The Clicking of Cuthbert
by P. G. Wodehouse
1. The Clicking
2. A Woman is
only a Woman
3. A Mixed
5. The Salvation
6. Ordeal By
7. The Long Hole
8. The Heel of
9. The Rough
10. The Coming
TO THE IMMORTAL MEMORY OF JOHN HENRIE AND PAT ROGIE WHO AT EDINBURGH
IN THE YEAR 1593 A.D. WERE IMPRISONED FOR “PLAYING OF THE GOWFF ON THE
LINKS OF LEITH EVERY SABBATH THE TIME OF THE SERMONSES", ALSO OF ROBERT
ROBERTSON WHO GOT IT IN THE NECK IN 1604 A.D. FOR THE SAME REASON
This book marks an epoch in my literary career. It is written in
blood. It is the outpouring of a soul as deeply seared by Fate's
unkindness as the pretty on the dog-leg hole of the second nine was
ever seared by my iron. It is the work of a very nearly desperate man,
an eighteen-handicap man who has got to look extremely slippy if he
doesn't want to find himself in the twenties again.
As a writer of light fiction, I have always till now been
handicapped by the fact that my disposition was cheerful, my heart
intact, and my life unsoured. Handicapped, I say, because the public
likes to feel that a writer of farcical stories is piquantly miserable
in his private life, and that, if he turns out anything amusing, he
does it simply in order to obtain relief from the almost insupportable
weight of an existence which he has long since realized to be a
wash-out. Well, today I am just like that.
Two years ago, I admit, I was a shallow farceur. My work
lacked depth. I wrote flippantly simply because I was having a
thoroughly good time. Then I took up golf, and now I can smile through
the tears and laugh, like Figaro, that I may not weep, and generally
hold my head up and feel that I am entitled to respect.
If you find anything in this volume that amuses you, kindly bear in
mind that it was probably written on my return home after losing three
balls in the gorse or breaking the head off a favourite driver: and,
with a murmured “Brave fellow! Brave fellow!” recall the story of the
clown jesting while his child lay dying at home. That is all. Thank you
for your sympathy. It means more to me than I can say. Do you think
that if I tried the square stance for a bit.... But, after all, this
cannot interest you. Leave me to my misery.
POSTSCRIPT.—In the second chapter I allude to Stout Cortez staring
at the Pacific. Shortly after the appearance of this narrative in
serial form in America, I received an anonymous letter containing the
words, “You big stiff, it wasn't Cortez, it was Balboa.” This, I
believe, is historically accurate. On the other hand, if Cortez was
good enough for Keats, he is good enough for me. Besides, even if it
was Balboa, the Pacific was open for being stared at about that
time, and I see no reason why Cortez should not have had a look at it
P. G. WODEHOUSE.
1. The Clicking of Cuthbert
The young man came into the smoking-room of the clubhouse, and flung
his bag with a clatter on the floor. He sank moodily into an arm-chair
and pressed the bell.
The young man pointed at the bag with every evidence of distaste.
“You may have these clubs,” he said. “Take them away. If you don't
want them yourself, give them to one of the caddies.”
Across the room the Oldest Member gazed at him with a grave sadness
through the smoke of his pipe. His eye was deep and dreamy—the eye of
a man who, as the poet says, has seen Golf steadily and seen it whole.
“You are giving up golf?” he said.
He was not altogether unprepared for such an attitude on the young
man's part: for from his eyrie on the terrace above the ninth green he
had observed him start out on the afternoon's round and had seen him
lose a couple of balls in the lake at the second hole after taking
seven strokes at the first.
“Yes!” cried the young man fiercely. “For ever, dammit! Footling
game! Blanked infernal fat-headed silly ass of a game! Nothing but a
waste of time.”
The Sage winced.
“Don't say that, my boy.”
“But I do say it. What earthly good is golf? Life is stern and life
is earnest. We live in a practical age. All round us we see foreign
competition making itself unpleasant. And we spend our time playing
golf! What do we get out of it? Is golf any use? That's what I'm
asking you. Can you name me a single case where devotion to this
pestilential pastime has done a man any practical good?”
The Sage smiled gently.
“I could name a thousand.”
“One will do.”
“I will select,” said the Sage, “from the innumerable memories that
rush to my mind, the story of Cuthbert Banks.”
“Never heard of him.”
“Be of good cheer,” said the Oldest Member. “You are going to hear
of him now.”
* * * * *
It was in the picturesque little settlement of Wood Hills (said the
Oldest Member) that the incidents occurred which I am about to relate.
Even if you have never been in Wood Hills, that suburban paradise is
probably familiar to you by name. Situated at a convenient distance
from the city, it combines in a notable manner the advantages of town
life with the pleasant surroundings and healthful air of the country.
Its inhabitants live in commodious houses, standing in their own
grounds, and enjoy so many luxuries—such as gravel soil, main
drainage, electric light, telephone, baths (h. and c.), and company's
own water, that you might be pardoned for imagining life to be so ideal
for them that no possible improvement could be added to their lot. Mrs.
Willoughby Smethurst was under no such delusion. What Wood Hills needed
to make it perfect, she realized, was Culture. Material comforts are
all very well, but, if the summum bonum is to be achieved, the
Soul also demands a look in, and it was Mrs. Smethurst's unfaltering
resolve that never while she had her strength should the Soul be handed
the loser's end. It was her intention to make Wood Hills a centre of
all that was most cultivated and refined, and, golly! how she had
succeeded. Under her presidency the Wood Hills Literary and Debating
Society had tripled its membership.
But there is always a fly in the ointment, a caterpillar in the
salad. The local golf club, an institution to which Mrs. Smethurst
strongly objected, had also tripled its membership; and the division of
the community into two rival camps, the Golfers and the Cultured, had
become more marked than ever. This division, always acute, had attained
now to the dimensions of a Schism. The rival sects treated one another
with a cold hostility.
Unfortunate episodes came to widen the breach. Mrs. Smethurst's
house adjoined the links, standing to the right of the fourth tee: and,
as the Literary Society was in the habit of entertaining visiting
lecturers, many a golfer had foozled his drive owing to sudden loud
outbursts of applause coinciding with his down-swing. And not long
before this story opens a sliced ball, whizzing in at the open window,
had come within an ace of incapacitating Raymond Parsloe Devine, the
rising young novelist (who rose at that moment a clear foot and a half)
from any further exercise of his art. Two inches, indeed, to the right
and Raymond must inevitably have handed in his dinner-pail.
To make matters worse, a ring at the front-door bell followed almost
immediately, and the maid ushered in a young man of pleasing appearance
in a sweater and baggy knickerbockers who apologetically but firmly
insisted on playing his ball where it lay, and, what with the shock of
the lecturer's narrow escape and the spectacle of the intruder standing
on the table and working away with a niblick, the afternoon's session
had to be classed as a complete frost. Mr. Devine's determination, from
which no argument could swerve him, to deliver the rest of his lecture
in the coal-cellar gave the meeting a jolt from which it never
I have dwelt upon this incident, because it was the means of
introducing Cuthbert Banks to Mrs. Smethurst's niece, Adeline. As
Cuthbert, for it was he who had so nearly reduced the muster-roll of
rising novelists by one, hopped down from the table after his stroke,
he was suddenly aware that a beautiful girl was looking at him
intently. As a matter of fact, everyone in the room was looking at him
intently, none more so than Raymond Parsloe Devine, but none of the
others were beautiful girls. Long as the members of Wood Hills Literary
Society were on brain, they were short on looks, and, to Cuthbert's
excited eye, Adeline Smethurst stood out like a jewel in a pile of
He had never seen her before, for she had only arrived at her aunt's
house on the previous day, but he was perfectly certain that life, even
when lived in the midst of gravel soil, main drainage, and company's
own water, was going to be a pretty poor affair if he did not see her
again. Yes, Cuthbert was in love: and it is interesting to record, as
showing the effect of the tender emotion on a man's game, that twenty
minutes after he had met Adeline he did the short eleventh in one, and
as near as a toucher got a three on the four-hundred-yard twelfth.
I will skip lightly over the intermediate stages of Cuthbert's
courtship and come to the moment when—at the annual ball in aid of the
local Cottage Hospital, the only occasion during the year on which the
lion, so to speak, lay down with the lamb, and the Golfers and the
Cultured met on terms of easy comradeship, their differences
temporarily laid aside—he proposed to Adeline and was badly stymied.
That fair, soulful girl could not see him with a spy-glass.
“Mr. Banks,” she said, “I will speak frankly.”
“Charge right ahead,” assented Cuthbert.
“Deeply sensible as I am of——”
“I know. Of the honour and the compliment and all that. But, passing
lightly over all that guff, what seems to be the trouble? I love you to
“Love is not everything.”
“You're wrong,” said Cuthbert, earnestly. “You're right off it.
Love——” And he was about to dilate on the theme when she interrupted
“I am a girl of ambition.”
“And very nice, too,” said Cuthbert.
“I am a girl of ambition,” repeated Adeline, “and I realize that the
fulfilment of my ambitions must come through my husband. I am very
“What!” cried Cuthbert. “You ordinary? Why, you are a pearl among
women, the queen of your sex. You can't have been looking in a glass
lately. You stand alone. Simply alone. You make the rest look like
“Well,” said Adeline, softening a trifle, “I believe I am fairly
“Anybody who was content to call you fairly good-looking would
describe the Taj Mahal as a pretty nifty tomb.”
“But that is not the point. What I mean is, if I marry a nonentity I
shall be a nonentity myself for ever. And I would sooner die than be a
“And, if I follow your reasoning, you think that that lets me
“Well, really, Mr. Banks, have you done anything, or are you
likely ever to do anything worth while?”
“It's true,” he said, “I didn't finish in the first ten in the Open,
and I was knocked out in the semi-final of the Amateur, but I won the
French Open last year.”
“The French Open Championship. Golf, you know.”
“Golf! You waste all your time playing golf. I admire a man who is
more spiritual, more intellectual.”
A pang of jealousy rent Cuthbert's bosom.
“Like What's-his-name Devine?” he said, sullenly.
“Mr. Devine,” replied Adeline, blushing faintly, “is going to be a
great man. Already he has achieved much. The critics say that he is
more Russian than any other young English writer.”
“And is that good?”
“Of course it's good.”
“I should have thought the wheeze would be to be more English than
any other young English writer.”
“Nonsense! Who wants an English writer to be English? You've got to
be Russian or Spanish or something to be a real success. The mantle of
the great Russians has descended on Mr. Devine.”
“From what I've heard of Russians, I should hate to have that happen
“There is no danger of that,” said Adeline scornfully.
“Oh! Well, let me tell you that there is a lot more in me than you
“That might easily be so.”
“You think I'm not spiritual and intellectual,” said Cuthbert,
deeply moved. “Very well. Tomorrow I join the Literary Society.”
Even as he spoke the words his leg was itching to kick himself for
being such a chump, but the sudden expression of pleasure on Adeline's
face soothed him; and he went home that night with the feeling that he
had taken on something rather attractive. It was only in the cold, grey
light of the morning that he realized what he had let himself in for.
I do not know if you have had any experience of suburban literary
societies, but the one that flourished under the eye of Mrs. Willoughby
Smethurst at Wood Hills was rather more so than the average. With my
feeble powers of narrative, I cannot hope to make clear to you all that
Cuthbert Banks endured in the next few weeks. And, even if I could, I
doubt if I should do so. It is all very well to excite pity and terror,
as Aristotle recommends, but there are limits. In the ancient Greek
tragedies it was an ironclad rule that all the real rough stuff should
take place off-stage, and I shall follow this admirable principle. It
will suffice if I say merely that J. Cuthbert Banks had a thin time.
After attending eleven debates and fourteen lectures on vers libre
Poetry, the Seventeenth-Century Essayists, the Neo-Scandinavian
Movement in Portuguese Literature, and other subjects of a similar
nature, he grew so enfeebled that, on the rare occasions when he had
time for a visit to the links, he had to take a full iron for his
It was not simply the oppressive nature of the debates and lectures
that sapped his vitality. What really got right in amongst him was the
torture of seeing Adeline's adoration of Raymond Parsloe Devine. The
man seemed to have made the deepest possible impression upon her
plastic emotions. When he spoke, she leaned forward with parted lips
and looked at him. When he was not speaking—which was seldom—she
leaned back and looked at him. And when he happened to take the next
seat to her, she leaned sideways and looked at him. One glance at Mr.
Devine would have been more than enough for Cuthbert; but Adeline found
him a spectacle that never palled. She could not have gazed at him with
a more rapturous intensity if she had been a small child and he a
saucer of ice-cream. All this Cuthbert had to witness while still
endeavouring to retain the possession of his faculties sufficiently to
enable him to duck and back away if somebody suddenly asked him what he
thought of the sombre realism of Vladimir Brusiloff. It is little
wonder that he tossed in bed, picking at the coverlet, through
sleepless nights, and had to have all his waistcoats taken in three
inches to keep them from sagging.
This Vladimir Brusiloff to whom I have referred was the famous
Russian novelist, and, owing to the fact of his being in the country on
a lecturing tour at the moment, there had been something of a boom in
his works. The Wood Hills Literary Society had been studying them for
weeks, and never since his first entrance into intellectual circles had
Cuthbert Banks come nearer to throwing in the towel. Vladimir
specialized in grey studies of hopeless misery, where nothing happened
till page three hundred and eighty, when the moujik decided to commit
suicide. It was tough going for a man whose deepest reading hitherto
had been Vardon on the Push-Shot, and there can be no greater proof of
the magic of love than the fact that Cuthbert stuck it without a cry.
But the strain was terrible and I am inclined to think that he must
have cracked, had it not been for the daily reports in the papers of
the internecine strife which was proceeding so briskly in Russia.
Cuthbert was an optimist at heart, and it seemed to him that, at the
rate at which the inhabitants of that interesting country were
murdering one another, the supply of Russian novelists must eventually
One morning, as he tottered down the road for the short walk which
was now almost the only exercise to which he was equal, Cuthbert met
Adeline. A spasm of anguish flitted through all his nerve-centres as he
saw that she was accompanied by Raymond Parsloe Devine.
“Good morning, Mr. Banks,” said Adeline.
“Good morning,” said Cuthbert hollowly.
“Such good news about Vladimir Brusiloff.”
“Dead?” said Cuthbert, with a touch of hope.
“Dead? Of course not. Why should he be? No, Aunt Emily met his
manager after his lecture at Queen's Hall yesterday, and he has
promised that Mr. Brusiloff shall come to her next Wednesday
“Oh, ah!” said Cuthbert, dully.
“I don't know how she managed it. I think she must have told him
that Mr. Devine would be there to meet him.”
“But you said he was coming,” argued Cuthbert.
“I shall be very glad,” said Raymond Devine, “of the opportunity of
“I'm sure,” said Adeline, “he will be very glad of the opportunity
of meeting you.”
“Possibly,” said Mr. Devine. “Possibly. Competent critics have said
that my work closely resembles that of the great Russian Masters.”
“Your psychology is so deep.”
“And your atmosphere.”
Cuthbert in a perfect agony of spirit prepared to withdraw from this
love-feast. The sun was shining brightly, but the world was black to
him. Birds sang in the tree-tops, but he did not hear them. He might
have been a moujik for all the pleasure he found in life.
“You will be there, Mr. Banks?” said Adeline, as he turned away.
“Oh, all right,” said Cuthbert.
When Cuthbert had entered the drawing-room on the following
Wednesday and had taken his usual place in a distant corner where,
while able to feast his gaze on Adeline, he had a sporting chance of
being overlooked or mistaken for a piece of furniture, he perceived the
great Russian thinker seated in the midst of a circle of admiring
females. Raymond Parsloe Devine had not yet arrived.
His first glance at the novelist surprised Cuthbert. Doubtless with
the best motives, Vladimir Brusiloff had permitted his face to become
almost entirely concealed behind a dense zareba of hair, but his eyes
were visible through the undergrowth, and it seemed to Cuthbert that
there was an expression in them not unlike that of a cat in a strange
backyard surrounded by small boys. The man looked forlorn and hopeless,
and Cuthbert wondered whether he had had bad news from home.
This was not the case. The latest news which Vladimir Brusiloff had
had from Russia had been particularly cheering. Three of his principal
creditors had perished in the last massacre of the bourgeoisie,
and a man whom he owed for five years for a samovar and a pair of
overshoes had fled the country, and had not been heard of since. It was
not bad news from home that was depressing Vladimir. What was wrong
with him was the fact that this was the eighty-second suburban literary
reception he had been compelled to attend since he had landed in the
country on his lecturing tour, and he was sick to death of it. When his
agent had first suggested the trip, he had signed on the dotted line
without an instant's hesitation. Worked out in roubles, the fees
offered had seemed just about right. But now, as he peered through the
brushwood at the faces round him, and realized that eight out of ten of
those present had manuscripts of some sort concealed on their persons,
and were only waiting for an opportunity to whip them out and start
reading, he wished that he had stayed at his quiet home in
Nijni-Novgorod, where the worst thing that could happen to a fellow was
a brace of bombs coming in through the window and mixing themselves up
with his breakfast egg.
At this point in his meditations he was aware that his hostess was
looming up before him with a pale young man in horn-rimmed spectacles
at her side. There was in Mrs. Smethurst's demeanour something of the
unction of the master-of-ceremonies at the big fight who introduces the
earnest gentleman who wishes to challenge the winner.
“Oh, Mr. Brusiloff,” said Mrs. Smethurst, “I do so want you to meet
Mr. Raymond Parsloe Devine, whose work I expect you know. He is one of
our younger novelists.”
The distinguished visitor peered in a wary and defensive manner
through the shrubbery, but did not speak. Inwardly he was thinking how
exactly like Mr. Devine was to the eighty-one other younger novelists
to whom he had been introduced at various hamlets throughout the
country. Raymond Parsloe Devine bowed courteously, while Cuthbert,
wedged into his corner, glowered at him.
“The critics,” said Mr. Devine, “have been kind enough to say that
my poor efforts contain a good deal of the Russian spirit. I owe much
to the great Russians. I have been greatly influenced by Sovietski.”
Down in the forest something stirred. It was Vladimir Brusiloff's
mouth opening, as he prepared to speak. He was not a man who prattled
readily, especially in a foreign tongue. He gave the impression that
each word was excavated from his interior by some up-to-date process of
mining. He glared bleakly at Mr. Devine, and allowed three words to
drop out of him.
“Sovietski no good!”
He paused for a moment, set the machinery working again, and
delivered five more at the pithead.
“I spit me of Sovietski!”
There was a painful sensation. The lot of a popular idol is in many
ways an enviable one, but it has the drawback of uncertainty. Here
today and gone tomorrow. Until this moment Raymond Parsloe Devine's
stock had stood at something considerably over par in Wood Hills
intellectual circles, but now there was a rapid slump. Hitherto he had
been greatly admired for being influenced by Sovietski, but it appeared
now that this was not a good thing to be. It was evidently a rotten
thing to be. The law could not touch you for being influenced by
Sovietski, but there is an ethical as well as a legal code, and this it
was obvious that Raymond Parsloe Devine had transgressed. Women drew
away from him slightly, holding their skirts. Men looked at him
censoriously. Adeline Smethurst started violently, and dropped a
tea-cup. And Cuthbert Banks, doing his popular imitation of a sardine
in his corner, felt for the first time that life held something of
Raymond Parsloe Devine was plainly shaken, but he made an adroit
attempt to recover his lost prestige.
“When I say I have been influenced by Sovietski, I mean, of course,
that I was once under his spell. A young writer commits many follies. I
have long since passed through that phase. The false glamour of
Sovietski has ceased to dazzle me. I now belong whole-heartedly to the
school of Nastikoff.”
There was a reaction. People nodded at one another sympathetically.
After all, we cannot expect old heads on young shoulders, and a lapse
at the outset of one's career should not be held against one who has
eventually seen the light.
“Nastikoff no good,” said Vladimir Brusiloff, coldly. He paused,
listening to the machinery.
“Nastikoff worse than Sovietski.”
He paused again.
“I spit me of Nastikoff!” he said.
This time there was no doubt about it. The bottom had dropped out of
the market, and Raymond Parsloe Devine Preferred were down in the
cellar with no takers. It was clear to the entire assembled company
that they had been all wrong about Raymond Parsloe Devine. They had
allowed him to play on their innocence and sell them a pup. They had
taken him at his own valuation, and had been cheated into admiring him
as a man who amounted to something, and all the while he had belonged
to the school of Nastikoff. You never can tell. Mrs. Smethurst's guests
were well-bred, and there was consequently no violent demonstration,
but you could see by their faces what they felt. Those nearest Raymond
Parsloe jostled to get further away. Mrs. Smethurst eyed him stonily
through a raised lorgnette. One or two low hisses were heard, and over
at the other end of the room somebody opened the window in a marked
Raymond Parsloe Devine hesitated for a moment, then, realizing his
situation, turned and slunk to the door. There was an audible sigh of
relief as it closed behind him.
Vladimir Brusiloff proceeded to sum up.
“No novelists any good except me. Sovietski—yah! Nastikoff—bah! I
spit me of zem all. No novelists anywhere any good except me. P. G.
Wodehouse and Tolstoi not bad. Not good, but not bad. No novelists any
good except me.”
And, having uttered this dictum, he removed a slab of cake from a
near-by plate, steered it through the jungle, and began to champ.
It is too much to say that there was a dead silence. There could
never be that in any room in which Vladimir Brusiloff was eating cake.
But certainly what you might call the general chit-chat was pretty well
down and out. Nobody liked to be the first to speak. The members of the
Wood Hills Literary Society looked at one another timidly. Cuthbert,
for his part, gazed at Adeline; and Adeline gazed into space. It was
plain that the girl was deeply stirred. Her eyes were opened wide, a
faint flush crimsoned her cheeks, and her breath was coming quickly.
Adeline's mind was in a whirl. She felt as if she had been walking
gaily along a pleasant path and had stopped suddenly on the very brink
of a precipice. It would be idle to deny that Raymond Parsloe Devine
had attracted her extraordinarily. She had taken him at his own
valuation as an extremely hot potato, and her hero-worship had
gradually been turning into love. And now her hero had been shown to
have feet of clay. It was hard, I consider, on Raymond Parsloe Devine,
but that is how it goes in this world. You get a following as a
celebrity, and then you run up against another bigger celebrity and
your admirers desert you. One could moralize on this at considerable
length, but better not, perhaps. Enough to say that the glamour of
Raymond Devine ceased abruptly in that moment for Adeline, and her most
coherent thought at this juncture was the resolve, as soon as she got
up to her room, to burn the three signed photographs he had sent her
and to give the autographed presentation set of his books to the
Mrs. Smethurst, meanwhile, having rallied somewhat, was endeavouring
to set the feast of reason and flow of soul going again.
“And how do you like England, Mr. Brusiloff?” she asked.
The celebrity paused in the act of lowering another segment of cake.
“Dam good,” he replied, cordially.
“I suppose you have travelled all over the country by this time?”
“You said it,” agreed the Thinker.
“Have you met many of our great public men?”
“Yais—Yais—Quite a few of the nibs—Lloyid Gorge, I meet him.
But——” Beneath the matting a discontented expression came into his
face, and his voice took on a peevish note. “But I not meet your real
great men—your Arbmishel, your Arreevadon—I not meet them. That's
what gives me the pipovitch. Have you ever met Arbmishel and
A strained, anguished look came into Mrs. Smethurst's face and was
reflected in the faces of the other members of the circle. The eminent
Russian had sprung two entirely new ones on them, and they felt that
their ignorance was about to be exposed. What would Vladimir Brusiloff
think of the Wood Hills Literary Society? The reputation of the Wood
Hills Literary Society was at stake, trembling in the balance, and
coming up for the third time. In dumb agony Mrs. Smethurst rolled her
eyes about the room searching for someone capable of coming to the
rescue. She drew blank.
And then, from a distant corner, there sounded a deprecating, cough,
and those nearest Cuthbert Banks saw that he had stopped twisting his
right foot round his left ankle and his left foot round his right ankle
and was sitting up with a light of almost human intelligence in his
“Er——” said Cuthbert, blushing as every eye in the room seemed to
fix itself on him, “I think he means Abe Mitchell and Harry Vardon.”
“Abe Mitchell and Harry Vardon?” repeated Mrs. Smethurst, blankly.
“I never heard of——”
“Yais! Yais! Most! Very!” shouted Vladimir Brusiloff,
enthusiastically. “Arbmishel and Arreevadon. You know them, yes, what,
“I've played with Abe Mitchell often, and I was partnered with Harry
Vardon in last year's Open.”
The great Russian uttered a cry that shook the chandelier.
“You play in ze Open? Why,” he demanded reproachfully of Mrs.
Smethurst, “was I not been introducted to this young man who play in
“Well, really,” faltered Mrs. Smethurst. “Well, the fact is, Mr.
She broke off. She was unequal to the task of explaining, without
hurting anyone's feelings, that she had always regarded Cuthbert as a
piece of cheese and a blot on the landscape.
“Introduct me!” thundered the Celebrity.
“Why, certainly, certainly, of course. This is Mr.——.”
She looked appealingly at Cuthbert.
“Banks,” prompted Cuthbert.
“Banks!” cried Vladimir Brusiloff. “Not Cootaboot Banks?”
“Is your name Cootaboot?” asked Mrs. Smethurst, faintly.
“Well, it's Cuthbert.”
“Yais! Yais! Cootaboot!” There was a rush and swirl, as the
effervescent Muscovite burst his way through the throng and rushed to
where Cuthbert sat. He stood for a moment eyeing him excitedly, then,
stooping swiftly, kissed him on both cheeks before Cuthbert could get
his guard up. “My dear young man, I saw you win ze French Open. Great!
Great! Grand! Superb! Hot stuff, and you can say I said so! Will you
permit one who is but eighteen at Nijni-Novgorod to salute you once
And he kissed Cuthbert again. Then, brushing aside one or two
intellectuals who were in the way, he dragged up a chair and sat down.
“You are a great man!” he said.
“Oh, no,” said Cuthbert modestly.
“Yais! Great. Most! Very! The way you lay your approach-putts dead
“Oh, I don't know.”
Mr. Brusiloff drew his chair closer.
“Let me tell you one vairy funny story about putting. It was one day
I play at Nijni-Novgorod with the pro. against Lenin and Trotsky, and
Trotsky had a two-inch putt for the hole. But, just as he addresses the
ball, someone in the crowd he tries to assassinate Lenin with a
rewolwer—you know that is our great national sport, trying to
assassinate Lenin with rewolwers—and the bang puts Trotsky off his
stroke and he goes five yards past the hole, and then Lenin, who is
rather shaken, you understand, he misses again himself, and we win the
hole and match and I clean up three hundred and ninety-six thousand
roubles, or fifteen shillings in your money. Some gameovitch! And now
let me tell you one other vairy funny story——”
Desultory conversation had begun in murmurs over the rest of the
room, as the Wood Hills intellectuals politely endeavoured to conceal
the fact that they realized that they were about as much out of it at
this re-union of twin souls as cats at a dog-show. From time to time
they started as Vladimir Brusiloff's laugh boomed out. Perhaps it was a
consolation to them to know that he was enjoying himself.
As for Adeline, how shall I describe her emotions? She was stunned.
Before her very eyes the stone which the builders had rejected had
become the main thing, the hundred-to-one shot had walked away with the
race. A rush of tender admiration for Cuthbert Banks flooded her heart.
She saw that she had been all wrong. Cuthbert, whom she had always
treated with a patronizing superiority, was really a man to be looked
up to and worshipped. A deep, dreamy sigh shook Adeline's fragile form.
Half an hour later Vladimir and Cuthbert Banks rose.
“Goot-a-bye, Mrs. Smet-thirst,” said the Celebrity. “Zank you for a
most charming visit. My friend Cootaboot and me we go now to shoot a
few holes. You will lend me clobs, friend Cootaboot?”
“Any you want.”
“The niblicksky is what I use most. Goot-a-bye, Mrs. Smet-thirst.”
They were moving to the door, when Cuthbert felt a light touch on
his arm. Adeline was looking up at him tenderly.
“May I come, too, and walk round with you?”
Cuthbert's bosom heaved.
“Oh,” he said, with a tremor in his voice, “that you would walk
round with me for life!”
Her eyes met his.
“Perhaps,” she whispered, softly, “it could be arranged.”
* * * * *
“And so,” (concluded the Oldest Member), “you see that golf can be
of the greatest practical assistance to a man in Life's struggle.
Raymond Parsloe Devine, who was no player, had to move out of the
neighbourhood immediately, and is now, I believe, writing scenarios out
in California for the Flicker Film Company. Adeline is married to
Cuthbert, and it was only his earnest pleading which prevented her from
having their eldest son christened Abe Mitchell Ribbed-Faced Mashie
Banks, for she is now as keen a devotee of the great game as her
husband. Those who know them say that theirs is a union so devoted,
* * * * *
The Sage broke off abruptly, for the young man had rushed to the
door and out into the passage. Through the open door he could hear him
crying passionately to the waiter to bring back his clubs.
2. A Woman is only a Woman
On a fine day in the spring, summer, or early autumn, there are few
spots more delightful than the terrace in front of our Golf Club. It is
a vantage-point peculiarly fitted to the man of philosophic mind: for
from it may be seen that varied, never-ending pageant, which men call
Golf, in a number of its aspects. To your right, on the first tee,
stand the cheery optimists who are about to make their opening drive,
happily conscious that even a topped shot will trickle a measurable
distance down the steep hill. Away in the valley, directly in front of
you, is the lake hole, where these same optimists will be converted to
pessimism by the wet splash of a new ball. At your side is the ninth
green, with its sinuous undulations which have so often wrecked the
returning traveller in sight of home. And at various points within your
line of vision are the third tee, the sixth tee, and the sinister
bunkers about the eighth green—none of them lacking in food for the
It is on this terrace that the Oldest Member sits, watching the
younger generation knocking at the divot. His gaze wanders from Jimmy
Fothergill's two-hundred-and-twenty-yard drive down the hill to the
silver drops that flash up in the sun, as young Freddie Woosley's
mashie-shot drops weakly into the waters of the lake. Returning, it
rests upon Peter Willard, large and tall, and James Todd, small and
slender, as they struggle up the fair-way of the ninth.
* * * * *
Love (says the Oldest Member) is an emotion which your true golfer
should always treat with suspicion. Do not misunderstand me. I am not
saying that love is a bad thing, only that it is an unknown quantity. I
have known cases where marriage improved a man's game, and other cases
where it seemed to put him right off his stroke. There seems to be no
fixed rule. But what I do say is that a golfer should be cautious. He
should not be led away by the first pretty face. I will tell you a
story that illustrates the point. It is the story of those two men who
have just got on to the ninth green—Peter Willard and James Todd.
There is about great friendships between man and man (said the
Oldest Member) a certain inevitability that can only be compared with
the age-old association of ham and eggs. No one can say when it was
that these two wholesome and palatable food-stuffs first came together,
nor what was the mutual magnetism that brought their deathless
partnership about. One simply feels that it is one of the things that
must be so. Similarly with men. Who can trace to its first beginnings
the love of Damon for Pythias, of David for Jonathan, of Swan for
Edgar? Who can explain what it was about Crosse that first attracted
Blackwell? We simply say, “These men are friends,” and leave it at
In the case of Peter Willard and James Todd, one may hazard the
guess that the first link in the chain that bound them together was the
fact that they took up golf within a few days of each other, and
contrived, as time went on, to develop such equal form at the game that
the most expert critics are still baffled in their efforts to decide
which is the worse player. I have heard the point argued a hundred
times without any conclusion being reached. Supporters of Peter claim
that his driving off the tee entitles him to an unchallenged
pre-eminence among the world's most hopeless foozlers—only to be
discomfited later when the advocates of James show, by means of
diagrams, that no one has ever surpassed their man in absolute
incompetence with the spoon. It is one of those problems where debate
Few things draw two men together more surely than a mutual inability
to master golf, coupled with an intense and ever-increasing love for
the game. At the end of the first few months, when a series of costly
experiments had convinced both Peter and James that there was not a
tottering grey-beard nor a toddling infant in the neighbourhood whose
downfall they could encompass, the two became inseparable. It was
pleasanter, they found, to play together, and go neck and neck round
the eighteen holes, than to take on some lissome youngster who could
spatter them all over the course with one old ball and a cut-down cleek
stolen from his father; or some spavined elder who not only rubbed it
into them, but was apt, between strokes, to bore them with personal
reminiscences of the Crimean War. So they began to play together early
and late. In the small hours before breakfast, long ere the first faint
piping of the waking caddie made itself heard from the caddie-shed,
they were half-way through their opening round. And at close of day,
when bats wheeled against the steely sky and the “pro's” had stolen
home to rest, you might see them in the deepening dusk, going through
the concluding exercises of their final spasm. After dark, they visited
each other's houses and read golf books.
If you have gathered from what I have said that Peter Willard and
James Todd were fond of golf, I am satisfied. That is the impression I
intended to convey. They were real golfers, for real golf is a thing of
the spirit, not of mere mechanical excellence of stroke.
It must not be thought, however, that they devoted too much of their
time and their thoughts to golf—assuming, indeed, that such a thing is
possible. Each was connected with a business in the metropolis; and
often, before he left for the links, Peter would go to the trouble and
expense of ringing up the office to say he would not be coming in that
day; while I myself have heard James—and this not once, but
frequently—say, while lunching in the club-house, that he had half a
mind to get Gracechurch Street on the 'phone and ask how things were
going. They were, in fact, the type of men of whom England is
proudest—the back-bone of a great country, toilers in the mart,
untired businessmen, keen red-blooded men of affairs. If they played a
little golf besides, who shall blame them?
So they went on, day by day, happy and contented. And then the Woman
came into their lives, like the Serpent in the Links of Eden, and
perhaps for the first time they realized that they were not one
entity—not one single, indivisible Something that made for topped
drives and short putts—but two individuals, in whose breasts Nature
had implanted other desires than the simple ambition some day to do the
dog-leg hole on the second nine in under double figures. My friends
tell me that, when I am relating a story, my language is inclined at
times a little to obscure my meaning; but, if you understand from what
I have been saying that James Todd and Peter Willard both fell in love
with the same woman—all right, let us carry on. That is precisely what
I was driving at.
I have not the pleasure of an intimate acquaintance with Grace
Forrester. I have seen her in the distance, watering the flowers in her
garden, and on these occasions her stance struck me as graceful. And
once, at a picnic, I observed her killing wasps with a teaspoon, and
was impressed by the freedom of the wrist-action of her back-swing.
Beyond this, I can say little. But she must have been attractive, for
there can be no doubt of the earnestness with which both Peter and
James fell in love with her. I doubt if either slept a wink the night
of the dance at which it was their privilege first to meet her.
The next afternoon, happening to encounter Peter in the bunker near
the eleventh green, James said:
“That was a nice girl, that Miss What's-her-name.”
And Peter, pausing for a moment from his trench-digging, replied:
And then James, with a pang, knew that he had a rival, for he had
not mentioned Miss Forrester's name, and yet Peter had divined that it
was to her that he had referred.
Love is a fever which, so to speak, drives off without wasting time
on the address. On the very next morning after the conversation which I
have related, James Todd rang Peter Willard up on the 'phone and
cancelled their golf engagements for the day, on the plea of a sprained
wrist. Peter, acknowledging the cancellation, stated that he himself
had been on the point of ringing James up to say that he would be
unable to play owing to a slight headache. They met at tea-time at Miss
Forrester's house. James asked how Peter's headache was, and Peter said
it was a little better. Peter inquired after James's sprained wrist,
and was told it seemed on the mend. Miss Forrester dispensed tea and
conversation to both impartially.
They walked home together. After an awkward silence of twenty
minutes, James said:
“There is something about the atmosphere—the aura, shall I
say?—that emanates from a good woman that makes a man feel that life
has a new, a different meaning.”
