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By Sheer Pluck, a Tale of the Ashanti War   By: (1832-1902)

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By G. A. Henty


"Now, Hargate, what a fellow you are! I've been looking for you everywhere. Don't you know it's the House against the Town boys. It's lucky that the Town have got the first innings; they began a quarter of an hour ago."

"How tiresome!" Frank Hargate said. "I was watching a most interesting thing here. Don't you see this little chaffinch nest in the bush, with a newly hatched brood. There was a small black snake threatening the nest, and the mother was defending it with quivering wings and open beak. I never saw a prettier thing. I sat quite still and neither of them seemed to notice me. Of course I should have interfered if I had seen the snake getting the best of it. When you came running up like a cart horse, the snake glided away in the grass, and the bird flew off. Oh, dear! I am sorry. I had forgotten all about the match."

"I never saw such a fellow as you are, Hargate. Here's the opening match of the season, and you, who are one of our best bats, poking about after birds and snakes. Come along; Thompson sent me and two or three other fellows off in all directions to find you. We shall be half out before you're back. Wilson took James's wicket the first ball."

Frank Hargate leaped to his feet, and, laying aside for the present all thoughts of his favorite pursuit, started off at a run to the playing field. His arrival there was greeted with a mingled chorus of welcome and indignation. Frank Hargate was, next to Thompson the captain of the Town eleven, the best bat among the home boarders. He played a steady rather than a brilliant game, and was noted as a good sturdy sticker. Had he been there, Thompson would have put him in at first, in order to break the bowling of the House team. As it was, misfortunes had come rapidly. Ruthven and Handcock were bowling splendidly, and none of the Town boys were making any stand against them. Thompson himself had gone in when the fourth wicket fell, and was still in, although two wickets had since fallen, for only four runs, and the seventh wicket fell just as Frank arrived, panting, on the ground.

"Confound you, Hargate!" Thompson shouted, "where have you been? And not even in flannels yet."

"I'm very sorry," Frank shouted back cheerfully, "and never mind the flannels, for once. Shall I come in now?"

"No," Thompson said. "You'd better get your wind first. Let Fenner come in next."

Fenner stayed in four overs, adding two singles as his share, while Thompson put on a three and a two. Then Fenner was caught. Thirty one runs for eight wickets! Then Frank took the bat, and walked to the ground. Thompson came across to him.

"Look here, Hargate, you have made a nice mess of it, and the game looks as bad as can be. Whatever you do, play carefully. Don't let out at anything that comes straight. The great thing is to bother their bowling a bit. They're so cocky now, that pretty near every ball is straight on the wickets. Be content with blocking for a bit, and Handcock will soon go off. He always gets savage if his bowling is collared."

Frank obeyed orders. In the next twenty minutes he only scored six runs, all in singles, while Thompson, who was also playing very carefully, put on thirteen. The game looked more hopeful for the Town boys. Then there was a shout from the House, as Thompson's middle wicket was sent flying. Childers, who was the last of the team, walked out.

"Now, Childers," Thompson said, "don't you hit at a ball. You're safe to be bowled or caught if you do. Just lift your bat, and block them each time. Now, Frank, it's your turn to score. Put them on as fast as you can. It's no use playing carefully any longer."

Frank set to to hit in earnest. He had now got his eye well in, and the stand which he and Thompson had made together, had taken the sting out of the bowling. The ball which had taken Thompson's wicket was the last of the over... Continue reading book >>

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