In writing this tale, Barbour accomplished two feats in the realm of prophecy. He worked a switch on the authors of It Happens Every Spring long before they had even thought of their plot (which gives an idea of how valuable Barbour might have been to Hollywood had he not been content to write solely for the 12-year-old mind) and he predicted Willie Mays, who last week knocked out his 41st home run and was just behind Duke Snider for the batting championship. The young hero of Barbour's story, the boy with the preposterous hoki-moki bat, was named Billy Mayes, but, of course, a little typographical error is permitted to prophets now and then.
Mad day on No. 4
It was a day for daring and vast Elizabethan deeds. A half gale sent grey clouds racing over rain-swept lawns and hedges at the Roehampton Club on the outskirts of London. Flags snapped like whips and leaves blew in the gusts. And out on Court No. 4 ("the truest in all England"), watched by a tense and avid crowd of nine persons, two men battled it out in the last match of the Croquet Masters Tournament for the President's Cup.
The two last match competitors (from a field of eight) were far past youth. Humphrey O. Hicks was 50, Maurice Reckitt "well past 65." But the conflict had produced a distillate of excitement and edginess which was reflected by the umbrella-shielded knot of spectators.
As the last game began the tournament had already been won by Hicks, a Devonian gentleman of leisure who swings the mallet off his right foot. But Reckitt?an "Irish-style" player who swings the mallet between spread legs?was keyed to prevent him from establishing an all-time cup competition record of 14 straight games. And Reckitt, author of a book, Croquet Today, not only led in the early stages, but did so in a manner which brought whispered criticism from watchers who insist on an unemotional style. He had, two of them noted, "silly mannerisms"?a habit of "willing" the ball's path with body English after a shot. After good shots, moreover, he was sometimes not absolutely able to conceal, from close watchers, a sense of satisfaction.
"Maurice is frightfully pleased with himself," said the first.
"He's been playing well this week. Have to admit it," replied the second.
Then Hicks began to gain. The white-mustached Reckitt's manner grew grave. Reckitt shot and missed. "Look at him. Look at him," said the first, as Reckitt stamped his foot in vexation. "Why can't he keep it to himself?" Both brightened as the victorious Hicks's last ball hit the post, as the loser cried, according to tradition, "Thank you!" and the winner, "Thank you very much!"
By the end of the match, the crowd had swelled by a few. Some of them had the look of mere curious spectators. An old member of the Croquet Association waved in their direction. "These people," he said, "they're always coming. They watch but they don't understand the game." Turning in his chair, he said with the intensity of a bishop discussing the Bible, "Do you know, for most people in England nowadays, croquet is a closed book?"