When they reached James's door, James said:
“I won't ask you in tonight, old man. You want to go home and rest
and cure that headache.”
“Yes,” said Peter.
There was another silence. Peter was thinking that, only a couple of
days before, James had told him that he had a copy of Sandy MacBean's
“How to Become a Scratch Man Your First Season by Studying Photographs"
coming by parcel-post from town, and they had arranged to read it aloud
together. By now, thought Peter, it must be lying on his friend's
table. The thought saddened him. And James, guessing what was in
Peter's mind, was saddened too. But he did not waver. He was in no mood
to read MacBean's masterpiece that night. In the twenty minutes of
silence after leaving Miss Forrester he had realized that “Grace"
rhymes with “face", and he wanted to sit alone in his study and write
poetry. The two men parted with a distant nod. I beg your pardon? Yes,
you are right. Two distant nods. It was always a failing of mine to
count the score erroneously.
It is not my purpose to weary you by a minute recital of the
happenings of each day that went by. On the surface, the lives of these
two men seemed unchanged. They still played golf together, and during
the round achieved towards each other a manner that, superficially,
retained all its ancient cheeriness and affection. If—I should
say—when, James topped his drive, Peter never failed to say “Hard
luck!” And when—or, rather, if Peter managed not to top his, James
invariably said “Great!” But things were not the same, and they knew
It so happened, as it sometimes will on these occasions, for Fate is
a dramatist who gets his best effects with a small cast, that Peter
Willard and James Todd were the only visible aspirants for the hand of
Miss Forrester. Right at the beginning young Freddie Woosley had seemed
attracted by the girl, and had called once or twice with flowers and
chocolates, but Freddie's affections never centred themselves on one
object for more than a few days, and he had dropped out after the first
week. From that time on it became clear to all of us that, if Grace
Forrester intended to marry anyone in the place, it would be either
James or Peter; and a good deal of interest was taken in the matter by
the local sportsmen. So little was known of the form of the two men,
neither having figured as principal in a love-affair before, that even
money was the best you could get, and the market was sluggish. I think
my own flutter of twelve golf-balls, taken up by Percival Brown, was
the most substantial of any of the wagers. I selected James as the
winner. Why, I can hardly say, unless that he had an aunt who
contributed occasional stories to the “Woman's Sphere”. These things
sometimes weigh with a girl. On the other hand, George Lucas, who had
half-a-dozen of ginger-ale on Peter, based his calculations on the fact
that James wore knickerbockers on the links, and that no girl could
possibly love a man with calves like that. In short, you see, we really
had nothing to go on.
Nor had James and Peter. The girl seemed to like them both equally.
They never saw her except in each other's company. And it was not until
one day when Grace Forrester was knitting a sweater that there seemed a
chance of getting a clue to her hidden feelings.
When the news began to spread through the place that Grace was
knitting this sweater there was a big sensation. The thing seemed to us
practically to amount to a declaration.
That was the view that James Todd and Peter Willard took of it, and
they used to call on Grace, watch her knitting, and come away with
their heads full of complicated calculations. The whole thing hung on
one point—to wit, what size the sweater was going to be. If it was
large, then it must be for Peter; if small, then James was the lucky
man. Neither dared to make open inquiries, but it began to seem almost
impossible to find out the truth without them. No masculine eye can
reckon up purls and plains and estimate the size of chest which the
garment is destined to cover. Moreover, with amateur knitters there
must always be allowed a margin for involuntary error. There were many
cases during the war where our girls sent sweaters to their sweethearts
which would have induced strangulation in their young brothers. The
amateur sweater of those days was, in fact, practically tantamount to
Peter and James were accordingly baffled. One evening the sweater
would look small, and James would come away jubilant; the next it would
have swollen over a vast area, and Peter would walk home singing. The
suspense of the two men can readily be imagined. On the one hand, they
wanted to know their fate; on the other, they fully realized that
whoever the sweater was for would have to wear it. And, as it was a
vivid pink and would probably not fit by a mile, their hearts quailed
at the prospect.
In all affairs of human tension there must come a breaking point. It
came one night as the two men were walking home.
“Peter,” said James, stopping in mid-stride. He mopped his forehead.
His manner had been feverish all the evening.
“Yes?” said Peter.
“I can't stand this any longer. I haven't had a good night's rest
for weeks. We must find out definitely which of us is to have that
“Let's go back and ask her,” said Peter.
So they turned back and rang the bell and went into the house and
presented themselves before Miss Forrester.
“Lovely evening,” said James, to break the ice.
“Superb,” said Peter.
“Delightful,” said Miss Forrester, looking a little surprised at
finding the troupe playing a return date without having booked it in
“To settle a bet,” said James, “will you please tell us who—I
should say, whom—you are knitting that sweater for?”
“It is not a sweater,” replied Miss Forrester, with a womanly
candour that well became her. “It is a sock. And it is for my cousin
Juliet's youngest son, Willie.”
“Good night,” said James.
“Good night,” said Peter.
“Good night,” said Grace Forrester.
It was during the long hours of the night, when ideas so often come
to wakeful men, that James was struck by an admirable solution of his
and Peter's difficulty. It seemed to him that, were one or the other to
leave Woodhaven, the survivor would find himself in a position to
conduct his wooing as wooing should be conducted. Hitherto, as I have
indicated, neither had allowed the other to be more than a few minutes
alone with the girl. They watched each other like hawks. When James
called, Peter called. When Peter dropped in, James invariably popped
round. The thing had resolved itself into a stalemate.
The idea which now came to James was that he and Peter should settle
their rivalry by an eighteen-hole match on the links. He thought very
highly of the idea before he finally went to sleep, and in the morning
the scheme looked just as good to him as it had done overnight.
James was breakfasting next morning, preparatory to going round to
disclose his plan to Peter, when Peter walked in, looking happier than
he had done for days.
“'Morning,” said James.
“'Morning,” said Peter.
Peter sat down and toyed absently with a slice of bacon.
“I've got an idea,” he said.
“One isn't many,” said James, bringing his knife down with a
jerk-shot on a fried egg. “What is your idea?”
“Got it last night as I was lying awake. It struck me that, if
either of us was to clear out of this place, the other would have a
fair chance. You know what I mean—with Her. At present we've got each
other stymied. Now, how would it be,” said Peter, abstractedly
spreading marmalade on his bacon, “if we were to play an eighteen-hole
match, the loser to leg out of the neighbourhood and stay away long
enough to give the winner the chance to find out exactly how things
James started so violently that he struck himself in the left eye
with his fork.
“That's exactly the idea I got last night, too.”
“Then it's a go?”
“It's the only thing to do.”
There was silence for a moment. Both men were thinking. Remember,
they were friends. For years they had shared each other's sorrows,
joys, and golf-balls, and sliced into the same bunkers.
Presently Peter said:
“I shall miss you.”
“What do you mean, miss me?”
“When you're gone. Woodhaven won't seem the same place. But of
course you'll soon be able to come back. I sha'n't waste any time
“Leave me your address,” said James, “and I'll send you a wire when
you can return. You won't be offended if I don't ask you to be best man
at the wedding? In the circumstances it might be painful to you.”
Peter sighed dreamily.
“We'll have the sitting-room done in blue. Her eyes are blue.”
“Remember,” said James, “there will always be a knife and fork for
you at our little nest. Grace is not the woman to want me to drop my
“Touching this match,” said Peter. “Strict Royal and Ancient rules,
“I mean to say—no offence, old man—but no grounding niblicks in
“Precisely. And, without hinting at anything personal, the ball
shall be considered holed-out only when it is in the hole, not when it
stops on the edge.”
“Undoubtedly. And—you know I don't want to hurt your
feelings—missing the ball counts as a stroke, not as a
“Exactly. And—you'll forgive me if I mention it—a player whose
ball has fallen in the rough, may not pull up all the bushes within a
radius of three feet.”
“In fact, strict rules.”
They shook hands without more words. And presently Peter walked out,
and James, with a guilty look over his shoulder, took down Sandy
MacBean's great work from the bookshelf and began to study the
photograph of the short approach-shot showing Mr. MacBean swinging from
Point A, through dotted line B-C, to Point D, his head the while
remaining rigid at the spot marked with a cross. He felt a little
guiltily that he had stolen a march on his friend, and that the contest
was as good as over.
* * * * *
I cannot recall a lovelier summer day than that on which the great
Todd-Willard eighteen-hole match took place. It had rained during the
night, and now the sun shone down from a clear blue sky on to turf that
glistened more greenly than the young grass of early spring.
Butterflies flitted to and fro; birds sang merrily. In short, all
Nature smiled. And it is to be doubted if Nature ever had a better
excuse for smiling—or even laughing outright; for matches like that
between James Todd and Peter Willard do not occur every day.
Whether it was that love had keyed them up, or whether hours of
study of Braid's “Advanced Golf” and the Badminton Book had produced a
belated effect, I cannot say; but both started off quite reasonably
well. Our first hole, as you can see, is a bogey four, and James was
dead on the pin in seven, leaving Peter, who had twice hit the United
Kingdom with his mashie in mistake for the ball, a difficult putt for
the half. Only one thing could happen when you left Peter a difficult
putt; and James advanced to the lake hole one up, Peter, as he
followed, trying to console himself with the thought that many of the
best golfers prefer to lose the first hole and save themselves for a
Peter and James had played over the lake hole so often that they had
become accustomed to it, and had grown into the habit of sinking a ball
or two as a preliminary formality with much the same stoicism displayed
by those kings in ancient and superstitious times who used to fling
jewellery into the sea to propitiate it before they took a voyage. But
today, by one of those miracles without which golf would not be golf,
each of them got over with his first shot—and not only over, but dead
on the pin. Our “pro.” himself could not have done better.
I think it was at this point that the two men began to go to pieces.
They were in an excited frame of mind, and this thing unmanned them.
You will no doubt recall Keats's poem about stout Cortez staring with
eagle eyes at the Pacific while all his men gazed at each other with a
wild surmise, silent upon a peak in Darien. Precisely so did Peter
Willard and James Todd stare with eagle eyes at the second lake hole,
and gaze at each other with a wild surmise, silent upon a tee in
Woodhaven. They had dreamed of such a happening so often and woke to
find the vision false, that at first they could not believe that the
thing had actually occurred.
“I got over!” whispered James, in an awed voice.
“So did I!” muttered Peter.
“With my very first!”
They walked in silence round the edge of the lake, and holed out.
One putt was enough for each, and they halved the hole with a two.
Peter's previous record was eight, and James had once done a seven.
There are times when strong men lose their self-control, and this was
one of them. They reached the third tee in a daze, and it was here that
mortification began to set in.
The third hole is another bogey four, up the hill and past the tree
that serves as a direction-post, the hole itself being out of sight. On
his day, James had often done it in ten and Peter in nine; but now they
were unnerved. James, who had the honour, shook visibly as he addressed
his ball. Three times he swung and only connected with the ozone; the
fourth time he topped badly. The discs had been set back a little way,
and James had the mournful distinction of breaking a record for the
course by playing his fifth shot from the tee. It was a low, raking
brassey-shot, which carried a heap of stones twenty feet to the right
and finished in a furrow. Peter, meanwhile, had popped up a lofty ball
which came to rest behind a stone.
It was now that the rigid rules governing this contest began to take
their toll. Had they been playing an ordinary friendly round, each
would have teed up on some convenient hillock and probably been past
the tree with their second, for James would, in ordinary circumstances,
have taken his drive back and regarded the strokes he had made as a
little preliminary practice to get him into midseason form. But today
it was war to the niblick, and neither man asked nor expected quarter.
Peter's seventh shot dislodged the stone, leaving him a clear field,
and James, with his eleventh, extricated himself from the furrow. Fifty
feet from the tree James was eighteen, Peter twelve; but then the
latter, as every golfer does at times, suddenly went right off his
game. He hit the tree four times, then hooked into the sand-bunkers to
the left of the hole. James, who had been playing a game that was
steady without being brilliant, was on the green in twenty-six, Peter
taking twenty-seven. Poor putting lost James the hole. Peter was down
in thirty-three, but the pace was too hot for James. He missed a
two-foot putt for the half, and they went to the fourth tee all square.
The fourth hole follows the curve of the road, on the other side of
which are picturesque woods. It presents no difficulties to the expert,
but it has pitfalls for the novice. The dashing player stands for a
slice, while the more cautious are satisfied if they can clear the
bunker that spans the fairway and lay their ball well out to the left,
whence an iron shot will take them to the green. Peter and James
combined the two policies. Peter aimed to the left and got a slice, and
James, also aiming to the left, topped into the bunker. Peter,
realizing from experience the futility of searching for his ball in the
woods, drove a second, which also disappeared into the jungle, as did
his third. By the time he had joined James in the bunker he had played
It is the glorious uncertainty of golf that makes it the game it is.
The fact that James and Peter, lying side by side in the same bunker,
had played respectively one and six shots, might have induced an
unthinking observer to fancy the chances of the former. And no doubt,
had he not taken seven strokes to extricate himself from the pit, while
his opponent, by some act of God, contrived to get out in two, James's
chances might have been extremely rosy. As it was, the two men
staggered out on to the fairway again with a score of eight apiece.
Once past the bunker and round the bend of the road, the hole becomes
simple. A judicious use of the cleek put Peter on the green in
fourteen, while James, with a Braid iron, reached it in twelve. Peter
was down in seventeen, and James contrived to halve. It was only as he
was leaving the hole that the latter discovered that he had been
putting with his niblick, which cannot have failed to exercise a
prejudicial effect on his game. These little incidents are bound to
happen when one is in a nervous and highly-strung condition.
The fifth and sixth holes produced no unusual features. Peter won
the fifth in eleven, and James the sixth in ten. The short seventh they
halved in nine. The eighth, always a tricky hole, they took no
liberties with, James, sinking a long putt with his twenty-third, just
managing to halve. A ding-dong race up the hill for the ninth found
James first at the pin, and they finished the first nine with James one
As they left the green James looked a little furtively at his
“You might be strolling on to the tenth,” he said. “I want to get a
few balls at the shop. And my mashie wants fixing up. I sha'n't be
“I'll come with you,” said Peter.
“Don't bother,” said James. “You go on and hold our place at the
I regret to say that James was lying. His mashie was in excellent
repair, and he still had a dozen balls in his bag, it being his prudent
practice always to start out with eighteen. No! What he had said was
mere subterfuge. He wanted to go to his locker and snatch a few minutes
with Sandy MacBean's “How to Become a Scratch Man”. He felt sure that
one more glance at the photograph of Mr. MacBean driving would give him
the mastery of the stroke and so enable him to win the match. In this I
think he was a little sanguine. The difficulty about Sandy MacBean's
method of tuition was that he laid great stress on the fact that the
ball should be directly in a line with a point exactly in the centre of
the back of the player's neck; and so far James's efforts to keep his
eye on the ball and on the back of his neck simultaneously had produced
no satisfactory results.
* * * * *
It seemed to James, when he joined Peter on the tenth tee, that the
latter's manner was strange. He was pale. There was a curious look in
“James, old man,” he said.
“Yes?” said James.
“While you were away I have been thinking. James, old man, do you
really love this girl?”
James stared. A spasm of pain twisted Peter's face.
“Suppose,” he said in a low voice, “she were not all you—we—think
“What do you mean?”
“Miss Forrester is an angel.”
“Yes, yes. Quite so.”
“I know what it is,” said James, passionately. “You're trying to put
me off my stroke. You know that the least thing makes me lose my form.”
“You hope that you can take my mind off the game and make me go to
pieces, and then you'll win the match.”
“On the contrary,” said Peter. “I intend to forfeit the match.”
“I give up.”
“But—but——” James shook with emotion. His voice quavered. “Ah!”
he cried. “I see now: I understand! You are doing this for me because I
am your pal. Peter, this is noble! This is the sort of thing you read
about in books. I've seen it in the movies. But I can't accept the
“Do you mean this?”
“I give her up, James, old man. I—I hope you will be happy.”
“But I don't know what to say. How can I thank you?”
“Don't thank me.”
“But, Peter, do you fully realize what you are doing? True, I am one
up, but there are nine holes to go, and I am not right on my game
today. You might easily beat me. Have you forgotten that I once took
forty-seven at the dog-leg hole? This may be one of my bad days. Do you
understand that if you insist on giving up I shall go to Miss Forrester
tonight and propose to her?”
“And yet you stick to it that you are through?”
“I do. And, but the way, there's no need for you to wait till
tonight. I saw Miss Forrester just now outside the tennis court. She's
James turned crimson.
“Then I think perhaps——”
“You'd better go to her at once.”
“I will.” James extended his hand. “Peter, old man, I shall never
“That's all right.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Now, do you mean? Oh, I shall potter round the second nine. If you
want me, you'll find me somewhere about.”
“You'll come to the wedding, Peter?” said James, wistfully.
“Of course,” said Peter. “Good luck.”
He spoke cheerily, but, when the other had turned to go, he stood
looking after him thoughtfully. Then he sighed a heavy sigh.
* * * * *
James approached Miss Forrester with a beating heart. She made a
charming picture as she stood there in the sunlight, one hand on her
hip, the other swaying a tennis racket.
“How do you do?” said James.
“How are you, Mr. Todd? Have you been playing golf?”
“With Mr. Willard?”
“Yes. We were having a match.”
“Golf,” said Grace Forrester, “seems to make men very rude. Mr.
Willard left me without a word in the middle of our conversation.”
James was astonished.
“Were you talking to Peter?”
“Yes. Just now. I can't understand what was the matter with him. He
just turned on his heel and swung off.”
“You oughtn't to turn on your heel when you swing,” said James;
“only on the ball of the foot.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Nothing, nothing. I wasn't thinking. The fact is, I've something on
my mind. So has Peter. You mustn't think too hardly of him. We have
been playing an important match, and it must have got on his nerves.
You didn't happen by any chance to be watching us?”
“Ah! I wish you had seen me at the lake-hole. I did it one under
“Was your father playing?”
“You don't understand. I mean I did it in one better than even the
finest player is supposed to do it. It's a mashie-shot, you know. You
mustn't play too light, or you fall in the lake; and you mustn't play
it too hard, or you go past the hole into the woods. It requires the
nicest delicacy and judgment, such as I gave it. You might have to wait
a year before seeing anyone do it in two again. I doubt if the 'pro.'
often does it in two. Now, directly we came to this hole today, I made
up my mind that there was going to be no mistake. The great secret of
any shot at golf is ease, elegance, and the ability to relax. The
majority of men, you will find, think it important that their address
should be good.”
“How snobbish! What does it matter where a man lives?”
“You don't absolutely follow me. I refer to the waggle and the
stance before you make the stroke. Most players seem to fix in their
minds the appearance of the angles which are presented by the position
of the arms, legs, and club shaft, and it is largely the desire to
retain these angles which results in their moving their heads and
stiffening their muscles so that there is no freedom in the swing.
There is only one point which vitally affects the stroke, and the only
reason why that should be kept constant is that you are enabled to see
your ball clearly. That is the pivotal point marked at the base of the
neck, and a line drawn from this point to the ball should be at right
angles to the line of flight.”
James paused for a moment for air, and as he paused Miss Forrester
“This is all gibberish to me,” she said.
“Gibberish!” gasped James. “I am quoting verbatim from one of the
best authorities on golf.”
Miss Forrester swung her tennis racket irritably.
“Golf,” she said, “bores me pallid. I think it is the silliest game
The trouble about telling a story is that words are so feeble a
means of depicting the supreme moments of life. That is where the
artist has the advantage over the historian. Were I an artist, I should
show James at this point falling backwards with his feet together and
his eyes shut, with a semi-circular dotted line marking the progress of
his flight and a few stars above his head to indicate moral collapse.
There are no words that can adequately describe the sheer, black horror
that froze the blood in his veins as this frightful speech smote his
He had never inquired into Miss Forrester's religious views before,
but he had always assumed that they were sound. And now here she was
polluting the golden summer air with the most hideous blasphemy. It
would be incorrect to say that James's love was turned to hate. He did
not hate Grace. The repulsion he felt was deeper than mere hate. What
he felt was not altogether loathing and not wholly pity. It was a blend
of the two.
There was a tense silence. The listening world stood still. Then,
without a word, James Todd turned and tottered away.
* * * * *
Peter was working moodily in the twelfth bunker when his friend
arrived. He looked up with a start. Then, seeing that the other was
alone, he came forward hesitatingly.
“Am I to congratulate you?”
James breathed a deep breath.
“You are!” he said. “On an escape!”
“She refused you?”
“She didn't get the chance. Old man, have you ever sent one right up
the edge of that bunker in front of the seventh and just not gone in?”
“I did once. It was my second shot, from a good lie, with the light
iron, and I followed well through and thought I had gone just too far,
and, when I walked up, there was my ball on the edge of the bunker,
nicely teed up on a chunk of grass, so that I was able to lay it dead
with my mashie-niblick, holing out in six. Well, what I mean to say is,
I feel now as I felt then—as if some unseen power had withheld me in
time from some frightful disaster.”
“I know just how you feel,” said Peter, gravely.
“Peter, old man, that girl said golf bored her pallid. She said she
thought it was the silliest game ever invented.” He paused to mark the
effect of his words. Peter merely smiled a faint, wan smile. “You don't
seem revolted,” said James.
“I am revolted, but not surprised. You see, she said the same thing
to me only a few minutes before.”
“It amounted to the same thing. I had just been telling her how I
did the lake-hole today in two, and she said that in her opinion golf
was a game for children with water on the brain who weren't athletic
enough to play Animal Grab.”
The two men shivered in sympathy.
“There must be insanity in the family,” said James at last.
“That,” said Peter, “is the charitable explanation.”
“We were fortunate to find it out in time.”
“We mustn't run a risk like that again.”
“I think we had better take up golf really seriously. It will keep
us out of mischief.”
“You're quite right. We ought to do our four rounds a day
“In spring, summer, and autumn. And in winter it would be rash not
to practise most of the day at one of those indoor schools.”
“We ought to be safe that way.”
“Peter, old man,” said James, “I've been meaning to speak to you
about it for some time. I've got Sandy MacBean's new book, and I think
you ought to read it. It is full of helpful hints.”
Silently the two men clasped hands. James Todd and Peter Willard
were themselves again.
* * * * *
And so (said the Oldest Member) we come back to our original
starting-point—to wit, that, while there is nothing to be said
definitely against love, your golfer should be extremely careful how he
indulges in it. It may improve his game or it may not. But, if he finds
that there is any danger that it may not—if the object of his
affections is not the kind of girl who will listen to him with cheerful
sympathy through the long evenings, while he tells her, illustrating
stance and grip and swing with the kitchen poker, each detail of the
day's round—then, I say unhesitatingly, he had better leave it alone.
Love has had a lot of press-agenting from the oldest times; but there
are higher, nobler things than love. A woman is only a woman, but a
hefty drive is a slosh.
3. A Mixed Threesome
It was the holiday season, and during the holidays the Greens
Committees have decided that the payment of twenty guineas shall
entitle fathers of families not only to infest the course themselves,
but also to decant their nearest and dearest upon it in whatever
quantity they please. All over the links, in consequence, happy,
laughing groups of children had broken out like a rash. A wan-faced
adult, who had been held up for ten minutes while a drove of issue
quarrelled over whether little Claude had taken two hundred or two
hundred and twenty approach shots to reach the ninth green sank into a
seat beside the Oldest Member.
“What luck?” inquired the Sage.
“None to speak of,” returned the other, moodily. “I thought I had
bagged a small boy in a Lord Fauntleroy suit on the sixth, but he
ducked. These children make me tired. They should be bowling their
hoops in the road. Golf is a game for grownups. How can a fellow play,
with a platoon of progeny blocking him at every hole?”
The Oldest Member shook his head. He could not subscribe to these
No doubt (said the Oldest Member) the summer golf-child is, from the
point of view of the player who likes to get round the course in a
single afternoon, something of a trial; but, personally, I confess, it
pleases me to see my fellow human beings—and into this category
golf-children, though at the moment you may not be broad-minded enough
to admit it, undoubtedly fall—taking to the noblest of games at an
early age. Golf, like measles, should be caught young, for, if
postponed to riper years, the results may be serious. Let me tell you
the story of Mortimer Sturgis, which illustrates what I mean rather
Mortimer Sturgis, when I first knew him, was a care-free man of
thirty-eight, of amiable character and independent means, which he
increased from time to time by judicious ventures on the Stock
Exchange. Although he had never played golf, his had not been
altogether an ill-spent life. He swung a creditable racket at tennis,
was always ready to contribute a baritone solo to charity concerts, and
gave freely to the poor. He was what you might call a golden-mean man,
good-hearted rather than magnetic, with no serious vices and no heroic
virtues. For a hobby, he had taken up the collecting of porcelain
vases, and he was engaged to Betty Weston, a charming girl of
twenty-five, a lifelong friend of mine.
I like Mortimer. Everybody liked him. But, at the same time, I was a
little surprised that a girl like Betty should have become engaged to
him. As I said before, he was not magnetic; and magnetism, I thought,
was the chief quality she would have demanded in a man. Betty was one
of those ardent, vivid girls, with an intense capacity for
hero-worship, and I would have supposed that something more in the
nature of a plumed knight or a corsair of the deep would have been her
ideal. But, of course, if there is a branch of modern industry where
the demand is greater than the supply, it is the manufacture of knights
and corsairs; and nowadays a girl, however flaming her aspirations, has
to take the best she can get. I must admit that Betty seemed perfectly
content with Mortimer.
Such, then, was the state of affairs when Eddie Denton arrived, and
the trouble began.
I was escorting Betty home one evening after a tea-party at which we
had been fellow-guests, when, walking down the road, we happened to
espy Mortimer. He broke into a run when he saw us, and galloped up,
waving a piece of paper in his hand. He was plainly excited, a thing
which was unusual in this well-balanced man. His broad, good-humoured
face was working violently.
“Good news!” he cried. “Good news! Dear old Eddie's back!”
“Oh, how nice for you, dear!” said Betty. “Eddie Denton is
Mortimer's best friend,” she explained to me. “He has told me so much
about him. I have been looking forward to his coming home. Mortie
thinks the world of him.”
“So will you, when you know him,” cried Mortimer. “Dear old Eddie!
He's a wonder! The best fellow on earth! We were at school and the
'Varsity together. There's nobody like Eddie! He landed yesterday. Just
home from Central Africa. He's an explorer, you know,” he said to me.
“Spends all his time in places where it's death for a white man to go.”
“An explorer!” I heard Betty breathe, as if to herself. I was not so
impressed, I fear, as she was. Explorers, as a matter of fact, leave me
a trifle cold. It has always seemed to me that the difficulties of
their life are greatly exaggerated—generally by themselves. In a large
country like Africa, for instance, I should imagine that it was almost
impossible for a man not to get somewhere if he goes on long enough.
Give me the fellow who can plunge into the bowels of the earth
at Piccadilly Circus and find the right Tube train with nothing but a
lot of misleading signs to guide him. However, we are not all
constituted alike in this world, and it was apparent from the flush on
her cheek and the light in her eyes that Betty admired explorers.
“I wired to him at once,” went on Mortimer, “and insisted on his
coming down here. It's two years since I saw him. You don't know how I
have looked forward, dear, to you and Eddie meeting. He is just your
sort. I know how romantic you are and keen on adventure and all that.
Well, you should hear Eddie tell the story of how he brought down the
bull bongo with his last cartridge after all the pongos,
or native bearers, had fled into the dongo, or undergrowth.”
“I should love to!” whispered Betty, her eyes glowing. I suppose to
an impressionable girl these things really are of absorbing interest.
For myself, bongos intrigue me even less than pongos,
while dongos frankly bore me. “When do you expect him?”
“He will get my wire tonight. I'm hoping we shall see the dear old
fellow tomorrow afternoon some time. How surprised old Eddie will be to
hear that I'm engaged. He's such a confirmed bachelor himself. He told
me once that he considered the wisest thing ever said by human tongue
was the Swahili proverb—'Whoso taketh a woman into his kraal
depositeth himself straightway in the wongo.' Wongo, he
tells me, is a sort of broth composed of herbs and meat-bones,
corresponding to our soup. You must get Eddie to give it you in the
original Swahili. It sounds even better.”
I saw the girl's eyes flash, and there came into her face that
peculiar set expression which married men know. It passed in an
instant, but not before it had given me material for thought which
lasted me all the way to my house and into the silent watches of the
night. I was fond of Mortimer Sturgis, and I could see trouble ahead
for him as plainly as though I had been a palmist reading his hand at
two guineas a visit. There are other proverbs fully as wise as the one
which Mortimer had translated from the Swahili, and one of the wisest
is that quaint old East London saying, handed down from one generation
of costermongers to another, and whispered at midnight in the wigwams
of the whelk-seller! “Never introduce your donah to a pal.” In those
seven words is contained the wisdom of the ages. I could read the
future so plainly. What but one thing could happen after Mortimer had
influenced Betty's imagination with his stories of his friend's
romantic career, and added the finishing touch by advertising him as a
woman-hater? He might just as well have asked for his ring back at
once. My heart bled for Mortimer.
* * * *
I happened to call at his house on the second evening of the
explorer's visit, and already the mischief had been done.
Denton was one of those lean, hard-bitten men with smouldering eyes
and a brick-red complexion. He looked what he was, the man of action
and enterprise. He had the wiry frame and strong jaw without which no
explorer is complete, and Mortimer, beside him, seemed but a poor, soft
product of our hot-house civilization. Mortimer, I forgot to say, wore
glasses; and, if there is one time more than another when a man should
not wear glasses, it is while a strong-faced, keen-eyed wanderer in the
wilds is telling a beautiful girl the story of his adventures.
For this was what Denton was doing. My arrival seemed to have
interrupted him in the middle of narrative. He shook my hand in a
strong, silent sort of way, and resumed:
“Well, the natives seemed fairly friendly, so I decided to stay the
I made a mental note never to seem fairly friendly to an explorer.
If you do, he always decides to stay the night.
“In the morning they took me down to the river. At this point it
widens into a kongo, or pool, and it was here, they told me,
that the crocodile mostly lived, subsisting on the native oxen—the
short-horned jongos—which, swept away by the current while
crossing the ford above, were carried down on the longos, or
rapids. It was not, however, till the second evening that I managed to
catch sight of his ugly snout above the surface. I waited around, and
on the third day I saw him suddenly come out of the water and heave his
whole length on to a sandbank in mid-stream and go to sleep in the sun.
He was certainly a monster—fully thirty—you have never been in
Central Africa, have you, Miss Weston? No? You ought to go
there!—fully fifty feet from tip to tail. There he lay, glistening. I
shall never forget the sight.”
He broke off to light a cigarette. I heard Betty draw in her breath
sharply. Mortimer was beaming through his glasses with the air of the
owner of a dog which is astonishing a drawing-room with its clever
“And what did you do then, Mr. Denton?” asked Betty, breathlessly.
“Yes, what did you do then, old chap?” said Mortimer.
Denton blew out the match and dropped it on the ash-tray.
“Eh? Oh,” he said, carelessly, “I swam across and shot him.”
“Swam across and shot him!”
“Yes. It seemed to me that the chance was too good to be missed. Of
course, I might have had a pot at him from the bank, but the chances
were I wouldn't have hit him in a vital place. So I swam across to the
sandbank, put the muzzle of my gun in his mouth, and pulled the
trigger. I have rarely seen a crocodile so taken aback.”
“But how dreadfully dangerous!”
“Oh, danger!” Eddie Denton laughed lightly. “One drops into the
habit of taking a few risks out there, you know. Talking of danger, the time when things really did look a little nasty was when the
wounded gongo cornered me in a narrow tongo and I only
had a pocket-knife with everything in it broken except the corkscrew
and the thing for taking stones out of horses' hoofs. It was like
I could bear no more. I am a tender-hearted man, and I made some
excuse and got away. From the expression on the girl's face I could see
that it was only a question of days before she gave her heart to this
* * * * *
As a matter of fact, it was on the following afternoon that she
called on me and told me that the worst had happened. I had known her
from a child, you understand, and she always confided her troubles to
“I want your advice,” she began. “I'm so wretched!”
She burst into tears. I could see the poor girl was in a highly
nervous condition, so I did my best to calm her by describing how I had
once done the long hole in four. My friends tell me that there is no
finer soporific, and it seemed as though they may be right, for
presently, just as I had reached the point where I laid my
approach-putt dead from a distance of fifteen feet, she became quieter.
She dried her eyes, yawned once or twice, and looked at me bravely.
“I love Eddie Denton!” she said.
“I feared as much. When did you feel this coming on?”
“It crashed on me like a thunderbolt last night after dinner. We
were walking in the garden, and he was just telling me how he had been
bitten by a poisonous zongo, when I seemed to go all giddy. When
I came to myself I was in Eddie's arms. His face was pressed against
mine, and he was gargling.”
“I thought so at first. But he reassured me. He was merely speaking
in one of the lesser-known dialects of the Walla-Walla natives of
Eastern Uganda, into which he always drops in moments of great emotion.
He soon recovered sufficiently to give me a rough translation, and then
I knew that he loved me. He kissed me. I kissed him. We kissed each
“And where was Mortimer all this while?”
“Indoors, cataloguing his collection of vases.”
For a moment, I confess, I was inclined to abandon Mortimer's cause.
A man, I felt, who could stay indoors cataloguing vases while his
fiancee wandered in the moonlight with explorers deserved all that
was coming to him. I overcame the feeling.
“Have you told him?”
“Of course not.”
“You don't think it might be of interest to him?”
“How can I tell him? It would break his heart. I am awfully fond of
Mortimer. So is Eddie. We would both die rather than do anything to
hurt him. Eddie is the soul of honour. He agrees with me that Mortimer
must never know.”
“Then you aren't going to break off your engagement?”
“I couldn't. Eddie feels the same. He says that, unless something
can be done, he will say good-bye to me and creep far, far away to some
distant desert, and there, in the great stillness, broken only by the
cry of the prowling yongo, try to forget.”
“When you say 'unless something can be done,' what do you mean? What
can be done?”
“I thought you might have something to suggest. Don't you think it
possible that somehow Mortimer might take it into his head to break the
“Absurd! He loves you devotedly.”
“I'm afraid so. Only the other day I dropped one of his best vases,
and he just smiled and said it didn't matter.”
“I can give you even better proof than that. This morning Mortimer
came to me and asked me to give him secret lessons in golf.”
“Golf! But he despises golf.”
“Exactly. But he is going to learn it for your sake.”
“But why secret lessons?”
“Because he wants to keep it a surprise for your birthday. Now can
you doubt his love?”
“I am not worthy of him!” she whispered.
The words gave me an idea.
“Suppose,” I said, “we could convince Mortimer of that!”
“I don't understand.”
“Suppose, for instance, he could be made to believe that you were,
let us say, a dipsomaniac.”
She shook her head. “He knows that already.”
“Yes; I told him I sometimes walked in my sleep.”
“I mean a secret drinker.”
“Nothing will induce me to pretend to be a secret drinker.”
“Then a drug-fiend?” I suggested, hopefully.
“I hate medicine.”
“I have it!” I said. “A kleptomaniac.”
“What is that?”
“A person who steals things.”
“Oh, that's horrid.”
“Not at all. It's a perfectly ladylike thing to do. You don't know
you do it.”
“But, if I don't know I do it, how do I know I do it?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I mean, how can I tell Mortimer I do it if I don't know?”
“You don't tell him. I will tell him. I will inform him tomorrow
that you called on me this afternoon and stole my watch and”—I glanced
about the room—“my silver matchbox.”
“I'd rather have that little vinaigrette.”
“You don't get either. I merely say you stole it. What will happen?”
“Mortimer will hit you with a cleek.”
“Not at all. I am an old man. My white hairs protect me. What he
will do is to insist on confronting me with you and asking you to deny
the foul charge.”
