Golf Stories

By P. G. Wodehouse.


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Archibald’s Benefit

Archibald Mealing was one of those golfers in whom desire outruns performance. Nobody could have been more willing than Archibald. He tried, and tried hard. Every morning before he took his bath he would stand in front of his mirror and practise swings. Every night before he went to bed he would read the golden words of some master on the subject of putting, driving, or approaching. Yet on the links most of his time was spent in retrieving lost balls or replacing America. Whether it was that Archibald pressed too much or pressed too little, whether it was that his club deviated from the dotted line which joined the two points A and B in the illustrated plate of the man making the brassy shot in the Hints on Golf book, or whether it was that he was pursued by some malignant fate, I do not know. Archibald rather favoured the last theory.

The important point is that, in his thirty-first year, after six seasons of untiring effort, Archibald went in for a championship, and won it.

Archibald, mark you, whose golf was a kind of blend of hockey, Swedish drill, and buck-and-wing dancing.

I know the ordeal I must face when I make such a statement. I see clearly before me the solid phalanx of men from Missouri, some urging me to tell it to the King of Denmark, others insisting that I produce my Eskimos. Nevertheless, I do not shrink. I state once more that in his thirty-first year Archibald Mealing went in for a golf championship, and won it.

Archibald belonged to a select little golf club, the members of which lived and worked in New York, but played in Jersey. Men of substance, financially as well as physically, they had combined their superfluous cash and with it purchased a strip of land close to the sea. This land had been drained⁠—to the huge discomfort of a colony of mosquitoes which had come to look on the place as their private property⁠—and converted into links, which had become a sort of refuge for incompetent golfers. The members of the Cape Pleasant Club were easygoing refugees from other and more exacting clubs, men who pottered rather than raced round the links; men, in short, who had grown tired of having to stop their game and stand aside in order to allow perspiring experts to whiz past them. The Cape Pleasant golfers did not make themselves slaves to the game. Their language, when they foozled, was gently regretful rather than sulphurous. The moment in the day’s play which they enjoyed most was when they were saying: “Well, here’s luck!” in the clubhouse.

It will, therefore, be readily understood that Archibald’s inability to do a hole in single figures did not handicap him at Cape Pleasant as it might have done at St. Andrews. His kindly club-mates took him to their bosoms to a man, and looked on him as a brother. Archibald’s was one of those admirable natures which prompt their possessor frequently to remark: “These are on me!” and his fellow golfers were not slow to appreciate the fact. They all loved Archibald.

Archibald was on the floor of his bedroom one afternoon, picking up the fragments of his mirror⁠—a friend had advised him to practise the Walter J. Travis lofting shot⁠—when the telephone bell rang. He took up the receiver, and was hailed by the comfortable voice of McCay, the club secretary.

“Is that Mealing?” asked McCay. “Say, Archie, I’m putting your name down for our championship competition. That’s right, isn’t it?”

“Sure,” said Archibald. “When does it start?”

“Next Saturday.”

“That’s me.”

“Good for you. Oh, Archie.”


“A man I met today told me you were engaged. Is that a fact?”

“Sure,” murmured Archibald, blushfully.

The wire hummed with McCay’s congratulations.

“Thanks,” said Archibald. “Thanks, old man. What? Oh, yes. Milsom’s her name. By the way, her family have taken a cottage at Cape Pleasant for the summer. Some distance from the links. Yes, very convenient, isn’t it? Goodbye.”

He hung up the receiver and resumed his task of gathering up the fragments. Now McCay happened to be of a romantic and sentimental nature. He was by profession a chartered accountant, and inclined to be stout; and all rather stout chartered accountants are sentimental. McCay was the sort of man who keeps old ball programmes and bundles of letters tied round with lilac ribbon. At country houses, where they lingered in the porch after dinner to watch the moonlight flooding the quiet garden, it was McCay and his colleague who lingered longest. McCay knew Ella Wheeler Wilcox by heart, and could take Browning without anaesthetics. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that Archibald’s remark about his fiancée coming to live at Cape Pleasant should give him food for thought. It appealed to him.

He reflected on it a good deal during the day, and, running across Sigsbee, a fellow Cape Pleasanter, after dinner that night at the Sybarites’ Club, he spoke of the matter to him. It so happened that both had dined excellently, and were looking on the world with a sort of cosy benevolence. They were in the mood when men pat small boys on the head and ask them if they mean to be President when they grow up.

“I called up Archie Mealing today,” said McCay. “Did you know he was engaged?”

“I did hear something about it. Girl of the name of Wilson, or⁠—”

“Milsom. She’s going to spend the summer at Cape Pleasant, Archie tells me.”

“Then she’ll have a chance of seeing him play in the championship competition.”

McCay sucked his cigar in silence for a while, watching with dreamy eyes the blue smoke as it curled ceiling-ward. When he spoke his voice was singularly soft.

“Do you know, Sigsbee,” he said, sipping his Maraschino with a gentle melancholy⁠—“do you know, there is something wonderfully pathetic to me in this business. I see the whole thing so clearly. There was a kind of quiver in the poor old chap’s voice when he said: ‘She is coming to Cape Pleasant,’ which told me more than any words could have done. It is a tragedy in its way, Sigsbee. We may smile at it, think it trivial; but it is none the less a tragedy. That warmhearted, enthusiastic girl, all eagerness to see the man she loves do well⁠—Archie, poor old Archie, all on fire to prove to her that her trust in him is not misplaced, and the end⁠—Disillusionment⁠—Disappointment⁠—Unhappiness.”

“He ought to keep his eye on the ball,” said the more practical Sigsbee.

“Quite possibly,” continued McCay, “he has told her that he will win this championship.”

“If Archie’s mutt enough to have told her that,” said Sigsbee decidedly, “he deserves all he gets. Waiter, two Scotch highballs.”

McCay was in no mood to subscribe to this stony-hearted view.

“I tell you,” he said, “I’m sorry for Archie! I’m sorry for the poor old chap. And I’m more than sorry for the girl.”

“Well, I don’t see what we can do,” said Sigsbee. “We can hardly be expected to foozle on purpose, just to let Archie show off before his girl.”

McCay paused in the act of lighting his cigar, as one smitten with a great thought.

“Why not?” he said. “Why not, Sigsbee? Sigsbee, you’ve hit it.”


“You have! I tell you, Sigsbee, you’ve solved the whole thing. Archie’s such a bully good fellow, why not give him a benefit? Why not let him win this championship? You aren’t going to tell me that you care whether you win a tin medal or not?”

Sigsbee’s benevolence was expanding under the influence of the Scotch highball and his cigar. Little acts of kindness on Archie’s part, here a cigar, there a lunch, at another time seats for the theatre, began to rise to the surface of his memory like rainbow-coloured bubbles. He wavered.

“Yes, but what about the rest of the men?” he said. “There will be a dozen or more in for the medal.”

“We can square them,” said McCay confidently. “We will broach the matter to them at a series of dinners at which we will be joint hosts. They are white men who will be charmed to do a little thing like that for a sport like Archie.”

“How about Gossett?” said Sigsbee.

McCay’s face clouded. Gossett was an unpopular subject with members of the Cape Pleasant Golf Club. He was the serpent in their Eden. Nobody seemed quite to know how he had got in, but there, unfortunately, he was. Gossett had introduced into Cape Pleasant golf a cheerless atmosphere of the rigour of the game. It was to enable them to avoid just such golfers as Gossett that the Cape Pleasanters had founded their club. Genial courtesy rather than strict attention to the rules had been the leading characteristics of their play till his arrival. Up to that time it had been looked on as rather bad form to exact a penalty. A cheery give-and-take system had prevailed. Then Gossett had come, full of strange rules, and created about the same stir in the community which a hawk would create in a gathering of middle-aged doves.

“You can’t square Gossett,” said Sigsbee.

McCay looked unhappy.

“I forgot him,” he said. “Of course, nothing will stop him trying to win. I wish we could think of something. I would almost as soon see him lose as Archie win. But, after all, he does have off days sometimes.”

“You need to have a very off day to be as bad as Archie.”

They sat and smoked in silence.

“I’ve got it,” said Sigsbee suddenly. “Gossett is a fine golfer, but nervous. If we upset his nerves enough, he will go right off his stroke. Couldn’t we think of some way?”

McCay reached out for his glass.

“Yours is a noble nature, Sigsbee,” he said.

“Oh, no,” said the paragon modestly. “Have another cigar?”

In order that the reader may get the mental half-Nelson on the plot of this narrative which is so essential if a short story is to charm, elevate, and instruct, it is necessary now, for the nonce (but only for the nonce), to inspect Archibald’s past life.

Archibald, as he had stated to McCay, was engaged to a Miss Milsom⁠—Miss Margaret Milsom. How few men, dear reader, are engaged to girls with svelte figures, brown hair, and large blue eyes, now sparkling and vivacious, now dreamy and soulful, but always large and blue! How few, I say. You are, dear reader, and so am I, but who else? Archibald was one of the few who happened to be.

He was happy. It is true that Margaret’s mother was not, as it were, wrapped up in him. She exhibited none of that effervescent joy at his appearance which we like to see in our mothers-in-law elect. On the contrary, she generally cried bitterly whenever she saw him, and at the end of ten minutes was apt to retire sobbing to her room, where she remained in a state of semi-coma till an advanced hour. She was by way of being a confirmed invalid, and something about Archibald seemed to get right in among her nerve centres, reducing them for the time being to a complicated hash. She did not like Archibald. She said she liked big, manly men. Behind his back she not infrequently referred to him as a “gaby”; sometimes even as that “guffin.”

She did not do this to Margaret, for Margaret, besides being blue-eyed, was also a shade quick-tempered. Whenever she discussed Archibald, it was with her son Stuyvesant. Stuyvesant Milsom, who thought Archibald a bit of an ass, was always ready to sit and listen to his mother on the subject, it being, however, an understood thing that at the conclusion of the séance she yielded one or two saffron-coloured bills towards his racing debts. For Stuyvesant, having developed a habit of backing horses which either did not start at all or else sat down and thought in the middle of the race, could always do with ten dollars or so. His prices for these interviews worked out, as a rule, at about three cents a word.

In these circumstances it was perhaps natural that Archibald and Margaret should prefer to meet, when they did meet, at some other spot than the Milsom home. It suited them both better that they should arrange a secret tryst on these occasions. Archibald preferred it because being in the same room as Mrs. Milsom always made him feel like a murderer with particularly large feet; and Margaret preferred it because, as she told Archibald, these secret meetings lent a touch of poetry to what might otherwise have been a commonplace engagement.

Archibald thought this charming; but at the same time he could not conceal from himself the fact that Margaret’s passion for the poetic cut, so to speak, both ways. He admired and loved the loftiness of her soul, but, on the other hand, it was a tough job having to live up to it. For Archibald was a very ordinary young man. They had tried to inoculate him with a love of poetry at school, but it had not taken. Until he was thirty he had been satisfied to class all poetry (except that of Mr. George Cohan) under the general heading of punk. Then he met Margaret, and the trouble began. On the day he first met her, at a picnic, she had looked so soulful, so aloof from this world, that he had felt instinctively that here was a girl who expected more from a man than a mere statement that the weather was great. It so chanced that he knew just one quotation from the classics, to wit, Tennyson’s critique of the Island-Valley of Avilion. He knew this because he had had the passage to write out one hundred and fifty times at school, on the occasion of his being caught smoking by one of the faculty who happened to be a passionate admirer of the “Idylls of the King.”

A remark of Margaret’s that it was a splendid day for a picnic and that the country looked nice gave him his opportunity.

“It reminds me,” he said, “it reminds me strongly of the Island-Valley of Avilion, where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow, nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies deep-meadow’d, happy, fair, with orchard lawns.⁠ ⁠…”

He broke off here to squash a hornet; but Margaret had heard enough. “Are you fond of the poets, Mr. Mealing?” she said, with a far-off look.

“Me?” said Archibald fervently. “Me? Why, I eat ’em alive!”

And that was how all the trouble had started. It had meant unremitting toil for Archibald. He felt that he had set himself a standard from which he must not fall. He bought every new volume of poetry which was praised in the press, and learned the reviews by heart. Every evening he read painfully a portion of the classics. He plodded through the poetry sections of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Margaret’s devotion to the various bards was so enthusiastic, and her reading so wide, that there were times when Archibald wondered if he could endure the strain. But he persevered heroically, and so far had not been found wanting. But the strain was fearful.

The early stages of the Cape Pleasant golf tournament need no detailed description. The rules of match play governed the contests, and Archibald disposed of his first three opponents before the twelfth hole. He had been diffident when he teed off with McCay in the first round, but, finding that he defeated the secretary with ease, he met one Butler in the second round with more confidence. Butler, too, he routed; with the result that, by the time he faced Sigsbee in round three, he was practically the conquering hero. Fortune seemed to be beaming upon him with almost insipid sweetness. When he was trapped in the bunker at the seventh hole, Sigsbee became trapped as well. When he sliced at the sixth tee, Sigsbee pulled. And Archibald, striking a brilliant vein, did the next three holes in eleven, nine, and twelve; and, romping home, qualified for the final.

Gossett, that serpent, meanwhile, had beaten each of his three opponents without much difficulty.

The final was fixed for the following Thursday morning. Gossett, who was a broker, had made some frivolous objection about the difficulty of absenting himself from Wall Street, but had been overruled. When Sigsbee pointed out that he could easily defeat Archibald and get to the city by lunchtime if he wished, and that in any case his partner would be looking after things, he allowed himself to be persuaded, though reluctantly. It was a well-known fact that Gossett was in the midst of some rather sizeable deals at that time.

Thursday morning suited Archibald admirably. It had occurred to him that he could bring off a double event. Margaret had arrived at Cape Pleasant on the previous evening, and he had arranged by telephone to meet her at the end of the boardwalk, which was about a mile from the links, at one o’clock, supply her with lunch, and spend the afternoon with her on the water. If he started his match with Gossett at eleven-thirty, he would have plenty of time to have his game and be at the end of the boardwalk at the appointed hour. He had no delusions about the respective merits of Gossett and himself as golfers. He knew that Gossett would win the necessary ten holes off the reel. It was saddening, but it was a scientific fact. There was no avoiding it. One simply had to face it.

Having laid these plans, he caught the train on the Thursday morning with the consoling feeling that, however sadly the morning might begin, it was bound to end well.

The day was fine, the sun warm, but tempered with a light breeze. One or two of the club had come to watch the match, among them Sigsbee.

Sigsbee drew Gossett aside.

“You must let me caddie for you, old man,” he said. “I know your temperament so exactly. I know how little it takes to put you off your stroke. In an ordinary game you might take one of these boys, I know, but on an important occasion like this you must not risk it. A grubby boy, probably with a squint, would almost certainly get on your nerves. He might even make comments on the game, or whistle. But I understand you. You must let me carry your clubs.”

“It’s very good of you,” said Gossett.

“Not at all,” said Sigsbee.

Archibald was now preparing to drive off from the first tee. He did this with great care. Everyone who has seen Archibald Mealing play golf knows that his teeing off is one of the most impressive sights ever witnessed on the links. He tilted his cap over his eyes, waggled his club a little, shifted his feet, waggled his club some more, gazed keenly towards the horizon for a moment, waggled his club again, and finally, with the air of a Strong Man lifting a bar of iron, raised it slowly above his head. Then, bringing it down with a sweep, he drove the ball with a lofty slice some fifty yards. It was rarely that he failed either to slice or pull his ball. His progress from hole to hole was generally a majestic zigzag.

Gossett’s drive took him well on the way to the green. He holed out in five. Archibald, mournful but not surprised, made his way to the second tee.

The second hole was shorter. Gossett won it in three. The third he took in six, the fourth in four. Archibald began to feel that he might just as well not be there. He was practically a spectator.

At this point he reached in his pocket for his tobacco-pouch, to console himself with smoke. To his dismay he found it was not there. He had had it in the train, but now it had vanished. This added to his gloom, for the pouch had been given to him by Margaret, and he had always thought it one more proof of the way her nature towered over the natures of other girls that she had not woven a monogram on it in forget-me-nots. This record pouch was missing, and Archibald mourned for the loss.

His sorrows were not alleviated by the fact that Gossett won the fifth and sixth holes.

It was now a quarter past twelve, and Archibald reflected with moody satisfaction that the massacre must soon be over, and that he would then be able to forget it in the society of Margaret.

As Gossett was about to drive off from the seventh tee, a telegraph boy approached the little group.

Mr. Gossett,” he said.

Gossett lowered his driver, and wheeled round, but Sigsbee had snatched the envelope from the boy’s hand.

“It’s all right, old man,” he said. “Go right ahead. I’ll keep it safe for you.”

“Give it to me,” said Gossett anxiously. “It may be from the office. Something may have happened to the market. I may be needed.”

“No, no,” said Sigsbee, soothingly. “Don’t you worry about it. Better not open it. It might have something in it that would put you off your stroke. Wait till the end of the game.”

“Give it to me. I want to see it.”

Sigsbee was firm.

“No,” he said. “I’m here to see you win this championship and I won’t have you taking any risks. Besides, even if it was important, a few minutes won’t make any difference.”

“Well, at any rate, open it and read it.”

“It is probably in cipher,” said Sigsbee. “I wouldn’t understand it. Play on, old man. You’ve only a few more holes to win.”

Gossett turned and addressed his ball again. Then he swung. The club tipped the ball, and it rolled sluggishly for a couple of feet. Archibald approached the tee. Now there were moments when Archibald could drive quite decently. He always applied a considerable amount of muscular force to his efforts. It was in that direction, as a rule, he erred. On this occasion, whether inspired by his rival’s failure or merely favoured by chance, he connected with his ball at precisely the right moment. It flew from the tee, straight, hard, and low, struck the ground near the green, bounded on and finally rocked to within a foot of the hole. No such long ball had been driven on the Cape Pleasant links since their foundation.

That it should have taken him three strokes to hole out from this promising position was unfortunate, but not fatal, for Gossett, who seemed suddenly to have fallen off his game, only reached the green in seven. A moment later a murmur of approval signified the fact that Archibald had won his first hole.

Mr. Gossett,” said a voice.

Those murmuring approval observed that the telegraph boy was once more in their midst. This time he bore two missives. Sigsbee dexterously impounded both.

“No,” he said with decision. “I absolutely refuse to let you look at them till the game is over. I know your temperament.”

Gossett gesticulated.

“But they must be important. They must come from my office. Where else would I get a stream of telegrams? Something has gone wrong. I am urgently needed.”

Sigsbee nodded gravely.

“That is what I fear,” he said. “That is why I cannot risk having you upset. Time enough, Gossett, for bad news after the game. Play on, man, and dismiss it from your mind. Besides, you couldn’t get back to New York just yet, in any case. There are no trains. Dismiss the whole thing from your mind and just play your usual, and you’re sure to win.”

Archibald had driven off during this conversation, but without his previous success. This time he had pulled his ball into some long grass. Gossett’s drive was, however, worse; and the subsequent movement of the pair to the hole resembled more than anything else the manoeuvres of two men rolling peanuts with toothpicks as the result of an election bet. Archibald finally took the hole in twelve after Gossett had played his fourteenth.

When Archibald won the next in eleven and the tenth in nine, hope began to flicker feebly in his bosom. But when he won two more holes, bringing the score to like-as-we-lie, it flamed up within him like a beacon.

The ordinary golfer, whose scores per hole seldom exceed those of Colonel Bogey, does not understand the whirl of mixed sensations which the really incompetent performer experiences on the rare occasions when he does strike a winning vein. As stroke follows stroke, and he continues to hold his opponent, a wild exhilaration surges through him, followed by a sort of awe, as if he were doing something wrong, even irreligious. Then all these yeasty emotions subside and are blended into one glorious sensation of grandeur and majesty, as of a giant among pygmies.

By the time that Archibald, putting with the care of one brushing flies off a sleeping Venus, had holed out and won the thirteenth, he was in the full grip of this feeling. And as he walked to the fifteenth tee, after winning the fourteenth, he felt that this was Life, that till now he had been a mere mollusc.

Just at that moment he happened to look at his watch, and the sight was like a douche of cold water. The hands stood at five minutes to one.

Let us pause and ponder on this point for a while. Let us not dismiss it as if it were some mere trivial, everyday difficulty. You, dear reader, play an accurate, scientific game and beat your opponent with ease every time you go the links, and so do I; but Archibald was not like us. This was the first occasion on which he had ever felt that he was playing well enough to give him a chance of defeating a really good man. True, he had beaten McCay, Sigsbee, and Butler in the earlier rounds; but they were ignoble rivals compared with Gossett. To defeat Gossett, however, meant the championship. On the other hand, he was passionately devoted to Margaret Milsom, whom he was due to meet at the end of the boardwalk at one sharp. It was now five minutes to one, and the end of the boardwalk still a mile away.

The mental struggle was brief but keen. A sharp pang, and his mind was made up. Cost what it might, he must stay on the links. If Margaret broke off the engagement⁠—well, it might be that Time would heal the wound, and that after many years he would find some other girl for whom he might come to care in a wrecked, broken sort of way. But a chance like this could never come again. What is Love compared with holing out before your opponent?

The excitement now had become so intense that a small boy, following with the crowd, swallowed his chewing-gum; for a slight improvement had become noticeable in Gossett’s play, and a slight improvement in the play of almost anyone meant that it became vastly superior to Archibald’s. At the next hole the improvement was not marked enough to have its full effect, and Archibald contrived to halve. This made him two up and three to play. What the average golfer would consider a commanding lead. But Archibald was no average golfer. A commanding lead for him would have been two up and one to play.

To give the public of his best, your golfer should have his mind cool and intent upon the game. Inasmuch as Gossett was worrying about the telegrams, while Archibald, strive as he might to dismiss it, was haunted by a vision of Margaret standing alone and deserted on the boardwalk, play became, as it were, ragged. Fine putting enabled Gossett to do the sixteenth hole in twelve, and when, winning the seventeenth in nine, he brought his score level with Archibald’s the match seemed over. But just then⁠—

Mr. Gossett!” said a familiar voice.

Once more was the much-enduring telegraph boy among those present.

“T’ree dis time!” he observed.

Gossett sprang, but again the watchful Sigsbee was too swift.

“Be brave, Gossett⁠—be brave,” he said. “This is a crisis in the game. Keep your nerve. Play just as if nothing existed outside the links. To look at these telegrams now would be fatal.”

Eyewitnesses of that great encounter will tell the story of the last hole to their dying day. It was one of those Titanic struggles which Time cannot efface from the memory. Archibald was fortunate in getting a good start. He only missed twice before he struck his ball on the tee. Gossett had four strokes ere he achieved the feat. Nor did Archibald’s luck desert him in the journey to the green. He was out of the bunker in eleven.

Gossett emerged only after sixteen. Finally, when Archibald’s twenty-first stroke sent the ball trickling into the hole, Gossett had played his thirtieth.

The ball had hardly rested on the bottom of the hole before Gossett had begun to tear the telegrams from their envelopes. As he read, his eyes bulged in their sockets.

“Not bad news, I hope,” said a sympathetic bystander.

Sigsbee took the sheaf of telegrams.

The first ran: “Good luck. Hope you win. McCay.” The second also ran: “Good luck. Hope you win. McCay.” So, singularly enough, did the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh.

“Great Scott!” said Sigsbee. “He seems to have been pretty anxious not to run any risk of missing you, Gossett.”

As he spoke, Archibald, close beside him, was looking at his watch. The hands stood at a quarter to two.

Margaret and her mother were seated in the parlour when Archibald arrived. Mrs. Milsom, who had elicited the fact that Archibald had not kept his appointment, had been saying “I told you so” for some time, and this had not improved Margaret’s temper. When, therefore, Archibald, damp and dishevelled, was shown in, the chill in the air nearly gave him frostbite. Mrs. Milsom did her celebrated imitation of the Gorgon, while Margaret, lightly humming an air, picked up a weekly paper and became absorbed in it.

“Margaret, let me explain,” panted Archibald. Mrs. Milsom was understood to remark that she dared say. Margaret’s attention was riveted by a fashion plate.

“Driving in a taximeter to the ferry this morning,” resumed Archibald, “I had an accident.”

This was the result of some rather feverish brain-work on the way from the links to the cottage.

The periodical flopped to the floor.

“Oh, Archie, are you hurt?”

“A few scratches, nothing more; but it made me miss my train.”

“What train did you catch?” asked Mrs. Milsom sepulchrally.

“The one o’clock. I came straight on here from the station.”

“Why,” said Margaret, “Stuyvesant was coming home on the one o’clock train. Did you see him?”

Archibald’s jaw dropped slightly.

“Er⁠—no,” he said.

“How curious,” said Margaret.

“Very curious,” said Archibald.

“Most curious,” said Mrs. Milsom.

They were still reflecting on the singularity of this fact when the door opened, and the son of the house entered in person.

“Thought I should find you here, Mealing,” he said. “They gave me this at the station to give to you; you dropped it this morning when you got out of the train.”

He handed Archibald the missing pouch.

“Thanks,” said the latter huskily. “When you say this morning, of course you mean this afternoon, but thanks all the same⁠—thanks⁠—thanks.”

“No, Archibald Mealing, he does not mean this afternoon,” said Mrs. Milsom. “Stuyvesant, speak! From what train did that guf⁠—did Mr. Mealing alight when he dropped the tobacco-pouch?”

“The ten o’clock, the fellow told me. Said he would have given it back to him then only he sprinted off in the deuce of a hurry.”

Six eyes focused themselves upon Archibald.

“Margaret,” he said, “I will not try to deceive you⁠—”

“You may try,” observed Mrs. Milsom, “but you will not succeed.”

“Well, Archibald?”

Archibald fingered his collar.

“There was no taximeter accident.”

“Ah!” said Mrs. Milsom.

“The fact is, I have been playing in a golf tournament.”

Margaret uttered an exclamation of surprise.

“Playing golf!”

Archibald bowed his head with manly resignation.

“Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you arrange for us to meet on the links? I should have loved it.”

Archibald was amazed.

“You take an interest in golf, Margaret? You! I thought you scorned it, considered it an unintellectual game. I thought you considered all games unintellectual.”

“Why, I play golf myself. Not very well.”

“Margaret! Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I thought you might not like it. You were so spiritual, so poetic. I feared you would despise me.”

Archibald took a step forward. His voice was tense and trembling.

“Margaret,” he said, “this is no time for misunderstandings. We must be open with one another. Our happiness is at stake. Tell me honestly, do you like poetry really?”

Margaret hesitated, then answered bravely:

“No, Archibald,” she said, “it is as you suspect. I am not worthy of you. I do not like poetry. Ah, you shudder! You turn away! Your face grows hard and scornful!”

“I don’t!” yelled Archibald. “It doesn’t! It doesn’t do anything of the sort! You’ve made me another man!”

She stared, wild-eyed, astonished.

“What! Do you mean that you, too⁠—”

“I should just say I do. I tell you I hate the beastly stuff. I only pretended to like it because I thought you did. The hours I’ve spent learning it up! I wonder I’ve not got brain fever.”

“Archie! Used you to read it up, too? Oh, if I’d only known!”

“And you forgive me⁠—this morning, I mean?”

“Of course. You couldn’t leave a golf tournament. By the way, how did you get on?”

Archibald coughed.

“Rather well,” he said modestly. “Pretty decently. In fact, not badly. As a matter of fact, I won the championship.”

“The championship!” whispered Margaret. “Of America?”

“Well, not absolutely of America,” said Archibald. “But all the same, a championship.”

“My hero.”

“You won’t be wanting me for a while, I guess?” said Stuyvesant nonchalantly. “Think I’ll smoke a cigarette on the porch.”

And sobs from the stairs told that Mrs. Milsom was already on her way to her room.

The Clicking of Cuthbert

The young man came into the smoking-room of the clubhouse, and flung his bag with a clatter on the floor. He sank moodily into an armchair and pressed the bell.



The young man pointed at the bag with every evidence of distaste.

“You may have these clubs,” he said. “Take them away. If you don’t want them yourself, give them to one of the caddies.”

Across the room the Oldest Member gazed at him with a grave sadness through the smoke of his pipe. His eye was deep and dreamy⁠—the eye of a man who, as the poet says, has seen Golf steadily and seen it whole.

“You are giving up golf?” he said.

He was not altogether unprepared for such an attitude on the young man’s part: for from his eyrie on the terrace above the ninth green he had observed him start out on the afternoon’s round and had seen him lose a couple of balls in the lake at the second hole after taking seven strokes at the first.

“Yes!” cried the young man fiercely. “Forever, dammit! Footling game! Blanked infernal fatheaded silly ass of a game! Nothing but a waste of time.”

The Sage winced.

“Don’t say that, my boy.”

“But I do say it. What earthly good is golf? Life is stern and life is earnest. We live in a practical age. All round us we see foreign competition making itself unpleasant. And we spend our time playing golf! What do we get out of it? Is golf any use? That’s what I’m asking you. Can you name me a single case where devotion to this pestilential pastime has done a man any practical good?”

The Sage smiled gently.

“I could name a thousand.”

“One will do.”

“I will select,” said the Sage, “from the innumerable memories that rush to my mind, the story of Cuthbert Banks.”

“Never heard of him.”

“Be of good cheer,” said the Oldest Member. “You are going to hear of him now.”

