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Notes For A Biography Of Ginger Stott






Part of: MY EARLY ASSOCIATIONS WITH GINGER STOTT
From: The Wonder

I

Ginger Stott is a name that was once as well known as any in England.
Stott has been the subject of leading articles in every daily paper; his
life has been written by an able journalist who interviewed Stott
himself, during ten crowded minutes, and filled three hundred pages with
details, seventy per cent. of which were taken from the journals, and
the remainder supplied by a brilliant imagination. Ten years ago Ginger
Stott was on a pinnacle, there was a Stott vogue. You found his name at
the bottom of signed articles written by members of the editorial staff;
you bought Stott collars, although Stott himself did not wear collars;
there was a Stott waltz, which is occasionally hummed by clerks, and
whistled by errand-boys to this day; there was a periodical which lived
for ten months, entitled Ginger Stott's Weekly; in brief, during one
summer there was a Stott apotheosis.

But that was ten years ago, and the rising generation has almost
forgotten the once well-known name. One rarely sees him mentioned in the
morning paper now, and then it is but the briefest reference; some such
note as this "Pickering was at the top of his form, recalling the finest
achievements of Ginger Stott at his best," or "Flack is a magnificent
find for Kent: he promises to completely surpass the historic feats of
Ginger Stott." These journalistic superlatives only irritate those who
remember the performances referred to. We who watched the man's career
know that Pickering and Flack are but tyros compared to Stott; we know
that none of his successors has challenged comparison with him. He was a
meteor that blazed across the sky, and if he ever has a true successor,
such stars as Pickering and Flack will shine pale and dim in comparison.

It makes one feel suddenly old to recall that great matinee at the
Lyceum, given for Ginger Stott's benefit after he met with his accident.
In ten years so many great figures in that world have died or fallen
into obscurity. I can count on my fingers the number of those who were
then, and are still, in the forefront of popularity. Of the others poor
Captain Wallis, for instance, is dead--and no modern writer, in my
opinion, can equal the brilliant descriptiveness of Wallis's articles in
the Daily Post. Bobby Maisefield, again, Stott's colleague, is a
martyr to rheumatism, and keeps a shop in Ailesworth, the scene of so
many of his triumphs. What a list one might make, but how uselessly. It
is enough to note how many names have dropped out, how many others are
the names of those we now speak of as veterans. In ten years! It
certainly makes one feel old.


II

No apology is needed for telling again the story of Stott's career.
Certain details will still be familiar, it is true, the historic details
that can never be forgotten while cricket holds place as our national
game. But there are many facts of Stott's life familiar to me, which
have never been made public property. If I must repeat that which is
known, I can give the known a new setting; perhaps a new value.

He came of mixed races. His mother was pure Welsh, his father a
Yorkshire collier; but when Ginger was nine years old his father died,
and Mrs. Stott came to live in Ailesworth where she had immigrant
relations, and it was there that she set up the little paper-shop, the
business by which she maintained herself and her boy. That shop is still
in existence, and the name has not been altered. You may find it in the
little street that runs off the market place, going down towards the
Borstal Institution.

There are many people alive in Ailesworth to-day who can remember the
sturdy, freckled, sandy-haired boy who used to go round with the morning
and evening papers; the boy who was to change the fortunes of a county.

Ginger was phenomenally thorough in all he undertook. It was one of the
secrets of his success. It was this thoroughness that kept him engaged
in his mother's little business until he was seventeen. Up to that age
he never found time for cricket--sufficient evidence of his remarkable
and most unusual qualities.

It was sheer chance, apparently, that determined his choice of a career.

He had walked into Stoke-Underhill to deliver a parcel, and on his way
back his attention was arrested by the sight of a line of vehicles drawn
up to the boarded fencing that encloses the Ailesworth County Ground.
The occupants of these vehicles were standing up, struggling to catch a
sight of the match that was being played behind the screen erected to
shut out non-paying sightseers. Among the horses' feet, squirming
between the spokes of wheels, utterly regardless of all injury, small
boys glued their eyes to knot-holes in the fence, while others climbed
surreptitiously, and for the most part unobserved, on to the backs of
tradesmen's carts. All these individuals were in a state of tremendous
excitement, and even the policeman whose duty it was to move them on,
was so engrossed in watching the game that he had disappeared inside the
turnstile, and had given the outside spectators full opportunity for
eleemosynary enjoyment.

That tarred fence has since been raised some six feet, and now encloses
a wider sweep of ground--alterations that may be classed among the minor
revolutions effected by the genius of the thick-set, fair-haired youth
of seventeen, who paused on that early September afternoon to wonder
what all the fuss was about. The Ailesworth County Ground was not famous
in those days; not then was accommodation needed for thirty thousand
spectators, drawn from every county in England to witness the
unparallelled.

