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STORIES OF WALES,

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STORIES OF WALES, BY W. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS, Author of Gzvilym a Benni Bach," Gwr 11 Dolau," &c. X.—HOW BILL ISAAC PLAYED FOR WALES. [Copyright 1905 by W. Llewelyn Williams in the United States of America.] One of these men is Genius to the other. —Shakespeare. The greatest athlete that Llanelwid ever turned out was Bill Isaac,—or Bili'r Bryn, as he was called in the days of his obscure youth. When at school he not only won the prize for putting the shot--(34 feet, no small achieve- ment for a lad of 18)—-but he won the hurdle race as well. Of course, he was in the football fifteen,-his thirteen stone would alone assure him his place in a schoolboy team. But Bill's ambition was not satisfied. He was as modest as big men generally are, unassuming and unpushful. Yet, deep in his heart, he nourished a grievance. He was convinced that he was the greatest potential half-back that ever trod the sward, but he had never been given his chance. Small, natty light- weights were put behind the scrum, while his avoirdupois ranked him relentlessly among the forwards The same thing happened when, after leaving school, he settled down at Llanelly. He soon became a well-known figure on the football field. His bulk, his Herculean strength, and his comparative nimbleness and pace combined to make him a popular hero within a few weeks of his donning the scarlet jersey. The crowd always had an eye for Bill Isaac. Did he break through the scrum, or lead a mighty dribble, or bring down an opposing "flyer" by a touch of that powerful hand, the crowd would roar with delight and admiration. Hurrah for Bill Isaac was the common cry. "Good old Bill! There he goes again Go it, Bill Bravo, Isaac, that's the finest tackle I've seen this year." Bill got quite used to these and similar exclamations from the excited crowd, and he never lost his head thereby or failed to put in a punctual appearance at the bank where he was trying to learn the elements of finance. All the same, he felt sore at the blindness of the crowd and the officials. Why on earth did not somebody discover that he was really a half, and not a forward ? He could not very well draw attention to that fact himself, and suppressed his disappointment like the hero he was. In those days Welsh football was not as highly organised or as scientific as it has since become. The four three-quarter system had not been invented, the three-quarters were known as halves, and the halves as quarter- backs. The duty of forwards was to keep the ball in the scrum, and heeling out was an abomination. A half—or, in contemporary parlance, a quarter-back would seldom pass, and when he did it was only when he himself was spent or baffled. Each player played for himself and all for the side. Indeed, when one comes to think of it, it is surprising how any tries were scored at all in those individualistic days. Still, tries and goals were scored, and plentifully, too, especially when England played Wales at the beginning of the year. How Welshmen used to writhe at the patronising way in which English footballers talked of gallant little Wales On the foot- ball field they were spoken of with the con- descending friendliness which used to be accorded, in larger affairs, to the "little Japs" a few. years ago. They were doing their best, poor little fellows, and it was very praiseworthy on their part to try and play football at all. It was, on the other hand, very magnanimous on th part of England to meet them on equal terms, de puissance a puissance; but, then, Englishmen have always been good sportsmen, always ready to encourage struggling merit. And so, year by year, Big England would meet Little Wales, and pulverise the Principality, and go home thanki, g God that Englishmen were such fine fellows. What made the situation all the more galling was that the tribe of Die Shon Dafydd protested that it was hopeless for Wales to contend with England. Wales was so small, her supply of players so limited, her forwards were so light, and her backs were so puny. Welshmen, it was also pointed out by these unsparing critics, could never work or play in combination, they lacked the Anglo-Saxon power of organisation and cohesion; they were so excitable, so easily daunted, so lacking in coolness,-in fact, all the national defects came out in the field of sport, and made it impossible for them ever to meet the Saxon on equal terms. What made this sort of criticism the more irritating was that it bore a semblance of truth. Time after time Wales had gone under, and the Taffies had not only lost every match, but they had never even scored, a point against England. Some there were, however, who never despaired of the republic. A small band of enthusiasts never ceased to believe in the Cymric star, and the people hoped against hope that a turn of the wheel would come. For that is the extraordinary contrast presented by Welsh and English history. The Saxon, we are told, never knows when he is beaten, and yet he tamely submitted to William the Conqueror