“Then you admit it and release him from his engagement.”
She sat for a while in silence. I could see that my words had made
“I think it's a splendid idea. Thank you very much.” She rose and
moved to the door. “I knew you would suggest something wonderful.” She
hesitated. “You don't think it would make it sound more plausible if I
really took the vinaigrette?” she added, a little wistfully.
“It would spoil everything,” I replied, firmly, as I reached for the
vinaigrette and locked it carefully in my desk.
She was silent for a moment, and her glance fell on the carpet.
That, however, did not worry me. It was nailed down.
“Well, good-bye,” she said.
“Au revoir,” I replied. “I am meeting Mortimer at six-thirty
tomorrow. You may expect us round at your house at about eight.”
* * * * *
Mortimer was punctual at the tryst next morning. When I reached the
tenth tee he was already there. We exchanged a brief greeting and I
handed him a driver, outlined the essentials of grip and swing, and
bade him go to it.
“It seems a simple game,” he said, as he took his stance. “You're
sure it's fair to have the ball sitting up on top of a young sand-hill
“I mean, I don't want to be coddled because I'm a beginner.”
“The ball is always teed up for the drive,” I assured him.
“Oh, well, if you say so. But it seems to me to take all the element
of sport out of the game. Where do I hit it?”
“Oh, straight ahead.”
“But isn't it dangerous? I mean, suppose I smash a window in that
house over there?”
He indicated a charming bijou residence some five hundred yards down
“In that case,” I replied, “the owner comes out in his pyjamas and
offers you the choice between some nuts and a cigar.”
He seemed reassured, and began to address the ball. Then he paused
“Isn't there something you say before you start?” he asked. “'Five',
“You may say 'Fore!' if it makes you feel any easier. But it isn't
“If I am going to learn this silly game,” said Mortimer, firmly, “I
am going to learn it right. Fore!”
I watched him curiously. I never put a club into the hand of a
beginner without something of the feeling of the sculptor who surveys a
mass of shapeless clay. I experience the emotions of a creator. Here, I
say to myself, is a semi-sentient being into whose soulless carcass I
am breathing life. A moment before, he was, though technically living,
a mere clod. A moment hence he will be a golfer.
While I was still occupied with these meditations Mortimer swung at
the ball. The club, whizzing down, brushed the surface of the rubber
sphere, toppling it off the tee and propelling it six inches with a
slight slice on it.
“Damnation!” said Mortimer, unravelling himself.
I nodded approvingly. His drive had not been anything to write to
the golfing journals about, but he was picking up the technique of the
“What happened then?”
I told him in a word.
“Your stance was wrong, and your grip was wrong, and you moved your
head, and swayed your body, and took your eye off the ball, and
pressed, and forgot to use your wrists, and swung back too fast, and
let the hands get ahead of the club, and lost your balance, and omitted
to pivot on the ball of the left foot, and bent your right knee.”
He was silent for a moment.
“There is more in this pastime,” he said, “than the casual observer
I have noticed, and I suppose other people have noticed, that in the
golf education of every man there is a definite point at which he may
be said to have crossed the dividing line—the Rubicon, as it
were—that separates the golfer from the non-golfer. This moment comes
immediately after his first good drive. In the ninety minutes in which
I instructed Mortimer Sturgis that morning in the rudiments of the
game, he made every variety of drive known to science; but it was not
till we were about to leave that he made a good one.
A moment before he had surveyed his blistered hands with sombre
“It's no good,” he said. “I shall never learn this beast of a game.
And I don't want to either. It's only fit for lunatics. Where's the
sense in it? Hitting a rotten little ball with a stick! If I want
exercise, I'll take a stick and go and rattle it along the railings.
There's something in that! Well, let's be getting along. No good
wasting the whole morning out here.”
“Try one more drive, and then we'll go.”
“All right. If you like. No sense in it, though.”
He teed up the ball, took a careless stance, and flicked moodily.
There was a sharp crack, the ball shot off the tee, flew a hundred
yards in a dead straight line never ten feet above the ground, soared
another seventy yards in a graceful arc, struck the turf, rolled, and
came to rest within easy mashie distance of the green.
“Splendid!” I cried.
The man seemed stunned.
“How did that happen?”
I told him very simply.
“Your stance was right, and your grip was right, and you kept your
head still, and didn't sway your body, and never took your eye off the
ball, and slowed back, and let the arms come well through, and rolled
the wrists, and let the club-head lead, and kept your balance, and
pivoted on the ball of the left foot, and didn't duck the right knee.”
“I see,” he said. “Yes, I thought that must be it.”
“Now let's go home.”
“Wait a minute. I just want to remember what I did while it's fresh
in my mind. Let me see, this was the way I stood. Or was it more like
this? No, like this.” He turned to me, beaming. “What a great idea it
was, my taking up golf! It's all nonsense what you read in the comic
papers about people foozling all over the place and breaking clubs and
all that. You've only to exercise a little reasonable care. And what a
corking game it is! Nothing like it in the world! I wonder if Betty is
up yet. I must go round and show her how I did that drive. A perfect
swing, with every ounce of weight, wrist, and muscle behind it. I meant
to keep it a secret from the dear girl till I had really learned, but
of course I have learned now. Let's go round and rout her out.”
He had given me my cue. I put my hand on his shoulder and spoke
“Mortimer, my boy, I fear I have bad news for you.”
“Slow; back—keep the head——What's that? Bad news?”
“About Betty? What about her? Don't sway the body—keep the eye on
“Prepare yourself for a shock, my boy. Yesterday afternoon Betty
called to see me. When she had gone I found that she had stolen my
“Stolen your matchbox?”
“Stolen my matchbox.”
“Oh, well, I dare say there were faults on both sides,” said
Mortimer. “Tell me if I sway my body this time.”
“You don't grasp what I have said! Do you realize that Betty, the
girl you are going to marry, is a kleptomaniac?”
“That is the only possible explanation. Think what this means, my
boy. Think how you will feel every time your wife says she is going out
to do a little shopping! Think of yourself, left alone at home,
watching the clock, saying to yourself, 'Now she is lifting a pair of
silk stockings!' 'Now she is hiding gloves in her umbrella!' 'Just
about this moment she is getting away with a pearl necklace!'“
“Would she do that?”
“She would! She could not help herself. Or, rather, she could not
refrain from helping herself. How about it, my boy?”
“It only draws us closer together,” he said.
I was touched, I own. My scheme had failed, but it had proved
Mortimer Sturgis to be of pure gold. He stood gazing down the fairway,
wrapped in thought.
“By the way,” he said, meditatively, “I wonder if the dear girl ever
goes to any of those sales—those auction-sales, you know, where you're
allowed to inspect the things the day before? They often have some
pretty decent vases.”
He broke off and fell into a reverie.
* * * * *
From this point onward Mortimer Sturgis proved the truth of what I
said to you about the perils of taking up golf at an advanced age. A
lifetime of observing my fellow-creatures has convinced me that Nature
intended us all to be golfers. In every human being the germ of golf is
implanted at birth, and suppression causes it to grow and grow till—it
may be at forty, fifty, sixty—it suddenly bursts its bonds and sweeps
over the victim like a tidal wave. The wise man, who begins to play in
childhood, is enabled to let the poison exude gradually from his
system, with no harmful results. But a man like Mortimer Sturgis, with
thirty-eight golfless years behind him, is swept off his feet. He is
carried away. He loses all sense of proportion. He is like the fly that
happens to be sitting on the wall of the dam just when the crack comes.
Mortimer Sturgis gave himself up without a struggle to an orgy of
golf such as I have never witnessed in any man. Within two days of that
first lesson he had accumulated a collection of clubs large enough to
have enabled him to open a shop; and he went on buying them at the rate
of two and three a day. On Sundays, when it was impossible to buy
clubs, he was like a lost spirit. True, he would do his regular four
rounds on the day of rest, but he never felt happy. The thought, as he
sliced into the rough, that the patent wooden-faced cleek which he
intended to purchase next morning might have made all the difference,
completely spoiled his enjoyment.
I remember him calling me up on the telephone at three o'clock one
morning to tell me that he had solved the problem of putting. He
intended in future, he said, to use a croquet mallet, and he wondered
that no one had ever thought of it before. The sound of his broken
groan when I informed him that croquet mallets were against the rules
haunted me for days.
His golf library kept pace with his collection of clubs. He bought
all the standard works, subscribed to all the golfing papers, and, when
he came across a paragraph in a magazine to the effect that Mr.
Hutchings, an ex-amateur champion, did not begin to play till he was
past forty, and that his opponent in the final, Mr. S. H. Fry, had
never held a club till his thirty-fifth year, he had it engraved on
vellum and framed and hung up beside his shaving-mirror.
* * * * *
And Betty, meanwhile? She, poor child, stared down the years into a
bleak future, in which she saw herself parted for ever from the man she
loved, and the golf-widow of another for whom—even when he won a medal
for lowest net at a weekly handicap with a score of a hundred and three
minus twenty-four—she could feel nothing warmer than respect. Those
were dreary days for Betty. We three—she and I and Eddie Denton—often
talked over Mortimer's strange obsession. Denton said that, except that
Mortimer had not come out in pink spots, his symptoms were almost
identical with those of the dreaded mongo-mongo, the scourge of
the West African hinterland. Poor Denton! He had already booked his
passage for Africa, and spent hours looking in the atlas for good
In every fever of human affairs there comes at last the crisis. We
may emerge from it healed or we may plunge into still deeper depths of
soul-sickness; but always the crisis comes. I was privileged to be
present when it came in the affairs of Mortimer Sturgis and Betty
I had gone into the club-house one afternoon at an hour when it is
usually empty, and the first thing I saw, as I entered the main room,
which looks out on the ninth green, was Mortimer. He was grovelling on
the floor, and I confess that, when I caught sight of him, my heart
stood still. I feared that his reason, sapped by dissipation, had given
way. I knew that for weeks, day in and day out, the niblick had hardly
ever been out of his hand, and no constitution can stand that.
He looked up as he heard my footstep.
“Hallo,” he said. “Can you see a ball anywhere?”
“A ball?” I backed away, reaching for the door-handle. “My dear
boy,” I said, soothingly, “you have made a mistake. Quite a natural
mistake. One anybody would have made. But, as a matter of fact, this is
the club-house. The links are outside there. Why not come away with me
very quietly and let us see if we can't find some balls on the links?
If you will wait here a moment, I will call up Doctor Smithson. He was
telling me only this morning that he wanted a good spell of
ball-hunting to put him in shape. You don't mind if he joins us?”
“It was a Silver King with my initials on it,” Mortimer went on, not
heeding me. “I got on the ninth green in eleven with a nice
mashie-niblick, but my approach-putt was a little too strong. It came
in through that window.”
I perceived for the first time that one of the windows facing the
course was broken, and my relief was great. I went down on my knees and
helped him in his search. We ran the ball to earth finally inside the
“What's the local rule?” inquired Mortimer. “Must I play it where it
lies, or may I tee up and lose a stroke? If I have to play it where it
lies, I suppose a niblick would be the club?”
It was at this moment that Betty came in. One glance at her pale,
set face told me that there was to be a scene, and I would have
retired, but that she was between me and the door.
“Hallo, dear,” said Mortimer, greeting her with a friendly waggle of
his niblick. “I'm bunkered in the piano. My approach-putt was a little
strong, and I over-ran the green.”
“Mortimer,” said the girl, tensely, “I want to ask you one
“Yes, dear? I wish, darling, you could have seen my drive at the
eighth just now. It was a pip!”
Betty looked at him steadily.
“Are we engaged,” she said, “or are we not?”
“Engaged? Oh, to be married? Why, of course. I tried the open stance
for a change, and——”
“This morning you promised to take me for a ride. You never
appeared. Where were you?”
“Just playing golf.”
“Golf! I'm sick of the very name!”
A spasm shook Mortimer.
“You mustn't let people hear you saying things like that!” he said.
“I somehow felt, the moment I began my up-swing, that everything was
going to be all right. I——”
“I'll give you one more chance. Will you take me for a drive in your
car this evening?”
“Why not? What are you doing?”
“Just playing golf!”
“I'm tired of being neglected like this!” cried Betty, stamping her
foot. Poor girl, I saw her point of view. It was bad enough for her
being engaged to the wrong man, without having him treat her as a mere
acquaintance. Her conscience fighting with her love for Eddie Denton
had kept her true to Mortimer, and Mortimer accepted the sacrifice with
an absent-minded carelessness which would have been galling to any
girl. “We might just as well not be engaged at all. You never take me
“I asked you to come with me to watch the Open Championship.”
“Why don't you ever take me to dances?”
“I can't dance.”
“You could learn.”
“But I'm not sure if dancing is a good thing for a fellow's game.
You never hear of any first-class pro. dancing. James Braid doesn't
“Well, my mind's made up. Mortimer, you must choose between golf and
“But, darling, I went round in a hundred and one yesterday. You
can't expect a fellow to give up golf when he's at the top of his
“Very well. I have nothing more to say. Our engagement is at an
“Don't throw me over, Betty,” pleaded Mortimer, and there was that
in his voice which cut me to the heart. “You'll make me so miserable.
And, when I'm miserable, I always slice my approach shots.”
Betty Weston drew herself up. Her face was hard.
“Here is your ring!” she said, and swept from the room.
* * * * *
For a moment after she had gone Mortimer remained very still,
looking at the glistening circle in his hand. I stole across the room
and patted his shoulder.
“Bear up, my boy, bear up!” I said.
He looked at me piteously.
“Stymied!” he muttered.
He went on, speaking as if to himself.
“I had pictured—ah, how often I had pictured!—our little home!
Hers and mine. She sewing in her arm-chair, I practising putts on the
hearth-rug——” He choked. “While in the corner, little Harry Vardon
Sturgis played with little J. H. Taylor Sturgis. And round the
room—reading, busy with their childish tasks—little George Duncan
Sturgis, Abe Mitchell Sturgis, Harold Hilton Sturgis, Edward Ray
Sturgis, Horace Hutchinson Sturgis, and little James Braid Sturgis.”
“My boy! My boy!” I cried.
“What's the matter?”
“Weren't you giving yourself rather a large family?”
He shook his head moodily.
“Was I?” he said, dully. “I don't know. What's bogey?”
There was a silence.
“And yet——” he said, at last, in a low voice. He paused. An odd,
bright look had come into his eyes. He seemed suddenly to be himself
again, the old, happy Mortimer Sturgis I had known so well. “And yet,”
he said, “who knows? Perhaps it is all for the best. They might all
have turned out tennis-players!” He raised his niblick again, his face
aglow. “Playing thirteen!” he said. “I think the game here would be to
chip out through the door and work round the club-house to the green,
* * * * *
Little remains to be told. Betty and Eddie have been happily married
for years. Mortimer's handicap is now down to eighteen, and he is
improving all the time. He was not present at the wedding, being
unavoidably detained by a medal tournament; but, if you turn up the
files and look at the list of presents, which were both numerous and
costly, you will see—somewhere in the middle of the column, the words:
STURGIS, J. MORTIMER.
Two dozen Silver King Golf-balls and one patent Sturgis
Aluminium Self-Adjusting, Self-Compensating Putting-Cleek.
4. Sundered Hearts
In the smoking-room of the club-house a cheerful fire was burning,
and the Oldest Member glanced from time to time out of the window into
the gathering dusk. Snow was falling lightly on the links. From where
he sat, the Oldest Member had a good view of the ninth green; and
presently, out of the greyness of the December evening, there appeared
over the brow of the hill a golf-ball. It trickled across the green,
and stopped within a yard of the hole. The Oldest Member nodded
approvingly. A good approach-shot.
A young man in a tweed suit clambered on to the green, holed out
with easy confidence, and, shouldering his bag, made his way to the
club-house. A few moments later he entered the smoking-room, and
uttered an exclamation of rapture at the sight of the fire.
“I'm frozen stiff!”
He rang for a waiter and ordered a hot drink. The Oldest Member gave
a gracious assent to the suggestion that he should join him.
“I like playing in winter,” said the young man. “You get the course
to yourself, for the world is full of slackers who only turn out when
the weather suits them. I cannot understand where they get the nerve to
call themselves golfers.”
“Not everyone is as keen as you are, my boy,” said the Sage, dipping
gratefully into his hot drink. “If they were, the world would be a
better place, and we should hear less of all this modern unrest.”
“I am pretty keen,” admitted the young man.
“I have only encountered one man whom I could describe as keener. I
allude to Mortimer Sturgis.”
“The fellow who took up golf at thirty-eight and let the girl he was
engaged to marry go off with someone else because he hadn't the time to
combine golf with courtship? I remember. You were telling me about him
the other day.”
“There is a sequel to that story, if you would care to hear it,”
said the Oldest Member.
“You have the honour,” said the young man. “Go ahead!”
* * * * *
Some people (began the Oldest Member) considered that Mortimer
Sturgis was too wrapped up in golf, and blamed him for it. I could
never see eye to eye with them. In the days of King Arthur nobody
thought the worse of a young knight if he suspended all his social and
business engagements in favour of a search for the Holy Grail. In the
Middle Ages a man could devote his whole life to the Crusades, and the
public fawned upon him. Why, then, blame the man of today for a zealous
attention to the modern equivalent, the Quest of Scratch! Mortimer
Sturgis never became a scratch player, but he did eventually get his
handicap down to nine, and I honour him for it.
The story which I am about to tell begins in what might be called
the middle period of Sturgis's career. He had reached the stage when
his handicap was a wobbly twelve; and, as you are no doubt aware, it is
then that a man really begins to golf in the true sense of the word.
Mortimer's fondness for the game until then had been merely tepid
compared with what it became now. He had played a little before, but
now he really buckled to and got down to it. It was at this point, too,
that he began once more to entertain thoughts of marriage. A profound
statistician in this one department, he had discovered that practically
all the finest exponents of the art are married men; and the thought
that there might be something in the holy state which improved a man's
game, and that he was missing a good thing, troubled him a great deal.
Moreover, the paternal instinct had awakened in him. As he justly
pointed out, whether marriage improved your game or not, it was to Old
Tom Morris's marriage that the existence of young Tommy Morris, winner
of the British Open Championship four times in succession, could be
directly traced. In fact, at the age of forty-two, Mortimer Sturgis was
in just the frame of mind to take some nice girl aside and ask her to
become a step-mother to his eleven drivers, his baffy, his twenty-eight
putters, and the rest of the ninety-four clubs which he had accumulated
in the course of his golfing career. The sole stipulation, of course,
which he made when dreaming his daydreams was that the future Mrs.
Sturgis must be a golfer. I can still recall the horror in his face
when one girl, admirable in other respects, said that she had never
heard of Harry Vardon, and didn't he mean Dolly Vardon? She has since
proved an excellent wife and mother, but Mortimer Sturgis never spoke
to her again.
With the coming of January, it was Mortimer's practice to leave
England and go to the South of France, where there was sunshine and
crisp dry turf. He pursued his usual custom this year. With his
suit-case and his ninety-four clubs he went off to Saint Brule, staying
as he always did at the Hotel Superbe, where they knew him, and treated
with an amiable tolerance his habit of practising chip-shots in his
bedroom. On the first evening, after breaking a statuette of the Infant
Samuel in Prayer, he dressed and went down to dinner. And the first
thing he saw was Her.
Mortimer Sturgis, as you know, had been engaged before, but Betty
Weston had never inspired the tumultuous rush of emotion which the mere
sight of this girl had set loose in him. He told me later that just to
watch her holing out her soup gave him a sort of feeling you get when
your drive collides with a rock in the middle of a tangle of rough and
kicks back into the middle of the fairway. If golf had come late in
life to Mortimer Sturgis, love came later still, and just as the golf,
attacking him in middle life, had been some golf, so was the love
considerable love. Mortimer finished his dinner in a trance, which is
the best way to do it at some hotels, and then scoured the place for
someone who would introduce him. He found such a person eventually and
the meeting took place.
* * * * *
She was a small and rather fragile-looking girl, with big blue eyes
and a cloud of golden hair. She had a sweet expression, and her left
wrist was in a sling. She looked up at Mortimer as if she had at last
found something that amounted to something. I am inclined to think it
was a case of love at first sight on both sides.
“Fine weather we're having,” said Mortimer, who was a capital
“Yes,” said the girl.
“I like fine weather.”
“So do I.”
“There's something about fine weather!”
“It's—it's—well, fine weather's so much finer than weather that
isn't fine,” said Mortimer.
He looked at the girl a little anxiously, fearing he might be taking
her out of her depth, but she seemed to have followed his train of
“Yes, isn't it?” she said. “It's so—so fine.”
“That's just what I meant,” said Mortimer. “So fine. You've just hit
He was charmed. The combination of beauty with intelligence is so
“I see you've hurt your wrist,” he went on, pointing to the sling.
“Yes. I strained it a little playing in the championship.”
“The championship?” Mortimer was interested. “It's awfully rude of
me,” he said, apologetically, “but I didn't catch your name just now.”
“My name is Somerset.”
Mortimer had been bending forward solicitously. He overbalanced and
nearly fell off his chair. The shock had been stunning. Even before he
had met and spoken to her, he had told himself that he loved this girl
with the stored-up love of a lifetime. And she was Mary Somerset! The
hotel lobby danced before Mortimer's eyes.
The name will, of course, be familiar to you. In the early rounds of
the Ladies' Open Golf Championship of that year nobody had paid much
attention to Mary Somerset. She had survived her first two matches, but
her opponents had been nonentities like herself. And then, in the third
round, she had met and defeated the champion. From that point on, her
name was on everybody's lips. She became favourite. And she justified
the public confidence by sailing into the final and winning easily. And
here she was, talking to him like an ordinary person, and, if he could
read the message in her eyes, not altogether indifferent to his charms,
if you could call them that.
“Golly!” said Mortimer, awed.
* * * * *
Their friendship ripened rapidly, as friendships do in the South of
France. In that favoured clime, you find the girl and Nature does the
rest. On the second morning of their acquaintance Mortimer invited her
to walk round the links with him and watch him play. He did it a little
diffidently, for his golf was not of the calibre that would be likely
to extort admiration from a champion. On the other hand, one should
never let slip the opportunity of acquiring wrinkles on the game, and
he thought that Miss Somerset, if she watched one or two of his shots,
might tell him just what he ought to do. And sure enough, the opening
arrived on the fourth hole, where Mortimer, after a drive which
surprised even himself, found his ball in a nasty cuppy lie.
He turned to the girl.
“What ought I to do here?” he asked.
Miss Somerset looked at the ball. She seemed to be weighing the
matter in her mind.
“Give it a good hard knock,” she said.
Mortimer knew what she meant. She was advocating a full iron. The
only trouble was that, when he tried anything more ambitious than a
half-swing, except off the tee, he almost invariably topped. However,
he could not fail this wonderful girl, so he swung well back and took a
chance. His enterprise was rewarded. The ball flew out of the
indentation in the turf as cleanly as though John Henry Taylor had been
behind it, and rolled, looking neither to left nor to right, straight
for the pin. A few moments later Mortimer Sturgis had holed out one
under bogey, and it was only the fear that, having known him for so
short a time, she might be startled and refuse him that kept him from
proposing then and there. This exhibition of golfing generalship on her
part had removed his last doubts. He knew that, if he lived for ever,
there could be no other girl in the world for him. With her at his
side, what might he not do? He might get his handicap down to six—to
three—to scratch—to plus something! Good heavens, why, even the
Amateur Championship was not outside the range of possibility. Mortimer
Sturgis shook his putter solemnly in the air, and vowed a silent vow
that he would win this pearl among women.
Now, when a man feels like that, it is impossible to restrain him
long. For a week Mortimer Sturgis's soul sizzled within him: then he
could contain himself no longer. One night, at one of the informal
dances at the hotel, he drew the girl out on to the moonlit terrace.
“Miss Somerset——” he began, stuttering with emotion like an
imperfectly-corked bottle of ginger-beer. “Miss Somerset—may I call
The girl looked at him with eyes that shone softly in the dim light.
“Mary?” she repeated. “Why, of course, if you like——”
“If I like!” cried Mortimer. “Don't you know that it is my dearest
wish? Don't you know that I would rather be permitted to call you Mary
than do the first hole at Muirfield in two? Oh, Mary, how I have longed
for this moment! I love you! I love you! Ever since I met you I have
known that you were the one girl in this vast world whom I would die to
win! Mary, will you be mine? Shall we go round together? Will you fix
up a match with me on the links of life which shall end only when the
Grim Reaper lays us both a stymie?”
She drooped towards him.
“Mortimer!” she murmured.
He held out his arms, then drew back. His face had grown suddenly
tense, and there were lines of pain about his mouth.
“Wait!” he said, in a strained voice. “Mary, I love you dearly, and
because I love you so dearly I cannot let you trust your sweet life to
me blindly. I have a confession to make, I am not—I have not always
been”—he paused—“a good man,” he said, in a low voice.
She started indignantly.
“How can you say that? You are the best, the kindest, the bravest
man I have ever met! Who but a good man would have risked his life to
save me from drowning?”
“Drowning?” Mortimer's voice seemed perplexed. “You? What do you
“Have you forgotten the time when I fell in the sea last week, and
you jumped in with all your clothes on——”
“Of course, yes,” said Mortimer. “I remember now. It was the day I
did the long seventh in five. I got off a good tee-shot straight down
the fairway, took a baffy for my second, and——But that is not the
point. It is sweet and generous of you to think so highly of what was
the merest commonplace act of ordinary politeness, but I must repeat,
that judged by the standards of your snowy purity, I am not a good man.
I do not come to you clean and spotless as a young girl should expect
her husband to come to her. Once, playing in a foursome, my ball fell
in some long grass. Nobody was near me. We had no caddies, and the
others were on the fairway. God knows——” His voice shook. “God knows
I struggled against the temptation. But I fell. I kicked the ball on to
a little bare mound, from which it was an easy task with a nice
half-mashie to reach the green for a snappy seven. Mary, there have
been times when, going round by myself, I have allowed myself ten-foot
putts on three holes in succession, simply in order to be able to say I
had done the course in under a hundred. Ah! you shrink from me! You are
“I'm not disgusted! And I don't shrink! I only shivered because it
is rather cold.”
“Then you can love me in spite of my past?”
She fell into his arms.
“My dearest,” he said presently, “what a happy life ours will be.
That is, if you do not find that you have made a mistake.”
“A mistake!” she cried, scornfully.
“Well, my handicap is twelve, you know, and not so darned twelve at
that. There are days when I play my second from the fairway of the next
hole but one, days when I couldn't putt into a coal-hole with
'Welcome!' written over it. And you are a Ladies' Open Champion. Still,
if you think it's all right——. Oh, Mary, you little know how I have
dreamed of some day marrying a really first-class golfer! Yes, that was
my vision—of walking up the aisle with some sweet plus two girl on my
arm. You shivered again. You are catching cold.”
“It is a little cold,” said the girl. She spoke in a small voice.
“Let me take you in, sweetheart,” said Mortimer. “I'll just put you
in a comfortable chair with a nice cup of coffee, and then I think I
really must come out again and tramp about and think how perfectly
splendid everything is.”
* * * * *
They were married a few weeks later, very quietly, in the little
village church of Saint Brule. The secretary of the local golf-club
acted as best man for Mortimer, and a girl from the hotel was the only
bridesmaid. The whole business was rather a disappointment to Mortimer,
who had planned out a somewhat florid ceremony at St. George's, Hanover
Square, with the Vicar of Tooting (a scratch player excellent at short
approach shots) officiating, and “The Voice That Breathed O'er St.
Andrews” boomed from the organ. He had even had the idea of copying the
military wedding and escorting his bride out of the church under an
arch of crossed cleeks. But she would have none of this pomp. She
insisted on a quiet wedding, and for the honeymoon trip preferred a
tour through Italy. Mortimer, who had wanted to go to Scotland to visit
the birthplace of James Braid, yielded amiably, for he loved her
dearly. But he did not think much of Italy. In Rome, the great
monuments of the past left him cold. Of the Temple of Vespasian, all he
thought was that it would be a devil of a place to be bunkered behind.
The Colosseum aroused a faint spark of interest in him, as he
speculated whether Abe Mitchell would use a full brassey to carry it.
In Florence, the view over the Tuscan Hills from the Torre Rosa,
Fiesole, over which his bride waxed enthusiastic, seemed to him merely
a nasty bit of rough which would take a deal of getting out if.
And so, in the fullness of time, they came home to Mortimer's cosy
little house adjoining the links.
* * * * *
Mortimer was so busy polishing his ninety-four clubs on the evening
of their arrival that he failed to notice that his wife was
preoccupied. A less busy man would have perceived at a glance that she
was distinctly nervous. She started at sudden noises, and once, when he
tried the newest of his mashie-niblicks and broke one of the
drawing-room windows, she screamed sharply. In short her manner was
strange, and, if Edgar Allen Poe had put her into “The Fall Of the
House of Usher", she would have fitted it like the paper on the wall.
She had the air of one waiting tensely for the approach of some
imminent doom. Mortimer, humming gaily to himself as he sand-papered
the blade of his twenty-second putter, observed none of this. He was
thinking of the morrow's play.
“Your wrist's quite well again now, darling, isn't it?” he said.
“Yes. Yes, quite well.”
“Fine!” said Mortimer. “We'll breakfast early—say at half-past
seven—and then we'll be able to get in a couple of rounds before
lunch. A couple more in the afternoon will about see us through. One
doesn't want to over-golf oneself the first day.” He swung the putter
joyfully. “How had we better play do you think? We might start with you
giving me a half.”
She did not speak. She was very pale. She clutched the arm of her
chair tightly till the knuckles showed white under the skin.
To anybody but Mortimer her nervousness would have been even more
obvious on the following morning, as they reached the first tee. Her
eyes were dull and heavy, and she started when a grasshopper chirruped.
But Mortimer was too occupied with thinking how jolly it was having the
course to themselves to notice anything.
He scooped some sand out of the box, and took a ball out of her bag.
His wedding present to her had been a brand-new golf-bag, six dozen
balls, and a full set of the most expensive clubs, all born in
“Do you like a high tee?” he asked.
“Oh, no,” she replied, coming with a start out of her thoughts.
“Doctors say it's indigestible.”
Mortimer laughed merrily.
“Deuced good!” he chuckled. “Is that your own or did you read it in
a comic paper? There you are!” He placed the ball on a little hill of
sand, and got up. “Now let's see some of that championship form of
She burst into tears.
Mortimer ran to her and put his arms round her. She tried weakly to
push him away.
“My angel! What is it?”
She sobbed brokenly. Then, with an effort, she spoke.
“Mortimer, I have deceived you!”
“I have never played golf in my life! I don't even know how to hold
Mortimer's heart stood still. This sounded like the gibberings of an
unbalanced mind, and no man likes his wife to begin gibbering
immediately after the honeymoon.
“My precious! You are not yourself!”
“I am! That's the whole trouble! I'm myself and not the girl you
thought I was!”
Mortimer stared at her, puzzled. He was thinking that it was a
little difficult and that, to work it out properly, he would need a
pencil and a bit of paper.
“My name is not Mary!”
“But you said it was.”
“I didn't. You asked if you could call me Mary, and I said you
might, because I loved you too much to deny your smallest whim. I was
going on to say that it wasn't my name, but you interrupted me.”
“Not Mary!” The horrid truth was coming home to Mortimer. “You were
not Mary Somerset?”
“Mary is my cousin. My name is Mabel.”
“But you said you had sprained your wrist playing in the
“So I had. The mallet slipped in my hand.”
“The mallet!” Mortimer clutched at his forehead. “You didn't say
“Yes, Mortimer! The mallet!”
A faint blush of shame mantled her cheek, and into her blue eyes
there came a look of pain, but she faced him bravely.
“I am the Ladies' Open Croquet Champion!” she whispered.
Mortimer Sturgis cried aloud, a cry that was like the shriek of some
“Croquet!” He gulped, and stared at her with unseeing eyes. He was
no prude, but he had those decent prejudices of which no
self-respecting man can wholly rid himself, however broad-minded he may
try to be. “Croquet!”
There was a long silence. The light breeze sang in the pines above
them. The grasshoppers chirrupped at their feet.
She began to speak again in a low, monotonous voice.
“I blame myself! I should have told you before, while there was yet
time for you to withdraw. I should have confessed this to you that
night on the terrace in the moonlight. But you swept me off my feet,
and I was in your arms before I realized what you would think of me. It
was only then that I understood what my supposed skill at golf meant to
you, and then it was too late. I loved you too much to let you go! I
could not bear the thought of you recoiling from me. Oh, I was
mad—mad! I knew that I could not keep up the deception for ever, that
you must find me out in time. But I had a wild hope that by then we
should be so close to one another that you might find it in your heart
to forgive. But I was wrong. I see it now. There are some things that
no man can forgive. Some things,” she repeated, dully, “which no man
She turned away. Mortimer awoke from his trance.
“Stop!” he cried. “Don't go!”
“I must go.”
“I want to talk this over.”
She shook her head sadly and started to walk slowly across the
sunlit grass. Mortimer watched her, his brain in a whirl of chaotic
thoughts. She disappeared through the trees.
Mortimer sat down on the tee-box, and buried his face in his hands.
For a time he could think of nothing but the cruel blow he had
received. This was the end of those rainbow visions of himself and her
going through life side by side, she lovingly criticizing his stance
and his back-swing, he learning wisdom from her. A croquet-player! He
was married to a woman who hit coloured balls through hoops. Mortimer
Sturgis writhed in torment. A strong man's agony.
The mood passed. How long it had lasted, he did not know. But
suddenly, as he sat there, he became once more aware of the glow of the
sunshine and the singing of the birds. It was as if a shadow had
lifted. Hope and optimism crept into his heart.
He loved her. He loved her still. She was part of him, and nothing
that she could do had power to alter that. She had deceived him, yes.
But why had she deceived him? Because she loved him so much that she
could not bear to lose him. Dash it all, it was a bit of a compliment.
And, after all, poor girl, was it her fault? Was it not rather the
fault of her upbringing? Probably she had been taught to play croquet
when a mere child, hardly able to distinguish right from wrong. No
steps had been taken to eradicate the virus from her system, and the
thing had become chronic. Could she be blamed? Was she not more to be
pitied than censured?
Mortimer rose to his feet, his heart swelling with generous
forgiveness. The black horror had passed from him. The future seemed
once more bright. It was not too late. She was still young, many years
younger than he himself had been when he took up golf, and surely, if
she put herself into the hands of a good specialist and practised every
day, she might still hope to become a fair player. He reached the house
and ran in, calling her name.
No answer came. He sped from room to room, but all were empty.
She had gone. The house was there. The furniture was there. The
canary sang in its cage, the cook in the kitchen. The pictures still
hung on the walls. But she had gone. Everything was at home except his
Finally, propped up against the cup he had once won in a handicap
competition, he saw a letter. With a sinking heart he tore open the
It was a pathetic, a tragic letter, the letter of a woman
endeavouring to express all the anguish of a torn heart with one of
those fountain-pens which suspend the flow of ink about twice in every
three words. The gist of it was that she felt she had wronged him;
that, though he might forgive, he could never forget; and that she was
going away, away out into the world alone.
Mortimer sank into a chair, and stared blankly before him. She had
scratched the match.
* * * * *
I am not a married man myself, so have had no experience of how it
feels to have one's wife whizz off silently into the unknown; but I
should imagine that it must be something like taking a full swing with
a brassey and missing the ball. Something, I take it, of the same sense
of mingled shock, chagrin, and the feeling that nobody loves one, which
attacks a man in such circumstances, must come to the bereaved husband.
And one can readily understand how terribly the incident must have
shaken Mortimer Sturgis. I was away at the time, but I am told by those
who saw him that his game went all to pieces.
