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game, and is an agreeable oppo- money from the public—Roberts nent.
preferred the easier table, but A terrible nuisance in the bil- barred the spot-stroke, and in both liard-room is the spectator who acts his judgment was probably feels it his duty to make remarks sound. The majority of spectators, on the game. If he is alone in not understanding the beauties of the room with two players, he that stroke, considered it monotonselects one to whom he extends ous, but at the same time they his sympathy; he expatiates in liked to see large breaks rapidly the most ignorant and gratuitous scored, and this combination was manner on the excellence of that possible only in the way
Roberts one's strokes, and the hard lines selected. Hence he abandoned meted out to him when failure spot practice, not because he could is the result. Not improbably not play that stroke, but because this servile adulator of the one he thought it would not pay. player may be discourteous to the Now in 1885 certain persons other; and as no person with interested in billiards formed thema real knowledge of the game selves into a body which was would be likely to act such a named the “ Billiard Association part, the value of his criticism of Great Britain and Ireland, may readily be appraised.
India, and the Colonies." Their Passing from the billiard-room committee consisted chiefly of and its occupants, let us return to professional players and reporters John Roberts and matters con- of the sporting press. Their bestcerning the championship of the known work is a set of rules comgame. In 1885 he defeated first piled by some of the players, with Cook, then Bennett, and since Roberts as chairman. Though that year he has never been the code is faulty, the billiard challenged under the conditions world is no doubt indebted to their in force when he won his title. labours. The Association also That being so, one would imagine made a laudable endeavour to sethat he is still indisputably cham- cure uniformity in the matter of pion, and must remain so till de- ordinary tables, calling their design feated on a 3-inch pocket table, "standard Association tables.” all-in, or till he resigns. Never. They instituted matches on them, theless, on this point there has all-in and spot-barred, of which recently been a great deal of con- Peall gained the former and troversy, not always conducted in Mitchell the latter, so that on such a way as to induce great this pattern of table Peall became respect for the views urged, or for the all-in champion, and Mitchell the judicial capacity, discrimina- the spot-barred champion. tion, and courtesy of the writers.' In course of time, and on several
The question seems to have occasions, Peall challenged Roberts arisen thus. Whilst no one ap- to play, all-in, on the standard proached Roberts's form on Association table; but the latter, championship table, several players secure in his position as champion acquired an extraordinary power of on the championship table, always making the spot-stroke on an or- declined. From this certain perdinary table with 35-inch pockets. sons argue that Peall, not Roberts, But it so happened that for ex- is entitled to be styled champion, hibition matches—in other words, whilst others treat that claim as in order to get the largest gate- ridiculous. The question, as far
VOL. CLXI.-NO. DCCCCLXXVIII,
as we can judge, lies in a nutshell. with such rapidity as to recover We may
wrong and are merely the arrears and place success gossiping, but it seems to us that within his reach. Indeed, Peall the whole controversy turns on the won only by the small margin of issue whether the Billiard Associ- 310 points, about equal to 1 point ation is recognised as the final in 87, and owes his victory to a authority in billiard matters. Is very fine break of 395 played at a there anything to warrant such an critical moment during the final assumption ? Roberts scoffs at stage. Now this, though a most the notion, and whilst stating, we meritorious performance, and one believe correctly, that the cham- which no doubt was a severe strain pionship table was not finally abol- and test of nerve, is not the sort ished by the Association, he adds of event on which it is safe to rely. that even if it had been, no one Breaks and opportunities do not concerned with the championship always come when they are most would have cared a straw. In wanted, and with but 310 points other words, he distinctly disallows to make, and Roberts to make the claim of the Association to them, all must agree that Peall's represent and legislate for the margin of safety was dangerously billiard world. And he has good small. Nothing can more congrounds, we think, for doing so, clusively attest Roberts's extrabecause as now composed it is not ordinary powers than the game sufficiently representative of every in question ; for he has concluclass of player. Still, in the absence sively shown that he did not of a better chosen body which shall greatly overestimate his ability to be to billiards what the M.C.C. is give so sound and good a player as to cricket, the Association may his antagonist undoubtedly is, a reasonably claim to exercise some start of half the game. influence in matters concerning the As a final subject of gossip, it is game.
