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Chapter 10 “My Raffles Right or Wrong”
The historic sward had just been cleared for action when Raffles and I met at Lord’s next day. I blush to own I had been knave and fool enough to suggest that he should smuggle me into the pavilion; but perhaps the only laws of man that Raffles really respected were those of the M.C.C., and it was in Block B. that he joined me a minute or so before eleven. The sun was as strong and the sky as blue as though the disastrous day before had been just such another. But its tropical shower-bath had left the London air as cleanly and as clear as crystal; the neutral tints of every day were splashes of vivid colour, the waiting umpires animated snow-men, the heap of sawdust at either end a pyramid of powdered gold upon an emerald ground. And in the expectant hush before the appearance of the fielding side, I still recall the Yorkshire accent of the Surrey Poet, hawking his latest lyric on some “Great Stand by Mr. Webbe and Mr. Stoddart,” and incidentally assuring the crowd that Cambridge was going to win because everybody said Oxford would.

“Just in time,” said Raffles, as he sat down and the Cambridge men emerged from the pavilion, capped and sashed in varying shades of light blue. The captain’s colours were bleached by service; but the wicket-keeper’s were the newest and the bluest of the lot, and as a male historian I shrink from saying how well they suited him.

“Teddy Garland looks as though nothing had happened,” was what I said at the time, as I peered through my binocular at the padded figure with the pink face and the gigantic gloves.

“That’s because he knows there’s a chance of nothing more happening,” was the reply. “I’ve seen him and his poor old governor up here since I saw Dan Levy.”

I eagerly inquired as to the upshot of the earlier interview, but Raffles looked as though he had not heard. The Oxford captain had come out to open the innings with a player less known to fame; the first ball of the match hurtled down the pitch, and the Oxford captain left it severely alone. Teddy took it charmingly, and almost with the same movement the ball was back in the bowler’s hands.

“He’s all right!” muttered Raffles with a long breath. “So is our Mr. Shylock, Bunny; we fixed things up in no time after all. But the worst of it is I shall only be able to stop —”

He broke off, mouth open as it might have been mine. A ball had been driven hard to extra cover, and quite well fielded; another had been taken by Teddy as competently as the first, but not returned to the bowler. The Oxford captain had played at it, and we heard something even in Block B.

“How’s that?” came almost simultaneously in Teddy’s ringing voice. Up went the umpire’s finger, and down came Raffles’s hand upon my thigh.

“He’s caught him, Bunny!” he cried in my ear above the Cambridge cheers. “The best bat on either side, and Teddy’s outed him third ball!” He stopped to watch the defeated captain’s slow return, the demonstration on the pitch in Teddy’s honour; then he touched me on the arm and dropped his voice. “He’s forgotten all his troubles now, Bunny, if you like; nothing’s going to worry him till lunch, unless he misses a sitting chance. And he won’t, you’ll see; a good start means even more behind the sticks than in front of ’em.”

Raffles was quite right. Another wicket fell cheaply in another way; then came a long spell of plucky cricket, a stand not masterly but dogged and judicious, in which many a ball outside the off-stump was allowed to pass unmolested, and a few were unfortunate in just beating the edge of the bat. On the tricky wicket Teddy’s work was cut out for him, and beautifully he did it. It was a treat to see his lithe form crouching behind the bails, to rise next instant with the rising ball; his great gloves were always in the right place, always adhesive. Once only he held them up prematurely, and a fine ball brushed the wicket on its way for four byes; it was his sole error all the morning. Raffles sat enchanted; so in truth did I; but between the overs I endeavoured to obtain particulars of his latest parley with Dan Levy, and once or twice extracted a stray detail.

“The old sinner has a place on the river, Bunny, though I have my suspicions of a second establishment nearer town. But I’m to find him at his lawful home all the next few nights, and sitting up for me till two in the morning.”

“Then you’re going to Gray’s Inn Square this week?”

“I’m going there this morning for a peep at the crib; there’s no time to be lost, but on the other hand there’s a devil of a lot to learn. I say, Bunny, there’s going to be another change of bowling; the fast stuff, too, by Jove!”