He had never shown much indication of becoming anything in the
nature of a first-class golfer, but he had managed to acquire one or
two decent shots. His work with the light iron was not at all bad, and
he was a fairly steady putter. But now, under the shadow of this
tragedy, he dropped right back to the form of his earliest period. It
was a pitiful sight to see this gaunt, haggard man with the look of
dumb anguish behind his spectacles taking as many as three shots
sometimes to get past the ladies' tee. His slice, of which he had
almost cured himself, returned with such virulence that in the list of
ordinary hazards he had now to include the tee-box. And, when he was
not slicing, he was pulling. I have heard that he was known, when
driving at the sixth, to get bunkered in his own caddie, who had taken
up his position directly behind him. As for the deep sand-trap in front
of the seventh green, he spent so much of his time in it that there was
some informal talk among the members of the committee of charging him a
small weekly rent.
A man of comfortable independent means, he lived during these days
on next to nothing. Golf-balls cost him a certain amount, but the bulk
of his income he spent in efforts to discover his wife's whereabouts.
He advertised in all the papers. He employed private detectives. He
even, much as it revolted his finer instincts, took to travelling about
the country, watching croquet matches. But she was never among the
players. I am not sure that he did not find a melancholy comfort in
this, for it seemed to show that, whatever his wife might be and
whatever she might be doing, she had not gone right under.
Summer passed. Autumn came and went. Winter arrived. The days grew
bleak and chill, and an early fall of snow, heavier than had been known
at that time of the year for a long while, put an end to golf. Mortimer
spent his days indoors, staring gloomily through the window at the
white mantle that covered the earth.
It was Christmas Eve.
* * * * *
The young man shifted uneasily on his seat. His face was long and
“All this is very depressing,” he said.
“These soul tragedies,” agreed the Oldest Member, “are never very
“Look here,” said the young man, firmly, “tell me one thing frankly,
as man to man. Did Mortimer find her dead in the snow, covered except
for her face, on which still lingered that faint, sweet smile which he
remembered so well? Because, if he did, I'm going home.”
“No, no,” protested the Oldest Member. “Nothing of that kind.”
“You're sure? You aren't going to spring it on me suddenly?”
The young man breathed a relieved sigh.
“It was your saying that about the white mantle covering the earth
that made me suspicious.”
The Sage resumed.
* * * * *
It was Christmas Eve. All day the snow had been falling, and now it
lay thick and deep over the countryside. Mortimer Sturgis, his frugal
dinner concluded—what with losing his wife and not being able to get
any golf, he had little appetite these days—was sitting in his
drawing-room, moodily polishing the blade of his jigger. Soon wearying
of this once congenial task, he laid down the club and went to the
front door to see if there was any chance of a thaw. But no. It was
freezing. The snow, as he tested it with his shoe, crackled crisply.
The sky above was black and full of cold stars. It seemed to Mortimer
that the sooner he packed up and went to the South of France, the
better. He was just about to close the door, when suddenly he thought
he heard his own name called.
Had he been mistaken? The voice had sounded faint and far away.
He thrilled from head to foot. This time there could be no mistake.
It was the voice he knew so well, his wife's voice, and it had come
from somewhere down near the garden-gate. It is difficult to judge
distance where sounds are concerned, but Mortimer estimated that the
voice had spoken about a short mashie-niblick and an easy putt from
where he stood.
The next moment he was racing down the snow-covered path. And then
his heart stood still. What was that dark something on the ground just
inside the gate? He leaped towards it. He passed his hands over it. It
was a human body. Quivering, he struck a match. It went out. He struck
another. That went out, too. He struck a third, and it burnt with a
steady flame; and, stooping, he saw that it was his wife who lay there,
cold and stiff. Her eyes were closed, and on her face still lingered
that faint, sweet smile which he remembered so well.
* * * * *
The young man rose with a set face. He reached for his golf-bag.
“I call that a dirty trick,” he said, “after you promised—” The
Sage waved him back to his seat.
“Have no fear! She had only fainted.”
“You said she was cold.”
“Wouldn't you be cold if you were lying in the snow?”
“Mrs. Sturgis was stiff because the train-service was bad, it being
the holiday-season, and she had had to walk all the way from the
junction, a distance of eight miles. Sit down and allow me to proceed.”
* * * * *
Tenderly, reverently Mortimer Sturgis picked her up and began to
bear her into the house. Half-way there, his foot slipped on a piece of
ice and he fell heavily, barking his shin and shooting his lovely
burden out on to the snow.
The fall brought her to. She opened her eyes.
“Mortimer, darling!” she said.
Mortimer had just been going to say something else, but he checked
“Are you alive?” he asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Thank God!” said Mortimer, scooping some of the snow out of the
back of his collar.
Together they went into the house, and into the drawing-room. Wife
gazed at husband, husband at wife. There was a silence.
“Rotten weather!” said Mortimer.
“Yes, isn't it!”
The spell was broken. They fell into each other's arms. And
presently they were sitting side by side on the sofa, holding hands,
just as if that awful parting had been but a dream.
It was Mortimer who made the first reference to it.
“I say, you know,” he said, “you oughtn't to have nipped away like
“I thought you hated me!”
“Hated you! I love you better than life itself! I would
sooner have smashed my pet driver than have had you leave me!”
She thrilled at the words.
Mortimer fondled her hand.
“I was just coming back to tell you that I loved you still. I was
going to suggest that you took lessons from some good professional. And
I found you gone!”
“I wasn't worthy of you, Mortimer!”
“My angel!” He pressed his lips to her hair, and spoke solemnly.
“All this has taught me a lesson, dearest. I knew all along, and I know
it more than ever now, that it is you—you that I want. Just you! I
don't care if you don't play golf. I don't care——” He hesitated, then
went on manfully. “I don't care even if you play croquet, so long as
you are with me!”
For a moment her face showed rapture that made it almost angelic.
She uttered a low moan of ecstasy. She kissed him. Then she rose.
“Me. Just look!”
The jigger which he had been polishing lay on a chair close by. She
took it up. From the bowl of golf-balls on the mantelpiece she selected
a brand new one. She placed it on the carpet. She addressed it. Then,
with a merry cry of “Fore!” she drove it hard and straight through the
glass of the china-cupboard.
“Good God!” cried Mortimer, astounded. It had been a bird of a shot.
She turned to him, her whole face alight with that beautiful smile.
“When I left you, Mortie,” she said, “I had but one aim in life,
somehow to make myself worthy of you. I saw your advertisements in the
papers, and I longed to answer them, but I was not ready. All this
long, weary while I have been in the village of Auchtermuchtie, in
Scotland, studying under Tamms McMickle.”
“Not the Tamms McMickle who finished fourth in the Open Championship
of 1911, and had the best ball in the foursome in 1912 with Jock
McHaggis, Andy McHeather, and Sandy McHoots!”
“Yes, Mortimer, the very same. Oh, it was difficult at first. I
missed my mallet, and long to steady the ball with my foot and use the
toe of the club. Wherever there was a direction post I aimed at it
automatically. But I conquered my weakness. I practised steadily. And
now Mr. McMickle says my handicap would be a good twenty-four on any
links.” She smiled apologetically. “Of course, that doesn't sound much
to you! You were a twelve when I left you, and now I suppose you are
down to eight or something.”
Mortimer shook his head.
“Alas, no!” he replied, gravely. “My game went right off for some
reason or other, and I'm twenty-four, too.”
“For some reason or other!” She uttered a cry. “Oh, I know what the
reason was! How can I ever forgive myself! I have ruined your game!”
The brightness came back to Mortimer's eyes. He embraced her fondly.
“Do not reproach yourself, dearest,” he murmured. “It is the best
thing that could have happened. From now on, we start level, two hearts
that beat as one, two drivers that drive as one. I could not wish it
otherwise. By George! It's just like that thing of Tennyson's.”
He recited the lines softly:
My wife, my life. Oh, we will walk the links
Yoked in all exercise of noble end,
And so thro' those dark bunkers off the course
That no man knows. Indeed, I love thee: come,
Yield thyself up: our handicaps are one;
Accomplish thou my manhood and thyself;
Lay thy sweet hands in mine and trust to me.
She laid her hands in his.
“And now, Mortie, darling,” she said, “I want to tell you all about
how I did the long twelfth at Auchtermuchtie in one under bogey.”
5. The Salvation of George
The young man came into the club-house. There was a frown on his
usually cheerful face, and he ordered a ginger-ale in the sort of voice
which an ancient Greek would have used when asking the executioner to
bring on the hemlock.
Sunk in the recesses of his favourite settee the Oldest Member had
watched him with silent sympathy.
“How did you get on?” he inquired.
“He beat me.”
The Oldest Member nodded his venerable head.
“You have had a trying time, if I am not mistaken. I feared as much
when I saw you go out with Pobsley. How many a young man have I seen go
out with Herbert Pobsley exulting in his youth, and crawl back at
eventide looking like a toad under the harrow! He talked?”
“All the time, confound it! Put me right off my stroke.”
The Oldest Member sighed.
“The talking golfer is undeniably the most pronounced pest of our
complex modern civilization,” he said, “and the most difficult to deal
with. It is a melancholy thought that the noblest of games should have
produced such a scourge. I have frequently marked Herbert Pobsley in
action. As the crackling of thorns under a pot.... He is almost as bad
as poor George Mackintosh in his worst period. Did I ever tell you
about George Mackintosh?”
“I don't think so.”
“His,” said the Sage, “is the only case of golfing garrulity I have
ever known where a permanent cure was affected. If you would care to
hear about it——?”
* * * * *
George Mackintosh (said the Oldest Member), when I first knew him,
was one of the most admirable young fellows I have ever met. A
handsome, well-set-up man, with no vices except a tendency to use the
mashie for shots which should have been made with the light iron. And
as for his positive virtues, they were too numerous to mention. He
never swayed his body, moved his head, or pressed. He was always ready
to utter a tactful grunt when his opponent foozled. And when he himself
achieved a glaring fluke, his self-reproachful click of the tongue was
music to his adversary's bruised soul. But of all his virtues the one
that most endeared him to me and to all thinking men was the fact that,
from the start of a round to the finish, he never spoke a word except
when absolutely compelled to do so by the exigencies of the game. And
it was this man who subsequently, for a black period which lives in the
memory of all his contemporaries, was known as Gabby George and became
a shade less popular than the germ of Spanish Influenza. Truly,
corruptio optimi pessima!
One of the things that sadden a man as he grows older and reviews
his life is the reflection that his most devastating deeds were
generally the ones which he did with the best motives. The thought is
disheartening. I can honestly say that, when George Mackintosh came to
me and told me his troubles, my sole desire was to ameliorate his lot.
That I might be starting on the downward path a man whom I liked and
respected never once occurred to me.
One night after dinner when George Mackintosh came in, I could see
at once that there was something on his mind, but what this could be I
was at a loss to imagine, for I had been playing with him myself all
the afternoon, and he had done an eighty-one and a seventy-nine. And,
as I had not left the links till dusk was beginning to fall, it was
practically impossible that he could have gone out again and done
badly. The idea of financial trouble seemed equally out of the
question. George had a good job with the old-established legal firm of
Peabody, Peabody, Peabody, Peabody, Cootes, Toots, and Peabody. The
third alternative, that he might be in love, I rejected at once. In all
the time I had known him I had never seen a sign that George Mackintosh
gave a thought to the opposite sex.
Yet this, bizarre as it seemed, was the true solution. Scarcely had
he seated himself and lit a cigar when he blurted out his confession.
“What would you do in a case like this?” he said.
“Well——” He choked, and a rich blush permeated his surface. “Well,
it seems a silly thing to say and all that, but I'm in love with Miss
Tennant, you know!”
“You are in love with Celia Tennant?”
“Of course I am. I've got eyes, haven't I? Who else is there that
any sane man could possibly be in love with? That,” he went on,
moodily, “is the whole trouble. There's a field of about twenty-nine,
and I should think my place in the betting is about thirty-three to
“I cannot agree with you there,” I said. “You have every advantage,
it appears to me. You are young, amiable, good-looking, comfortably
“But I can't talk, confound it!” he burst out. “And how is a man to
get anywhere at this sort of game without talking?”
“You are talking perfectly fluently now.”
“Yes, to you. But put me in front of Celia Tennant, and I simply
make a sort of gurgling noise like a sheep with the botts. It kills my
chances stone dead. You know these other men. I can give Claude
Mainwaring a third and beat him. I can give Eustace Brinkley a stroke a
hole and simply trample on his corpse. But when it comes to talking to
a girl, I'm not in their class.”
“You must not be diffident.”
“But I am diffident. What's the good of saying I mustn't be
diffident when I'm the man who wrote the words and music, when
Diffidence is my middle name and my telegraphic address? I can't help
“Surely you could overcome it?”
“But how? It was in the hope that you might be able to suggest
something that I came round tonight.”
And this was where I did the fatal thing. It happened that, just
before I took up “Braid on the Push-Shot,” I had been dipping into the
current number of a magazine, and one of the advertisements, I chanced
to remember, might have been framed with a special eye to George's
unfortunate case. It was that one, which I have no doubt you have seen,
which treats of “How to Become a Convincing Talker”. I picked up this
magazine now and handed it to George.
He studied it for a few minutes in thoughtful silence. He looked at
the picture of the Man who had taken the course being fawned upon by
lovely women, while the man who had let this opportunity slip stood
outside the group gazing with a wistful envy.
“They never do that to me,” said George.
“Do what, my boy?”
“Cluster round, clinging cooingly.”
“I gather from the letterpress that they will if you write for the
“You think there is really something in it?”
“I see no reason why eloquence should not be taught by mail. One
seems to be able to acquire every other desirable quality in that
“I might try it. After all, it's not expensive. There's no doubt
about it,” he murmured, returning to his perusal, “that fellow does
look popular. Of course, the evening dress may have something to do
“Not at all. The other man, you will notice, is also wearing evening
dress, and yet he is merely among those on the outskirts. It is simply
a question of writing for the booklet.”
“Sent post free.”
“Sent, as you say, post free.”
“I've a good mind to try it.”
“I see no reason why you should not.”
“I will, by Duncan!” He tore the page out of the magazine and put it
in his pocket. “I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll give this thing a
trial for a week or two, and at the end of that time I'll go to the
boss and see how he reacts when I ask for a rise of salary. If he
crawls, it'll show there's something in this. If he flings me out, it
will prove the thing's no good.”
We left it at that, and I am bound to say—owing, no doubt, to my
not having written for the booklet of the Memory Training Course
advertised on the adjoining page of the magazine—the matter slipped
from my mind. When, therefore, a few weeks later, I received a telegram
from young Mackintosh which ran:
Worked like magic,
I confess I was intensely puzzled. It was only a quarter of an hour
before George himself arrived that I solved the problem of its meaning.
“So the boss crawled?” I said, as he came in.
He gave a light, confident laugh. I had not seen him, as I say, for
some time, and I was struck by the alteration in his appearance. In
what exactly this alteration consisted I could not at first have said;
but gradually it began to impress itself on me that his eye was
brighter, his jaw squarer, his carriage a trifle more upright than it
had been. But it was his eye that struck me most forcibly. The George
Mackintosh I had known had had a pleasing gaze, but, though frank and
agreeable, it had never been more dynamic than a fried egg. This new
George had an eye that was a combination of a gimlet and a searchlight.
Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, I imagine, must have been somewhat
similarly equipped. The Ancient Mariner stopped a wedding guest on his
way to a wedding; George Mackintosh gave me the impression that he
could have stopped the Cornish Riviera express on its way to Penzance.
Self-confidence—aye, and more than self-confidence—a sort of sinful,
overbearing swank seemed to exude from his very pores.
“Crawled?” he said. “Well, he didn't actually lick my boots, because
I saw him coming and side-stepped; but he did everything short of that.
I hadn't been talking an hour when——”
“An hour!” I gasped. “Did you talk for an hour?”
“Certainly. You wouldn't have had me be abrupt, would you? I went
into his private office and found him alone. I think at first he would
have been just as well pleased if I had retired. In fact, he said as
much. But I soon adjusted that outlook. I took a seat and a cigarette,
and then I started to sketch out for him the history of my connection
with the firm. He began to wilt before the end of the first ten
minutes. At the quarter of an hour mark he was looking at me like a
lost dog that's just found its owner. By the half-hour he was making
little bleating noises and massaging my coat-sleeve. And when, after
perhaps an hour and a half, I came to my peroration and suggested a
rise, he choked back a sob, gave me double what I had asked, and
invited me to dine at his club next Tuesday. I'm a little sorry now I
cut the thing so short. A few minutes more, and I fancy he would have
given me his sock-suspenders and made over his life-insurance in my
“Well,” I said, as soon as I could speak, for I was finding my young
friend a trifle overpowering, “this is most satisfactory.”
“So-so,” said George. “Not un-so-so. A man wants an addition to his
income when he is going to get married.”
“Ah!” I said. “That, of course, will be the real test.”
“What do you mean?”
“Why, when you propose to Celia Tennant. You remember you were
saying when we spoke of this before—”
“Oh, that!” said George, carelessly. “I've arranged all that.”
“Oh, yes. On my way up from the station. I looked in on Celia about
an hour ago, and it's all settled.”
“Well, I don't know. I just put the thing to her, and she seemed to
“I congratulate you. So now, like Alexander, you have no more worlds
“Well, I don't know so much about that,” said George. “The way it
looks to me is that I'm just starting. This eloquence is a thing that
rather grows on one. You didn't hear about my after-dinner speech at
the anniversary banquet of the firm, I suppose? My dear fellow, a riot!
A positive stampede. Had 'em laughing and then crying and then laughing
again and then crying once more till six of 'em had to be led out and
the rest down with hiccoughs. Napkins waving ... three tables broken
... waiters in hysterics. I tell you, I played on them as on a stringed
“Can you play on a stringed instrument?”
“As it happens, no. But as I would have played on a stringed
instrument if I could play on a stringed instrument. Wonderful sense of
power it gives you. I mean to go in pretty largely for that sort of
thing in future.”
“You must not let it interfere with your golf.”
He gave a laugh which turned my blood cold.
“Golf!” he said. “After all, what is golf? Just pushing a small ball
into a hole. A child could do it. Indeed, children have done it with
great success. I see an infant of fourteen has just won some sort of
championship. Could that stripling convulse a roomful of banqueters? I
think not! To sway your fellow-men with a word, to hold them with a
gesture ... that is the real salt of life. I don't suppose I shall play
much more golf now. I'm making arrangements for a lecturing-tour, and
I'm booked up for fifteen lunches already.”
Those were his words. A man who had once done the lake-hole in one.
A man whom the committee were grooming for the amateur championship. I
am no weakling, but I confess they sent a chill shiver down my spine.
* * * * *
George Mackintosh did not, I am glad to say, carry out his mad
project to the letter. He did not altogether sever himself from golf.
He was still to be seen occasionally on the links. But now—and I know
of nothing more tragic that can befall a man—he found himself
gradually shunned, he who in the days of his sanity had been besieged
with more offers of games than he could manage to accept. Men simply
would not stand his incessant flow of talk. One by one they dropped
off, until the only person he could find to go round with him was old
Major Moseby, whose hearing completely petered out as long ago as the
year '98. And, of course, Celia Tennant would play with him
occasionally; but it seemed to me that even she, greatly as no doubt
she loved him, was beginning to crack under the strain.
So surely had I read the pallor of her face and the wild look of
dumb agony in her eyes that I was not surprised when, as I sat one
morning in my garden reading Ray on Taking Turf, my man announced her
name. I had been half expecting her to come to me for advice and
consolation, for I had known her ever since she was a child. It was I
who had given her her first driver and taught her infant lips to lisp
“Fore!” It is not easy to lisp the word “Fore!” but I had taught her to
do it, and this constituted a bond between us which had been
strengthened rather than weakened by the passage of time.
She sat down on the grass beside my chair, and looked up at my face
in silent pain. We had known each other so long that I know that it was
not my face that pained her, but rather some unspoken malaise of
the soul. I waited for her to speak, and suddenly she burst out
impetuously as though she could hold back her sorrow no longer.
“Oh, I can't stand it! I can't stand it!”
“You mean...?” I said, though I knew only too well.
“This horrible obsession of poor George's,” she cried passionately.
“I don't think he has stopped talking once since we have been engaged.”
“He is chatty,” I agreed. “Has he told you the story about
“Half a dozen times. And the one about the Swede oftener than that.
But I would not mind an occasional anecdote. Women have to learn to
bear anecdotes from the men they love. It is the curse of Eve. It is
his incessant easy flow of chatter on all topics that is undermining
even my devotion.”
“But surely, when he proposed to you, he must have given you an
inkling of the truth. He only hinted at it when he spoke to me, but I
gather that he was eloquent.”
“When he proposed,” said Celia dreamily, “he was wonderful. He spoke
for twenty minutes without stopping. He said I was the essence of his
every hope, the tree on which the fruit of his life grew; his Present,
his Future, his Past ... oh, and all that sort of thing. If he would
only confine his conversation now to remarks of a similar nature, I
could listen to him all day long. But he doesn't. He talks politics and
statistics and philosophy and ... oh, and everything. He makes my head
“And your heart also, I fear,” I said gravely.
“I love him!” she replied simply. “In spite of everything, I love
him dearly. But what to do? What to do? I have an awful fear that when
we are getting married instead of answering 'I will,' he will go into
the pulpit and deliver an address on Marriage Ceremonies of All Ages.
The world to him is a vast lecture-platform. He looks on life as one
long after-dinner, with himself as the principal speaker of the
evening. It is breaking my heart. I see him shunned by his former
friends. Shunned! They run a mile when they see him coming. The mere
sound of his voice outside the club-house is enough to send brave men
diving for safety beneath the sofas. Can you wonder that I am in
despair? What have I to live for?”
“There is always golf.”
“Yes, there is always golf,” she whispered bravely.
“Come and have a round this afternoon.”
“I had promised to go for a walk ...” She shuddered, then pulled
herself together. “... for a walk with George.”
I hesitated for a moment.
“Bring him along,” I said, and patted her hand. “It may be that
together we shall find an opportunity of reasoning with him.”
She shook her head.
“You can't reason with George. He never stops talking long enough to
give you time.”
“Nevertheless, there is no harm in trying. I have an idea that this
malady of his is not permanent and incurable. The very violence with
which the germ of loquacity has attacked him gives me hope. You must
remember that before this seizure he was rather a noticeably silent
man. Sometimes I think that it is just Nature's way of restoring the
average, and that soon the fever may burn itself out. Or it may be that
a sudden shock ... At any rate, have courage.”
“I will try to be brave.”
“Capital! At half-past two on the first tee, then.”
“You will have to give me a stroke on the third, ninth, twelfth,
fifteenth, sixteenth and eighteenth,” she said, with a quaver in her
voice. “My golf has fallen off rather lately.”
I patted her hand again.
“I understand,” I said gently. “I understand.”
* * * * *
The steady drone of a baritone voice as I alighted from my car and
approached the first tee told me that George had not forgotten the
tryst. He was sitting on the stone seat under the chestnut-tree,
speaking a few well-chosen words on the Labour Movement.
“To what conclusion, then, do we come?” he was saying. “We come to
the foregone and inevitable conclusion that....”
“Good afternoon, George,” I said.
He nodded briefly, but without verbal salutation. He seemed to
regard my remark as he would have regarded the unmannerly heckling of
some one at the back of the hall. He proceeded evenly with his speech,
and was still talking when Celia addressed her ball and drove off. Her
drive, coinciding with a sharp rhetorical question from George, wavered
in mid-air, and the ball trickled off into the rough half-way down the
hill. I can see the poor girl's tortured face even now. But she
breathed no word of reproach. Such is the miracle of women's love.
“Where you went wrong there,” said George, breaking off his remarks
on Labour, “was that you have not studied the dynamics of golf
sufficiently. You did not pivot properly. You allowed your left heel to
point down the course when you were at the top of your swing. This
makes for instability and loss of distance. The fundamental law of the
dynamics of golf is that the left foot shall be solidly on the ground
at the moment of impact. If you allow your heel to point down the
course, it is almost impossible to bring it back in time to make the
foot a solid fulcrum.”
I drove, and managed to clear the rough and reach the fairway. But
it was not one of my best drives. George Mackintosh, I confess, had
unnerved me. The feeling he gave me resembled the self-conscious panic
which I used to experience in my childhood when informed that there was
One Awful Eye that watched my every movement and saw my every act. It
was only the fact that poor Celia appeared even more affected by his
espionage that enabled me to win the first hole in seven.
On the way to the second tee George discoursed on the beauties of
Nature, pointing out at considerable length how exquisitely the silver
glitter of the lake harmonized with the vivid emerald turf near the
hole and the duller green of the rough beyond it. As Celia teed up her
ball, he directed her attention to the golden glory of the sand-pit to
the left of the flag. It was not the spirit in which to approach the
lake-hole, and I was not surprised when the unfortunate girl's ball
fell with a sickening plop half-way across the water.
“Where you went wrong there,” said George, “was that you made the
stroke a sudden heave instead of a smooth, snappy flick of the wrists.
Pressing is always bad, but with the mashie——”
“I think I will give you this hole,” said Celia to me, for my shot
had cleared the water and was lying on the edge of the green. “I wish I
hadn't used a new ball.”
“The price of golf-balls,” said George, as we started to round the
lake, “is a matter to which economists should give some attention. I am
credibly informed that rubber at the present time is exceptionally
cheap. Yet we see no decrease in the price of golf-balls, which, as I
need scarcely inform you, are rubber-cored. Why should this be so? You
will say that the wages of skilled labour have gone up. True. But——”
“One moment, George, while I drive,” I said. For we had now arrived
at the third tee.
“A curious thing, concentration,” said George, “and why certain
phenomena should prevent us from focusing our attention——This brings
me to the vexed question of sleep. Why is it that we are able to sleep
through some vast convulsion of Nature when a dripping tap is enough to
keep us awake? I am told that there were people who slumbered
peacefully through the San Francisco earthquake, merely stirring
drowsily from time to time to tell an imaginary person to leave it on
the mat. Yet these same people——”
Celia's drive bounded into the deep ravine which yawns some fifty
yards from the tee. A low moan escaped her.
“Where you went wrong there——” said George.
“I know,” said Celia. “I lifted my head.”
I had never heard her speak so abruptly before. Her manner, in a
girl less noticeably pretty, might almost have been called snappish.
George, however, did not appear to have noticed anything amiss. He
filled his pipe and followed her into the ravine.
“Remarkable,” he said, “how fundamental a principle of golf is this
keeping the head still. You will hear professionals tell their pupils
to keep their eye on the ball. Keeping the eye on the ball is only a
secondary matter. What they really mean is that the head should be kept
rigid, as otherwise it is impossible to——”
His voice died away. I had sliced my drive into the woods on the
right, and after playing another had gone off to try to find my ball,
leaving Celia and George in the ravine behind me. My last glimpse of
them showed me that her ball had fallen into a stone-studded cavity in
the side of the hill, and she was drawing her niblick from her bag as I
passed out of sight. George's voice, blurred by distance to a
monotonous murmur, followed me until I was out of earshot.
I was just about to give up the hunt for my ball in despair, when I
heard Celia's voice calling to me from the edge of the undergrowth.
There was a sharp note in it which startled me.
I came out, trailing a portion of some unknown shrub which had
twined itself about my ankle.
“Yes?” I said, picking twigs out of my hair.
“I want your advice,” said Celia.
“Certainly. What is the trouble? By the way,” I said, looking round,
“where is your fiance?”
“I have no fiance,” she said, in a dull, hard voice.
“You have broken off the engagement?”
“Not exactly. And yet—well, I suppose it amounts to that.”
“I don't quite understand.”
“Well, the fact is,” said Celia, in a burst of girlish frankness, “I
rather think I've killed George.”
“Killed him, eh?”
It was a solution that had not occurred to me, but now that it was
presented for my inspection I could see its merits. In these days of
national effort, when we are all working together to try to make our
beloved land fit for heroes to live in, it was astonishing that nobody
before had thought of a simple, obvious thing like killing George
Mackintosh. George Mackintosh was undoubtedly better dead, but it had
taken a woman's intuition to see it.
“I killed him with my niblick,” said Celia.
I nodded. If the thing was to be done at all, it was unquestionably
a niblick shot.
“I had just made my eleventh attempt to get out of that ravine,” the
girl went on, “with George talking all the time about the recent
excavations in Egypt, when suddenly—you know what it is when something
seems to snap——”
“I had the experience with my shoe-lace only this morning.”
“Yes, it was like that. Sharp—sudden—happening all in a moment. I
suppose I must have said something, for George stopped talking about
Egypt and said that he was reminded by a remark of the last speaker's
of a certain Irishman——-”
I pressed her hand.
“Don't go on if it hurts you,” I said, gently.
“Well, there is very little more to tell. He bent his head to light
his pipe, and well—the temptation was too much for me. That's all.”
“You were quite right.”
“You really think so?”
“I certainly do. A rather similar action, under far less
provocation, once made Jael the wife of Heber the most popular woman in
“I wish I could think so too,” she murmured. “At the moment, you
know, I was conscious of nothing but an awful elation. But—but—oh, he
was such a darling before he got this dreadful affliction. I can't help
thinking of G-George as he used to be.”
She burst into a torrent of sobs.
“Would you care for me to view the remains?” I said.
“Perhaps it would be as well.”
She led me silently into the ravine. George Mackintosh was lying on
his back where he had fallen.
“There!” said Celia.
And, as she spoke, George Mackintosh gave a kind of snorting groan
and sat up. Celia uttered a sharp shriek and sank on her knees before
him. George blinked once or twice and looked about him dazedly.
“Save the women and children!” he cried. “I can swim.”
“Oh, George!” said Celia.
“Feeling a little better?” I asked.
“A little. How many people were hurt?”
“When the express ran into us.” He cast another glance around him.
“Why, how did I get here?”
“You were here all the time,” I said.
“Do you mean after the roof fell in or before?”
Celia was crying quietly down the back of his neck.
“Oh, George!” she said, again.
He groped out feebly for her hand and patted it.
“Brave little woman!” he said. “Brave little woman! She stuck by me
all through. Tell me—I am strong enough to bear it—what caused the
It seemed to me a case where much unpleasant explanation might be
avoided by the exercise of a little tact.
“Well, some say one thing and some another,” I said. “Whether it was
a spark from a cigarette——”
Celia interrupted me. The woman in her made her revolt against this
“I hit you, George!”
“Hit me?” he repeated, curiously. “What with? The Eiffel Tower?”
“With my niblick.”
“You hit me with your niblick? But why?”
She hesitated. Then she faced him bravely.
“Because you wouldn't stop talking.”
“Me!” he said. “I wouldn't stop talking! But I hardly talk at
all. I'm noted for it.”
Celia's eyes met mine in agonized inquiry. But I saw what had
happened. The blow, the sudden shock, had operated on George's
brain-cells in such a way as to effect a complete cure. I have not the
technical knowledge to be able to explain it, but the facts were plain.
“Lately, my dear fellow,” I assured him, “you have dropped into the
habit of talking rather a good deal. Ever since we started out this
afternoon you have kept up an incessant flow of conversation!”
“Me! On the links! It isn't possible.”
“It is only too true, I fear. And that is why this brave girl hit
you with her niblick. You started to tell her a funny story just as she
was making her eleventh shot to get her ball out of this ravine, and
she took what she considered the necessary steps.”
“Can you ever forgive me, George?” cried Celia.
George Mackintosh stared at me. Then a crimson blush mantled his
“So I did! It's all beginning to come back to me. Oh, heavens!”
“Can you forgive me, George?” cried Celia again.
He took her hand in his.
“Forgive you?” he muttered. “Can you forgive me? Me—a
tee-talker, a green-gabbler, a prattler on the links, the lowest form
of life known to science! I am unclean, unclean!”
“It's only a little mud, dearest,” said Celia, looking at the sleeve
of his coat. “It will brush off when it's dry.”
“How can you link your lot with a man who talks when people are
making their shots?”
“You will never do it again.”
“But I have done it. And you stuck to me all through! Oh, Celia!”
“I loved you, George!”
The man seemed to swell with a sudden emotion. His eye lit up, and
he thrust one hand into the breast of his coat while he raised the
other in a sweeping gesture. For an instant he appeared on the verge of
a flood of eloquence. And then, as if he had been made sharply aware of
what it was that he intended to do, he suddenly sagged. The gleam died
out of his eyes. He lowered his hand.
“Well, I must say that was rather decent of you,” he said.
A lame speech, but one that brought an infinite joy to both his
hearers. For it showed that George Mackintosh was cured beyond
possibility of relapse.
“Yes, I must say you are rather a corker,” he added.
“George!” cried Celia.
I said nothing, but I clasped his hand; and then, taking my clubs, I
retired. When I looked round she was still in his arms. I left them
there, alone together in the great silence.
* * * * *
And so (concluded the Oldest Member) you see that a cure is
possible, though it needs a woman's gentle hand to bring it about. And
how few women are capable of doing what Celia Tennant did. Apart from
the difficulty of summoning up the necessary resolution, an act like
hers requires a straight eye and a pair of strong and supple wrists. It
seems to me that for the ordinary talking golfer there is no hope. And
the race seems to be getting more numerous every day. Yet the finest
golfers are always the least loquacious. It is related of the
illustrious Sandy McHoots that when, on the occasion of his winning the
British Open Championship, he was interviewed by reporters from the
leading daily papers as to his views on Tariff Reform, Bimetallism, the
Trial by Jury System, and the Modern Craze for Dancing, all they could
extract from him was the single word “Mphm!” Having uttered which, he
shouldered his bag and went home to tea. A great man. I wish there were
more like him.
6. Ordeal By Golf
A pleasant breeze played among the trees on the terrace outside the
Marvis Bay Golf and Country Club. It ruffled the leaves and cooled the
forehead of the Oldest Member, who, as was his custom of a Saturday
afternoon, sat in the shade on a rocking-chair, observing the younger
generation as it hooked and sliced in the valley below. The eye of the
Oldest Member was thoughtful and reflective. When it looked into yours
you saw in it that perfect peace, that peace beyond understanding,
which comes at its maximum only to the man who has given up golf.
The Oldest Member has not played golf since the rubber-cored ball
superseded the old dignified gutty. But as a spectator and philosopher
he still finds pleasure in the pastime. He is watching it now with keen
interest. His gaze, passing from the lemonade which he is sucking
through a straw, rests upon the Saturday foursome which is struggling
raggedly up the hill to the ninth green. Like all Saturday foursomes,
it is in difficulties. One of the patients is zigzagging about the
fairway like a liner pursued by submarines. Two others seem to be
digging for buried treasure, unless—it is too far off to be
certain—they are killing snakes. The remaining cripple, who has just
foozled a mashie-shot, is blaming his caddie. His voice, as he upbraids
the innocent child for breathing during his up-swing, comes clearly up
The Oldest Member sighs. His lemonade gives a sympathetic gurgle. He
puts it down on the table.
* * * * *
How few men, says the Oldest Member, possess the proper golfing
temperament! How few indeed, judging by the sights I see here on
Saturday afternoons, possess any qualification at all for golf except a
pair of baggy knickerbockers and enough money to enable them to pay for
the drinks at the end of the round. The ideal golfer never loses his
temper. When I played, I never lost my temper. Sometimes, it is true, I
may, after missing a shot, have broken my club across my knees; but I
did it in a calm and judicial spirit, because the club was obviously no
good and I was going to get another one anyway. To lose one's temper at
golf is foolish. It gets you nothing, not even relief. Imitate the
spirit of Marcus Aurelius. “Whatever may befall thee,” says that great
man in his “Meditations", “it was preordained for thee from
everlasting. Nothing happens to anybody which he is not fitted by
nature to bear.” I like to think that this noble thought came to him
after he had sliced a couple of new balls into the woods, and that he
jotted it down on the back of his score-card. For there can be no doubt
that the man was a golfer, and a bad golfer at that. Nobody who had not
had a short putt stop on the edge of the hole could possibly have
written the words: “That which makes the man no worse than he was makes
life no worse. It has no power to harm, without or within.” Yes, Marcus
Aurelius undoubtedly played golf, and all the evidence seems to
indicate that he rarely went round in under a hundred and twenty. The
niblick was his club.