It was in the picturesque little settlement of Wood Hills (said the Oldest Member) that the incidents occurred which I am about to relate. Even if you have never been in Wood Hills, that suburban paradise is probably familiar to you by name. Situated at a convenient distance from the city, it combines in a notable manner the advantages of town life with the pleasant surroundings and healthful air of the country. Its inhabitants live in commodious houses, standing in their own grounds, and enjoy so many luxuries⁠—such as gravel soil, main drainage, electric light, telephone, baths (h. and c.), and company’s own water, that you might be pardoned for imagining life to be so ideal for them that no possible improvement could be added to their lot. Mrs. Willoughby Smethurst was under no such delusion. What Wood Hills needed to make it perfect, she realized, was Culture. Material comforts are all very well, but, if the summum bonum is to be achieved, the Soul also demands a look in, and it was Mrs. Smethurst’s unfaltering resolve that never while she had her strength should the Soul be handed the loser’s end. It was her intention to make Wood Hills a centre of all that was most cultivated and refined, and, golly! how she had succeeded. Under her presidency the Wood Hills Literary and Debating Society had tripled its membership.

But there is always a fly in the ointment, a caterpillar in the salad. The local golf club, an institution to which Mrs. Smethurst strongly objected, had also tripled its membership; and the division of the community into two rival camps, the Golfers and the Cultured, had become more marked than ever. This division, always acute, had attained now to the dimensions of a Schism. The rival sects treated one another with a cold hostility.

Unfortunate episodes came to widen the breach. Mrs. Smethurst’s house adjoined the links, standing to the right of the fourth tee: and, as the Literary Society was in the habit of entertaining visiting lecturers, many a golfer had foozled his drive owing to sudden loud outbursts of applause coinciding with his downswing. And not long before this story opens a sliced ball, whizzing in at the open window, had come within an ace of incapacitating Raymond Parsloe Devine, the rising young novelist (who rose at that moment a clear foot and a half) from any further exercise of his art. Two inches, indeed, to the right and Raymond must inevitably have handed in his dinner-pail.

To make matters worse, a ring at the front-door bell followed almost immediately, and the maid ushered in a young man of pleasing appearance in a sweater and baggy knickerbockers who apologetically but firmly insisted on playing his ball where it lay, and, what with the shock of the lecturer’s narrow escape and the spectacle of the intruder standing on the table and working away with a niblick, the afternoon’s session had to be classed as a complete frost. Mr. Devine’s determination, from which no argument could swerve him, to deliver the rest of his lecture in the coal-cellar gave the meeting a jolt from which it never recovered.

I have dwelt upon this incident, because it was the means of introducing Cuthbert Banks to Mrs. Smethurst’s niece, Adeline. As Cuthbert, for it was he who had so nearly reduced the muster-roll of rising novelists by one, hopped down from the table after his stroke, he was suddenly aware that a beautiful girl was looking at him intently. As a matter of fact, everyone in the room was looking at him intently, none more so than Raymond Parsloe Devine, but none of the others were beautiful girls. Long as the members of Wood Hills Literary Society were on brain, they were short on looks, and, to Cuthbert’s excited eye, Adeline Smethurst stood out like a jewel in a pile of coke.

He had never seen her before, for she had only arrived at her aunt’s house on the previous day, but he was perfectly certain that life, even when lived in the midst of gravel soil, main drainage, and company’s own water, was going to be a pretty poor affair if he did not see her again. Yes, Cuthbert was in love: and it is interesting to record, as showing the effect of the tender emotion on a man’s game, that twenty minutes after he had met Adeline he did the short eleventh in one, and as near as a toucher got a three on the four-hundred-yard twelfth.

I will skip lightly over the intermediate stages of Cuthbert’s courtship and come to the moment when⁠—at the annual ball in aid of the local Cottage Hospital, the only occasion during the year on which the lion, so to speak, lay down with the lamb, and the Golfers and the Cultured met on terms of easy comradeship, their differences temporarily laid aside⁠—he proposed to Adeline and was badly stymied.

That fair, soulful girl could not see him with a spyglass.

Mr. Banks,” she said, “I will speak frankly.”

“Charge right ahead,” assented Cuthbert.

“Deeply sensible as I am of⁠—”

“I know. Of the honour and the compliment and all that. But, passing lightly over all that guff, what seems to be the trouble? I love you to distraction⁠—”

“Love is not everything.”

“You’re wrong,” said Cuthbert, earnestly. “You’re right off it. Love⁠—” And he was about to dilate on the theme when she interrupted him.

“I am a girl of ambition.”

“And very nice, too,” said Cuthbert.

“I am a girl of ambition,” repeated Adeline, “and I realize that the fulfilment of my ambitions must come through my husband. I am very ordinary myself⁠—”

“What!” cried Cuthbert. “You ordinary? Why, you are a pearl among women, the queen of your sex. You can’t have been looking in a glass lately. You stand alone. Simply alone. You make the rest look like battered repaints.”

“Well,” said Adeline, softening a trifle, “I believe I am fairly good-looking⁠—”

“Anybody who was content to call you fairly good-looking would describe the Taj Mahal as a pretty nifty tomb.”

“But that is not the point. What I mean is, if I marry a nonentity I shall be a nonentity myself forever. And I would sooner die than be a nonentity.”

“And, if I follow your reasoning, you think that that lets me out?”

“Well, really, Mr. Banks, have you done anything, or are you likely ever to do anything worthwhile?”

Cuthbert hesitated.

“It’s true,” he said, “I didn’t finish in the first ten in the Open, and I was knocked out in the semifinal of the Amateur, but I won the French Open last year.”


“The French Open Championship. Golf, you know.”

“Golf! You waste all your time playing golf. I admire a man who is more spiritual, more intellectual.”

A pang of jealousy rent Cuthbert’s bosom.

“Like What’s-his-name Devine?” he said, sullenly.

Mr. Devine,” replied Adeline, blushing faintly, “is going to be a great man. Already he has achieved much. The critics say that he is more Russian than any other young English writer.”

“And is that good?”

“Of course it’s good.”

“I should have thought the wheeze would be to be more English than any other young English writer.”

“Nonsense! Who wants an English writer to be English? You’ve got to be Russian or Spanish or something to be a real success. The mantle of the great Russians has descended on Mr. Devine.”

“From what I’ve heard of Russians, I should hate to have that happen to me.”

“There is no danger of that,” said Adeline scornfully.

“Oh! Well, let me tell you that there is a lot more in me than you think.”

“That might easily be so.”

“You think I’m not spiritual and intellectual,” said Cuthbert, deeply moved. “Very well. Tomorrow I join the Literary Society.”

Even as he spoke the words his leg was itching to kick himself for being such a chump, but the sudden expression of pleasure on Adeline’s face soothed him; and he went home that night with the feeling that he had taken on something rather attractive. It was only in the cold, grey light of the morning that he realized what he had let himself in for.

I do not know if you have had any experience of suburban literary societies, but the one that flourished under the eye of Mrs. Willoughby Smethurst at Wood Hills was rather more so than the average. With my feeble powers of narrative, I cannot hope to make clear to you all that Cuthbert Banks endured in the next few weeks. And, even if I could, I doubt if I should do so. It is all very well to excite pity and terror, as Aristotle recommends, but there are limits. In the ancient Greek tragedies it was an ironclad rule that all the real rough stuff should take place offstage, and I shall follow this admirable principle. It will suffice if I say merely that J. Cuthbert Banks had a thin time. After attending eleven debates and fourteen lectures on vers libre Poetry, the Seventeenth-Century Essayists, the Neo-Scandinavian Movement in Portuguese Literature, and other subjects of a similar nature, he grew so enfeebled that, on the rare occasions when he had time for a visit to the links, he had to take a full iron for his mashie shots.

It was not simply the oppressive nature of the debates and lectures that sapped his vitality. What really got right in amongst him was the torture of seeing Adeline’s adoration of Raymond Parsloe Devine. The man seemed to have made the deepest possible impression upon her plastic emotions. When he spoke, she leaned forward with parted lips and looked at him. When he was not speaking⁠—which was seldom⁠—she leaned back and looked at him. And when he happened to take the next seat to her, she leaned sideways and looked at him. One glance at Mr. Devine would have been more than enough for Cuthbert; but Adeline found him a spectacle that never palled. She could not have gazed at him with a more rapturous intensity if she had been a small child and he a saucer of ice-cream. All this Cuthbert had to witness while still endeavouring to retain the possession of his faculties sufficiently to enable him to duck and back away if somebody suddenly asked him what he thought of the sombre realism of Vladimir Brusiloff. It is little wonder that he tossed in bed, picking at the coverlet, through sleepless nights, and had to have all his waistcoats taken in three inches to keep them from sagging.

This Vladimir Brusiloff to whom I have referred was the famous Russian novelist, and, owing to the fact of his being in the country on a lecturing tour at the moment, there had been something of a boom in his works. The Wood Hills Literary Society had been studying them for weeks, and never since his first entrance into intellectual circles had Cuthbert Banks come nearer to throwing in the towel. Vladimir specialized in grey studies of hopeless misery, where nothing happened till page three hundred and eighty, when the muzhik decided to commit suicide. It was tough going for a man whose deepest reading hitherto had been Vardon on the Push-Shot, and there can be no greater proof of the magic of love than the fact that Cuthbert stuck it without a cry. But the strain was terrible and I am inclined to think that he must have cracked, had it not been for the daily reports in the papers of the internecine strife which was proceeding so briskly in Russia. Cuthbert was an optimist at heart, and it seemed to him that, at the rate at which the inhabitants of that interesting country were murdering one another, the supply of Russian novelists must eventually give out.

One morning, as he tottered down the road for the short walk which was now almost the only exercise to which he was equal, Cuthbert met Adeline. A spasm of anguish flitted through all his nerve-centres as he saw that she was accompanied by Raymond Parsloe Devine.

“Good morning, Mr. Banks,” said Adeline.

“Good morning,” said Cuthbert hollowly.

“Such good news about Vladimir Brusiloff.”

“Dead?” said Cuthbert, with a touch of hope.

“Dead? Of course not. Why should he be? No, Aunt Emily met his manager after his lecture at Queen’s Hall yesterday, and he has promised that Mr. Brusiloff shall come to her next Wednesday reception.”

“Oh, ah!” said Cuthbert, dully.

“I don’t know how she managed it. I think she must have told him that Mr. Devine would be there to meet him.”

“But you said he was coming,” argued Cuthbert.

“I shall be very glad,” said Raymond Devine, “of the opportunity of meeting Brusiloff.”

“I’m sure,” said Adeline, “he will be very glad of the opportunity of meeting you.”

“Possibly,” said Mr. Devine. “Possibly. Competent critics have said that my work closely resembles that of the great Russian Masters.”

“Your psychology is so deep.”

“Yes, yes.”

“And your atmosphere.”


Cuthbert in a perfect agony of spirit prepared to withdraw from this love-feast. The sun was shining brightly, but the world was black to him. Birds sang in the treetops, but he did not hear them. He might have been a muzhik for all the pleasure he found in life.

“You will be there, Mr. Banks?” said Adeline, as he turned away.

“Oh, all right,” said Cuthbert.

When Cuthbert had entered the drawing-room on the following Wednesday and had taken his usual place in a distant corner where, while able to feast his gaze on Adeline, he had a sporting chance of being overlooked or mistaken for a piece of furniture, he perceived the great Russian thinker seated in the midst of a circle of admiring females. Raymond Parsloe Devine had not yet arrived.

His first glance at the novelist surprised Cuthbert. Doubtless with the best motives, Vladimir Brusiloff had permitted his face to become almost entirely concealed behind a dense zareba of hair, but his eyes were visible through the undergrowth, and it seemed to Cuthbert that there was an expression in them not unlike that of a cat in a strange backyard surrounded by small boys. The man looked forlorn and hopeless, and Cuthbert wondered whether he had had bad news from home.

This was not the case. The latest news which Vladimir Brusiloff had had from Russia had been particularly cheering. Three of his principal creditors had perished in the last massacre of the bourgeoisie, and a man whom he owed for five years for a samovar and a pair of overshoes had fled the country, and had not been heard of since. It was not bad news from home that was depressing Vladimir. What was wrong with him was the fact that this was the eighty-second suburban literary reception he had been compelled to attend since he had landed in the country on his lecturing tour, and he was sick to death of it. When his agent had first suggested the trip, he had signed on the dotted line without an instant’s hesitation. Worked out in roubles, the fees offered had seemed just about right. But now, as he peered through the brushwood at the faces round him, and realized that eight out of ten of those present had manuscripts of some sort concealed on their persons, and were only waiting for an opportunity to whip them out and start reading, he wished that he had stayed at his quiet home in Nijni-Novgorod, where the worst thing that could happen to a fellow was a brace of bombs coming in through the window and mixing themselves up with his breakfast egg.

At this point in his meditations he was aware that his hostess was looming up before him with a pale young man in horn-rimmed spectacles at her side. There was in Mrs. Smethurst’s demeanour something of the unction of the master-of-ceremonies at the big fight who introduces the earnest gentleman who wishes to challenge the winner.

“Oh, Mr. Brusiloff,” said Mrs. Smethurst, “I do so want you to meet Mr. Raymond Parsloe Devine, whose work I expect you know. He is one of our younger novelists.”

The distinguished visitor peered in a wary and defensive manner through the shrubbery, but did not speak. Inwardly he was thinking how exactly like Mr. Devine was to the eighty-one other younger novelists to whom he had been introduced at various hamlets throughout the country. Raymond Parsloe Devine bowed courteously, while Cuthbert, wedged into his corner, glowered at him.

“The critics,” said Mr. Devine, “have been kind enough to say that my poor efforts contain a good deal of the Russian spirit. I owe much to the great Russians. I have been greatly influenced by Sovietski.”

Down in the forest something stirred. It was Vladimir Brusiloff’s mouth opening, as he prepared to speak. He was not a man who prattled readily, especially in a foreign tongue. He gave the impression that each word was excavated from his interior by some up-to-date process of mining. He glared bleakly at Mr. Devine, and allowed three words to drop out of him.

“Sovietski no good!”

He paused for a moment, set the machinery working again, and delivered five more at the pithead.

“I spit me of Sovietski!”

There was a painful sensation. The lot of a popular idol is in many ways an enviable one, but it has the drawback of uncertainty. Here today and gone tomorrow. Until this moment Raymond Parsloe Devine’s stock had stood at something considerably over par in Wood Hills intellectual circles, but now there was a rapid slump. Hitherto he had been greatly admired for being influenced by Sovietski, but it appeared now that this was not a good thing to be. It was evidently a rotten thing to be. The law could not touch you for being influenced by Sovietski, but there is an ethical as well as a legal code, and this it was obvious that Raymond Parsloe Devine had transgressed. Women drew away from him slightly, holding their skirts. Men looked at him censoriously. Adeline Smethurst started violently, and dropped a teacup. And Cuthbert Banks, doing his popular imitation of a sardine in his corner, felt for the first time that life held something of sunshine.

Raymond Parsloe Devine was plainly shaken, but he made an adroit attempt to recover his lost prestige.

“When I say I have been influenced by Sovietski, I mean, of course, that I was once under his spell. A young writer commits many follies. I have long since passed through that phase. The false glamour of Sovietski has ceased to dazzle me. I now belong wholeheartedly to the school of Nastikoff.”

There was a reaction. People nodded at one another sympathetically. After all, we cannot expect old heads on young shoulders, and a lapse at the outset of one’s career should not be held against one who has eventually seen the light.

“Nastikoff no good,” said Vladimir Brusiloff, coldly. He paused, listening to the machinery.

“Nastikoff worse than Sovietski.”

He paused again.

“I spit me of Nastikoff!” he said.

This time there was no doubt about it. The bottom had dropped out of the market, and Raymond Parsloe Devine Preferred were down in the cellar with no takers. It was clear to the entire assembled company that they had been all wrong about Raymond Parsloe Devine. They had allowed him to play on their innocence and sell them a pup. They had taken him at his own valuation, and had been cheated into admiring him as a man who amounted to something, and all the while he had belonged to the school of Nastikoff. You never can tell. Mrs. Smethurst’s guests were well-bred, and there was consequently no violent demonstration, but you could see by their faces what they felt. Those nearest Raymond Parsloe jostled to get further away. Mrs. Smethurst eyed him stonily through a raised lorgnette. One or two low hisses were heard, and over at the other end of the room somebody opened the window in a marked manner.

Raymond Parsloe Devine hesitated for a moment, then, realizing his situation, turned and slunk to the door. There was an audible sigh of relief as it closed behind him.

Vladimir Brusiloff proceeded to sum up.

“No novelists any good except me. Sovietski⁠—yah! Nastikoff⁠—bah! I spit me of zem all. No novelists anywhere any good except me. P. G. Wodehouse and Tolstoy not bad. Not good, but not bad. No novelists any good except me.”

And, having uttered this dictum, he removed a slab of cake from a nearby plate, steered it through the jungle, and began to champ.

It is too much to say that there was a dead silence. There could never be that in any room in which Vladimir Brusiloff was eating cake. But certainly what you might call the general chitchat was pretty well down and out. Nobody liked to be the first to speak. The members of the Wood Hills Literary Society looked at one another timidly. Cuthbert, for his part, gazed at Adeline; and Adeline gazed into space. It was plain that the girl was deeply stirred. Her eyes were opened wide, a faint flush crimsoned her cheeks, and her breath was coming quickly.

Adeline’s mind was in a whirl. She felt as if she had been walking gaily along a pleasant path and had stopped suddenly on the very brink of a precipice. It would be idle to deny that Raymond Parsloe Devine had attracted her extraordinarily. She had taken him at his own valuation as an extremely hot potato, and her hero-worship had gradually been turning into love. And now her hero had been shown to have feet of clay. It was hard, I consider, on Raymond Parsloe Devine, but that is how it goes in this world. You get a following as a celebrity, and then you run up against another bigger celebrity and your admirers desert you. One could moralize on this at considerable length, but better not, perhaps. Enough to say that the glamour of Raymond Devine ceased abruptly in that moment for Adeline, and her most coherent thought at this juncture was the resolve, as soon as she got up to her room, to burn the three signed photographs he had sent her and to give the autographed presentation set of his books to the grocer’s boy.

Mrs. Smethurst, meanwhile, having rallied somewhat, was endeavouring to set the feast of reason and flow of soul going again.

“And how do you like England, Mr. Brusiloff?” she asked.

The celebrity paused in the act of lowering another segment of cake.

“Dam good,” he replied, cordially.

“I suppose you have travelled all over the country by this time?”

“You said it,” agreed the Thinker.

“Have you met many of our great public men?”

“Yais⁠—Yais⁠—Quite a few of the nibs⁠—Lloyid Gorge, I meet him. But⁠—” Beneath the matting a discontented expression came into his face, and his voice took on a peevish note. “But I not meet your real great men⁠—your Arbmishel, your Arreevadon⁠—I not meet them. That’s what gives me the pipovitch. Have you ever met Arbmishel and Arreevadon?”

A strained, anguished look came into Mrs. Smethurst’s face and was reflected in the faces of the other members of the circle. The eminent Russian had sprung two entirely new ones on them, and they felt that their ignorance was about to be exposed. What would Vladimir Brusiloff think of the Wood Hills Literary Society? The reputation of the Wood Hills Literary Society was at stake, trembling in the balance, and coming up for the third time. In dumb agony Mrs. Smethurst rolled her eyes about the room searching for someone capable of coming to the rescue. She drew blank.

And then, from a distant corner, there sounded a deprecating, cough, and those nearest Cuthbert Banks saw that he had stopped twisting his right foot round his left ankle and his left foot round his right ankle and was sitting up with a light of almost human intelligence in his eyes.

“Er⁠—” said Cuthbert, blushing as every eye in the room seemed to fix itself on him, “I think he means Abe Mitchell and Harry Vardon.”

“Abe Mitchell and Harry Vardon?” repeated Mrs. Smethurst, blankly. “I never heard of⁠—”

“Yais! Yais! Most! Very!” shouted Vladimir Brusiloff, enthusiastically. “Arbmishel and Arreevadon. You know them, yes, what, no, perhaps?”

“I’ve played with Abe Mitchell often, and I was partnered with Harry Vardon in last year’s Open.”

The great Russian uttered a cry that shook the chandelier.

“You play in ze Open? Why,” he demanded reproachfully of Mrs. Smethurst, “was I not been introducted to this young man who play in opens?”

“Well, really,” faltered Mrs. Smethurst. “Well, the fact is, Mr. Brusiloff⁠—”

She broke off. She was unequal to the task of explaining, without hurting anyone’s feelings, that she had always regarded Cuthbert as a piece of cheese and a blot on the landscape.

“Introduct me!” thundered the Celebrity.

“Why, certainly, certainly, of course. This is Mr.⁠—.”

She looked appealingly at Cuthbert.

“Banks,” prompted Cuthbert.

“Banks!” cried Vladimir Brusiloff. “Not Cootaboot Banks?”

Is your name Cootaboot?” asked Mrs. Smethurst, faintly.

“Well, it’s Cuthbert.”

“Yais! Yais! Cootaboot!” There was a rush and swirl, as the effervescent Muscovite burst his way through the throng and rushed to where Cuthbert sat. He stood for a moment eyeing him excitedly, then, stooping swiftly, kissed him on both cheeks before Cuthbert could get his guard up. “My dear young man, I saw you win ze French Open. Great! Great! Grand! Superb! Hot stuff, and you can say I said so! Will you permit one who is but eighteen at Nijni-Novgorod to salute you once more?”

And he kissed Cuthbert again. Then, brushing aside one or two intellectuals who were in the way, he dragged up a chair and sat down.

“You are a great man!” he said.

“Oh, no,” said Cuthbert modestly.

“Yais! Great. Most! Very! The way you lay your approach-putts dead from anywhere!”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

Mr. Brusiloff drew his chair closer.

“Let me tell you one vairy funny story about putting. It was one day I play at Nijni-Novgorod with the pro against Lenin and Trotsky, and Trotsky had a two-inch putt for the hole. But, just as he addresses the ball, someone in the crowd he tries to assassinate Lenin with a rewolwer⁠—you know that is our great national sport, trying to assassinate Lenin with rewolwers⁠—and the bang puts Trotsky off his stroke and he goes five yards past the hole, and then Lenin, who is rather shaken, you understand, he misses again himself, and we win the hole and match and I clean up three hundred and ninety-six thousand roubles, or fifteen shillings in your money. Some gameovitch! And now let me tell you one other vairy funny story⁠—”

Desultory conversation had begun in murmurs over the rest of the room, as the Wood Hills intellectuals politely endeavoured to conceal the fact that they realized that they were about as much out of it at this reunion of twin souls as cats at a dog-show. From time to time they started as Vladimir Brusiloff’s laugh boomed out. Perhaps it was a consolation to them to know that he was enjoying himself.

As for Adeline, how shall I describe her emotions? She was stunned. Before her very eyes the stone which the builders had rejected had become the main thing, the hundred-to-one shot had walked away with the race. A rush of tender admiration for Cuthbert Banks flooded her heart. She saw that she had been all wrong. Cuthbert, whom she had always treated with a patronizing superiority, was really a man to be looked up to and worshipped. A deep, dreamy sigh shook Adeline’s fragile form.

Half an hour later Vladimir and Cuthbert Banks rose.

“Goot-a-bye, Mrs. Smet-thirst,” said the Celebrity. “Zank you for a most charming visit. My friend Cootaboot and me we go now to shoot a few holes. You will lend me clobs, friend Cootaboot?”

“Any you want.”

“The niblicksky is what I use most. Goot-a-bye, Mrs. Smet-thirst.”

They were moving to the door, when Cuthbert felt a light touch on his arm. Adeline was looking up at him tenderly.

“May I come, too, and walk round with you?”

Cuthbert’s bosom heaved.

“Oh,” he said, with a tremor in his voice, “that you would walk round with me for life!”

Her eyes met his.

“Perhaps,” she whispered, softly, “it could be arranged.”

“And so,” (concluded the Oldest Member), “you see that golf can be of the greatest practical assistance to a man in Life’s struggle. Raymond Parsloe Devine, who was no player, had to move out of the neighbourhood immediately, and is now, I believe, writing scenarios out in California for the Flicker Film Company. Adeline is married to Cuthbert, and it was only his earnest pleading which prevented her from having their eldest son christened Abe Mitchell Ribbed-Faced Mashie Banks, for she is now as keen a devotee of the great game as her husband. Those who know them say that theirs is a union so devoted, so⁠—”

The Sage broke off abruptly, for the young man had rushed to the door and out into the passage. Through the open door he could hear him crying passionately to the waiter to bring back his clubs.

A Woman Is Only a Woman

On a fine day in the spring, summer, or early autumn, there are few spots more delightful than the terrace in front of our Golf Club. It is a vantage-point peculiarly fitted to the man of philosophic mind: for from it may be seen that varied, never-ending pageant, which men call Golf, in a number of its aspects. To your right, on the first tee, stand the cheery optimists who are about to make their opening drive, happily conscious that even a topped shot will trickle a measurable distance down the steep hill. Away in the valley, directly in front of you, is the lake hole, where these same optimists will be converted to pessimism by the wet splash of a new ball. At your side is the ninth green, with its sinuous undulations which have so often wrecked the returning traveller in sight of home. And at various points within your line of vision are the third tee, the sixth tee, and the sinister bunkers about the eighth green⁠—none of them lacking in food for the reflective mind.

It is on this terrace that the Oldest Member sits, watching the younger generation knocking at the divot. His gaze wanders from Jimmy Fothergill’s two-hundred-and-twenty-yard drive down the hill to the silver drops that flash up in the sun, as young Freddie Woosley’s mashie-shot drops weakly into the waters of the lake. Returning, it rests upon Peter Willard, large and tall, and James Todd, small and slender, as they struggle up the fairway of the ninth.

Love (says the Oldest Member) is an emotion which your true golfer should always treat with suspicion. Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that love is a bad thing, only that it is an unknown quantity. I have known cases where marriage improved a man’s game, and other cases where it seemed to put him right off his stroke. There seems to be no fixed rule. But what I do say is that a golfer should be cautious. He should not be led away by the first pretty face. I will tell you a story that illustrates the point. It is the story of those two men who have just got on to the ninth green⁠—Peter Willard and James Todd.

There is about great friendships between man and man (said the Oldest Member) a certain inevitability that can only be compared with the age-old association of ham and eggs. No one can say when it was that these two wholesome and palatable foodstuffs first came together, nor what was the mutual magnetism that brought their deathless partnership about. One simply feels that it is one of the things that must be so. Similarly with men. Who can trace to its first beginnings the love of Damon for Pythias, of David for Jonathan, of Swan for Edgar? Who can explain what it was about Crosse that first attracted Blackwell? We simply say, “These men are friends,” and leave it at that.

In the case of Peter Willard and James Todd, one may hazard the guess that the first link in the chain that bound them together was the fact that they took up golf within a few days of each other, and contrived, as time went on, to develop such equal form at the game that the most expert critics are still baffled in their efforts to decide which is the worse player. I have heard the point argued a hundred times without any conclusion being reached. Supporters of Peter claim that his driving off the tee entitles him to an unchallenged preeminence among the world’s most hopeless foozlers⁠—only to be discomfited later when the advocates of James show, by means of diagrams, that no one has ever surpassed their man in absolute incompetence with the spoon. It is one of those problems where debate is futile.

Few things draw two men together more surely than a mutual inability to master golf, coupled with an intense and ever-increasing love for the game. At the end of the first few months, when a series of costly experiments had convinced both Peter and James that there was not a tottering greybeard nor a toddling infant in the neighbourhood whose downfall they could encompass, the two became inseparable. It was pleasanter, they found, to play together, and go neck and neck round the eighteen holes, than to take on some lissome youngster who could spatter them all over the course with one old ball and a cut-down cleek stolen from his father; or some spavined elder who not only rubbed it into them, but was apt, between strokes, to bore them with personal reminiscences of the Crimean War. So they began to play together early and late. In the small hours before breakfast, long ere the first faint piping of the waking caddie made itself heard from the caddie-shed, they were halfway through their opening round. And at close of day, when bats wheeled against the steely sky and the “pro’s” had stolen home to rest, you might see them in the deepening dusk, going through the concluding exercises of their final spasm. After dark, they visited each other’s houses and read golf books.

If you have gathered from what I have said that Peter Willard and James Todd were fond of golf, I am satisfied. That is the impression I intended to convey. They were real golfers, for real golf is a thing of the spirit, not of mere mechanical excellence of stroke.

It must not be thought, however, that they devoted too much of their time and their thoughts to golf⁠—assuming, indeed, that such a thing is possible. Each was connected with a business in the metropolis; and often, before he left for the links, Peter would go to the trouble and expense of ringing up the office to say he would not be coming in that day; while I myself have heard James⁠—and this not once, but frequently⁠—say, while lunching in the clubhouse, that he had half a mind to get Gracechurch Street on the phone and ask how things were going. They were, in fact, the type of men of whom England is proudest⁠—the backbone of a great country, toilers in the mart, untired businessmen, keen red-blooded men of affairs. If they played a little golf besides, who shall blame them?

So they went on, day by day, happy and contented. And then the Woman came into their lives, like the Serpent in the Links of Eden, and perhaps for the first time they realized that they were not one entity⁠—not one single, indivisible Something that made for topped drives and short putts⁠—but two individuals, in whose breasts Nature had implanted other desires than the simple ambition some day to do the dogleg hole on the second nine in under double figures. My friends tell me that, when I am relating a story, my language is inclined at times a little to obscure my meaning; but, if you understand from what I have been saying that James Todd and Peter Willard both fell in love with the same woman⁠—all right, let us carry on. That is precisely what I was driving at.

I have not the pleasure of an intimate acquaintance with Grace Forrester. I have seen her in the distance, watering the flowers in her garden, and on these occasions her stance struck me as graceful. And once, at a picnic, I observed her killing wasps with a teaspoon, and was impressed by the freedom of the wrist-action of her backswing. Beyond this, I can say little. But she must have been attractive, for there can be no doubt of the earnestness with which both Peter and James fell in love with her. I doubt if either slept a wink the night of the dance at which it was their privilege first to meet her.

