The Rough Stuff by P. G. Wodehouse
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.