worth thinking for a moment of From this controversy as to who the return or money made by the is champion there arose a chal- players. The figures must be conlenge to Peall, under which Roberts sidered as approximate only, but agreed to give him 12,000 points they will serve to enlighten many out of 24,000 for £500 a-side on persons as to the possibilities and an ordinary table, spot-barred. The prospects of players at the head match was played at the Egyptian of their profession. The Hall Hall, Piccadilly, during the fort- was generally crowded, and the renight from February 15 to 27, and, ceipts have been stated at £3000, throughout, the public interest which is no doubt considerably too never flagged. Lords and ladies, sanguine an estimate. Taking half statesmen and legislators, attended that amount as nearer the truth, sharing the excitement with hum- and deducting £120 provided for bler folk, and the papers were full expenses, Roberts would get about of details. It will suffice to say £900 or a little more, and Peall that, as is not infrequently the about £450, for a fortnight's work. case, Roberts lost ground at start- In less fortunate professions these ing, thereby greatly diminishing amounts would be considered rehis chances of winning; but in the spectable incomes for a year. later stages of the game he scored
THE BLUE JAR.
The licensed victualler's busi- to leave her; the doctor had told ness at the “Borrowed Plume” her he was sick unto death and was in danger of being transferred must die. —nay, at the time I write the And all existence had become transfer had almost actually oc- shrouded with a great cloud, and curred. Old John Tilbury, long for days she had cried stealthily known in the neighbourhood as to herself when out of his sight. an honest man, was dying, and But with him she was his wife would have to reign in attentive, as for the last time, to his stead.
those small unexpected thoughts And even as in dynasties so in to which the sick man gave exmany smaller concerns of life the pression, and to the simple charity cry is ever, “Le roi est mort! vive which as ever coloured all his le roi !"
utterances, while she moved about Thus the sequence of things is his room and wondered dully why maintained, and in this case the God allowed human hearts to break small round of monotonous duties and her happiness to end. And to the public would remain un- he, on his part, knowing his end broken." But this external acqui- was come, was trying feebly to escence only served to throw into arrange everything before he left sharp relief the very opposite feel- this world. He did not fear ings which had paralysed John death, only the loneliness it would Tilbury's wife with a sense of the bring on her. So his mind was disruption of all things when first troubled. she understood the serious nature “Mary,” he said one day, “I of her husband's condition. For wonder where Biddulph is ! she was (and I state it apologeti- Abroad somewhere, I suppose!” cally in the face of a pessimistic He was referring to world) absorbed in her devotion to friend of theirs, a man some years her husband. She had married his junior, who was a
corn imwhen a mere girl, and he was a porter, and lived when at home man past fifty; and in the absence in their neighbourhood. This had of her parents, who were both occurred once or twice, for a suddead, she had loved him as a hus- den wish had arisen in his heart, band and her one great friend. and finally, having asked his wife
People had wondered at the time one evening to lift him up in bed, how such a pretty girl, and one so he had murmuredyoung, could have married a man "I wonder where Biddulph is, so much older than herself. But deary !” Then looking up, he so it had been. Perhaps an ano- added, “Would you mind marrymaly, but never a mistake. And ing him when I am gone?” now that she was barely thirty her Mary started and her colour short spell of contented happiness went. Instinctively she glanced was to end, for the man who had at him; but he was quite coherent, been a companion and good friend and bending her head down, she to her for the last nine years had writhed under his words.
“Oh, don't, John,” she wailed. known each other twenty-two years
“But, Mary, you can't remem- come next March, and he always ber me always, and you'd be glad was chaffing about something. then; and he said to me once he And last Christmas 'twas that thought I was a lucky fellow to jarhave you."