The next afternoon, happening to encounter Peter in the bunker near the eleventh green, James said:

“That was a nice girl, that Miss What’s-her-name.”

And Peter, pausing for a moment from his trench-digging, replied:


And then James, with a pang, knew that he had a rival, for he had not mentioned Miss Forrester’s name, and yet Peter had divined that it was to her that he had referred.

Love is a fever which, so to speak, drives off without wasting time on the address. On the very next morning after the conversation which I have related, James Todd rang Peter Willard up on the phone and cancelled their golf engagements for the day, on the plea of a sprained wrist. Peter, acknowledging the cancellation, stated that he himself had been on the point of ringing James up to say that he would be unable to play owing to a slight headache. They met at teatime at Miss Forrester’s house. James asked how Peter’s headache was, and Peter said it was a little better. Peter inquired after James’s sprained wrist, and was told it seemed on the mend. Miss Forrester dispensed tea and conversation to both impartially.

They walked home together. After an awkward silence of twenty minutes, James said:

“There is something about the atmosphere⁠—the aura, shall I say?⁠—that emanates from a good woman that makes a man feel that life has a new, a different meaning.”

Peter replied:


When they reached James’s door, James said:

“I won’t ask you in tonight, old man. You want to go home and rest and cure that headache.”

“Yes,” said Peter.

There was another silence. Peter was thinking that, only a couple of days before, James had told him that he had a copy of Sandy MacBean’s How to Become a Scratch Man Your First Season by Studying Photographs coming by parcel-post from town, and they had arranged to read it aloud together. By now, thought Peter, it must be lying on his friend’s table. The thought saddened him. And James, guessing what was in Peter’s mind, was saddened too. But he did not waver. He was in no mood to read MacBean’s masterpiece that night. In the twenty minutes of silence after leaving Miss Forrester he had realized that “Grace” rhymes with “face,” and he wanted to sit alone in his study and write poetry. The two men parted with a distant nod. I beg your pardon? Yes, you are right. Two distant nods. It was always a failing of mine to count the score erroneously.

It is not my purpose to weary you by a minute recital of the happenings of each day that went by. On the surface, the lives of these two men seemed unchanged. They still played golf together, and during the round achieved towards each other a manner that, superficially, retained all its ancient cheeriness and affection. If⁠—I should say⁠—when, James topped his drive, Peter never failed to say “Hard luck!” And when⁠—or, rather, if Peter managed not to top his, James invariably said “Great!” But things were not the same, and they knew it.

It so happened, as it sometimes will on these occasions, for Fate is a dramatist who gets his best effects with a small cast, that Peter Willard and James Todd were the only visible aspirants for the hand of Miss Forrester. Right at the beginning young Freddie Woosley had seemed attracted by the girl, and had called once or twice with flowers and chocolates, but Freddie’s affections never centred themselves on one object for more than a few days, and he had dropped out after the first week. From that time on it became clear to all of us that, if Grace Forrester intended to marry anyone in the place, it would be either James or Peter; and a good deal of interest was taken in the matter by the local sportsmen. So little was known of the form of the two men, neither having figured as principal in a love-affair before, that even money was the best you could get, and the market was sluggish. I think my own flutter of twelve golf balls, taken up by Percival Brown, was the most substantial of any of the wagers. I selected James as the winner. Why, I can hardly say, unless that he had an aunt who contributed occasional stories to the Woman’s Sphere. These things sometimes weigh with a girl. On the other hand, George Lucas, who had half-a-dozen of ginger-ale on Peter, based his calculations on the fact that James wore knickerbockers on the links, and that no girl could possibly love a man with calves like that. In short, you see, we really had nothing to go on.

Nor had James and Peter. The girl seemed to like them both equally. They never saw her except in each other’s company. And it was not until one day when Grace Forrester was knitting a sweater that there seemed a chance of getting a clue to her hidden feelings.

When the news began to spread through the place that Grace was knitting this sweater there was a big sensation. The thing seemed to us practically to amount to a declaration.

That was the view that James Todd and Peter Willard took of it, and they used to call on Grace, watch her knitting, and come away with their heads full of complicated calculations. The whole thing hung on one point⁠—to wit, what size the sweater was going to be. If it was large, then it must be for Peter; if small, then James was the lucky man. Neither dared to make open inquiries, but it began to seem almost impossible to find out the truth without them. No masculine eye can reckon up purls and plains and estimate the size of chest which the garment is destined to cover. Moreover, with amateur knitters there must always be allowed a margin for involuntary error. There were many cases during the war where our girls sent sweaters to their sweethearts which would have induced strangulation in their young brothers. The amateur sweater of those days was, in fact, practically tantamount to German propaganda.

Peter and James were accordingly baffled. One evening the sweater would look small, and James would come away jubilant; the next it would have swollen over a vast area, and Peter would walk home singing. The suspense of the two men can readily be imagined. On the one hand, they wanted to know their fate; on the other, they fully realized that whoever the sweater was for would have to wear it. And, as it was a vivid pink and would probably not fit by a mile, their hearts quailed at the prospect.

In all affairs of human tension there must come a breaking point. It came one night as the two men were walking home.

“Peter,” said James, stopping in mid-stride. He mopped his forehead. His manner had been feverish all the evening.

“Yes?” said Peter.

“I can’t stand this any longer. I haven’t had a good night’s rest for weeks. We must find out definitely which of us is to have that sweater.”

“Let’s go back and ask her,” said Peter.

So they turned back and rang the bell and went into the house and presented themselves before Miss Forrester.

“Lovely evening,” said James, to break the ice.

“Superb,” said Peter.

“Delightful,” said Miss Forrester, looking a little surprised at finding the troupe playing a return date without having booked it in advance.

“To settle a bet,” said James, “will you please tell us who⁠—I should say, whom⁠—you are knitting that sweater for?”

“It is not a sweater,” replied Miss Forrester, with a womanly candour that well became her. “It is a sock. And it is for my cousin Juliet’s youngest son, Willie.”

“Good night,” said James.

“Good night,” said Peter.

“Good night,” said Grace Forrester.

It was during the long hours of the night, when ideas so often come to wakeful men, that James was struck by an admirable solution of his and Peter’s difficulty. It seemed to him that, were one or the other to leave Woodhaven, the survivor would find himself in a position to conduct his wooing as wooing should be conducted. Hitherto, as I have indicated, neither had allowed the other to be more than a few minutes alone with the girl. They watched each other like hawks. When James called, Peter called. When Peter dropped in, James invariably popped round. The thing had resolved itself into a stalemate.

The idea which now came to James was that he and Peter should settle their rivalry by an eighteen-hole match on the links. He thought very highly of the idea before he finally went to sleep, and in the morning the scheme looked just as good to him as it had done overnight.

James was breakfasting next morning, preparatory to going round to disclose his plan to Peter, when Peter walked in, looking happier than he had done for days.

“ ’Morning,” said James.

“ ’Morning,” said Peter.

Peter sat down and toyed absently with a slice of bacon.

“I’ve got an idea,” he said.

“One isn’t many,” said James, bringing his knife down with a jerk-shot on a fried egg. “What is your idea?”

“Got it last night as I was lying awake. It struck me that, if either of us was to clear out of this place, the other would have a fair chance. You know what I mean⁠—with Her. At present we’ve got each other stymied. Now, how would it be,” said Peter, abstractedly spreading marmalade on his bacon, “if we were to play an eighteen-hole match, the loser to leg out of the neighbourhood and stay away long enough to give the winner the chance to find out exactly how things stood?”

James started so violently that he struck himself in the left eye with his fork.

“That’s exactly the idea I got last night, too.”

“Then it’s a go?”

“It’s the only thing to do.”

There was silence for a moment. Both men were thinking. Remember, they were friends. For years they had shared each other’s sorrows, joys, and golf balls, and sliced into the same bunkers.

Presently Peter said:

“I shall miss you.”

“What do you mean, miss me?”

“When you’re gone. Woodhaven won’t seem the same place. But of course you’ll soon be able to come back. I shan’t waste any time proposing.”

“Leave me your address,” said James, “and I’ll send you a wire when you can return. You won’t be offended if I don’t ask you to be best man at the wedding? In the circumstances it might be painful to you.”

Peter sighed dreamily.

“We’ll have the sitting-room done in blue. Her eyes are blue.”

“Remember,” said James, “there will always be a knife and fork for you at our little nest. Grace is not the woman to want me to drop my bachelor friends.”

“Touching this match,” said Peter. “Strict Royal and Ancient rules, of course?”


“I mean to say⁠—no offence, old man⁠—but no grounding niblicks in bunkers.”

“Precisely. And, without hinting at anything personal, the ball shall be considered holed-out only when it is in the hole, not when it stops on the edge.”

“Undoubtedly. And⁠—you know I don’t want to hurt your feelings⁠—missing the ball counts as a stroke, not as a practice-swing.”

“Exactly. And⁠—you’ll forgive me if I mention it⁠—a player whose ball has fallen in the rough, may not pull up all the bushes within a radius of three feet.”

“In fact, strict rules.”

“Strict rules.”

They shook hands without more words. And presently Peter walked out, and James, with a guilty look over his shoulder, took down Sandy MacBean’s great work from the bookshelf and began to study the photograph of the short approach-shot showing Mr. MacBean swinging from Point A, through dotted line B⁠–⁠C, to Point D, his head the while remaining rigid at the spot marked with a cross. He felt a little guiltily that he had stolen a march on his friend, and that the contest was as good as over.

I cannot recall a lovelier summer day than that on which the great Todd-Willard eighteen-hole match took place. It had rained during the night, and now the sun shone down from a clear blue sky on to turf that glistened more greenly than the young grass of early spring. Butterflies flitted to and fro; birds sang merrily. In short, all Nature smiled. And it is to be doubted if Nature ever had a better excuse for smiling⁠—or even laughing outright; for matches like that between James Todd and Peter Willard do not occur every day.

Whether it was that love had keyed them up, or whether hours of study of Braid’s Advanced Golf and the Badminton Book had produced a belated effect, I cannot say; but both started off quite reasonably well. Our first hole, as you can see, is a bogey four, and James was dead on the pin in seven, leaving Peter, who had twice hit the United Kingdom with his mashie in mistake for the ball, a difficult putt for the half. Only one thing could happen when you left Peter a difficult putt; and James advanced to the lake hole one up, Peter, as he followed, trying to console himself with the thought that many of the best golfers prefer to lose the first hole and save themselves for a strong finish.

Peter and James had played over the lake hole so often that they had become accustomed to it, and had grown into the habit of sinking a ball or two as a preliminary formality with much the same stoicism displayed by those kings in ancient and superstitious times who used to fling jewellery into the sea to propitiate it before they took a voyage. But today, by one of those miracles without which golf would not be golf, each of them got over with his first shot⁠—and not only over, but dead on the pin. Our “pro” himself could not have done better.

I think it was at this point that the two men began to go to pieces. They were in an excited frame of mind, and this thing unmanned them. You will no doubt recall Keats’s poem about stout Cortez staring with eagle eyes at the Pacific while all his men gazed at each other with a wild surmise, silent upon a peak in Darien. Precisely so did Peter Willard and James Todd stare with eagle eyes at the second lake hole, and gaze at each other with a wild surmise, silent upon a tee in Woodhaven. They had dreamed of such a happening so often and woke to find the vision false, that at first they could not believe that the thing had actually occurred.

“I got over!” whispered James, in an awed voice.

“So did I!” muttered Peter.

“In one!”

“With my very first!”

They walked in silence round the edge of the lake, and holed out. One putt was enough for each, and they halved the hole with a two. Peter’s previous record was eight, and James had once done a seven. There are times when strong men lose their self-control, and this was one of them. They reached the third tee in a daze, and it was here that mortification began to set in.

The third hole is another bogey four, up the hill and past the tree that serves as a direction-post, the hole itself being out of sight. On his day, James had often done it in ten and Peter in nine; but now they were unnerved. James, who had the honour, shook visibly as he addressed his ball. Three times he swung and only connected with the ozone; the fourth time he topped badly. The discs had been set back a little way, and James had the mournful distinction of breaking a record for the course by playing his fifth shot from the tee. It was a low, raking brassey-shot, which carried a heap of stones twenty feet to the right and finished in a furrow. Peter, meanwhile, had popped up a lofty ball which came to rest behind a stone.

It was now that the rigid rules governing this contest began to take their toll. Had they been playing an ordinary friendly round, each would have teed up on some convenient hillock and probably been past the tree with their second, for James would, in ordinary circumstances, have taken his drive back and regarded the strokes he had made as a little preliminary practice to get him into midseason form. But today it was war to the niblick, and neither man asked nor expected quarter. Peter’s seventh shot dislodged the stone, leaving him a clear field, and James, with his eleventh, extricated himself from the furrow. Fifty feet from the tree James was eighteen, Peter twelve; but then the latter, as every golfer does at times, suddenly went right off his game. He hit the tree four times, then hooked into the sand-bunkers to the left of the hole. James, who had been playing a game that was steady without being brilliant, was on the green in twenty-six, Peter taking twenty-seven. Poor putting lost James the hole. Peter was down in thirty-three, but the pace was too hot for James. He missed a two-foot putt for the half, and they went to the fourth tee all square.

The fourth hole follows the curve of the road, on the other side of which are picturesque woods. It presents no difficulties to the expert, but it has pitfalls for the novice. The dashing player stands for a slice, while the more cautious are satisfied if they can clear the bunker that spans the fairway and lay their ball well out to the left, whence an iron shot will take them to the green. Peter and James combined the two policies. Peter aimed to the left and got a slice, and James, also aiming to the left, topped into the bunker. Peter, realizing from experience the futility of searching for his ball in the woods, drove a second, which also disappeared into the jungle, as did his third. By the time he had joined James in the bunker he had played his sixth.

It is the glorious uncertainty of golf that makes it the game it is. The fact that James and Peter, lying side by side in the same bunker, had played respectively one and six shots, might have induced an unthinking observer to fancy the chances of the former. And no doubt, had he not taken seven strokes to extricate himself from the pit, while his opponent, by some act of God, contrived to get out in two, James’s chances might have been extremely rosy. As it was, the two men staggered out on to the fairway again with a score of eight apiece. Once past the bunker and round the bend of the road, the hole becomes simple. A judicious use of the cleek put Peter on the green in fourteen, while James, with a Braid iron, reached it in twelve. Peter was down in seventeen, and James contrived to halve. It was only as he was leaving the hole that the latter discovered that he had been putting with his niblick, which cannot have failed to exercise a prejudicial effect on his game. These little incidents are bound to happen when one is in a nervous and highly-strung condition.

The fifth and sixth holes produced no unusual features. Peter won the fifth in eleven, and James the sixth in ten. The short seventh they halved in nine. The eighth, always a tricky hole, they took no liberties with, James, sinking a long putt with his twenty-third, just managing to halve. A ding-dong race up the hill for the ninth found James first at the pin, and they finished the first nine with James one up.

As they left the green James looked a little furtively at his companion.

“You might be strolling on to the tenth,” he said. “I want to get a few balls at the shop. And my mashie wants fixing up. I shan’t be long.”

“I’ll come with you,” said Peter.

“Don’t bother,” said James. “You go on and hold our place at the tee.”

I regret to say that James was lying. His mashie was in excellent repair, and he still had a dozen balls in his bag, it being his prudent practice always to start out with eighteen. No! What he had said was mere subterfuge. He wanted to go to his locker and snatch a few minutes with Sandy MacBean’s How to Become a Scratch Man. He felt sure that one more glance at the photograph of Mr. MacBean driving would give him the mastery of the stroke and so enable him to win the match. In this I think he was a little sanguine. The difficulty about Sandy MacBean’s method of tuition was that he laid great stress on the fact that the ball should be directly in a line with a point exactly in the centre of the back of the player’s neck; and so far James’s efforts to keep his eye on the ball and on the back of his neck simultaneously had produced no satisfactory results.

It seemed to James, when he joined Peter on the tenth tee, that the latter’s manner was strange. He was pale. There was a curious look in his eye.

“James, old man,” he said.

“Yes?” said James.

“While you were away I have been thinking. James, old man, do you really love this girl?”

James stared. A spasm of pain twisted Peter’s face.

“Suppose,” he said in a low voice, “she were not all you⁠—we⁠—think she is!”

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing, nothing.”

“Miss Forrester is an angel.”

“Yes, yes. Quite so.”

“I know what it is,” said James, passionately. “You’re trying to put me off my stroke. You know that the least thing makes me lose my form.”

“No, no!”

“You hope that you can take my mind off the game and make me go to pieces, and then you’ll win the match.”

“On the contrary,” said Peter. “I intend to forfeit the match.”

James reeled.


“I give up.”

“But⁠—but⁠—” James shook with emotion. His voice quavered. “Ah!” he cried. “I see now: I understand! You are doing this for me because I am your pal. Peter, this is noble! This is the sort of thing you read about in books. I’ve seen it in the movies. But I can’t accept the sacrifice.”

“You must!”

“No, no!”

“I insist!”

“Do you mean this?”

“I give her up, James, old man. I⁠—I hope you will be happy.”

“But I don’t know what to say. How can I thank you?”

“Don’t thank me.”

“But, Peter, do you fully realize what you are doing? True, I am one up, but there are nine holes to go, and I am not right on my game today. You might easily beat me. Have you forgotten that I once took forty-seven at the dogleg hole? This may be one of my bad days. Do you understand that if you insist on giving up I shall go to Miss Forrester tonight and propose to her?”

“I understand.”

“And yet you stick to it that you are through?”

“I do. And, by the way, there’s no need for you to wait till tonight. I saw Miss Forrester just now outside the tennis court. She’s alone.”

James turned crimson.

“Then I think perhaps⁠—”

“You’d better go to her at once.”

“I will.” James extended his hand. “Peter, old man, I shall never forget this.”

“That’s all right.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Now, do you mean? Oh, I shall potter round the second nine. If you want me, you’ll find me somewhere about.”

“You’ll come to the wedding, Peter?” said James, wistfully.

“Of course,” said Peter. “Good luck.”

He spoke cheerily, but, when the other had turned to go, he stood looking after him thoughtfully. Then he sighed a heavy sigh.

James approached Miss Forrester with a beating heart. She made a charming picture as she stood there in the sunlight, one hand on her hip, the other swaying a tennis racket.

“How do you do?” said James.

“How are you, Mr. Todd? Have you been playing golf?”


“With Mr. Willard?”

“Yes. We were having a match.”

“Golf,” said Grace Forrester, “seems to make men very rude. Mr. Willard left me without a word in the middle of our conversation.”

James was astonished.

“Were you talking to Peter?”

“Yes. Just now. I can’t understand what was the matter with him. He just turned on his heel and swung off.”

“You oughtn’t to turn on your heel when you swing,” said James; “only on the ball of the foot.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Nothing, nothing. I wasn’t thinking. The fact is, I’ve something on my mind. So has Peter. You mustn’t think too hardly of him. We have been playing an important match, and it must have got on his nerves. You didn’t happen by any chance to be watching us?”


“Ah! I wish you had seen me at the lake-hole. I did it one under par.”

“Was your father playing?”

“You don’t understand. I mean I did it in one better than even the finest player is supposed to do it. It’s a mashie-shot, you know. You mustn’t play too light, or you fall in the lake; and you mustn’t play it too hard, or you go past the hole into the woods. It requires the nicest delicacy and judgment, such as I gave it. You might have to wait a year before seeing anyone do it in two again. I doubt if the ‘pro’ often does it in two. Now, directly we came to this hole today, I made up my mind that there was going to be no mistake. The great secret of any shot at golf is ease, elegance, and the ability to relax. The majority of men, you will find, think it important that their address should be good.”

“How snobbish! What does it matter where a man lives?”

“You don’t absolutely follow me. I refer to the waggle and the stance before you make the stroke. Most players seem to fix in their minds the appearance of the angles which are presented by the position of the arms, legs, and club shaft, and it is largely the desire to retain these angles which results in their moving their heads and stiffening their muscles so that there is no freedom in the swing. There is only one point which vitally affects the stroke, and the only reason why that should be kept constant is that you are enabled to see your ball clearly. That is the pivotal point marked at the base of the neck, and a line drawn from this point to the ball should be at right angles to the line of flight.”

James paused for a moment for air, and as he paused Miss Forrester spoke.

“This is all gibberish to me,” she said.

“Gibberish!” gasped James. “I am quoting verbatim from one of the best authorities on golf.”

Miss Forrester swung her tennis racket irritably.

“Golf,” she said, “bores me pallid. I think it is the silliest game ever invented!”

The trouble about telling a story is that words are so feeble a means of depicting the supreme moments of life. That is where the artist has the advantage over the historian. Were I an artist, I should show James at this point falling backwards with his feet together and his eyes shut, with a semicircular dotted line marking the progress of his flight and a few stars above his head to indicate moral collapse. There are no words that can adequately describe the sheer, black horror that froze the blood in his veins as this frightful speech smote his ears.

He had never inquired into Miss Forrester’s religious views before, but he had always assumed that they were sound. And now here she was polluting the golden summer air with the most hideous blasphemy. It would be incorrect to say that James’s love was turned to hate. He did not hate Grace. The repulsion he felt was deeper than mere hate. What he felt was not altogether loathing and not wholly pity. It was a blend of the two.

There was a tense silence. The listening world stood still. Then, without a word, James Todd turned and tottered away.

Peter was working moodily in the twelfth bunker when his friend arrived. He looked up with a start. Then, seeing that the other was alone, he came forward hesitatingly.

“Am I to congratulate you?”

James breathed a deep breath.

“You are!” he said. “On an escape!”

“She refused you?”

“She didn’t get the chance. Old man, have you ever sent one right up the edge of that bunker in front of the seventh and just not gone in?”

“Very rarely.”

“I did once. It was my second shot, from a good lie, with the light iron, and I followed well through and thought I had gone just too far, and, when I walked up, there was my ball on the edge of the bunker, nicely teed up on a chunk of grass, so that I was able to lay it dead with my mashie-niblick, holing out in six. Well, what I mean to say is, I feel now as I felt then⁠—as if some unseen power had withheld me in time from some frightful disaster.”

“I know just how you feel,” said Peter, gravely.

“Peter, old man, that girl said golf bored her pallid. She said she thought it was the silliest game ever invented.” He paused to mark the effect of his words. Peter merely smiled a faint, wan smile. “You don’t seem revolted,” said James.

“I am revolted, but not surprised. You see, she said the same thing to me only a few minutes before.”

“She did!”

“It amounted to the same thing. I had just been telling her how I did the lake-hole today in two, and she said that in her opinion golf was a game for children with water on the brain who weren’t athletic enough to play Animal Grab.”

The two men shivered in sympathy.

“There must be insanity in the family,” said James at last.

“That,” said Peter, “is the charitable explanation.”

“We were fortunate to find it out in time.”

“We were!”

“We mustn’t run a risk like that again.”

“Never again!”

“I think we had better take up golf really seriously. It will keep us out of mischief.”

“You’re quite right. We ought to do our four rounds a day regularly.”

“In spring, summer, and autumn. And in winter it would be rash not to practise most of the day at one of those indoor schools.”

“We ought to be safe that way.”

“Peter, old man,” said James, “I’ve been meaning to speak to you about it for some time. I’ve got Sandy MacBean’s new book, and I think you ought to read it. It is full of helpful hints.”



Silently the two men clasped hands. James Todd and Peter Willard were themselves again.

And so (said the Oldest Member) we come back to our original starting-point⁠—to wit, that, while there is nothing to be said definitely against love, your golfer should be extremely careful how he indulges in it. It may improve his game or it may not. But, if he finds that there is any danger that it may not⁠—if the object of his affections is not the kind of girl who will listen to him with cheerful sympathy through the long evenings, while he tells her, illustrating stance and grip and swing with the kitchen poker, each detail of the day’s round⁠—then, I say unhesitatingly, he had better leave it alone. Love has had a lot of press-agenting from the oldest times; but there are higher, nobler things than love. A woman is only a woman, but a hefty drive is a slosh.

A Mixed Threesome

It was the holiday season, and during the holidays the Greens Committees have decided that the payment of twenty guineas shall entitle fathers of families not only to infest the course themselves, but also to decant their nearest and dearest upon it in whatever quantity they please. All over the links, in consequence, happy, laughing groups of children had broken out like a rash. A wan-faced adult, who had been held up for ten minutes while a drove of issue quarrelled over whether little Claude had taken two hundred or two hundred and twenty approach shots to reach the ninth green sank into a seat beside the Oldest Member.

“What luck?” inquired the Sage.

“None to speak of,” returned the other, moodily. “I thought I had bagged a small boy in a Lord Fauntleroy suit on the sixth, but he ducked. These children make me tired. They should be bowling their hoops in the road. Golf is a game for grownups. How can a fellow play, with a platoon of progeny blocking him at every hole?”

The Oldest Member shook his head. He could not subscribe to these sentiments.

No doubt (said the Oldest Member) the summer golf-child is, from the point of view of the player who likes to get round the course in a single afternoon, something of a trial; but, personally, I confess, it pleases me to see my fellow human beings⁠—and into this category golf-children, though at the moment you may not be broad-minded enough to admit it, undoubtedly fall⁠—taking to the noblest of games at an early age. Golf, like measles, should be caught young, for, if postponed to riper years, the results may be serious. Let me tell you the story of Mortimer Sturgis, which illustrates what I mean rather aptly.

Mortimer Sturgis, when I first knew him, was a carefree man of thirty-eight, of amiable character and independent means, which he increased from time to time by judicious ventures on the Stock Exchange. Although he had never played golf, his had not been altogether an ill-spent life. He swung a creditable racket at tennis, was always ready to contribute a baritone solo to charity concerts, and gave freely to the poor. He was what you might call a golden-mean man, good-hearted rather than magnetic, with no serious vices and no heroic virtues. For a hobby, he had taken up the collecting of porcelain vases, and he was engaged to Betty Weston, a charming girl of twenty-five, a lifelong friend of mine.

I like Mortimer. Everybody liked him. But, at the same time, I was a little surprised that a girl like Betty should have become engaged to him. As I said before, he was not magnetic; and magnetism, I thought, was the chief quality she would have demanded in a man. Betty was one of those ardent, vivid girls, with an intense capacity for hero-worship, and I would have supposed that something more in the nature of a plumed knight or a corsair of the deep would have been her ideal. But, of course, if there is a branch of modern industry where the demand is greater than the supply, it is the manufacture of knights and corsairs; and nowadays a girl, however flaming her aspirations, has to take the best she can get. I must admit that Betty seemed perfectly content with Mortimer.

Such, then, was the state of affairs when Eddie Denton arrived, and the trouble began.

I was escorting Betty home one evening after a tea-party at which we had been fellow-guests, when, walking down the road, we happened to espy Mortimer. He broke into a run when he saw us, and galloped up, waving a piece of paper in his hand. He was plainly excited, a thing which was unusual in this well-balanced man. His broad, good-humoured face was working violently.

“Good news!” he cried. “Good news! Dear old Eddie’s back!”

“Oh, how nice for you, dear!” said Betty. “Eddie Denton is Mortimer’s best friend,” she explained to me. “He has told me so much about him. I have been looking forward to his coming home. Mortie thinks the world of him.”

“So will you, when you know him,” cried Mortimer. “Dear old Eddie! He’s a wonder! The best fellow on earth! We were at school and the ’Varsity together. There’s nobody like Eddie! He landed yesterday. Just home from Central Africa. He’s an explorer, you know,” he said to me. “Spends all his time in places where it’s death for a white man to go.”

“An explorer!” I heard Betty breathe, as if to herself. I was not so impressed, I fear, as she was. Explorers, as a matter of fact, leave me a trifle cold. It has always seemed to me that the difficulties of their life are greatly exaggerated⁠—generally by themselves. In a large country like Africa, for instance, I should imagine that it was almost impossible for a man not to get somewhere if he goes on long enough. Give me the fellow who can plunge into the bowels of the earth at Piccadilly Circus and find the right Tube train with nothing but a lot of misleading signs to guide him. However, we are not all constituted alike in this world, and it was apparent from the flush on her cheek and the light in her eyes that Betty admired explorers.

“I wired to him at once,” went on Mortimer, “and insisted on his coming down here. It’s two years since I saw him. You don’t know how I have looked forward, dear, to you and Eddie meeting. He is just your sort. I know how romantic you are and keen on adventure and all that. Well, you should hear Eddie tell the story of how he brought down the bull bongo with his last cartridge after all the pongos, or native bearers, had fled into the dongo, or undergrowth.”

“I should love to!” whispered Betty, her eyes glowing. I suppose to an impressionable girl these things really are of absorbing interest. For myself, bongos intrigue me even less than pongos, while dongos frankly bore me. “When do you expect him?”

“He will get my wire tonight. I’m hoping we shall see the dear old fellow tomorrow afternoon some time. How surprised old Eddie will be to hear that I’m engaged. He’s such a confirmed bachelor himself. He told me once that he considered the wisest thing ever said by human tongue was the Swahili proverb⁠—‘Whoso taketh a woman into his kraal depositeth himself straightway in the wongo.’ Wongo, he tells me, is a sort of broth composed of herbs and meat-bones, corresponding to our soup. You must get Eddie to give it you in the original Swahili. It sounds even better.”

I saw the girl’s eyes flash, and there came into her face that peculiar set expression which married men know. It passed in an instant, but not before it had given me material for thought which lasted me all the way to my house and into the silent watches of the night. I was fond of Mortimer Sturgis, and I could see trouble ahead for him as plainly as though I had been a palmist reading his hand at two guineas a visit. There are other proverbs fully as wise as the one which Mortimer had translated from the Swahili, and one of the wisest is that quaint old East London saying, handed down from one generation of costermongers to another, and whispered at midnight in the wigwams of the whelk-seller! “Never introduce your donah to a pal.” In those seven words is contained the wisdom of the ages. I could read the future so plainly. What but one thing could happen after Mortimer had influenced Betty’s imagination with his stories of his friend’s romantic career, and added the finishing touch by advertising him as a woman-hater? He might just as well have asked for his ring back at once. My heart bled for Mortimer.

