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The Season’s Prospects
by [?]

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.