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The Long Hole by P. G. Wodehouse

 

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 links.”

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 already——”

“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 Bingham....”

“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 commendable rapidity.

“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 her.”

“That's just what I think,” said Ralph Bingham. “And that's why we're going to play this match.”

“What 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 rule-book.”

       * * * * *

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.”

Rupert stared.

“The seventeenth!”

“I am going to take that direction,” said Ralph, pointing over the trees.

“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.”

“Why not?”

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 lies?”

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 into Woodfield.

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 he paused.

“I think I might try my brassey again here,” he said. “I have a nice lie.”

“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 fairway.”

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 beyond Bayside.

“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 morning ramble?”

“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. Nothing more.”

“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 win.”

“I refuse to admit it. Much may happen between here and Royal Square.”

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 day.

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 the car.”

“What was the matter with him?”

“He was too—ha!”

“How do you mean he was too—ha?”

“I have it!”

“What?”

“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.”

“Nonsense! Why?”

“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.”

“Yes, but——”

“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 custodians.

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:

    COME
    TO
    McCLURG AND MACDONALD,
    18, WEST STREET,
    FOR
    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 getting on?”

“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 street.

“What is the matter?” I asked.

“It's gone!”

“What has gone?”

“The car!”

“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 it is!”

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 the hole.”

“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 third judge.”

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 moment's thought.

“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.

 
 
 

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