after one defeat. But the spirit of the Celt is irrepressible, untameable, unconquerable. After a score of defeats and centuries of bondage, he is still master of his fate, still captain of his soul. So it was—to compare small with large affairs-witb Welsh football. Nil desperandum was inscribed on our banner, and everything was done that could be done to bring about a change. Arthur Gould had just been dis- covered, a new style of p ay was being slowly and painfully evolved, ruthless training and fierce resolve were beginning to tell their tale, and the Cynlry were gradually transforming the game into one which would give full and free play to their racial gifts of quick-wit ted ness, adroitness, savoir faire, and dash. The inter- national match of 188- was played at Newport, and it was whispered that the Welsh team was the best that had ever been brought together. In those far-off days, inter-club matches were not as frequent as they are to-day; and it was the custom for some sixteen or seventeen players to form themselves into a scratch team called The South Wales Wanderers." and go for a tour through Yorkshire during the Christmas week. As chance would have it, a young Oxford man, who never got his blue" or even appeared in the "picked fifteens," played as one of the halves on tour. His name was William Abraham, but as a stern parent had forbidden his appearance on the football field till he had passed his smalls," he, all unknowing, assumed for the nonce the name and designa- tion of William Isaac. Whether it was the irresponsibility that attached to an assumed name, or whether it was that he flashed into a brief spell of brilliant form, as some men have been known to make one superb speech before relapsing into eternal dulness, one thing is certain,-all the critics were agreed that Bill Isaac was playing a clinking game agains t the Yorkshire cracks. His name was prominent in the sporting papers, and more than one said that he should stand a chance for his inter- national cap at the coming contest at Newport. A few days after the conclusion of the tour of the "South Wales Wanderers," the great match was to come off. In spite of rebuffs and disasters the hopes of Wales ran high. But on the eve of the match, news came that Llewehn, the left half, was crocked," and would be unable to play at Newport. Dismay and con- sternation filled the minds of all, for Llewelyn was the bright particular star of the team, and the sure hope of the Land of the Leek. Late on the afternoon before the match, a telegram was put into the hands of Bill Isaac, as he was leaving his bank at Llanelly. It was from the secretary of the Welsh Committee Will you play left half, Wales against England, Newport to-morrow. Wire reply immediately." Bill stared at the brief missive. Could he have divulged his secret ambition to someone in an unguarded moment? He racked his brain in vain for a trace of recollection of any such incident. Could somebody be pulling his leg ? He could not believe it. Then a light flashed on his mind. He had played a fine game the Saturday before Christmas at Swansea. Ths newspapers had favourably commented on his strength, his pace, and his tackling. That was it, he thought-at last they had discovered his true metier, and determined to give him his chance. It was awfully good of them, too, to give him his chance in an international. In a very cheerful frame of mind he despatched his reply. He packed his things, and the next day saw him donning the red jersey of Wales for the first time in the pavilion at Newport. It is not for me to attempt to tell in any detail the stirring events in that conflict of giants. Are they not recorded in the chronicles of the sporting press ? Can not the curious in these matters discover how the English captain won the toss, and trundled the oval," and how the respective athletes did things, by the side of which the actions and the language of the Jabberwock pale into insignificance ? Suffice it for me to attempt the lowlier task, and tell how it fared with Bill Isaac at half. Bill had long ago worked out in his head an elaborate theory as to the way a half's work should be done, but he had never before had a chance of testing the theory in actual practice. Bill maintains to this day that his theory was all right-that, in fact, it is the one now adopted by Dicky Owen and Jones of Swansea. Be that as it may, not even Bill can say that it was an unqualified success at Newport that day- The way poor old Bill fumbled the ball, bungled his kicks, missed his passes, and stood in the way of his own side, is beyond my capacity to describe. He was frowned at by the captain, he was sworn at by the three-quarters, and pre- sently he was jeered at by the crowd. This was more than Bill could stand. He deter- mined to do or die in a magnificent attempt- The ball came his way, he sprinted all he knew, he made a frontal attack on a group ot English forwards, he saw more stars in a moment than astronomers have ever dis- covered, and, as he fell prone on the ground, he heard the mocking laughter of the crowd. He jumped up in an Olympian rage. He espied the ball bounding away a few