Play the Game
By George Maracco
Drawings by Edgar Norfield
When this wire came from my cousin Vernon I rally was thrilled to the marrow.
Because I hadn't seen Vernon for years and years. I mean not since we were both only so high and used to play mothers and fathers behind the woodshed. Such happy days!
But I remembered him quite vividly. I mean one does. I remembered he had a tangle of rather straw like hair, the filthiest knees, and a face only Giles could love.
And this telegram said he'd be arriving eleven-twenty Saturday morning and could I possibly meet him in at Euston.
My dean, when I collected Vernon at the barrier he hadn't changed a bit. I mean in principle. I mean the only noticeable alteration was that he'd grown approximately seven sizes larger. Darling, he was huge!
"Hi! Cousin Myrtle!" he called out, in case I overlooked him. "I'm heah!"
"Why-why, Vernon," I squeaked. "You look wonderful. So big - so strong - so - "
The great clumsy didn't even give me a chance to finish. He just grabbed the old torso and lifted me up, kissed neahly all my lipstick off, and then dropped me again. Fortunately I landed on my feet.
"How lovely of you to come down to London specially to see little me, darling," I chattered.
"Well, not specially, not actually," he said, grinning like an ape. "Matter of fact, I'm heah for our match."
"Match?" I queried.
"Our ruggah match. Old Jacobeans versus Frigglington Rovers," he explained, winding a frightful woollen scarf thing round and round his neck. My deah, yards and yards of it. Even then the ends were touching the platform.
"Oh!" was all I could find to say.
The he embraced me again. "I say, Cousin Myrtle, you look a pip! Jolly smart!"
"What, in this old rag!" I shrugged. Actually, darling, I was wearing a new coat I'd got from Deirdre's on appro, but I could hardly tell Vernon it would be going back on Monday.
My deah, strawberry pink with a beavah cape collar. Frightfully swell but distinctly not my price.
"Fancy! Our club colours, too," he crowed. Then he took my tiny hands in his great paws. "I say! You are coming to see us play? I mean you simply must come."
"Must I?" I bleated, sounding like death. Because, darling, I prefer parlour pastimes to watching quantities of male persons prancing about after a ball in the fresh air. Particularly on a bitterly cold December afternoon.
"But of course," he insisted. "All our chaps' women will be theah." Then Vernon screwed up his awful cartoon face. "You'd be rather a feathah in my cap. Especially in our colours." He added: "Besides, I haven't got a girl."
"Then I'll come, deah," I promised him. "Of course I'll come."
"I say, that's jolly sporting," he said. "That's terribly white of you." And he took m arm and marched off with me. "Lunch appeahs to be indicated. A couple of tankards of brown and a few pork pies and Frigglington will nevah know what hit' em!"
Oh, well, when a girl's been alternating between cauliflower cheese and spaghetti for nearly a week, even pork pies make a welcome change.
"That's bettah!" beamed Vernon when we'd finished. "Shall we get the car?"
"Car?" I echoed. "But you've just arrived by train. Remembah?"
"Your car," he said. "Did you park it far away?"
"I - I - I don't possess a car," I told him.
"You don't?" he demanded. Rather horrified at the ideah. "But - oh! I'm afraid I'm getting you slightly confused with Cousin Brenda. She has a Daimler."
"Yes, but only one of the smaller types," I sneered. "Brenda also has a cast in one eye and fifty-two-inch hips."
"Granted, granted," he hastened to agree. "Let us charter a taxi. . . . Taxi!"
My deah, what seemed like hours later the cab person decanted us outside this sports ground.
"Twelve-and-six," he announced.
"Blimey, fields! This must be that rural England they talk about on the telly."
"I say, just look at the time!" yelped Vernon. "I must dash off to change! Pay the drivah, Cousin Myrtle, will you? I'll see you before we kick off."
"Oh, well," I thought, breaking into the money I was saving up for my telephone account - darling, I've been cut off for an entire week - "I can get it back from Vernon after the match."