I happened to call at his house on the second evening of the explorer’s visit, and already the mischief had been done.

Denton was one of those lean, hard-bitten men with smouldering eyes and a brick-red complexion. He looked what he was, the man of action and enterprise. He had the wiry frame and strong jaw without which no explorer is complete, and Mortimer, beside him, seemed but a poor, soft product of our hothouse civilization. Mortimer, I forgot to say, wore glasses; and, if there is one time more than another when a man should not wear glasses, it is while a strong-faced, keen-eyed wanderer in the wilds is telling a beautiful girl the story of his adventures.

For this was what Denton was doing. My arrival seemed to have interrupted him in the middle of narrative. He shook my hand in a strong, silent sort of way, and resumed:

“Well, the natives seemed fairly friendly, so I decided to stay the night.”

I made a mental note never to seem fairly friendly to an explorer. If you do, he always decides to stay the night.

“In the morning they took me down to the river. At this point it widens into a kongo, or pool, and it was here, they told me, that the crocodile mostly lived, subsisting on the native oxen⁠—the short-horned jongos⁠—which, swept away by the current while crossing the ford above, were carried down on the longos, or rapids. It was not, however, till the second evening that I managed to catch sight of his ugly snout above the surface. I waited around, and on the third day I saw him suddenly come out of the water and heave his whole length on to a sandbank in midstream and go to sleep in the sun. He was certainly a monster⁠—fully thirty⁠—you have never been in Central Africa, have you, Miss Weston? No? You ought to go there!⁠—fully fifty feet from tip to tail. There he lay, glistening. I shall never forget the sight.”

He broke off to light a cigarette. I heard Betty draw in her breath sharply. Mortimer was beaming through his glasses with the air of the owner of a dog which is astonishing a drawing-room with its clever tricks.

“And what did you do then, Mr. Denton?” asked Betty, breathlessly.

“Yes, what did you do then, old chap?” said Mortimer.

Denton blew out the match and dropped it on the ashtray.

“Eh? Oh,” he said, carelessly, “I swam across and shot him.”

“Swam across and shot him!”

“Yes. It seemed to me that the chance was too good to be missed. Of course, I might have had a pot at him from the bank, but the chances were I wouldn’t have hit him in a vital place. So I swam across to the sandbank, put the muzzle of my gun in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. I have rarely seen a crocodile so taken aback.”

“But how dreadfully dangerous!”

“Oh, danger!” Eddie Denton laughed lightly. “One drops into the habit of taking a few risks out there, you know. Talking of danger, the time when things really did look a little nasty was when the wounded gongo cornered me in a narrow tongo and I only had a pocketknife with everything in it broken except the corkscrew and the thing for taking stones out of horses’ hoofs. It was like this⁠—”

I could bear no more. I am a tenderhearted man, and I made some excuse and got away. From the expression on the girl’s face I could see that it was only a question of days before she gave her heart to this romantic newcomer.

As a matter of fact, it was on the following afternoon that she called on me and told me that the worst had happened. I had known her from a child, you understand, and she always confided her troubles to me.

“I want your advice,” she began. “I’m so wretched!”

She burst into tears. I could see the poor girl was in a highly nervous condition, so I did my best to calm her by describing how I had once done the long hole in four. My friends tell me that there is no finer soporific, and it seemed as though they may be right, for presently, just as I had reached the point where I laid my approach-putt dead from a distance of fifteen feet, she became quieter. She dried her eyes, yawned once or twice, and looked at me bravely.

“I love Eddie Denton!” she said.

“I feared as much. When did you feel this coming on?”

“It crashed on me like a thunderbolt last night after dinner. We were walking in the garden, and he was just telling me how he had been bitten by a poisonous zongo, when I seemed to go all giddy. When I came to myself I was in Eddie’s arms. His face was pressed against mine, and he was gargling.”


“I thought so at first. But he reassured me. He was merely speaking in one of the lesser-known dialects of the Walla-Walla natives of Eastern Uganda, into which he always drops in moments of great emotion. He soon recovered sufficiently to give me a rough translation, and then I knew that he loved me. He kissed me. I kissed him. We kissed each other.”

“And where was Mortimer all this while?”

“Indoors, cataloguing his collection of vases.”

For a moment, I confess, I was inclined to abandon Mortimer’s cause. A man, I felt, who could stay indoors cataloguing vases while his fiancée wandered in the moonlight with explorers deserved all that was coming to him. I overcame the feeling.

“Have you told him?”

“Of course not.”

“You don’t think it might be of interest to him?”

“How can I tell him? It would break his heart. I am awfully fond of Mortimer. So is Eddie. We would both die rather than do anything to hurt him. Eddie is the soul of honour. He agrees with me that Mortimer must never know.”

“Then you aren’t going to break off your engagement?”

“I couldn’t. Eddie feels the same. He says that, unless something can be done, he will say goodbye to me and creep far, far away to some distant desert, and there, in the great stillness, broken only by the cry of the prowling yongo, try to forget.”

“When you say ‘unless something can be done,’ what do you mean? What can be done?”

“I thought you might have something to suggest. Don’t you think it possible that somehow Mortimer might take it into his head to break the engagement himself?”

“Absurd! He loves you devotedly.”

“I’m afraid so. Only the other day I dropped one of his best vases, and he just smiled and said it didn’t matter.”

“I can give you even better proof than that. This morning Mortimer came to me and asked me to give him secret lessons in golf.”

“Golf! But he despises golf.”

“Exactly. But he is going to learn it for your sake.”

“But why secret lessons?”

“Because he wants to keep it a surprise for your birthday. Now can you doubt his love?”

“I am not worthy of him!” she whispered.

The words gave me an idea.

“Suppose,” I said, “we could convince Mortimer of that!”

“I don’t understand.”

“Suppose, for instance, he could be made to believe that you were, let us say, a dipsomaniac.”

She shook her head. “He knows that already.”


“Yes; I told him I sometimes walked in my sleep.”

“I mean a secret drinker.”

“Nothing will induce me to pretend to be a secret drinker.”

“Then a drug-fiend?” I suggested, hopefully.

“I hate medicine.”

“I have it!” I said. “A kleptomaniac.”

“What is that?”

“A person who steals things.”

“Oh, that’s horrid.”

“Not at all. It’s a perfectly ladylike thing to do. You don’t know you do it.”

“But, if I don’t know I do it, how do I know I do it?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I mean, how can I tell Mortimer I do it if I don’t know?”

“You don’t tell him. I will tell him. I will inform him tomorrow that you called on me this afternoon and stole my watch and”⁠—I glanced about the room⁠—“my silver matchbox.”

“I’d rather have that little vinaigrette.”

“You don’t get either. I merely say you stole it. What will happen?”

“Mortimer will hit you with a cleek.”

“Not at all. I am an old man. My white hairs protect me. What he will do is to insist on confronting me with you and asking you to deny the foul charge.”

“And then?”

“Then you admit it and release him from his engagement.”

She sat for a while in silence. I could see that my words had made an impression.

“I think it’s a splendid idea. Thank you very much.” She rose and moved to the door. “I knew you would suggest something wonderful.” She hesitated. “You don’t think it would make it sound more plausible if I really took the vinaigrette?” she added, a little wistfully.

“It would spoil everything,” I replied, firmly, as I reached for the vinaigrette and locked it carefully in my desk.

She was silent for a moment, and her glance fell on the carpet. That, however, did not worry me. It was nailed down.

“Well, goodbye,” she said.

“Au revoir,” I replied. “I am meeting Mortimer at six-thirty tomorrow. You may expect us round at your house at about eight.”

Mortimer was punctual at the tryst next morning. When I reached the tenth tee he was already there. We exchanged a brief greeting and I handed him a driver, outlined the essentials of grip and swing, and bade him go to it.

“It seems a simple game,” he said, as he took his stance. “You’re sure it’s fair to have the ball sitting up on top of a young sand-hill like this?”

“Perfectly fair.”

“I mean, I don’t want to be coddled because I’m a beginner.”

“The ball is always teed up for the drive,” I assured him.

“Oh, well, if you say so. But it seems to me to take all the element of sport out of the game. Where do I hit it?”

“Oh, straight ahead.”

“But isn’t it dangerous? I mean, suppose I smash a window in that house over there?”

He indicated a charming bijou residence some five hundred yards down the fairway.

“In that case,” I replied, “the owner comes out in his pyjamas and offers you the choice between some nuts and a cigar.”

He seemed reassured, and began to address the ball. Then he paused again.

“Isn’t there something you say before you start?” he asked. “ ‘Five,’ or something?”

“You may say ‘Fore!’ if it makes you feel any easier. But it isn’t necessary.”

“If I am going to learn this silly game,” said Mortimer, firmly, “I am going to learn it right. Fore!”

I watched him curiously. I never put a club into the hand of a beginner without something of the feeling of the sculptor who surveys a mass of shapeless clay. I experience the emotions of a creator. Here, I say to myself, is a semi-sentient being into whose soulless carcass I am breathing life. A moment before, he was, though technically living, a mere clod. A moment hence he will be a golfer.

While I was still occupied with these meditations Mortimer swung at the ball. The club, whizzing down, brushed the surface of the rubber sphere, toppling it off the tee and propelling it six inches with a slight slice on it.

“Damnation!” said Mortimer, unravelling himself.

I nodded approvingly. His drive had not been anything to write to the golfing journals about, but he was picking up the technique of the game.

“What happened then?”

I told him in a word.

“Your stance was wrong, and your grip was wrong, and you moved your head, and swayed your body, and took your eye off the ball, and pressed, and forgot to use your wrists, and swung back too fast, and let the hands get ahead of the club, and lost your balance, and omitted to pivot on the ball of the left foot, and bent your right knee.”

He was silent for a moment.

“There is more in this pastime,” he said, “than the casual observer would suspect.”

I have noticed, and I suppose other people have noticed, that in the golf education of every man there is a definite point at which he may be said to have crossed the dividing line⁠—the Rubicon, as it were⁠—that separates the golfer from the non-golfer. This moment comes immediately after his first good drive. In the ninety minutes in which I instructed Mortimer Sturgis that morning in the rudiments of the game, he made every variety of drive known to science; but it was not till we were about to leave that he made a good one.

A moment before he had surveyed his blistered hands with sombre disgust.

“It’s no good,” he said. “I shall never learn this beast of a game. And I don’t want to either. It’s only fit for lunatics. Where’s the sense in it? Hitting a rotten little ball with a stick! If I want exercise, I’ll take a stick and go and rattle it along the railings. There’s something in that! Well, let’s be getting along. No good wasting the whole morning out here.”

“Try one more drive, and then we’ll go.”

“All right. If you like. No sense in it, though.”

He teed up the ball, took a careless stance, and flicked moodily. There was a sharp crack, the ball shot off the tee, flew a hundred yards in a dead straight line never ten feet above the ground, soared another seventy yards in a graceful arc, struck the turf, rolled, and came to rest within easy mashie distance of the green.

“Splendid!” I cried.

The man seemed stunned.

“How did that happen?”

I told him very simply.

“Your stance was right, and your grip was right, and you kept your head still, and didn’t sway your body, and never took your eye off the ball, and slowed back, and let the arms come well through, and rolled the wrists, and let the club-head lead, and kept your balance, and pivoted on the ball of the left foot, and didn’t duck the right knee.”

“I see,” he said. “Yes, I thought that must be it.”

“Now let’s go home.”

“Wait a minute. I just want to remember what I did while it’s fresh in my mind. Let me see, this was the way I stood. Or was it more like this? No, like this.” He turned to me, beaming. “What a great idea it was, my taking up golf! It’s all nonsense what you read in the comic papers about people foozling all over the place and breaking clubs and all that. You’ve only to exercise a little reasonable care. And what a corking game it is! Nothing like it in the world! I wonder if Betty is up yet. I must go round and show her how I did that drive. A perfect swing, with every ounce of weight, wrist, and muscle behind it. I meant to keep it a secret from the dear girl till I had really learned, but of course I have learned now. Let’s go round and rout her out.”

He had given me my cue. I put my hand on his shoulder and spoke sorrowfully.

“Mortimer, my boy, I fear I have bad news for you.”

“Slow; back⁠—keep the head⁠—What’s that? Bad news?”

“About Betty.”

“About Betty? What about her? Don’t sway the body⁠—keep the eye on the⁠—”

“Prepare yourself for a shock, my boy. Yesterday afternoon Betty called to see me. When she had gone I found that she had stolen my silver matchbox.”

“Stolen your matchbox?”

“Stolen my matchbox.”

“Oh, well, I dare say there were faults on both sides,” said Mortimer. “Tell me if I sway my body this time.”

“You don’t grasp what I have said! Do you realize that Betty, the girl you are going to marry, is a kleptomaniac?”

“A kleptomaniac!”

“That is the only possible explanation. Think what this means, my boy. Think how you will feel every time your wife says she is going out to do a little shopping! Think of yourself, left alone at home, watching the clock, saying to yourself, ‘Now she is lifting a pair of silk stockings!’ ‘Now she is hiding gloves in her umbrella!’ ‘Just about this moment she is getting away with a pearl necklace!’ ”

“Would she do that?”

“She would! She could not help herself. Or, rather, she could not refrain from helping herself. How about it, my boy?”

“It only draws us closer together,” he said.

I was touched, I own. My scheme had failed, but it had proved Mortimer Sturgis to be of pure gold. He stood gazing down the fairway, wrapped in thought.

“By the way,” he said, meditatively, “I wonder if the dear girl ever goes to any of those sales⁠—those auction-sales, you know, where you’re allowed to inspect the things the day before? They often have some pretty decent vases.”

He broke off and fell into a reverie.

From this point onward Mortimer Sturgis proved the truth of what I said to you about the perils of taking up golf at an advanced age. A lifetime of observing my fellow-creatures has convinced me that Nature intended us all to be golfers. In every human being the germ of golf is implanted at birth, and suppression causes it to grow and grow till⁠—it may be at forty, fifty, sixty⁠—it suddenly bursts its bonds and sweeps over the victim like a tidal wave. The wise man, who begins to play in childhood, is enabled to let the poison exude gradually from his system, with no harmful results. But a man like Mortimer Sturgis, with thirty-eight golfless years behind him, is swept off his feet. He is carried away. He loses all sense of proportion. He is like the fly that happens to be sitting on the wall of the dam just when the crack comes.

Mortimer Sturgis gave himself up without a struggle to an orgy of golf such as I have never witnessed in any man. Within two days of that first lesson he had accumulated a collection of clubs large enough to have enabled him to open a shop; and he went on buying them at the rate of two and three a day. On Sundays, when it was impossible to buy clubs, he was like a lost spirit. True, he would do his regular four rounds on the day of rest, but he never felt happy. The thought, as he sliced into the rough, that the patent wooden-faced cleek which he intended to purchase next morning might have made all the difference, completely spoiled his enjoyment.

I remember him calling me up on the telephone at three o’clock one morning to tell me that he had solved the problem of putting. He intended in future, he said, to use a croquet mallet, and he wondered that no one had ever thought of it before. The sound of his broken groan when I informed him that croquet mallets were against the rules haunted me for days.

His golf library kept pace with his collection of clubs. He bought all the standard works, subscribed to all the golfing papers, and, when he came across a paragraph in a magazine to the effect that Mr. Hutchings, an ex-amateur champion, did not begin to play till he was past forty, and that his opponent in the final, Mr. S. H. Fry, had never held a club till his thirty-fifth year, he had it engraved on vellum and framed and hung up beside his shaving-mirror.

And Betty, meanwhile? She, poor child, stared down the years into a bleak future, in which she saw herself parted forever from the man she loved, and the golf-widow of another for whom⁠—even when he won a medal for lowest net at a weekly handicap with a score of a hundred and three minus twenty-four⁠—she could feel nothing warmer than respect. Those were dreary days for Betty. We three⁠—she and I and Eddie Denton⁠—often talked over Mortimer’s strange obsession. Denton said that, except that Mortimer had not come out in pink spots, his symptoms were almost identical with those of the dreaded mongo-mongo, the scourge of the West African hinterland. Poor Denton! He had already booked his passage for Africa, and spent hours looking in the atlas for good deserts.

In every fever of human affairs there comes at last the crisis. We may emerge from it healed or we may plunge into still deeper depths of soul-sickness; but always the crisis comes. I was privileged to be present when it came in the affairs of Mortimer Sturgis and Betty Weston.

I had gone into the clubhouse one afternoon at an hour when it is usually empty, and the first thing I saw, as I entered the main room, which looks out on the ninth green, was Mortimer. He was grovelling on the floor, and I confess that, when I caught sight of him, my heart stood still. I feared that his reason, sapped by dissipation, had given way. I knew that for weeks, day in and day out, the niblick had hardly ever been out of his hand, and no constitution can stand that.

He looked up as he heard my footstep.

“Hallo,” he said. “Can you see a ball anywhere?”

“A ball?” I backed away, reaching for the door-handle. “My dear boy,” I said, soothingly, “you have made a mistake. Quite a natural mistake. One anybody would have made. But, as a matter of fact, this is the clubhouse. The links are outside there. Why not come away with me very quietly and let us see if we can’t find some balls on the links? If you will wait here a moment, I will call up Doctor Smithson. He was telling me only this morning that he wanted a good spell of ball-hunting to put him in shape. You don’t mind if he joins us?”

“It was a Silver King with my initials on it,” Mortimer went on, not heeding me. “I got on the ninth green in eleven with a nice mashie-niblick, but my approach-putt was a little too strong. It came in through that window.”

I perceived for the first time that one of the windows facing the course was broken, and my relief was great. I went down on my knees and helped him in his search. We ran the ball to earth finally inside the piano.

“What’s the local rule?” inquired Mortimer. “Must I play it where it lies, or may I tee up and lose a stroke? If I have to play it where it lies, I suppose a niblick would be the club?”

It was at this moment that Betty came in. One glance at her pale, set face told me that there was to be a scene, and I would have retired, but that she was between me and the door.

“Hallo, dear,” said Mortimer, greeting her with a friendly waggle of his niblick. “I’m bunkered in the piano. My approach-putt was a little strong, and I overran the green.”

“Mortimer,” said the girl, tensely, “I want to ask you one question.”

“Yes, dear? I wish, darling, you could have seen my drive at the eighth just now. It was a pip!”

Betty looked at him steadily.

“Are we engaged,” she said, “or are we not?”

“Engaged? Oh, to be married? Why, of course. I tried the open stance for a change, and⁠—”

“This morning you promised to take me for a ride. You never appeared. Where were you?”

“Just playing golf.”

“Golf! I’m sick of the very name!”

A spasm shook Mortimer.

“You mustn’t let people hear you saying things like that!” he said. “I somehow felt, the moment I began my up-swing, that everything was going to be all right. I⁠—”

“I’ll give you one more chance. Will you take me for a drive in your car this evening?”

“I can’t.”

“Why not? What are you doing?”

“Just playing golf!”

“I’m tired of being neglected like this!” cried Betty, stamping her foot. Poor girl, I saw her point of view. It was bad enough for her being engaged to the wrong man, without having him treat her as a mere acquaintance. Her conscience fighting with her love for Eddie Denton had kept her true to Mortimer, and Mortimer accepted the sacrifice with an absentminded carelessness which would have been galling to any girl. “We might just as well not be engaged at all. You never take me anywhere.”

“I asked you to come with me to watch the Open Championship.”

“Why don’t you ever take me to dances?”

“I can’t dance.”

“You could learn.”

“But I’m not sure if dancing is a good thing for a fellow’s game. You never hear of any first-class pro dancing. James Braid doesn’t dance.”

“Well, my mind’s made up. Mortimer, you must choose between golf and me.”

“But, darling, I went round in a hundred and one yesterday. You can’t expect a fellow to give up golf when he’s at the top of his game.”

“Very well. I have nothing more to say. Our engagement is at an end.”

“Don’t throw me over, Betty,” pleaded Mortimer, and there was that in his voice which cut me to the heart. “You’ll make me so miserable. And, when I’m miserable, I always slice my approach shots.”

Betty Weston drew herself up. Her face was hard.

“Here is your ring!” she said, and swept from the room.

For a moment after she had gone Mortimer remained very still, looking at the glistening circle in his hand. I stole across the room and patted his shoulder.

“Bear up, my boy, bear up!” I said.

He looked at me piteously.

“Stymied!” he muttered.

“Be brave!”

He went on, speaking as if to himself.

“I had pictured⁠—ah, how often I had pictured!⁠—our little home! Hers and mine. She sewing in her armchair, I practising putts on the hearthrug⁠—” He choked. “While in the corner, little Harry Vardon Sturgis played with little J. H. Taylor Sturgis. And round the room⁠—reading, busy with their childish tasks⁠—little George Duncan Sturgis, Abe Mitchell Sturgis, Harold Hilton Sturgis, Edward Ray Sturgis, Horace Hutchinson Sturgis, and little James Braid Sturgis.”

“My boy! My boy!” I cried.

“What’s the matter?”

“Weren’t you giving yourself rather a large family?”

He shook his head moodily.

“Was I?” he said, dully. “I don’t know. What’s bogey?”

There was a silence.

“And yet⁠—” he said, at last, in a low voice. He paused. An odd, bright look had come into his eyes. He seemed suddenly to be himself again, the old, happy Mortimer Sturgis I had known so well. “And yet,” he said, “who knows? Perhaps it is all for the best. They might all have turned out tennis-players!” He raised his niblick again, his face aglow. “Playing thirteen!” he said. “I think the game here would be to chip out through the door and work round the clubhouse to the green, don’t you?”

Little remains to be told. Betty and Eddie have been happily married for years. Mortimer’s handicap is now down to eighteen, and he is improving all the time. He was not present at the wedding, being unavoidably detained by a medal tournament; but, if you turn up the files and look at the list of presents, which were both numerous and costly, you will see⁠—somewhere in the middle of the column, the words:

Sturgis, J. Mortimer.

Two dozen Silver King Golf-balls and one patent Sturgis Aluminium Self-Adjusting, Self-Compensating Putting-Cleek.

Sundered Hearts

In the smoking-room of the clubhouse a cheerful fire was burning, and the Oldest Member glanced from time to time out of the window into the gathering dusk. Snow was falling lightly on the links. From where he sat, the Oldest Member had a good view of the ninth green; and presently, out of the greyness of the December evening, there appeared over the brow of the hill a golf ball. It trickled across the green, and stopped within a yard of the hole. The Oldest Member nodded approvingly. A good approach-shot.

A young man in a tweed suit clambered on to the green, holed out with easy confidence, and, shouldering his bag, made his way to the clubhouse. A few moments later he entered the smoking-room, and uttered an exclamation of rapture at the sight of the fire.

“I’m frozen stiff!”

He rang for a waiter and ordered a hot drink. The Oldest Member gave a gracious assent to the suggestion that he should join him.

“I like playing in winter,” said the young man. “You get the course to yourself, for the world is full of slackers who only turn out when the weather suits them. I cannot understand where they get the nerve to call themselves golfers.”

“Not everyone is as keen as you are, my boy,” said the Sage, dipping gratefully into his hot drink. “If they were, the world would be a better place, and we should hear less of all this modern unrest.”

“I am pretty keen,” admitted the young man.

“I have only encountered one man whom I could describe as keener. I allude to Mortimer Sturgis.”

“The fellow who took up golf at thirty-eight and let the girl he was engaged to marry go off with someone else because he hadn’t the time to combine golf with courtship? I remember. You were telling me about him the other day.”

“There is a sequel to that story, if you would care to hear it,” said the Oldest Member.

“You have the honour,” said the young man. “Go ahead!”

Some people (began the Oldest Member) considered that Mortimer Sturgis was too wrapped up in golf, and blamed him for it. I could never see eye to eye with them. In the days of King Arthur nobody thought the worse of a young knight if he suspended all his social and business engagements in favour of a search for the Holy Grail. In the Middle Ages a man could devote his whole life to the Crusades, and the public fawned upon him. Why, then, blame the man of today for a zealous attention to the modern equivalent, the Quest of Scratch! Mortimer Sturgis never became a scratch player, but he did eventually get his handicap down to nine, and I honour him for it.

The story which I am about to tell begins in what might be called the middle period of Sturgis’s career. He had reached the stage when his handicap was a wobbly twelve; and, as you are no doubt aware, it is then that a man really begins to golf in the true sense of the word. Mortimer’s fondness for the game until then had been merely tepid compared with what it became now. He had played a little before, but now he really buckled to and got down to it. It was at this point, too, that he began once more to entertain thoughts of marriage. A profound statistician in this one department, he had discovered that practically all the finest exponents of the art are married men; and the thought that there might be something in the holy state which improved a man’s game, and that he was missing a good thing, troubled him a great deal. Moreover, the paternal instinct had awakened in him. As he justly pointed out, whether marriage improved your game or not, it was to Old Tom Morris’s marriage that the existence of young Tommy Morris, winner of the British Open Championship four times in succession, could be directly traced. In fact, at the age of forty-two, Mortimer Sturgis was in just the frame of mind to take some nice girl aside and ask her to become a stepmother to his eleven drivers, his baffy, his twenty-eight putters, and the rest of the ninety-four clubs which he had accumulated in the course of his golfing career. The sole stipulation, of course, which he made when dreaming his daydreams was that the future Mrs. Sturgis must be a golfer. I can still recall the horror in his face when one girl, admirable in other respects, said that she had never heard of Harry Vardon, and didn’t he mean Dolly Vardon? She has since proved an excellent wife and mother, but Mortimer Sturgis never spoke to her again.

With the coming of January, it was Mortimer’s practice to leave England and go to the South of France, where there was sunshine and crisp dry turf. He pursued his usual custom this year. With his suitcase and his ninety-four clubs he went off to Saint Brule, staying as he always did at the Hotel Superbe, where they knew him, and treated with an amiable tolerance his habit of practising chip-shots in his bedroom. On the first evening, after breaking a statuette of the Infant Samuel in Prayer, he dressed and went down to dinner. And the first thing he saw was Her.

Mortimer Sturgis, as you know, had been engaged before, but Betty Weston had never inspired the tumultuous rush of emotion which the mere sight of this girl had set loose in him. He told me later that just to watch her holing out her soup gave him a sort of feeling you get when your drive collides with a rock in the middle of a tangle of rough and kicks back into the middle of the fairway. If golf had come late in life to Mortimer Sturgis, love came later still, and just as the golf, attacking him in middle life, had been some golf, so was the love considerable love. Mortimer finished his dinner in a trance, which is the best way to do it at some hotels, and then scoured the place for someone who would introduce him. He found such a person eventually and the meeting took place.

She was a small and rather fragile-looking girl, with big blue eyes and a cloud of golden hair. She had a sweet expression, and her left wrist was in a sling. She looked up at Mortimer as if she had at last found something that amounted to something. I am inclined to think it was a case of love at first sight on both sides.

“Fine weather we’re having,” said Mortimer, who was a capital conversationalist.

“Yes,” said the girl.

“I like fine weather.”

“So do I.”

“There’s something about fine weather!”


“It’s⁠—it’s⁠—well, fine weather’s so much finer than weather that isn’t fine,” said Mortimer.

He looked at the girl a little anxiously, fearing he might be taking her out of her depth, but she seemed to have followed his train of thought perfectly.

“Yes, isn’t it?” she said. “It’s so⁠—so fine.”

“That’s just what I meant,” said Mortimer. “So fine. You’ve just hit it.”

He was charmed. The combination of beauty with intelligence is so rare.

“I see you’ve hurt your wrist,” he went on, pointing to the sling.

“Yes. I strained it a little playing in the championship.”

“The championship?” Mortimer was interested. “It’s awfully rude of me,” he said, apologetically, “but I didn’t catch your name just now.”

“My name is Somerset.”

Mortimer had been bending forward solicitously. He overbalanced and nearly fell off his chair. The shock had been stunning. Even before he had met and spoken to her, he had told himself that he loved this girl with the stored-up love of a lifetime. And she was Mary Somerset! The hotel lobby danced before Mortimer’s eyes.

The name will, of course, be familiar to you. In the early rounds of the Ladies’ Open Golf Championship of that year nobody had paid much attention to Mary Somerset. She had survived her first two matches, but her opponents had been nonentities like herself. And then, in the third round, she had met and defeated the champion. From that point on, her name was on everybody’s lips. She became favourite. And she justified the public confidence by sailing into the final and winning easily. And here she was, talking to him like an ordinary person, and, if he could read the message in her eyes, not altogether indifferent to his charms, if you could call them that.

“Golly!” said Mortimer, awed.

Their friendship ripened rapidly, as friendships do in the South of France. In that favoured clime, you find the girl and Nature does the rest. On the second morning of their acquaintance Mortimer invited her to walk round the links with him and watch him play. He did it a little diffidently, for his golf was not of the calibre that would be likely to extort admiration from a champion. On the other hand, one should never let slip the opportunity of acquiring wrinkles on the game, and he thought that Miss Somerset, if she watched one or two of his shots, might tell him just what he ought to do. And sure enough, the opening arrived on the fourth hole, where Mortimer, after a drive which surprised even himself, found his ball in a nasty cuppy lie.

He turned to the girl.

“What ought I to do here?” he asked.

Miss Somerset looked at the ball. She seemed to be weighing the matter in her mind.

“Give it a good hard knock,” she said.

