W.G.Grace ..... Kenneth Cranham
GF ..... Benedict Cumberbatch
Voice of Cricket ..... Christopher Martin-Jenkins
100 years ago, W.G. Grace played his final game of First Class cricket, bringing to a close one of the great sporting careers. The awarding-winning writer Warburton has written a play to mark the occasion. Starring Kenneth Cranham, Benedict Cumberbatch, and I very own, Christopher Martin-Jenkins. This is Last Days of Grace.
It’s morning, an April morning in London. Brick, brick houses and tall chimneys, dark trees and rose, grey clouds, spires, a gas holder, huge looming over the houses. And here is a circle of grass in the middle of it all. All this London brick and its circle of grass – not a perfect circle, more in the limps, fenced in, built around. Over there on the far side, 2 brick towers, a flag pole, a big clock, a pavilion.
Voice of Cricket: April 20th, Easter Monday. Surrey against the Gentlemen of England at the Oval. This is the 1st day of 3 and the 1st day of the 1908 Cricket Season, the start of summer, play has been delayed by a fall of snow.
Just to the right of the pavilion, a man comes through a gate in a low fence and starts to walk around the ground, carefully, alone. He walks round the edge. He doesn’t cut across the circle because today, the circle is white. It’s a covering of snow, perhaps he doesn’t want to spoil it. There’s also snow on the wooden seats and the tops of fences. The man makes his way round the perimeter.
Voice of Cricket: Dr W.G. Grace will lead the Gentlemen of England and Mr H.D.G. Leveson Gower will lead Surrey. Hobbs and Marshall will open innings for Surrey, followed by Hayes, Holland, Mr J.N. Crawford, Hayward, Mr S.E. Busher…..
A single figure stumping round the edge of this circle of white, and closing now coming this way.
Voice of Cricket: Mr C.B. Fry had been expected to play for the Gentlemen of England, but he’s unable to attend. Dr W.G. Grace will therefore take the following players onto the field, Mr H.G. Keigwin, Mr A.E. Lawton, Mr CTA Wilkinson….
The man keeps walking, big man, big beard, also dusted with white these days. He’s nearly 60. He stops and looks back at the pavilion which is unlit. It’s still early, so far, there’s no sign of the other players. So he moves on towards a shed at the heart of a __ , a groundsman's shed, low and black, large, double doors, no windows. If he keeps walking, if he goes beyond the shed that leaves the ground in a straight line, he’ll reach the /turns/. But he doesn’t do that. He stops just outside the shed and stamps the snow. The shed door stands slightly ajar.
W.G.Grace: Albert! Albert! Are you in there?
Albert is one of the groundsmen. This is his shed. But he makes no answers so the man steps in.
It’s dark. He can just make out the indistinct shape of a big mower and faintly the curve of its blades. There’s a heavy roller. And in the bar of light from the door, he can see a couple of dark green poles leaning against the wall, mats sagging from them. And there’s the smell – a smell of old grass and old machinery, and more delicately, of linseed oil on wood.
W.G.Grace: Albert? Ah…
He’s found the heavy roller.
W.G.Grace: Blasted, Albert, blasted, keep a tidy shed ___.
He returns to the door and looks out. There are his footprints in the snow, dotted all the way from the pavilion and leading directly here.
W.G.Grace: Damn and blasted.
To the dark of Albert’s hut.
W.G.Grace: __ will put up a notice in the /wrong room/, /daunts/ at Albert’s hut, seek there and he should find me.
But there’s a broom, a __ stick used to sweep dust of the wicket. Now the desires are more used to gloom he can make that out too.
W.G.Grace: I’ll do.
So he takes it outside and sweeps an area of concrete in front of the hut, sweeps it until his footprints are brushed away and no one would know that a large man in big boots had just come by. His tracks enter the concrete area and then they can’t be seen.
W.G.Grace: That’s done it.
Done what? What does he mean?
W.G.Grace: So sign of that.
Of course. He’s hiding.
GF: I __ to get the sure of the __.
GF: I’m sorry.
W.G.Grace: I thought the place was empty.
GF: But I am not sure it has done. What you are hoping for, it seems….
W.G.Grace: What are you talking about?
GF: People will still see the footprints leading round the …..
W.G.Grace: Who are you? What are you doing here?
GF: But if you sweep a little farther.
W.G.Grace: Step forward, I can’t see you properly.
GF: Not /that/ 20 yards to the right, I mean.
W.G.Grace: You know Albert?
W.G.Grace: What are you doing? Lurking in here?
GF: I’m sorry.
W.G.Grace: Then why make me jump?
GF: Don’t you see me here when you came in?
W.G.Grace: Of course I didn’t! You are the staff? Or are you one of Albert’s men? Does he know you are here?
GF: I haven’t seen Albert this morning.
W.G.Grace: You shouldn’t be in here, should you? Not without Albert’s knowledge?
