Nonsense and Insensibility- with apologies to Jane Austen.
It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a Greysman in possession of the good fortune to have been on tour, must be in want of a some of the brain cells he left in Devon.
Richard Southon, handsome, rich and clever, showing a previously unknown interest in the movement of heavenly bodies, had celebrated the solstice at Brighthelmston, or Brighton as some are now calling it, then breakfasted on the foaming ales so much admired by him and his colleagues at the friendly local establishment known to all who frequent it as the Constant. He had no need to dress, as it so happened he was still attired in his evening suit from the previous nights endeavours, although his top hat had required some small readjustment, in order to return it to its accustomed jaunty angle. The ladies of Brighton would have been well advised to take the utmost care, as Mr Southon would as soon sweep a young lady off her feet as look at her, to which the ruined reputations of many a Sussex lass will attest. Despite this he was no roguish cad as you may surmise from this feature of his character; far from it, a more charming and personable man it would be difficult to encounter.
“My dear Jane”, said he, as he suppressed the laughter which was never far from his lips, “May I partake of one of your fine Harveys? Thank you, you are too kind.” Harveys was also never far from Mr Southon’s lips, nor the delicately rolled fine Virginian tobacco to which he was so partial.
As he took his leave to make his way to the garden at the rear of the building, he realised that his birthday weekend was at last taking its toll.
“Mr Southon,” exclaimed the barmaid, “I do believe this may be part of your brain here on the floor. Oh my, I hope it’s not a part that you need! Shall I put it with the others, Sir?”
“Oh, I say, never mind, ho ho ho, well I never, must stop doing that!” he replied, as he sallied forth into to the sunlit and heavily flowered garden, grateful that he was still able to recall at least some of the events of the night before.
“Ahhh, that’s better, ho ho ho!”, said he, reacquainting himself with his old companion, Mr Harvey. Memories of the evening races at Goodwood, and the outdoor ball that followed returned fleetingly. Had he really confused the back end of a horse with the rear of two young ladies at the end of that glorious June evening? It would certainly explain the deep horseshoe shape imprinted in his chest, and the distinct smell of hay, which seemed to assail his nostrils at every turn.
At least there was the Sunday’s traditional game of village cricket to look forward to, the first such game for many a season to be played in the absence of Mr Line, who had only recently embarked on a voyage of considerable length to the colonies, to investigate the fortunes of his convict relatives and their peculiar mixture of religious and alcoholic fervour. He had ensured that the well being of the cricket club was safely secured in the hands of Mr Hoare, who’s expertise in the fields of finance and statistics he was confident would prove ideally suited to the job in hand, namely as custodian of the captaincy of the team until his return.
As the numerous Greysmen began to descend on the Constant Service, conversation turned to the difficulties of the day’s journey to the ground, divided as the town was on that day by the annual pilgrimage of those tiresome velocipedes from the capital to Brighthelmston and it’s life restoring baths, seaside remedies, and seedy establishments so favoured by the toffs, dandies and young rogues of the South of England. It is said one can have the gayest of times at this seaside fishing town and bathing resort.
At the end of the table sat Mr Hoare, as the leader of the outing, then Mr Fenton, the apothecary. Next to him Mr Brasher the postmaster sat, as ever the willing driver of his pony and trap, then Mr Ibrahim Azami, an exotic fellow of the East, purveyor of meats from many unusual parts of various animals, which he quite wisely did not partake of himself. After him came Mr Sewell, the tutor and confusionist, who was kindly providing accommodation for Mr Azami, Mr Southon, then Dr Gallagher, a scientist who had spent some years studying something very important to do with ants, Mr Newland, who invented fantastical devices and finally Mr Winrow, a journalist of no little repute, who it was said could write three reports of the same event, with different accents, for three separate newspapers, and all simultaneously, such was his skill with pen and ink.
“Are young Will and the Reverend Burgess meeting us at the ground?” asked Mr Hoare, “and are you actually here, Mr Southon?”
“Assuredly, Mr Hoare”, replied Mr Southon, though he looked anything but.
However, the restorative power of the ale began to take its effect on the happy gathering, and before anyone knew it, the time to depart was upon them. Allocated their coaches, they set off and made good time getting to the ground, where they were met by the cheery countenance of Rev Burgess, and the opposition for the day, the merry fellows of the Brighton and Hove Crescent Cricket Club, with jester Mr Garoghan, and his mixture of young and old team mates.
Now, even the most casual reading of the Mighty Greys scorebook would reveal to any person except one who knew not a farthing about cricket, that times had been parlous, to say the very least. There were dim memories of victories in the distant past, stories of great celebrations, scores of 300 or more, and much speech on the subjects of stopping and rot, but to no discernable effect and definitely no positive result.
“I feel today may very well be our day, as I have heard many promising reports of young Will. Sent by St James himself, Mr Fenton tells me”, said Rev Burgess.
“Would that optimism was all that was needed to win”, said Mr Sewell, with a decidedly uncertain look at his thumbs. “May I be excused bowling, Mr Hoare, these things are no bloody use, and I have a young lady to tutor after supper and I may be needing them then”.
