were dead on the wicket. I could hear a muffled cheer now and then, and a perfect roar as Scott lifted the last ball of Dixson's third over clean to the boundary. Then I got in a drive and a late cut, both to the boundary, and I began to feel that cricket is one of the things worth living for. It was a fairly steady game for the next 20 minutes, and I was never more surprised in my life when I looked at the telegraph-board and saw that 50 was up—Scott, 33.

They took Dixon off then and put on Henderson. I saw him grinning in a queer sort of way, and then came an answering grin on the face of Scott. That those two fellows knew one another I felt certain. There was some subtle joke between them. I began to see the joke, too, when Scott off-drove and cut Henderson's first three balls for 4 each. The fourth ball he drove clean over the bowler's head out of the ground, then came a 4 in the slips and a leg-glance for a like number. Twenty-six off the bat in one over! Henderson said something I didn't catch, and Scott yelled out "Waterloo!" At the same time the hundred went up, and it got into my head somehow. For the life of me I couldn't help hitting. I got two fours, and then I jumped for a long hop and saw the ball go sailing out of the ground. Scott yelled to me to be steady, and the advice came in good time, for I just managed to smother the next ball. Scott was hitting all over the field, and I must have done pretty well for the next time I had a look at the board I had made 57. A big yell followed a huge drive from Scott, and I saw that he had got his century—162 and no wicket down. We hadn't done a thing like that against M.C.C. not since our famous eleven of 1870 that supplied seven men to the Oxford team. Oh, it was a grand day!

Well, we plodded on pretty steadily till the second hundred went up on the board. It was all over now, bar the shouting; we had taken the sting out of the bowling, and Scott looked like getting all the runs off his own bat. It came down to 40 to win, and then Scott slowed down. I had made 87 by this time, and was trying hard not to think of my century and wondering why Scott didn't score as he had done at first. He ran singles when he could easily have got twos, and then it burst upon me he was giving me all the bowling so that I could get my century. I got two fours, which made me 95, then a single, and for a long time after that I couldn't get a ball. I could hear my heart hitting my ribs when Dixon, who had come on again, faced me. Then I got in a slog that long-on could not quite reach, and there was a roar as the ball went to the boundary. A single followed, and Scott finished off with four successive fours. There was no walking back to the pavilion for either of us, for we were carried shoulder-high right up the steps into the big room at the back, where the "head" and Sir James were. The latter looked very queer—sort of proud and yet stern at the same time. Scott stood there as if he had done something to be ashamed of.

"I should like to know what is the meaning, of this?" Sir James demanded.

"I am afraid that I must make my apologies to the 'head' first," Scott said. "You see, sir, Sir James is my uncle. He was good enough to make me his heir, only he did not desire me to work. I wanted to get into the Indian Civil Service, and Sir James let me try, feeling sure that I should fail. But I didn't fail, and that is the cause of all the mischief. I promised my father I would never be an idle man, and that promise I mean to keep. Sir James cut me off with the proverbial shilling, and pending my departure for India I was penniless. I couldn't think what to do, and when I heard of this chance I jumped at it. There was some risk, but I had to take that; you see, I thought Sir James was not at home. On the whole I have had a very pleasant time here."

"Did anybody else know of this?" the "head" asked.

"Well, I had to tell Mr. Mason," Scott admitted. "He will tell you why. But I'm glad I came, and I'm quite sure that the boys are glad, too."

Well, I should say so. It had spread like wildfire, so the chaps clapped me and cheered Scott till they were hoarse. And then if old Sir James didn't cheer, too, and made a special speech afterwards, in which he invited us all over to the Priory for a good day of it. When he had wiped his face and the row had subsided, he turned to Scott and held out his hand.

"Well, it's been your day," he said, "and I'm not going to say I'm sorry. Now come along, my dear boy, or we shall be precious late for dinner."

"And my work?" Scott stammered. "India, you know."

"Oh, that will be all right," Sir James said heartily.—"The Sunday Strand."


THE END

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