W.G.Grace: He won’t stand for it.
GF: No, not at all. Albert is at street.
W.G.Grace: He’s a tartar, ____.
GF: Well, you are in here.
GF: You also came in here without Albert’s knowledge. Did you not fear his reaction?
GF: That he’ll be strict with you?
W.G.Grace: Of course not, I don’t fear Albert or any man.
GF: No? Or anything?
W.G.Grace: I’m here, yes, but I have an open invitation.
GF: I see, Albert asked you.
W.G.Grace: Naturally asked me.
GF: He did?
W.G.Grace: Oh, obviously. It’s unspoken between us, between Albert and me, but perfectly understood on each side, I say, don’t question me like this.
GF: I’m sorry.
W.G.Grace: Albert’s man questioning me.
GF: I was curious about the arrangement.
W.G.Grace: Yeah, no business to be.
GF: And I can’t help wondering…
W.G.Grace: I should keep my curiosity in myself if I were you. If Albert minds, I would have a word with Albert about all this. What were you talking about?
GF: Was I?
W.G.Grace: Just now and when I came in.
GF: Did I say something?
W.G.Grace: Well, looming out of darkness at me, going about the sweeping.
GF: Ah, yes, the sweeping I was pointing out that even if you do cover your tracks.
GF: Your footprints are still leading in this general direction.
GF: From the pavilion to the shed. But if you sweep a little far, clear the snow as far as the gate at the back of the seats, it might look as if you’ve gone through there.
W.G.Grace: Oh. Might it?
GF: I believe it might. As if you’re continuing on your way round the ground, people might make that assumption.
W.G.Grace: You’re talking nonsense.
GF: Am I?
W.G.Grace: Assumption? What assumption, as clearing the snow?
GF: Yes, I know.
W.G.Grace: For some of /you do/, I mean bricks, exercise, I wasn’t wiping out footprints.
GF: I see.
W.G.Grace: Why on earth would I want to wipe out my footprints?
GF: So no one would follow you.
GF: I thought perhaps you wanted to remain undisturbed.
W.G.Grace: What are you talking about?
GF: That you were keeping out of the way.
W.G.Grace: Well, if that is a plan, it blasted hasn’t worked, has it?
GF: Because I am here, you mean.
W.G.Grace: Precisely. You do realize that, don't you, that I am playing today?
GF: There will be play, don’t you think?
W.G.Grace: Certainly, there will be. Snow won’t stop us.
GF: I wish you luck.
W.G.Grace: Thank you. I didn’t know that I will be playing?
GF: I thought you might be.
W.G.Grace: But you didn’t recognize me when I came in?
GF: It’s rather glooming in here.
W.G.Grace: Yes, it is.
GF: You’re usually recognized, aren’t you?
W.G.Grace: I am, indeed, very often recognize, hardly ever /not/.
GF: Is it?
W.G.Grace: No one had sit here.
GF: Albert uses the oil drum, I believe.
W.G.Grace: Yes. Will you?
GF: Thank you. I am content to stand.
W.G.Grace: You are familiar with this ground. Are you Albert’s man?
GF: I am.
W.G.Grace: Are you casual?
GF: Not casual, no.
W.G.Grace: Employed for this match only.
W.G.Grace: Albert does employ a __ sometimes, I know.
GF: No. I’ve been here awhile.
W.G.Grace: Well, if you know the Oval, you would have seen me. You would have seen me play.
GF: Would I?
W.G.Grace: Bound to have done. You watch cricket?
GF: Yes, I do.
W.G.Grace: And played here?
GF: Once at one time.
W.G.Grace: Good man?
GF: That one time I played.
W.G.Grace:Then you know what it is to be out there. The wicket to be… defined yourself so thoroughly, so …
GF: Time and the world held still.
W.G.Grace: Held still, yes. You do know?
W.G.Grace: Well if you know that and you know the game, then you do know me, especially here.
GF: The Oval?
W.G.Grace: The Oval, yes. I keep coming here, I like this place.
GF: Yes, very grand.
W.G.Grace: Yes, I think it’s grand, but not pompous at all. Right straightforward in its way.
W.G.Grace: Yes. Bricks, bricks, bricks in a good wicket. I always think better than Lord’s.
GF: Is it?
W.G.Grace: Well, it was in the old days, in the old days, Lord’s was a medal.
GF: So I heard. The wicket was not good.
W.G.Grace: Terrible. Tough giving, clubs and grass, the ball flying all over the place, up at your face or shooting through.
GF: One had to be undaunted.
W.G.Grace: Undaunted, yes. It has improved, of course, Lord’s.
GF: But the Oval…
W.G.Grace: Oh, the Oval, yes. They come here with no stays, up from Bristol, a young lad.
GF: Not yet 20.
W.G.Grace: Big old London. London crowds.