Mortimer knew what she meant. She was advocating a full iron. The only trouble was that, when he tried anything more ambitious than a half-swing, except off the tee, he almost invariably topped. However, he could not fail this wonderful girl, so he swung well back and took a chance. His enterprise was rewarded. The ball flew out of the indentation in the turf as cleanly as though John Henry Taylor had been behind it, and rolled, looking neither to left nor to right, straight for the pin. A few moments later Mortimer Sturgis had holed out one under bogey, and it was only the fear that, having known him for so short a time, she might be startled and refuse him that kept him from proposing then and there. This exhibition of golfing generalship on her part had removed his last doubts. He knew that, if he lived forever, there could be no other girl in the world for him. With her at his side, what might he not do? He might get his handicap down to six⁠—to three⁠—to scratch⁠—to plus something! Good heavens, why, even the Amateur Championship was not outside the range of possibility. Mortimer Sturgis shook his putter solemnly in the air, and vowed a silent vow that he would win this pearl among women.

Now, when a man feels like that, it is impossible to restrain him long. For a week Mortimer Sturgis’s soul sizzled within him: then he could contain himself no longer. One night, at one of the informal dances at the hotel, he drew the girl out on to the moonlit terrace.

“Miss Somerset⁠—” he began, stuttering with emotion like an imperfectly-corked bottle of ginger-beer. “Miss Somerset⁠—may I call you Mary?”

The girl looked at him with eyes that shone softly in the dim light.

“Mary?” she repeated. “Why, of course, if you like⁠—”

“If I like!” cried Mortimer. “Don’t you know that it is my dearest wish? Don’t you know that I would rather be permitted to call you Mary than do the first hole at Muirfield in two? Oh, Mary, how I have longed for this moment! I love you! I love you! Ever since I met you I have known that you were the one girl in this vast world whom I would die to win! Mary, will you be mine? Shall we go round together? Will you fix up a match with me on the links of life which shall end only when the Grim Reaper lays us both a stymie?”

She drooped towards him.

“Mortimer!” she murmured.

He held out his arms, then drew back. His face had grown suddenly tense, and there were lines of pain about his mouth.

“Wait!” he said, in a strained voice. “Mary, I love you dearly, and because I love you so dearly I cannot let you trust your sweet life to me blindly. I have a confession to make, I am not⁠—I have not always been”⁠—he paused⁠—“a good man,” he said, in a low voice.

She started indignantly.

“How can you say that? You are the best, the kindest, the bravest man I have ever met! Who but a good man would have risked his life to save me from drowning?”

“Drowning?” Mortimer’s voice seemed perplexed. “You? What do you mean?”

“Have you forgotten the time when I fell in the sea last week, and you jumped in with all your clothes on⁠—”

“Of course, yes,” said Mortimer. “I remember now. It was the day I did the long seventh in five. I got off a good tee-shot straight down the fairway, took a baffy for my second, and⁠—But that is not the point. It is sweet and generous of you to think so highly of what was the merest commonplace act of ordinary politeness, but I must repeat, that judged by the standards of your snowy purity, I am not a good man. I do not come to you clean and spotless as a young girl should expect her husband to come to her. Once, playing in a foursome, my ball fell in some long grass. Nobody was near me. We had no caddies, and the others were on the fairway. God knows⁠—” His voice shook. “God knows I struggled against the temptation. But I fell. I kicked the ball on to a little bare mound, from which it was an easy task with a nice half-mashie to reach the green for a snappy seven. Mary, there have been times when, going round by myself, I have allowed myself ten-foot putts on three holes in succession, simply in order to be able to say I had done the course in under a hundred. Ah! you shrink from me! You are disgusted!”

“I’m not disgusted! And I don’t shrink! I only shivered because it is rather cold.”

“Then you can love me in spite of my past?”


She fell into his arms.

“My dearest,” he said presently, “what a happy life ours will be. That is, if you do not find that you have made a mistake.”

“A mistake!” she cried, scornfully.

“Well, my handicap is twelve, you know, and not so darned twelve at that. There are days when I play my second from the fairway of the next hole but one, days when I couldn’t putt into a coal-hole with ‘Welcome!’ written over it. And you are a Ladies’ Open Champion. Still, if you think it’s all right⁠—. Oh, Mary, you little know how I have dreamed of some day marrying a really first-class golfer! Yes, that was my vision⁠—of walking up the aisle with some sweet plus two girl on my arm. You shivered again. You are catching cold.”

“It is a little cold,” said the girl. She spoke in a small voice.

“Let me take you in, sweetheart,” said Mortimer. “I’ll just put you in a comfortable chair with a nice cup of coffee, and then I think I really must come out again and tramp about and think how perfectly splendid everything is.”

They were married a few weeks later, very quietly, in the little village church of Saint Brule. The secretary of the local golf club acted as best man for Mortimer, and a girl from the hotel was the only bridesmaid. The whole business was rather a disappointment to Mortimer, who had planned out a somewhat florid ceremony at St. George’s, Hanover Square, with the Vicar of Tooting (a scratch player excellent at short approach shots) officiating, and “The Voice That Breathed O’er St. Andrews” boomed from the organ. He had even had the idea of copying the military wedding and escorting his bride out of the church under an arch of crossed cleeks. But she would have none of this pomp. She insisted on a quiet wedding, and for the honeymoon trip preferred a tour through Italy. Mortimer, who had wanted to go to Scotland to visit the birthplace of James Braid, yielded amiably, for he loved her dearly. But he did not think much of Italy. In Rome, the great monuments of the past left him cold. Of the Temple of Vespasian, all he thought was that it would be a devil of a place to be bunkered behind. The Colosseum aroused a faint spark of interest in him, as he speculated whether Abe Mitchell would use a full brassey to carry it. In Florence, the view over the Tuscan Hills from the Torre Rosa, Fiesole, over which his bride waxed enthusiastic, seemed to him merely a nasty bit of rough which would take a deal of getting out of.

And so, in the fullness of time, they came home to Mortimer’s cosy little house adjoining the links.

Mortimer was so busy polishing his ninety-four clubs on the evening of their arrival that he failed to notice that his wife was preoccupied. A less busy man would have perceived at a glance that she was distinctly nervous. She started at sudden noises, and once, when he tried the newest of his mashie-niblicks and broke one of the drawing-room windows, she screamed sharply. In short her manner was strange, and, if Edgar Allen Poe had put her into “The Fall of the House of Usher,” she would have fitted it like the paper on the wall. She had the air of one waiting tensely for the approach of some imminent doom. Mortimer, humming gaily to himself as he sandpapered the blade of his twenty-second putter, observed none of this. He was thinking of the morrow’s play.

“Your wrist’s quite well again now, darling, isn’t it?” he said.

“Yes. Yes, quite well.”

“Fine!” said Mortimer. “We’ll breakfast early⁠—say at half-past seven⁠—and then we’ll be able to get in a couple of rounds before lunch. A couple more in the afternoon will about see us through. One doesn’t want to over-golf oneself the first day.” He swung the putter joyfully. “How had we better play do you think? We might start with you giving me a half.”

She did not speak. She was very pale. She clutched the arm of her chair tightly till the knuckles showed white under the skin.

To anybody but Mortimer her nervousness would have been even more obvious on the following morning, as they reached the first tee. Her eyes were dull and heavy, and she started when a grasshopper chirruped. But Mortimer was too occupied with thinking how jolly it was having the course to themselves to notice anything.

He scooped some sand out of the box, and took a ball out of her bag. His wedding present to her had been a brand-new golf bag, six dozen balls, and a full set of the most expensive clubs, all born in Scotland.

“Do you like a high tee?” he asked.

“Oh, no,” she replied, coming with a start out of her thoughts. “Doctors say it’s indigestible.”

Mortimer laughed merrily.

“Deuced good!” he chuckled. “Is that your own or did you read it in a comic paper? There you are!” He placed the ball on a little hill of sand, and got up. “Now let’s see some of that championship form of yours!”

She burst into tears.

“My darling!”

Mortimer ran to her and put his arms round her. She tried weakly to push him away.

“My angel! What is it?”

She sobbed brokenly. Then, with an effort, she spoke.

“Mortimer, I have deceived you!”

“Deceived me?”

“I have never played golf in my life! I don’t even know how to hold the caddie!”

Mortimer’s heart stood still. This sounded like the gibberings of an unbalanced mind, and no man likes his wife to begin gibbering immediately after the honeymoon.

“My precious! You are not yourself!”

“I am! That’s the whole trouble! I’m myself and not the girl you thought I was!”

Mortimer stared at her, puzzled. He was thinking that it was a little difficult and that, to work it out properly, he would need a pencil and a bit of paper.

“My name is not Mary!”

“But you said it was.”

“I didn’t. You asked if you could call me Mary, and I said you might, because I loved you too much to deny your smallest whim. I was going on to say that it wasn’t my name, but you interrupted me.”

“Not Mary!” The horrid truth was coming home to Mortimer. “You were not Mary Somerset?”

“Mary is my cousin. My name is Mabel.”

“But you said you had sprained your wrist playing in the championship.”

“So I had. The mallet slipped in my hand.”

“The mallet!” Mortimer clutched at his forehead. “You didn’t say ‘the mallet’?”

“Yes, Mortimer! The mallet!”

A faint blush of shame mantled her cheek, and into her blue eyes there came a look of pain, but she faced him bravely.

“I am the Ladies’ Open Croquet Champion!” she whispered.

Mortimer Sturgis cried aloud, a cry that was like the shriek of some wounded animal.

“Croquet!” He gulped, and stared at her with unseeing eyes. He was no prude, but he had those decent prejudices of which no self-respecting man can wholly rid himself, however broad-minded he may try to be. “Croquet!”

There was a long silence. The light breeze sang in the pines above them. The grasshoppers chirrupped at their feet.

She began to speak again in a low, monotonous voice.

“I blame myself! I should have told you before, while there was yet time for you to withdraw. I should have confessed this to you that night on the terrace in the moonlight. But you swept me off my feet, and I was in your arms before I realized what you would think of me. It was only then that I understood what my supposed skill at golf meant to you, and then it was too late. I loved you too much to let you go! I could not bear the thought of you recoiling from me. Oh, I was mad⁠—mad! I knew that I could not keep up the deception forever, that you must find me out in time. But I had a wild hope that by then we should be so close to one another that you might find it in your heart to forgive. But I was wrong. I see it now. There are some things that no man can forgive. Some things,” she repeated, dully, “which no man can forgive.”

She turned away. Mortimer awoke from his trance.

“Stop!” he cried. “Don’t go!”

“I must go.”

“I want to talk this over.”

She shook her head sadly and started to walk slowly across the sunlit grass. Mortimer watched her, his brain in a whirl of chaotic thoughts. She disappeared through the trees.

Mortimer sat down on the tee-box, and buried his face in his hands. For a time he could think of nothing but the cruel blow he had received. This was the end of those rainbow visions of himself and her going through life side by side, she lovingly criticizing his stance and his backswing, he learning wisdom from her. A croquet-player! He was married to a woman who hit coloured balls through hoops. Mortimer Sturgis writhed in torment. A strong man’s agony.

The mood passed. How long it had lasted, he did not know. But suddenly, as he sat there, he became once more aware of the glow of the sunshine and the singing of the birds. It was as if a shadow had lifted. Hope and optimism crept into his heart.

He loved her. He loved her still. She was part of him, and nothing that she could do had power to alter that. She had deceived him, yes. But why had she deceived him? Because she loved him so much that she could not bear to lose him. Dash it all, it was a bit of a compliment.

And, after all, poor girl, was it her fault? Was it not rather the fault of her upbringing? Probably she had been taught to play croquet when a mere child, hardly able to distinguish right from wrong. No steps had been taken to eradicate the virus from her system, and the thing had become chronic. Could she be blamed? Was she not more to be pitied than censured?

Mortimer rose to his feet, his heart swelling with generous forgiveness. The black horror had passed from him. The future seemed once more bright. It was not too late. She was still young, many years younger than he himself had been when he took up golf, and surely, if she put herself into the hands of a good specialist and practised every day, she might still hope to become a fair player. He reached the house and ran in, calling her name.

No answer came. He sped from room to room, but all were empty.

She had gone. The house was there. The furniture was there. The canary sang in its cage, the cook in the kitchen. The pictures still hung on the walls. But she had gone. Everything was at home except his wife.

Finally, propped up against the cup he had once won in a handicap competition, he saw a letter. With a sinking heart he tore open the envelope.

It was a pathetic, a tragic letter, the letter of a woman endeavouring to express all the anguish of a torn heart with one of those fountain-pens which suspend the flow of ink about twice in every three words. The gist of it was that she felt she had wronged him; that, though he might forgive, he could never forget; and that she was going away, away out into the world alone.

Mortimer sank into a chair, and stared blankly before him. She had scratched the match.

I am not a married man myself, so have had no experience of how it feels to have one’s wife whizz off silently into the unknown; but I should imagine that it must be something like taking a full swing with a brassey and missing the ball. Something, I take it, of the same sense of mingled shock, chagrin, and the feeling that nobody loves one, which attacks a man in such circumstances, must come to the bereaved husband. And one can readily understand how terribly the incident must have shaken Mortimer Sturgis. I was away at the time, but I am told by those who saw him that his game went all to pieces.

He had never shown much indication of becoming anything in the nature of a first-class golfer, but he had managed to acquire one or two decent shots. His work with the light iron was not at all bad, and he was a fairly steady putter. But now, under the shadow of this tragedy, he dropped right back to the form of his earliest period. It was a pitiful sight to see this gaunt, haggard man with the look of dumb anguish behind his spectacles taking as many as three shots sometimes to get past the ladies’ tee. His slice, of which he had almost cured himself, returned with such virulence that in the list of ordinary hazards he had now to include the tee-box. And, when he was not slicing, he was pulling. I have heard that he was known, when driving at the sixth, to get bunkered in his own caddie, who had taken up his position directly behind him. As for the deep sand-trap in front of the seventh green, he spent so much of his time in it that there was some informal talk among the members of the committee of charging him a small weekly rent.

A man of comfortable independent means, he lived during these days on next to nothing. Golf-balls cost him a certain amount, but the bulk of his income he spent in efforts to discover his wife’s whereabouts. He advertised in all the papers. He employed private detectives. He even, much as it revolted his finer instincts, took to travelling about the country, watching croquet matches. But she was never among the players. I am not sure that he did not find a melancholy comfort in this, for it seemed to show that, whatever his wife might be and whatever she might be doing, she had not gone right under.

Summer passed. Autumn came and went. Winter arrived. The days grew bleak and chill, and an early fall of snow, heavier than had been known at that time of the year for a long while, put an end to golf. Mortimer spent his days indoors, staring gloomily through the window at the white mantle that covered the earth.

It was Christmas Eve.

The young man shifted uneasily on his seat. His face was long and sombre.

“All this is very depressing,” he said.

“These soul tragedies,” agreed the Oldest Member, “are never very cheery.”

“Look here,” said the young man, firmly, “tell me one thing frankly, as man to man. Did Mortimer find her dead in the snow, covered except for her face, on which still lingered that faint, sweet smile which he remembered so well? Because, if he did, I’m going home.”

“No, no,” protested the Oldest Member. “Nothing of that kind.”

“You’re sure? You aren’t going to spring it on me suddenly?”

“No, no!”

The young man breathed a relieved sigh.

“It was your saying that about the white mantle covering the earth that made me suspicious.”

The Sage resumed.

It was Christmas Eve. All day the snow had been falling, and now it lay thick and deep over the countryside. Mortimer Sturgis, his frugal dinner concluded⁠—what with losing his wife and not being able to get any golf, he had little appetite these days⁠—was sitting in his drawing-room, moodily polishing the blade of his jigger. Soon wearying of this once congenial task, he laid down the club and went to the front door to see if there was any chance of a thaw. But no. It was freezing. The snow, as he tested it with his shoe, crackled crisply. The sky above was black and full of cold stars. It seemed to Mortimer that the sooner he packed up and went to the South of France, the better. He was just about to close the door, when suddenly he thought he heard his own name called.


Had he been mistaken? The voice had sounded faint and far away.


He thrilled from head to foot. This time there could be no mistake. It was the voice he knew so well, his wife’s voice, and it had come from somewhere down near the garden-gate. It is difficult to judge distance where sounds are concerned, but Mortimer estimated that the voice had spoken about a short mashie-niblick and an easy putt from where he stood.

The next moment he was racing down the snow-covered path. And then his heart stood still. What was that dark something on the ground just inside the gate? He leaped towards it. He passed his hands over it. It was a human body. Quivering, he struck a match. It went out. He struck another. That went out, too. He struck a third, and it burnt with a steady flame; and, stooping, he saw that it was his wife who lay there, cold and stiff. Her eyes were closed, and on her face still lingered that faint, sweet smile which he remembered so well.

The young man rose with a set face. He reached for his golf bag.

“I call that a dirty trick,” he said, “after you promised⁠—” The Sage waved him back to his seat.

“Have no fear! She had only fainted.”

“You said she was cold.”

“Wouldn’t you be cold if you were lying in the snow?”

“And stiff.”

Mrs. Sturgis was stiff because the train-service was bad, it being the holiday-season, and she had had to walk all the way from the junction, a distance of eight miles. Sit down and allow me to proceed.”

Tenderly, reverently Mortimer Sturgis picked her up and began to bear her into the house. Halfway there, his foot slipped on a piece of ice and he fell heavily, barking his shin and shooting his lovely burden out on to the snow.

The fall brought her to. She opened her eyes.

“Mortimer, darling!” she said.

Mortimer had just been going to say something else, but he checked himself.

“Are you alive?” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

“Thank God!” said Mortimer, scooping some of the snow out of the back of his collar.

Together they went into the house, and into the drawing-room. Wife gazed at husband, husband at wife. There was a silence.

“Rotten weather!” said Mortimer.

“Yes, isn’t it!”

The spell was broken. They fell into each other’s arms. And presently they were sitting side by side on the sofa, holding hands, just as if that awful parting had been but a dream.

It was Mortimer who made the first reference to it.

“I say, you know,” he said, “you oughtn’t to have nipped away like that!”

“I thought you hated me!”

“Hated you! I love you better than life itself! I would sooner have smashed my pet driver than have had you leave me!”

She thrilled at the words.


Mortimer fondled her hand.

“I was just coming back to tell you that I loved you still. I was going to suggest that you took lessons from some good professional. And I found you gone!”

“I wasn’t worthy of you, Mortimer!”

“My angel!” He pressed his lips to her hair, and spoke solemnly. “All this has taught me a lesson, dearest. I knew all along, and I know it more than ever now, that it is you⁠—you that I want. Just you! I don’t care if you don’t play golf. I don’t care⁠—” He hesitated, then went on manfully. “I don’t care even if you play croquet, so long as you are with me!”

For a moment her face showed rapture that made it almost angelic. She uttered a low moan of ecstasy. She kissed him. Then she rose.

“Mortimer, look!”

“What at?”

“Me. Just look!”

The jigger which he had been polishing lay on a chair close by. She took it up. From the bowl of golf balls on the mantelpiece she selected a brand new one. She placed it on the carpet. She addressed it. Then, with a merry cry of “Fore!” she drove it hard and straight through the glass of the china-cupboard.

“Good God!” cried Mortimer, astounded. It had been a bird of a shot.

She turned to him, her whole face alight with that beautiful smile.

“When I left you, Mortie,” she said, “I had but one aim in life, somehow to make myself worthy of you. I saw your advertisements in the papers, and I longed to answer them, but I was not ready. All this long, weary while I have been in the village of Auchtermuchtie, in Scotland, studying under Tamms McMickle.”

“Not the Tamms McMickle who finished fourth in the Open Championship of 1911, and had the best ball in the foursome in 1912 with Jock McHaggis, Andy McHeather, and Sandy McHoots!”

“Yes, Mortimer, the very same. Oh, it was difficult at first. I missed my mallet, and long to steady the ball with my foot and use the toe of the club. Wherever there was a direction post I aimed at it automatically. But I conquered my weakness. I practised steadily. And now Mr. McMickle says my handicap would be a good twenty-four on any links.” She smiled apologetically. “Of course, that doesn’t sound much to you! You were a twelve when I left you, and now I suppose you are down to eight or something.”

Mortimer shook his head.

“Alas, no!” he replied, gravely. “My game went right off for some reason or other, and I’m twenty-four, too.”

“For some reason or other!” She uttered a cry. “Oh, I know what the reason was! How can I ever forgive myself! I have ruined your game!”

The brightness came back to Mortimer’s eyes. He embraced her fondly.

“Do not reproach yourself, dearest,” he murmured. “It is the best thing that could have happened. From now on, we start level, two hearts that beat as one, two drivers that drive as one. I could not wish it otherwise. By George! It’s just like that thing of Tennyson’s.”

He recited the lines softly:

My bride,
My wife, my life. Oh, we will walk the links
Yoked in all exercise of noble end,
And so thro’ those dark bunkers off the course
That no man knows. Indeed, I love thee: come,
Yield thyself up: our handicaps are one;
Accomplish thou my manhood and thyself;
Lay thy sweet hands in mine and trust to me.

She laid her hands in his.

“And now, Mortie, darling,” she said, “I want to tell you all about how I did the long twelfth at Auchtermuchtie in one under bogey.”

The Salvation of George Mackintosh

The young man came into the clubhouse. There was a frown on his usually cheerful face, and he ordered a ginger-ale in the sort of voice which an ancient Greek would have used when asking the executioner to bring on the hemlock.

Sunk in the recesses of his favourite settee the Oldest Member had watched him with silent sympathy.

“How did you get on?” he inquired.

“He beat me.”

The Oldest Member nodded his venerable head.

“You have had a trying time, if I am not mistaken. I feared as much when I saw you go out with Pobsley. How many a young man have I seen go out with Herbert Pobsley exulting in his youth, and crawl back at eventide looking like a toad under the harrow! He talked?”

“All the time, confound it! Put me right off my stroke.”

The Oldest Member sighed.

“The talking golfer is undeniably the most pronounced pest of our complex modern civilization,” he said, “and the most difficult to deal with. It is a melancholy thought that the noblest of games should have produced such a scourge. I have frequently marked Herbert Pobsley in action. As the crackling of thorns under a pot.⁠ ⁠… He is almost as bad as poor George Mackintosh in his worst period. Did I ever tell you about George Mackintosh?”

“I don’t think so.”

“His,” said the Sage, “is the only case of golfing garrulity I have ever known where a permanent cure was affected. If you would care to hear about it⁠—?”

George Mackintosh (said the Oldest Member), when I first knew him, was one of the most admirable young fellows I have ever met. A handsome, well-set-up man, with no vices except a tendency to use the mashie for shots which should have been made with the light iron. And as for his positive virtues, they were too numerous to mention. He never swayed his body, moved his head, or pressed. He was always ready to utter a tactful grunt when his opponent foozled. And when he himself achieved a glaring fluke, his self-reproachful click of the tongue was music to his adversary’s bruised soul. But of all his virtues the one that most endeared him to me and to all thinking men was the fact that, from the start of a round to the finish, he never spoke a word except when absolutely compelled to do so by the exigencies of the game. And it was this man who subsequently, for a black period which lives in the memory of all his contemporaries, was known as Gabby George and became a shade less popular than the germ of Spanish Influenza. Truly, corruptio optimi pessima!

One of the things that sadden a man as he grows older and reviews his life is the reflection that his most devastating deeds were generally the ones which he did with the best motives. The thought is disheartening. I can honestly say that, when George Mackintosh came to me and told me his troubles, my sole desire was to ameliorate his lot. That I might be starting on the downward path a man whom I liked and respected never once occurred to me.

One night after dinner when George Mackintosh came in, I could see at once that there was something on his mind, but what this could be I was at a loss to imagine, for I had been playing with him myself all the afternoon, and he had done an eighty-one and a seventy-nine. And, as I had not left the links till dusk was beginning to fall, it was practically impossible that he could have gone out again and done badly. The idea of financial trouble seemed equally out of the question. George had a good job with the old-established legal firm of Peabody, Peabody, Peabody, Peabody, Cootes, Toots, and Peabody. The third alternative, that he might be in love, I rejected at once. In all the time I had known him I had never seen a sign that George Mackintosh gave a thought to the opposite sex.

Yet this, bizarre as it seemed, was the true solution. Scarcely had he seated himself and lit a cigar when he blurted out his confession.

“What would you do in a case like this?” he said.

“Like what?”

“Well⁠—” He choked, and a rich blush permeated his surface. “Well, it seems a silly thing to say and all that, but I’m in love with Miss Tennant, you know!”

“You are in love with Celia Tennant?”

“Of course I am. I’ve got eyes, haven’t I? Who else is there that any sane man could possibly be in love with? That,” he went on, moodily, “is the whole trouble. There’s a field of about twenty-nine, and I should think my place in the betting is about thirty-three to one.”

“I cannot agree with you there,” I said. “You have every advantage, it appears to me. You are young, amiable, good-looking, comfortably off, scratch⁠—”

“But I can’t talk, confound it!” he burst out. “And how is a man to get anywhere at this sort of game without talking?”

“You are talking perfectly fluently now.”

“Yes, to you. But put me in front of Celia Tennant, and I simply make a sort of gurgling noise like a sheep with the botts. It kills my chances stone dead. You know these other men. I can give Claude Mainwaring a third and beat him. I can give Eustace Brinkley a stroke a hole and simply trample on his corpse. But when it comes to talking to a girl, I’m not in their class.”

“You must not be diffident.”

“But I am diffident. What’s the good of saying I mustn’t be diffident when I’m the man who wrote the words and music, when Diffidence is my middle name and my telegraphic address? I can’t help being diffident.”

“Surely you could overcome it?”

“But how? It was in the hope that you might be able to suggest something that I came round tonight.”

And this was where I did the fatal thing. It happened that, just before I took up Braid on the Push-Shot, I had been dipping into the current number of a magazine, and one of the advertisements, I chanced to remember, might have been framed with a special eye to George’s unfortunate case. It was that one, which I have no doubt you have seen, which treats of “How to Become a Convincing Talker.” I picked up this magazine now and handed it to George.

He studied it for a few minutes in thoughtful silence. He looked at the picture of the Man who had taken the course being fawned upon by lovely women, while the man who had let this opportunity slip stood outside the group gazing with a wistful envy.

“They never do that to me,” said George.

“Do what, my boy?”

“Cluster round, clinging cooingly.”

“I gather from the letterpress that they will if you write for the booklet.”

“You think there is really something in it?”

“I see no reason why eloquence should not be taught by mail. One seems to be able to acquire every other desirable quality in that manner nowadays.”

“I might try it. After all, it’s not expensive. There’s no doubt about it,” he murmured, returning to his perusal, “that fellow does look popular. Of course, the evening dress may have something to do with it.”

“Not at all. The other man, you will notice, is also wearing evening dress, and yet he is merely among those on the outskirts. It is simply a question of writing for the booklet.”

“Sent post free.”

“Sent, as you say, post free.”

“I’ve a good mind to try it.”

“I see no reason why you should not.”

“I will, by Duncan!” He tore the page out of the magazine and put it in his pocket. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give this thing a trial for a week or two, and at the end of that time I’ll go to the boss and see how he reacts when I ask for a rise of salary. If he crawls, it’ll show there’s something in this. If he flings me out, it will prove the thing’s no good.”

We left it at that, and I am bound to say⁠—owing, no doubt, to my not having written for the booklet of the Memory Training Course advertised on the adjoining page of the magazine⁠—the matter slipped from my mind. When, therefore, a few weeks later, I received a telegram from young Mackintosh which ran:

Worked like magic,

I confess I was intensely puzzled. It was only a quarter of an hour before George himself arrived that I solved the problem of its meaning.

“So the boss crawled?” I said, as he came in.

He gave a light, confident laugh. I had not seen him, as I say, for some time, and I was struck by the alteration in his appearance. In what exactly this alteration consisted I could not at first have said; but gradually it began to impress itself on me that his eye was brighter, his jaw squarer, his carriage a trifle more upright than it had been. But it was his eye that struck me most forcibly. The George Mackintosh I had known had had a pleasing gaze, but, though frank and agreeable, it had never been more dynamic than a fried egg. This new George had an eye that was a combination of a gimlet and a searchlight. Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, I imagine, must have been somewhat similarly equipped. The Ancient Mariner stopped a wedding guest on his way to a wedding; George Mackintosh gave me the impression that he could have stopped the Cornish Riviera express on its way to Penzance. Self-confidence⁠—aye, and more than self-confidence⁠—a sort of sinful, overbearing swank seemed to exude from his very pores.

“Crawled?” he said. “Well, he didn’t actually lick my boots, because I saw him coming and sidestepped; but he did everything short of that. I hadn’t been talking an hour when⁠—”

“An hour!” I gasped. “Did you talk for an hour?”

“Certainly. You wouldn’t have had me be abrupt, would you? I went into his private office and found him alone. I think at first he would have been just as well pleased if I had retired. In fact, he said as much. But I soon adjusted that outlook. I took a seat and a cigarette, and then I started to sketch out for him the history of my connection with the firm. He began to wilt before the end of the first ten minutes. At the quarter of an hour mark he was looking at me like a lost dog that’s just found its owner. By the half-hour he was making little bleating noises and massaging my coat-sleeve. And when, after perhaps an hour and a half, I came to my peroration and suggested a rise, he choked back a sob, gave me double what I had asked, and invited me to dine at his club next Tuesday. I’m a little sorry now I cut the thing so short. A few minutes more, and I fancy he would have given me his sock-suspenders and made over his life-insurance in my favour.”

“Well,” I said, as soon as I could speak, for I was finding my young friend a trifle overpowering, “this is most satisfactory.”

“So-so,” said George. “Not un-so-so. A man wants an addition to his income when he is going to get married.”

“Ah!” I said. “That, of course, will be the real test.”

“What do you mean?”

“Why, when you propose to Celia Tennant. You remember you were saying when we spoke of this before⁠—”

“Oh, that!” said George, carelessly. “I’ve arranged all that.”


