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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Gold Bat - Chapter XI - THE HOUSE-MATCHES
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The Gold Bat - Chapter XI - THE HOUSE-MATCHES Post by :jamesvs Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :1942

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The Gold Bat - Chapter XI - THE HOUSE-MATCHES

CHAPTER XI - THE HOUSE-MATCHES


It was something of a consolation to Barry and his friends--at any
rate, to Barry and Drummond--that directly after they had been evicted
from their study, the house-matches began. Except for the Ripton match,
the house-matches were the most important event of the Easter term.
Even the sports at the beginning of April were productive of less
excitement. There were twelve houses at Wrykyn, and they played on the
"knocking-out" system. To be beaten once meant that a house was no
longer eligible for the competition. It could play "friendlies" as much
as it liked, but, play it never so wisely, it could not lift the cup.
Thus it often happened that a weak house, by fluking a victory over a
strong rival, found itself, much to its surprise, in the semi-final, or
sometimes even in the final. This was rarer at football than at
cricket, for at football the better team generally wins.

The favourites this year were Donaldson's, though some fancied
Seymour's. Donaldson's had Trevor, whose leadership was worth almost
more than his play. In no other house was training so rigid. You could
tell a Donaldson's man, if he was in his house-team, at a glance. If
you saw a man eating oatmeal biscuits in the shop, and eyeing wistfully
the while the stacks of buns and pastry, you could put him down as a
Donaldsonite without further evidence. The captains of the other houses
used to prescribe a certain amount of self-abnegation in the matter of
food, but Trevor left his men barely enough to support life--enough,
that is, of the things that are really worth eating. The consequence
was that Donaldson's would turn out for an important match all muscle
and bone, and on such occasions it was bad for those of their opponents
who had been taking life more easily. Besides Trevor they had Clowes,
and had had bad luck in not having Paget. Had Paget stopped, no other
house could have looked at them. But by his departure, the strength of
the team had become more nearly on a level with that of Seymour's.

Some even thought that Seymour's were the stronger. Milton was as good
a forward as the school possessed. Besides him there were Barry and
Rand-Brown on the wings. Drummond was a useful half, and five of the
pack had either first or second fifteen colours. It was a team that
would take some beating.

Trevor came to that conclusion early. "If we can beat Seymour's, we'll
lift the cup," he said to Clowes.

"We'll have to do all we know," was Clowes' reply.

They were watching Seymour's pile up an immense score against a scratch
team got up by one of the masters. The first round of the competition
was over. Donaldson's had beaten Templar's, Seymour's the School House.
Templar's were rather stronger than the School House, and Donaldson's
had beaten them by a rather larger score than that which Seymour's had
run up in their match. But neither Trevor nor Clowes was inclined to
draw any augury from this. Seymour's had taken things easily after
half-time; Donaldson's had kept going hard all through.

"That makes Rand-Brown's fourth try," said Clowes, as the wing
three-quarter of the second fifteen raced round and scored in the
corner.

"Yes. This is the sort of game he's all right in. The man who's marking
him is no good. Barry's scored twice, and both good tries, too."

"Oh, there's no doubt which is the best man," said Clowes. "I only
mentioned that it was Rand-Brown's fourth as an item of interest."

The game continued. Barry scored a third try.

"We're drawn against Appleby's next round," said Trevor. "We can manage
them all right."

"When is it?"

"Next Thursday. Nomads' match on Saturday. Then Ripton, Saturday week."

"Who've Seymour's drawn?"

"Day's. It'll be a good game, too. Seymour's ought to win, but they'll
have to play their best. Day's have got some good men."

"Fine scrum," said Clowes. "Yes. Quick in the open, too, which is
always good business. I wish they'd beat Seymour's."

"Oh, we ought to be all right, whichever wins."

Appleby's did not offer any very serious resistance to the Donaldson
attack. They were outplayed at every point of the game, and, before
half-time, Donaldson's had scored their thirty points. It was a rule in
all in-school matches--and a good rule, too--that, when one side led by
thirty points, the match stopped. This prevented those massacres which
do so much towards crushing all the football out of the members of the
beaten team; and it kept the winning team from getting slack, by urging
them on to score their thirty points before half-time. There were some
houses--notoriously slack--which would go for a couple of seasons
without ever playing the second half of a match.

