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NAT RICKET
by
Alfred H. Miles

Nat Ricket at cricket was ever a don
As if you will listen I'll tell you anon;
His feet were so nimble, his legs were so long,
His hands were so quick and his arms were so strong,
That no matter where, at long-leg or square,
At mid-on, at mid-off, and almost mid-air,
At point, slip, or long-stop, wherever it came,
At long-on or long-off, 'twas always the same--
If Nat was the scout, back came whizzing the ball,
And the verdict, in answer to Nat's lusty call,
Was always "Run out," or else "No run" at all:
At bowling, or scouting, or keeping the wicket,
You'd not meet in an outing another Nat Ricket.

Nat Ricket for cricket was always inclined,
Even babyhood showed the strong bent of his mind:
At TWO he could get in the way of the ball;
At FOUR he could catch, though his hands were so small;
At SIX he could bat; and before he was SEVEN
He wanted to be in the county eleven.

But that was the time, for this chief of his joys,
When the Muddleby challenged the Blunderby boys:
They came in a waggon that Farmer Sheaf lent them,
With Dick Rick the carter, in whose charge he sent them.
And as they came over the Muddleby hill,
The cheer that resounded I think I hear still;
And of all the gay caps that flew into the air,
The top cap of all told Nat Ricket was there.

They tossed up, and, winning
The choice of the inning,
The Blunderby boys took the batting in hand,
And went to the wicket,
While nimble Nat Ricket
Put his _men_ in the field for a resolute stand;
And as each sturdy scout took his usual spot,
Our Nat roamed about and looked after the lot;
And as they stood there, when the umpire called "Play,"
'Twas a sight to remember for many a day,

Nat started the bowling (and take my word, misters,
There's no bowling like it for underhand twisters);
And what with the pace and the screw and the aim,
It was pretty hard _work_, was that Blunderby _game_;
With Nat in the field to look after the ball,
'Twas a terrible struggle to get runs at all;
Though they hit out their hardest a regular stunner,
'Twas rare that it reckoned for more than a oner;
'Twas seldom indeed that they troubled the scorer
To put down a twoer, a threer, or fourer;
And as for a lost ball, a fiver, or sixer,
The Blunderby boys were not up to the trick, sir;
Still they struggled full well, and at sixty the score
The last wicket fell, and the innings was o'er.

But then came the cheering,--
Nat Ricket appearing,
A smile on his face and a bat in his hand,
As he walked to the wicket,--
From hillside to thicket,
They couldn't cheer more for a lord of the land.
And when he began, 'twas a picture to see
How the first ball went flying right over a tree,
How the second went whizzing close up to the sky,
And the third ball went bang in the poor umpire's eye;

How he made poor point dance on his nimble young pins,
As a ball flew askance and came full on his shins;
How he kept the two scorers both working like n***ers
At putting down runs and at adding up figures;
How he kept all the field in profuse perspiration
With rushing and racing and wild agitation,--
Why, Diana and Nimrod, or both rolled together,
Never hunted the stag as they hunted the leather.

It was something like cricket, there's no doubt of that,
When nimble Nat Ricket had hold of the bat.
You may go to the Oval, the Palace, or Lord's,
See the cricketing feats which each county affords,
But you'll see nothing there which, for vigour and life,
Will one moment compare with the passionate strife
With which Muddleby youngsters and Blunderby boys
Contend for the palm in this chief of their joys.

I need hardly say, at the end of the day,
The Muddleby boys had the best of the play,--
Tho' the bright-coloured caps of the Blunderby chaps
Were as heartily waved as the others, perhaps;
And as they drove off down the Blunderby lane,
The cheering resounded again and again.

And Nat and his party, they, too, went away;
And I haven't seen either for many a day.
Still, don't be surprised
If you see advertised,
The name of Nat Ricket
Connected with cricket,
In some mighty score or some wonderful catch,
In some North and South contest or good county match.
And if ever, when passing by cricketing places,
You see people talking and pulling long faces,
'Cause some country bumpkin has beaten the Graces,
Just step to the gate and politely enquire,
And see if they don't say, "N. Ricket, Esq.";
Or buy a "cor'ect card t' the fall o' th' last wicket,"
And see if it doesn't say "Mr. N. Ricket."
For wherever you go, and whatever you see,
In the north or the south of this land of the free,
You never will find--and that all must agree--
Such a rickety, crickety fellow as he.
 
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