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Mary Russell Mitford on good cricketers

Mary Russell Mitford lived in the country, wrote 19 books, and loved cricket. In this excerpt from ``Our Village'' (1824-32), a team is chosen for a local match. Having accepted the wager of battle, our champion began forthwith to collect his forces. William Grey is himself one of the finest youths that one shall see -- tall, active, slender, and yet strong, with a piercing eye full of sagacity, and a smile full of good humour, a farmer's son by station, and used to hard work as farmers' sons are now, liked by everybody, and admitted to be an excellent cricketer. He immediately set forth to muster his men, remembering with great complacency that Samuel Long, a bowler comme il y en a peu, the very man who had knocked down nine wickets, had beaten us, bowled us out at the fatal return match some years ago at S____, had luckily, in a remove of a quarter of a mile last Lady Day, crossed the boundaries of his old parish, and actually belonged to us. Here was a stroke of good fortune! Our captain applied to him instantly, and he agreed at a word. Indeed Samuel Long is a very civilized person. He is a middle-aged man who looks rather old amongst our young lads, and whose thickness and breadth give no token of remarkable activity; but he is very active, and so steady a player! so safe! We had half gained the match when we had secured him. He is a man of substance, too, in every way; owns one cow, two donkeys, six pigs, and geese and ducks beyond count; dresses like a farmer, and owes no man a shilling -- and all this from pure industry, sheer day-labour. Note that your good cricketer is commonly the most industrious man in the parish; the habits that make him such are precisely those which make a good workman -- steadiness, sobriety, and activity; Samuel Long might pass for the beau-ideal of the two characters. Happy were we to possess him! Then we had another piece of good luck. James Brown, a journeyman blacksmith and a native, who, being of a rambling disposition, had roamed from place to place for half a dozen years, had just returned to settle with his brother at another corner of our village, bringing with him a prodigious reputation in cricket and in gallantry -- the gay Lothario of the neighbourhood. He is said to have made more conquests in love and in cricket than any blacksmith in the county. To him also went the indefatigable William Grey, and he also consented to play. No end to our good fortune! Another celebrated batter, called Joseph Hearne, had likewise recently married into the parish. He worked, it is true, at the A____ mills, but slept at the house of his wife's father in our territories. He also was sought and found by our leader. But he was grand and shy; made an immense favour of the thing; courted courting and then hung back: `Did not know that he could be spared; had partly resolved not to play again -- at least not this season; thought it rash to accept the challenge; thought they might do without him --' `Truly I think so too,' said our spirited champion; `we will not trouble you, Mr. Hearne.' Reprinted with permission of J. M. Dent and Sons, London. First published in Everyman's Library.

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