Speaking of Marcus Aurelius and the golfing temperament recalls to
my mind the case of young Mitchell Holmes. Mitchell, when I knew him
first, was a promising young man with a future before him in the
Paterson Dyeing and Refining Company, of which my old friend, Alexander
Paterson, was the president. He had many engaging qualities—among them
an unquestioned ability to imitate a bulldog quarrelling with a
Pekingese in a way which had to be heard to be believed. It was a gift
which made him much in demand at social gatherings in the
neighbourhood, marking him off from other young men who could only
almost play the mandolin or recite bits of Gunga Din; and no doubt it
was this talent of his which first sowed the seeds of love in the heart
of Millicent Boyd. Women are essentially hero-worshippers, and when a
warm-hearted girl like Millicent has heard a personable young man
imitating a bulldog and a Pekingese to the applause of a crowded
drawing-room, and has been able to detect the exact point at which the
Pekingese leaves off and the bulldog begins, she can never feel quite
the same to other men. In short, Mitchell and Millicent were engaged,
and were only waiting to be married till the former could bite the
Dyeing and Refining Company's ear for a bit of extra salary.
Mitchell Holmes had only one fault. He lost his temper when playing
golf. He seldom played a round without becoming piqued, peeved, or—in
many cases—chagrined. The caddies on our links, it was said, could
always worst other small boys in verbal argument by calling them some
of the things they had heard Mitchell call his ball on discovering it
in a cuppy lie. He had a great gift of language, and he used it
unsparingly. I will admit that there was some excuse for the man. He
had the makings of a brilliant golfer, but a combination of bad luck
and inconsistent play invariably robbed him of the fruits of his skill.
He was the sort of player who does the first two holes in one under
bogey and then takes an eleven at the third. The least thing upset him
on the links. He missed short putts because of the uproar of the
butterflies in the adjoining meadows.
It seemed hardly likely that this one kink in an otherwise admirable
character would ever seriously affect his working or professional life,
but it did. One evening, as I was sitting in my garden, Alexander
Paterson was announced. A glance at his face told me that he had come
to ask my advice. Rightly or wrongly, he regarded me as one capable of
giving advice. It was I who had changed the whole current of his life
by counselling him to leave the wood in his bag and take a driving-iron
off the tee; and in one or two other matters, like the choice of a
putter (so much more important than the choice of a wife), I had been
of assistance to him.
Alexander sat down and fanned himself with his hat, for the evening
was warm. Perplexity was written upon his fine face.
“I don't know what to do,” he said.
“Keep the head still—slow back—don't press,” I said, gravely.
There is no better rule for a happy and successful life.
“It's nothing to do with golf this time,” he said. “It's about the
treasurership of my company. Old Smithers retires next week, and I've
got to find a man to fill his place.”
“That should be easy. You have simply to select the most deserving
from among your other employees.”
“But which is the most deserving? That's the point. There are
two men who are capable of holding the job quite adequately. But then I
realize how little I know of their real characters. It is the
treasurership, you understand, which has to be filled. Now, a man who
was quite good at another job might easily get wrong ideas into his
head when he became a treasurer. He would have the handling of large
sums of money. In other words, a man who in ordinary circumstances had
never been conscious of any desire to visit the more distant portions
of South America might feel the urge, so to speak, shortly after he
became a treasurer. That is my difficulty. Of course, one always takes
a sporting chance with any treasurer; but how am I to find out which of
these two men would give me the more reasonable opportunity of keeping
some of my money?”
I did not hesitate a moment. I held strong views on the subject of
“The only way,” I said to Alexander, “of really finding out a man's
true character is to play golf with him. In no other walk of life does
the cloven hoof so quickly display itself. I employed a lawyer for
years, until one day I saw him kick his ball out of a heel-mark. I
removed my business from his charge next morning. He has not yet run
off with any trust-funds, but there is a nasty gleam in his eye, and I
am convinced that it is only a question of time. Golf, my dear fellow,
is the infallible test. The man who can go into a patch of rough alone,
with the knowledge that only God is watching him, and play his ball
where it lies, is the man who will serve you faithfully and well. The
man who can smile bravely when his putt is diverted by one of those
beastly wormcasts is pure gold right through. But the man who is hasty,
unbalanced, and violent on the links will display the same qualities in
the wider field of everyday life. You don't want an unbalanced
treasurer do you?”
“Not if his books are likely to catch the complaint.”
“They are sure to. Statisticians estimate that the average of crime
among good golfers is lower than in any class of the community except
possibly bishops. Since Willie Park won the first championship at
Prestwick in the year 1860 there has, I believe, been no instance of an
Open Champion spending a day in prison. Whereas the bad golfers—and by
bad I do not mean incompetent, but black-souled—the men who fail to
count a stroke when they miss the globe; the men who never replace a
divot; the men who talk while their opponent is driving; and the men
who let their angry passions rise—these are in and out of Wormwood
Scrubbs all the time. They find it hardly worth while to get their hair
cut in their brief intervals of liberty.”
Alexander was visibly impressed.
“That sounds sensible, by George!” he said.
“It is sensible.”
“I'll do it! Honestly, I can't see any other way of deciding between
Holmes and Dixon.”
“Holmes? Not Mitchell Holmes?”
“Yes. Of course you must know him? He lives here, I believe.”
“And by Dixon do you mean Rupert Dixon?”
“That's the man. Another neighbour of yours.”
I confess that my heart sank. It was as if my ball had fallen into
the pit which my niblick had digged. I wished heartily that I had
thought of waiting to ascertain the names of the two rivals before
offering my scheme. I was extremely fond of Mitchell Holmes and of the
girl to whom he was engaged to be married. Indeed, it was I who had
sketched out a few rough notes for the lad to use when proposing; and
results had shown that he had put my stuff across well. And I had
listened many a time with a sympathetic ear to his hopes in the matter
of securing a rise of salary which would enable him to get married.
Somehow, when Alexander was talking, it had not occurred to me that
young Holmes might be in the running for so important an office as the
treasurership. I had ruined the boy's chances. Ordeal by golf was the
one test which he could not possibly undergo with success. Only a
miracle could keep him from losing his temper, and I had expressly
warned Alexander against such a man.
When I thought of his rival my heart sank still more. Rupert Dixon
was rather an unpleasant young man, but the worst of his enemies could
not accuse him of not possessing the golfing temperament. From the
drive off the tee to the holing of the final putt he was uniformly
* * * * *
When Alexander had gone, I sat in thought for some time. I was faced
with a problem. Strictly speaking, no doubt, I had no right to take
sides; and, though secrecy had not been enjoined upon me in so many
words, I was very well aware that Alexander was under the impression
that I would keep the thing under my hat and not reveal to either party
the test that awaited him. Each candidate was, of course, to remain
ignorant that he was taking part in anything but a friendly game.
But when I thought of the young couple whose future depended on this
ordeal, I hesitated no longer. I put on my hat and went round to Miss
Boyd's house, where I knew that Mitchell was to be found at this hour.
The young couple were out in the porch, looking at the moon. They
greeted me heartily, but their heartiness had rather a tinny sound, and
I could see that on the whole they regarded me as one of those things
which should not happen. But when I told my story their attitude
changed. They began to look on me in the pleasanter light of a
guardian, philosopher, and friend.
“Wherever did Mr. Paterson get such a silly idea?” said Miss Boyd,
indignantly. I had—from the best motives—concealed the source of the
scheme. “It's ridiculous!”
“Oh, I don't know,” said Mitchell. “The old boy's crazy about golf.
It's just the sort of scheme he would cook up. Well, it dishes me!”
“Oh, come!” I said.
“It's no good saying 'Oh, come!' You know perfectly well that I'm a
frank, outspoken golfer. When my ball goes off nor'-nor'-east when I
want it to go due west I can't help expressing an opinion about it. It
is a curious phenomenon which calls for comment, and I give it.
Similarly, when I top my drive, I have to go on record as saying that I
did not do it intentionally. And it's just these trifles, as far as I
can make out, that are going to decide the thing.”
“Couldn't you learn to control yourself on the links, Mitchell,
darling?” asked Millicent. “After all, golf is only a game!”
Mitchell's eyes met mine, and I have no doubt that mine showed just
the same look of horror which I saw in his. Women say these things
without thinking. It does not mean that there is any kink in their
character. They simply don't realize what they are saying.
“Hush!” said Mitchell, huskily, patting her hand and overcoming his
emotion with a strong effort. “Hush, dearest!”
* * * * *
Two or three days later I met Millicent coming from the post-office.
There was a new light of happiness in her eyes, and her face was
“Such a splendid thing has happened,” she said. “After Mitchell left
that night I happened to be glancing through a magazine, and I came
across a wonderful advertisement. It began by saying that all the great
men in history owed their success to being able to control themselves,
and that Napoleon wouldn't have amounted to anything if he had not
curbed his fiery nature, and then it said that we can all be like
Napoleon if we fill in the accompanying blank order-form for Professor
Orlando Rollitt's wonderful book, 'Are You Your Own Master?' absolutely
free for five days and then seven shillings, but you must write at once
because the demand is enormous and pretty soon it may be too late. I
wrote at once, and luckily I was in time, because Professor Rollitt did
have a copy left, and it's just arrived. I've been looking through it,
and it seems splendid.”
She held out a small volume. I glanced at it. There was a
frontispiece showing a signed photograph of Professor Orlando Rollitt
controlling himself in spite of having long white whiskers, and then
some reading matter, printed between wide margins. One look at the book
told me the professor's methods. To be brief, he had simply swiped
Marcus Aurelius's best stuff, the copyright having expired some two
thousand years ago, and was retailing it as his own. I did not mention
this to Millicent. It was no affair of mine. Presumably, however
obscure the necessity, Professor Rollitt had to live.
“I'm going to start Mitchell on it today. Don't you think this is
good? 'Thou seest how few be the things which if a man has at his
command his life flows gently on and is divine.' I think it will be
wonderful if Mitchell's life flows gently on and is divine for seven
shillings, don't you?”
* * * * *
At the club-house that evening I encountered Rupert Dixon. He was
emerging from a shower-bath, and looked as pleased with himself as
“Just been going round with old Paterson,” he said. “He was asking
after you. He's gone back to town in his car.”
I was thrilled. So the test had begun!
“How did you come out?” I asked.
Rupert Dixon smirked. A smirking man, wrapped in a bath towel, with
a wisp of wet hair over one eye, is a repellent sight.
“Oh, pretty well. I won by six and five. In spite of having
I felt a gleam of hope at these last words.
“Oh, you had bad luck?”
“The worst. I over-shot the green at the third with the best
brassey-shot I've ever made in my life—and that's saying a lot—and
lost my ball in the rough beyond it.”
“And I suppose you let yourself go, eh?”
“Let myself go?”
“I take it that you made some sort of demonstration?”
“Oh, no. Losing your temper doesn't get you anywhere at golf. It
only spoils your next shot.”
I went away heavy-hearted. Dixon had plainly come through the ordeal
as well as any man could have done. I expected to hear every day that
the vacant treasurership had been filled, and that Mitchell had not
even been called upon to play his test round. I suppose, however, that
Alexander Paterson felt that it would be unfair to the other competitor
not to give him his chance, for the next I heard of the matter was when
Mitchell Holmes rang me up on the Friday and asked me if I would
accompany him round the links next day in the match he was playing with
Alexander, and give him my moral support.
“I shall need it,” he said. “I don't mind telling you I'm pretty
nervous. I wish I had had longer to get the stranglehold on that 'Are
You Your Own Master?' stuff. I can see, of course, that it is the real
tabasco from start to finish, and absolutely as mother makes it, but
the trouble is I've only had a few days to soak it into my system. It's
like trying to patch up a motor car with string. You never know when
the thing will break down. Heaven knows what will happen if I sink a
ball at the water-hole. And something seems to tell me I am going to do
There was a silence for a moment.
“Do you believe in dreams?” asked Mitchell.
“Believe in what?”
“What about them?”
“I said, 'Do you believe in dreams?' Because last night I dreamed
that I was playing in the final of the Open Championship, and I got
into the rough, and there was a cow there, and the cow looked at me in
a sad sort of way and said, 'Why don't you use the two-V grip instead
of the interlocking?' At the time it seemed an odd sort of thing to
happen, but I've been thinking it over and I wonder if there isn't
something in it. These things must be sent to us for a purpose.”
“You can't change your grip on the day of an important match.”
“I suppose not. The fact is, I'm a bit jumpy, or I wouldn't have
mentioned it. Oh, well! See you tomorrow at two.”
* * * * *
The day was bright and sunny, but a tricky cross-wind was blowing
when I reached the club-house. Alexander Paterson was there, practising
swings on the first tee; and almost immediately Mitchell Holmes
arrived, accompanied by Millicent.
“Perhaps,” said Alexander, “we had better be getting under way.
Shall I take the honour?”
“Certainly,” said Mitchell.
Alexander teed up his ball.
Alexander Paterson has always been a careful rather than a dashing
player. It is his custom, a sort of ritual, to take two measured
practice-swings before addressing the ball, even on the putting-green.
When he does address the ball he shuffles his feet for a moment or two,
then pauses, and scans the horizon in a suspicious sort of way, as if
he had been expecting it to play some sort of a trick on him when he
was not looking. A careful inspection seems to convince him of the
horizon's bona fides, and he turns his attention to the ball
again. He shuffles his feet once more, then raises his club. He waggles
the club smartly over the ball three times, then lays it behind the
globule. At this point he suddenly peers at the horizon again, in the
apparent hope of catching it off its guard. This done, he raises his
club very slowly, brings it back very slowly till it almost touches the
ball, raises it again, brings it down again, raises it once more, and
brings it down for the third time. He then stands motionless, wrapped
in thought, like some Indian fakir contemplating the infinite. Then he
raises his club again and replaces it behind the ball. Finally he
quivers all over, swings very slowly back, and drives the ball for
about a hundred and fifty yards in a dead straight line.
It is a method of procedure which proves sometimes a little
exasperating to the highly strung, and I watched Mitchell's face
anxiously to see how he was taking his first introduction to it. The
unhappy lad had blenched visibly. He turned to me with the air of one
“Does he always do that?” he whispered.
“Always,” I replied.
“Then I'm done for! No human being could play golf against a
one-ring circus like that without blowing up!”
I said nothing. It was, I feared, only too true. Well-poised as I
am, I had long since been compelled to give up playing with Alexander
Paterson, much as I esteemed him. It was a choice between that and
resigning from the Baptist Church.
At this moment Millicent spoke. There was an open book in her hand.
I recognized it as the life-work of Professor Rollitt.
“Think on this doctrine,” she said, in her soft, modulated voice,
“that to be patient is a branch of justice, and that men sin without
Mitchell nodded briefly, and walked to the tee with a firm step.
“Before you drive, darling,” said Millicent, “remember this. Let no
act be done at haphazard, nor otherwise than according to the finished
rules that govern its kind.”
The next moment Mitchell's ball was shooting through the air, to
come to rest two hundred yards down the course. It was a magnificent
drive. He had followed the counsel of Marcus Aurelius to the letter.
An admirable iron-shot put him in reasonable proximity to the pin,
and he holed out in one under bogey with one of the nicest putts I have
ever beheld. And when at the next hole, the dangerous water-hole, his
ball soared over the pond and lay safe, giving him bogey for the hole,
I began for the first time to breathe freely. Every golfer has his day,
and this was plainly Mitchell's. He was playing faultless golf. If he
could continue in this vein, his unfortunate failing would have no
chance to show itself.
The third hole is long and tricky. You drive over a ravine—or
possibly into it. In the latter event you breathe a prayer and call for
your niblick. But, once over the ravine, there is nothing to disturb
the equanimity. Bogey is five, and a good drive, followed by a
brassey-shot, will put you within easy mashie-distance of the green.
Mitchell cleared the ravine by a hundred and twenty yards. He
strolled back to me, and watched Alexander go through his ritual with
an indulgent smile. I knew just how he was feeling. Never does the
world seem so sweet and fair and the foibles of our fellow human beings
so little irritating as when we have just swatted the pill right on the
“I can't see why he does it,” said Mitchell, eyeing Alexander with a
toleration that almost amounted to affection. “If I did all those
Swedish exercises before I drove, I should forget what I had come out
for and go home.” Alexander concluded the movements, and landed a bare
three yards on the other side of the ravine. “He's what you would call
a steady performer, isn't he? Never varies!”
Mitchell won the hole comfortably. There was a jauntiness about his
stance on the fourth tee which made me a little uneasy. Over-confidence
at golf is almost as bad as timidity.
My apprehensions were justified. Mitchell topped his ball. It rolled
twenty yards into the rough, and nestled under a dock-leaf. His mouth
opened, then closed with a snap. He came over to where Millicent and I
“I didn't say it!” he said. “What on earth happened then?”
“Search men's governing principles,” said Millicent, “and consider
the wise, what they shun and what they cleave to.”
“Exactly,” I said. “You swayed your body.”
“And now I've got to go and look for that infernal ball.”
“Never mind, darling,” said Millicent. “Nothing has such power to
broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly
all that comes under thy observation in life.”
“Besides,” I said, “you're three up.”
“I shan't be after this hole.”
He was right. Alexander won it in five, one above bogey, and
regained the honour.
Mitchell was a trifle shaken. His play no longer had its first
careless vigour. He lost the next hole, halved the sixth, lost the
short seventh, and then, rallying, halved the eighth.
The ninth hole, like so many on our links, can be a perfectly simple
four, although the rolling nature of the green makes bogey always a
somewhat doubtful feat; but, on the other hand, if you foozle your
drive, you can easily achieve double figures. The tee is on the farther
side of the pond, beyond the bridge, where the water narrows almost to
the dimensions of a brook. You drive across this water and over a
tangle of trees and under-growth on the other bank. The distance to the
fairway cannot be more than sixty yards, for the hazard is purely a
mental one, and yet how many fair hopes have been wrecked there!
Alexander cleared the obstacles comfortably with his customary
short, straight drive, and Mitchell advanced to the tee.
I think the loss of the honour had been preying on his mind. He
seemed nervous. His up-swing was shaky, and he swayed back perceptibly.
He made a lunge at the ball, sliced it, and it struck a tree on the
other side of the water and fell in the long grass. We crossed the
bridge to look for it; and it was here that the effect of Professor
Rollitt began definitely to wane.
“Why on earth don't they mow this darned stuff?” demanded Mitchell,
querulously, as he beat about the grass with his niblick.
“You have to have rough on a course,” I ventured.
“Whatever happens at all,” said Millicent, “happens as it should.
Thou wilt find this true if thou shouldst watch narrowly.”
“That's all very well,” said Mitchell, watching narrowly in a clump
of weeds but seeming unconvinced. “I believe the Greens Committee run
this bally club purely in the interests of the caddies. I believe they
encourage lost balls, and go halves with the little beasts when they
find them and sell them!”
Millicent and I exchanged glances. There were tears in her eyes.
“Oh, Mitchell! Remember Napoleon!”
“Napoleon! What's Napoleon got to do with it? Napoleon never was
expected to drive through a primeval forest. Besides, what did Napoleon
ever do? Where did Napoleon get off, swanking round as if he amounted
to something? Poor fish! All he ever did was to get hammered at
Alexander rejoined us. He had walked on to where his ball lay.
“Can't find it, eh? Nasty bit of rough, this!”
“No, I can't find it. But tomorrow some miserable, chinless,
half-witted reptile of a caddie with pop eyes and eight hundred and
thirty-seven pimples will find it, and will sell it to someone for
sixpence! No, it was a brand-new ball. He'll probably get a shilling
for it. That'll be sixpence for himself and sixpence for the Greens
Committee. No wonder they're buying cars quicker than the makers can
supply them. No wonder you see their wives going about in mink coats
and pearl necklaces. Oh, dash it! I'll drop another!”
“In that case,” Alexander pointed out, “you will, of course, under
the rules governing match-play, lose the hole.”
“All right, then. I'll give up the hole.”
“Then that, I think, makes me one up on the first nine,” said
Alexander. “Excellent! A very pleasant, even game.”
“Pleasant! On second thoughts I don't believe the Greens Committee
let the wretched caddies get any of the loot. They hang round behind
trees till the deal's concluded, and then sneak out and choke it out of
I saw Alexander raise his eyebrows. He walked up the hill to the
next tee with me.
“Rather a quick-tempered young fellow, Holmes!” he said,
thoughtfully. “I should never have suspected it. It just shows how
little one can know of a man, only meeting him in business hours.”
I tried to defend the poor lad.
“He has an excellent heart, Alexander. But the fact is—we are such
old friends that I know you will forgive my mentioning it—your style
of play gets, I fancy, a little on his nerves.”
“My style of play? What's wrong with my style of play?”
“Nothing is actually wrong with it, but to a young and ardent spirit
there is apt to be something a trifle upsetting in being, compelled to
watch a man play quite so slowly as you do. Come now, Alexander, as one
friend to another, is it necessary to take two practice-swings before
“Dear, dear!” said Alexander. “You really mean to say that that
upsets him? Well, I'm afraid I am too old to change my methods now.”
I had nothing more to say.
As we reached the tenth tee, I saw that we were in for a few
minutes' wait. Suddenly I felt a hand on my arm. Millicent was standing
beside me, dejection written on her face. Alexander and young Mitchell
were some distance away from us.
“Mitchell doesn't want me to come round the rest of the way with
him,” she said, despondently. “He says I make him nervous.”
I shook my head.
“That's bad! I was looking on you as a steadying influence.”
“I thought I was, too. But Mitchell says no. He says my being there
keeps him from concentrating.”
“Then perhaps it would be better for you to remain in the club-house
till we return. There is, I fear, dirty work ahead.”
A choking sob escaped the unhappy girl.
“I'm afraid so. There is an apple tree near the thirteenth hole, and
Mitchell's caddie is sure to start eating apples. I am thinking of what
Mitchell will do when he hears the crunching when he is addressing his
“That is true.”
“Our only hope,” she said, holding out Professor Rollitt's book, “is
this. Will you please read him extracts when you see him getting
nervous? We went through the book last night and marked all the
passages in blue pencil which might prove helpful. You will see notes
against them in the margin, showing when each is supposed to be used.”
It was a small favour to ask. I took the book and gripped her hand
silently. Then I joined Alexander and Mitchell on the tenth tee.
Mitchell was still continuing his speculations regarding the Greens
“The hole after this one,” he said, “used to be a short hole. There
was no chance of losing a ball. Then, one day, the wife of one of the
Greens Committee happened to mention that the baby needed new shoes, so
now they've tacked on another hundred and fifty yards to it. You have
to drive over the brow of a hill, and if you slice an eighth of an inch
you get into a sort of No Man's Land, full of rocks and bushes and
crevices and old pots and pans. The Greens Committee practically live
there in the summer. You see them prowling round in groups, encouraging
each other with merry cries as they fill their sacks. Well, I'm going
to fool them today. I'm going to drive an old ball which is just
hanging together by a thread. It'll come to pieces when they pick it
Golf, however, is a curious game—a game of fluctuations. One might
have supposed that Mitchell, in such a frame of mind, would have
continued to come to grief. But at the beginning of the second nine he
once more found his form. A perfect drive put him in position to reach
the tenth green with an iron-shot, and, though the ball was several
yards from the hole, he laid it dead with his approach-putt and holed
his second for a bogey four. Alexander could only achieve a five, so
that they were all square again.
The eleventh, the subject of Mitchell's recent criticism, is
certainly a tricky hole, and it is true that a slice does land the
player in grave difficulties. Today, however, both men kept their
drives straight, and found no difficulty in securing fours.
“A little more of this,” said Mitchell, beaming, “and the Greens
Committee will have to give up piracy and go back to work.”
The twelfth is a long, dog-leg hole, bogey five. Alexander plugged
steadily round the bend, holing out in six, and Mitchell, whose second
shot had landed him in some long grass, was obliged to use his niblick.
He contrived, however, to halve the hole with a nicely-judged
mashie-shot to the edge of the green.
Alexander won the thirteenth. It is a three hundred and sixty yard
hole, free from bunkers. It took Alexander three strokes to reach the
green, but his third laid the ball dead; while Mitchell, who was on in
two, required three putts.
“That reminds me,” said Alexander, chattily, “of a story I heard.
Friend calls out to a beginner, 'How are you getting on, old man?' and
the beginner says, 'Splendidly. I just made three perfect putts on the
Mitchell did not appear amused. I watched his face anxiously. He had
made no remark, but the missed putt which would have saved the hole had
been very short, and I feared the worst. There was a brooding look in
his eye as we walked to the fourteenth tee.
There are few more picturesque spots in the whole of the countryside
than the neighbourhood of the fourteenth tee. It is a sight to charm
the nature-lover's heart.
But, if golf has a defect, it is that it prevents a man being a
whole-hearted lover of nature. Where the layman sees waving grass and
romantic tangles of undergrowth, your golfer beholds nothing but a
nasty patch of rough from which he must divert his ball. The cry of the
birds, wheeling against the sky, is to the golfer merely something that
may put him off his putt. As a spectator, I am fond of the ravine at
the bottom of the slope. It pleases the eye. But, as a golfer, I have
frequently found it the very devil.
The last hole had given Alexander the honour again. He drove even
more deliberately than before. For quite half a minute he stood over
his ball, pawing at it with his driving-iron like a cat investigating a
tortoise. Finally he despatched it to one of the few safe spots on the
hillside. The drive from this tee has to be carefully calculated, for,
if it be too straight, it will catch the slope and roll down into the
Mitchell addressed his ball. He swung up, and then, from immediately
behind him came a sudden sharp crunching sound. I looked quickly in the
direction whence it came. Mitchell's caddie, with a glassy look in his
eyes, was gnawing a large apple. And even as I breathed a silent
prayer, down came the driver, and the ball, with a terrible slice on
it, hit the side of the hill and bounded into the ravine.
There was a pause—a pause in which the world stood still. Mitchell
dropped his club and turned. His face was working horribly.
“Mitchell!” I cried. “My boy! Reflect! Be calm!”
“Calm! What's the use of being calm when people are chewing apples
in thousands all round you? What is this, anyway—a golf match
or a pleasant day's outing for the children of the poor? Apples! Go on,
my boy, take another bite. Take several. Enjoy yourself! Never mind if
it seems to cause me a fleeting annoyance. Go on with your lunch! You
probably had a light breakfast, eh, and are feeling a little peckish,
yes? If you will wait here, I will run to the clubhouse and get you a
sandwich and a bottle of ginger-ale. Make yourself quite at home, you
lovable little fellow! Sit down and have a good time!”
I turned the pages of Professor Rollitt's book feverishly. I could
not find a passage that had been marked in blue pencil to meet this
emergency. I selected one at random.
“Mitchell,” I said, “one moment. How much time he gains who does not
look to see what his neighbour says or does, but only at what he does
himself, to make it just and holy.”
“Well, look what I've done myself! I'm somewhere down at the bottom
of that dashed ravine, and it'll take me a dozen strokes to get out. Do
you call that just and holy? Here, give me that book for a moment!”
He snatched the little volume out of my hands. For an instant he
looked at it with a curious expression of loathing, then he placed it
gently on the ground and jumped on it a few times. Then he hit it with
his driver. Finally, as if feeling that the time for half measures had
passed, he took a little run and kicked it strongly into the long
He turned to Alexander, who had been an impassive spectator of the
“I'm through!” he said. “I concede the match. Good-bye. You'll find
me in the bay!”
“No. Drowning myself.”
A gentle smile broke out over my old friend's usually grave face. He
patted Mitchell's shoulder affectionately.
“Don't do that, my boy,” he said. “I was hoping you would stick
around the office awhile as treasurer of the company.”
Mitchell tottered. He grasped my arm for support. Everything was
very still. Nothing broke the stillness but the humming of the bees,
the murmur of the distant wavelets, and the sound of Mitchell's caddie
going on with his apple.
“What!” cried Mitchell.
“The position,” said Alexander, “will be falling vacant very
shortly, as no doubt you know. It is yours, if you care to accept it.”
“You mean—you mean—you're going to give me the job?”
“You have interpreted me exactly.”
Mitchell gulped. So did his caddie. One from a spiritual, the other
from a physical cause.
“If you don't mind excusing me,” said Mitchell, huskily, “I think
I'll be popping back to the club-house. Someone I want to see.”
He disappeared through the trees, running strongly. I turned to
“What does this mean?” I asked. “I am delighted, but what becomes of
My old friend smiled gently.
“The test,” he replied, “has been eminently satisfactory.
Circumstances, perhaps, have compelled me to modify the original idea
of it, but nevertheless it has been a completely successful test. Since
we started out, I have been doing a good deal of thinking, and I have
come to the conclusion that what the Paterson Dyeing and Refining
Company really needs is a treasurer whom I can beat at golf. And I have
discovered the ideal man. Why,” he went on, a look of holy enthusiasm
on his fine old face, “do you realize that I can always lick the
stuffing out of that boy, good player as he is, simply by taking a
little trouble? I can make him get the wind up every time, simply by
taking one or two extra practice-swings! That is the sort of man I need
for a responsible post in my office.”
“But what about Rupert Dixon?” I asked.
He gave a gesture of distaste.
“I wouldn't trust that man. Why, when I played with him, everything
went wrong, and he just smiled and didn't say a word. A man who can do
that is not the man to trust with the control of large sums of money.
It wouldn't be safe. Why, the fellow isn't honest! He can't be.” He
paused for a moment. “Besides,” he added, thoughtfully, “he beat me by
six and five. What's the good of a treasurer who beats the boss by six
7. The Long Hole
The young man, as he sat filling his pipe in the club-house
smoking-room, was inclined to be bitter.
“If there's one thing that gives me a pain squarely in the centre of
the gizzard,” he burst out, breaking a silence that had lasted for some
minutes, “it's a golf-lawyer. They oughtn't to be allowed on the
The Oldest Member, who had been meditatively putting himself outside
a cup of tea and a slice of seed-cake, raised his white eyebrows.
“The Law,” he said, “is an honourable profession. Why should its
practitioners be restrained from indulgence in the game of games?”
“I don't mean actual lawyers,” said the young man, his acerbity
mellowing a trifle under the influence of tobacco. “I mean the
blighters whose best club is the book of rules. You know the sort of
excrescences. Every time you think you've won a hole, they dig out Rule
eight hundred and fifty-three, section two, sub-section four, to prove
that you've disqualified yourself by having an ingrowing toe-nail.
Well, take my case.” The young man's voice was high and plaintive. “I
go out with that man Hemmingway to play an ordinary friendly
round—nothing depending on it except a measly ball—and on the seventh
he pulls me up and claims the hole simply because I happened to drop my
niblick in the bunker. Oh, well, a tick's a tick, and there's nothing
more to say, I suppose.”
The Sage shook his head.
“Rules are rules, my boy, and must be kept. It is odd that you
should have brought up this subject, for only a moment before you came
in I was thinking of a somewhat curious match which ultimately turned
upon a question of the rule-book. It is true that, as far as the actual
prize was concerned, it made little difference. But perhaps I had
better tell you the whole story from the beginning.”
The young man shifted uneasily in his chair.
“Well, you know, I've had a pretty rotten time this afternoon
“I will call my story,” said the Sage, tranquilly, “'The Long Hole',
for it involved the playing of what I am inclined to think must be the
longest hole in the history of golf. In its beginnings the story may
remind you of one I once told you about Peter Willard and James Todd,
but you will find that it develops in quite a different manner. Ralph
“I half promised to go and see a man——”
“But I will begin at the beginning,” said the Sage. “I see that you
are all impatience to hear the full details.”
* * * * *
Ralph Bingham and Arthur Jukes (said the Oldest Member) had never
been friends—their rivalry was too keen to admit of that—but it was
not till Amanda Trivett came to stay here that a smouldering distaste
for each other burst out into the flames of actual enmity. It is ever
so. One of the poets, whose name I cannot recall, has a passage, which
I am unable at the moment to remember, in one of his works, which for
the time being has slipped my mind, which hits off admirably this
age-old situation. The gist of his remarks is that lovely woman rarely
fails to start something. In the weeks that followed her arrival, being
in the same room with the two men was like dropping in on a reunion of
Capulets and Montagues.
You see, Ralph and Arthur were so exactly equal in their skill on
the links that life for them had for some time past resolved itself
into a silent, bitter struggle in which first one, then the other,
gained some slight advantage. If Ralph won the May medal by a stroke,
Arthur would be one ahead in the June competition, only to be nosed out
again in July. It was a state of affairs which, had they been men of a
more generous stamp, would have bred a mutual respect, esteem, and even
love. But I am sorry to say that, apart from their golf, which was in a
class of its own as far as this neighbourhood was concerned, Ralph
Bingham and Arthur Jukes were a sorry pair—and yet, mark you, far from
lacking in mere superficial good looks. They were handsome fellows,
both of them, and well aware of the fact; and when Amanda Trivett came
to stay they simply straightened their ties, twirled their moustaches,
and expected her to do the rest.
But there they were disappointed. Perfectly friendly though she was
to both of them, the lovelight was conspicuously absent from her
beautiful eyes. And it was not long before each had come independently
to a solution of this mystery. It was plain to them that the whole
trouble lay in the fact that each neutralized the other's attractions.
Arthur felt that, if he could only have a clear field, all would be
over except the sending out of the wedding invitations; and Ralph was
of the opinion that, if he could just call on the girl one evening
without finding the place all littered up with Arthur, his natural
charms would swiftly bring home the bacon. And, indeed, it was true
that they had no rivals except themselves. It happened at the moment
that Woodhaven was very short of eligible bachelors. We marry young in
this delightful spot, and all the likely men were already paired off.
It seemed that, if Amanda Trivett intended to get married, she would
have to select either Ralph Bingham or Arthur Jukes. A dreadful choice.
* * * * *
It had not occurred to me at the outset that my position in the
affair would be anything closer than that of a detached and mildly
interested spectator. Yet it was to me that Ralph came in his hour of
need. When I returned home one evening, I found that my man had brought
him in and laid him on the mat in my sitting-room.
I offered him a chair and a cigar, and he came to the point with
“Leigh,” he said, directly he had lighted his cigar, “is too small
for Arthur Jukes and myself.”
“Ah, you have been talking it over and decided to move?” I said,
delighted. “I think you are perfectly right. Leigh is
over-built. Men like you and Jukes need a lot of space. Where do you
think of going?”
“I'm not going.”
“But I thought you said——”
“What I meant was that the time has come when one of us must leave.”
“Oh, only one of you?” It was something, of course, but I confess I
was disappointed, and I think my disappointment must have shown in my
voice; for he looked at me, surprised.
“Surely you wouldn't mind Jukes going?” he said.
“Why, certainly not. He really is going, is he?”
A look of saturnine determination came into Ralph's face.
“He is. He thinks he isn't, but he is.”
I failed to understand him, and said so. He looked cautiously about
the room, as if to reassure himself that he could not be overheard.
“I suppose you've noticed,” he said, “the disgusting way that man
Jukes has been hanging round Miss Trivett, boring her to death?”
“I have seen them together sometimes.”
“I love Amanda Trivett!” said Ralph.
“Poor girl!” I sighed.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Poor girl!” I said. “I mean, to have Arthur Jukes hanging round
“That's just what I think,” said Ralph Bingham. “And that's why
we're going to play this match.”
“This match we've decided to play. I want you to act as one of the
judges, to go along with Jukes and see that he doesn't play any of his
tricks. You know what he is! And in a vital match like this——”
“How much are you playing for?”
“The whole world!”
“I beg your pardon?”
“The whole world. It amounts to that. The loser is to leave Leigh
for good, and the winner stays on and marries Amanda Trivett. We have
arranged all the details. Rupert Bailey will accompany me, acting as
the other judge.”
