“It remained as a goblin footfall, as a hint that all is not for the best in the best of all possible worlds, and that beneath these superstructures of wealth and art there wanders an ill-fed boy, who has recovered his umbrella indeed, but who has left no address behind him, and no name.”
It was the Season of Goodwill, 28th December 1909. Edward Morgan Forster was in the yellow drawing room reading to the assembled house guests. The ink was barely dry on his afternoon’s work on Chapter 5 of what would become Howards End.
The day before, the Squire had summoned Third Man. “It is such a difficult time for a host. His guests have tired of Christmas but not yet dressed themselves for the revelries of New Year’s Eve.”
In an effort to amuse them and provide some worthy entertainment he had directed Third Man and the blacksmith, (despite great difficulty and risk to life and limb) to fix one end of a considerable length of copper wire (newly arrived from Mr Marconi) to the weather vane of the church, and to string it across several hundred yards to the lightning conductor atop the western turret of the Great House.
“If my theory is right and if this black box that the Smith and I have been working on does the trick, we may all be able to listen to play on the third day of a future Test match to be played in Melbourne, Australia in 2013.”
It had taken a great deal of time finding a signal free of the ‘noise’ picked up from the intervening 104 years – a lot of bangs and whistles – but they had managed around dawn to catch
a post day’s play interview some team-speak with England’s new wicket keeper, a nimble footed and ill-fed boy.
The interview had gone like this:
(Crackle, pop, bang schzzzz) do you think that with Johnson bowling so well and from over the wicket with the ball going away from you, it was a bit risky trying to drive at one that was already outside off stump?
“You don’t (schzzz, buck, sssssssz, crk) get runs if you don’t play shots.”
Do you think there was added pressure to score runs (krrrrawww, ssssssz, schzzzz) at the other end from Johnson?
“We’re confident (pop, tttthippp, sssssssz, crk) we can score runs at either end.”
“Ah,” had exclaimed Forster, “a goblin footfall.”
+ besides to E.M. Forster, Third Man is indebted to Tom McCarthy and his novel C for inspiration and for his generosity in allowing in the black box free use of various patented concepts belonging to the INS.
++ to be more explicit, the answers given by this vulnerable young talent reveals all that is wrong with Team England’s thinking and approach on the present (2013) Ashes Tour.
+++ win or lose tonight, a lot must change.