Then I limped along into this football arena or whatevah one calls it. My deah, limped is distinctly the word, because the heels of my shoes were so high and spiky you could have knitted a jumpah with them.
And then I saw Vernon galloping ovah the grass to meet me. I mean in this shocking pink sweatah thing and zebra-crossing stockings and the tiniest little short trousahs. Honestly, darling, I neahly had to avert my eyes. I mean Vernon's a big boy now.
And then I saw Vernon galloping over the grass to meet me.
"Just time to introduce you to the chaps," he bawled at me. Then he grabbed my hand and started galloping back with me. I mean ovah to all these othah male persons in shocking pink sweatahs and little panties.
Theah were a few females, too, in dreadful tweed skirts and duffel coats. But hardly my type.
My deah, you should have seen those young Old Jacobeans gather round Vernon's cousin. For one awful moment I rahly thought they were gong to hoist me should-high. Unfortunately, theah wasn't time.
"Come on, you chaps," urged Vernon. "Come on, Poingdestre - put her down, Liversidge - hurry, fellows. Frigglington's already on the field!"
"Put her down, Liversidge."
"Okay, shippah," they chorused. Then they all raced on to join the othah team.
And then someone misguidedly blew a whistle.
My deah! Sheer pandemonium! I mean all these ruggah persons started rushing about in every conceivable direction. I mean they certainly had a rather egg-shaped football thing, but they appeahed to be kicking it about quite regardless.
But it's all so utterly futile! First they'd all canter frantically this way, then that way, and then they'd get tired and put their arms round one anothah and start playing ring o'roses. But, darling, I ask you!
And then Vernon hid the ball undah his arm and ran away with it. I mean rahly! All the othahs chased after him, because naturally they wanted to play with it, too. My deah, he went like a mad thing and didn't stop until he was right behind the goal-posts. I thought it was frightfly unsporting.
Everyyone roared at him, and no wondah. He should have been sent home. I felt quite ashamed of being his cousin. Until it appeahed they were applauding him. I thought: for what?
"Lovely try!" shrieked a spectator into my ear.
"He tried all right," I snapped. "Fortunately he didn't succeed owing to loss of breath. Do you realise he neahly made off with the ball?"
Howevah, by then anothah Old Jacobean stood the ball on the ground and took a terrific running kick at the thing.
"Goal!" yelled everybody. "Well placed, Fruity."
"Foul!" I shouted at the top of my voice. "It's a foul goal. He's kicked it ovah the goal-posts." I mean it was ridiculous.
And then someone coughed gently behind me.
"I beg your pardon," a sort of deep baritone voice murmured. "I see you are a stranger to our national game?"
"I - er -," I said haltingly, fluttering my mascara. My deah, so tall, so handsome, so unruggerish, rahly.
"Perhaps I might be permitted to act as your mentor? To explain the intricacies? The rules and so on?"
"We-e-ell," I said shyly. "I mean I'd love to learn. I mean if you could help me to - to understand?"
Darling, I didn't have a chance. But it's so wonderful when one meets a man who rahly can improve one's knowledge, don't you think? And so masterful, too. He just took my elbow and before I could put up the slightest struggle, theah we were nice and cosy in the back of his Sunbeam in the car park.
He explained almost everything. Anyway, everything he could think of. And suddenly I realised it was dark. But definitely dark!
"Oh, my god!" I squeaked. "Whatevah will have happened to my cousin Vernon?"
"I imagine he sheered off about three hours ago," murmured the Old Jacobean's club secretary. "Wheah were we?"
"You were what you called selling me the dummy, darling," I reminded him.
- o - 0 - o
The best time to make friends is before you need them
I believe in the gallantry of women. There are street accidents, fires, shipwrecks, air raids, railway disasters in
which I would rather have a cool, level-headed, plucky, and preferably pretty girl
(because that cheers everybody up) beside me than the average,
unimaginative man who cannot act without orders from above.