“And you want me to go round with Jukes?”
“Not round,” said Ralph Bingham. “Along.”
“What is the distinction?”
“We are not going to play a round. Only one hole.”
“Sudden death, eh?”
“Not so very sudden. It's a longish hole. We start on the first tee
here and hole out in the town in the doorway of the Majestic Hotel in
Royal Square. A distance, I imagine, of about sixteen miles.”
I was revolted. About that time a perfect epidemic of freak matches
had broken out in the club, and I had strongly opposed them from the
start. George Willis had begun it by playing a medal round with the
pro., George's first nine against the pro.'s complete eighteen. After
that came the contest between Herbert Widgeon and Montague Brown, the
latter, a twenty-four handicap man, being entitled to shout “Boo!”
three times during the round at moments selected by himself. There had
been many more of these degrading travesties on the sacred game, and I
had writhed to see them. Playing freak golf-matches is to my mind like
ragging a great classical melody. But of the whole collection this one,
considering the sentimental interest and the magnitude of the stakes,
seemed to me the most terrible. My face, I imagine, betrayed my
disgust, for Bingham attempted extenuation.
“It's the only way,” he said. “You know how Jukes and I are on the
links. We are as level as two men can be. This, of course is due to his
extraordinary luck. Everybody knows that he is the world's champion
fluker. I, on the other hand, invariably have the worst luck. The
consequence is that in an ordinary round it is always a toss-up which
of us wins. The test we propose will eliminate luck. After sixteen
miles of give-and-take play, I am certain—that is to say, the better
man is certain to be ahead. That is what I meant when I said that
Arthur Jukes would shortly be leaving Leigh. Well, may I take it that
you will consent to act as one of the judges?”
I considered. After all, the match was likely to be historic, and
one always feels tempted to hand one's name down to posterity.
“Very well,” I said.
“Excellent. You will have to keep a sharp eye on Jukes, I need
scarcely remind you. You will, of course, carry a book of the rules in
your pocket and refer to them when you wish to refresh your memory. We
start at daybreak, for, if we put it off till later, the course at the
other end might be somewhat congested when we reached it. We want to
avoid publicity as far as possible. If I took a full iron and hit a
policeman, it would excite a remark.”
“It would. I can tell you the exact remark which it would excite.”
“We will take bicycles with us, to minimize the fatigue of covering
the distance. Well, I am glad that we have your co-operation. At
daybreak tomorrow on the first tee, and don't forget to bring your
* * * * *
The atmosphere brooding over the first tee when I reached it on the
following morning, somewhat resembled that of a duelling-ground in the
days when these affairs were sealed with rapiers or pistols. Rupert
Bailey, an old friend of mine, was the only cheerful member of the
party. I am never at my best in the early morning, and the two rivals
glared at each other with silent sneers. I had never supposed till that
moment that men ever really sneered at one another outside the movies,
but these two were indisputably doing so. They were in the mood when
men say “Pshaw!”
They tossed for the honour, and Arthur Jukes, having won, drove off
with a fine ball that landed well down the course. Ralph Bingham,
having teed up, turned to Rupert Bailey.
“Go down on to the fairway of the seventeenth,” he said. “I want you
to mark my ball.”
“I am going to take that direction,” said Ralph, pointing over the
“But that will land your second or third shot in the lake.”
“I have provided for that. I have a fiat-bottomed boat moored close
by the sixteenth green. I shall use a mashie-niblick and chip my ball
aboard, row across to the other side, chip it ashore, and carry on. I
propose to go across country as far as Woodfield. I think it will save
me a stroke or two.”
I gasped. I had never before realized the man's devilish cunning.
His tactics gave him a flying start. Arthur, who had driven straight
down the course, had as his objective the high road, which adjoins the
waste ground beyond the first green. Once there, he would play the
orthodox game by driving his ball along till he reached the bridge.
While Arthur was winding along the high road, Ralph would have cut off
practically two sides of a triangle. And it was hopeless for Arthur to
imitate his enemy's tactics now. From where his ball lay he would have
to cross a wide tract of marsh in order to reach the seventeenth
fairway—an impossible feat. And, even if it had been feasible, he had
no boat to take him across the water.
He uttered a violent protest. He was an unpleasant young man,
almost—it seems absurd to say so, but almost as unpleasant as Ralph
Bingham; yet at the moment I am bound to say I sympathized with him.
“What are you doing?” he demanded. “You can't play fast and loose
with the rules like that.”
“To what rule do you refer?” said Ralph, coldly.
“Well, that bally boat of yours is a hazard, isn't it? And you can't
row a hazard about all over the place.”
The simple question seemed to take Arthur Jukes aback.
“Why not?” he repeated. “Why not? Well, you can't. That's why.”
“There is nothing in the rules,” said Ralph Bingham, “against moving
a hazard. If a hazard can be moved without disturbing the ball, you are
at liberty, I gather, to move it wherever you please. Besides, what is
all this about moving hazards? I have a perfect right to go for a
morning row, haven't I? If I were to ask my doctor, he would probably
actually recommend it. I am going to row my boat across the sound. If
it happens to have my ball on board, that is not my affair. I shall not
disturb my ball, and I shall play it from where it lies. Am I right in
saying that the rules enact that the ball shall be played from where it
We admitted that it was.
“Very well, then,” said Ralph Bingham. “Don't let us waste any more
time. We will wait for you at Woodfield.”
He addressed his ball, and drove a beauty over the trees. It flashed
out of sight in the direction of the seventeenth tee. Arthur and I made
our way down the hill to play our second.
* * * * *
It is a curious trait of the human mind that, however little
personal interest one may have in the result, it is impossible to
prevent oneself taking sides in any event of a competitive nature. I
had embarked on this affair in a purely neutral spirit, not caring
which of the two won and only sorry that both could not lose. Yet, as
the morning wore on, I found myself almost unconsciously becoming
distinctly pro-Jukes. I did not like the man. I objected to his face,
his manners, and the colour of his tie. Yet there was something in the
dogged way in which he struggled against adversity which touched me and
won my grudging support. Many men, I felt, having been so outmanoeuvred
at the start, would have given up the contest in despair; but Arthur
Jukes, for all his defects, had the soul of a true golfer. He declined
to give up. In grim silence he hacked his ball through the rough till
he reached the high road; and then, having played twenty-seven, set
himself resolutely to propel it on its long journey.
It was a lovely morning, and, as I bicycled along, keeping a
fatherly eye on Arthur's activities, I realized for the first time in
my life the full meaning of that exquisite phrase of Coleridge:
“Clothing the palpable and familiar
With golden exhalations of the dawn,”
for in the pellucid air everything seemed weirdly beautiful, even
Arthur Juke's heather-mixture knickerbockers, of which hitherto I had
never approved. The sun gleamed on their seat, as he bent to make his
shots, in a cheerful and almost a poetic way. The birds were singing
gaily in the hedgerows, and such was my uplifted state that I, too,
burst into song, until Arthur petulantly desired me to refrain, on the
plea that, though he yielded to no man in his enjoyment of farmyard
imitations in their proper place, I put him off his stroke. And so we
passed through Bayside in silence and started to cover that long
stretch of road which ends in the railway bridge and the gentle descent
Arthur was not doing badly. He was at least keeping them straight.
And in the circumstances straightness was to be preferred to distance.
Soon after leaving Little Hadley he had become ambitious and had used
his brassey with disastrous results, slicing his fifty-third into the
rough on the right of the road. It had taken him ten with the niblick
to get back on to the car tracks, and this had taught him prudence.
He was now using his putter for every shot, and, except when he got
trapped in the cross-lines at the top of the hill just before reaching
Bayside, he had been in no serious difficulties. He was playing a nice
easy game, getting the full face of the putter on to each shot.
At the top of the slope that drops down into Woodfield High Street
“I think I might try my brassey again here,” he said. “I have a nice
“Is it wise?” I said.
He looked down the hill.
“What I was thinking,” he said, “was that with it I might wing that
man Bingham. I see he is standing right out in the middle of the
I followed his gaze. It was perfectly true. Ralph Bingham was
leaning on his bicycle in the roadway, smoking a cigarette. Even at
this distance one could detect the man's disgustingly complacent
expression. Rupert Bailey was sitting with his back against the door of
the Woodfield Garage, looking rather used up. He was a man who liked to
keep himself clean and tidy, and it was plain that the cross-country
trip had done him no good. He seemed to be scraping mud off his face. I
learned later that he had had the misfortune to fall into a ditch just
“No,” said Arthur. “On second thoughts, the safe game is the one to
play. I'll stick to the putter.”
We dropped down the hill, and presently came up with the opposition.
I had not been mistaken in thinking that Ralph Bingham looked
complacent. The man was smirking.
“Playing three hundred and ninety-six,” he said, as we drew near.
“How are you?”
I consulted my score-card.
“We have played a snappy seven hundred and eleven.” I said.
Ralph exulted openly. Rupert Bailey made no comment. He was too busy
with the alluvial deposits on his person.
“Perhaps you would like to give up the match?” said Ralph to Arthur.
“Tchah!” said Arthur.
“Might just as well.”
“Pah!” said Arthur.
“You can't win now.”
“Pshaw!” said Arthur.
I am aware that Arthur's dialogue might have been brighter, but he
had been through a trying time.
Rupert Bailey sidled up to me.
“I'm going home,” he said.
“Nonsense!” I replied. “You are in an official capacity. You must
stick to your post. Besides, what could be nicer than a pleasant
“Pleasant morning ramble my number nine foot!” he replied,
peevishly. “I want to get back to civilization and set an excavating
party with pickaxes to work on me.”
“You take too gloomy a view of the matter. You are a little dusty.
“And it's not only the being buried alive that I mind. I cannot
stick Ralph Bingham much longer.”
“You have found him trying?”
“Trying! Why, after I had fallen into that ditch and was coming up
for the third time, all the man did was simply to call to me to admire
an infernal iron shot he had just made. No sympathy, mind you! Wrapped
up in himself. Why don't you make your man give up the match? He can't
“I refuse to admit it. Much may happen between here and Royal
I have seldom known a prophecy more swiftly fulfilled. At this
moment the doors of the Woodfield Garage opened and a small car rolled
out with a grimy young man in a sweater at the wheel. He brought the
machine out into the road, and alighted and went back into the garage,
where we heard him shouting unintelligibly to someone in the rear
premises. The car remained puffing and panting against the kerb.
Engaged in conversation with Rupert Bailey, I was paying little
attention to this evidence of an awakening world, when suddenly I heard
a hoarse, triumphant cry from Arthur Jukes, and, turned, I perceived
his ball dropping neatly into the car's interior. Arthur himself,
brandishing a niblick, was dancing about in the fairway.
“Now what about your moving hazards?” he cried.
At this moment the man in the sweater returned, carrying a spanner.
Arthur Jukes sprang towards him.
“I'll give you five pounds to drive me to Royal Square,” he said.
I do not know what the sweater-clad young man's engagements for the
morning had been originally, but nothing could have been more obliging
than the ready way in which he consented to revise them at a moment's
notice. I dare say you have noticed that the sturdy peasantry of our
beloved land respond to an offer of five pounds as to a bugle-call.
“You're on,” said the youth.
“Good!” said Arthur Jukes.
“You think you're darned clever,” said Ralph Bingham.
“I know it,” said Arthur.
“Well, then,” said Ralph, “perhaps you will tell us how you propose
to get the ball out of the car when you reach Royal Square?”
“Certainly,” replied Arthur. “You will observe on the side of the
vehicle a convenient handle which, when turned, opens the door. The
door thus opened, I shall chip my ball out!”
“I see,” said Ralph. “Yes, I never thought of that.”
There was something in the way the man spoke that I did not like.
His mildness seemed to me suspicious. He had the air of a man who has
something up his sleeve. I was still musing on this when Arthur called
to me impatiently to get in. I did so, and we drove off. Arthur was in
great spirits. He had ascertained from the young man at the wheel that
there was no chance of the opposition being able to hire another car at
the garage. This machine was his own property, and the only other one
at present in the shop was suffering from complicated trouble of the
oiling-system and would not be able to be moved for at least another
I, however, shook my head when he pointed out the advantages of his
position. I was still wondering about Ralph.
“I don't like it,” I said.
“Don't like what?”
“Ralph Bingham's manner.”
“Of course not,” said Arthur. “Nobody does. There have been
complaints on all sides.”
“I mean, when you told him how you intended to get the ball out of
“What was the matter with him?”
“He was too—ha!”
“How do you mean he was too—ha?”
“I have it!”
“I see the trap he was laying for you. It has just dawned on me. No
wonder he didn't object to your opening the door and chipping the ball
out. By doing so you would forfeit the match.”
“Because,” I said, “it is against the rules to tamper with a hazard.
If you had got into a sand-bunker, would you smooth away the sand? If
you had put your shot under a tree, could your caddie hold up the
branches to give you a clear shot? Obviously you would disqualify
yourself if you touched that door.”
Arthur's jaw dropped.
“What! Then how the deuce am I to get it out?”
“That,” I said, gravely, “is a question between you and your Maker.”
It was here that Arthur Jukes forfeited the sympathy which I had
begun to feel for him. A crafty, sinister look came into his eyes.
“Listen!” he said. “It'll take them an hour to catch up with us.
Suppose, during that time, that door happened to open accidentally, as
it were, and close again? You wouldn't think it necessary to mention
the fact, eh? You would be a good fellow and keep your mouth shut, yes?
You might even see your way to go so far as to back me up in a
statement to the effect that I hooked it out with my——?”
I was revolted.
“I am a golfer,” I said, coldly, “and I obey the rules.”
“Those rules were drawn up by——”—I bared my head reverently—“by
the Committee of the Royal and Ancient at St. Andrews. I have always
respected them, and I shall not deviate on this occasion from the
policy of a lifetime.”
Arthur Jukes relapsed into a moody silence. He broke it once,
crossing the West Street Bridge, to observe that he would like to know
if I called myself a friend of his—a question which I was able to
answer with a whole-hearted negative. After that he did not speak till
the car drew up in front of the Majestic Hotel in Royal Square.
Early as the hour was, a certain bustle and animation already
prevailed in that centre of the city, and the spectacle of a man in a
golf-coat and plus-four knickerbockers hacking with a niblick at the
floor of a car was not long in collecting a crowd of some dimensions.
Three messenger-boys, four typists, and a gentleman in full
evening-dress, who obviously possessed or was friendly with someone who
possessed a large cellar, formed the nucleus of it; and they were
joined about the time when Arthur addressed the ball in order to play
his nine hundred and fifteenth by six news-boys, eleven charladies, and
perhaps a dozen assorted loafers, all speculating with the liveliest
interest as to which particular asylum had had the honour of sheltering
Arthur before he had contrived to elude the vigilance of his
Arthur had prepared for some such contingency. He suspended his
activities with the niblick, and drew from his pocket a large poster,
which he proceeded to hang over the side of the car. It read:
McCLURG AND MACDONALD,
18, WEST STREET,
ALL GOLFING SUPPLIES.
His knowledge of psychology had not misled him. Directly they
gathered that he was advertising something, the crowd declined to look
at it; they melted away, and Arthur returned to his work in solitude.
He was taking a well-earned rest after playing his eleven hundred
and fifth, a nice niblick shot with lots of wrist behind it, when out
of Bridle Street there trickled a weary-looking golf-ball, followed in
the order named by Ralph Bingham, resolute but going a trifle at the
knees, and Rupert Bailey on a bicycle. The latter, on whose face and
limbs the mud had dried, made an arresting spectacle.
“What are you playing?” I inquired.
“Eleven hundred,” said Rupert. “We got into a casual dog.”
“A casual dog?”
“Yes, just before the bridge. We were coming along nicely, when a
stray dog grabbed our nine hundred and ninety-eighth and took it nearly
back to Woodfield, and we had to start all over again. How are you
“We have just played our eleven hundred and fifth. A nice even
game.” I looked at Ralph's ball, which was lying close to the kerb.
“You are farther from the hole, I think. Your shot, Bingham.”
Rupert Bailey suggested breakfast. He was a man who was altogether
too fond of creature comforts. He had not the true golfing spirit.
“Breakfast!” I exclaimed.
“Breakfast,” said Rupert, firmly. “If you don't know what it is, I
can teach you in half a minute. You play it with a pot of coffee, a
knife and fork, and about a hundred-weight of scrambled eggs. Try it.
It's a pastime that grows on you.”
I was surprised when Ralph Bingham supported the suggestion. He was
so near holing out that I should have supposed that nothing would have
kept him from finishing the match. But he agreed heartily.
“Breakfast,” he said, “is an excellent idea. You go along in. I'll
follow in a moment. I want to buy a paper.”
We went into the hotel, and a few minutes later he joined us. Now
that we were actually at the table, I confess that the idea of
breakfast was by no means repugnant to me. The keen air and the
exercise had given me an appetite, and it was some little time before I
was able to assure the waiter definitely that he could cease bringing
orders of scrambled eggs. The others having finished also, I suggested
a move. I was anxious to get the match over and be free to go home.
We filed out of the hotel, Arthur Jukes leading. When I had passed
through the swing-doors, I found him gazing perplexedly up and down the
“What is the matter?” I asked.
“What has gone?”
“Oh, the car?” said Ralph Bingham. “That's all right. Didn't I tell
you about that? I bought it just now and engaged the driver as my
chauffeur, I've been meaning to buy a car for a long time. A man ought
to have a car.”
“Where is it?” said Arthur, blankly. The man seemed dazed.
“I couldn't tell you to a mile or two,” replied Ralph. “I told the
man to drive to Glasgow. Why? Had you any message for him?”
“But my ball was inside it!”
“Now that,” said Ralph, “is really unfortunate! Do you mean to tell
me you hadn't managed to get it out yet? Yes, that is a little awkward
for you. I'm afraid it means that you lose the match.”
“Lose the match?”
“Certainly. The rules are perfectly definite on that point. A period
of five minutes is allowed for each stroke. The player who fails to
make his stroke within that time loses the hole. Unfortunate, but there
Arthur Jukes sank down on the path and buried his face in his hands.
He had the appearance of a broken man. Once more, I am bound to say, I
felt a certain pity for him. He had certainly struggled gamely, and it
was hard to be beaten like this on the post.
“Playing eleven hundred and one,” said Ralph Bingham, in his
odiously self-satisfied voice, as he addressed his ball. He laughed
jovially. A messenger-boy had paused close by and was watching the
proceedings gravely. Ralph Bingham patted him on the head.
“Well, sonny,” he said, “what club would you use here?”
“I claim the match!” cried Arthur Jukes, springing up. Ralph Bingham
regarded him coldly.
“I beg your pardon?”
“I claim the match!” repeated Arthur Jukes. “The rules say that a
player who asks advice from any person other than his caddie shall lose
“This is absurd!” said Ralph, but I noticed that he had turned pale.
“I appeal to the judges.”
“We sustain the appeal,” I said, after a brief consultation with
Rupert Bailey. “The rule is perfectly clear.”
“But you had lost the match already by not playing within five
minutes,” said Ralph, vehemently.
“It was not my turn to play. You were farther from the pin.”
“Well, play now. Go on! Let's see you make your shot.”
“There is no necessity,” said Arthur, frigidly. “Why should I play
when you have already disqualified yourself?”
“I claim a draw!”
“I deny the claim.”
“I appeal to the judges.”
“Very well. We will leave it to the judges.”
I consulted with Rupert Bailey. It seemed to me that Arthur Jukes
was entitled to the verdict. Rupert, who, though an amiable and
delightful companion, had always been one of Nature's fat-heads, could
not see it. We had to go back to our principals and announce that we
had been unable to agree.
“This is ridiculous,” said Ralph Bingham. “We ought to have had a
At this moment, who should come out of the hotel but Amanda Trivett!
A veritable goddess from the machine.
“It seems to me,” I said, “that you would both be well advised to
leave the decision to Miss Trivett. You could have no better referee.”
“I'm game,” said Arthur Jukes.
“Suits me,” said Ralph Bingham.
“Why, whatever are you all doing here with your golf-clubs?” asked
the girl, wonderingly.
“These two gentlemen,” I explained, “have been playing a match, and
a point has arisen on which the judges do not find themselves in
agreement. We need an unbiased outside opinion, and we should like to
put it up to you. The facts are as follows:...”
Amanda Trivett listened attentively, but, when I had finished, she
shook her head.
“I'm afraid I don't know enough about the game to be able to decide
a question like that,” she said.
“Then we must consult St. Andrews,” said Rupert Bailey.
“I'll tell you who might know,” said Amanda Trivett, after a
“Who is that?” I asked.
“My fiance. He has just come back from a golfing holiday.
That's why I'm in town this morning. I've been to meet him. He is very
good at golf. He won a medal at Little-Mudbury-in-the-Wold the day
before he left.”
There was a tense silence. I had the delicacy not to look at Ralph
or Arthur. Then the silence was broken by a sharp crack. Ralph Bingham
had broken his mashie-niblick across his knee. From the direction where
Arthur Jukes was standing there came a muffled gulp.
“Shall I ask him?” said Amanda Trivett.
“Don't bother,” said Ralph Bingham.
“It doesn't matter,” said Arthur Jukes.
8. The Heel of Achilles
On the young man's face, as he sat sipping his ginger-ale in the
club-house smoking-room, there was a look of disillusionment. “Never
again!” he said.
The Oldest Member glanced up from his paper.
“You are proposing to give up golf once more?” he queried.
“Not golf. Betting on golf.” The Young Man frowned. “I've just been
let down badly. Wouldn't you have thought I had a good thing, laying
seven to one on McTavish against Robinson?”
“Undoubtedly,” said the Sage. “The odds, indeed, generous as they
are, scarcely indicate the former's superiority. Do you mean to tell me
that the thing came unstitched?”
“Robinson won in a walk, after being three down at the turn.
“Strange! What happened?”
“Why, they looked in at the bar to have a refresher before starting
for the tenth,” said the young man, his voice quivering, “and McTavish
suddenly discovered that there was a hole in his trouser-pocket and
sixpence had dropped out. He worried so frightfully about it that on
the second nine he couldn't do a thing right. Went completely off his
game and didn't win a hole.”
The Sage shook his head gravely.
“If this is really going to be a lesson to you, my boy, never to bet
on the result of a golf-match, it will be a blessing in disguise. There
is no such thing as a certainty in golf. I wonder if I ever told you a
rather curious episode in the career of Vincent Jopp?”
“The Vincent Jopp? The American multi-millionaire?”
“The same. You never knew he once came within an ace of winning the
American Amateur Championship, did you?”
“I never heard of his playing golf.”
“He played for one season. After that he gave it up and has not
touched a club since. Ring the bell and get me a small lime-juice, and
I will tell you all.”
* * * * *
It was long before your time (said the Oldest Member) that the
events which I am about to relate took place. I had just come down from
Cambridge, and was feeling particularly pleased with myself because I
had secured the job of private and confidential secretary to Vincent
Jopp, then a man in the early thirties, busy in laying the foundations
of his present remarkable fortune. He engaged me, and took me with him
Jopp was, I think, the most extraordinary personality I have
encountered in a long and many-sided life. He was admirably equipped
for success in finance, having the steely eye and square jaw without
which it is hopeless for a man to enter that line of business. He
possessed also an overwhelming confidence in himself, and the ability
to switch a cigar from one corner of his mouth to the other without
wiggling his ears, which, as you know, is the stamp of the true Monarch
of the Money Market. He was the nearest approach to the financier on
the films, the fellow who makes his jaw-muscles jump when he is
telephoning, that I have ever seen.
Like all successful men, he was a man of method. He kept a pad on
his desk on which he would scribble down his appointments, and it was
my duty on entering the office each morning to take this pad and type
its contents neatly in a loose-leaved ledger. Usually, of course, these
entries referred to business appointments and deals which he was
contemplating, but one day I was interested to note, against the date
May 3rd, the entry:
“Propose to Amelia“
I was interested, as I say, but not surprised. Though a man of steel
and iron, there was nothing of the celibate about Vincent Jopp. He was
one of those men who marry early and often. On three separate occasions
before I joined his service he had jumped off the dock, to scramble
back to shore again later by means of the Divorce Court lifebelt.
Scattered here and there about the country there were three ex-Mrs.
Jopps, drawing their monthly envelope, and now, it seemed, he
contemplated the addition of a fourth to the platoon.
I was not surprised, I say, at this resolve of his. What did seem a
little remarkable to me was the thorough way in which he had thought
the thing out. This iron-willed man recked nothing of possible
obstacles. Under the date of June 1st was the entry:
while in March of the following year he had arranged to have his
first-born christened Thomas Reginald. Later on, the short-coating of
Thomas Reginald was arranged for, and there was a note about sending
him to school. Many hard things have been said of Vincent Jopp, but
nobody has ever accused him of not being a man who looked ahead.
On the morning of May 4th Jopp came into the office, looking, I
fancied, a little thoughtful. He sat for some moments staring before
him with his brow a trifle furrowed; then he seemed to come to himself.
He rapped his desk.
“Hi! You!” he said. It was thus that he habitually addressed me.
“Mr. Jopp?” I replied.
I had at that time just succeeded in getting my handicap down into
single figures, and I welcomed the opportunity of dilating on the
noblest of pastimes. But I had barely begun my eulogy when he stopped
“It's a game, is it?”
“I suppose you could call it that,” I said, “but it is an offhand
way of describing the holiest——”
“How do you play it?”
“Pretty well,” I said. “At the beginning of the season I didn't seem
able to keep 'em straight at all, but lately I've been doing fine.
Getting better every day. Whether it was that I was moving my head or
gripping too tightly with the right hand——”
“Keep the reminiscences for your grandchildren during the long
winter evenings,” he interrupted, abruptly, as was his habit. “What I
want to know is what a fellow does when he plays golf. Tell me in as
few words as you can just what it's all about.”
“You hit a ball with a stick till it falls into a hole.”
“Easy!” he snapped. “Take dictation.”
I produced my pad.
“May the fifth, take up golf. What's an Amateur Championship?”
“It is the annual competition to decide which is the best player
among the amateurs. There is also a Professional Championship, and an
“Oh, there are golf professionals, are there? What do they do?”
“They teach golf.”
“Which is the best of them?”
“Sandy McHoots won both British and American Open events last year.”
“Wire him to come here at once.”
“But McHoots is in Inverlochty, in Scotland.”
“Never mind. Get him; tell him to name his own terms. When is the
“I think it is on September the twelfth this year.”
“All right, take dictation. September twelfth win Amateur
I stared at him in amazement, but he was not looking at me.
“Got that?” he said. “September thir—Oh, I was forgetting! Add
September twelfth, corner wheat. September thirteenth, marry Amelia.”
“Marry Amelia,” I echoed, moistening my pencil.
“Where do you play this—what's-its-name—golf?”
“There are clubs all over the country. I belong to the Wissahicky
“That a good place?”
“Arrange today for my becoming a member.”
* * * * *
Sandy McHoots arrived in due course, and was shown into the private
“Mr. McHoots?” said Vincent Jopp.
“Mphm!” said the Open Champion.
“I have sent for you, Mr. McHoots, because I hear that you are the
greatest living exponent of this game of golf.”
“Aye,” said the champion, cordially. “I am that.”
“I wish you to teach me the game. I am already somewhat behind
schedule owing to the delay incident upon your long journey, so let us
start at once. Name a few of the most important points in connection
with the game. My secretary will make notes of them, and I will
memorize them. In this way we shall save time. Now, what is the most
important thing to remember when playing golf?”
“Keep your heid still.”
“A simple task.”
“Na sae simple as it soonds.”
“Nonsense!” said Vincent Jopp, curtly. “If I decide to keep my head
still, I shall keep it still. What next?”
“Keep yer ee on the ba'.”
“It shall be attended to. And the next?”
“I won't. And to resume.”
Mr. McHoots ran through a dozen of the basic rules, and I took them
down in shorthand. Vincent Jopp studied the list.
“Very good. Easier than I had supposed. On the first tee at
Wissahicky Glen at eleven sharp tomorrow, Mr. McHoots. Hi! You!”
“Sir?” I said.
“Go out and buy me a set of clubs, a red jacket, a cloth cap, a pair
of spiked shoes, and a ball.”
“Certainly. What need is there of more?”
“It sometimes happens,” I explained, “that a player who is learning
the game falls to hit his ball straight, and then he often loses it in
the rough at the side of the fairway.”
“Absurd!” said Vincent Jopp. “If I set out to drive my ball
straight, I shall drive it straight. Good morning, Mr. McHoots. You
will excuse me now. I am busy cornering Woven Textiles.”
* * * * *
Golf is in its essence a simple game. You laugh in a sharp, bitter,
barking manner when I say this, but nevertheless it is true. Where the
average man goes wrong is in making the game difficult for himself.
Observe the non-player, the man who walks round with you for the sake
of the fresh air. He will hole out with a single care-free flick of his
umbrella the twenty-foot putt over which you would ponder and hesitate
for a full minute before sending it right off the line. Put a driver in
his hands and he pastes the ball into the next county without a
thought. It is only when he takes to the game in earnest that he
becomes self-conscious and anxious, and tops his shots even as you and
I. A man who could retain through his golfing career the almost
scornful confidence of the non-player would be unbeatable. Fortunately
such an attitude of mind is beyond the scope of human nature.
It was not, however, beyond the scope of Vincent Jopp, the superman.
Vincent Jopp, was, I am inclined to think, the only golfer who ever
approached the game in a spirit of Pure Reason. I have read of men who,
never having swum in their lives, studied a text-book on their way down
to the swimming bath, mastered its contents, and dived in and won the
big race. In just such a spirit did Vincent Jopp start to play golf. He
committed McHoots's hints to memory, and then went out on the links and
put them into practice. He came to the tee with a clear picture in his
mind of what he had to do, and he did it. He was not intimidated, like
the average novice, by the thought that if he pulled in his hands he
would slice, or if he gripped too tightly with the right he would pull.
Pulling in the hands was an error, so he did not pull in his hands.
Gripping too tightly was a defect, so he did not grip too tightly. With
that weird concentration which had served him so well in business he
did precisely what he had set out to do—no less and no more. Golf with
Vincent Jopp was an exact science.
The annals of the game are studded with the names of those who have
made rapid progress in their first season. Colonel Quill, we read in
our Vardon, took up golf at the age of fifty-six, and by devising an
ingenious machine consisting of a fishing-line and a sawn-down bedpost
was enabled to keep his head so still that he became a scratch player
before the end of the year. But no one, I imagine, except Vincent Jopp,
has ever achieved scratch on his first morning on the links.
The main difference, we are told, between the amateur and the
professional golfer is the fact that the latter is always aiming at the
pin, while the former has in his mind a vague picture of getting
somewhere reasonably near it. Vincent Jopp invariably went for the pin.
He tried to hole out from anywhere inside two hundred and twenty yards.
The only occasion on which I ever heard him express any chagrin or
disappointment was during the afternoon round on his first day out,
when from the tee on the two hundred and eighty yard seventh he laid
his ball within six inches of the hole.
“A marvellous shot!” I cried, genuinely stirred.
“Too much to the right,” said Vincent Jopp, frowning.
He went on from triumph to triumph. He won the monthly medal in May,
June, July, August, and September. Towards the end of May he was heard
to complain that Wissahicky Glen was not a sporting course. The Greens
Committee sat up night after night trying to adjust his handicap so as
to give other members an outside chance against him. The golf experts
of the daily papers wrote columns about his play. And it was pretty
generally considered throughout the country that it would be a pure
formality for anyone else to enter against him in the Amateur
Championship—an opinion which was borne out when he got through into
the final without losing a hole. A safe man to have betted on, you
would have said. But mark the sequel.
* * * * *
The American Amateur Championship was held that year in Detroit. I
had accompanied my employer there; for, though engaged on this
nerve-wearing contest, he refused to allow his business to be
interfered with. As he had indicated in his schedule, he was busy at
the time cornering wheat; and it was my task to combine the duties of
caddy and secretary. Each day I accompanied him round the links with my
note-book and his bag of clubs, and the progress of his various matches
was somewhat complicated by the arrival of a stream of telegraph-boys
bearing important messages. He would read these between the strokes and
dictate replies to me, never, however, taking more than the five
minutes allowed by the rules for an interval between strokes. I am
inclined to think that it was this that put the finishing touch on his
opponents' discomfiture. It is not soothing for a nervous man to have
the game hung up on the green while his adversary dictates to his caddy
a letter beginning “Yours of the 11th inst. received and contents
noted. In reply would state——” This sort of thing puts a man off his
I was resting in the lobby of our hotel after a strenuous day's
work, when I found that I was being paged. I answered the summons, and
was informed that a lady wished to see me. Her card bore the name “Miss
Amelia Merridew.” Amelia! The name seemed familiar. Then I remembered.
Amelia was the name of the girl Vincent Jopp intended to marry, the
fourth of the long line of Mrs. Jopps. I hurried to present myself, and
found a tall, slim girl, who was plainly labouring under a considerable
“Miss Merridew?” I said.
“Yes,” she murmured. “My name will be strange to you.”
“Am I right,” I queried, “in supposing that you are the lady to whom
“I am! I am!” she replied. “And, oh, what shall I do?”
“Kindly give me particulars,” I said, taking out my pad from force
She hesitated a moment, as if afraid to speak.
“You are caddying for Mr. Jopp in the Final tomorrow?” she said at
“Then could you—would you mind—would it be giving you too much
trouble if I asked you to shout 'Boo!' at him when he is making his
stroke, if he looks like winning?”
I was perplexed.
“I don't understand.”
“I see that I must tell you all. I am sure you will treat what I say
as absolutely confidential.”
“I am provisionally engaged to Mr. Jopp.”
“Let me tell you my story. Mr. Jopp asked me to marry him, and I
would rather do anything on earth than marry him. But how could I say
'No!' with those awful eyes of his boring me through? I knew that if I
said 'No', he would argue me out of it in two minutes. I had an idea. I
gathered that he had never played golf, so I told him that I would
marry him if he won the Amateur Championship this year. And now I find
that he has been a golfer all along, and, what is more, a plus man! It
“He was not a golfer when you made that condition,” I said. “He took
up the game on the following day.”
“Impossible! How could he have become as good as he is in this short
“Because he is Vincent Jopp! In his lexicon there is no such word as
“What a man! But I can't marry him,” she cried. “I want to marry
somebody else. Oh, won't you help me? Do shout 'Boo!' at him when he is
starting his down-swing!”
I shook my head.
“It would take more than a single 'boo' to put Vincent Jopp off his
“But won't you try it?”
“I cannot. My duty is to my employer.”
“No, no. Duty is duty, and paramount with me. Besides, I have a bet
on him to win.”
The stricken girl uttered a faint moan, and tottered away.
* * * * *
I was in our suite shortly after dinner that night, going over some
of the notes I had made that day, when the telephone rang. Jopp was out
at the time, taking a short stroll with his after-dinner cigar. I
unhooked the receiver, and a female voice spoke.
“Is that Mr. Jopp?”
“Mr. Jopp's secretary speaking. Mr. Jopp is out.”
“Oh, it's nothing important. Will you say that Mrs. Luella Mainprice
Jopp called up to wish him luck? I shall be on the course tomorrow to
see him win the final.”
I returned to my notes. Soon afterwards the telephone rang again.
“Mr. Jopp's secretary speaking.”
“Oh, will you say that Mrs. Jane Jukes Jopp called up to wish him
luck? I shall be there tomorrow to see him play.”
I resumed my work. I had hardly started when the telephone rang for
the third time.
“Mr. Jopp's secretary speaking.”
“This is Mrs. Agnes Parsons Jopp. I just called up to wish him luck.
I shall be looking on tomorrow.”
I shifted my work nearer to the telephone-table so as to be ready
for the next call. I had heard that Vincent Jopp had only been married
three times, but you never knew.