Ginger stopped. The interest of the spectacle pierced his absorption in
the business he had in hand. Such a thing was almost unprecedented.

"What's up?" he asked of Puggy Phillips.

Puggy Phillips--hazarding his life by standing on the shiny, slightly
curved top of his butcher's cart--made no appropriate answer.
"Yah--ah--AH!" he screamed in ecstasy. "Oh! played! Pla-a-a-ayed!!"

Ginger wasted no more breath, but laid hold of the little brass rail
that encircled Puggy's platform, and with a sudden hoist that lifted the
shafts and startled the pony, raised himself to the level of a
spectator.

"'Ere!" shouted the swaying, tottering Puggy. "What the ... are yer rup
to?"

The well-drilled pony, however, settled down again quietly to maintain
his end of the see-saw, and, finding himself still able to preserve his
equilibrium, Puggy instantly forgot the presence of the intruder.

"What's up?" asked Ginger again.

"Oh! Well 'it, WELL 'IT!" yelled Puggy. "Oh! Gow on, gow on agen! Run
it aht. Run it AH-T."

Ginger gave it up, and turned his attention to the match.

It was not any famous struggle that was being fought out on the old
Ailesworth Ground; it was only second-class cricket, the deciding match
of the Minor Counties championship. Hampdenshire and Oxfordshire, old
rivals, had been neck-and-neck all through the season, and, as luck
would have it, the engagement between them had been the last fixture on
the card.

When Ginger rose to the level of spectator, the match was anybody's
game. Bobby Maisefield was batting. He was then a promising young colt
who had not earned a fixed place in the Eleven. Ginger knew him
socially, but they were not friends, they had no interests in common.
Bobby had made twenty-seven. He was partnered by old Trigson, the
bowler, (he has been dead these eight years,) whose characteristic score
of "Not out ... 0," is sufficiently representative of his methods.

It was the fourth innings, and Hampdenshire with only one more wicket to
fall, still required nineteen runs to win. Trigson could be relied upon
to keep his wicket up, but not to score. The hopes of Ailesworth centred
in the ability of that almost untried colt Bobby Maisefield--and he
seemed likely to justify the trust reposed in him. A beautiful late cut
that eluded third man and hit the fence with a resounding bang, nearly
drove Puggy wild with delight.

"Only fifteen more," he shouted. "Oh! Played; pla-a-a-yed!"

But as the score crept up, the tensity grew. As each ball was delivered,
a chill, rigid silence held the onlookers in its grip. When Trigson,
with the field collected round him, almost to be covered with a sheet,
stonewalled the most tempting lob, the click of the ball on his bat was
an intrusion on the stillness. And always it was followed by a deep
breath of relief that sighed round the ring like a faint wind through a
plantation of larches. When Bobby scored, the tumult broke out like a
crash of thunder; but it subsided again, echoless, to that intense
silence so soon as the ball was "dead."

Curiously, it was not Bobby who made the winning hit but Trigson. "One
to tie, two to win," breathed Puggy as the field changed over, and it
was Trigson who had to face the bowling. The suspense was torture.
Oxford had put on their fast bowler again, and Trigson, intimidated,
perhaps, did not play him with quite so straight a bat as he had opposed
to the lob-bowler. The ball hit Trigson's bat and glanced through the
slips. The field was very close to the wicket, and the ball was
travelling fast. No one seemed to make any attempt to stop it. For a
moment the significance of the thing was not realised; for a moment
only, then followed uproar, deafening, stupendous.

Puggy was stamping fiercely on the top of his cart; the tears were
streaming down his face; he was screaming and yelling incoherent words.
And he was representative of the crowd. Thus men shouted and stamped and
cried when news came of the relief of Kimberley, or when that false
report of victory was brought to Paris in the August of 1870....

The effect upon Ginger was a thing apart. He did not join in the fierce
acclamation; he did not wait to see the chairing of Bobby and Trigson.
The greatness of Stott's character, the fineness of his genius is
displayed in his attitude towards the dramatic spectacle he had just
witnessed.

As he trudged home into Ailesworth, his thoughts found vent in a
muttered sentence which is peculiarly typical of the effect that had
been made upon him.

"I believe I could have bowled that chap," he said.


