Waiting for something, not for me. And I was content. Content; for by such tenure of unnoticedness I knew that I held my privilege to worship : had she beheld me, she would have denied, have contemned my gaze. Between us, now, are years and tears ; but the years waste her not, and the tears wet her not; neither misses she me or any man. There, I think, she is standing yet; there, I think, she will stand for ever: the divinity of an accident, awaiting a divine thing impossible, which can never come to her, and she knows this not. For I reject the vain fable that the ambrosial creature is really an unspiritual compound of lime, which the gross ignorant call plaster of Paris. If Paris indeed had to do with her, it was he of Ida. And for him, perchance, she waits."
Here already was the artist, the actor in unreal realities. Already he had been thrice in love-with the heroines of Selous' Shakespeare, with a doll, with a statue.
Before he knew that his lot was to be more chipped and filled with blanks than the ladies of the Parthenon, he had set about furnishing the gaps with complementing fragments of fancy. He was winning consolation prizes before any races had been lost. " No youth expects to get a heroine of romance for a mistress," he avers, but I doubt if many youths court woodcut and wax on that account. They look for their heroines in living replica; Francis, the artist, went to book and toy-box. And he went walking often to the accompaniment of his father's talk of buds, and trees, and flowers. Mr. J. Saxon Mills, his neighbour, writes :-
" Some few may remember him when, a good many years ago, he used to take his walks up Stalybridge Road, and in the semi-rural outskirts of Ashton. They will recall the quick short step, the sudden and apparently causeless hesitation or full stop, then the old quick pace again, the continued muttered soliloquy, the frail and slight figure. Such was the poet during his studentship at Owens College. An intellectual temperament less adapted to the career of a doctor and surgeon could not be imagined. To such a profession, however, Frank was destined by a careful and practical father."
Besides the public galleries, the libraries, and the roads, he had the cricket-field. From the writing of his own and his sister's heroes' scores upon the sands at Colwyn Bay, he and she had taken to back-garden practice of the game. At school he had not played, but neither had he lost his enthusiasm there. Returning from Ushaw, he would, his sister tells me, go to a friend's garden and play for hours by himself, and bowl for hours at the net, which meant that he had, after each delivery, to retrieve his own ball. He was much at the Old Trafford ground, and there he stored memories that would topple out one over another in his talk at the end of his life. The most historic of the matches he witnessed was that between Lancashire and Gloucestershire in 1878. His sister remembers it, and he celebrates it in the following poem, written in the clear but tragic light that his devotion to the game shed upon the distant scene of whites and greens :-
It is little I repair to the matches of the Southron folk,
Though my own red roses there may blow; It is little I repair to the matches of the Southron folk,
Though the red roses crest the caps, I know. For the field is full of shades as I near the shadowy coast, And a ghostly batsman plays to the bowling of a ghost, And I look through my tears on a soundless-clapping host
As the run-stealers flicker to and fro, To and fro:-
O my Hornby and my Barlow long ago !
It is Glo'ster coming North, the irresistible,
The Shire of the Graces, long ago ! It is Gloucestershire up North, the irresistible,
And new-risen Lancashire the foe ! A Shire so young that has scarce impressed its traces, Ah, how shall it stand before all resistless Graces ? O, little red rose, their bats are as maces
To beat thee down, this summer long ago !
This day of seventy-eight they are come up North against thee,
This day of seventy-eight, long ago ! The champion of the centuries, he cometh up against thee,
With his brethren, every one a famous foe ! The long-whiskered Doctor, that laugheth rules to scorn, While the bowler, pitched against him, bans the day that he was born;
And G. F. with his science makes the fairest length forlorn; They are come from the West to work thee woe !
Nor did Francis's cloistered sister forget. On reading Mr. E. V. Lucas's criticisms on her brother's cricket verses (Cornhill Magazine, 1907) she wrote to me :-" The article stirred up many old memories, thank God. I can remember seven names out of the Lancashire XI of that match." For thirty years she remembered the seven jolly cricketers, with the seven joyful mysteries of the Rosary, to keep her young.
Francis in 1900 could draw up tri^N^hole of the Lanes. XI and name eight of the other 1 <;h a guess at a ninth man. Mr. E. V. Lucas knovs about the match. " It was an historic contest, for tf »vo counties had never met before, and was played on v uly 25, 26, 27, 1878, when the poet was eighteen. The fame of the Graces was such that 16,000 people were present on the Saturday, the third day-of whom, by the way, 2000 did not pay but took the ground by storm. The result was a draw a little in Lancashire's favour. It was eminently Hornby's and Barlow's match. In the first innings the amateur made only five, but Barlow went right through it, his wicket falling last for 40. In the second innings Hornby was at his best, making with incredible dash 100 out of 156 while he was in, Barlow supporting him while he made eighty of them. The note-book in which these verses are written contains numberless variations upon several of the lines. 'O my Hornby and my Barlow long ago!' becomes in one case ' O my Monkey and Stone-Waller long ago!' Monkey was, of course, Mr. Hornby's nickname. ' First he runs you out of breath,' said the professional, possibly Barlow himself, ' then he runs you out, and then he gives you a sovereign !' A brave summary!"