“Oh, yes. On my way up from the station. I looked in on Celia about an hour ago, and it’s all settled.”


“Well, I don’t know. I just put the thing to her, and she seemed to see it.”

“I congratulate you. So now, like Alexander, you have no more worlds to conquer.”

“Well, I don’t know so much about that,” said George. “The way it looks to me is that I’m just starting. This eloquence is a thing that rather grows on one. You didn’t hear about my after-dinner speech at the anniversary banquet of the firm, I suppose? My dear fellow, a riot! A positive stampede. Had ’em laughing and then crying and then laughing again and then crying once more till six of ’em had to be led out and the rest down with hiccups. Napkins waving⁠ ⁠… three tables broken⁠ ⁠… waiters in hysterics. I tell you, I played on them as on a stringed instrument.⁠ ⁠…”

“Can you play on a stringed instrument?”

“As it happens, no. But as I would have played on a stringed instrument if I could play on a stringed instrument. Wonderful sense of power it gives you. I mean to go in pretty largely for that sort of thing in future.”

“You must not let it interfere with your golf.”

He gave a laugh which turned my blood cold.

“Golf!” he said. “After all, what is golf? Just pushing a small ball into a hole. A child could do it. Indeed, children have done it with great success. I see an infant of fourteen has just won some sort of championship. Could that stripling convulse a roomful of banqueters? I think not! To sway your fellow-men with a word, to hold them with a gesture⁠ ⁠… that is the real salt of life. I don’t suppose I shall play much more golf now. I’m making arrangements for a lecturing-tour, and I’m booked up for fifteen lunches already.”

Those were his words. A man who had once done the lake-hole in one. A man whom the committee were grooming for the amateur championship. I am no weakling, but I confess they sent a chill shiver down my spine.

George Mackintosh did not, I am glad to say, carry out his mad project to the letter. He did not altogether sever himself from golf. He was still to be seen occasionally on the links. But now⁠—and I know of nothing more tragic that can befall a man⁠—he found himself gradually shunned, he who in the days of his sanity had been besieged with more offers of games than he could manage to accept. Men simply would not stand his incessant flow of talk. One by one they dropped off, until the only person he could find to go round with him was old Major Moseby, whose hearing completely petered out as long ago as the year ’98. And, of course, Celia Tennant would play with him occasionally; but it seemed to me that even she, greatly as no doubt she loved him, was beginning to crack under the strain.

So surely had I read the pallor of her face and the wild look of dumb agony in her eyes that I was not surprised when, as I sat one morning in my garden reading Ray on Taking Turf, my man announced her name. I had been half expecting her to come to me for advice and consolation, for I had known her ever since she was a child. It was I who had given her her first driver and taught her infant lips to lisp “Fore!” It is not easy to lisp the word “Fore!” but I had taught her to do it, and this constituted a bond between us which had been strengthened rather than weakened by the passage of time.

She sat down on the grass beside my chair, and looked up at my face in silent pain. We had known each other so long that I know that it was not my face that pained her, but rather some unspoken malaise of the soul. I waited for her to speak, and suddenly she burst out impetuously as though she could hold back her sorrow no longer.

“Oh, I can’t stand it! I can’t stand it!”

“You mean⁠ ⁠… ?” I said, though I knew only too well.

“This horrible obsession of poor George’s,” she cried passionately. “I don’t think he has stopped talking once since we have been engaged.”

“He is chatty,” I agreed. “Has he told you the story about the Irishman?”

“Half a dozen times. And the one about the Swede oftener than that. But I would not mind an occasional anecdote. Women have to learn to bear anecdotes from the men they love. It is the curse of Eve. It is his incessant easy flow of chatter on all topics that is undermining even my devotion.”

“But surely, when he proposed to you, he must have given you an inkling of the truth. He only hinted at it when he spoke to me, but I gather that he was eloquent.”

“When he proposed,” said Celia dreamily, “he was wonderful. He spoke for twenty minutes without stopping. He said I was the essence of his every hope, the tree on which the fruit of his life grew; his Present, his Future, his Past⁠ ⁠… oh, and all that sort of thing. If he would only confine his conversation now to remarks of a similar nature, I could listen to him all day long. But he doesn’t. He talks politics and statistics and philosophy and⁠ ⁠… oh, and everything. He makes my head ache.”

“And your heart also, I fear,” I said gravely.

“I love him!” she replied simply. “In spite of everything, I love him dearly. But what to do? What to do? I have an awful fear that when we are getting married instead of answering ‘I will,’ he will go into the pulpit and deliver an address on Marriage Ceremonies of All Ages. The world to him is a vast lecture-platform. He looks on life as one long after-dinner, with himself as the principal speaker of the evening. It is breaking my heart. I see him shunned by his former friends. Shunned! They run a mile when they see him coming. The mere sound of his voice outside the clubhouse is enough to send brave men diving for safety beneath the sofas. Can you wonder that I am in despair? What have I to live for?”

“There is always golf.”

“Yes, there is always golf,” she whispered bravely.

“Come and have a round this afternoon.”

“I had promised to go for a walk⁠ ⁠…” She shuddered, then pulled herself together. “… for a walk with George.”

I hesitated for a moment.

“Bring him along,” I said, and patted her hand. “It may be that together we shall find an opportunity of reasoning with him.”

She shook her head.

“You can’t reason with George. He never stops talking long enough to give you time.”

“Nevertheless, there is no harm in trying. I have an idea that this malady of his is not permanent and incurable. The very violence with which the germ of loquacity has attacked him gives me hope. You must remember that before this seizure he was rather a noticeably silent man. Sometimes I think that it is just Nature’s way of restoring the average, and that soon the fever may burn itself out. Or it may be that a sudden shock⁠ ⁠… At any rate, have courage.”

“I will try to be brave.”

“Capital! At half-past two on the first tee, then.”

“You will have to give me a stroke on the third, ninth, twelfth, fifteenth, sixteenth and eighteenth,” she said, with a quaver in her voice. “My golf has fallen off rather lately.”

I patted her hand again.

“I understand,” I said gently. “I understand.”

The steady drone of a baritone voice as I alighted from my car and approached the first tee told me that George had not forgotten the tryst. He was sitting on the stone seat under the chestnut-tree, speaking a few well-chosen words on the Labour Movement.

“To what conclusion, then, do we come?” he was saying. “We come to the foregone and inevitable conclusion that.⁠ ⁠…”

“Good afternoon, George,” I said.

He nodded briefly, but without verbal salutation. He seemed to regard my remark as he would have regarded the unmannerly heckling of someone at the back of the hall. He proceeded evenly with his speech, and was still talking when Celia addressed her ball and drove off. Her drive, coinciding with a sharp rhetorical question from George, wavered in midair, and the ball trickled off into the rough halfway down the hill. I can see the poor girl’s tortured face even now. But she breathed no word of reproach. Such is the miracle of women’s love.

“Where you went wrong there,” said George, breaking off his remarks on Labour, “was that you have not studied the dynamics of golf sufficiently. You did not pivot properly. You allowed your left heel to point down the course when you were at the top of your swing. This makes for instability and loss of distance. The fundamental law of the dynamics of golf is that the left foot shall be solidly on the ground at the moment of impact. If you allow your heel to point down the course, it is almost impossible to bring it back in time to make the foot a solid fulcrum.”

I drove, and managed to clear the rough and reach the fairway. But it was not one of my best drives. George Mackintosh, I confess, had unnerved me. The feeling he gave me resembled the self-conscious panic which I used to experience in my childhood when informed that there was One Awful Eye that watched my every movement and saw my every act. It was only the fact that poor Celia appeared even more affected by his espionage that enabled me to win the first hole in seven.

On the way to the second tee George discoursed on the beauties of Nature, pointing out at considerable length how exquisitely the silver glitter of the lake harmonized with the vivid emerald turf near the hole and the duller green of the rough beyond it. As Celia teed up her ball, he directed her attention to the golden glory of the sandpit to the left of the flag. It was not the spirit in which to approach the lake-hole, and I was not surprised when the unfortunate girl’s ball fell with a sickening plop halfway across the water.

“Where you went wrong there,” said George, “was that you made the stroke a sudden heave instead of a smooth, snappy flick of the wrists. Pressing is always bad, but with the mashie⁠—”

“I think I will give you this hole,” said Celia to me, for my shot had cleared the water and was lying on the edge of the green. “I wish I hadn’t used a new ball.”

“The price of golf balls,” said George, as we started to round the lake, “is a matter to which economists should give some attention. I am credibly informed that rubber at the present time is exceptionally cheap. Yet we see no decrease in the price of golf balls, which, as I need scarcely inform you, are rubber-cored. Why should this be so? You will say that the wages of skilled labour have gone up. True. But⁠—”

“One moment, George, while I drive,” I said. For we had now arrived at the third tee.

“A curious thing, concentration,” said George, “and why certain phenomena should prevent us from focusing our attention⁠—This brings me to the vexed question of sleep. Why is it that we are able to sleep through some vast convulsion of Nature when a dripping tap is enough to keep us awake? I am told that there were people who slumbered peacefully through the San Francisco earthquake, merely stirring drowsily from time to time to tell an imaginary person to leave it on the mat. Yet these same people⁠—”

Celia’s drive bounded into the deep ravine which yawns some fifty yards from the tee. A low moan escaped her.

“Where you went wrong there⁠—” said George.

“I know,” said Celia. “I lifted my head.”

I had never heard her speak so abruptly before. Her manner, in a girl less noticeably pretty, might almost have been called snappish. George, however, did not appear to have noticed anything amiss. He filled his pipe and followed her into the ravine.

“Remarkable,” he said, “how fundamental a principle of golf is this keeping the head still. You will hear professionals tell their pupils to keep their eye on the ball. Keeping the eye on the ball is only a secondary matter. What they really mean is that the head should be kept rigid, as otherwise it is impossible to⁠—”

His voice died away. I had sliced my drive into the woods on the right, and after playing another had gone off to try to find my ball, leaving Celia and George in the ravine behind me. My last glimpse of them showed me that her ball had fallen into a stone-studded cavity in the side of the hill, and she was drawing her niblick from her bag as I passed out of sight. George’s voice, blurred by distance to a monotonous murmur, followed me until I was out of earshot.

I was just about to give up the hunt for my ball in despair, when I heard Celia’s voice calling to me from the edge of the undergrowth. There was a sharp note in it which startled me.

I came out, trailing a portion of some unknown shrub which had twined itself about my ankle.

“Yes?” I said, picking twigs out of my hair.

“I want your advice,” said Celia.

“Certainly. What is the trouble? By the way,” I said, looking round, “where is your fiancé?”

“I have no fiancé,” she said, in a dull, hard voice.

“You have broken off the engagement?”

“Not exactly. And yet⁠—well, I suppose it amounts to that.”

“I don’t quite understand.”

“Well, the fact is,” said Celia, in a burst of girlish frankness, “I rather think I’ve killed George.”

“Killed him, eh?”

It was a solution that had not occurred to me, but now that it was presented for my inspection I could see its merits. In these days of national effort, when we are all working together to try to make our beloved land fit for heroes to live in, it was astonishing that nobody before had thought of a simple, obvious thing like killing George Mackintosh. George Mackintosh was undoubtedly better dead, but it had taken a woman’s intuition to see it.

“I killed him with my niblick,” said Celia.

I nodded. If the thing was to be done at all, it was unquestionably a niblick shot.

“I had just made my eleventh attempt to get out of that ravine,” the girl went on, “with George talking all the time about the recent excavations in Egypt, when suddenly⁠—you know what it is when something seems to snap⁠—”

“I had the experience with my shoelace only this morning.”

“Yes, it was like that. Sharp⁠—sudden⁠—happening all in a moment. I suppose I must have said something, for George stopped talking about Egypt and said that he was reminded by a remark of the last speaker’s of a certain Irishman⁠—”

I pressed her hand.

“Don’t go on if it hurts you,” I said, gently.

“Well, there is very little more to tell. He bent his head to light his pipe, and well⁠—the temptation was too much for me. That’s all.”

“You were quite right.”

“You really think so?”

“I certainly do. A rather similar action, under far less provocation, once made Jael the wife of Heber the most popular woman in Israel.”

“I wish I could think so too,” she murmured. “At the moment, you know, I was conscious of nothing but an awful elation. But⁠—but⁠—oh, he was such a darling before he got this dreadful affliction. I can’t help thinking of G-George as he used to be.”

She burst into a torrent of sobs.

“Would you care for me to view the remains?” I said.

“Perhaps it would be as well.”

She led me silently into the ravine. George Mackintosh was lying on his back where he had fallen.

“There!” said Celia.

And, as she spoke, George Mackintosh gave a kind of snorting groan and sat up. Celia uttered a sharp shriek and sank on her knees before him. George blinked once or twice and looked about him dazedly.

“Save the women and children!” he cried. “I can swim.”

“Oh, George!” said Celia.

“Feeling a little better?” I asked.

“A little. How many people were hurt?”


“When the express ran into us.” He cast another glance around him. “Why, how did I get here?”

“You were here all the time,” I said.

“Do you mean after the roof fell in or before?”

Celia was crying quietly down the back of his neck.

“Oh, George!” she said, again.

He groped out feebly for her hand and patted it.

“Brave little woman!” he said. “Brave little woman! She stuck by me all through. Tell me⁠—I am strong enough to bear it⁠—what caused the explosion?”

It seemed to me a case where much unpleasant explanation might be avoided by the exercise of a little tact.

“Well, some say one thing and some another,” I said. “Whether it was a spark from a cigarette⁠—”

Celia interrupted me. The woman in her made her revolt against this well-intentioned subterfuge.

“I hit you, George!”

“Hit me?” he repeated, curiously. “What with? The Eiffel Tower?”

“With my niblick.”

“You hit me with your niblick? But why?”

She hesitated. Then she faced him bravely.

“Because you wouldn’t stop talking.”

He gaped.

“Me!” he said. “I wouldn’t stop talking! But I hardly talk at all. I’m noted for it.”

Celia’s eyes met mine in agonized inquiry. But I saw what had happened. The blow, the sudden shock, had operated on George’s brain-cells in such a way as to effect a complete cure. I have not the technical knowledge to be able to explain it, but the facts were plain.

“Lately, my dear fellow,” I assured him, “you have dropped into the habit of talking rather a good deal. Ever since we started out this afternoon you have kept up an incessant flow of conversation!”

“Me! On the links! It isn’t possible.”

“It is only too true, I fear. And that is why this brave girl hit you with her niblick. You started to tell her a funny story just as she was making her eleventh shot to get her ball out of this ravine, and she took what she considered the necessary steps.”

“Can you ever forgive me, George?” cried Celia.

George Mackintosh stared at me. Then a crimson blush mantled his face.

“So I did! It’s all beginning to come back to me. Oh, heavens!”

Can you forgive me, George?” cried Celia again.

He took her hand in his.

“Forgive you?” he muttered. “Can you forgive me? Me⁠—a tee-talker, a green-gabbler, a prattler on the links, the lowest form of life known to science! I am unclean, unclean!”

“It’s only a little mud, dearest,” said Celia, looking at the sleeve of his coat. “It will brush off when it’s dry.”

“How can you link your lot with a man who talks when people are making their shots?”

“You will never do it again.”

“But I have done it. And you stuck to me all through! Oh, Celia!”

“I loved you, George!”

The man seemed to swell with a sudden emotion. His eye lit up, and he thrust one hand into the breast of his coat while he raised the other in a sweeping gesture. For an instant he appeared on the verge of a flood of eloquence. And then, as if he had been made sharply aware of what it was that he intended to do, he suddenly sagged. The gleam died out of his eyes. He lowered his hand.

“Well, I must say that was rather decent of you,” he said.

A lame speech, but one that brought an infinite joy to both his hearers. For it showed that George Mackintosh was cured beyond possibility of relapse.

“Yes, I must say you are rather a corker,” he added.

“George!” cried Celia.

I said nothing, but I clasped his hand; and then, taking my clubs, I retired. When I looked round she was still in his arms. I left them there, alone together in the great silence.

And so (concluded the Oldest Member) you see that a cure is possible, though it needs a woman’s gentle hand to bring it about. And how few women are capable of doing what Celia Tennant did. Apart from the difficulty of summoning up the necessary resolution, an act like hers requires a straight eye and a pair of strong and supple wrists. It seems to me that for the ordinary talking golfer there is no hope. And the race seems to be getting more numerous every day. Yet the finest golfers are always the least loquacious. It is related of the illustrious Sandy McHoots that when, on the occasion of his winning the British Open Championship, he was interviewed by reporters from the leading daily papers as to his views on Tariff Reform, Bimetallism, the Trial by Jury System, and the Modern Craze for Dancing, all they could extract from him was the single word “Mphm!” Having uttered which, he shouldered his bag and went home to tea. A great man. I wish there were more like him.

Ordeal by Golf

A pleasant breeze played among the trees on the terrace outside the Marvis Bay Golf and Country Club. It ruffled the leaves and cooled the forehead of the Oldest Member, who, as was his custom of a Saturday afternoon, sat in the shade on a rocking-chair, observing the younger generation as it hooked and sliced in the valley below. The eye of the Oldest Member was thoughtful and reflective. When it looked into yours you saw in it that perfect peace, that peace beyond understanding, which comes at its maximum only to the man who has given up golf.

The Oldest Member has not played golf since the rubber-cored ball superseded the old dignified gutty. But as a spectator and philosopher he still finds pleasure in the pastime. He is watching it now with keen interest. His gaze, passing from the lemonade which he is sucking through a straw, rests upon the Saturday foursome which is struggling raggedly up the hill to the ninth green. Like all Saturday foursomes, it is in difficulties. One of the patients is zigzagging about the fairway like a liner pursued by submarines. Two others seem to be digging for buried treasure, unless⁠—it is too far off to be certain⁠—they are killing snakes. The remaining cripple, who has just foozled a mashie-shot, is blaming his caddie. His voice, as he upbraids the innocent child for breathing during his up-swing, comes clearly up the hill.

The Oldest Member sighs. His lemonade gives a sympathetic gurgle. He puts it down on the table.

How few men, says the Oldest Member, possess the proper golfing temperament! How few indeed, judging by the sights I see here on Saturday afternoons, possess any qualification at all for golf except a pair of baggy knickerbockers and enough money to enable them to pay for the drinks at the end of the round. The ideal golfer never loses his temper. When I played, I never lost my temper. Sometimes, it is true, I may, after missing a shot, have broken my club across my knees; but I did it in a calm and judicial spirit, because the club was obviously no good and I was going to get another one anyway. To lose one’s temper at golf is foolish. It gets you nothing, not even relief. Imitate the spirit of Marcus Aurelius. “Whatever may befall thee,” says that great man in his Meditations, “it was preordained for thee from everlasting. Nothing happens to anybody which he is not fitted by nature to bear.” I like to think that this noble thought came to him after he had sliced a couple of new balls into the woods, and that he jotted it down on the back of his scorecard. For there can be no doubt that the man was a golfer, and a bad golfer at that. Nobody who had not had a short putt stop on the edge of the hole could possibly have written the words: “That which makes the man no worse than he was makes life no worse. It has no power to harm, without or within.” Yes, Marcus Aurelius undoubtedly played golf, and all the evidence seems to indicate that he rarely went round in under a hundred and twenty. The niblick was his club.

Speaking of Marcus Aurelius and the golfing temperament recalls to my mind the case of young Mitchell Holmes. Mitchell, when I knew him first, was a promising young man with a future before him in the Paterson Dyeing and Refining Company, of which my old friend, Alexander Paterson, was the president. He had many engaging qualities⁠—among them an unquestioned ability to imitate a bulldog quarrelling with a Pekingese in a way which had to be heard to be believed. It was a gift which made him much in demand at social gatherings in the neighbourhood, marking him off from other young men who could only almost play the mandolin or recite bits of Gunga Din; and no doubt it was this talent of his which first sowed the seeds of love in the heart of Millicent Boyd. Women are essentially hero-worshippers, and when a warmhearted girl like Millicent has heard a personable young man imitating a bulldog and a Pekingese to the applause of a crowded drawing-room, and has been able to detect the exact point at which the Pekingese leaves off and the bulldog begins, she can never feel quite the same to other men. In short, Mitchell and Millicent were engaged, and were only waiting to be married till the former could bite the Dyeing and Refining Company’s ear for a bit of extra salary.

Mitchell Holmes had only one fault. He lost his temper when playing golf. He seldom played a round without becoming piqued, peeved, or⁠—in many cases⁠—chagrined. The caddies on our links, it was said, could always worst other small boys in verbal argument by calling them some of the things they had heard Mitchell call his ball on discovering it in a cuppy lie. He had a great gift of language, and he used it unsparingly. I will admit that there was some excuse for the man. He had the makings of a brilliant golfer, but a combination of bad luck and inconsistent play invariably robbed him of the fruits of his skill. He was the sort of player who does the first two holes in one under bogey and then takes an eleven at the third. The least thing upset him on the links. He missed short putts because of the uproar of the butterflies in the adjoining meadows.

It seemed hardly likely that this one kink in an otherwise admirable character would ever seriously affect his working or professional life, but it did. One evening, as I was sitting in my garden, Alexander Paterson was announced. A glance at his face told me that he had come to ask my advice. Rightly or wrongly, he regarded me as one capable of giving advice. It was I who had changed the whole current of his life by counselling him to leave the wood in his bag and take a driving-iron off the tee; and in one or two other matters, like the choice of a putter (so much more important than the choice of a wife), I had been of assistance to him.

Alexander sat down and fanned himself with his hat, for the evening was warm. Perplexity was written upon his fine face.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said.

“Keep the head still⁠—slow back⁠—don’t press,” I said, gravely. There is no better rule for a happy and successful life.

“It’s nothing to do with golf this time,” he said. “It’s about the treasurership of my company. Old Smithers retires next week, and I’ve got to find a man to fill his place.”

“That should be easy. You have simply to select the most deserving from among your other employees.”

“But which is the most deserving? That’s the point. There are two men who are capable of holding the job quite adequately. But then I realize how little I know of their real characters. It is the treasurership, you understand, which has to be filled. Now, a man who was quite good at another job might easily get wrong ideas into his head when he became a treasurer. He would have the handling of large sums of money. In other words, a man who in ordinary circumstances had never been conscious of any desire to visit the more distant portions of South America might feel the urge, so to speak, shortly after he became a treasurer. That is my difficulty. Of course, one always takes a sporting chance with any treasurer; but how am I to find out which of these two men would give me the more reasonable opportunity of keeping some of my money?”

I did not hesitate a moment. I held strong views on the subject of character-testing.

“The only way,” I said to Alexander, “of really finding out a man’s true character is to play golf with him. In no other walk of life does the cloven hoof so quickly display itself. I employed a lawyer for years, until one day I saw him kick his ball out of a heel-mark. I removed my business from his charge next morning. He has not yet run off with any trust-funds, but there is a nasty gleam in his eye, and I am convinced that it is only a question of time. Golf, my dear fellow, is the infallible test. The man who can go into a patch of rough alone, with the knowledge that only God is watching him, and play his ball where it lies, is the man who will serve you faithfully and well. The man who can smile bravely when his putt is diverted by one of those beastly wormcasts is pure gold right through. But the man who is hasty, unbalanced, and violent on the links will display the same qualities in the wider field of everyday life. You don’t want an unbalanced treasurer do you?”

“Not if his books are likely to catch the complaint.”

“They are sure to. Statisticians estimate that the average of crime among good golfers is lower than in any class of the community except possibly bishops. Since Willie Park won the first championship at Prestwick in the year 1860 there has, I believe, been no instance of an Open Champion spending a day in prison. Whereas the bad golfers⁠—and by bad I do not mean incompetent, but black-souled⁠—the men who fail to count a stroke when they miss the globe; the men who never replace a divot; the men who talk while their opponent is driving; and the men who let their angry passions rise⁠—these are in and out of Wormwood Scrubbs all the time. They find it hardly worthwhile to get their hair cut in their brief intervals of liberty.”

Alexander was visibly impressed.

“That sounds sensible, by George!” he said.

“It is sensible.”

“I’ll do it! Honestly, I can’t see any other way of deciding between Holmes and Dixon.”

I started.

“Holmes? Not Mitchell Holmes?”

“Yes. Of course you must know him? He lives here, I believe.”

“And by Dixon do you mean Rupert Dixon?”

“That’s the man. Another neighbour of yours.”

I confess that my heart sank. It was as if my ball had fallen into the pit which my niblick had digged. I wished heartily that I had thought of waiting to ascertain the names of the two rivals before offering my scheme. I was extremely fond of Mitchell Holmes and of the girl to whom he was engaged to be married. Indeed, it was I who had sketched out a few rough notes for the lad to use when proposing; and results had shown that he had put my stuff across well. And I had listened many a time with a sympathetic ear to his hopes in the matter of securing a rise of salary which would enable him to get married. Somehow, when Alexander was talking, it had not occurred to me that young Holmes might be in the running for so important an office as the treasurership. I had ruined the boy’s chances. Ordeal by golf was the one test which he could not possibly undergo with success. Only a miracle could keep him from losing his temper, and I had expressly warned Alexander against such a man.

When I thought of his rival my heart sank still more. Rupert Dixon was rather an unpleasant young man, but the worst of his enemies could not accuse him of not possessing the golfing temperament. From the drive off the tee to the holing of the final putt he was uniformly suave.

When Alexander had gone, I sat in thought for some time. I was faced with a problem. Strictly speaking, no doubt, I had no right to take sides; and, though secrecy had not been enjoined upon me in so many words, I was very well aware that Alexander was under the impression that I would keep the thing under my hat and not reveal to either party the test that awaited him. Each candidate was, of course, to remain ignorant that he was taking part in anything but a friendly game.

But when I thought of the young couple whose future depended on this ordeal, I hesitated no longer. I put on my hat and went round to Miss Boyd’s house, where I knew that Mitchell was to be found at this hour.

The young couple were out in the porch, looking at the moon. They greeted me heartily, but their heartiness had rather a tinny sound, and I could see that on the whole they regarded me as one of those things which should not happen. But when I told my story their attitude changed. They began to look on me in the pleasanter light of a guardian, philosopher, and friend.

“Wherever did Mr. Paterson get such a silly idea?” said Miss Boyd, indignantly. I had⁠—from the best motives⁠—concealed the source of the scheme. “It’s ridiculous!”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Mitchell. “The old boy’s crazy about golf. It’s just the sort of scheme he would cook up. Well, it dishes me!”

“Oh, come!” I said.

“It’s no good saying ‘Oh, come!’ You know perfectly well that I’m a frank, outspoken golfer. When my ball goes off nor’-nor’-east when I want it to go due west I can’t help expressing an opinion about it. It is a curious phenomenon which calls for comment, and I give it. Similarly, when I top my drive, I have to go on record as saying that I did not do it intentionally. And it’s just these trifles, as far as I can make out, that are going to decide the thing.”

“Couldn’t you learn to control yourself on the links, Mitchell, darling?” asked Millicent. “After all, golf is only a game!”

Mitchell’s eyes met mine, and I have no doubt that mine showed just the same look of horror which I saw in his. Women say these things without thinking. It does not mean that there is any kink in their character. They simply don’t realize what they are saying.

“Hush!” said Mitchell, huskily, patting her hand and overcoming his emotion with a strong effort. “Hush, dearest!”

Two or three days later I met Millicent coming from the post-office. There was a new light of happiness in her eyes, and her face was glowing.

“Such a splendid thing has happened,” she said. “After Mitchell left that night I happened to be glancing through a magazine, and I came across a wonderful advertisement. It began by saying that all the great men in history owed their success to being able to control themselves, and that Napoleon wouldn’t have amounted to anything if he had not curbed his fiery nature, and then it said that we can all be like Napoleon if we fill in the accompanying blank order-form for Professor Orlando Rollitt’s wonderful book, Are You Your Own Master? absolutely free for five days and then seven shillings, but you must write at once because the demand is enormous and pretty soon it may be too late. I wrote at once, and luckily I was in time, because Professor Rollitt did have a copy left, and it’s just arrived. I’ve been looking through it, and it seems splendid.”

She held out a small volume. I glanced at it. There was a frontispiece showing a signed photograph of Professor Orlando Rollitt controlling himself in spite of having long white whiskers, and then some reading matter, printed between wide margins. One look at the book told me the professor’s methods. To be brief, he had simply swiped Marcus Aurelius’s best stuff, the copyright having expired some two thousand years ago, and was retailing it as his own. I did not mention this to Millicent. It was no affair of mine. Presumably, however obscure the necessity, Professor Rollitt had to live.

“I’m going to start Mitchell on it today. Don’t you think this is good? ‘Thou seest how few be the things which if a man has at his command his life flows gently on and is divine.’ I think it will be wonderful if Mitchell’s life flows gently on and is divine for seven shillings, don’t you?”

At the clubhouse that evening I encountered Rupert Dixon. He was emerging from a shower-bath, and looked as pleased with himself as usual.

“Just been going round with old Paterson,” he said. “He was asking after you. He’s gone back to town in his car.”

I was thrilled. So the test had begun!

“How did you come out?” I asked.

Rupert Dixon smirked. A smirking man, wrapped in a bath towel, with a wisp of wet hair over one eye, is a repellent sight.

“Oh, pretty well. I won by six and five. In spite of having poisonous luck.”

I felt a gleam of hope at these last words.

“Oh, you had bad luck?”

“The worst. I overshot the green at the third with the best brassey-shot I’ve ever made in my life⁠—and that’s saying a lot⁠—and lost my ball in the rough beyond it.”

“And I suppose you let yourself go, eh?”

“Let myself go?”

“I take it that you made some sort of demonstration?”

“Oh, no. Losing your temper doesn’t get you anywhere at golf. It only spoils your next shot.”

