“Well,” he said, “if I’ve got to play hockey, I guess I’ve got to play hockey. But can’t I just get a bit of practice somewhere before the game begins?”
So Miss Corner went off to get two sticks and a ball and came back to instruct Mr. Direck. She said he had a good eye. The two small boys scenting play in the air got sticks and joined them. The overnight visitor’s wife appeared from the house in abbreviated skirts, and wearing formidable shin-guards. With her abundant fair hair, which was already breaking loose, so to speak, to join the fray, she looked like a short stout dismounted Valkyr. Her gaze was clear and firm.
Hockey as it was played at the Dower House at Matching’s Easy before the war, was a game combining danger, physical exercise and kindliness in a very high degree. Except for the infant in the perambulator and the outwardly calm but inwardly resentful aunt, who wheeled the child up and down in a position of maximum danger just behind the unnetted goal, every one was involved. Quite able-bodied people acquainted with the game played forward, the less well-informed played a defensive game behind the forward line, elderly, infirm, and bulky persons were used chiefly as obstacles in goal. Several players wore padded leg-guards, and all players were assumed to have them and expected to behave accordingly.
Proceedings began with an invidious ceremony called picking up. This was heralded by Mr. Britling, clad in the diaphanous flannels and bearing a hockey stick, advancing with loud shouts to the centre of the hockey field. “Pick up! Pick up!” echoed the young Britlings.
Mr. Direck became aware of a tall, drooping man with long hair and long digressive legs in still longer white flannel trousers, and a face that was somehow familiar. He was talking with affectionate intimacy to Manning, and suddenly Mr. Direck remembered that it was in Manning’s weekly paper, The Sectarian, in which a bitter caricaturist enlivened a biting text, that he had become familiar with the features of Manning’s companion. It was Raeburn, Raeburn the insidious, Raeburn the completest product of the party system.... Well, that was the English way. “Come for the pick up!” cried the youngest Britling, seizing upon Mr. Direck’s elbow. It appeared that Mr. Britling and the overnight dinner guest—Mr. Direck never learnt his name—were picking up.
Names were shouted. “I’ll take Cecily!” Mr. Direck heard Mr. Britling say quite early. The opposing sides as they were picked fell into two groups. There seemed to be difficulties about some of the names. Mr. Britling, pointing to the more powerful looking of the Indian gentlemen, said, “You, Sir.”
“I’m going to speculate on Mr. Dinks,” said Mr. Britling’s opponent.
Mr. Direck gathered that Mr. Dinks was to be his hockey name.
“You’re on our side,” said Mrs. Teddy. “I think you’ll have to play forward, outer right, and keep a sharp eye on Cissie.”