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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHead Of Kay's - Chapter III - THE FINAL HOUSE-MATCH
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Head Of Kay's - Chapter III - THE FINAL HOUSE-MATCH Post by :Linda_Buquet Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :3049

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Head Of Kay's - Chapter III - THE FINAL HOUSE-MATCH


Blackburn's took the field at three punctually on the following
afternoon, to play out the last act of the final house-match. They
were not without some small hope of victory, for curious things happen
at cricket, especially in the fourth innings of a match. And runs are
admitted to be easier saved than made. Yet seventy-nine seemed an
absurdly small score to try and dismiss a team for, and in view of the
fact that that team contained a batsman like Fenn, it seemed smaller
still. But Jimmy Silver, resolutely as he had declared victory
impossible to his intimate friends, was not the man to depress his
team by letting it become generally known that he considered
Blackburn's chances small.

"You must work like niggers in the field," he said; "don't give away a
run. Seventy-nine isn't much to make, but if we get Fenn out for a
few, they won't come near it."

He did not add that in his opinion Fenn would take very good care that
he did not get out for a few. It was far more likely that he would
make that seventy-nine off his own bat in a dozen overs.

"You'd better begin, Kennedy," he continued, "from the top end. Place
your men where you want 'em. I should have an extra man in the deep,
if I were you. That's where Fenn kept putting them last innings. And
you'll want a short leg, only for goodness sake keep them off the
leg-side if you can. It's a safe four to Fenn every time if you don't.
Look out, you chaps. Man in."

Kay's first pair were coming down the pavilion steps.

Challis, going
to his place at short slip, called Silver's attention to a remarkable

"Hullo," he said, "why isn't Fenn coming in first?"

"What! By Jove, nor he is. That's queer. All the better for us. You
might get a bit finer, Challis, in case they snick 'em."

Wayburn, who had accompanied Fenn to the wicket at the beginning of
Kay's first innings, had now for his partner one Walton, a large,
unpleasant-looking youth, said to be a bit of a bruiser, and known to
be a black sheep. He was one of those who made life at Kay's so close
an imitation of an Inferno. His cricket was of a rustic order. He hit
hard and high. When allowed to do so, he hit often. But, as a rule, he
left early, a prey to the slips or deep fields. Today was no exception
to that rule.

Kennedy's first ball was straight and medium-paced. It was a little
too short, however, and Walton, letting go at it with a semi-circular
sweep like the drive of a golfer, sent it soaring over mid-on's head
and over the boundary. Cheers from the pavilion.

Kennedy bowled his second ball with the same purposeful air, and
Walton swept at it as before. There was a click, and Jimmy Silver, who
was keeping wicket, took the ball comfortably on a level with his

"How's that?"

The umpire's hand went up, and Walton went out--reluctantly, murmuring
legends of how he had not gone within a yard of the thing.

It was only when the next batsman who emerged from the pavilion turned
out to be his young brother and not Fenn, that Silver began to see
that something was wrong. It was conceivable that Fenn might have
chosen to go in first wicket down instead of opening the batting, but
not that he should go in second wicket. If Kay's were to win it was
essential that he should begin to bat as soon as possible. Otherwise
there might be no time for him to knock off the runs. However good a
batsman is, he can do little if no one can stay with him.

There was no time to question the newcomer. He must control his
curiosity until the fall of the next wicket.

"Man in," he said.

Billy Silver was in many ways a miniature edition of his brother, and
he carried the resemblance into his batting. The head of Blackburn's
was stylish, and took no risks. His brother had not yet developed a
style, but he was very settled in his mind on the subject of risks.
There was no tempting him with half-volleys and long-hops. His motto
was defence, not defiance. He placed a straight bat in the path of
every ball, and seemed to consider his duty done if he stopped it.

The remainder of the over was, therefore, quiet. Billy played
Kennedy's fastest like a book, and left the more tempting ones alone.

Challis's first over realised a single, Wayburn snicking him to leg.
The first ball of Kennedy's second over saw him caught at the wicket,
as Walton had been.

"Every _time a coconut," said Jimmy Silver complacently, as he
walked to the other end. "We're a powerful combination, Kennedy.
Where's Fenn? Does anybody know? Why doesn't he come in?"

Billy Silver, seated on the grass by the side of the crease, fastening
the top strap of one of his pads, gave tongue with the eagerness of
the well-informed man.

"What, don't you know?" he said. "Why, there's been an awful row. Fenn
won't be able to play till four o'clock. I believe he and Kay had a
row last night, and he cheeked Kay, and the old man's given him a sort
of extra. I saw him going over to the School House, and I heard him
tell Wayburn that he wouldn't be able to play till four."

The effect produced by this communication would be most fittingly
expressed by the word "sensation" in brackets. It came as a complete
surprise to everyone. It seemed to knock the bottom out of the whole
match. Without Fenn the thing would be a farce. Kay's would have no

"What a worm that man is," said Kennedy. "Do you know, I had a sort of
idea Fenn wouldn't last out much longer. Kay's been ragging him all
the term. I went round to see him last night, and Kay behaved like a
bounder then. I expect Fenn had it out with him when they got indoors.
What a beastly shame, though."