Voice of Cricket: England again Surrey. The Oval. 30th of July, 1866. England won the Toss and batted. At the end of the opening day, they were 421 for 8 with Mr W.G. Grace undefeated on 187. This was the first time he passed 100 at the top level of the game. When the innings closed on the following day, he remained undefeated with 224 to his name. Also playing for England were Mr Grace’s brother, E.M. , Mr C. Payne, Mr G. Wootton, Mr T. Hearne….
GF: Such a young man to score so heavily.
W.G.Grace:18. Only just 18.
GF: What must you have felt like?
W.G.Grace: Felt like __ 24 runs of the last score.
GF: But you, I mean, in your heart?
W.G.Grace: A lot running, I am not out.
GF: Of course, not out.
W.G.Grace: What do you mean ‘in my heart’?
GF: The impact of the event.
W.G.Grace: I was tired, what else?
GF: What you felt?
W.G.Grace: What else was I to feel, anyway, it was a long time ago.
GF: But you remember it, you do. If you imagine yourself, through those doors, out there, in the middle, only 18 years old.
W.G.Grace: No snow, of course, not then. I remember how the innings started, the nerves, those first few __.
GF: You’re nervous?
W.G.Grace: Always a little nervous when has to be but just enough. I remember that. Then I remember the shouting at the end. Not much else inbetween.
GF: Were you /a lated/?
W.G.Grace: I suppose I was. What I enjoy was the dash.
W.G.Grace: Always have. The spring and the dash of it of life.
GF: There you are, then. You do remember. Not just tiredness and the people shouting.
W.G.Grace: No indeed, more than that.
GF: Not about __ anyway.
GF: Because on the 3rd day, you ran a race at the Crystal Palace, didn’t you?
W.G.Grace: I did, yeah.
GF: The 440 hurdles.
W.G.Grace: When National and Olympian Association meeting, the 440 yards’ hurdles, Mr Walker, who was my captain, kindly allowed me to go.
GF: Would you do that?
GF: Give someone permission to go off and race?
W.G.Grace: No one's ever asked.
GF: But if someone asked you now, what would you say?
W.G.Grace: I say no.
W.G.Grace: You mean a young player asked me if he can go off and do something else in the middle of a match? What would I say?
W.G.Grace: I tell him again, back on the field and play, of course, he would. You agree __, you say and play for other __.
GF: So you wouldn’t have permitted?
W.G.Grace: I damn well would not now.
GF: But Mr Walker allowed it, so when Surrey came out to bat, you weren’t there, you were across London running a race.
W.G.Grace: You know all about this?
GF: Well, I know what I have heard.
W.G.Grace: You know who I am, who won the race.
GF: You do.
W.G.Grace: Hahahahaha. I did. And when I go back to the Oval, did I bowl?
GF: No, but you took a catch.
W.G.Grace: And who was the wicket?
GF: Julius Caesar.
W.G.Grace: Yes. 221 more runs, 440 hurdles and then the concrete of Caesar. I thought you said you didn’t know who I was.
GF: No, I didn’t say that.
W.G.Grace: You surely did.
GF: No, you assume I didn’t.
W.G.Grace: Yes, it was. I supposed I did assume the way you were talking. Well, Albert’s man, you’ve deprived me of a rare chance.
GF: Have I?
W.G.Grace: I thought here’s a chap doesn’t recognise me, hardly knows what I do. This will be different.
W.G.Grace: Different talking. An ordinary conversation. Man to man. But it can’t be that now, can it? Because you do know. You are informed, even about the hurdles.
GF: But this is how we are talking. Man to man.
W.G.Grace: You pretended it, you didn’t know me.
GF: No, I knew you.
W.G.Grace: Here it comes, big man with the beard, the big cricket __, must be, surely must be.
GF: I wasn’t pretending…
W.G.Grace: What shall I say? Asking that cricket?
GF: No, no, no.
W.G.Grace: Not the bit of it. I’ll pretend I don’t know him. I’ll talk about the snow. Hahahaha. Good, very good. What’s your name, Albert’s man? What?
W.G.Grace: George. I like that, George. This is my spirit.
GF: Did the spirit require lifting?
W.G.Grace: No, not really, I supposed first day of the season, __, what better thing if I know.
GF: So am I.
W.G.Grace: Off we go again.
W.G.Grace: But what?
GF: Not quite the same. You were unsubtle. You were escaping the pavilion, you came out of here to get…
W.G.Grace: I would not start it again. I was sweeping snow. Then I’ll stop, stop it now all these questions. Who do you think you are?
GF: We’re just talking, man to man.
W.G.Grace: More than talking, you were jumping to conclusion.
GF: So you were no avoiding anyone?
W.G.Grace: I very much like to avoid you if you carry out my list.
GF: But are you?
W.G.Grace: Yes, of course, I am. Ah, no, no no, Ah! You have no idea. You stand there, casting criticsm. I was trying to avoid an invitation to dinner.