Presently Jopp came in.
“Anybody called up?” he asked.
“Nobody on business. An assortment of your wives were on the wire
wishing you luck. They asked me to say that they will be on the course
For a moment it seemed to me that the man's iron repose was shaken.
“Luella?” he asked.
“She was the first.”
“Agnes,” I said, “is right.”
“H'm!” said Vincent Jopp. And for the first time since I had known
him I thought that he was ill at ease.
* * * * *
The day of the final dawned bright and clear. At least, I was not
awake at the time to see, but I suppose it did; for at nine o'clock,
when I came down to breakfast, the sun was shining brightly. The first
eighteen holes were to be played before lunch, starting at eleven.
Until twenty minutes before the hour Vincent Jopp kept me busy taking
dictation, partly on matters connected with his wheat deal and partly
on a signed article dealing with the Final, entitled “How I Won.” At
eleven sharp we were out on the first tee.
Jopp's opponent was a nice-looking young man, but obviously nervous.
He giggled in a distraught sort of way as he shook hands with my
“Well, may the best man win,” he said.
“I have arranged to do so,” replied Jopp, curtly, and started to
address his ball.
There was a large crowd at the tee, and, as Jopp started his
down-swing, from somewhere on the outskirts of this crowd there came
suddenly a musical “Boo!” It rang out in the clear morning air like a
I had been right in my estimate of Vincent Jopp. His forceful stroke
never wavered. The head of his club struck the ball, despatching it a
good two hundred yards down the middle of the fairway. As we left the
tee I saw Amelia Merridew being led away with bowed head by two members
of the Greens Committee. Poor girl! My heart bled for her. And yet,
after all, Fate had been kind in removing her from the scene, even in
custody, for she could hardly have borne to watch the proceedings.
Vincent Jopp made rings round his antagonist. Hole after hole he won in
his remorseless, machine-like way, until when lunch-time came at the
end of the eighteenth he was ten up. All the other holes had been
It was after lunch, as we made our way to the first tee, that the
advance-guard of the Mrs. Jopps appeared in the person of Luella
Mainprice Jopp, a kittenish little woman with blond hair and a
Pekingese dog. I remembered reading in the papers that she had divorced
my employer for persistent and aggravated mental cruelty, calling
witnesses to bear out her statement that he had said he did not like
her in pink, and that on two separate occasions had insisted on her dog
eating the leg of a chicken instead of the breast; but Time, the great
healer, seemed to have removed all bitterness, and she greeted him
“Wassums going to win great big championship against nasty rough
strong man?” she said.
“Such,” said Vincent Jopp, “is my intention. It was kind of you,
Luella, to trouble to come and watch me. I wonder if you know Mrs.
Agnes Parsons Jopp?” he said, courteously, indicating a kind-looking,
motherly woman who had just come up. “How are you, Agnes?”
“If you had asked me that question this morning, Vincent,” replied
Mrs. Agnes Parsons Jopp, “I should have been obliged to say that I felt
far from well. I had an odd throbbing feeling in the left elbow, and I
am sure my temperature was above the normal. But this afternoon I am a
little better. How are you, Vincent?”
Although she had, as I recalled from the reports of the case, been
compelled some years earlier to request the Court to sever her marital
relations with Vincent Jopp on the ground of calculated and inhuman
brutality, in that he had callously refused, in spite of her pleadings,
to take old Dr. Bennett's Tonic Swamp-Juice three times a day, her
voice, as she spoke, was kind and even anxious. Badly as this man had
treated her—and I remember hearing that several of the jury had been
unable to restrain their tears when she was in the witness-box giving
her evidence—there still seemed to linger some remnants of the old
“I am quite well, thank you, Agnes,” said Vincent Jopp.
“Are you wearing your liver-pad?”
A frown flitted across my employer's strong face.
“I am not wearing my liver-pad,” he replied, brusquely.
“Oh, Vincent, how rash of you!”
He was about to speak, when a sudden exclamation from his rear
checked him. A genial-looking woman in a sports coat was standing
there, eyeing him with a sort of humorous horror.
“Well, Jane,” he said.
I gathered that this was Mrs. Jane Jukes Jopp, the wife who had
divorced him for systematic and ingrowing fiendishness on the ground
that he had repeatedly outraged her feelings by wearing a white
waistcoat with a dinner-jacket. She continued to look at him dumbly,
and then uttered a sort of strangled, hysterical laugh.
“Those legs!” she cried. “Those legs!”
Vincent Jopp flushed darkly. Even the strongest and most silent of
us have our weaknesses, and my employer's was the rooted idea that he
looked well in knickerbockers. It was not my place to try to dissuade
him, but there was no doubt that they did not suit him. Nature, in
bestowing upon him a massive head and a jutting chin, had forgotten to
finish him off at the other end. Vincent Jopp's legs were skinny.
“You poor dear man!” went on Mrs. Jane Jukes Jopp. “What practical
joker ever lured you into appearing in public in knickerbockers?”
“I don't object to the knickerbockers,” said Mrs. Agnes Parsons
Jopp, “but when he foolishly comes out in quite a strong east wind
without his liver-pad——”
“Little Tinky-Ting don't need no liver-pad, he don't,” said Mrs.
Luella Mainprice Jopp, addressing the animal in her arms, “because he
was his muzzer's pet, he was.”
I was standing quite near to Vincent Jopp, and at this moment I saw
a bead of perspiration spring out on his forehead, and into his steely
eyes there came a positively hunted look. I could understand and
sympathize. Napoleon himself would have wilted if he had found himself
in the midst of a trio of females, one talking baby-talk, another
fussing about his health, and the third making derogatory observations
on his lower limbs. Vincent Jopp was becoming unstrung.
“May as well be starting, shall we?”
It was Jopp's opponent who spoke. There was a strange, set look on
his face—the look of a man whose back is against the wall. Ten down on
the morning's round, he had drawn on his reserves of courage and was
determined to meet the inevitable bravely.
Vincent Jopp nodded absently, then turned to me.
“Keep those women away from me,” he whispered tensely. “They'll put
me off my stroke!”
“Put you off your stroke!” I exclaimed, incredulously.
“Yes, me! How the deuce can I concentrate, with people babbling
about liver-pads, and—and knickerbockers all round me? Keep them
He started to address his ball, and there was a weak uncertainty in
the way he did it that prepared me for what was to come. His club rose,
wavered, fell; and the ball, badly topped, trickled two feet and sank
into a cuppy lie.
“Is that good or bad?” inquired Mrs. Luella Mainprice Jopp.
A sort of desperate hope gleamed in the eye of the other competitor
in the final. He swung with renewed vigour. His ball sang through the
air, and lay within chip-shot distance of the green.
“At the very least,” said Mrs. Agnes Parsons Jopp, “I hope, Vincent,
that you are wearing flannel next your skin.”
I heard Jopp give a stifled groan as he took his spoon from the bag.
He made a gallant effort to retrieve the lost ground, but the ball
struck a stone and bounded away into the long grass to the side of the
green. His opponent won the hole.
We moved to the second tee.
“Now, that young man,” said Mrs. Jane Jukes Jopp, indicating her
late husband's blushing antagonist, “is quite right to wear
knickerbockers. He can carry them off. But a glance in the mirror must
have shown you that you——”
“I'm sure you're feverish, Vincent,” said Mrs. Agnes Parsons Jopp,
solicitously. “You are quite flushed. There is a wild gleam in your
“Muzzer's pet got little buttons of eyes, that don't never have no
wild gleam in zem because he's muzzer's own darling, he was!” said Mrs.
Luella Mainprice Jopp.
A hollow groan escaped Vincent Jopp's ashen lips.
I need not recount the play hole by hole, I think. There are some
subjects that are too painful. It was pitiful to watch Vincent Jopp in
his downfall. By the end of the first nine his lead had been reduced to
one, and his antagonist, rendered a new man by success, was playing
magnificent golf. On the next hole he drew level. Then with a
superhuman effort Jopp contrived to halve the eleventh, twelfth, and
thirteenth. It seemed as though his iron will might still assert
itself, but on the fourteenth the end came.
He had driven a superb ball, outdistancing his opponent by a full
fifty yards. The latter played a good second to within a few feet of
the green. And then, as Vincent Jopp was shaping for his stroke, Luella
Mainprice gave tongue.
“Vincent, that other man—bad man—not playing fair. When your back
was turned just now, he gave his ball a great bang. I was
“At any rate,” said Mrs. Agnes Parsons Jopp, “I do hope, when the
game is over, Vincent, that you will remember to cool slowly.”
“Flesho!” cried Mrs. Jane Jukes Jopp triumphantly. “I've been trying
to remember the name all the afternoon. I saw about it in one of the
papers. The advertisements speak most highly of it. You take it before
breakfast and again before retiring, and they guarantee it to produce
firm, healthy flesh on the most sparsely-covered limbs in next to no
time. Now, will you remember to get a bottle tonight? It comes
in two sizes, the five-shilling (or large size) and the smaller at
half-a-crown. G. K. Chesterton writes that he used it regularly for
Vincent Jopp uttered a quavering moan, and his hand, as he took the
mashie from his bag, was trembling like an aspen.
Ten minutes later, he was on his way back to the club-house, a
* * * * *
And so (concluded the Oldest Member) you see that in golf there is
no such thing as a soft snap. You can never be certain of the finest
player. Anything may happen to the greatest expert at any stage of the
game. In a recent competition George Duncan took eleven shots over a
hole which eighteen-handicap men generally do in five. No! Back horses
or go down to Throgmorton Street and try to take it away from the
Rothschilds, and I will applaud you as a shrewd and cautious financier.
But to bet at golf is pure gambling.
9. The Rough Stuff
Into the basking warmth of the day there had crept, with the
approach of evening, that heartening crispness which heralds the advent
of autumn. Already, in the valley by the ninth tee, some of the trees
had begun to try on strange colours, in tentative experiment against
the coming of nature's annual fancy dress ball, when the soberest tree
casts off its workaday suit of green and plunges into a riot of reds
and yellows. On the terrace in front of the club-house an occasional
withered leaf fluttered down on the table where the Oldest Member sat,
sipping a thoughtful seltzer and lemon and listening with courteous
gravity to a young man in a sweater and golf breeches who occupied the
“She is a dear girl,” said the young man a little moodily, “a dear
girl in every respect. But somehow—I don't know—when I see her
playing golf I can't help thinking that woman's place is in the home.”
The Oldest Member inclined his frosted head.
“You think,” he said, “that lovely woman loses in queenly dignity
when she fails to slam the ball squarely on the meat?”
“I don't mind her missing the pill,” said the young man. “But I
think her attitude toward the game is too light-hearted.”
“Perhaps it cloaks a deeper feeling. One of the noblest women I ever
knew used to laugh merrily when she foozled a short putt. It was only
later, when I learned that in the privacy of her home she would weep
bitterly and bite holes in the sofa cushions, that I realized that she
did but wear the mask. Continue to encourage your fiancee to
play the game, my boy. Much happiness will reward you. I could tell you
A young woman of singular beauty and rather statuesque appearance
came out of the club-house carrying a baby swaddled in flannel. As she
drew near the table she said to the baby:
“Chicketty wicketty wicketty wipsey pop!”
In other respects her intelligence appeared to be above the
“Isn't he a darling!” she said, addressing the Oldest Member.
The Sage cast a meditative eye upon the infant. Except to the eye of
love, it looked like a skinned poached egg.
“Unquestionably so,” he replied.
“Don't you think he looks more like his father every day?”
For a brief instant the Oldest Member seemed to hesitate.
“Assuredly!” he said. “Is your husband out on the links today?”
“Not today. He had to see Wilberforce off on the train to Scotland.”
“Your brother is going to Scotland?”
“Yes. Ramsden has such a high opinion of the schools up there. I did
say that Scotland was a long way off, and he said yes, that had
occurred to him, but that we must make sacrifices for Willie's good. He
was very brave and cheerful about it. Well, I mustn't stay. There's
quite a nip in the air, and Rammikins will get a nasty cold in his
precious little button of a nose if I don't walk him about. Say
'Bye-bye' to the gentleman, Rammy!”
The Oldest Member watched her go thoughtfully.
“There is a nip in the air,” he said, “and, unlike our late
acquaintance in the flannel, I am not in my first youth. Come with me,
I want to show you something.”
He led the way into the club-house, and paused before the wall of
the smoking-room. This was decorated from top to bottom with bold
caricatures of members of the club.
“These,” he said, “are the work of a young newspaper artist who
belongs here. A clever fellow. He has caught the expressions of these
men wonderfully. His only failure, indeed, is that picture of myself.”
He regarded it with distaste, and a touch of asperity crept into his
manner. “I don't know why the committee lets it stay there,” he said,
irritably. “It isn't a bit like.” He recovered himself. “But all the
others are excellent, excellent, though I believe many of the subjects
are under the erroneous impression that they bear no resemblance to the
originals. Here is the picture I wished to show you. That is Ramsden
Waters, the husband of the lady who has just left us.”
The portrait which he indicated was that of a man in the early
thirties. Pale saffron hair surmounted a receding forehead. Pale blue
eyes looked out over a mouth which wore a pale, weak smile, from the
centre of which protruded two teeth of a rabbit-like character.
“Golly! What a map!” exclaimed the young man at his side.
“Precisely!” said the Oldest Member. “You now understand my
momentary hesitation in agreeing with Mrs. Waters that the baby was
like its father. I was torn by conflicting emotions. On the one hand,
politeness demanded that I confirm any statement made by a lady. Common
humanity, on the other hand, made it repugnant to me to knock an
innocent child. Yes, that is Ramsden Waters. Sit down and take the
weight off your feet, and I will tell you about him. The story
illustrates a favourite theory of mine, that it is an excellent thing
that women should be encouraged to take up golf. There are, I admit,
certain drawbacks attendant on their presence on the links. I shall not
readily forget the occasion on which a low, raking drive of mine at the
eleventh struck the ladies' tee box squarely and came back and stunned
my caddie, causing me to lose stroke and distance. Nevertheless, I hold
that the advantages outnumber the drawbacks. Golf humanizes women,
humbles their haughty natures, tends, in short, to knock out of their
systems a certain modicum of that superciliousness, that swank, which
makes wooing a tough proposition for the diffident male. You may have
found this yourself?”
“Well, as a matter of fact,” admitted the young man, “now I come to
think of it I have noticed that Genevieve has shown me a bit more
respect since she took up the game. When I drive 230 yards after she
had taken six sloshes to cover fifty, I sometimes think that a new
light comes into her eyes.”
“Exactly,” said the Sage.
* * * * *
From earliest youth (said the Oldest Member) Ramsden Waters had
always been of a shrinking nature. He seemed permanently scared.
Possibly his nurse had frightened him with tales of horror in his
babyhood. If so, she must have been the Edgar Allan Poe of her sex,
for, by the time he reached men's estate, Ramsden Waters had about as
much ferocity and self-assertion as a blanc mange. Even with other men
he was noticeably timid, and with women he comported himself in a
manner that roused their immediate scorn and antagonism. He was one of
those men who fall over their feet and start apologizing for themselves
the moment they see a woman. His idea of conversing with a girl was to
perspire and tie himself into knots, making the while a strange
gurgling sound like the language of some primitive tribe. If ever a
remark of any coherence emerged from his tangled vocal cords it dealt
with the weather, and he immediately apologized and qualified it. To
such a man women are merciless, and it speedily became an article of
faith with the feminine population of this locality that Ramsden Waters
was an unfortunate incident and did not belong. Finally, after
struggling for a time to keep up a connection in social circles, he
gave it up and became a sort of hermit.
I think that caricature I just showed you weighed rather heavily on
the poor fellow. Just as he was nerving himself to make another attempt
to enter society, he would catch sight of it and say to himself, “What
hope is there for a man with a face like that?” These caricaturists are
too ready to wound people simply in order to raise a laugh. Personally
I am broad-minded enough to smile at that portrait of myself. It has
given me great enjoyment, though why the committee permits it to—But
then, of course, it isn't a bit like, whereas that of Ramsden Waters
not only gave the man's exact appearance, very little exaggerated, but
laid bare his very soul. That portrait is the portrait of a chump, and
such Ramsden Waters undeniably was.
By the end of the first year in the neighbourhood, Ramsden, as I
say, had become practically a hermit. He lived all by himself in a
house near the fifteenth green, seeing nobody, going nowhere. His only
solace was golf. His late father had given him an excellent education,
and, even as early as his seventeenth year, I believe, he was going
round difficult courses in par. Yet even this admirable gift, which
might have done him social service, was rendered negligible by the fact
that he was too shy and shrinking to play often with other men. As a
rule, he confined himself to golfing by himself in the mornings and
late evenings when the links were more or less deserted. Yes, in his
twenty-ninth year, Ramsden Waters had sunk to the depth of becoming a
One lovely morning in summer, a scented morning of green and blue
and gold, when the birds sang in the trees and the air had that limpid
clearness which makes the first hole look about 100 yards long instead
of 345, Ramsden Waters, alone as ever, stood on the first tee
addressing his ball. For a space he waggled masterfully, then, drawing
his club back with a crisp swish, brought it down. And, as he did so, a
voice behind him cried:
Ramsden's driver wabbled at the last moment. The ball flopped weakly
among the trees on the right of the course. Ramsden turned to perceive,
standing close beside him, a small fat boy in a sailor suit. There was
“Rotten!” said the boy austerely.
Ramsden gulped. And then suddenly he saw that the boy was not alone.
About a medium approach-putt distance, moving gracefully and languidly
towards him, was a girl of such pronounced beauty that Ramsden Waters's
heart looped the loop twice in rapid succession. It was the first time
that he had seen Eunice Bray, and, like most men who saw her for the
first time, he experienced the sensations of one in an express lift at
the tenth floor going down who has left the majority of his internal
organs up on the twenty-second. He felt a dazed emptiness. The world
swam before his eyes.
You yourself saw Eunice just now: and, though you are in a sense
immune, being engaged to a charming girl of your own, I noticed that
you unconsciously braced yourself up and tried to look twice as
handsome as nature ever intended you to. You smirked and, if you had a
moustache, you would have twiddled it. You can imagine, then, the
effect which this vision of loveliness had on lonely, diffident Ramsden
Waters. It got right in amongst him.
“I'm afraid my little brother spoiled your stroke,” said Eunice. She
did not speak at all apologetically, but rather as a goddess might have
spoken to a swineherd.
Ramsden yammered noiselessly. As always in the presence of the
opposite sex, and more than ever now, his vocal cords appeared to have
tied themselves in a knot which would have baffled a sailor and might
have perplexed Houdini. He could not even gargle.
“He is very fond of watching golf,” said the girl.
She took the boy by the hand, and was about to lead him off, when
Ramsden miraculously recovered speech.
“Would he like to come round with me?” he croaked. How he had
managed to acquire the nerve to make the suggestion he could never
understand. I suppose that in certain supreme moments a sort of
desperate recklessness descends on nervous men.
“How very kind of you!” said the girl indifferently. “But I'm
“I want to go!” shrilled the boy. “I want to go!”
Fond as Eunice Bray was of her little brother, I imagine that the
prospect of having him taken off her hands on a fine summer morning,
when all nature urged her to sit in the shade on the terrace and read a
book, was not unwelcome.
“It would be very kind of you if you would let him,” said Eunice.
“He wasn't able to go to the circus last week, and it was a great
disappointment; this will do instead.”
She turned toward the terrace, and Ramsden, his head buzzing,
tottered into the jungle to find his ball, followed by the boy.
I have never been able to extract full particulars of that morning's
round from Ramsden. If you speak of it to him, he will wince and change
the subject. Yet he seems to have had the presence of mind to pump
Wilberforce as to the details of his home life, and by the end of the
round he had learned that Eunice and her brother had just come to visit
an aunt who lived in the neighbourhood. Their house was not far from
the links; Eunice was not engaged to be married; and the aunt made a
hobby of collecting dry seaweed, which she pressed and pasted in an
album. One sometimes thinks that aunts live entirely for pleasure.
At the end of the round Ramsden staggered on to the terrace,
tripping over his feet, and handed Wilberforce back in good condition.
Eunice, who had just reached the chapter where the hero decides to give
up all for love, thanked him perfunctorily without looking up from her
book; and so ended the first spasm of Ramsden Waters's life romance.
* * * * *
There are few things more tragic than the desire of the moth for the
star; and it is a curious fact that the spectacle of a star almost
invariably fills the most sensible moth with thoughts above his
station. No doubt, if Ramsden Waters had stuck around and waited long
enough there might have come his way in the fullness of time some nice,
homely girl with a squint and a good disposition who would have been
about his form. In his modest day dreams he had aspired to nothing
higher. But the sight of Eunice Bray seemed to have knocked all the
sense out of the man. He must have known that he stood no chance of
becoming anything to her other than a handy means of getting rid of
little Wilberforce now and again. Why, the very instant that Eunice
appeared in the place, every eligible bachelor for miles around her
tossed his head with a loud, snorting sound, and galloped madly in her
direction. Dashing young devils they were, handsome, well-knit fellows
with the figures of Greek gods and the faces of movie heroes. Any one
of them could have named his own price from the advertisers of collars.
They were the sort of young men you see standing grandly beside the
full-page picture of the seven-seater Magnifico car in the magazines.
And it was against this field that Ramsden Waters, the man with the
unshuffled face, dared to pit his feeble personality. One weeps.
Something of the magnitude of the task he had undertaken must have
come home to Ramsden at a very early point in the proceedings. At
Eunice's home, at the hour when women receive callers, he was from the
start a mere unconsidered unit in the mob scene. While his rivals
clustered thickly about the girl, he was invariably somewhere on the
outskirts listening limply to the aunt. I imagine that seldom has any
young man had such golden opportunities of learning all about dried
seaweed. Indeed, by the end of the month Ramsden Waters could not have
known more about seaweed if he had been a deep sea fish. And yet he was
not happy. He was in a position, if he had been at a dinner party and
things had got a bit slow, to have held the table spellbound with the
first hand information about dried seaweed, straight from the stable;
yet nevertheless he chafed. His soul writhed and sickened within him.
He lost weight and went right off his approach shots. I confess that my
heart bled for the man.
His only consolation was that nobody else, not even the fellows who
worked their way right through the jam and got seats in the front row
where they could glare into her eyes and hang on her lips and all that
sort of thing, seemed to be making any better progress.
And so matters went on till one day Eunice decided to take up golf.
Her motive for doing this was, I believe, simply because Kitty Manders,
who had won a small silver cup at a monthly handicap, receiving
thirty-six, was always dragging the conversation round to this trophy,
and if there was one firm article in Eunice Bray's simple creed it was
that she would be hanged if she let Kitty, who was by way of being a
rival on a small scale, put anything over on her. I do not defend
Eunice, but women are women, and I doubt if any of them really take up
golf in that holy, quest-of-the-grail spirit which animates men. I have
known girls to become golfers as an excuse for wearing pink jumpers,
and one at least who did it because she had read in the beauty hints in
the evening paper that it made you lissome. Girls will be girls.
Her first lessons Eunice received from the professional, but after
that she saved money by distributing herself among her hordes of
admirers, who were only too willing to give up good matches to devote
themselves to her tuition. By degrees she acquired a fair skill and a
confidence in her game which was not altogether borne out by results.
From Ramsden Waters she did not demand a lesson. For one thing it never
occurred to her that so poor-spirited a man could be of any use at the
game, and for another Ramsden was always busy tooling round with little
Yet it was with Ramsden that she was paired in the first competition
for which she entered, the annual mixed foursomes. And it was on the
same evening that the list of the draw went up on the notice board that
The mind of a man in love works in strange ways. To you and to me
there would seem to be no reason why the fact that Eunice's name and
his own had been drawn out of a hat together should so impress Ramsden,
but he looked on it as an act of God. It seemed to him to draw them
close together, to set up a sort of spiritual affinity. In a word, it
acted on the poor fellow like a tonic, and that very night he went
around to her house, and having, after a long and extremely interesting
conversation with her aunt, contrived to get her alone, coughed eleven
times in a strangled sort of way, and suggested that the wedding bells
should ring out.
Eunice was more startled than angry.
“Of course, I'm tremendously complimented, Mr.——” She had to pause
to recall the name. “Mr.——”
“Waters,” said Ramsden, humbly.
“Of course, yes. Mr. Waters. As I say, it's a great compliment——”
“Not at all!”
“A great compliment——”
“No, no!” murmured Ramsden obsequiously.
“I wish you wouldn't interrupt!” snapped Eunice with irritation. No
girl likes to have to keep going back and trying over her speeches.
“It's a great compliment, but it is quite impossible.”
“Just as you say, of course,” agreed Ramsden.
“What,” demanded Eunice, “have you to offer me? I don't mean money.
I mean something more spiritual. What is there in you, Mr. Walter——”
“Mr. Waters. What is there in you that would repay a girl for giving
up the priceless boon of freedom?”
“I know a lot about dried seaweed,” suggested Ramsden hopefully.
Eunice shook her head.
“No,” she said, “it is quite impossible. You have paid me the
greatest compliment a man can pay a woman, Mr. Waterson——”
“Waters,” said Ramsden. “I'll write it down for you.”
“Please don't trouble. I am afraid we shall never meet again——”
“But we are partners in the mixed foursomes tomorrow.”
“Oh, yes, so we are!” said Eunice. “Well, mind you play up. I want
to win a cup more than anything on earth.”
“Ah!” said Ramsden, “if only I could win what I want to win more
than anything else on earth! You, I mean,” he added, to make his
meaning clear. “If I could win you——” His tongue tied itself in a bow
knot round his uvula, and he could say no more. He moved slowly to the
door, paused with his fingers on the handle for one last look over his
shoulder, and walked silently into the cupboard where Eunice's aunt
kept her collection of dried seaweed.
His second start was favoured with greater luck, and he found
himself out in the hall, and presently in the cool air of the night,
with the stars shining down on him. Had those silent stars ever shone
down on a more broken-hearted man? Had the cool air of the night ever
fanned a more fevered brow? Ah, yes! Or, rather, ah no!
There was not a very large entry for the mixed foursomes
competition. In my experience there seldom is. Men are as a rule
idealists, and wish to keep their illusions regarding women intact, and
it is difficult for the most broad-minded man to preserve a chivalrous
veneration for the sex after a woman has repeatedly sliced into the
rough and left him a difficult recovery. Women, too—I am not speaking
of the occasional champions, but of the average woman, the one with the
handicap of 33, who plays in high-heeled shoes—are apt to giggle when
they foozle out of a perfect lie, and this makes for misogyny. Only
eight couples assembled on the tenth tee (where our foursomes matches
start) on the morning after Ramsden Waters had proposed to Eunice. Six
of these were negligible, consisting of males of average skill and
young women who played golf because it kept them out in the fresh air.
Looking over the field, Ramsden felt that the only serious rivalry was
to be feared from Marcella Bingley and her colleague, a 16-handicap
youth named George Perkins, with whom they were paired for the opening
round. George was a pretty indifferent performer, but Marcella, a
weather-beaten female with bobbed hair and the wrists of a welterweight
pugilist, had once appeared in the women's open championship and swung
a nasty iron.
Ramsden watched her drive a nice, clean shot down the middle of the
fairway, and spoke earnestly to Eunice. His heart was in this
competition, for, though the first prize in the mixed foursomes does
not perhaps entitle the winners to a place in the hall of fame, Ramsden
had the soul of the true golfer. And the true golfer wants to win
whenever he starts, whether he is playing in a friendly round or in the
“What we've got to do is to play steadily,” he said. “Don't try any
fancy shots. Go for safety. Miss Bingley is a tough proposition, but
George Perkins is sure to foozle a few, and if we play safe we've got
'em cold. The others don't count.”
You notice something odd about this speech. Something in it strikes
you as curious. Precisely. It affected Eunice Bray in the same fashion.
In the first place, it contains forty-four words, some of them of two
syllables, others of even greater length. In the second place, it was
spoken crisply, almost commandingly, without any of that hesitation and
stammering which usually characterized Ramsden Waters's utterances.
Eunice was puzzled. She was also faintly resentful. True, there was not
a word in what he had said that was calculated to bring the blush of
shame to the cheek of modesty; nevertheless, she felt vaguely that
Ramsden Waters had exceeded the limits. She had been prepared for a
gurgling Ramsden Waters, a Ramsden Waters who fell over his large feet
and perspired; but here was a Ramsden Waters who addressed her not
merely as an equal, but with more than a touch of superiority. She eyed
him coldly, but he had turned to speak to little Wilberforce, who was
to accompany them on the round.
“And you, my lad,” said Ramsden curtly, “you kindly remember that
this is a competition, and keep your merry flow of conversation as much
as possible to yourself. You've got a bad habit of breaking into small
talk when a man's addressing the ball.”
“If you think that my brother will be in the way——” began Eunice
“Oh, I don't mind him coming round,” said Ramsden, “if he keeps
Eunice gasped. She had not played enough golf to understand how that
noblest of games changes a man's whole nature when on the links. She
was thinking of something crushing to say to him, when he advanced to
the tee to drive off.
He drove a perfect ball, hard and low with a lot of roll. Even
Eunice was impressed.
“Good shot, partner!” she said.
Ramsden was apparently unaware that she had spoken. He was gazing
down the fairway with his club over his left shoulder in an attitude
almost identical with that of Sandy McBean in the plate labelled “The
Drive—Correct Finish", to face page twenty-four of his monumental
work, “How to Become a Scratch Player Your First Season by Studying
Photographs”. Eunice bit her lip. She was piqued. She felt as if she
had patted the head of a pet lamb, and the lamb had turned and bitten
her in the finger.
“I said, 'Good shot, partner!'“ she repeated coldly.
“Yes,” said Ramsden, “but don't talk. It prevents one
concentrating.” He turned to Wilberforce. “And don't let me have to
tell you that again!” he said.
“Wilberforce has been like a mouse!”
“That is what I complain of,” said Ramsden. “Mice make a beastly
scratching sound, and that's what he was doing when I drove that ball.”
“He was only playing with the sand in the tee box.”
“Well, if he does it again, I shall be reluctantly compelled to take
They walked in silence to where the ball had stopped. It was nicely
perched up on the grass, and to have plunked it on to the green with an
iron should have been for any reasonable golfer the work of a moment.
Eunice, however, only succeeded in slicing it feebly into the rough.
Ramsden reached for his niblick and plunged into the bushes. And,
presently, as if it had been shot up by some convulsion of nature, the
ball, accompanied on the early stages of its journey by about a pound
of mixed mud, grass, and pebbles, soared through the air and fell on
the green. But the mischief had been done. Miss Bingley, putting
forcefully, put the opposition ball down for a four and won the hole.
Eunice now began to play better, and, as Ramsden was on the top of
his game, a ding-dong race ensued for the remainder of the first nine
holes. The Bingley-Perkins combination, owing to some inspired work by
the female of the species, managed to keep their lead up to the tricky
ravine hole, but there George Perkins, as might have been expected of
him, deposited the ball right in among the rocks, and Ramsden and
Eunice drew level. The next four holes were halved and they reached the
club-house with no advantage to either side. Here there was a pause
while Miss Bingley went to the professional's shop to have a tack put
into the leather of her mashie, which had worked loose. George Perkins
and little Wilberforce, who believed in keeping up their strength,
melted silently away in the direction of the refreshment bar, and
Ramsden and Eunice were alone.
* * * * *
The pique which Eunice had felt at the beginning of the game had
vanished by now. She was feeling extremely pleased with her performance
on the last few holes, and would have been glad to go into the matter
fully. Also, she was conscious of a feeling not perhaps of respect so
much as condescending tolerance towards Ramsden. He might be a pretty
minus quantity in a drawing-room or at a dance, but in a bunker or out
in the open with a cleek, Eunice felt, you'd be surprised. She was just
about to address him in a spirit of kindliness, when he spoke.
“Better keep your brassey in the bag on the next nine,” he said.
“Stick to the iron. The great thing is to keep 'em straight!”
Eunice gasped. Indeed, had she been of a less remarkable beauty one
would have said that she snorted. The sky turned black, and all her
amiability was swept away in a flood of fury. The blood left her face
and surged back in a rush of crimson. You are engaged to be married and
I take it that there exists between you and your fiancee the
utmost love and trust and understanding; but would you have the nerve,
could you summon up the cold, callous gall to tell your Genevieve that
she wasn't capable of using her wooden clubs? I think not. Yet this was
what Ramsden Waters had told Eunice, and the delicately nurtured girl
staggered before the coarse insult. Her refined, sensitive nature was
all churned up.
Ever since she had made her first drive at golf, she had prided
herself on her use of the wood. Her brother and her brassey were the
only things she loved. And here was this man deliberately.... Eunice
Before they could have further speech George Perkins and little
Wilberforce ambled in a bloated way out of the clubhouse.
“I've had three ginger ales,” observed the boy. “Where do we go from
“Our honour,” said Ramsden. “Shoot!”
Eunice took out her driver without a word. Her little figure was
tense with emotion. She swung vigorously, and pulled the ball far out
on to the fairway of the ninth hole.
“Even off the tee,” said Ramsden, “you had better use an iron. You
must keep 'em straight.”
Their eyes met. Hers were glittering with the fury of a woman
scorned. His were cold and hard. And, suddenly, as she looked at his
awful, pale, set golf face, something seemed to snap in Eunice. A
strange sensation of weakness and humility swept over her. So might the
cave woman have felt when, with her back against a cliff and unable to
dodge, she watched her suitor take his club in the interlocking grip,
and, after a preliminary waggle, start his back swing.
The fact was that, all her life, Eunice had been accustomed to the
homage of men. From the time she had put her hair up every man she had
met had grovelled before her, and she had acquired a mental attitude
toward the other sex which was a blend of indifference and contempt.
For the cringing specimens who curled up and died all over the
hearthrug if she spoke a cold word to them she had nothing but scorn.
She dreamed wistfully of those brusque cavemen of whom she read in the
novels which she took out of the village circulating library. The
female novelist who was at that time her favourite always supplied with
each chunk of wholesome and invigorating fiction one beetle-browed hero
with a grouch and a scowl, who rode wild horses over the countryside
till they foamed at the mouth, and treated women like dirt. That,
Eunice had thought yearningly, as she talked to youths whose spines
turned to gelatine at one glance from her bright eyes, was the sort of
man she wanted to meet and never seemed to come across.
Of all the men whose acquaintance she had made recently she had
despised Ramsden Waters most. Where others had grovelled he had tied
himself into knots. Where others had gazed at her like sheep he had
goggled at her like a kicked spaniel. She had only permitted him to
hang round because he seemed so fond of little Wilberforce. And here he
was, ordering her about and piercing her with gimlet eyes, for all the
world as if he were Claude Delamere, in the thirty-second chapter of
“The Man of Chilled Steel", the one where Claude drags Lady Matilda
around the smoking-room by her hair because she gave the rose from her
bouquet to the Italian count.
She was half-cowed, half-resentful.
“Mr Winklethorpe told me I was very good with the wooden clubs,” she
“He's a great kidder,” said Ramsden.
He went down the hill to where his ball lay. Eunice proceeded direct
for the green. Much as she told herself that she hated this man, she
never questioned his ability to get there with his next shot.
George Perkins, who had long since forfeited any confidence which
his partner might have reposed in him, had topped his drive, leaving
Miss Bingley a difficult second out of a sandy ditch. The hole was
The match went on. Ramsden won the short hole, laying his ball dead
with a perfect iron shot, but at the next, the long dog-leg hole, Miss
Bingley regained the honour. They came to the last all square.
As the match had started on the tenth tee, the last hole to be
negotiated was, of course, what in the ordinary run of human affairs is
the ninth, possibly the trickiest on the course. As you know, it is
necessary to carry with one's initial wallop that combination of stream
and lake into which so many well meant drives have flopped. This done,
the player proceeds up the face of a steep slope, to find himself
ultimately on a green which looks like the sea in the storm scene of a
melodrama. It heaves and undulates, and is altogether a nasty thing to
have happen to one at the end of a gruelling match. But it is the first
shot, the drive, which is the real test, for the water and the trees
form a mental hazard of unquestionable toughness.
