The Season’s Prospects by A. A. Milne

The great question in the Mallory family just now is whether Dick will get into the eleven this year. Confident as he is himself, he is taking no risks.“We’re going to pu …

The great question in the Mallory family just now is whether Dick will get into the eleven this year. Confident as he is himself, he is taking no risks.

“We’re going to put the net up to-morrow,” he said to me as soon as I arrived, “and then you’ll be able to bowl to me. How long are you staying?”

“Till to-night,” I said quickly.

“Rot! You’re fixed up here till Tuesday any how.”

“My dear Dick, I’ve come down for a few days’ rest. If the weather permits, I may have the croquet things out one afternoon and try a round, or possibly–“

“I don’t believe you can bowl,” said Bobby rudely. Bobby is twelve–five years younger than Dick. It is not my place to smack Bobby’s head, but somebody might do it for him.

“Then that just shows how little you know about it,” I retorted. “In a match last September I went on to bowl–“

“Why?”

“I knew the captain,” I explained. “Well, as I say, he asked me to go on to bowl, and I took four wickets for thirteen runs. There!”

“Good man,” said Dick.

“Was it against a girls’ school?” said Bobby. (You know, Bobby is simply asking for it.)

“It was not. Nor were children of twelve allowed in without their perambulators.”

“Well, anyhow,” said Bobby, “I bet Phyllis can bowl better than you.”

“Is this true?” I said to Phyllis. I asked her, because in a general way my bowling is held to be superior to that of girls of fifteen. Of course, she might be something special.

“I can bowl Bobby out,” she said modestly.

I looked at Bobby in surprise and then shook my head sadly.

“You jolly well shut up,” he said, turning indignantly to his sister. “Just because you did it once when the sun was in my eyes–“

“Bobby, Bobby,” I said, “this is painful hearing. Let us be thankful that we don’t have to play against girls’ schools. Let us–“

But Bobby was gone. Goaded to anger, he had put his hands in his pockets and made the general observation “Rice-pudding”–an observation inoffensive enough to a stranger, but evidently of such deep, private significance to Phyllis that it was necessary for him to head a pursuit into the shrubbery without further delay.

“The children are gone,” I said to Dick. “Now we can discuss the prospects for the season in peace.” I took up “The Sportsman” again. “I see that Kent is going to–“

“The prospects are all right,” said Dick, “if only I can get into form soon enough. Last year I didn’t get going till the end of June. By the way, what sort of stuff do you bowl?”

“Ordinary sort of stuff,” I said, “with one or two bounces in it. Do you see that Surrey–“

“Fast or slow?”

“Slow–that is, you know, when I do bowl at all. I’m not quite sure this season whether I hadn’t better–“

“Slow,” said Dick thoughtfully; “that’s really what I want. I want lots of that.”

“You must get Phyllis to bowl to you,” I said with detachment. “You know, I shouldn’t be surprised if Lancashire–“

“My dear man, girls can’t bowl. She fields jolly well, though.”

“What about your father?”

“His bowling days are rather over. He was in the eleven, you know, thirty years ago. So there’s really nobody but–“

“One’s bowling days soon get over,” I hastened to agree.

But I know now exactly what the prospects of the season–or, at any rate, of the first week of it–are.

MR. MALLORY

The prospects here are on the whole encouraging. To dwell upon the bright side first, there will be half-an-hour’s casual bowling, and an hour and a half’s miscellaneous coaching, every day. On the other hand, some of his best plants will be disturbed, while there is more than a chance that he may lose the services of a library window.

MRS. MALLORY

The prospects here are much as last year, except that her youngest born, Joan, is now five, and consequently rather more likely to wander in the way of a cricket ball or fall down in front of the roller than she was twelve months ago. Otherwise Mrs. Mallory faces the approaching season with calm, if not with complete appreciation.

DICK

Of Dick’s prospects there is no need to speak at length. He will have two hours’ batting every day against, from a batsman’s point of view, ideal bowling, and in addition the whole-hearted admiration of all of us. In short, the outlook here is distinctly hopeful.

PHYLLIS

The prospects of this player are, from her own point of view, bright, as she will be allowed to field for two hours a day to the beloved Dick. She is also fully qualified now to help with the heavy roller. A new experiment is to be tried this season, and she will be allowed to bowl for an odd five-minutes at the end of Dick’s innings to me.

BOBBY

enters upon the coming season with confidence, as he thinks there is a chance of my bowling to him too; but he is mistaken. As before, he will be in charge of the heavy roller, and he will also be required to slacken the ropes of the net at the end of the day. His prospects, however, are certainly improved this season, as he will be qualified to bowl for the whole two hours, but only on the distinct understanding (with Phyllis) that he does his own fielding for himself.

Of the prospects of

JOAN

I have already spoken above. There remain only the prospects of

MYSELF

which are frankly rotten. They consist chiefly of two hours’ bowling to the batting of Dick (who hits them back very hard), and ten minutes’ batting to the bowling of Phyllis (slow, mild) and Bobby (fast wides); for Dick, having been ordered by the captain not to strain himself by trying to bowl, is not going to try. It is extremely doubtful whether Bobby will approve of my action, while if he or Phyllis should, by an unlucky accident, get me out, I should never hear the last of it. In this case, however, there must be added to Bobby’s prospects the possibility of getting his head definitely smacked.

Fortunately–it is my only consolation–the season will be a short one. It ends on Tuesday.

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