GF: The invitation?
W.G.Grace: Plainly simple, an invitation to dinner, to dinner. I did not wish to attend.
GF: I see. From?
W.G.Grace: From Shrimp.
GF: Shrimp? 【注：Leveson Gower was nicknamed "Shrimp"】
W.G.Grace: Mr Leveson Gower, it’s none of your business, it clearly isn’t.
GF: No, I am sorry.
W.G.Grace: /He’s very decency,/ old Shrimp, I saw that looking in his eye. I __ when we met, I knew he’d invite me to the dinner.
GF: And you don’t want to go?
GF: Then you youngly have to refuse the invitation, politely you would rather go home.
W.G.Grace: And he would ask me why. Go home, W.G, why? I don’t want to say why.
GF: I am sure Mr Leveson Gower would understand.
W.G.Grace: No doubt he would.
GF: You wouldn’t have to say very much at all.
W.G.Grace: I don’t want to say anything. I don’t want to explain. I always go home, if I possibly can, it’s my wife, __ to know since Bessie __ away. You see that?
W.G.Grace: I upset her. Bessie was, you see, such a lovely girl, a jewel, still feel the loss. __ Shrimp, perfectly decent, excellent company, but I don’t want to talk to him about this.
GF: But you talk to me.
W.G.Grace: Yes. I suppose so.
GF: We are barely acquainted, you have no reason to tell me, I am George. Albert’s man, that’s all.
W.G.Grace: Perfect stranger. You know, I tell you what I wouldn’t tell Shrimp, very strange.
GF: Well, here we sit in a groundsman’s shed before the start of player dark, place where we meet on equal term.
W.G.Grace: Man to man.
GF: And sometimes these matters are easier with strangers.
W.G.Grace: You are an extraordinary young fellow, you know. __ Do you work for Albert?
GF: No. So you were avoiding something?
W.G.Grace: I’m avoiding Shrimp.
GF: And the conversation, you are afraid of the consequences.
W.G.Grace: I wouldn’t say ‘afraid’. I am not afraid.
W.G.Grace: I don’t know. I’ll start clearing the snow. Nobody out there by 12, you’ll see. Did you see the Australians here?
GF: I believe I did.
W.G.Grace: They have fast bowlers, /boil and palmer/ I remember when the first Test was played and __ boys were peppier. A man might be afraid of that. But the huge crowd watching is every move. Palmer running ___.
Voice of Cricket: England against Australia at the Oval. September 6th to September 8th, 1880. In the history of the game, no contest has created such worldwide interest. Attendances were the largest ever seen of the cricket match and fine weather favoured match from the start to finish. England captained by Lord Harris, open their innings were the brothers W.G. and E.M. Grace, leads to were followed by A.P. Lukas, the honorable A. Lyttelton, Mr G.F. Grace, youngest of the three Grace brothers, Mr A.G. Steel.
W.G.Grace: It was moment’s won matches like that, certain quite small moments as is always the case in games of cricket.
GF: Did you recall them?
W.G.Grace: Sometimes are the slightest moments of the shortest duration, when things go one way or the other and you have to hold in hand.
Voice of Cricket: For Australia, W.L. Murdoch led the side. The opening innings with A.C. Bannerman followed by J.M. JM Blackham, the hitter George Bonnor….
W.G.Grace: George Bonnor was a mighty __ of a ball, __ them with a great /cigar on/, he could take hold of the game. He smoked the ball. Look out there, did you see?
W.G.Grace: The picture was there. Can you see from there? You see the pavilion? The tower on the right, it was very nearly a line with that. Shaw was bowling from that end, and Bonner smoked the ball up it went, huge, huge __ and it went soaring over there, towards the gas holder. There, there was Fred.
W.G.Grace: G.F., my brother, younger brother, who caught it, perfectly, cleanly, stunned silence from our winner and then a cheer they can hear on the // station. Never was this sound until you catch. He had dash, dash and certainty in the field. There’s no finer sight, a poor fielder can be an eyesore to every lover of the game, but a young man, my dear old friend in the full vigor, the dash.
GF: What happened to him?
W.G.Grace: Then you must know that, old cricket in world as that.
GF: Since you recall, he became ill.
W.G.Grace: Two weeks after that match. He went to Winchester, called a chill. That’s all it was to begin with that. And I’m going to see him, but I, I didn’t know, he didn’t seem to be __ . He might have been the best of this, best of all Graces, best loved young man. One Test match played and we lost him.
GF: But the match itself?
GF: It was won?
Voice of Cricket: England won by five wickets, there were eight wickets in the match from /Moley/, the Nottinghamshire professional. However the __ must go to W.G. Grace who scored 152 runs in the first innings. This has comprised 12 falls, 10 frees, 14 __ and 46.…
GF: And what were he saying?
GF: Did it matter to him?
W.G.Grace: Of course it did.
GF: And he had his part to play?