III

In writing a history of this kind, a certain licence must be claimed. It
will be understood that I am filling certain gaps in the narrative with

imagined detail. But the facts are true. My added detail is only
intended to give an appearance of life and reality to my history. Let
me, therefore, insist upon one vital point. I have not been dependent on
hearsay for one single fact in this story. Where my experience does not
depend upon personal experience, it has been received from the
principals themselves. Finally, it should be remembered that when I
have, imaginatively, put words into the mouths of the persons of this
story, they are never essential words which affect the issue. The
essential speeches are reported from first-hand sources. For instance,
Ginger Stott himself has told me on more than one occasion that the
words with which I closed the last section, were the actual words spoken
by him on the occasion in question. It was not until six years after the
great Oxfordshire match that I myself first met the man, but what
follows is literally true in all essentials.

There was a long, narrow strip of yard, or alley, at the back of Mrs.
Stott's paper-shop, a yard that, unfortunately, no longer exists. It has
been partly built over, and another of England's memorials has thus been
destroyed by the vandals of modern commerce....

This yard was fifty-three feet long, measuring from Mrs. Stott's back
door to the door of the coal-shed, which marked the alley's extreme
limit. This measurement, an apparently negligible trifle, had an
important effect upon Stott's career. For it was in this yard that he
taught himself to bowl, and the shortness of the pitch precluded his
taking any run. From those long studious hours of practice he emerged
with a characteristic that was--and still remains--unique. Stott never
took more than two steps before delivering the ball; frequently he
bowled from a standing position, and batsmen have confessed that of all
Stott's puzzling mannerisms, this was the one to which they never became
accustomed. S. R. L. Maturin, the finest bat Australia ever sent to this
country, has told me that to this peculiarity of delivery he attributed
his failure ever to score freely against Stott. It completely upset
one's habit of play, he said: one had no time to prepare for the flight
of the ball; it came at one so suddenly. Other bowlers have since
attempted some imitation of this method without success. They had not
Stott's physical advantages.

Nevertheless, the shortness of that alley threw Stott back for two
years. When he first emerged to try conclusions on the field, he found
his length on the longer pitch utterly unreliable, and the effort
necessary to throw the ball another six yards, at first upset his slowly
acquired methods.

It was not until he was twenty years old that Ginger Stott played in his
first Colts' match.

The three years that had intervened had not been prosperous years for
Hampdenshire. Their team was a one-man team. Bobby Maisefield was
developing into a fine bat (and other counties were throwing out
inducements to him, trying to persuade him to qualify for first-class
cricket), but he found no support, and Hampdenshire was never looked
upon as a coming county. The best of the minor counties in those years
were Staffordshire and Norfolk.

In the Colts' match Stott's analysis ran:

overs maidens runs wickets
11.3 7 16 7

and reference to the score-sheet, which is still preserved among the
records of the County Club, shows that six of the seven wickets were
clean bowled. The Eleven had no second innings; the match was drawn,
owing to rain. Stott has told me that the Eleven had to bat on a dry
wicket, but after making all allowances, the performance was certainly
remarkable.

After this match Stott was, of course, played regularly. That year
Hampdenshire rose once more to their old position at the head of the
minor counties, and Maisefield, who had been seriously considering
Surrey's offer of a place in their Eleven after two years' qualification
by residence, decided to remain with the county which had given him his
first chance.

During that season Stott did not record any performance so remarkable as
his feat in the Colts' match, but his record for the year was
eighty-seven wickets with an average of 9.31; and it is worthy of notice
that Yorkshire made overtures to him, as he was qualified by birth to
play for the northern county.

I think there must have been a wonderful esprit de corps among the
members of that early Hampdenshire Eleven. There are other evidences
beside this refusal of its two most prominent members to join the ranks
of first-class cricket. Lord R----, the president of the H.C.C.C., has
told me that this spirit was quite as marked as in the earlier case of
Kent. He himself certainly did much to promote it, and his generosity in
making good the deficits of the balance sheet, had a great influence on
the acceleration of Hampdenshire's triumph.

In his second year, though Hampdenshire were again champions of the
second-class counties, Stott had not such a fine average as in the
preceding season. Sixty-one wickets for eight hundred and sixty-eight
(average 14.23) seems to show a decline in his powers, but that was a
wonderful year for batsmen (Maisefield scored seven hundred and
forty-two runs, with an average of forty-two) and, moreover, that was
the year in which Stott was privately practising his new theory.

It was in this year that three very promising recruits, all since become
famous, joined the Eleven, viz.: P. H. Evans, St. John Townley, and
Flower the fast bowler. With these five cricketers Hampdenshire fully
deserved their elevation into the list of first-class counties.
Curiously enough, they took the place of the old champions,
Gloucestershire, who, with Somerset, fell back into the obscurity of the
second-class that season.


IV

I must turn aside for a moment at this point in order to explain the
"new theory" of Stott's, to which I have referred, a theory which became
in practice one of the elements of his most astounding successes.

