Our church ain't reckoned very big, but then the township's small—
I've seen the time when there was seats and elbow-room for all.
The women-fold would come, of course, but working chaps was rare;
They'd rather loaf about and smoke, and take the Sunday air.
But now there's hardly standing room, and you can fairly say
There ain't a man we like as well as quiet Parson Grey.
We blokes was great for cricket once, we'd held our own so long,
In all the townships round about our team was reckoned strong;
And them that didn't use to play could barrack pretty fair,
They liked the leather-hunting that they didn't have to share.
A team from town was coming up to teach us how to play—
We meant to show what we could do upon that Christmas Day.
The stumps were pitched at two o'clock, but Lawson's face was grim
(Lawson was Captain of the team, our crack we reckoned him),
For Albert Wilson hadn't come, the safest bat of all,
With no one there to take his place he counted on a fall.
"Who could we get? There's no one here it's worth our while to play
In place of Albert." At his side was standing Parson Grey.
"I used to wield the willow once," the Parson softly said;
"If you have no one for the tail, you might take me instead."
The Captain bit his fair moustache—he seemed inclined to swear;
But answered sulkily enough, "All right, sir; I don't care.
There's no one here is worth his salt with breaking balls to play."
"I'll try and do my best for you," said quiet Parson Grey.
"His best," Bill Lawson said to me, "what's that, I'd like to know?
To spoon an easy ball to point, and walk back sad and slow,
Miss every catch that comes to him and fumble every ball,
And lose his way about the field at every 'over' call.
The blooming team can go below after this Christmas Day;
I'm hanged if I'm to captain it when parsons start to play."
Bill won the toss, we went in first. I might as well say here
That I'm a weary kind of bat—to stick in for a year.
I can't hit out—it ain't no use; it saddens me to think
A bloke that bowled against us once has taken since to drink.
He couldn't get my wicket, and his balls came in that way
I batted through the innings without a run all day.
The fun began. By George! to think the way our stumps went down!
Our boys was made the laughing-stock for them swell-blokes from town.
I kept my end up—that was all, Lawson was bowled first ball,
And six of them went strolling back without a run at all.
Nine wickets down for fourteen runs was all our score that day
When the last man came in to bat, and that was Parson Grey.
The bowler with the break from leg sent down a hardish ball,
I thought to see the parson squirm and hear the wicket fall;
It didn't happen, for he played a pretty forward stroke;
I knew that moment he could bat, that quiet preaching bloke.
And when a careless ball came down the boys began to roar,
He drove it hard along the ground—we took and run a four.
Then it was "over," and of course mine was a maiden one,
I broke the bowler's hearts that day for just a single run.
The Parson played a dashing game, his cuts were clean and fine;
I only wish that strokes like them could now and then be mine.
He had a fifty to his name in just an hour's play,
And then—well, then—I run him out, I own, that Christmas Day.
"By George," said Lawson, "who'd have thought that he could bat so well!
I could have gone and drowned myself when Bryant's wicket fell;
But, man, he must have been a bat when he was at his best,
I'm glad that Wilson wasn't here, or any of the rest;
Now, if our chaps are on the spot, and bowl as well to-day,
We'll give them news to carry home how country clubs can play."
Our bowling always has been fair; we couldn't well complain;
We got a wicket now and then—they didn't fall like rain;
But runs were coming rather slow, and fifty was the score
When the ninth man was given out—an honest "leg before."
It was a single innings game, and plainly on the play
It seemed the glory would be ours upon that Christmas Day.
Last man! The bowling crack came in—of course he couldn't bat,
He could lash out and chance the stroke to show us what was what;
Our hopes were down to freezing-point, twelve runs were to his score,
To win the match he only had to hit another four.
He swiped; we groaned to think that we were beaten after all;
The stroke was high—a splendid catch—the Parson held the ball.
Then how we yelled, and yelled again; he'd fairly won the match—
The splendid batting that he showed, the more than splendid catch;
Why, chaps, you'd hardly credit it, that almost every bloke
Goes into church on Sunday now, and does without his smoke;
And no one's likely to forget that sunny Christmas Day,
When we were all surprised a bit at quiet Parson Grey.