The Coming of Gowf by P. G. Wodehouse
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