GF: What would you say to him?
W.G.Grace: I say, well played, young man, well held.
GF: And yourself?
GF: What would you say to yourself?
GF: If you could see yourself now.
GF: Walking up the steps, over there, at the end of the game.
W.G.Grace: I can’t.
GF: The old W.G. to be young. W.G..
W.G.Grace: It does not make sense.
GF: __, would you be forgiving?
W.G.Grace: Of myself?
W.G.Grace: How could I?
GF: Or perhaps see something in yourself you haven’t seen before.
W.G.Grace: What you say is impossible. One person to become two? Not possible.
GF: But all those years had go, it is like a different person.
W.G.Grace: We change as we grow older, George, and I do not deny that. But we do not split in two and become someone else. You must take my word for that, I am a medical man.
GF: I know, but you look back and you see yourself when you were young, what did you call it there? Spring in the dash at all, you see, the young man that it was you, when he looks back at you, what does he see?
W.G.Grace: What are you talking about? No one looks back at me!
GF: Does he see worry or fear?
GF: In you, in the light of eye, can you see that? Does he see the thing that frightens you?
W.G.Grace: What frightens me?
GF: It never did before, can he name it?
W.G.Grace: Stop this! There’s nothing to name. Fear? What fear? First, you say I was hiding and you say I am afraid. You are impertinent. Anyway, what if I got to be frightened of nothing? Ask around the counties and they will tell you nothing. George? George? Where are you? Damned nerve.
He sees the roller in the gloom /which is/ for it with the big hand, sits on it. Disgruntled. Unsettled. On his own again.
W.G.Grace: Talk nonsense and slope off? Damned nerve.
The shed doors still stands ajar. He looks out across the pitch towards the pavilion, glances at the sky.
W.G.Grace: By 12, I’ll be out there by 12.
And yes, it looks as if he’s right. The snow is being pushed back. One or two grey streets are left around the boundary. The lights grey, too. And the gas holder low. But the play will commence, 10 minutes after noon.
Voice of Cricket: The 3rd ball the match bowled Hobbs, but Marshall and Hayes stayed together until snow returned briefly at the course of one. Surrey scored 381 for the loss of 8 wickets by the end of the first day. Lees scored a faultless 87 out of 141 for the edge wicket.
At close of play, the big cricketer walks around the ground again. This time he leaves no tracks. The snow has gone and anyway he’s no longer concerned about being noticed. He was a blazer and his walk is purposeful. He’s filled it all days or perhaps he’s had time to think. Here he comes.
W.G.Grace: George! George! Albert’s man, are you in here?
GF:A difficult day after a promising start.
W.G.Grace: Where are you, man?
GF: I am here.
W.G.Grace: Oh. What do I with you?
GF: Nothing for Hobbs today and he’s a very…
W.G.Grace: Yes, I know about __.
GF: Then he will be even better.
W.G.Grace: And this seems to me…
GF: I am, yes.
W.G.Grace: George, whatever you name is, Albert’s man.
GF: I /won’t/, you said, and I am listening.
W.G.Grace: I know you. I know who you are. For one thing, you are not who you say you are.
GF: Am I not?
W.G.Grace: No. You are not Albert’s man, you don’t work for him. I asked him and he’s never heard of you.
W.G.Grace: I know this is Albert’s domain, I suspect you shouldn’t even be here.
GF: But who did I say I…
W.G.Grace: Possibly not even on the ground, you are a /lurker/ in the shadows, hoping to avoid detection, I suspect, sir, that you are trespasser.
GF: Did I say that I worked for Albert?
W.G.Grace: You blasted well did. I stood there, right there, asked you, ‘ Are you Albert’s man?’ and you said, ‘Yes, I am.’
GF: Did I?
W.G.Grace: ‘Are you Albert’s man?’ and you said.
W.G.Grace: ‘I am,’ or ‘Yes,’ something like that’s all. If you didn’t, you allow me to think you were.
GF: Yes, that I did.
W.G.Grace: You allow me to believe you belong him.
GF: And I do in a sense.
W.G.Grace: In a sense? What did that mean?
GF: I mean….
W.G.Grace: It doesn’t mean anything, either you do belong to a place you don’t that I suspect you don’t. I strongly suspect you don’t belong here at all.
GF: And is this the word you wanted?
W.G.Grace: No. It’s only the first word of several. What do you mean by talking about what goes on inside my head and don’t deny that you said that because I remembered distinctly. Something about the young W.G. standing on the pavilion steps and talking to the old W.G..
W.G.Grace: And seeing something in his eye, seeing him afraid.
GF: It was an imaginary conversation.
W.G.Grace: Imaginary was nonsense. Afraid? Who said that? Who mentioned fear?
GF: I raised the questions.
W.G.Grace: You did and it was impertinent.
GF: It sees a reasonable one in me.
