Another of the book extracts, from "A la recherche du cricket
perdu" by Simon Barnes. Its about the recently concluded B&H semi-finals,
by the esteemed P.G."Plum" Wodehouse. (Maybe I should post it to
alt.fan.wodehouse too ? :-) ). As always, all scanning errors are my
Sadiq [ the scanner ] Yusuf
P. G. WODEHOUSE
I don't know if you've ever had the same experience, but I have
always found that whenever I am most conspicuously full of joie de vivre
and espieglerie, it is a sign that fate is sneaking up behind me in order
to sock me on the base of the skull with a cricket bat.
Right ho. Let me marshal my facts. Jeeves - the players'
dressing-room attendant at Loamshire, don't you know? - had just brought
me that perfect prematch cup of tea. The bird was on the wing and, if my
memory serves me correctly, there was not a cloud in the sky.
'Well,' I said. 'Here we are again, what?'
'All set for a semi in the jolly old Benson and Hedges. '
'And the bally weather, too - am I right, Jeeves, or am I wrong?'
'It is certainly exceedingly clement, sir. Excuse me, sir, are you
proposing to play cricket in that hat?'
'What's wrong with it?'
'Oh, nothing, sir.'
'Out with it, Jeeves. You don't like this hat.'
'For fishing, or for relaxing on the beach, it would be excellent,
'It's a fielding hat, Jeeves. For fielding in.'
'If I might make the suggestion, sir, for a county captain, the
county cap is more suitable.'
'Very good, sir.'
'Absolute blather from the sickbed.'
'As you say, sir.'
'Heaps of chaps have asked me who I bought it from. '
'Doubtless in order to avoid the man, sir.'
Well, the *** of the Woosters was stirred by this. I could see
that it was time I put my foot down, if I was not to become a slave to my
own dressing-room attendant. If he expected Bertram Wooster to give this
hat the miss in baulk, then he expected wrong.
No one has greater respect for Jeeves's judgement than myself. I
am prepared to admit that in the matter of flannels, and even of pads, he
stands alone. But in my view, hats are, and have always been, his weak
'Oh, by the by, Jeeves, what do you think the wicket will do
'I really could not say, sir.'
I could tell that the blighter was miffed. Spurning the young
master. 'That will be all, Jeeves,' I said coldly, and I meant it to
sting, by God.
Jeeves shimmered off into his lair, leaving me to contemplate my
fate. But I had hardly got into first gear with contemplation when our
number five batsman, Gussie Fink-Nottle, burst into the room like an
aspiring tornado. A small cry escaped me.
'Bertie, something ghastly has happened.'
'Oh-ah?' I replied, cordially enough. I don't know if you know
Gussie - looks like a fish, sound batsman of the defensive kind, imagines
he's a demon leg-spin bowler - but he is one of life's leading fatheads.
'Madeleine has broken off our engagement.'
'Gosh!' I said.
And I'll tell you why I goshed. Madeleine Bassett, telephone
receptionist at Loamshire, and the fatheadest girl who ever thought that
the stars were God's daisy-chain and that whenever a baby laughs a wee
fairy is born, has it firmly fixed in her woollen mind that Bertram is
pining away for the love of her. If she had broken it off with Gussie,
then she would be at my side in a trice, expecting me to buy the licence
and start ordering the cake.
'Why?' I gulped.
'She made a slighting remark about my abilities as a leg-spin
'Oh, I say, what?'
'I couldn't bring myself to repeat it.'
'Have a bash!'
'So I told her she knew nothing about cricket, and she said she
knew a sight more than I did, and that she'd sooner die than marry a man
who couldn't bowl a hoop downhill.'
I made a grab for the bell. 'Jeeves!' The fellow reappeared. I
explained the posish.
'Accept my condolences, Mr Fink-Nottle,' he said.
'Thank you, Jeeves.'
'Will that be all, sir?'
'But I say, Jeeves,' I blurted. 'What am I going to do?'
'No doubt a course of action will suggest itself to you, sir.'
I cast a look at my fielding hat, and I must confess, I wavered.
But we Woosters have our code.
