A Very Gallant
by Dave Powell
It was an
enormous hit struck firmly in the middle of the
bat, the ball lofted high over third man and
wicket keeper, landing in the duck pond opposite
the bowlers end.
Do you like cricket, Mrs Gillibrand?
Birchall enquired, lifting his left buttock from
the park bench, fetchingly swinging a richly
corduroyed leg over his right knee.
cant say as I do, Mrs Gillibrand
replied, picking at a slice of stale bread
shed taken earlier from the dining room
English, cricket, Birchall continued,
admiring the elegant tooling of his brown brogues.
but his voice trailed off as his thoughts became
distant, and clutching his walking stick, his
bottom lip began to quiver.
alone, Chubby! Mrs Gillibrand scolded, as
an enterprising Eider duck lunged at a piece of
bread, floating in the water. I threw that
for Goldie, not for you. No wonder youre so
Birchall erupted, seemingly refreshed from his
mental excursion. Play up, play up and play
the game, old chap. Captain Oats, a very gallant
gentleman. Do not leave the igloo brave captain,
he implored as a man in flannel trousers, rolled
up to the knees, waded into the duck-pond.
think, Mrs Gillibrand declared, placing the
stale bread on the bench beside her. He
served in an Irish regiment, Im sure of it.
Oats, he was a captain in the army.
thought he was in the navy, Birchall mused,
swishing the end of his walking stick across some
blades of grass. He was a damn fine fellow,
wherever he came from; damn fine fellow.
You look, erm, rather nice this afternoon,
Mrs Gilibrand. Not too shabby, if I might say.
straightened, and retrieving the slice of bread,
placed it on her lap.
Thank you, Mr Birchall.
Birchall chuckled, nervously fingering his jacket
lapel. Prerequisite in being a gentleman,
gallantry. A gentleman would never hit a lady
with his hat on, for example. Not that I would
dream of striking you Mrs Gillibrand, he
added with alacrity. I was in the navy
must have been nice for you, Mrs Gillibrand
said. During the war?
convoys, in the north Atlantic. They were good
chaps in the wardroom, decent lot. I remember
once we had a competition to find a suitable
phrase with which to present ones desires in
courtship, something to dignify the intent. The
winner got five pounds.
remember any of them? Mrs Gillibrand asked,
beginning to feel a little more at ease.
were they now? Birchall thought for a
moment. Oh yes, I remember. Would
madam care to pluck a rose, was one.
rather sweet. Mrs Gillibrand demurred.
one permit one to mount one, was another.
That was the padres, if I remember right.
And yours? Mrs Gillibrand asked coyly.
What was yours, Mr Burchall?
madam care to savour the Cumberland, he
said with relish, adding with a glint in his eye.
I still have the fiver.'
in flannels stooped to pick up the ball, as
Chubby and Goldie fought over a rich tea biscuit
that had fallen from his shirt pocket.
be getting back to the home, Mrs Gillibrand
sighed. I think its pilchards for tea.
thatll be nice, Birchall said,
stiffening as he rose from the bench.
linked her arm through his, helping him to his
feet. I doubt therell be any
Cumberland on the menu tonight, Mr Birchall,
she said, smiling.