Luffey retired a few paces behind the wicket of the passive Podder, and applied the ball to his right eye for several seconds. Dumkins confidently awaited its coming with his eyes fixed on the motions of Luffey.
'Play!' suddenly cried the bowler. The ball flew from his hand straight and swift towards the centre stump of the wicket. The wary Dumkins was on the alert: it fell upon the tip of the bat, and bounded far away over the heads of the scouts, who had just stooped low enough to let it fly over them.
'Run--run--another.--Now, then throw her up--up with her--stop there--another--no--yes--no--throw her up, throw her up!'--Such were the shouts which followed the stroke; and at the conclusion of which All-Muggleton had scored two. Nor was Podder behindhand in earning laurels wherewith to garnish himself and Muggleton. He blocked the doubtful balls, missed the bad ones, took the good ones, and sent them flying to all parts of the field. The scouts were hot and tired; the bowlers were changed and bowled till their arms ached; but Dumkins and Podder remained unconquered. Did an elderly gentleman essay to stop the progress of the ball, it rolled between his legs or slipped between his fingers. Did a slim gentleman try to catch it, it struck him on the nose, and bounded pleasantly off with redoubled violence, while the slim gentleman's eyes filled with water, and his form writhed with anguish. Was it thrown straight up to the wicket, Dumkins had reached it before the ball. In short, when Dumkins was caught out, and Podder stumped out, All-Muggleton had notched some fifty-four, while the score of the Dingley Dellers was as blank as their faces. The advantage was too great to be recovered. In vain did the eager Luffey, and the enthusiastic Struggles, do all that skill and experience could suggest, to regain the ground Dingley Dell had lost in the contest --it was of no avail; and in an early period of the winning game Dingley Dell gave in, and allowed the superior prowess of All-Muggleton.
The stranger, meanwhile, had been eating, drinking, and talking, without cessation. At every good stroke he expressed his satisfaction and approval of the player in a most condescending and patronising manner, which could not fail to have been highly gratifying to the party concerned; while at every bad attempt at a catch, and every failure to stop the ball, he launched his personal displeasure at the head of the devoted individual in such denunciations as--'Ah, ah!--stupid'--'Now, butter- fingers'--'Muff'--'Humbug'--and so forth--ejaculations which seemed to establish him in the opinion of all around, as a most excellent and undeniable judge of the whole art and mystery of the noble game of cricket.
'Capital game--well played--some strokes admirable,' said the stranger, as both sides crowded into the tent, at the conclusion of the game.
'You have played it, sir?' inquired Mr. Wardle, who had been much amused by his loquacity. 'Played it! Think I have--thousands of times--not here--West Indies--exciting thing--hot work--very.' 'It must be rather a warm pursuit in such a climate,' observed Mr. Pickwick.
'Warm!--red hot--scorching--glowing. Played a match once--single wicket--friend the colonel--Sir Thomas Blazo--who should get the greatest number of runs.--Won the toss--first innings--seven o'clock A.m.--six natives to look out--went in; kept in--heat intense--natives all fainted--taken away--fresh half-dozen ordered--fainted also--Blazo bowling--supported by two natives--couldn't bowl me out--fainted too--cleared away the colonel--wouldn't give in--faithful attendant--Quanko Samba--last man left--sun so hot, bat in blisters, ball scorched brown--five hundred and seventy runs--rather exhausted-- Quanko mustered up last remaining strength--bowled me out-- had a bath, and went out to dinner.'
'And what became of what's-his-name, Sir?' inquired an old gentleman.
'No--the other gentleman.' 'Quanko Samba?'
'Poor Quanko--never recovered it--bowled on, on my account --bowled off, on his own--died, sir.' Here the stranger buried his countenance in a brown jug, but whether to hide his emotion or imbibe its contents, we cannot distinctly affirm.