Rugby, as seen by Bertie Wooster.
By PG Wodehouse
December 23 2018
This sort of has a Christmas theme, is about rugby, and should keep the message board alive for a couple of weeks. It might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I hope some of you find it bloody funny. Have a good Christmas.
The plot centers around Bertie’s friend Tuppy Glossop, who as usual has fallen in love, and this time with a Miss Dalgleish, and at Christmas. Bertie is due to spend the Christmas holidays at the rambling mansion of Sir Reginald Witherspoon, Bart, of Bleaching Court, Upper Bleaching, Hampshire. He telegrams Bertie to bring Tuppy’s football boots. Tuppy has it in his mind that he can impress the girl by playing for her village team, Upper Bleaching, in their annual derby match against Hockley-cum-Meston. He had tried to convince her that he was actually a good player, perhaps an unwise move as he now found himself involved in one of the most bitter rivalries in the English sporting calendar.
Hearing what a pickle Tuppy was about to get himself into, Bertie decides to arrange a fake telegram which he would deliver to Tuppy just before the game started, saving Tuppy from his doom, but of course, circumstances mean that Bertie gets there just too late to save poor Tuppy, and having changed into tweeds as appropriate apparel for a cold afternoon’s sport, had forgotten the blessed missive anyway.
Read on for a description of the game of Rugby, as seen through the eyes of a non-believer:
I got there just as the two teams were lining up, and half a minute later the whistle blew and the war was on.
What with one thing and another – having been at a school where they didn’t play it and so forth – Rugby Football is a game I can’t claim absolutely to understand in all its niceties, if you know what I mean. I can follow the broad, general principals, of course. I mean to say, I know that the main scheme is to work the ball down the field somehow and deposit it over the line at the other end, and that, in order to squelch this programme, each side is allowed to put in a certain amount of assault and battery and do things to its fellow-man which, if done elsewhere, would result in fourteen days without the option, coupled with some strong remarks from the bench. But there I stop. What you might call the science of the thing is to Bertram Wooster a sealed book. However, I am informed by experts that on this occasion there was not enough science for anyone to notice.
There had been a great deal of rain in the last few days, and the going appeared to be a bit sticky. In fact, I had seen swamps that were drier than this particular piece of ground. The red-haired bloke whom I had encountered in the pub paddled up and kicked off amidst cheers from the populace, and the ball went straight to where Tuppy was standing, a pretty colour-scheme in light blue and orange. Tuppy caught it neatly, and hoofed it back, and it was at this point that I understood that an Upper Bleaching versus Hockley-cum-Meston game had certain features not usually seen on the football field.
For Tuppy, having done his bit, was just standing there, looking modest, when there was a thunder of large feet and the red-haired bird, galloping up, seized him by the neck, hurled him to earth, and fell on him. I had a glimpse of Tuppy’s face, as it registered horror, dismay, and a general suggestion of stunned dissatisfaction with the scheme of things, and then he disappeared. By the time he had come to the surface, a sort of mob-warfare was going on at the other side of the field. Two assortments of sons of the soil had got their heads down and were shoving earnestly against each other, with the ball somewhere in the middle.
Tuppy wiped a fair portion of Hampshire out of his eye, peered round him in a dazed sort of way, saw the mass-meeting and ran towards it, arriving just in time for a couple of heavyweights to gather him in and give him the mud-treatment again. This placed him in an admirable position for a third heavyweight to kick him in the ribs with a boot like a violin case. The red-haired man then fell on him. It was all good, brisk play, and looked fine from my side of the ropes.
I saw now where Tuppy had made his mistake. He was too dressy. On occasions such as this it is safest not to be conspicuous, and that blue and orange shirt rather caught the eye. A sober beige, blending in with the colour of the ground, was what his best friends would have recommended. And, in addition to the fact that his costume attracted attention, I rather think that the men of Hockley-cum-Meston resented his being on the field at all. They felt that, as a non-local, he had butted in on a private fight and had no business there.
At any rate, it certainly appeared that they were giving him preferential treatment. After each of those shoving-bees to which I have alluded, when the edifice caved in and tons of humanity wallowed in a tangled mess in the juice, the last soul to be excavated always seemed to be Tuppy. And on the rare occasions when he actually managed to stand upright for a moment, somebody – generally the red-haired man – invariably sprang to the congenial task of spilling him again.
In fact, it was beginning to look as though that telegram would come too late to save a human life, when an interruption occurred. Play had worked round to close to where I was standing, and there had been the customary collapse of all concerned, with Tuppy at the bottom of the basket, as usual, but this time when they got up and started to count the survivors, a sizeable cove in what had once been a white shirt remained on the ground. And a hearty cheer went up from a hundred patriotic throats as the news spread that Upper Bleaching had drawn the first blood.
The victim was carried off by a couple of his old chums, and the rest of the players sat down and pulled their stockings up and thought of life for a bit. The moment had come, it seemed to me, to remove Tuppy from the abattoir, and I hopped over the ropes and toddled to where he sat scraping mud from his wishbone. His air was that of a man who has been passed through a wringer, and his eyes, what you could see of them, had a strange, smouldering gleam. He was so crusted with alluvial deposits that one realized how little a mere bath would ever be able to effect. To fit him to take his place once more in polite society he would certainly have to be sent to the cleaners. Indeed, it was a moot point whether it wouldn’t be simpler just to throw him away.
‘Tuppy, old man,’ I said.
‘Eh?’ said Tuppy.
‘A telegram for you.’
‘I’ve got a wire here that came after you left the house.’
‘Eh?’ said Tuppy.
I stirred him up a trifle with the ferrule of my stick, and he seemed to come to life.
‘Be careful what you’re doing, you silly ass,’ he said, in part. ‘I’m one solid bruise. What are you gibbering about?’
‘A telegram has come for you. I think it may be important.’
He snorted in a bitter sort of way.
‘Do you suppose I’ve time to read telegrams now?’
‘But this one may be frightfully urgent,’ I said. ‘Here it is.’
But, if you understand me, it wasn’t. How I had happened to do it, I don’t know, but apparently, in changing the upholstery, I had left it in my other coat.
‘Oh, my gosh,’ I said ‘I’ve left it behind.’
‘It doesn’t matter.’
‘But it does. It’s probably something you ought to read at once. Immediately, if you know what I mean. If I were you, I’d just say a few words of farewell to the murder-squad and come back to the house right away.’
He raised his eyebrows. At least, I think he must have done, because the mud on his forehead stirred a little, as if something was going on underneath it.
‘Do you imagine,’ he said, ‘that I would slink away under her very eyes? Good God! Besides,’ he went on, in a quiet, meditative voice, ‘there is no power on earth that could get me off this field until I’ve thoroughly disemboweled that red-haired bounder. Have you noticed how he keeps tackling me when I haven’t got the ball?’
‘Isn’t that right?’
‘Of course it’s not right. Never mind! A bitter retribution awaits that bird. I’ve had enough of it. From now on I assert my personality.’
‘I’m a bit foggy as to the rules of this pastime.’ I said. ‘Are you allowed to bite him?’
‘I’ll try, and see what happens,’ said Tuppy, struck with the idea and brightening a little.
At this point, the pall-bearers returned, and fighting became general again all along the Front.
I think most of us will have at some time seen a game that resembled this one. The mud, certainly. The bitter undercurrent of rivalry and suppressed violence, undoubtedly. Our beloved game may be clinical, professional, and highly complex these days, when played at the highest levels, but under it all, the game as described above, lives on.pqs: qs:
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