“Yes," said his wife, and there But there was no answer, only a a certain eagerness in her sob. Suddenly she looked up and voice. said
“But maybe I was cross, and “John, you and he did not he'll grow older and eppreciate it,' agree at Christmas, do you remem- he said, his usual optimism about ber? He was laughing because others showing itself. you thought so much of the blue “ Then yer'll marry him ?” he
added, with quiet assurance. “ Yes; he ain't no eye for colour, “Oh, don't, John; it's cruel." That's what young Mr Jeffrey, who “Oh, Mary dear, it's for you I painted here in the summer, called wants it. Say yer'll marry him if it. And in coorse he would not he gets to admire it. He'd stand submit to it. And it's real Saver, by yer and love yer.” and my grandmother got it given Evidently the idea had taken her by one of them poor refugees full possession of the sick man's from France.” For a moment he mind and he was worrying over it. paused, for he easily tired, and he The woman moved uneasily in her lay there gently stroking his wife's chair, while the ticking of the hand.
clock in the silence seemed to “In coorse he would not submit be beating time to her swaying to it,” he repeated slowly, "ef he thoughts. Then she turned and did not admire it—saw no colour said gentlyin it, so to speak. Mary," he went “Don't fret, John dear; it shall on, "you'll never sell or give away be as you wish.” that jar? It was in my old And the answer had made the mother's parlour ever since I was old man happy, and the woman any height."
was satisfied it could lead to She nodded, for she hardly nothing. trusted herself to speak.
And within a few days of this “He'd want to sell it ef yer old John Tilbury passed away, married him. Ef he didn't like leaving, as far as mortal man it. Why did he not like it?” he can tell, not an enemy behind went on querulously. « We've him.
The weary months, which his. And now that it had ended dragged on as milestones on the so suddenly, she could hardly road to despair and utter loneli- realise to herself sometimes that ness, seemed at one time to Mary he was not there. Fortunate it Tilbury after her husband's death was for her in those days that she as never to end. She was a young had her sister Annie, a girl somewoman still, with all the zest and what younger than herself, staying beauty of youth left, and had with her. At least she could get known no life except with him, away at times from the bustle of and had had no interests except the inn and those guests whose
heedlessness to her loss only made and her husband had been dead her solitude seem more acute; and now eight months, and Henry her sister would look after them, Biddulph was forgotten. Spring and perform those duties which that year had opened warm and would have brought her face to bright, remaining so. The brown face with people.
and purple woods had reddened But gradually in course of time before the bursting leaf, which in life and its responsibilities became its turn had given way to fairy sweeter to her, dulling her pain as and to darkening greens. The the days went on; but the shock copses where the woodmen had produced on her mind by her hus- been thinning in the winter had band's dying request did not fade sheltered the primroses and aneso quickly.
mones, and they had come and It was very early in her widow- gone, and now in this engendering hood that one day, when she was month of May the woods were all in the little parlour with her sister, azure, carpeted with hyacinths and she had seen the jar her husband blue-bells, and ground and sky had referred to.
were mysterious in that great “Annie,” she said, "do take that awakening which God does give thing away; in the cupboard in us year by year. Though tending my room will do."
by the contrast of its beauty to For it was there as a record strengthen the shadow through of her husband's inexplicable re- which she was passing, Mary quest, and in her eyes was an accepted it with the natural love abhorrence. And her sister had of a countrywoman, and spent a taken it, being ignorant of its fault great part of the day, for the inn and somewhat wondering. So in was quite empty, in the woods mournful monotony the months and tending the small garden at rolled by, until spring returned to the back of the house. On one of the sodden fields and warmed them these occasions Annie had stayed into life. And Mary had become behind, and while mending a torn calmer and more reconciled, though curtain in her sister's room she her old love and craving for her suddenly remembered that the blue husband had not ceased. Even jar was still shut up in the cupthat dimly expressed consciousness board. Thinking it was good for of the blue jar and its relation to Mary, she had persistently put all her, which was always lying latent the winter things back as they were in her mind, seemed as time went before John's death, whenever she on to grow weaker. Certain it is, got the chance; and as Mary had that one day she had opened the generally accepted their return cupboard where it was and had passively, Annie on this occasion, looked at it, and allowed her mind despite its emphatic removal in to be flooded with the memory of the first instance, felt no hesitathe curious compact she had made tion in taking the jar out and with her husband ; and still later going down-stairs with it to the on she had deliberately taken it parlour, yet wondering with a half down and dusted it, remembering smile whether her sister would how John had loved it, and for notice it or not. As she entered the time thinking but little of his the room she saw through the winlast request and the influence it dow a dog-cart coming up the bill to might have on her future. For the house, and in it a man whom winter had sped its chilly course, she knew very well by sight.