“If we have to go in we may give ’em up. We can’t bat substitutes.”
“No fear!” said Dick. “Cotton isn’t likely to hear of that, and, besides, it’s just like the rotten thing you might expect from those niggers.”
Acton smiled. “All right, old chap. Put in Grim and Rogers in their place. The little beggars will be as keen as mustard.”
So Grim and Rogers had the honour of representing their house, since the dervishes did not turn up. Rogers, when he shut the door on Todd, did not guess that he had shut up Biffen’s crack bats too. That Biffen’s lost the match, and made no sort of show against Cotton’s bowling, may also, perhaps, be attributed to the inadvertent imprisonment of Mehtah and “Lamb.”
The imprisoned trio had not had a very lively time that afternoon in the punt-house. The door remained obstinately shut, and neither Todd nor his two companions relished a swim in the moat as the price of freedom. The dervishes took matters very calmly; the desire to play for Biffen’s was not strong enough to counterbalance the natural shrinking from a header into the duckweed and a run home in wet clothes. Singh Ram had a final try at the door, and then murmured—so Gus said—“Kismet,” and relit his half-smoked cigar. Todd, indeed, shouted lustily; but when he realized that by contributing to the escape of the dervishes he might contribute to the downfall of his own house, he stopped himself in the middle of an unearthly howl. For three hours Gus remained a half-voluntary prisoner; but, when he judged it safe, he created such a pandemonium that young Hill hurried out of the farm stable, thinking there must be some weird tragedy taking place at the punt-house. He had hurried across and let the trio out.
The dervishes got a mixed reception from Biffen’s crowd. Worcester was almost eloquent in his language, and Acton was calmly indifferent.
“But I tell you, Worcester, some beast locked us in the punt-house.”
“I wish they’d kept you there,” said Dick, unmollified.
Whilst Worcester was swallowing his tea, Rogers and Wilson craved audience. Their faces were as long as fiddles.
“Oh, Worcester!” began Rogers, tremulously, “we’ve come to tell you that it was we who lost Biffen’s the houser.”
“Why, Wilson didn’t play, and you caught Cotton,” said Dick, astonished.
“But we locked the dervishes in the punt-house—we thought there was only Todd inside.”
“Oh, you did, you little beggars, did you?” said Worcester, considering the doleful and grief-stricken Biffenites. “Well, here’s a shilling for each of you if you keep it dark. I’m deucedly glad the dervishes didn’t play. I’d rather lose a dozen housers than feel the niggers were indispensable. Now, cut; and next time you bottle ’em up, see they don’t get out.”
“Golly!” said Rogers, as the two left Worcester to his tea. “I suppose the sun’s affected Worcester’s brain.”