W.G.Grace: Who are you? What do you want? Why are you asking about matters that don’t concern you?
GF: Do they not?
W.G.Grace: Well, they concern me, no one else.
GF: But the great cricketer nearing the age of 60.
GF: And unsure of himself, that concerns everyone, surely!
W.G.Grace: Then everyone’d better mind his own business. Heavenly! Unsure? I am completely sure!
GF: You can’t be surprised of the interest.
W.G.Grace: No, I am not. there is interest. There’s always been interest in what I do. And newspapers are full of speculation on that subject. But you’re probably well aware of all that.
GF: Am I?
W.G.Grace: Oh, I think so.
GF: Of the speculation?
W.G.Grace: Of the newspapers.
GF: Why would I be aware of newspapers?
W.G.Grace: You certainly would if they employ you.
GF: Oh!! So you think….【这个oh说得真销魂~~~XD
W.G.Grace: You are a newspaper writer, possibly even an Australian one.
GF: You can tell I am not.
W.G.Grace: You can still work for the man. You come here pretending to be a groundsman, what’s happening to this country where a man stoops to rules like that. What’s happening to us?
GF: That’s what you think, doctor, you might simply ignore…..
W.G.Grace: /Shear the seed of it/.
GF: But you didn’t. You can define me.
GF: You come over here from the pavilion calling my name.
W.G.Grace: If it’s your name.
GF: That surely is coming to find me.
W.G.Grace: Which I doubt.
GF: So why did you do that? What did you want?
W.G.Grace: I don’t want any thing.
GF: What is it that’s worrying you?
W.G.Grace: Nothing. Nothing is worrying me. I do not worry. I came here to find you __.
W.G.Grace: What you think it is a letter, never seen a letter before.
GF: Of course, but why do you…
W.G.Grace: Listen! It’s a letter written to me by a complete stranger. Here’s what he writes. ‘Thousands, including myself, members of my family and friends have determined to see at least one full day’s play and would not so have determined and /it had/ not been thought you would play.’ Here you are.
W.G.Grace: People write and ask me to play. See for yourself if you don’t believe me, somebody, a perfect stranger writes to ask me to continue playing, denied that I am not too old.
GF: What? Did I?
W.G.Grace: I think I understand the implication when I hear one.
GF: But don’t you sometimes ask yourself….
W.G.Grace: No, I don’t and let me have that back. Give it to me, give it to me. Not require to ask myself anything. The first-class season started today and someone out there played cricket, and tend to play cricket tomorrow and the next day and the next. So that’s what you came to find out. That’s what interests your newspaper well. You have your answer.
GF: Perhaps I have. I said nothing about giving up the game.
Voice of Cricket: The 2nd day ended 20 minutes early with the fading of light. By this time, the Gentlemen of England have been dismissed for 219 at deficit of 171. W.G. showed strong defense and ran well between the wickets. He battered an hour for his first 2 runs. __ was foreced at 73, he batted 90 minutes for 15.
GF: And the struggle.
W.G.Grace: /Wasn’t fluent amid/?
GF: But it was watchful.
W.G.Grace: Yes. The running between the wickets was experienced rather than swift, I was swift once, I’ve been swift on this occasion.
GF: On this occasion it was experienced.
W.G.Grace: Yes. Well, young man, here you are again.
GF: Here I am. Yes.
W.G.Grace: I should have you thrown out of the ground. I don’t know why. ______. Yesterday, I made you understand that I had no more to say to you.
W.G.Grace: I made you understand that my patience had run out.
GF: Yes, and I did understand. But I also understood that you believe me to be employed by one of the newspapers.
W.G.Grace: You are not employed by Albert, are you?
W.G.Grace: Then I conclude, well, I conclude. So, did I not make all that clear?
GF: You did, yes.
W.G.Grace: Our conversation was over.
W.G.Grace: In that case, why did you come looking for me again?
GF: Because for one thing, your own.
W.G.Grace: Oh, am I?
GF: About the newspapers, I’ve nothing to do with that.
W.G.Grace: Well, I should box you this anyway whether you are or not.
GF: But you weren’t.
W.G.Grace: No. I don't care, I don’t know why.
GF: I am young, the tolerance of the young.
W.G.Grace: Oh, am I?
GF: Those you have dash and the certainty in the field or off it, I suppose.
W.G.Grace: Did you have?
GF: /Two degree?/
W.G.Grace: And the __ to go with it. You have no right to be here, you know that?
W.G.Grace: Not in here. Only those who are engaged in the match are allowed here. We change it as our private place. When we are here, we’re not to be disturbed.
GF: Am I disturbing you?
W.G.Grace: Of course, you are. You have a very disturbing nature. Anyway, I felt I have been dismissed as I have been. There’s not wished to be talked at. It wishes to be on his own to contemplate his failure. How did you get in here?
GF: I came to find you.
W.G.Grace: And that’s why, not how. How did you find your way to the changing room.