Ginger Stott was not a tall man. He stood only 5 ft. 5-1/4 in. in his
socks, but he was tremendously solid; he had what is known as a "stocky"
figure, broad and deep-chested. That was where his muscular power lay,
for his abnormally long arms were rather thin, though his huge hands
were powerful enough.

Even without his "new theory," Stott would have been an exceptional
bowler. His thoroughness would have assured his success. He studied his
art diligently, and practised regularly in a barn through the winter.
His physique, too, was a magnificent instrument. That long, muscular
body was superbly steady on the short, thick legs. It gave him a
fulcrum, firm, apparently immovable. And those weirdly long, thin arms
could move with lightning rapidity. He always stood with his hands
behind him, and then--as often as not without even one preliminary
step--the long arm would flash round and the ball be delivered, without
giving the batsman any opportunity of watching his hand; you could never
tell which way he was going to break. It was astonishing, too, the pace
he could get without any run. Poor Wallis used to call him the "human
catapult"; Wallis was always trying to find new phrases.

The theory first came to Stott when he was practising at the nets. It
was a windy morning, and he noticed that several times the balls he
bowled swerved in the air. When those swerving balls came they were
almost unplayable.

Stott made no remark to any one--he was bowling to the groundsman--but
the ambition to bowl "swerves,"[1] as they were afterwards called, took
possession of him from that morning. It is true that he never mastered
the theory completely; on a perfectly calm day he could never depend
upon obtaining any swerve at all, but, within limits, he developed his
theory until he had any batsman practically at his mercy.

He might have mastered the theory completely, had it not been for his
accident--we must remember that he had only three seasons of first-class
cricket--and, personally, I believe he would have achieved that complete
mastery. But I do not believe, as Stott did, that he could have taught
his method to another man. That belief became an obsession with him, and
will be dealt with later.

My own reasons for doubting that Stott's "swerve" could have been
taught, is that it would have been necessary for the pupil to have had
Stott's peculiarities, not only of method, but of physique. He used to
spin the ball with a twist of his middle finger and thumb, just as you
may see a billiard professional spin a billiard ball. To do this in his
manner, it is absolutely necessary not only to have a very large and
muscular hand, but to have very lithe and flexible arm muscles, for the
arm is moving rapidly while the twist is given, and there must be no
antagonistic muscular action. Further, I believe that part of the secret
was due to the fact that Stott bowled from a standing position. Given
these things, the rest is merely a question of long and assiduous
practice. The human mechanism is marvellously adaptable. I have seen
Stott throw a cricket ball half across the room with sufficient spin on
the ball to make it shoot back to him along the carpet.

I have mentioned the wind as a factor in obtaining the swerve. It was a
head-wind that Stott required. I have seen him, for sport, toss a
cricket ball into the teeth of a gale, and make it describe the
trajectory of a badly sliced golf-ball. This is why the big pavilion at
Ailesworth is set at such a curious angle to the ground. It was built in
the winter following Hampdenshire's second season of first-class
cricket, and it was so placed that when the wickets were pitched in a
line with it, they might lie south-west and north-east, or in the
direction of the prevailing winds.


V

The first time I ever saw Ginger Stott, was on the occasion of the
historic encounter with Surrey; Hampdenshire's second engagement in
first-class cricket. The match with Notts, played at Trent Bridge a few
days earlier, had not foreshadowed any startling results. The truth of
the matter is that Stott had been kept, deliberately, in the background;
and as matters turned out his services were only required to finish off
Notts' second innings. Stott was even then a marked man, and the
Hampdenshire captain did not wish to advertise his methods too freely
before the Surrey match. Neither Archie Findlater, who was captaining
the team that year, nor any other person, had the least conception of
how unnecessary such a reservation was to prove. In his third year, when
Stott had been studied by every English, Australian, and South African
batsman of any note, he was still as unplayable as when he made his
debut in first-class cricket.

I was reporting the Surrey match for two papers, and in company with
poor Wallis interviewed Stott before the first innings.

His appearance made a great impression on me. I have, of course, met
him, and talked with him many times since then, but my most vivid
memory of him is the picture recorded in the inadequate professional
dressing-room of the old Ailesworth pavilion.

I have turned up the account of my interview in an old press-cutting
book, and I do not know that I can do better than quote that part of it
which describes Stott's personal appearance. I wrote the account on the
off chance of being able to get it taken. It was one of my lucky hits.
After that match, finished in a single day, my interview afforded copy
that any paper would have paid heavily for, and gladly.