I went away heavyhearted. Dixon had plainly come through the ordeal as well as any man could have done. I expected to hear every day that the vacant treasurership had been filled, and that Mitchell had not even been called upon to play his test round. I suppose, however, that Alexander Paterson felt that it would be unfair to the other competitor not to give him his chance, for the next I heard of the matter was when Mitchell Holmes rang me up on the Friday and asked me if I would accompany him round the links next day in the match he was playing with Alexander, and give him my moral support.

“I shall need it,” he said. “I don’t mind telling you I’m pretty nervous. I wish I had had longer to get the stranglehold on that Are You Your Own Master? stuff. I can see, of course, that it is the real tabasco from start to finish, and absolutely as mother makes it, but the trouble is I’ve only had a few days to soak it into my system. It’s like trying to patch up a motor car with string. You never know when the thing will break down. Heaven knows what will happen if I sink a ball at the water-hole. And something seems to tell me I am going to do it.”

There was a silence for a moment.

“Do you believe in dreams?” asked Mitchell.

“Believe in what?”


“What about them?”

“I said, ‘Do you believe in dreams?’ Because last night I dreamed that I was playing in the final of the Open Championship, and I got into the rough, and there was a cow there, and the cow looked at me in a sad sort of way and said, ‘Why don’t you use the two-V grip instead of the interlocking?’ At the time it seemed an odd sort of thing to happen, but I’ve been thinking it over and I wonder if there isn’t something in it. These things must be sent to us for a purpose.”

“You can’t change your grip on the day of an important match.”

“I suppose not. The fact is, I’m a bit jumpy, or I wouldn’t have mentioned it. Oh, well! See you tomorrow at two.”

The day was bright and sunny, but a tricky crosswind was blowing when I reached the clubhouse. Alexander Paterson was there, practising swings on the first tee; and almost immediately Mitchell Holmes arrived, accompanied by Millicent.

“Perhaps,” said Alexander, “we had better be getting under way. Shall I take the honour?”

“Certainly,” said Mitchell.

Alexander teed up his ball.

Alexander Paterson has always been a careful rather than a dashing player. It is his custom, a sort of ritual, to take two measured practice-swings before addressing the ball, even on the putting-green. When he does address the ball he shuffles his feet for a moment or two, then pauses, and scans the horizon in a suspicious sort of way, as if he had been expecting it to play some sort of a trick on him when he was not looking. A careful inspection seems to convince him of the horizon’s bona fides, and he turns his attention to the ball again. He shuffles his feet once more, then raises his club. He waggles the club smartly over the ball three times, then lays it behind the globule. At this point he suddenly peers at the horizon again, in the apparent hope of catching it off its guard. This done, he raises his club very slowly, brings it back very slowly till it almost touches the ball, raises it again, brings it down again, raises it once more, and brings it down for the third time. He then stands motionless, wrapped in thought, like some Indian fakir contemplating the infinite. Then he raises his club again and replaces it behind the ball. Finally he quivers all over, swings very slowly back, and drives the ball for about a hundred and fifty yards in a dead straight line.

It is a method of procedure which proves sometimes a little exasperating to the highly strung, and I watched Mitchell’s face anxiously to see how he was taking his first introduction to it. The unhappy lad had blenched visibly. He turned to me with the air of one in pain.

“Does he always do that?” he whispered.

“Always,” I replied.

“Then I’m done for! No human being could play golf against a one-ring circus like that without blowing up!”

I said nothing. It was, I feared, only too true. Well-poised as I am, I had long since been compelled to give up playing with Alexander Paterson, much as I esteemed him. It was a choice between that and resigning from the Baptist Church.

At this moment Millicent spoke. There was an open book in her hand. I recognized it as the lifework of Professor Rollitt.

“Think on this doctrine,” she said, in her soft, modulated voice, “that to be patient is a branch of justice, and that men sin without intending it.”

Mitchell nodded briefly, and walked to the tee with a firm step.

“Before you drive, darling,” said Millicent, “remember this. Let no act be done at haphazard, nor otherwise than according to the finished rules that govern its kind.”

The next moment Mitchell’s ball was shooting through the air, to come to rest two hundred yards down the course. It was a magnificent drive. He had followed the counsel of Marcus Aurelius to the letter.

An admirable iron-shot put him in reasonable proximity to the pin, and he holed out in one under bogey with one of the nicest putts I have ever beheld. And when at the next hole, the dangerous water-hole, his ball soared over the pond and lay safe, giving him bogey for the hole, I began for the first time to breathe freely. Every golfer has his day, and this was plainly Mitchell’s. He was playing faultless golf. If he could continue in this vein, his unfortunate failing would have no chance to show itself.

The third hole is long and tricky. You drive over a ravine⁠—or possibly into it. In the latter event you breathe a prayer and call for your niblick. But, once over the ravine, there is nothing to disturb the equanimity. Bogey is five, and a good drive, followed by a brassey-shot, will put you within easy mashie-distance of the green.

Mitchell cleared the ravine by a hundred and twenty yards. He strolled back to me, and watched Alexander go through his ritual with an indulgent smile. I knew just how he was feeling. Never does the world seem so sweet and fair and the foibles of our fellow human beings so little irritating as when we have just swatted the pill right on the spot.

“I can’t see why he does it,” said Mitchell, eyeing Alexander with a toleration that almost amounted to affection. “If I did all those Swedish exercises before I drove, I should forget what I had come out for and go home.” Alexander concluded the movements, and landed a bare three yards on the other side of the ravine. “He’s what you would call a steady performer, isn’t he? Never varies!”

Mitchell won the hole comfortably. There was a jauntiness about his stance on the fourth tee which made me a little uneasy. Overconfidence at golf is almost as bad as timidity.

My apprehensions were justified. Mitchell topped his ball. It rolled twenty yards into the rough, and nestled under a dock-leaf. His mouth opened, then closed with a snap. He came over to where Millicent and I were standing.

“I didn’t say it!” he said. “What on earth happened then?”

“Search men’s governing principles,” said Millicent, “and consider the wise, what they shun and what they cleave to.”

“Exactly,” I said. “You swayed your body.”

“And now I’ve got to go and look for that infernal ball.”

“Never mind, darling,” said Millicent. “Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life.”

“Besides,” I said, “you’re three up.”

“I shan’t be after this hole.”

He was right. Alexander won it in five, one above bogey, and regained the honour.

Mitchell was a trifle shaken. His play no longer had its first careless vigour. He lost the next hole, halved the sixth, lost the short seventh, and then, rallying, halved the eighth.

The ninth hole, like so many on our links, can be a perfectly simple four, although the rolling nature of the green makes bogey always a somewhat doubtful feat; but, on the other hand, if you foozle your drive, you can easily achieve double figures. The tee is on the farther side of the pond, beyond the bridge, where the water narrows almost to the dimensions of a brook. You drive across this water and over a tangle of trees and undergrowth on the other bank. The distance to the fairway cannot be more than sixty yards, for the hazard is purely a mental one, and yet how many fair hopes have been wrecked there!

Alexander cleared the obstacles comfortably with his customary short, straight drive, and Mitchell advanced to the tee.

I think the loss of the honour had been preying on his mind. He seemed nervous. His up-swing was shaky, and he swayed back perceptibly. He made a lunge at the ball, sliced it, and it struck a tree on the other side of the water and fell in the long grass. We crossed the bridge to look for it; and it was here that the effect of Professor Rollitt began definitely to wane.

“Why on earth don’t they mow this darned stuff?” demanded Mitchell, querulously, as he beat about the grass with his niblick.

“You have to have rough on a course,” I ventured.

“Whatever happens at all,” said Millicent, “happens as it should. Thou wilt find this true if thou shouldst watch narrowly.”

“That’s all very well,” said Mitchell, watching narrowly in a clump of weeds but seeming unconvinced. “I believe the Greens Committee run this bally club purely in the interests of the caddies. I believe they encourage lost balls, and go halves with the little beasts when they find them and sell them!”

Millicent and I exchanged glances. There were tears in her eyes.

“Oh, Mitchell! Remember Napoleon!”

“Napoleon! What’s Napoleon got to do with it? Napoleon never was expected to drive through a primeval forest. Besides, what did Napoleon ever do? Where did Napoleon get off, swanking round as if he amounted to something? Poor fish! All he ever did was to get hammered at Waterloo!”

Alexander rejoined us. He had walked on to where his ball lay.

“Can’t find it, eh? Nasty bit of rough, this!”

“No, I can’t find it. But tomorrow some miserable, chinless, half-witted reptile of a caddie with pop eyes and eight hundred and thirty-seven pimples will find it, and will sell it to someone for sixpence! No, it was a brand-new ball. He’ll probably get a shilling for it. That’ll be sixpence for himself and sixpence for the Greens Committee. No wonder they’re buying cars quicker than the makers can supply them. No wonder you see their wives going about in mink coats and pearl necklaces. Oh, dash it! I’ll drop another!”

“In that case,” Alexander pointed out, “you will, of course, under the rules governing match-play, lose the hole.”

“All right, then. I’ll give up the hole.”

“Then that, I think, makes me one up on the first nine,” said Alexander. “Excellent! A very pleasant, even game.”

“Pleasant! On second thoughts I don’t believe the Greens Committee let the wretched caddies get any of the loot. They hang round behind trees till the deal’s concluded, and then sneak out and choke it out of them!”

I saw Alexander raise his eyebrows. He walked up the hill to the next tee with me.

“Rather a quick-tempered young fellow, Holmes!” he said, thoughtfully. “I should never have suspected it. It just shows how little one can know of a man, only meeting him in business hours.”

I tried to defend the poor lad.

“He has an excellent heart, Alexander. But the fact is⁠—we are such old friends that I know you will forgive my mentioning it⁠—your style of play gets, I fancy, a little on his nerves.”

“My style of play? What’s wrong with my style of play?”

“Nothing is actually wrong with it, but to a young and ardent spirit there is apt to be something a trifle upsetting in being, compelled to watch a man play quite so slowly as you do. Come now, Alexander, as one friend to another, is it necessary to take two practice-swings before you putt?”

“Dear, dear!” said Alexander. “You really mean to say that that upsets him? Well, I’m afraid I am too old to change my methods now.”

I had nothing more to say.

As we reached the tenth tee, I saw that we were in for a few minutes’ wait. Suddenly I felt a hand on my arm. Millicent was standing beside me, dejection written on her face. Alexander and young Mitchell were some distance away from us.

“Mitchell doesn’t want me to come round the rest of the way with him,” she said, despondently. “He says I make him nervous.”

I shook my head.

“That’s bad! I was looking on you as a steadying influence.”

“I thought I was, too. But Mitchell says no. He says my being there keeps him from concentrating.”

“Then perhaps it would be better for you to remain in the clubhouse till we return. There is, I fear, dirty work ahead.”

A choking sob escaped the unhappy girl.

“I’m afraid so. There is an apple tree near the thirteenth hole, and Mitchell’s caddie is sure to start eating apples. I am thinking of what Mitchell will do when he hears the crunching when he is addressing his ball.”

“That is true.”

“Our only hope,” she said, holding out Professor Rollitt’s book, “is this. Will you please read him extracts when you see him getting nervous? We went through the book last night and marked all the passages in blue pencil which might prove helpful. You will see notes against them in the margin, showing when each is supposed to be used.”

It was a small favour to ask. I took the book and gripped her hand silently. Then I joined Alexander and Mitchell on the tenth tee. Mitchell was still continuing his speculations regarding the Greens Committee.

“The hole after this one,” he said, “used to be a short hole. There was no chance of losing a ball. Then, one day, the wife of one of the Greens Committee happened to mention that the baby needed new shoes, so now they’ve tacked on another hundred and fifty yards to it. You have to drive over the brow of a hill, and if you slice an eighth of an inch you get into a sort of No Man’s Land, full of rocks and bushes and crevices and old pots and pans. The Greens Committee practically live there in the summer. You see them prowling round in groups, encouraging each other with merry cries as they fill their sacks. Well, I’m going to fool them today. I’m going to drive an old ball which is just hanging together by a thread. It’ll come to pieces when they pick it up!”

Golf, however, is a curious game⁠—a game of fluctuations. One might have supposed that Mitchell, in such a frame of mind, would have continued to come to grief. But at the beginning of the second nine he once more found his form. A perfect drive put him in position to reach the tenth green with an iron-shot, and, though the ball was several yards from the hole, he laid it dead with his approach-putt and holed his second for a bogey four. Alexander could only achieve a five, so that they were all square again.

The eleventh, the subject of Mitchell’s recent criticism, is certainly a tricky hole, and it is true that a slice does land the player in grave difficulties. Today, however, both men kept their drives straight, and found no difficulty in securing fours.

“A little more of this,” said Mitchell, beaming, “and the Greens Committee will have to give up piracy and go back to work.”

The twelfth is a long, dogleg hole, bogey five. Alexander plugged steadily round the bend, holing out in six, and Mitchell, whose second shot had landed him in some long grass, was obliged to use his niblick. He contrived, however, to halve the hole with a nicely-judged mashie-shot to the edge of the green.

Alexander won the thirteenth. It is a three hundred and sixty yard hole, free from bunkers. It took Alexander three strokes to reach the green, but his third laid the ball dead; while Mitchell, who was on in two, required three putts.

“That reminds me,” said Alexander, chattily, “of a story I heard. Friend calls out to a beginner, ‘How are you getting on, old man?’ and the beginner says, ‘Splendidly. I just made three perfect putts on the last green!’ ”

Mitchell did not appear amused. I watched his face anxiously. He had made no remark, but the missed putt which would have saved the hole had been very short, and I feared the worst. There was a brooding look in his eye as we walked to the fourteenth tee.

There are few more picturesque spots in the whole of the countryside than the neighbourhood of the fourteenth tee. It is a sight to charm the nature-lover’s heart.

But, if golf has a defect, it is that it prevents a man being a wholehearted lover of nature. Where the layman sees waving grass and romantic tangles of undergrowth, your golfer beholds nothing but a nasty patch of rough from which he must divert his ball. The cry of the birds, wheeling against the sky, is to the golfer merely something that may put him off his putt. As a spectator, I am fond of the ravine at the bottom of the slope. It pleases the eye. But, as a golfer, I have frequently found it the very devil.

The last hole had given Alexander the honour again. He drove even more deliberately than before. For quite half a minute he stood over his ball, pawing at it with his driving-iron like a cat investigating a tortoise. Finally he despatched it to one of the few safe spots on the hillside. The drive from this tee has to be carefully calculated, for, if it be too straight, it will catch the slope and roll down into the ravine.

Mitchell addressed his ball. He swung up, and then, from immediately behind him came a sudden sharp crunching sound. I looked quickly in the direction whence it came. Mitchell’s caddie, with a glassy look in his eyes, was gnawing a large apple. And even as I breathed a silent prayer, down came the driver, and the ball, with a terrible slice on it, hit the side of the hill and bounded into the ravine.

There was a pause⁠—a pause in which the world stood still. Mitchell dropped his club and turned. His face was working horribly.

“Mitchell!” I cried. “My boy! Reflect! Be calm!”

“Calm! What’s the use of being calm when people are chewing apples in thousands all round you? What is this, anyway⁠—a golf match or a pleasant day’s outing for the children of the poor? Apples! Go on, my boy, take another bite. Take several. Enjoy yourself! Never mind if it seems to cause me a fleeting annoyance. Go on with your lunch! You probably had a light breakfast, eh, and are feeling a little peckish, yes? If you will wait here, I will run to the clubhouse and get you a sandwich and a bottle of ginger-ale. Make yourself quite at home, you lovable little fellow! Sit down and have a good time!”

I turned the pages of Professor Rollitt’s book feverishly. I could not find a passage that had been marked in blue pencil to meet this emergency. I selected one at random.

“Mitchell,” I said, “one moment. How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.”

“Well, look what I’ve done myself! I’m somewhere down at the bottom of that dashed ravine, and it’ll take me a dozen strokes to get out. Do you call that just and holy? Here, give me that book for a moment!”

He snatched the little volume out of my hands. For an instant he looked at it with a curious expression of loathing, then he placed it gently on the ground and jumped on it a few times. Then he hit it with his driver. Finally, as if feeling that the time for half measures had passed, he took a little run and kicked it strongly into the long grass.

He turned to Alexander, who had been an impassive spectator of the scene.

“I’m through!” he said. “I concede the match. Goodbye. You’ll find me in the bay!”

“Going swimming?”

“No. Drowning myself.”

A gentle smile broke out over my old friend’s usually grave face. He patted Mitchell’s shoulder affectionately.

“Don’t do that, my boy,” he said. “I was hoping you would stick around the office awhile as treasurer of the company.”

Mitchell tottered. He grasped my arm for support. Everything was very still. Nothing broke the stillness but the humming of the bees, the murmur of the distant wavelets, and the sound of Mitchell’s caddie going on with his apple.

“What!” cried Mitchell.

“The position,” said Alexander, “will be falling vacant very shortly, as no doubt you know. It is yours, if you care to accept it.”

“You mean⁠—you mean⁠—you’re going to give me the job?”

“You have interpreted me exactly.”

Mitchell gulped. So did his caddie. One from a spiritual, the other from a physical cause.

“If you don’t mind excusing me,” said Mitchell, huskily, “I think I’ll be popping back to the clubhouse. Someone I want to see.”

He disappeared through the trees, running strongly. I turned to Alexander.

“What does this mean?” I asked. “I am delighted, but what becomes of the test?”

My old friend smiled gently.

“The test,” he replied, “has been eminently satisfactory. Circumstances, perhaps, have compelled me to modify the original idea of it, but nevertheless it has been a completely successful test. Since we started out, I have been doing a good deal of thinking, and I have come to the conclusion that what the Paterson Dyeing and Refining Company really needs is a treasurer whom I can beat at golf. And I have discovered the ideal man. Why,” he went on, a look of holy enthusiasm on his fine old face, “do you realize that I can always lick the stuffing out of that boy, good player as he is, simply by taking a little trouble? I can make him get the wind up every time, simply by taking one or two extra practice-swings! That is the sort of man I need for a responsible post in my office.”

“But what about Rupert Dixon?” I asked.

He gave a gesture of distaste.

“I wouldn’t trust that man. Why, when I played with him, everything went wrong, and he just smiled and didn’t say a word. A man who can do that is not the man to trust with the control of large sums of money. It wouldn’t be safe. Why, the fellow isn’t honest! He can’t be.” He paused for a moment. “Besides,” he added, thoughtfully, “he beat me by six and five. What’s the good of a treasurer who beats the boss by six and five?”

The Long Hole

The young man, as he sat filling his pipe in the clubhouse 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, subsection four, to prove that you’ve disqualified yourself by having an ingrowing toenail. 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 cooperation. 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 flat-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 Jukes’ 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 scorecard.

“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!”


“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 wholehearted 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 newsboys, 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 hundredweight 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 fatheads, 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 fiancé. 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.

The Heel of Achilles

On the young man’s face, as he sat sipping his ginger-ale in the clubhouse smoking-room, there was a look of disillusionment. “Never again!” he said.

The Oldest Member glanced up from his paper.

“You are proposing to give up golf once more?” he queried.

“Not golf. Betting on golf.” The Young Man frowned. “I’ve just been let down badly. Wouldn’t you have thought I had a good thing, laying seven to one on McTavish against Robinson?”

“Undoubtedly,” said the Sage. “The odds, indeed, generous as they are, scarcely indicate the former’s superiority. Do you mean to tell me that the thing came unstitched?”

“Robinson won in a walk, after being three down at the turn.”

“Strange! What happened?”

“Why, they looked in at the bar to have a refresher before starting for the tenth,” said the young man, his voice quivering, “and McTavish suddenly discovered that there was a hole in his trouser-pocket and sixpence had dropped out. He worried so frightfully about it that on the second nine he couldn’t do a thing right. Went completely off his game and didn’t win a hole.”

The Sage shook his head gravely.

“If this is really going to be a lesson to you, my boy, never to bet on the result of a golf-match, it will be a blessing in disguise. There is no such thing as a certainty in golf. I wonder if I ever told you a rather curious episode in the career of Vincent Jopp?”

The Vincent Jopp? The American multi-millionaire?”

“The same. You never knew he once came within an ace of winning the American Amateur Championship, did you?”

“I never heard of his playing golf.”

“He played for one season. After that he gave it up and has not touched a club since. Ring the bell and get me a small lime-juice, and I will tell you all.”

It was long before your time (said the Oldest Member) that the events which I am about to relate took place. I had just come down from Cambridge, and was feeling particularly pleased with myself because I had secured the job of private and confidential secretary to Vincent Jopp, then a man in the early thirties, busy in laying the foundations of his present remarkable fortune. He engaged me, and took me with him to Chicago.

Jopp was, I think, the most extraordinary personality I have encountered in a long and many-sided life. He was admirably equipped for success in finance, having the steely eye and square jaw without which it is hopeless for a man to enter that line of business. He possessed also an overwhelming confidence in himself, and the ability to switch a cigar from one corner of his mouth to the other without wiggling his ears, which, as you know, is the stamp of the true Monarch of the Money Market. He was the nearest approach to the financier on the films, the fellow who makes his jaw-muscles jump when he is telephoning, that I have ever seen.

Like all successful men, he was a man of method. He kept a pad on his desk on which he would scribble down his appointments, and it was my duty on entering the office each morning to take this pad and type its contents neatly in a loose-leaved ledger. Usually, of course, these entries referred to business appointments and deals which he was contemplating, but one day I was interested to note, against the date May 3rd, the entry:

“Propose to Amelia.”

I was interested, as I say, but not surprised. Though a man of steel and iron, there was nothing of the celibate about Vincent Jopp. He was one of those men who marry early and often. On three separate occasions before I joined his service he had jumped off the dock, to scramble back to shore again later by means of the Divorce Court lifebelt. Scattered here and there about the country there were three ex-Mrs. Jopps, drawing their monthly envelope, and now, it seemed, he contemplated the addition of a fourth to the platoon.

I was not surprised, I say, at this resolve of his. What did seem a little remarkable to me was the thorough way in which he had thought the thing out. This iron-willed man recked nothing of possible obstacles. Under the date of June 1st was the entry:

“Marry Amelia”;

while in March of the following year he had arranged to have his firstborn christened Thomas Reginald. Later on, the short-coating of Thomas Reginald was arranged for, and there was a note about sending him to school. Many hard things have been said of Vincent Jopp, but nobody has ever accused him of not being a man who looked ahead.

On the morning of May 4th Jopp came into the office, looking, I fancied, a little thoughtful. He sat for some moments staring before him with his brow a trifle furrowed; then he seemed to come to himself. He rapped his desk.

“Hi! You!” he said. It was thus that he habitually addressed me.

Mr. Jopp?” I replied.

“What’s golf?”

I had at that time just succeeded in getting my handicap down into single figures, and I welcomed the opportunity of dilating on the noblest of pastimes. But I had barely begun my eulogy when he stopped me.

“It’s a game, is it?”

“I suppose you could call it that,” I said, “but it is an offhand way of describing the holiest⁠—”

“How do you play it?”

“Pretty well,” I said. “At the beginning of the season I didn’t seem able to keep ’em straight at all, but lately I’ve been doing fine. Getting better every day. Whether it was that I was moving my head or gripping too tightly with the right hand⁠—”

“Keep the reminiscences for your grandchildren during the long winter evenings,” he interrupted, abruptly, as was his habit. “What I want to know is what a fellow does when he plays golf. Tell me in as few words as you can just what it’s all about.”

“You hit a ball with a stick till it falls into a hole.”

“Easy!” he snapped. “Take dictation.”

I produced my pad.

“May the fifth, take up golf. What’s an Amateur Championship?”

“It is the annual competition to decide which is the best player among the amateurs. There is also a Professional Championship, and an Open event.”

“Oh, there are golf professionals, are there? What do they do?”

“They teach golf.”

“Which is the best of them?”

“Sandy McHoots won both British and American Open events last year.”

“Wire him to come here at once.”

“But McHoots is in Inverlochty, in Scotland.”

“Never mind. Get him; tell him to name his own terms. When is the Amateur Championship?”

“I think it is on September the twelfth this year.”

“All right, take dictation. September twelfth win Amateur Championship.”

I stared at him in amazement, but he was not looking at me.

“Got that?” he said. “September thir⁠—Oh, I was forgetting! Add September twelfth, corner wheat. September thirteenth, marry Amelia.”

“Marry Amelia,” I echoed, moistening my pencil.

“Where do you play this⁠—what’s-its-name⁠—golf?”

“There are clubs all over the country. I belong to the Wissahicky Glen.”

“That a good place?”

“Very good.”

“Arrange today for my becoming a member.”

Sandy McHoots arrived in due course, and was shown into the private office.

Mr. McHoots?” said Vincent Jopp.

“Mphm!” said the Open Champion.

“I have sent for you, Mr. McHoots, because I hear that you are the greatest living exponent of this game of golf.”

“Aye,” said the champion, cordially. “I am that.”

“I wish you to teach me the game. I am already somewhat behind schedule owing to the delay incident upon your long journey, so let us start at once. Name a few of the most important points in connection with the game. My secretary will make notes of them, and I will memorize them. In this way we shall save time. Now, what is the most important thing to remember when playing golf?”

“Keep your heid still.”

“A simple task.”

“Na sae simple as it soonds.”

“Nonsense!” said Vincent Jopp, curtly. “If I decide to keep my head still, I shall keep it still. What next?”

“Keep yer ee on the ba’.”

“It shall be attended to. And the next?”

“Dinna press.”

“I won’t. And to resume.”

Mr. McHoots ran through a dozen of the basic rules, and I took them down in shorthand. Vincent Jopp studied the list.

“Very good. Easier than I had supposed. On the first tee at Wissahicky Glen at eleven sharp tomorrow, Mr. McHoots. Hi! You!”

“Sir?” I said.

“Go out and buy me a set of clubs, a red jacket, a cloth cap, a pair of spiked shoes, and a ball.”

“One ball?”

“Certainly. What need is there of more?”

“It sometimes happens,” I explained, “that a player who is learning the game fails to hit his ball straight, and then he often loses it in the rough at the side of the fairway.”

“Absurd!” said Vincent Jopp. “If I set out to drive my ball straight, I shall drive it straight. Good morning, Mr. McHoots. You will excuse me now. I am busy cornering Woven Textiles.”

Golf is in its essence a simple game. You laugh in a sharp, bitter, barking manner when I say this, but nevertheless it is true. Where the average man goes wrong is in making the game difficult for himself. Observe the non-player, the man who walks round with you for the sake of the fresh air. He will hole out with a single carefree flick of his umbrella the twenty-foot putt over which you would ponder and hesitate for a full minute before sending it right off the line. Put a driver in his hands and he pastes the ball into the next county without a thought. It is only when he takes to the game in earnest that he becomes self-conscious and anxious, and tops his shots even as you and I. A man who could retain through his golfing career the almost scornful confidence of the non-player would be unbeatable. Fortunately such an attitude of mind is beyond the scope of human nature.

It was not, however, beyond the scope of Vincent Jopp, the superman. Vincent Jopp, was, I am inclined to think, the only golfer who ever approached the game in a spirit of Pure Reason. I have read of men who, never having swum in their lives, studied a textbook on their way down to the swimming bath, mastered its contents, and dived in and won the big race. In just such a spirit did Vincent Jopp start to play golf. He committed McHoots’s hints to memory, and then went out on the links and put them into practice. He came to the tee with a clear picture in his mind of what he had to do, and he did it. He was not intimidated, like the average novice, by the thought that if he pulled in his hands he would slice, or if he gripped too tightly with the right he would pull. Pulling in the hands was an error, so he did not pull in his hands. Gripping too tightly was a defect, so he did not grip too tightly. With that weird concentration which had served him so well in business he did precisely what he had set out to do⁠—no less and no more. Golf with Vincent Jopp was an exact science.

The annals of the game are studded with the names of those who have made rapid progress in their first season. Colonel Quill, we read in our Vardon, took up golf at the age of fifty-six, and by devising an ingenious machine consisting of a fishing-line and a sawn-down bedpost was enabled to keep his head so still that he became a scratch player before the end of the year. But no one, I imagine, except Vincent Jopp, has ever achieved scratch on his first morning on the links.

The main difference, we are told, between the amateur and the professional golfer is the fact that the latter is always aiming at the pin, while the former has in his mind a vague picture of getting somewhere reasonably near it. Vincent Jopp invariably went for the pin. He tried to hole out from anywhere inside two hundred and twenty yards. The only occasion on which I ever heard him express any chagrin or disappointment was during the afternoon round on his first day out, when from the tee on the two hundred and eighty yard seventh he laid his ball within six inches of the hole.

“A marvellous shot!” I cried, genuinely stirred.

“Too much to the right,” said Vincent Jopp, frowning.

He went on from triumph to triumph. He won the monthly medal in May, June, July, August, and September. Towards the end of May he was heard to complain that Wissahicky Glen was not a sporting course. The Greens Committee sat up night after night trying to adjust his handicap so as to give other members an outside chance against him. The golf experts of the daily papers wrote columns about his play. And it was pretty generally considered throughout the country that it would be a pure formality for anyone else to enter against him in the Amateur Championship⁠—an opinion which was borne out when he got through into the final without losing a hole. A safe man to have betted on, you would have said. But mark the sequel.

The American Amateur Championship was held that year in Detroit. I had accompanied my employer there; for, though engaged on this nerve-wearing contest, he refused to allow his business to be interfered with. As he had indicated in his schedule, he was busy at the time cornering wheat; and it was my task to combine the duties of caddy and secretary. Each day I accompanied him round the links with my notebook and his bag of clubs, and the progress of his various matches was somewhat complicated by the arrival of a stream of telegraph-boys bearing important messages. He would read these between the strokes and dictate replies to me, never, however, taking more than the five minutes allowed by the rules for an interval between strokes. I am inclined to think that it was this that put the finishing touch on his opponents’ discomfiture. It is not soothing for a nervous man to have the game hung up on the green while his adversary dictates to his caddy a letter beginning “Yours of the 11th inst. received and contents noted. In reply would state⁠—” This sort of thing puts a man off his game.