A massive youth had taken the ball at the top end, and the wicket-keeper was retiring to a more respectful distance behind the stumps.

“You’ll let me know when it’s to be?” I whispered, but Raffles only answered, “I wonder Jack Studley didn’t wait till there was more of a crust on the mud pie. That tripe’s no use without a fast wicket!”

The technical slang of the modern cricket-field is ever a weariness; at the moment it was something worse, and I resigned myself to the silent contemplation of as wild an over as ever was bowled at Lord’s. A shocking thing to the off was sent skipping past point for four. “Tripe!” muttered Raffles to himself. A very good one went over the bails and thud into Garland’s gloves like a round-shot. “Well bowled!” said Raffles with less reserve. Another delivery was merely ignored, both at the wicket and at my side, and then came a high full-pitch to leg which the batsman hit hard but very late. It was a hit that might have smashed the pavilion palings. But it never reached them; it stuck in Teddy’s left glove instead, and none of us knew it till we saw him staggering towards long-leg, and tossing up the ball as he recovered balance.

“That’s the worst ball that ever took a wicket in this match!” vowed a reverend veteran as the din died down.

“And the best catch!” cried Raffles. “Come on, Bunny; that’s my nunc dimittis for the day. There would be nothing to compare with it if I could stop to see every ball bowled, and I mustn’t see another.”

“But why?” I asked, as I followed Raffles into the press behind the carriages.

“I’ve already told you why,” said he.

I got as close to him as one could in that crowd.

“You’re not thinking of doing it to-night, A.J.?”

“I don’t know.”

“But you’ll let me know?”

“Not if I can help it, Bunny; didn’t I promise not to drag you any further through this particular mire?”

“But if I can help you?” I whispered, after a momentary separation in the throng.

“Oh! if I can’t get on without you,” said Raffles, not nicely, “I’ll let you know fast enough. But do drop the subject now; here come old Garland and Camilla Belsize!”

They did not see us quite so soon as we saw them, and for a moment one felt a spy; but it was an interesting moment even to a person smarting from a snub. The ruined man looked haggard, ill, unfit to be about, the very embodiment of the newspaper report concerning him. But the spirit beamed through the shrinking flesh, the poor old fellow was alight with pride and love, exultant in spite of himself and his misfortunes. He had seen his boy’s great catch; he had heard the cheers, he would hear them till his dying hour. Camilla Belsize had also seen and heard, but not with the same exquisite appreciation. Cricket was a game to her, it was not that quintessence and epitome of life it would seem to be to some of its devotees; and real life was pressing so heavily upon her that the trivial consolation which had banished her companion’s load could not lighten hers. So at least I thought as they approached, the man so worn and radiant, the girl so pensive for all her glorious youth and beauty: his was the old head bowed with sorrow, his also the simpler and the younger heart.

“That catch will console me for a lot,” I heard him say quite heartily to Raffles. But Camilla’s comment was altogether perfunctory; indeed, I wondered that so sophisticated a person did not affect some little enthusiasm. She seemed more interested, however, in the crowd than in the cricket. And that was usual enough.

Raffles was already saying he must go, with an explanatory murmur to Mr. Garland, who clasped his hand with a suddenly clouded countenance. But Miss Belsize only bowed, and scarcely took her eyes off a couple of outwardly inferior men, who had attracted my attention through hers, until they also passed out of the ground.

Mr. Garland was on tip-toes watching the game again with mercurial ardour.

“Mr. Manders will look after me,” she said to him, “won’t you, Mr. Manders?” I made some suitable asseveration, and she added: “Mr. Garland’s a member, you know, and dying to go into the Pavilion.”

“Only just to hear what they think of Teddy,” the poor old boy confessed; and when we had arranged where to meet in the interval, away he hurried with his keen, worn face.

Miss Belsize turned to me the moment he was gone.

“I want to speak to you, Mr. Manders,” she said quickly but without embarrassment. “Where can we talk?”

“And watch as well?” I suggested, thinking of the young man at his best behind the sticks.

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