Here is the description:

"Stott--he is known to every one in Ailesworth as 'Ginger' Stott--is
a short, thick-set young man, with abnormally long arms that are
tanned a rich red up to the elbow. The tan does not, however,
obliterate the golden freckles with which arm and face are richly
speckled. There is no need to speculate as to the raison d'etre of
his nickname. The hair of his head, a close, short crop, is a pale
russet, and the hair on his hands and arms is a yellower shade of
the same colour. 'Ginger' is, indeed, a perfectly apt description.
He has a square chin and a thin-lipped, determined mouth. His eyes
are a clear, but rather light blue, his forehead is good, broad,
and high, and he has a well-proportioned head. One might have put
him down as an engineer, essentially intelligent, purposeful, and
reserved."

The description is journalistic, but I do not know that I could improve
upon the detail of it. I can see those queer, freckled, hairy arms of
his as I write--the combination of colours in them produced an effect
that was almost orange. It struck one as unusual....

Surrey had the choice of innings, and decided to bat, despite the fact
that the wicket was drying after rain, under the influence of a steady
south-west wind and occasional bursts of sunshine. Would any captain in
Stott's second year have dared to take first innings under such
conditions? The question is farcical now, but not a single member of the
Hampdenshire Eleven had the least conception that the Surrey captain was
deliberately throwing away his chances on that eventful day.

Wallis and I were sitting together in the reporters' box. There were
only four of us; two specials,--Wallis and myself,--a news-agency
reporter, and a local man.

"Stott takes first over," remarked Wallis, sharpening his pencil and
arranging his watch and score-sheet--he was very meticulous in his
methods. "They've put him to bowl against the wind. He's medium right,
isn't he?"

"Haven't the least idea," I said. "He volunteered no information;
Hampdenshire have been keeping him dark."

Wallis sneered. "Think they've got a find, eh?" he said. "We'll wait and
see what he can do against first-class batting."

We did not have to wait long.

As usual, Thorpe and Harrison were first wicket for Surrey, and Thorpe
took the first ball.

It bowled him. It made his wicket look as untidy as any wicket I have
ever seen. The off stump was out of the ground, and the other two were
markedly divergent.

"Damn it, I wasn't ready for him," we heard Thorpe say in the
professionals' room. Thorpe always had some excuse, but on this occasion
it was justified.

C. V. Punshon was the next comer, and he got his first ball through the
slips for four, but Wallis looked at me with a raised eyebrow.

"Punshon didn't know a lot about that," he said, and then he added, "I
say, what a queer delivery the chap has. He stands and shoots 'em out.
It's uncanny. He's a kind of human catapult." He made a note of the
phrase on his pad.

Punshon succeeded in hitting the next ball, also, but it simply ran up
his bat into the hands of short slip.

"Well, that's a sitter, if you like," said Wallis. "What's the matter
with 'em?"

I was beginning to grow enthusiastic.

"Look here, Wallis," I said, "this chap's going to break records."

Wallis was still doubtful.

He was convinced before the innings was over.

There must be many who remember the startling poster that heralded the
early editions of the evening papers:

SURREY

ALL OUT

FOR 13 RUNS.

For once sub-editors did not hesitate to give the score on the contents
bill. That was a proclamation which would sell. Inside, the headlines
were rich and varied. I have an old paper by me, yellow now, and
brittle, that may serve as a type for the rest. The headlines are as
follows:--

SURREY AND HAMPDENSHIRE.

EXTRAORDINARY BOWLING
PERFORMANCE.

DOUBLE HAT-TRICK.

SURREY ALL OUT IN 35 MINUTES
FOR 13 RUNS.

STOTT TAKES 10 WICKETS FOR 5.

The "double hat-trick" was six consecutive wickets, the last six, all
clean bowled.

"Good God!" Wallis said, when the last wicket fell, and he looked at me
with something like fear in his eyes. "This man will have to be barred;
it means the end of cricket."


VI

Stott's accident came during the high flood of Hampdenshire success. For
two years they held undisputed place as champion county, a place which
could not be upset by the most ingenious methods of calculating points.
They three times defeated Australia, and played four men in the test
matches. As a team they were capable of beating any Eleven opposed to
them. Not even the newspaper critics denied that.

The accident appeared insignificant at the time. The match was against
Notts on the Trent Bridge ground. I was reporting for three papers;
Wallis was not there.

Stott had been taken off. Notts were a poor lot that year and I think
Findlater did not wish to make their defeat appear too ignominious.
Flower was bowling; it was a fast, true wicket, and Stott, who was a
safe field, was at cover-point.