'I am sorry to have troubled you, Jeeves,' I said frostily, and he
shimmered away again.
I went out to toss up with the opposing captain - did I tell you
it was Surrey we were playing? - and lost. We were asked to bat. I
sauntered back to the pavilion trying hard not to look like a man bowed
down with care. Jeeves greeted me: 'Sir, I have been asked to impart a
message to you. '
'Impart away, Jeeves.'
'Anatole, the Loamshire cook, has given in his notice. '
I began to feel rather like one that on a lonesome road that walks
in fear and dread, and having once turned round walks on and turns no more
his head, because he knows a fearful fiend doth close behind him tread.
Anatole is a master of his art, and the most cherished cook in county
cricket, the envy of every club in the country. 'But why, Jeeves?'
'He has received an offer from Surrey.'
'But, dash it, why has he accepted it?'
'He is love with Pamela, the lady who serves the drinks in the
members' bar. She has also given in her notice. It was her decision to
leave that prompted Anatole to follow her.'
'But why is she leaving?'
'She feels that Loamshire's failure to reach a one-day final
reflects on her personal dignity.'
'But I mean to say, we might win this match and get to Lord's.'
'She is not sanguine. In fact, she was heard to liken Loamshire's
chances of winning today to those of a snowball in hell.'
'Very good, sir. But as the Emperor Marcus Aurelius once said, all
that befalls you is part of the great web, sir.'
'Marcus Aurelius said that, did he?'
'Yes, sir. '
'Well, next time you see him, tell him he's an ass.'
'Very good, sir.'
As Jeeves once remarked, when sorrows come, they come not single
spies but in battalions. Our chaps batted badly. We were all out for 150
Gussie and I both made ducks. It was frightful. It was the bally
frightfulness of it all that made it all so frightfully bally.
Lunch was a torment. Anatole's food turned to ashes in my mouth.
Madeleine Bassett walked through the dining room, gave Gussie a cold look,
and then gave me a smile I can only describe as threatening. Jeeves said
not a thing. I tell you, it was frightful.
By the tea interval, it was worse. Surrey were 110 for three with
thirty overs left. I had tried all our best bowlers, and none of them had
done a thing. I don't mind telling you, I was stumped.
I heard a gentle cough by my side. It wasJeeves. 'If I might make
a suggestion, sir.'
'You might, Jeeves, you might.'
'I believe the wicket will be more than usually responsive to
spin, sir. I suggest bowling Mr Fink-Nottle at the pavilion end.'
'Mr Fink-Nottle, Jeeves? But you know the man can't bowl to save
'I believe that this is the one wicket that will suit him, sir. I
also believe that Surrey are singularly illsuited to playing leg-spin.'
Well, if Jeeves gives you advice, you ignore it at your peril.
When tea was over, we took to the field, and the first thing I did was to
throw the ball to old Gussie. The sight of him running in, looking more
like a fish than anything you'd ever find in a sauce Mornay, caused the
batsman to grin cheerfully. He was still grinning as he attempted to smite
the ball into the middle distance. He missed. The ball hit the wicket.
That was the beginning of it all. To cut a long story short,
Gussie took seven wickets for 10 runs, and Surrey were beaten by 7 runs.
Gussie, blushing like a modest flounder, led us off the field.
'My hero!' said la Bassett, as we entered the pavilion, and I gave
a gusty sigh of relief and returned to the dressing room. Jeeves was there
to meet me. 'Sir, I have a message for you.'
'Tell me all, Jeeves.'
'Anatole has withdrawn his notice. Pamela from the members' bar
refused to go to Surrey after their performance this afternoon.'
'Most gratifying, sir.'
'And all because of your suggestion to bowl Gussie. '
'Very kind of you to put it that way, sir.'
'No, really, Jeeves, you stand alone.'
'Thank you, sir.'
I felt a pang of regret, but I knew what had to be done. 'Jeeves,
you know my fielding hat?'
'Is it really so frightful?'
'A trifle inappropriate, sir.'
'Give it away, Jeeves.'
'Thank you, sir. I have already given it to the groundsman's
'Thank you, Jeeves.'
'Not at all, sir.'