So to battle, and after losing the toss the Eleven of the Greys chose to wield the willow in the first innings, and despite the early demise of Mr Winrow, Mr Brasher and young Will set about the bowling with such relish, their team mates began to relax and dare to dream that times and glories past really were to return. 50 passed, and calamity! Mr Brasher, so honest a man he walked even though he may not even have touched the leather at all! 16 to the leaner opener, and a welcome glimpse of a return to form. Masters Jake and Max, also of some convict lineage, bowled mightily well for the Crescent.
Entering the fray came Mr Fenton, but his candle was soon extinguished, having snuffed out hopes on the boundary’s edge by calling young Will for a single which was somehow beyond him. Free hitting Will had cut loose, swishing his bat and dispatching the ball with a flourish until this disaster had befallen the gentlemen, but there after loss followed loss, and soon the once secure looking score of 100 began look like an impossible task on yet another Sunday’s amusements. Dr Gallagher tried valiantly to find something between solid form and wanton recklessness, but he is proving a jolly elusive fellow, and was bowled for 5. The Rev. Burgess tarried at the wicket, his secret admiration for Mr Garoghan under control, until the melancholic tones of Mr Garoghan’s ballard, “I’m not in Hove”, came uninvited into his mind, and he was caught out for 12.
Mr Sewell’s thumbs allowed for bat to be held, and after some defiance, with Mr Newland at the other end with some very inventive batting, including yet another top edged 6, scoring 22, Mr Sewell played a sumptuous drive and then he contrived another run out. It may be of interest that the wicket of Mr Newland was rather unfairly purloined by a certain Mr Eastwood, who had masqueraded as a Greysman some seasons before, and only now was showing his true colours as a Crescent man, and a treacherous scoundrel to boot!
Mr Southon was last man to the crease with his customary swagger, and the assembled crowd waited as he readied himself. The ball was bowled, and Mr Southon swayed as he swatted the ball. He continued to sway and as the ball reached the square leg’s hands, Mr Southon was lying in a heap on the ground behind the stumps, and how it amused all present! The Greysmen were all out for a total of 121. One hundred passed, and 38 overs faced, but little solace was extracted from these facts.
Tea, cakes, pastries and much besides was served at teatime, and more optimistic talk was had, and heads were held high as the contest was restarted. Dr Gallagher was in fine and firey form, propelling the ball with great vigour, but new skipper Mr Hoare is of a very delicate physiognomy, and feeling a slight cross wind, felt it wise to withdraw himself from the attack, in case he was blown off balance as he approached the crease. Young Will took a fine overhead catch to dismiss an even younger Matt from the Crescent from the bowling of Mr Southon, and more celebrations seemed in the offing when Dr Gallagher found the edge of Mr Garoghan’s bat, but to no avail, as the ball was declared a “no ball”, and the umpire repeated the medicine some few balls after, when edge was found once more! It was really TOO much, and Mr Fenton, with scant regard for the decorum associated with this sport of bat and ball, threw the ball to the earth, and kicked Mr Southon’s bowling mark, in, it should be noted, a particularly uncouth manner. This event secured PSM, though Mr Southon’s tumble surely seemed more worthy? Mr Fenton’s anger was directed at who knows who or what, and it seemed that he had recovered himself sufficiently, but was unable to take another edge the following ball. The Greysmen felt truely forsaken. Michael of the Crescent then proceeded to club the ball hither and thither, eager as he was to attend his sister’s party later. Mr Newland, perhaps his mind on a musical recital he was due to attend the very next weekend, found difficulty in locating the region of the pitch he was aiming at, and was not bowling quite the right stuff to disturb the batters, except for one which induced an injudicious shot from Mr Garoghan, another catch for young Will .
A final two 4s, (one of which, was pursued by Mr Southon and made the poor fellow tumbled over again, although it was hard to fathom why), were enough to push the gentlemen of the Crescent beyond their unchallenging target.
“I think what we all need is a good strong dose of some of that restorative ale we were so taken by at luncheon”, someone declared, and if that’s not the case, then no matter, because that’s what every Greysmen was thinking. Except Mr Azami, who for dietary reasons isn’t allowed religion during the hours of daylight, and that includes Harvey’s, according to Mr Southon. And so, after cordialities had been exchanged with the opposition, the collection of gentlemen bid their farewells, and withdrew to review the days painful proceedings.
“That’s it, I’m done with this captaincy lark”, announced Mr Hoare, when settled once more at the Constant Service, and so it happened that Mr Gallagher decided he would have a try at the job, after Rev Burgess declined to offer his services, as did all others.
Much merriment ensued as the dwindling number of Greysmen drank away their disappointments, telling tales of tours and achievements past, while dancing away to the latest aires from London.
And what of our Mr Southon? Well, it so happened that he still hadn’t found his bed till past two in the morning, and everyone can’t marry eachother at the end, because there has only been one female character in this story. All very unsatisfactory, and, as Mr Sewell, will in all likelihood be thinking, very very contrived.