G. L. Mallinson was batting and making good use of his opportunity; he
was, it will be remembered, a magnificent though erratic hitter. Flower
bowled him a short-pitched, fast ball, rather wide of the off-stump.
Many men might have left it alone, for the ball was rising, and the
slips were crowded, but Mallinson timed the ball splendidly, and drove
it with all his force. He could not keep it on the ground, however, and
Stott had a possible chance. He leaped for it and just touched the ball
with his right hand. The ball jumped the ring at its first bound, and
Mallinson never even attempted to run. There was a big round of applause
from the Trent Bridge crowd.

I noticed that Stott had tied a handkerchief round his finger, but I
forgot the incident until I saw Findlater beckon to his best bowler, a
few overs later. Notts had made enough runs for decency; it was time to
get them out.

I saw Stott walk up to Findlater and shake his head, and through my
glasses I saw him whip the handkerchief from his finger and display his
hand. Findlater frowned, said something and looked towards the pavilion,
but Stott shook his head. He evidently disagreed with Findlater's
proposal. Then Mallinson came up, and the great bulk of his back hid the
faces of the other two. The crowd was beginning to grow excited at the
interruption. Every one had guessed that something was wrong. All round
the ring men were standing up, trying to make out what was going on.

I drew my inferences from Mallinson's face, for when he turned round and
strolled back to his wicket, he was wearing a broad smile. Through my
field glasses I could see that he was licking his lower lip with his
tongue. His shoulders were humped and his whole expression one of barely
controlled glee. (I always see that picture framed in a circle; a
bioscopic presentation.) He could hardly refrain from dancing. Then
little Beale, who was Mallinson's partner, came up and spoke to him, and
I saw Mallinson hug himself with delight as he explained the situation.

When Stott unwillingly came back to the pavilion, a low murmur ran round
the ring, like the buzz of a great crowd of disturbed blue flies. In
that murmur I could distinctly trace the signs of mixed feelings. No
doubt the crowd had come there to witness the performances of the new
phenomenon--the abnormal of every kind has a wonderful attraction for
us--but, on the other hand, the majority wanted to see their own county
win. Moreover, Mallinson was giving them a taste of his abnormal powers
of hitting, and the batsman appeals to the spectacular, more than the
bowler.

I ran down hurriedly to meet Stott.

"Only a split finger, sir," he said carelessly, in answer to my
question; "but Mr. Findlater says I must see to it."

I examined the finger, and it certainly did not seem to call for
surgical aid. Evidently it had been caught by the seam of the new ball;
there was a fairly clean cut about half an inch long on the fleshy
underside of the second joint of the middle finger.

"Better have it seen to," I said. "We can't afford to lose you, you
know, Stott."

Stott gave a laugh that was more nearly a snarl. "Ain't the first time
I've 'ad a cut finger," he said scornfully.

He had the finger bound up when I saw him again, but it had been done by
an amateur. I learnt afterwards that no antiseptic had been used. That
was at lunch time, and Notts had made a hundred and sixty-eight for one
wicket; Mallinson was not out, a hundred and three. I saw that the Notts
Eleven were in magnificent spirits.

But after lunch Stott came out and took the first over. I don't know
what had passed between him and Findlater, but the captain had evidently
been over-persuaded.

We must not blame Findlater. The cut certainly appeared trifling, it was
not bad enough to prevent Stott from bowling, and Hampdenshire seemed
powerless on that wicket without him. It is very easy to distribute
blame after the event, but most people would have done what Findlater
did in those circumstances.

The cut did not appear to inconvenience Stott in the least degree. He
bowled Mallinson with his second ball, and the innings was finished up
in another fifty-seven minutes for the addition of thirty-eight runs.

Hampdenshire made two hundred and thirty-seven for three wickets before
the drawing of stumps, and that was the end of the match, for the
weather changed during the night and rain prevented any further play.

I, of course, stayed on in Nottingham to await results. I saw Stott on
the next day, Friday, and asked him about his finger. He made light of
it, but that evening Findlater told me over the bridge-table that he was
not happy about it. He had seen the finger, and thought it showed a
tendency to inflammation. "I shall take him to Gregory in the morning if
it's not all right," he said. Gregory was a well-known surgeon in
Nottingham.

Again one sees, now, that the visit to Gregory should not have been
postponed, but at the time one does not take extraordinary precautions
in such a case as this. A split finger is such an everyday thing, and
one is guided by the average of experience. After all, if one were
constantly to make preparation for the abnormal; ordinary life could not
go on....

I heard that Gregory pursed his lips over that finger when he had
learned the name of his famous patient. "You'll have to be very careful
of this, young man," was Findlater's report of Gregory's advice. It was
not sufficient. I often wonder now whether Gregory might not have saved
the finger. If he had performed some small operation at once, cut away
the poison, it seems to me that the tragedy might have been averted. I
am, I admit, a mere layman in these matters, but it seems to me that
something might have been done.