"Beastly," agreed Jimmy Silver. "Still, it can't be helped. The sins
of the house-master are visited on the house. I'm afraid it will be
our painful duty to wipe the floor with Kay's this day. Speaking at a
venture, I should say that we have got them where the hair's short.
Yea. Even on toast, if I may be allowed to use the expression. Who is
this coming forth now? Curtis, or me old eyes deceive me. And is not
Curtis's record score three, marred by ten chances? Indeed yes. A
fastish yorker should settle Curtis's young hash. Try one."

Kennedy followed the recipe. A ball later the middle and leg stumps
were lying in picturesque attitudes some yards behind the crease, and
Curtis was beginning that "sad, unending walk to the pavilion",
thinking, with the poet,

"Thou wast not made to play, infernal ball!"

Blackburn's non-combatants, dotted round the boundary, shrieked their
applause. Three wickets had fallen for five runs, and life was worth
living. Kay's were silent and gloomy.

Billy Silver continued to occupy one end in an immovable manner, but
at the other there was no monotony. Man after man came in, padded and
gloved, and looking capable of mighty things. They took guard, patted
the ground lustily, as if to make it plain that they were going to
stand no nonsense, settled their caps over their eyes, and prepared to
receive the ball. When it came it usually took a stump or two with it
before it stopped. It was a procession such as the school grounds had
not often seen. As the tenth man walked from the pavilion, four
sounded from the clock over the Great Hall, and five minutes later the
weary eyes of the supporters of Kay's were refreshed by the sight of
Fenn making his way to the arena from the direction of the School

Just as he arrived on the scene, Billy Silver's defence broke down.
One of Challis's slows, which he had left alone with the idea that it
was going to break away to the off, came in quickly instead, and
removed a bail. Billy Silver had only made eight; but, as the full
score, including one bye, was only eighteen, this was above the
average, and deserved the applause it received.

Fenn came in in the unusual position of eleventh man, with an
expression on his face that seemed to suggest that he meant business.
He was curiously garbed. Owing to the shortness of the interval
allowed him for changing, he had only managed to extend his cricket
costume as far as white buckskin boots. He wore no pads or gloves. But
even in the face of these sartorial deficiencies, he looked like a
cricketer. The field spread out respectfully, and Jimmy Silver moved a
man from the slips into the country.

There were three more balls of Challis's over, for Billy Silver's
collapse had occurred at the third delivery. Fenn mistimed the first.
Two hours' writing indoors does not improve the eye. The ball missed
the leg stump by an inch.

About the fifth ball he made no mistake. He got the full face of the
bat to it, and it hummed past coverpoint to the boundary. The last of
the over he put to leg for three.

A remarkable last-wicket partnership now took place, remarkable not so
much for tall scoring as for the fact that one of the partners did not
receive a single ball from beginning to end of it, with the exception
of the one that bowled him. Fenn seemed to be able to do what he
pleased with the bowling. Kennedy he played with a shade more respect
than the others, but he never failed to score a three or a single off
the last ball of each of his overs. The figures on the telegraph-board
rose from twenty to thirty, from thirty to forty, from forty to fifty.
Williams went on at the lower end instead of Challis, and Fenn made
twelve off his first over. The pavilion was filled with howling
enthusiasts, who cheered every hit in a frenzy.

Jimmy Silver began to look worried. He held a hasty consultation with
Kennedy. The telegraph-board now showed the figures 60--9--8.

"This won't do," said Silver. "It would be too foul to get licked
after having nine of them out for eighteen. Can't you manage to keep
Fenn from scoring odd figures off the last ball of your over? If only
that kid at the other end would get some of the bowling, we should do

"I'll try," said Kennedy, and walked back to begin his over.

Fenn reached his fifty off the third ball. Seventy went up on the
board. Ten more and Kay's would have the cup. The fourth ball was too
good to hit. Fenn let it pass. The fifth he drove to the on. It was a
big hit, but there was a fieldsman in the neighbourhood. Still, it was
an easy two. But to Kennedy's surprise Fenn sent his partner back
after they had run a single. Even the umpire was surprised. Fenn's
policy was so obvious that it was strange to see him thus deliberately
allow his partner to take a ball.

"That's not over, you know, Fenn," said the umpire--Lang, of the
School House, a member of the first eleven.

Fenn looked annoyed. He had miscounted the balls, and now his partner,
who had no pretensions to be considered a bat, would have to face

That mistake lost Kay's the match.

Impossible as he had found it to defeat Fenn, Kennedy had never lost
his head or his length. He was bowling fully as well as he had done at
the beginning of the innings.

The last ball of the over beat the batsman all the way. He scooped
blindly forward, missed it by a foot, and the next moment the off
stump lay flat. Blackburn's had won by seven runs.

Content of CHAPTER III - THE FINAL HOUSE-MATCH (P G Wodehouse's novel: Head of Kay's)

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