GF: I am very persistent.
W.G.Grace: You certainly are. Set forward. Come out of the shadows, I can’t see you properly there. Why don’t you move? Do I know you? Have I met you before?
GF: Is that what you want to do?
GF: Contemplate failure.
W.G.Grace: __ the man of it.
GF: Is it what you….
W.G.Grace: No, not exactly. But I hate the sound of that rattle at my back. I do think about how was that. I ask myself what I can learn from that.
GF: It bothers you if you are out.
W.G.Grace: Everyone gets out from time to time, even the best of us. Who accepted cheerfully? You certainly can’t /when it/ troubled you?
GF: Then something else does.
GF: Something else is troubling you.
GF: It is.
W.G.Grace: Well, yes. What’s troubling me at the moment is you. Coming in here with no rights and asking foolish questions.
GF: Well, foolish to ask if you are troubled. Is it?
W.G.Grace: Yes, perfectly.
GF: Do you remember Trent Bridge?
W.G.Grace: Trent Bridge?
GF: In 1899, a Test match against the Australians.
W.G.Grace: Well, of course, I do remember them all, why?
GF: C.B. Fry, K.S. Ranjitsinhji.
England against Australia at Trent Bridge, 1st to 3rd June, 1899. Wilfred Rhodes of Yorkshire played his first match for England. And Victor Trumper was a new name in the Australian’s side. The England team was C.B. Fry, W.G. Grace, F.S. Jackson, Gunn, Hayward, K.S. Ranjitsinhji.
W.G.Grace: Why did you bring out Trent Bridge? What is it all about?
GF: You were nearly 50 and still playing for England.
W.G.Grace: Well, /some of us/.
GF: Hard for a big man of that age to get down to the ball in the field.
W.G.Grace: Don’t start all over again.
GF: No one meant in the crowd he thought it and said so out loud perfect strangers. When he was /over/, you took the train to London with F.S. Jackson.
W.G.Grace: No doubt, I did.
GF: What did you said to him? Do you remember?
W.G.Grace: I said a great deal, I expect. I usually do.
GF: But you know what you said?
W.G.Grace: Yes, of course, I did.
W.G.Grace: I said, ‘It’s all over, Jackson. I shan’t play again.’
GF: And that was in 99.
W.G.Grace: I know ….
GF: And here you are, the Oval in 1908 and still playing.
W.G.Grace: I never played another Test, kept my word for that score.
GF: Did you retire from the scene?
GF: Gracefully, dignified an announcement.
W.G.Grace: Yes. In __, the way I did. I asked the selectors if they thought Archie should play in the next Test, Archie MacLaren, and they said yes. They thought ___ and that meant I wouldn’t. So that was that as far as I was concerned.
GF: Withdraw without the awkwardness of making the decision yourself.
W.G.Grace: I had decided.
GF: C.B. Fry decided for you.
W.G.Grace: ____ of the same thing, I have secrets ___.
GF: Did Arthur Shrewsbury play?
GF: At Trent Bridge in your last Test?
W.G.Grace: Well, you seem to know all about the damn match, so I am sure you are perfectly aware that he didn’t.
GF: Well, great shame, then. In Nottingham, his home town.
W.G.Grace: It came down to a choice between Arthur and me, we were not so youthful as the others, he and I and the ___ old boy, and that was me. So Arthur had ___, I felt bad for him, of course a little bit. He was ___ stuff and I set up the next one when Archie came in, that’s the way it goes /who’s taken/ him medicine and go about business.
GF: And what happened?
GF: After it was all over, do you remember that?
W.G.Grace: Of course I do.
GF: Some claimed he was the finest bats that England had.
W.G.Grace: Well, he was, after me. He was any way.
W.G.Grace: Yes, and dependable. I’ve always had Arthur in my side and I’ve said so.
GF: Was he troubled?
W.G.Grace: Oh, I will back on that.
GF: Was Arthur Shrewsbury...
W.G.Grace: Yes, you know very well. He was.
GF: When he finished playing cricket, he bought a gun.
W.G.Grace: I know this.
GF: He went in Nottingham and bought a gun a week a after he bought it and put it to his head.
W.G.Grace: Yes, I know.
GF: England’s finest. Why did he do it?
W.G.Grace: Well, I don’t know.
W.G.Grace: I can’t possibly know. How could anyone know?
GF: What do you think? What would you guess?
W.G.Grace: I think Arthur gave up the game, he gave up playing and he couldn’t bear it, he couldn't bear not doing it.
GF: Could you?
W.G.Grace: I haven’t given up.
GF: But you will have to. So could you bear it?
W.G.Grace: Arthur was a decent man, I was very sorry he did what he did. When he stopped playing, he’d bound to ask, what’s left? What can you do?
GF: And do you ask that?
GF: One thing you can do is remember.