Having polished off the men of Appleby, the Donaldson team trooped off
to the other game to see how Seymour's were getting on with Day's. It
was evidently an exciting match. The first half had been played to the
accompaniment of much shouting from the ropes. Though coming so early
in the competition, it was really the semi-final, for whichever team
won would be almost certain to get into the final. The school had
turned up in large numbers to watch.

"Seymour's looking tired of life," said Clowes. "That would seem as if
his fellows weren't doing well."

"What's been happening here?" asked Trevor of an enthusiast in a
Seymour's house cap whose face was crimson with yelling.

"One goal all," replied the enthusiast huskily. "Did you beat
Appleby's?"

"Yes. Thirty points before half-time. Who's been doing the scoring
here?"

"Milton got in for us. He barged through out of touch. We've been
pressing the whole time. Barry got over once, but he was held up.
Hullo, they're beginning again. Buck up, Sey-_mour's_."

His voice cracking on the high note, he took an immense slab of vanilla
chocolate as a remedy for hoarseness.

"Who scored for Day's?" asked Clowes.

"Strachan. Rand-Brown let him through from their twenty-five. You never
saw anything so rotten as Rand-Brown. He doesn't take his passes, and
Strachan gets past him every time."

"Is Strachan playing on the wing?"

Strachan was the first fifteen full-back.

"Yes. They've put young Bassett back instead of him. Sey-_mour's_.
Buck up, Seymour's. We-ell played! There, did you ever see anything
like it?" he broke off disgustedly.

The Seymourite playing centre next to Rand-Brown had run through to the
back and passed out to his wing, as a good centre should. It was a
perfect pass, except that it came at his head instead of his chest.
Nobody with any pretensions to decent play should have missed it.
Rand-Brown, however, achieved that feat. The ball struck his hands
and bounded forward. The referee blew his whistle for a scrum, and a
certain try was lost.

From the scrum the Seymour's forwards broke away to the goal-line,
where they were pulled up by Bassett. The next minute the defence had
been pierced, and Drummond was lying on the ball a yard across the
line. The enthusiast standing by Clowes expended the last relics of his
voice in commemorating the fact that his side had the lead.

"Drummond'll be good next year," said Trevor. And he made a mental note
to tell Allardyce, who would succeed him in the command of the school
football, to keep an eye on the player in question.

The triumph of the Seymourites was not long lived. Milton failed to
convert Drummond's try. From the drop-out from the twenty-five line
Barry got the ball, and punted into touch. The throw-out was not
straight, and a scrum was formed. The ball came out to the Day's
halves, and went across to Strachan. Rand-Brown hesitated, and then
made a futile spring at the first fifteen man's neck. Strachan handed
him off easily, and ran. The Seymour's full-back, who was a poor
player, failed to get across in time. Strachan ran round behind the
posts, the kick succeeded, and Day's now led by two points.

After this the game continued in Day's half. Five minutes before time
was up, Drummond got the ball from a scrum nearly on the line, passed
it to Barry on the wing instead of opening up the game by passing to
his centres, and Barry slipped through in the corner. This put
Seymour's just one point ahead, and there they stayed till the whistle
blew for no-side.

Milton walked over to the boarding-houses with Clowes and Trevor. He
was full of the match, particularly of the iniquity of Rand-Brown. "I
slanged him on the field," he said. "It's a thing I don't often do, but
what else _can you do when a man plays like that? He lost us
three certain tries."

"When did you administer your rebuke?" inquired Clowes.

"When he had let Strachan through that second time, in the second half.
I asked him why on earth he tried to play footer at all. I told him a
good kiss-in-the-ring club was about his form. It was rather cheap, but
I felt so frightfully sick about it. It's sickening to be let down like
that when you've been pressing the whole time, and ought to be scoring
every other minute."

"What had he to say on the subject?" asked Clowes.

"Oh, he gassed a bit until I told him I'd kick him if he said another
word. That shut him up."

"You ought to have kicked him. You want all the kicking practice you
can get. I never saw anything feebler than that shot of yours after
Drummond's try."

"I'd like to see _you take a kick like that. It was nearly on the
touch-line. Still, when we play you, we shan't need to convert any of
our tries. We'll get our thirty points without that. Perhaps you'd like
to scratch?"

"As a matter of fact," said Clowes confidentially, "I am going to score
seven tries against you off my own bat. You'll be sorry you ever turned
out when we've finished with you."

Content of CHAPTER XI - THE HOUSE-MATCHES (P G Wodehouse's novel: The Gold Bat)

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