I left Nottingham on Saturday after lunch--the weather was hopeless--and
I did not make use of the information I had for the purposes of my
paper. I was never a good journalist. But I went down to Ailesworth on
Monday morning, and found that Findlater and Stott had already gone to
Harley Street to see Graves, the King's surgeon.

I followed them, and arrived at Graves's house while Stott was in the
consulting-room. I hocussed the butler and waited with the patients.
Among the papers, I came upon the famous caricature of Stott in the
current number of Punch--the "Stand-and-Deliver" caricature, in which
Stott is represented with an arm about ten feet long, and the batsman is
looking wildly over his shoulder to square leg, bewildered, with no
conception from what direction the ball is coming. Underneath is written
"Stott's New Theory--the Ricochet. Real Ginger." While I was laughing
over the cartoon, the butler came in and nodded to me. I followed him
out of the room and met Findlater and Stott in the hall.

Findlater was in a state of profanity. I could not get a sensible word
out of him. He was in a white heat of pure rage. The butler, who seemed
as anxious as I to learn the verdict, was positively frightened.

"Well, for God's sake tell me what Graves said," I protested.

Findlater's answer is unprintable, and told me nothing.

Stott, however, quite calm and self-possessed, volunteered the
information. "Finger's got to come off, sir," he said quietly. "Doctor
says if it ain't off to-day or to-morrer, he won't answer for my 'and."

This was the news I had to give to England. It was a great coup from the
journalistic point of view, but I made up my three columns with a heavy
heart, and the congratulations of my editor only sickened me. I had some
luck, but I should never have become a good journalist.

The operation was performed successfully that evening, and Stott's
career was closed.


VII

I did not see Stott again till August, and then I had a long talk with
him on the Ailesworth County Ground, as together we watched the progress
of Hampdenshire's defeat by Lancashire.

"Oh! I can't learn him nothing," he broke out, as Flower was hit to
the four corners of the ground, "'alf vollies and long 'ops and then a
full pitch--'e's a disgrace."

"They've knocked him off his length," I protested. "On a wicket like
this ..."

Stott shook his head. "I've been trying to learn 'im," he said, "but he
can't never learn. 'E's got 'abits what you can't break 'im of."

"I suppose it is difficult," I said vaguely.

"Same with me," went on Stott, "I've been trying to learn myself to bowl
without my finger"--he held up his mutilated hand--"or left-'anded; but
I can't. If I'd started that way ... No! I'm always feeling for that
finger as is gone. A second-class bowler I might be in time, not better
nor that."

"It's early days yet," I ventured, intending encouragement, but Stott
frowned and shook his head.

"I'm not going to kid myself," he said, "I know. But I'm going to find a
youngster and learn 'im. On'y he must be young.

"No 'abits, you know," he explained.

The next time I met Stott was in November. I ran up against him,
literally, one Friday afternoon in Ailesworth.

When he recognised me he asked me if I would care to walk out to
Stoke-Underhill with him. "I've took a cottage there," he explained,
"I'm to be married in a fortnight's time."

His circumstances certainly warranted such a venture. The proceeds of
matinee and benefit, invested for him by the Committee of the County
Club, produced an income of nearly two pounds a week, and in addition to
this he had his salary as groundsman. I tendered my congratulations.

"Oh! well, as to that, better wait a bit," said Stott.

He walked with his hands in his pockets and his eyes on the ground. He
had the air of a man brooding over some project.

"It is a lottery, of course ..." I began, but he interrupted me.

"Oh that!" he said, and kicked a stone into the ditch; "take my chances
of that. It's the kid I'm thinking on."

"The kid?" I repeated, doubtful whether he spoke of his fiancee, or
whether his nuptials pointed an act of reparation.

"What, else 'ud I tie myself up for?" asked Stott. "I must 'ave a kid of
my own and learn 'im from his cradle. It's come to that."

"Oh! I understand," I said; "teach him to bowl."

"Ah!" replied Stott as an affirmative. "Learn 'im from his cradle;
before 'e's got 'abits. When I started I'd never bowled a ball in my
life, and by good luck I started right. But I can't find another kid
over seven years old in England as ain't never bowled a ball o' some
sort and started 'abits. I've tried ..."

"And you hope with your own boys...?" I said.

"Not 'ope, it's a cert," said Stott. "I'll see no boy of mine touches a
ball afore he's fourteen, and then 'e'll learn from me; and learn
right. From the first go off." He was silent for a few seconds, and then
he broke out in a kind of ecstasy. "My Gawd, 'e'll be a bowler such as
'as never been, never in this world. He'll start where I left orf.
He'll ..." Words failed him, he fell back on the expletive he had used,
repeating it with an awed fervour. "My Gawd!"