George Perkins, as he addressed his ball for the vital stroke,
manifestly wabbled. He was scared to the depths of his craven soul. He
tried to pray, but all he could remember was the hymn for those in
peril on the deep, into which category, he feared, his ball would
shortly fall. Breathing a few bars of this, he swung. There was a
musical click, and the ball, singing over the water like a bird,
breasted the hill like a homing aeroplane and fell in the centre of the
fairway within easy distance of the plateau green.
“Nice work, partner,” said Miss Bingley, speaking for the first and
last time in the course of the proceedings.
George unravelled himself with a modest simper. He felt like a
gambler who has placed his all on a number at roulette and sees the
white ball tumble into the correct compartment.
Eunice moved to the tee. In the course of the last eight holes the
girl's haughty soul had been rudely harrowed. She had foozled two
drives and three approach shots and had missed a short putt on the last
green but three. She had that consciousness of sin which afflicts the
golfer off his game, that curious self-loathing which humbles the
proudest. Her knees felt weak and all nature seemed to bellow at her
that this was where she was going to blow up with a loud report.
Even as her driver rose above her shoulder she was acutely aware
that she was making eighteen out of the twenty-three errors which
complicate the drive at golf. She knew that her head had swayed like
some beautiful flower in a stiff breeze. The heel of her left foot was
pointing down the course. Her grip had shifted, and her wrists felt
like sticks of boiled asparagus. As the club began to descend she
perceived that she had underestimated the total of her errors. And when
the ball, badly topped, bounded down the slope and entered the muddy
water like a timid diver on a cold morning she realized that she had a
full hand. There are twenty-three things which it is possible to do
wrong in the drive, and she had done them all.
Silently Ramsden Waters made a tee and placed thereon a new ball. He
was a golfer who rarely despaired, but he was playing three, and his
opponents' ball would undoubtedly be on the green, possibly even dead,
in two. Nevertheless, perhaps, by a supreme drive, and one or two
miracles later on, the game might be saved. He concentrated his whole
soul on the ball.
I need scarcely tell you that Ramsden Waters pressed....
Swish came the driver. The ball, fanned by the wind, rocked a little
on the tee, then settled down in its original position. Ramsden Waters,
usually the most careful of players, had missed the globe.
For a moment there was a silence—a silence which Ramsden had to
strive with an effort almost physically painful not to break. Rich
oaths surged to his lips, and blistering maledictions crashed against
the back of his clenched teeth.
The silence was broken by little Wilberforce.
One can only gather that there lurks in the supposedly innocuous
amber of ginger ale an elevating something which the temperance
reformers have overlooked. Wilberforce Bray had, if you remember,
tucked away no fewer than three in the spot where they would do most
good. One presumes that the child, with all that stuff surging about
inside him, had become thoroughly above himself. He uttered a merry
“Never hit it!” said little Wilberforce.
He was kneeling beside the tee box as he spoke, and now, as one who
has seen all that there is to be seen and turns, sated, to other
amusements, he moved round and began to play with the sand. The
spectacle of his alluring trouser seat was one which a stronger man
would have found it hard to resist. To Ramsden Waters it had the aspect
of a formal invitation. For one moment his number II golf shoe, as
supplied to all the leading professionals, wavered in mid-air, then
“How dare you kick my brother!”
Ramsden faced her, stern and pale.
“Madam,” he said, “in similar circumstances I would have kicked the
Then, stooping to his ball, he picked it up.
“The match is yours,” he said to Miss Bingley, who, having paid no
attention at all to the drama which had just concluded, was practising
short chip shots with her mashie-niblick.
He bowed coldly to Eunice, cast one look of sombre satisfaction at
little Wilberforce, who was painfully extricating himself from a bed of
nettles into which he had rolled, and strode off. He crossed the bridge
over the water and stalked up the hill.
Eunice watched him go, spellbound. Her momentary spurt of wrath at
the kicking of her brother had died away, and she wished she had
thought of doing it herself.
How splendid he looked, she felt, as she watched Ramsden striding up
to the club-house—just like Carruthers Mordyke after he had flung
Ermyntrude Vanstone from him in chapter forty-one of “Gray Eyes That
Gleam”. Her whole soul went out to him. This was the sort of man she
wanted as a partner in life. How grandly he would teach her to play
golf. It had sickened her when her former instructors, prefacing their
criticism with glutinous praise, had mildly suggested that some people
found it a good thing to keep the head still when driving and that
though her methods were splendid it might be worth trying. They had
spoken of her keeping her eye on the ball as if she were doing the ball
a favour. What she wanted was a great, strong, rough brute of a fellow
who would tell her not to move her damned head; a rugged Viking of a
chap who, if she did not keep her eye on the ball, would black it for
her. And Ramsden Waters was such a one. He might not look like a
Viking, but after all it is the soul that counts and, as this
afternoon's experience had taught her, Ramsden Waters had a soul that
seemed to combine in equal proportions the outstanding characteristics
of Nero, a wildcat, and the second mate of a tramp steamer.
* * * * *
That night Ramsden Walters sat in his study, a prey to the gloomiest
emotions. The gold had died out of him by now, and he was reproaching
himself bitterly for having ruined for ever his chance of winning the
only girl he had ever loved. How could she forgive him for his
brutality? How could she overlook treatment which would have caused
comment in the stokehold of a cattle ship? He groaned and tried to
forget his sorrows by forcing himself to read.
But the choicest thoughts of the greatest writers had no power to
grip him. He tried Vardon “On the Swing", and the words swam before his
eyes. He turned to Taylor “On the Chip Shot", and the master's pure
style seemed laboured and involved. He found solace neither in Braid
“On the Pivot” nor in Duncan “On the Divot”. He was just about to give
it up and go to bed though it was only nine o'clock, when the telephone
“Is that you, Mr. Waters? This is Eunice Bray.” The receiver shook
in Ramsden's hand. “I've just remembered. Weren't we talking about
something last night? Didn't you ask me to marry you or something? I
know it was something.”
Ramsden gulped three times.
“I did,” he replied hollowly.
“We didn't settle anything, did we?”
“I say, we sort of left it kind of open.”
“Well, would it bore you awfully,” said Eunice's soft voice, “to
come round now and go on talking it over?”
“We shall be quite alone,” said Eunice. “Little Wilberforce has gone
to bed with a headache.”
Ramsden paused a moment to disentangle his tongue from the back of
“I'll be right over!” he said huskily.
10. The Coming of Gowf
After we had sent in our card and waited for a few hours in the
marbled ante-room, a bell rang and the major-domo, parting the
priceless curtains, ushered us in to where the editor sat writing at
his desk. We advanced on all fours, knocking our head reverently on the
“Well?” he said at length, laying down his jewelled pen.
“We just looked in,” we said, humbly, “to ask if it would be all
right if we sent you an historical story.”
“The public does not want historical stories,” he said, frowning
“Ah, but the public hasn't seen one of ours!” we replied.
The editor placed a cigarette in a holder presented to him by a
reigning monarch, and lit it with a match from a golden box, the gift
of the millionaire president of the Amalgamated League of Working
“What this magazine requires,” he said, “is red-blooded,
one-hundred-per-cent dynamic stuff, palpitating with warm human
interest and containing a strong, poignant love-motive.”
“That,” we replied, “is us all over, Mabel.”
“What I need at the moment, however, is a golf story.”
“By a singular coincidence, ours is a golf story.”
“Ha! say you so?” said the editor, a flicker of interest passing
over his finely-chiselled features. “Then you may let me see it.”
He kicked us in the face, and we withdrew.
On the broad terrace outside his palace, overlooking the fair
expanse of the Royal gardens, King Merolchazzar of Oom stood leaning on
the low parapet, his chin in his hand and a frown on his noble face.
The day was fine, and a light breeze bore up to him from the garden
below a fragrant scent of flowers. But, for all the pleasure it seemed
to give him, it might have been bone-fertilizer.
The fact is, King Merolchazzar was in love, and his suit was not
prospering. Enough to upset any man.
Royal love affairs in those days were conducted on the
correspondence system. A monarch, hearing good reports of a
neighbouring princess, would despatch messengers with gifts to her
Court, beseeching an interview. The Princess would name a date, and a
formal meeting would take place; after which everything usually buzzed
along pretty smoothly. But in the case of King Merolchazzar's courtship
of the Princess of the Outer Isles there had been a regrettable hitch.
She had acknowledged the gifts, saying that they were just what she had
wanted and how had he guessed, and had added that, as regarded a
meeting, she would let him know later. Since that day no word had come
from her, and a gloomy spirit prevailed in the capital. At the
Courtiers' Club, the meeting-place of the aristocracy of Oom, five to
one in pazazas was freely offered against Merolchazzar's
chances, but found no takers; while in the taverns of the common
people, where less conservative odds were always to be had, you could
get a snappy hundred to eight. “For in good sooth,” writes a chronicler
of the time on a half-brick and a couple of paving-stones which have
survived to this day, “it did indeed begin to appear as though our
beloved monarch, the son of the sun and the nephew of the moon, had
been handed the bitter fruit of the citron.”
The quaint old idiom is almost untranslatable, but one sees what he
* * * * *
As the King stood sombrely surveying the garden, his attention was
attracted by a small, bearded man with bushy eyebrows and a face like a
walnut, who stood not far away on a gravelled path flanked by rose
bushes. For some minutes he eyed this man in silence, then he called to
the Grand Vizier, who was standing in the little group of courtiers and
officials at the other end of the terrace. The bearded man, apparently
unconscious of the Royal scrutiny, had placed a rounded stone on the
gravel, and was standing beside it making curious passes over it with
his hoe. It was this singular behaviour that had attracted the King's
attention. Superficially it seemed silly, and yet Merolchazzar had a
curious feeling that there was a deep, even a holy, meaning behind the
“Who,” he inquired, “is that?”
“He is one of your Majesty's gardeners,” replied the Vizier.
“I don't remember seeing him before. Who is he?”
The Vizier was a kind-hearted man, and he hesitated for a moment.
“It seems a hard thing to say of anyone, your Majesty,” he replied,
“but he is a Scotsman. One of your Majesty's invincible admirals
recently made a raid on the inhospitable coast of that country at a
spot known to the natives as S'nandrews and brought away this man.”
“What does he think he's doing?” asked the King, as the bearded one
slowly raised the hoe above his right shoulder, slightly bending the
left knee as he did so.
“It is some species of savage religious ceremony, your Majesty.
According to the admiral, the dunes by the seashore where he landed
were covered with a multitude of men behaving just as this man is
doing. They had sticks in their hands and they struck with these at
small round objects. And every now and again——”
“Fo-o-ore!” called a gruff voice from below.
“And every now and again,” went on the Vizier, “they would utter the
strange melancholy cry which you have just heard. It is a species of
The Vizier broke off. The hoe had descended on the stone, and the
stone, rising in a graceful arc, had sailed through the air and fallen
within a foot of where the King stood.
“Hi!” exclaimed the Vizier.
The man looked up.
“You mustn't do that! You nearly hit his serene graciousness the
“Mphm!” said the bearded man, nonchalantly, and began to wave his
hoe mystically over another stone.
Into the King's careworn face there had crept a look of interest,
almost of excitement.
“What god does he hope to propitiate by these rites?” he asked.
“The deity, I learn from your Majesty's admiral is called Gowf.”
“Gowf? Gowf?” King Merolchazzar ran over in his mind the muster-roll
of the gods of Oom. There were sixty-seven of them, but Gowf was not of
their number. “It is a strange religion,” he murmured. “A strange
religion, indeed. But, by Belus, distinctly attractive. I have an idea
that Oom could do with a religion like that. It has a zip to it. A sort
of fascination, if you know what I mean. It looks to me extraordinarily
like what the Court physician ordered. I will talk to this fellow and
learn more of these holy ceremonies.”
And, followed by the Vizier, the King made his way into the garden.
The Vizier was now in a state of some apprehension. He was exercised in
his mind as to the effect which the embracing of a new religion by the
King might have on the formidable Church party. It would be certain to
cause displeasure among the priesthood; and in those days it was a
ticklish business to offend the priesthood, even for a monarch. And, if
Merolchazzar had a fault, it was a tendency to be a little tactless in
his dealings with that powerful body. Only a few mornings back the High
Priest of Hec had taken the Vizier aside to complain about the quality
of the meat which the King had been using lately for his sacrifices. He
might be a child in worldly matters, said the High Priest, but if the
King supposed that he did not know the difference between home-grown
domestic and frozen imported foreign, it was time his Majesty was
disabused of the idea. If, on top of this little unpleasantness, King
Merolchazzar were to become an adherent of this new Gowf, the Vizier
did not know what might not happen.
The King stood beside the bearded foreigner, watching him closely.
The second stone soared neatly on to the terrace. Merolchazzar uttered
an excited cry. His eyes were glowing, and he breathed quickly.
“It doesn't look difficult,” he muttered.
“Hoo's!” said the bearded man.
“I believe I could do it,” went on the King, feverishly. “By the
eight green gods of the mountain, I believe I could! By the holy fire
that burns night and day before the altar of Belus, I'm sure I
could! By Hec, I'm going to do it now! Gimme that hoe!”
“Toots!” said the bearded man.
It seemed to the King that the fellow spoke derisively, and his
blood boiled angrily. He seized the hoe and raised it above his
shoulder, bracing himself solidly on widely-parted feet. His pose was
an exact reproduction of the one in which the Court sculptor had
depicted him when working on the life-size statue (“Our Athletic King")
which stood in the principal square of the city; but it did not impress
the stranger. He uttered a discordant laugh.
“Ye puir gonuph!” he cried, “whitkin' o' a staunce is that?”
The King was hurt. Hitherto the attitude had been generally admired.
“It's the way I always stand when killing lions,” he said. “'In
killing lions,'“ he added, quoting from the well-known treatise of
Nimrod, the recognized text-book on the sport, “'the weight at the top
of the swing should be evenly balanced on both feet.'“
“Ah, weel, ye're no killing lions the noo. Ye're gowfing.”
A sudden humility descended upon the King. He felt, as so many men
were to feel in similar circumstances in ages to come, as though he
were a child looking eagerly for guidance to an all-wise master—a
child, moreover, handicapped by water on the brain, feet three sizes
too large for him, and hands consisting mainly of thumbs.
“O thou of noble ancestors and agreeable disposition!” he said,
humbly. “Teach me the true way.”
“Use the interlocking grup and keep the staunce a wee bit open and
slow back, and dinna press or sway the heid and keep yer e'e on the
“My which on the what?” said the King, bewildered.
“I fancy, your Majesty,” hazarded the Vizier, “that he is
respectfully suggesting that your serene graciousness should deign to
keep your eye on the ball.”
“Oh, ah!” said the King.
The first golf lesson ever seen in the kingdom of Oom had begun.
* * * * *
Up on the terrace, meanwhile, in the little group of courtiers and
officials, a whispered consultation was in progress. Officially, the
King's unfortunate love affair was supposed to be a strict secret. But
you know how it is. These things get about. The Grand Vizier tells the
Lord High Chamberlain; the Lord High Chamberlain whispers it in
confidence to the Supreme Hereditary Custodian of the Royal Pet Dog;
the Supreme Hereditary Custodian hands it on to the Exalted Overseer of
the King's Wardrobe on the understanding that it is to go no farther;
and, before you know where you are, the varlets and scurvy knaves are
gossiping about it in the kitchens, and the Society journalists have
started to carve it out on bricks for the next issue of Palace
“The long and short of it is,” said the Exalted Overseer of the
King's Wardrobe, “we must cheer him up.”
There was a murmur of approval. In those days of easy executions it
was no light matter that a monarch should be a prey to gloom.
“But how?” queried the Lord High Chamberlain.
“I know,” said the Supreme Hereditary Custodian of the Royal Pet
Dog. “Try him with the minstrels.”
“Here! Why us?” protested the leader of the minstrels.
“Don't be silly!” said the Lord High Chamberlain. “It's for your
good just as much as ours. He was asking only last night why he never
got any music nowadays. He told me to find out whether you supposed he
paid you simply to eat and sleep, because if so he knew what to do
“Oh, in that case!” The leader of the minstrels started nervously.
Collecting his assistants and tip-toeing down the garden, he took up
his stand a few feet in Merolchazzar's rear, just as that much-enduring
monarch, after twenty-five futile attempts, was once more addressing
Lyric writers in those days had not reached the supreme pitch of
excellence which has been produced by modern musical comedy. The art
was in its infancy then, and the best the minstrels could do was
this—and they did it just as Merolchazzar, raising the hoe with
painful care, reached the top of his swing and started down:
“Oh, tune the string and let us sing
Our godlike, great, and glorious King!
He's a bear! He's a bear! He's a bear!”
There were sixteen more verses, touching on their ruler's prowess in
the realms of sport and war, but they were not destined to be sung on
that circuit. King Merolchazzar jumped like a stung bullock, lifted his
head, and missed the globe for the twenty-sixth time. He spun round on
the minstrels, who were working pluckily through their song of praise:
“Oh, may his triumphs never cease!
He has the strength of ten!
First in war, first in peace,
First in the hearts of his countrymen.”
“Get out!” roared the King.
“Your Majesty?” quavered the leader of the minstrels.
“Make a noise like an egg and beat it!” (Again one finds the
chronicler's idiom impossible to reproduce in modern speech, and must
be content with a literal translation.) “By the bones of my ancestors,
it's a little hard! By the beard of the sacred goat, it's tough! What
in the name of Belus and Hec do you mean, you yowling misfits, by
starting that sort of stuff when a man's swinging? I was just shaping
to hit it right that time when you butted in, you——”
The minstrels melted away. The bearded man patted the fermenting
monarch paternally on the shoulder.
“Ma mannie,” he said, “ye may no' be a gowfer yet, but hoots! ye're
learning the language fine!”
King Merolchazzar's fury died away. He simpered modestly at these
words of commendation, the first his bearded preceptor had uttered.
With exemplary patience he turned to address the stone for the
That night it was all over the city that the King had gone crazy
over a new religion, and the orthodox shook their heads.
* * * * *
We of the present day, living in the midst of a million marvels of a
complex civilization, have learned to adjust ourselves to conditions
and to take for granted phenomena which in an earlier and less advanced
age would have caused the profoundest excitement and even alarm. We
accept without comment the telephone, the automobile, and the wireless
telegraph, and we are unmoved by the spectacle of our fellow human
beings in the grip of the first stages of golf fever. Far otherwise was
it with the courtiers and officials about the Palace of Oom. The
obsession of the King was the sole topic of conversation.
Every day now, starting forth at dawn and returning only with the
falling of darkness, Merolchazzar was out on the Linx, as the outdoor
temple of the new god was called. In a luxurious house adjoining this
expanse the bearded Scotsman had been installed, and there he could be
found at almost any hour of the day fashioning out of holy wood the
weird implements indispensable to the new religion. As a recognition of
his services, the King had bestowed upon him a large pension,
innumerable kaddiz or slaves, and the title of Promoter of the
King's Happiness, which for the sake of convenience was generally
shortened to The Pro.
At present, Oom being a conservative country, the worship of the new
god had not attracted the public in great numbers. In fact, except for
the Grand Vizier, who, always a faithful follower of his sovereign's
fortunes, had taken to Gowf from the start, the courtiers held aloof to
a man. But the Vizier had thrown himself into the new worship with such
vigour and earnestness that it was not long before he won from the King
the title of Supreme Splendiferous Maintainer of the Twenty-Four
Handicap Except on Windy Days when It Goes Up to Thirty—a title which
in ordinary conversation was usually abbreviated to The Dub.
All these new titles, it should be said, were, so far as the
courtiers were concerned, a fruitful source of discontent. There were
black looks and mutinous whispers. The laws of precedence were being
disturbed, and the courtiers did not like it. It jars a man who for
years has had his social position all cut and dried—a man, to take an
instance at random, who, as Second Deputy Shiner of the Royal Hunting
Boots, knows that his place is just below the Keeper of the Eel-Hounds
and just above the Second Tenor of the Corps of Minstrels—it jars him,
we say, to find suddenly that he has got to go down a step in favour of
the Hereditary Bearer of the King's Baffy.
But it was from the priesthood that the real, serious opposition was
to be expected. And the priests of the sixty-seven gods of Oom were up
in arms. As the white-bearded High Priest of Hec, who by virtue of his
office was generally regarded as leader of the guild, remarked in a
glowing speech at an extraordinary meeting of the Priests' Equity
Association, he had always set his face against the principle of the
Closed Shop hitherto, but there were moments when every thinking man
had to admit that enough was sufficient, and it was his opinion that
such a moment had now arrived. The cheers which greeted the words
showed how correctly he had voiced popular sentiment.
* * * * *
Of all those who had listened to the High Priest's speech, none had
listened more intently than the King's half-brother, Ascobaruch. A
sinister, disappointed man, this Ascobaruch, with mean eyes and a
crafty smile. All his life he had been consumed with ambition, and
until now it had looked as though he must go to his grave with this
ambition unfulfilled. All his life he had wanted to be King of Oom, and
now he began to see daylight. He was sufficiently versed in Court
intrigues to be aware that the priests were the party that really
counted, the source from which all successful revolutions sprang. And
of all the priests the one that mattered most was the venerable High
Priest of Hec.
It was to this prelate, therefore, that Ascobaruch made his way at
the close of the proceedings. The meeting had dispersed after passing a
unanimous vote of censure on King Merolchazzar, and the High Priest was
refreshing himself in the vestry—for the meeting had taken place in
the Temple of Hec—with a small milk and honey.
“Some speech!” began Ascobaruch in his unpleasant, crafty way. None
knew better than he the art of appealing to human vanity.
The High Priest was plainly gratified.
“Oh, I don't know,” he said, modestly.
“Yessir!” said Ascobaruch. “Considerable oration! What I can never
understand is how you think up all these things to say. I couldn't do
it if you paid me. The other night I had to propose the Visitors at the
Old Alumni dinner of Oom University, and my mind seemed to go all
blank. But you just stand up and the words come fluttering out of you
like bees out of a barn. I simply cannot understand it. The thing gets
“Oh, it's just a knack.”
“A divine gift, I should call it.”
“Perhaps you're right,” said the High Priest, finishing his milk and
honey. He was wondering why he had never realized before what a capital
fellow Ascobaruch was.
“Of course,” went on Ascobaruch, “you had an excellent subject. I
mean to say, inspiring and all that. Why, by Hec, even I—though, of
course, I couldn't have approached your level—even I could have done
something with a subject like that. I mean, going off and worshipping a
new god no one has ever heard of. I tell you, my blood fairly boiled.
Nobody has a greater respect and esteem for Merolchazzar than I have,
but I mean to say, what! Not right, I mean, going off worshipping gods
no one has ever heard of! I'm a peaceable man, and I've made it a rule
never to mix in politics, but if you happened to say to me as we were
sitting here, just as one reasonable man to another—if you happened to
say, 'Ascobaruch, I think it's time that definite steps were taken,' I
should reply frankly, 'My dear old High Priest, I absolutely agree with
you, and I'm with you all the way.' You might even go so far as to
suggest that the only way out of the muddle was to assassinate
Merolchazzar and start with a clean slate.”
The High Priest stroked his beard thoughtfully.
“I am bound to say I never thought of going quite so far as that.”
“Merely a suggestion, of course,” said Ascobaruch. “Take it or leave
it. I shan't be offended. If you know a superior excavation, go to it.
But as a sensible man—and I've always maintained that you are the most
sensible man in the country—you must see that it would be a solution.
Merolchazzar has been a pretty good king, of course. No one denies
that. A fair general, no doubt, and a plus-man at lion-hunting. But,
after all—look at it fairly—is life all battles and lion-hunting?
Isn't there a deeper side? Wouldn't it be better for the country to
have some good orthodox fellow who has worshipped Hec all his life, and
could be relied on to maintain the old beliefs—wouldn't the fact that
a man like that was on the throne be likely to lead to more general
prosperity? There are dozens of men of that kind simply waiting to be
asked. Let us say, purely for purposes of argument, that you approached
me. I should reply, 'Unworthy though I know myself to be of such an
honour, I can tell you this. If you put me on the throne, you can bet
your bottom pazaza that there's one thing that won't suffer, and
that is the worship of Hec!' That's the way I feel about it.”
The High Priest pondered.
“O thou of unshuffled features but amiable disposition!” he said,
“thy discourse soundeth good to me. Could it be done?”
“Could it!” Ascobaruch uttered a hideous laugh. “Could it! Arouse me
in the night-watches and ask me! Question me on the matter, having
stopped me for that purpose on the public highway! What I would
suggest—I'm not dictating, mind you; merely trying to help you
out—what I would suggest is that you took that long, sharp knife of
yours, the one you use for the sacrifices, and toddled out to the
Linx—you're sure to find the King there; and just when he's raising
that sacrilegious stick of his over his shoulder——”
“O man of infinite wisdom,” cried the High Priest, warmly, “verily
hast them spoken a fullness of the mouth!”
“Is it a wager?” said Ascobaruch.
“It is a wager!” said the High Priest.
“That's that, then,” said Ascobaruch. “Now, I don't want to be mixed
up in any unpleasantness, so what I think I'll do while what you might
call the preliminaries are being arranged is to go and take a little
trip abroad somewhere. The Middle Lakes are pleasant at this time of
year. When I come back, it's possible that all the formalities will
have been completed, yes?”
“Rely on me, by Hec!” said the High Priest grimly, as he fingered
* * * * *
The High Priest was as good as his word. Early on the morrow he made
his way to the Linx, and found the King holing-out on the second green.
Merolchazzar was in high good humour.
“Greetings, O venerable one!” he cried, jovially. “Hadst thou come a
moment sooner, them wouldst have seen me lay my ball dead—aye, dead as
mutton, with the sweetest little half-mashie-niblick chip-shot ever
seen outside the sacred domain of S'nandrew, on whom”—he bared his
head reverently—“be peace! In one under bogey did I do the hole—yea,
and that despite the fact that, slicing my drive, I became ensnared in
The High Priest had not the advantage of understanding one word of
what the King was talking about, but he gathered with satisfaction that
Merolchazzar was pleased and wholly without suspicion. He clasped an
unseen hand more firmly about the handle of his knife, and accompanied
the monarch to the next altar. Merolchazzar stooped, and placed a small
round white object on a little mound of sand. In spite of his austere
views, the High Priest, always a keen student of ritual, became
“Why does your Majesty do that?”
“I tee it up that it may fly the fairer. If I did not, then would it
be apt to run a long the ground like a beetle instead of soaring like a
bird, and mayhap, for thou seest how rough and tangled is the grass
before us, I should have to use a niblick for my second.”
The High Priest groped for his meaning.
“It is a ceremony to propitiate the god and bring good luck?”
“You might call it that.”
The High Priest shook his head.
“I may be old-fashioned,” he said, “but I should have thought that,
to propitiate a god, it would have been better to have sacrificed one
of these kaddiz on his altar.”
“I confess,” replied the King, thoughtfully, “that I have often felt
that it would be a relief to one's feelings to sacrifice one or two
kaddiz, but The Pro for some reason or other has set his face
against it.” He swung at the ball, and sent it forcefully down the
fairway. “By Abe, the son of Mitchell,” he cried, shading his eyes, “a
bird of a drive! How truly is it written in the book of the prophet
Vadun, 'The left hand applieth the force, the right doth but guide.
Grip not, therefore, too closely with the right hand!' Yesterday I was
pulling all the time.”
The High Priest frowned.
“It is written in the sacred book of Hec, your Majesty, 'Thou shalt
not follow after strange gods'.”
“Take thou this stick, O venerable one,” said the King, paying no
attention to the remark, “and have a shot thyself. True, thou art well
stricken in years, but many a man has so wrought that he was able to
give his grandchildren a stroke a hole. It is never too late to begin.”
The High Priest shrank back, horrified. The King frowned.
“It is our Royal wish,” he said, coldly.
The High Priest was forced to comply. Had they been alone, it is
possible that he might have risked all on one swift stroke with his
knife, but by this time a group of kaddiz had drifted up, and
were watching the proceedings with that supercilious detachment so
characteristic of them. He took the stick and arranged his limbs as the
“Now,” said Merolchazzar, “slow back and keep your e'e on the ba'!”
* * * * *
A month later, Ascobaruch returned from his trip. He had received no
word from the High Priest announcing the success of the revolution, but
there might be many reasons for that. It was with unruffled contentment
that he bade his charioteer drive him to the palace. He was glad to get
back, for after all a holiday is hardly a holiday if you have left your
business affairs unsettled.
As he drove, the chariot passed a fair open space, on the outskirts
of the city. A sudden chill froze the serenity of Ascobaruch's mood. He
prodded the charioteer sharply in the small of the back.
“What is that?” he demanded, catching his breath.
All over the green expanse could be seen men in strange robes,
moving to and fro in couples and bearing in their hands mystic wands.
Some searched restlessly in the bushes, others were walking briskly in
the direction of small red flags. A sickening foreboding of disaster
fell upon Ascobaruch.
The charioteer seemed surprised at the question.
“Yon's the muneecipal linx,” he replied.
“The muneecipal linx.”
“Tell me, fellow, why do you talk that way?”
“Why, like that. The way you're talking.”
“Hoots, mon!” said the charioteer. “His Majesty King
Merolchazzar—may his handicap decrease!—hae passit a law that a' his
soobjects shall do it. Aiblins, 'tis the language spoken by The Pro, on
whom be peace! Mphm!”
Ascobaruch sat back limply, his head swimming. The chariot drove on,
till now it took the road adjoining the royal Linx. A wall lined a
portion of this road, and suddenly, from behind this wall, there rent
the air a great shout of laughter.
“Pull up!” cried Ascobaruch to the charioteer.
He had recognized that laugh. It was the laugh of Merolchazzar.
Ascobaruch crept to the wall and cautiously poked his head over it.
The sight he saw drove the blood from his face and left him white and
The King and the Grand Vizier were playing a foursome against the
Pro and the High Priest of Hec, and the Vizier had just laid the High
Priest a dead stymie.
Ascobaruch tottered to the chariot.
“Take me back,” he muttered, pallidly. “I've forgotten something!”
* * * * *
And so golf came to Oom, and with it prosperity unequalled in the
whole history of the land. Everybody was happy. There was no more
unemployment. Crime ceased. The chronicler repeatedly refers to it in
his memoirs as the Golden Age. And yet there remained one man on whom
complete felicity had not descended. It was all right while he was
actually on the Linx, but there were blank, dreary stretches of the
night when King Merolchazzar lay sleepless on his couch and mourned
that he had nobody to love him.
Of course, his subjects loved him in a way. A new statue had been
erected in the palace square, showing him in the act of getting out of
casual water. The minstrels had composed a whole cycle of up-to-date
songs, commemorating his prowess with the mashie. His handicap was down
to twelve. But these things are not all. A golfer needs a loving wife,
to whom he can describe the day's play through the long evenings. And
this was just where Merolchazzar's life was empty. No word had come
from the Princess of the Outer Isles, and, as he refused to be put off
with just-as-good substitutes, he remained a lonely man.
But one morning, in the early hours of a summer day, as he lay
sleeping after a disturbed night, Merolchazzar was awakened by the
eager hand of the Lord High Chamberlain, shaking his shoulder.
“Now what?” said the King.
“Hoots, your Majesty! Glorious news! The Princess of the Outer Isles
waits without—I mean wi'oot!”
The King sprang from his couch.
“A messenger from the Princess at last!”
“Nay, sire, the Princess herself—that is to say,” said the Lord
Chamberlain, who was an old man and had found it hard to accustom
himself to the new tongue at his age, “her ain sel'! And believe me, or
rather, mind ah'm telling ye,” went on the honest man, joyfully, for he
had been deeply exercised by his monarch's troubles, “her Highness is
the easiest thing to look at these eyes hae ever seen. And you can say
I said it!”
“She is beautiful?”
“Your majesty, she is, in the best and deepest sense of the word, a
King Merolchazzar was groping wildly for his robes.
“Tell her to wait!” he cried. “Go and amuse her. Ask her riddles!
Tell her anecdotes! Don't let her go. Say I'll be down in a moment.
Where in the name of Zoroaster is our imperial mesh-knit underwear?”
* * * * *
A fair and pleasing sight was the Princess of the Outer Isles as she
stood on the terrace in the clear sunshine of the summer morning,
looking over the King's gardens. With her delicate little nose she
sniffed the fragrance of the flowers. Her blue eyes roamed over the
rose bushes, and the breeze ruffled the golden curls about her temples.
Presently a sound behind her caused her to turn, and she perceived a
godlike man hurrying across the terrace pulling up a sock. And at the
sight of him the Princess's heart sang within her like the birds down
in the garden.
“Hope I haven't kept you waiting,” said Merolchazzar,
apologetically. He, too, was conscious of a strange, wild exhilaration.
Truly was this maiden, as his Chamberlain had said, noticeably easy on
the eyes. Her beauty was as water in the desert, as fire on a frosty
night, as diamonds, rubies, pearls, sapphires, and amethysts.
“Oh, no!” said the princess, “I've been enjoying myself. How passing
beautiful are thy gardens, O King!”
“My gardens may be passing beautiful,” said Merolchazzar, earnestly,
“but they aren't half so passing beautiful as thy eyes. I have dreamed
of thee by night and by day, and I will tell the world I was nowhere
near it! My sluggish fancy came not within a hundred and fifty-seven
miles of the reality. Now let the sun dim his face and the moon hide
herself abashed. Now let the flowers bend their heads and the gazelle
of the mountains confess itself a cripple. Princess, your slave!”
And King Merolchazzar, with that easy grace so characteristic of
Royalty, took her hand in his and kissed it.
As he did so, he gave a start of surprise.
“By Hec!” he exclaimed. “What hast thou been doing to thyself? Thy
hand is all over little rough places inside. Has some malignant wizard
laid a spell upon thee, or what is it?”
The Princess blushed.
“If I make that clear to thee,” she said, “I shall also make clear
why it was that I sent thee no message all this long while. My time was
so occupied, verily I did not seem to have a moment. The fact is, these
sorenesses are due to a strange, new religion to which I and my
subjects have but recently become converted. And O that I might make
thee also of the true faith! 'Tis a wondrous tale, my lord. Some two
moons back there was brought to my Court by wandering pirates a captive
of an uncouth race who dwell in the north. And this man has taught
King Merolchazzar uttered a loud cry.
“By Tom, the son of Morris! Can this truly be so? What is thy
The Princess stared at him, wide-eyed.
“Truly this is a miracle! Art thou also a worshipper of the great
“Am I!” cried the King. “Am I!” He broke off. “Listen!”
From the minstrels' room high up in the palace there came the sound
of singing. The minstrels were practising a new paean of praise—words
by the Grand Vizier, music by the High Priest of Hec—which they were
to render at the next full moon at the banquet of the worshippers of
Gowf. The words came clear and distinct through the still air:
“Oh, praises let us utter
To our most glorious King!
It fairly makes you stutter
To see him start his swing!
Success attend his putter!
And luck be with his drive!
And may he do each hole in two,
Although the bogey's five!”
The voices died away. There was a silence.
“If I hadn't missed a two-foot putt, I'd have done the long
fifteenth in four yesterday,” said the King.
“I won the Ladies' Open Championship of the Outer Isles last week,”
said the Princess.
They looked into each other's eyes for a long moment. And then, hand
in hand, they walked slowly into the palace.
“Well?” we said, anxiously.
“I like it,” said the editor.
“Good egg!” we murmured.
The editor pressed a bell, a single ruby set in a fold of the
tapestry upon the wall. The major-domo appeared.
“Give this man a purse of gold,” said the editor, “and throw him