W.G.Grace: I won’t do it. It’s been a __ and he won’t come back. Remembering ___. Do you know Arthur? I __ his room and remembered ___ , because when you are playing, the eye, the wrist, the arms and legs and shoulders they all work together in harmony. When they are not, they don’t, they just don’t. Is this what you’ve come to ask me about poor old Arthur?
GF: About the giving up.
GF: And what follows the giving up which has been on your mind, which has troubled you for a long time. It’s all over, Jackson, I shan’t play again. You remembered the borrowing, Beldam’s bat.
GF: Here at the Oval, 2 years ago. George Beldam let you use his bat for the Gentlemen against the players. You made 74 with it and signed it for him. And when you came into the changing room in here, you threw it on the table and you said, ‘There, I shan’t play anymore.’ You’ve been trying to give up. And you can’t do it.
W.G.Grace: Yes, well, the time will go.
GF: You can’t face it.
W.G.Grace: I am aware that it will. I know that will achieve, what I want is to strike the ball, what I wanted to go to take, to catch them. It used to come easily, I am __ now.
GF: In that case?
W.G.Grace: So you want me to stop playing? Is that why you come here?
W.G.Grace: It’s beginning to look like to me.
GF: I’ve come to tell you not to be afraid.
W.G.Grace: Here we go again with the afraid. Did you ever face the bowling at /Charles Courtright/?
GF: Not what I need.
W.G.Grace: /I did it later where beaten and bruised where I received several black puddings around the heart, other being struck by __ in all its pomp and fury and I did not flinch./
GF: No and never it did.
W.G.Grace: I was not afraid.
GF: No, not then, not against any of them and way back to Bristol, a boy facing ___ from E.M. and __ at home. Never flinch, not from a moment.
W.G.Grace: /No one ever said what I did./
GF: No, but you do now. You flinch when you think of giving up. That’s why. Why?
W.G.Grace: Because no one likes the thing. The thought of the emptiness.
GF: What emptiness?
W.G.Grace: The thought that if you stop being a cricketer and then what. I am what I do. And it’s all in the doing of it. So when I stop, I become nothing.
GF: No. What’s to come will come. Don’t be troubled by that.
W.G.Grace: That will stop me, memory.
GF: Not just that.
W.G.Grace: And do you remember, and remember ___. In the best times the most wonderful moments when it matters most. The ball that must be strapped, the catch that must be taken, that’s my Fred’s catch. Such a magnificent thing. Tiring the way out there. And every man’s gaze following it, every breathe held while it hung there in the air. It mattered tremendously. And I think, what if that’s wrong? What if it didn’t matter at all?
GF: It did then, didn’t it?
W.G.Grace: A lifetime playing games.
GF: It mattered then. And it matters now, the ball above the gas holder, a young Fred underneath it. It matters to him. It’s everything to him. That moment, the ball suspended. And it’s still there, still hanging in the air.
GF: Then and now. Fred waiting underneath, alive and waiting.
W.G.Grace: Who are you?
GF: I told you. I am George.
W.G.Grace: George? Is that all?
GF: I have 2 Christian names. George is one.
W.G.Grace: You turned up in here the changing rooms where you shouldn’t be, you hang around in Albert’s shed, and you shouldn’t be there, either. You are a /Surrey/ man.
GF: You can tell I am not.
W.G.Grace: A friend of Shrimp?
GF: You can tell where I am from.
W.G.Grace: Well, there are hints in your voice. ___.
GF: They are in your voice, too.
W.G.Grace: You are waiting for me in Albert’s shed. You watch me walk around the ground and you knew where I was going. You saw me sweep the snow.
W.G.Grace: ___. A line of footprints of the snow.
GF: One line of tracks
W.G.Grace: And no others, mine alone. Where did you come from? George? 2 Christian names. G.F.. Fred? Is that you? I can’t see if you’re there or not? Fred?
Voice of Cricket: The Gentlemen of England have __ their first innings fell once more in their second. The 3rd day of this match was __ only a short one. When /C.V. Staples/ was fought by Mr Busher of ///, England were all out for 130 and Surrey had one by an innings in 41 runs. W.G. again showed good form in the second innings, batting more fluently to score 25. The match possessed a sentimental interest in as much as /it was/ the only first-class contest in which the famous veteran appeared during the season. Those present were unaware that they were watching the champion’s last first-class game.
W.G.Grace: Square, brick houses and tall chimneys all around. The old gas holder looming over there. Brick, brick, brick and a good wicket as I used to say. It’s deserted now, but I feel that the figures down there as they were back then. /Sure/ running up to bowl and strong-arm Bonnor jumping out to smite the ball and up it goes, and up turns and acts there. My brother Fred beneath it.
In Last Days of Grace by Nick Warburton. W.G. Grace was played by Kenneth Cranham, George by Benedict Cumberbatch and the Voice of Cricket by Christopher Martin-Jenkins, the producer was Steven Canny.