I had never seen Stott in this mood before. It was a revelation to me of
the latent potentialities of the man, the remarkable depth and quality
of his ambitions....


VIII

I intended to be present at Stott's wedding, but I was not in England
when it took place; indeed, for the next two years and a half I was
never in England for more than a few days at a time. I sent him a
wedding-present, an inkstand in the guise of a cricket ball, with a
pen-rack that was built of little silver wickets. They were still
advertised that Christmas as "Stott inkstands."

Two years and a half of American life broke up many of my old habits of
thought. When I first returned to London I found that the cricket news
no longer held the same interest for me, and this may account for the
fact that I did not trouble for some time to look up my old friend
Stott.

In July, however, affairs took me to Ailesworth, and the associations of
the place naturally led me to wonder how Stott's marriage had turned
out, and whether the much-desired son had been born to him. When my
business in Ailesworth was done, I decided to walk out to
Stoke-Underhill.

The road passes the County Ground, and a match was in progress, but I
walked by without stopping. I was wool-gathering. I was not thinking of
the man I was going to see, or I should have turned in at the County
Ground, where he would inevitably have been found. Instead, I was
thinking of the abnormal child I had seen in the train that day;
uselessly speculating and wondering.

When I reached Stoke-Underhill I found the cottage which Stott had shown
me. I had by then so far recovered my wits as to know that I should not
find Stott himself there, but from the look of the cottage I judged that
it was untenanted, so I made inquiries at the post-office.

"No; he don't live here, now, sir," said the postmistress; "he lives at
Pym, now, sir, and rides into Ailesworth on his bike." She was evidently
about to furnish me with other particulars, but I did not care to hear
them. I was moody and distrait. I was wondering why I should bother my
head about so insignificant a person as this Stott.

"You'll be sure to find Mr. Stott at the cricket ground," the
postmistress called after me.

Another two months of English life induced a return to my old habits of
thought. I found myself reverting to old tastes and interests. The
reversion was a pleasant one. In the States I had been forced out of my
groove, compelled to work, to strive, to think desperately if I would
maintain any standing among my contemporaries. But when the perpetual
stimulus was removed, I soon fell back to the less strenuous methods of
my own country. I had time, once more, for the calm reflection that is
so unlike the urgent, forced, inventive thought of the American
journalist. I was braced by that thirty months' experience, perhaps
hardened a little, but by September my American life was fading into the
background; I had begun to take an interest in cricket again.

With the revival of my old interests, revived also my curiosity as to
Ginger Stott, and one Sunday in late September I decided to go down to
Pym.

It was a perfect day, and I thoroughly enjoyed my four-mile walk from
Great Hittenden Station.

Pym is a tiny hamlet made up of three farms and a dozen scattered
cottages. Perched on one of the highest summits of the Hampden Hills and
lost in the thick cover of beech woods, without a post-office or a
shop, Pym is the most perfectly isolated village within a reasonable
distance of London. As I sauntered up the mile-long lane that climbs the
steep hill, and is the only connection between Pym and anything
approaching a decent road, I thought that this was the place to which I
should like to retire for a year, in order to write the book I had so
often contemplated, and never found time to begin. This, I reflected,
was a place of peace, of freedom from all distraction, the place for
calm, contemplative meditation.

I met no one in the lane, and there was no sign of life when I reached
what I must call the village, though the word conveys a wrong idea, for
there is no street, merely a cottage here and there, dropped haphazard,
and situated without regard to its aspect. These cottages lie all on
one's left hand; to the right a stretch of grass soon merges into
bracken and bush, and then the beech woods enclose both, and surge down
into the valley and rise up again beyond, a great wave of green; as I
saw it then, not yet touched with the first flame of autumn.

I inquired at the first cottage and received my direction to Stott's
dwelling. It lay up a little lane, the further of two cottages joined
together.

The door stood open, and after a moment's hesitation and a light knock,
I peered in.

Sitting in a rocking-chair was a woman with black, untidy eyebrows, and
on her knee, held with rigid attention, was the remarkable baby I had
seen in the train two months before. As I stood, doubtful and, I will
confess it, intimidated, suddenly cold and nervous, the child opened his
eyes and honoured me with a cold stare. Then he nodded, a reflective,
recognisable nod.

"'E remembers seein' you in the train, sir," said the woman, "'e never
forgets any one. Did you want to see my 'usband? 'E's upstairs."

So this was the boy who was designed by Stott to become the greatest
bowler the world had ever seen....





Next: The Disillusionment Of Ginger Stott

Previous: The Motive



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