I was resting in the lobby of our hotel after a strenuous day’s work, when I found that I was being paged. I answered the summons, and was informed that a lady wished to see me. Her card bore the name “Miss Amelia Merridew.” Amelia! The name seemed familiar. Then I remembered. Amelia was the name of the girl Vincent Jopp intended to marry, the fourth of the long line of Mrs. Jopps. I hurried to present myself, and found a tall, slim girl, who was plainly labouring under a considerable agitation.

“Miss Merridew?” I said.

“Yes,” she murmured. “My name will be strange to you.”

“Am I right,” I queried, “in supposing that you are the lady to whom Mr. Jopp⁠—”

“I am! I am!” she replied. “And, oh, what shall I do?”

“Kindly give me particulars,” I said, taking out my pad from force of habit.

She hesitated a moment, as if afraid to speak.

“You are caddying for Mr. Jopp in the Final tomorrow?” she said at last.

“I am.”

“Then could you⁠—would you mind⁠—would it be giving you too much trouble if I asked you to shout ‘Boo!’ at him when he is making his stroke, if he looks like winning?”

I was perplexed.

“I don’t understand.”

“I see that I must tell you all. I am sure you will treat what I say as absolutely confidential.”


“I am provisionally engaged to Mr. Jopp.”


She gulped.

“Let me tell you my story. Mr. Jopp asked me to marry him, and I would rather do anything on earth than marry him. But how could I say ‘No!’ with those awful eyes of his boring me through? I knew that if I said ‘No,’ he would argue me out of it in two minutes. I had an idea. I gathered that he had never played golf, so I told him that I would marry him if he won the Amateur Championship this year. And now I find that he has been a golfer all along, and, what is more, a plus man! It isn’t fair!”

“He was not a golfer when you made that condition,” I said. “He took up the game on the following day.”

“Impossible! How could he have become as good as he is in this short time?”

“Because he is Vincent Jopp! In his lexicon there is no such word as impossible.”

She shuddered.

“What a man! But I can’t marry him,” she cried. “I want to marry somebody else. Oh, won’t you help me? Do shout ‘Boo!’ at him when he is starting his downswing!”

I shook my head.

“It would take more than a single ‘boo’ to put Vincent Jopp off his stroke.”

“But won’t you try it?”

“I cannot. My duty is to my employer.”

“Oh, do!”

“No, no. Duty is duty, and paramount with me. Besides, I have a bet on him to win.”

The stricken girl uttered a faint moan, and tottered away.

I was in our suite shortly after dinner that night, going over some of the notes I had made that day, when the telephone rang. Jopp was out at the time, taking a short stroll with his after-dinner cigar. I unhooked the receiver, and a female voice spoke.

“Is that Mr. Jopp?”

Mr. Jopp’s secretary speaking. Mr. Jopp is out.”

“Oh, it’s nothing important. Will you say that Mrs. Luella Mainprice Jopp called up to wish him luck? I shall be on the course tomorrow to see him win the final.”

I returned to my notes. Soon afterwards the telephone rang again.

“Vincent, dear?”

Mr. Jopp’s secretary speaking.”

“Oh, will you say that Mrs. Jane Jukes Jopp called up to wish him luck? I shall be there tomorrow to see him play.”

I resumed my work. I had hardly started when the telephone rang for the third time.

Mr. Jopp?”

Mr. Jopp’s secretary speaking.”

“This is Mrs. Agnes Parsons Jopp. I just called up to wish him luck. I shall be looking on tomorrow.”

I shifted my work nearer to the telephone-table so as to be ready for the next call. I had heard that Vincent Jopp had only been married three times, but you never knew.

Presently Jopp came in.

“Anybody called up?” he asked.

“Nobody on business. An assortment of your wives were on the wire wishing you luck. They asked me to say that they will be on the course tomorrow.”

For a moment it seemed to me that the man’s iron repose was shaken.

“Luella?” he asked.

“She was the first.”


“And Jane.”

“And Agnes?”

“Agnes,” I said, “is right.”

“H’m!” said Vincent Jopp. And for the first time since I had known him I thought that he was ill at ease.

The day of the final dawned bright and clear. At least, I was not awake at the time to see, but I suppose it did; for at nine o’clock, when I came down to breakfast, the sun was shining brightly. The first eighteen holes were to be played before lunch, starting at eleven. Until twenty minutes before the hour Vincent Jopp kept me busy taking dictation, partly on matters connected with his wheat deal and partly on a signed article dealing with the Final, entitled “How I Won.” At eleven sharp we were out on the first tee.

Jopp’s opponent was a nice-looking young man, but obviously nervous. He giggled in a distraught sort of way as he shook hands with my employer.

“Well, may the best man win,” he said.

“I have arranged to do so,” replied Jopp, curtly, and started to address his ball.

There was a large crowd at the tee, and, as Jopp started his downswing, from somewhere on the outskirts of this crowd there came suddenly a musical “Boo!” It rang out in the clear morning air like a bugle.

I had been right in my estimate of Vincent Jopp. His forceful stroke never wavered. The head of his club struck the ball, despatching it a good two hundred yards down the middle of the fairway. As we left the tee I saw Amelia Merridew being led away with bowed head by two members of the Greens Committee. Poor girl! My heart bled for her. And yet, after all, Fate had been kind in removing her from the scene, even in custody, for she could hardly have borne to watch the proceedings. Vincent Jopp made rings round his antagonist. Hole after hole he won in his remorseless, machine-like way, until when lunchtime came at the end of the eighteenth he was ten up. All the other holes had been halved.

It was after lunch, as we made our way to the first tee, that the advance-guard of the Mrs. Jopps appeared in the person of Luella Mainprice Jopp, a kittenish little woman with blond hair and a Pekingese dog. I remembered reading in the papers that she had divorced my employer for persistent and aggravated mental cruelty, calling witnesses to bear out her statement that he had said he did not like her in pink, and that on two separate occasions had insisted on her dog eating the leg of a chicken instead of the breast; but Time, the great healer, seemed to have removed all bitterness, and she greeted him affectionately.

“Wassums going to win great big championship against nasty rough strong man?” she said.

“Such,” said Vincent Jopp, “is my intention. It was kind of you, Luella, to trouble to come and watch me. I wonder if you know Mrs. Agnes Parsons Jopp?” he said, courteously, indicating a kind-looking, motherly woman who had just come up. “How are you, Agnes?”

“If you had asked me that question this morning, Vincent,” replied Mrs. Agnes Parsons Jopp, “I should have been obliged to say that I felt far from well. I had an odd throbbing feeling in the left elbow, and I am sure my temperature was above the normal. But this afternoon I am a little better. How are you, Vincent?”

Although she had, as I recalled from the reports of the case, been compelled some years earlier to request the Court to sever her marital relations with Vincent Jopp on the ground of calculated and inhuman brutality, in that he had callously refused, in spite of her pleadings, to take old Dr. Bennett’s Tonic Swamp-Juice three times a day, her voice, as she spoke, was kind and even anxious. Badly as this man had treated her⁠—and I remember hearing that several of the jury had been unable to restrain their tears when she was in the witness-box giving her evidence⁠—there still seemed to linger some remnants of the old affection.

“I am quite well, thank you, Agnes,” said Vincent Jopp.

“Are you wearing your liver-pad?”

A frown flitted across my employer’s strong face.

“I am not wearing my liver-pad,” he replied, brusquely.

“Oh, Vincent, how rash of you!”

He was about to speak, when a sudden exclamation from his rear checked him. A genial-looking woman in a sports coat was standing there, eyeing him with a sort of humorous horror.

“Well, Jane,” he said.

I gathered that this was Mrs. Jane Jukes Jopp, the wife who had divorced him for systematic and ingrowing fiendishness on the ground that he had repeatedly outraged her feelings by wearing a white waistcoat with a dinner-jacket. She continued to look at him dumbly, and then uttered a sort of strangled, hysterical laugh.

“Those legs!” she cried. “Those legs!”

Vincent Jopp flushed darkly. Even the strongest and most silent of us have our weaknesses, and my employer’s was the rooted idea that he looked well in knickerbockers. It was not my place to try to dissuade him, but there was no doubt that they did not suit him. Nature, in bestowing upon him a massive head and a jutting chin, had forgotten to finish him off at the other end. Vincent Jopp’s legs were skinny.

“You poor dear man!” went on Mrs. Jane Jukes Jopp. “What practical joker ever lured you into appearing in public in knickerbockers?”

“I don’t object to the knickerbockers,” said Mrs. Agnes Parsons Jopp, “but when he foolishly comes out in quite a strong east wind without his liver-pad⁠—”

“Little Tinky-Ting don’t need no liver-pad, he don’t,” said Mrs. Luella Mainprice Jopp, addressing the animal in her arms, “because he was his muzzer’s pet, he was.”

I was standing quite near to Vincent Jopp, and at this moment I saw a bead of perspiration spring out on his forehead, and into his steely eyes there came a positively hunted look. I could understand and sympathize. Napoleon himself would have wilted if he had found himself in the midst of a trio of females, one talking babytalk, another fussing about his health, and the third making derogatory observations on his lower limbs. Vincent Jopp was becoming unstrung.

“May as well be starting, shall we?”

It was Jopp’s opponent who spoke. There was a strange, set look on his face⁠—the look of a man whose back is against the wall. Ten down on the morning’s round, he had drawn on his reserves of courage and was determined to meet the inevitable bravely.

Vincent Jopp nodded absently, then turned to me.

“Keep those women away from me,” he whispered tensely. “They’ll put me off my stroke!”

“Put you off your stroke!” I exclaimed, incredulously.

“Yes, me! How the deuce can I concentrate, with people babbling about liver-pads, and⁠—and knickerbockers all round me? Keep them away!”

He started to address his ball, and there was a weak uncertainty in the way he did it that prepared me for what was to come. His club rose, wavered, fell; and the ball, badly topped, trickled two feet and sank into a cuppy lie.

“Is that good or bad?” inquired Mrs. Luella Mainprice Jopp.

A sort of desperate hope gleamed in the eye of the other competitor in the final. He swung with renewed vigour. His ball sang through the air, and lay within chip-shot distance of the green.

“At the very least,” said Mrs. Agnes Parsons Jopp, “I hope, Vincent, that you are wearing flannel next your skin.”

I heard Jopp give a stifled groan as he took his spoon from the bag. He made a gallant effort to retrieve the lost ground, but the ball struck a stone and bounded away into the long grass to the side of the green. His opponent won the hole.

We moved to the second tee.

“Now, that young man,” said Mrs. Jane Jukes Jopp, indicating her late husband’s blushing antagonist, “is quite right to wear knickerbockers. He can carry them off. But a glance in the mirror must have shown you that you⁠—”

“I’m sure you’re feverish, Vincent,” said Mrs. Agnes Parsons Jopp, solicitously. “You are quite flushed. There is a wild gleam in your eyes.”

“Muzzer’s pet got little buttons of eyes, that don’t never have no wild gleam in zem because he’s muzzer’s own darling, he was!” said Mrs. Luella Mainprice Jopp.

A hollow groan escaped Vincent Jopp’s ashen lips.

I need not recount the play hole by hole, I think. There are some subjects that are too painful. It was pitiful to watch Vincent Jopp in his downfall. By the end of the first nine his lead had been reduced to one, and his antagonist, rendered a new man by success, was playing magnificent golf. On the next hole he drew level. Then with a superhuman effort Jopp contrived to halve the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth. It seemed as though his iron will might still assert itself, but on the fourteenth the end came.

He had driven a superb ball, outdistancing his opponent by a full fifty yards. The latter played a good second to within a few feet of the green. And then, as Vincent Jopp was shaping for his stroke, Luella Mainprice gave tongue.



“Vincent, that other man⁠—bad man⁠—not playing fair. When your back was turned just now, he gave his ball a great bang. I was watching him.”

“At any rate,” said Mrs. Agnes Parsons Jopp, “I do hope, when the game is over, Vincent, that you will remember to cool slowly.”

“Flesho!” cried Mrs. Jane Jukes Jopp triumphantly. “I’ve been trying to remember the name all the afternoon. I saw about it in one of the papers. The advertisements speak most highly of it. You take it before breakfast and again before retiring, and they guarantee it to produce firm, healthy flesh on the most sparsely-covered limbs in next to no time. Now, will you remember to get a bottle tonight? It comes in two sizes, the five-shilling (or large size) and the smaller at half-a-crown. G. K. Chesterton writes that he used it regularly for years.”

Vincent Jopp uttered a quavering moan, and his hand, as he took the mashie from his bag, was trembling like an aspen.

Ten minutes later, he was on his way back to the clubhouse, a beaten man.

And so (concluded the Oldest Member) you see that in golf there is no such thing as a soft snap. You can never be certain of the finest player. Anything may happen to the greatest expert at any stage of the game. In a recent competition George Duncan took eleven shots over a hole which eighteen-handicap men generally do in five. No! Back horses or go down to Throgmorton Street and try to take it away from the Rothschilds, and I will applaud you as a shrewd and cautious financier. But to bet at golf is pure gambling.

The Rough Stuff

Into the basking warmth of the day there had crept, with the approach of evening, that heartening crispness which heralds the advent of autumn. Already, in the valley by the ninth tee, some of the trees had begun to try on strange colours, in tentative experiment against the coming of nature’s annual fancy dress ball, when the soberest tree casts off its workaday suit of green and plunges into a riot of reds and yellows. On the terrace in front of the clubhouse 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 neighbouring chair.

“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 lighthearted.”

“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 fiancée to play the game, my boy. Much happiness will reward you. I could tell you a story⁠—”

A young woman of singular beauty and rather statuesque appearance came out of the clubhouse 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 ordinary.

“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 clubhouse, 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 secret golfer.

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 a pause.

“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 afraid⁠—”

“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 Wilberforce.

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 Ramsden proposed.

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 brokenhearted 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 open championship.

“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 coldly.

“Oh, I don’t mind him coming round,” said Ramsden, “if he keeps quiet.”

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 steps.”

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 clubhouse 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 fiancée 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 choked.

Mr. Waters!”

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 here?”

“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 said defiantly.

“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 halved.

The match went on. Ramsden won the short hole, laying his ball dead with a perfect iron shot, but at the next, the long dogleg 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 laugh.

“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 midair, then crashed home.

Eunice screamed.

“How dare you kick my brother!”

Ramsden faced her, stern and pale.

“Madam,” he said, “in similar circumstances I would have kicked the Archangel Gabriel!”

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 clubhouse⁠—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 forever 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 bell rang.


“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?”

Ramsden tottered.

“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 his neck.

“I’ll be right over!” he said huskily.

The Coming of Gowf


After we had sent in our card and waited for a few hours in the marbled anteroom, a bell rang and the majordomo, 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 Aubusson carpet.

“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 coldly.

“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 Plumbers.

“What this magazine requires,” he said, “is red-blooded, one-hundred-percent 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.

The Story

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 means.

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 action.

“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 kindhearted 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 chant.”

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 King!”

“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 homegrown 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 textbook 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 ba’.”

“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 Prattlings.

“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 about it.”

“Oh, in that case!” The leader of the minstrels started nervously. Collecting his assistants and tiptoeing 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 his stone.

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 twenty-seventh time.

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 past me.”

“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 his weapon.

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 yonder undergrowth.”

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 interested.

“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 along 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 King directed.

“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 what?”

“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 haggard.

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 pippin!”

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 us⁠—”

King Merolchazzar uttered a loud cry.

“By Tom, the son of Morris! Can this truly be so? What is thy handicap?”

The Princess stared at him, wide-eyed.

“Truly this is a miracle! Art thou also a worshipper of the great Gowf?”

“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 majordomo appeared.

“Give this man a purse of gold,” said the editor, “and throw him out.”

The Heart of a Goof

It was a morning when all Nature shouted “Fore!” The breeze, as it blew gently up from the valley, seemed to bring a message of hope and cheer, whispering of chip-shots holed and brassies landing squarely on the meat. The fairway, as yet unscarred by the irons of a hundred dubs, smiled greenly up at the azure sky; and the sun, peeping above the trees, looked like a giant golf ball perfectly lofted by the mashie of some unseen god and about to drop dead by the pin of the eighteenth. It was the day of the opening of the course after the long winter, and a crowd of considerable dimensions had collected at the first tee. Plus fours gleamed in the sunshine, and the air was charged with happy anticipation.

In all that gay throng there was but one sad face. It belonged to the man who was waggling his driver over the new ball perched on its little hill of sand. This man seemed careworn, hopeless. He had the aspect of one who knows that he is shortly about to receive it in the gizzard from a remorseless Fate. He gazed down the fairway, shifted his feet, waggled, gazed down the fairway again, shifted the dogs once more, and waggled afresh. He waggled as Hamlet might have waggled, moodily, irresolutely. Then, at last, he swung, and, taking from his caddie the niblick which the intelligent lad had been holding in readiness from the moment when he had walked on to the tee, trudged wearily off to play his second.

The Oldest Member, who had been observing the scene with a benevolent eye from his favourite chair on the terrace, sighed.

“Poor Jenkinson,” he said, “does not improve.”

“No,” agreed his companion, a young man with open features and a handicap of six. “And yet I happen to know that he has been taking lessons all the winter at one of those indoor places.”

“Futile, quite futile,” said the Sage, with a shake of his snowy head. “There is no wizard living who could make that man go round in an average of sevens. I keep advising him to give up the game.”

“You!” cried the young man, raising a shocked and startled face from the driver with which he was toying. “You told him to give up golf! Why, I thought⁠—”

“I understand and approve of your horror,” said the Oldest Member, gently. “But you must bear in mind that Jenkinson’s is not an ordinary case. You know and I know scores of men who have never broken a hundred and twenty in their lives and yet contrive to be happy, useful members of society. However badly they may play, they are able to forget. But with Jenkinson it is different. He is not one of those who can take it or leave it alone. His only chance of happiness lies in complete abstinence. Jenkinson is a goof.”

“A what?”

“A goof,” repeated the Sage. “One of those unfortunate beings who have allowed this noblest of sports to get too great a grip upon them, who have permitted it to eat into their souls like some malignant growth. The goof, you must understand, is not like you and me. He broods. He becomes morbid. His goofery unfits him for the battles of life. Jenkinson, for example, was once a man with a glowing future in the hay, corn, and feed business; but a constant stream of hooks, tops, and slices gradually made him so diffident and mistrustful of himself that he let opportunity after opportunity slip, with the result that other, sterner hay, corn, and feed merchants passed him in the race. Every time he had the chance to carry through some big deal in hay, or to execute some flashing coup in corn and feed, the fatal diffidence generated by a hundred rotten rounds would undo him. I understand his bankruptcy may be expected at any moment.”

“My golly!” said the young man, deeply impressed. “I hope I never become a goof. Do you mean to say there is really no cure except giving up the game?”

The Oldest Member was silent for a while.

“It is curious that you should have asked that question,” he said at last, “for only this morning I was thinking of the one case in my experience where a goof was enabled to overcome his deplorable malady. It was owing to a girl, of course. The longer I live, the more I come to see that most things are. But as you will no doubt wish to hear the story from the beginning⁠—”

The young man rose with the startled haste of some wild creature which, wandering through the undergrowth, perceives the trap in his path.

“I should love to,” he mumbled, “only I shall be losing my place at the tee.”

“The goof in question,” said the Sage, attaching himself with quiet firmness to the youth’s coat-button, “was a man of about your age, by name Ferdinand Dibble. I knew him well. In fact, it was to me⁠—”

“Some other time, eh?”

“It was to me,” proceeded the Sage, placidly, “that he came for sympathy in the great crisis of his life, and I am not ashamed to say that when he had finished laying bare his soul to me there were tears in my eyes. My heart bled for the boy.”

“I bet it did. But⁠—”

The Oldest Member pushed him gently back into his seat.

“Golf,” he said, “is the Great Mystery. Like some capricious goddess⁠—”

The young man, who had been exhibiting symptoms of feverishness, appeared to become resigned. He sighed softly.

“Did you ever read ‘The Ancient Mariner’?” he said.

“Many years ago,” said the Oldest Member. “Why do you ask?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said the young man. “It just occurred to me.”

Golf (resumed the Oldest Member) is the Great Mystery. Like some capricious goddess, it bestows its favours with what would appear an almost fatheaded lack of method and discrimination. On every side we see big two-fisted he-men floundering round in three figures, stopping every few minutes to let through little shrimps with knock knees and hollow cheeks who are tearing off snappy seventy-fours. Giants of finance have to accept a stroke per from their junior clerks. Men capable of governing empires fail to control a small white ball which presents no difficulties whatever to others with one ounce more brain than a cuckoo-clock. Mysterious, but there it is. There was no apparent reason why Ferdinand Dibble should not have been a competent golfer. He had strong wrists and a good eye. Nevertheless, the fact remains that he was a dub. And on a certain evening in June I realized that he was also a goof. I found it out quite suddenly as the result of a conversation which we had on this very terrace.

I was sitting here that evening, thinking of this and that, when by the corner of the clubhouse I observed young Dibble in conversation with a girl in white. I could not see who she was, for her back was turned. Presently they parted, and Ferdinand came slowly across to where I sat. His air was dejected. He had had the boots licked off him earlier in the afternoon by Jimmy Fothergill, and it was to this that I attributed his gloom. I was to find out in a few moments that I was partly but not entirely correct in this surmise. He took the next chair to mine and for several minutes sat staring moodily down into the valley.

“I’ve just been talking to Barbara Medway,” he said, suddenly breaking the silence.

“Indeed?” I said. “A delightful girl.”

“She’s going away for the summer to Marvis Bay.”

“She will take the sunshine with her.”

“You bet she will!” said Ferdinand Dibble, with extraordinary warmth, and there was another long silence.

Presently Ferdinand uttered a hollow groan.

“I love her, dammit!” he muttered, brokenly. “Oh, golly, how I love her!”

I was not surprised at his making me the recipient of his confidences like this. Most of the young folk in the place brought their troubles to me sooner or later.

“And does she return your love?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t asked her.”

“Why not? I should have thought the point not without its interest for you.”

Ferdinand gnawed the handle of his putter distractedly.

“I haven’t the nerve,” he burst out at length. “I simply can’t summon up the cold gall to ask a girl, least of all an angel like her, to marry me. You see, it’s like this. Every time I work myself up to the point of having a dash at it, I go out and get trimmed by someone giving me a stroke a hole. Every time I feel I’ve mustered up enough pep to propose, I take a ten on a bogey three. Every time I think I’m in good midseason form for putting my fate to the test, to win or lose it all, something goes all blooey with my swing and I slice into the rough at every tee. And then my self-confidence leaves me. I become nervous, tongue-tied, diffident. I wish to goodness I knew the man who invented this infernal game. I’d strangle him. But I suppose he’s been dead for ages. Still, I could go and jump on his grave.”

It was at this point that I understood all, and the heart within me sank like lead. The truth was out. Ferdinand Dibble was a goof.

“Come, come, my boy,” I said, though feeling the uselessness of any words. “Master this weakness.”

“I can’t.”


“I have tried.”

He gnawed his putter again.

“She was asking me just now if I couldn’t manage to come to Marvis Bay, too,” he said.

“That surely is encouraging? It suggests that she is not entirely indifferent to your society.”

“Yes, but what’s the use? Do you know,” he said, a gleam coming into his eyes for a moment, “I have a feeling that if I could ever beat some really fairly good player⁠—just once⁠—I could bring the thing off.” The gleam faded. “But what chance is there of that?”

It was a question which I did not care to answer. I merely patted his shoulder sympathetically, and after a little while he left me and walked away. I was still sitting there, thinking over his hard case, when Barbara Medway came out of the clubhouse.

She, too, seemed grave and preoccupied, as if there was something on her mind. She took the chair which Ferdinand had vacated and sighed wearily.

“Have you ever felt,” she asked, “that you would like to bang a man on the head with something hard and heavy? With knobs on?”

I said I had sometimes experienced such a desire, and asked if she had any particular man in mind. She seemed to hesitate for a moment before replying, then apparently made up her mind to confide in me. My advanced years carry with them certain pleasant compensations, one of which is that nice girls often confide in me. I frequently find myself enrolled as a father confessor on the most intimate matters by beautiful creatures from whom many a younger man would give his eyeteeth to get a friendly word. Besides, I had known Barbara since she was a child. Frequently⁠—though not recently⁠—I had given her her evening bath. These things form a bond.

“Why are men such chumps?” she exclaimed.

“You still have not told me who it is that has caused these harsh words. Do I know him?”

“Of course you do. You’ve just been talking to him.”

“Ferdinand Dibble? But why should you wish to bang Ferdinand Dibble on the head with something hard and heavy with knobs on?”

“Because he’s such a goop.”

“You mean a goof?” I queried, wondering how she could have penetrated the unhappy man’s secret.

“No, a goop. A goop is a man who’s in love with a girl and won’t tell her so. I am as certain as I am of anything that Ferdinand is fond of me.”

“Your instinct is unerring. He has just been confiding in me on that very point.”

“Well, why doesn’t he confide in me, the poor fish?” cried the high-spirited girl, petulantly flicking a pebble at a passing grasshopper. “I can’t be expected to fling myself into his arms unless he gives some sort of a hint that he’s ready to catch me.”

“Would it help if I were to repeat to him the substance of this conversation of ours?”

“If you breathe a word of it, I’ll never speak to you again,” she cried. “I’d rather die an awful death than have any man think I wanted him so badly that I had to send relays of messengers begging him to marry me.”

I saw her point.

“Then I fear,” I said, gravely, “that there is nothing to be done. One can only wait and hope. It may be that in the years to come Ferdinand Dibble will acquire a nice lissom wristy swing with the head kept rigid and the right leg firmly braced and⁠—”

“What are you talking about?”

“I was toying with the hope that some sunny day Ferdinand Dibble would cease to be a goof.”

“You mean a goop?”

“No, a goof. A goof is a man who⁠—” And I went on to explain the peculiar psychological difficulties which lay in the way of any declaration of affection on Ferdinand’s part.

“But I never heard of anything so ridiculous in my life,” she ejaculated. “Do you mean to say that he is waiting till he is good at golf before he asks me to marry him?”

“It is not quite so simple as that,” I said, sadly. “Many bad golfers marry, feeling that a wife’s loving solicitude may improve their game. But they are rugged, thick-skinned men, not sensitive and introspective like Ferdinand. Ferdinand has allowed himself to become morbid. It is one of the chief merits of golf that non-success at the game induces a certain decent humility which keeps a man from pluming himself too much on any petty triumphs he may achieve in other walks of life; but in all things there is a happy mean, and with Ferdinand this humility has gone too far. It has taken all the spirit out of him. He feels crushed and worthless. He is grateful to caddies when they accept a tip instead of drawing themselves up to their full height and flinging the money in his face.”

“Then do you mean that things have got to go on like this forever?”

I thought for a moment.

“It is a pity,” I said, “that you could not have induced Ferdinand to go to Marvis Bay for a month or two.”


“Because it seems to me, thinking the thing over, that it is just possible that Marvis Bay might cure him. At the hotel there he would find collected a mob of golfers⁠—I use the term in its broadest sense, to embrace the paralytics and the men who play left-handed⁠—whom even he would be able to beat. When I was last at Marvis Bay, the hotel links were a sort of Sargasso Sea into which had drifted all the pitiful flotsam and jetsam of golf. I have seen things done on that course at which I shuddered and averted my eyes⁠—and I am not a weak man. If Ferdinand can polish up his game so as to go round in a fairly steady hundred and five, I fancy there is hope. But I understand he is not going to Marvis Bay.”

“Oh, yes, he is,” said the girl.

“Indeed! He did not tell me that when we were talking just now.”

“He didn’t know it then. He will when I have had a few words with him.”

And she walked with firm steps back into the clubhouse.

It has been well said that there are many kinds of golf, beginning at the top with the golf of professionals and the best amateurs and working down through the golf of ossified men to that of Scotch University professors. Until recently this last was looked upon as the lowest possible depth; but nowadays, with the growing popularity of summer hotels, we are able to add a brand still lower, the golf you find at places like Marvis Bay.

To Ferdinand Dibble, coming from a club where the standard of play was rather unusually high, Marvis Bay was a revelation, and for some days after his arrival there he went about dazed, like a man who cannot believe it is really true. To go out on the links at this summer resort was like entering a new world. The hotel was full of stout, middle-aged men who, after a misspent youth devoted to making money, had taken to a game at which real proficiency can only be acquired by those who start playing in their cradles and keep their weight down. Out on the course each morning you could see representatives of every nightmare style that was ever invented. There was the man who seemed to be attempting to deceive his ball and lull it into a false security by looking away from it and then making a lightning slash in the apparent hope of catching it off its guard. There was the man who wielded his midiron like one killing snakes. There was the man who addressed his ball as if he were stroking a cat, the man who drove as if he were cracking a whip, the man who brooded over each shot like one whose heart is bowed down by bad news from home, and the man who scooped with his mashie as if he were ladling soup. By the end of the first week Ferdinand Dibble was the acknowledged champion of the place. He had gone through the entire menagerie like a bullet through a cream puff.

First, scarcely daring to consider the possibility of success, he had taken on the man who tried to catch his ball off its guard and had beaten him five up and four to play. Then, with gradually growing confidence, he tackled in turn the Cat-Stroker, the Whip-Cracker, the Heart Bowed Down, and the Soup-Scooper, and walked all over their faces with spiked shoes. And as these were the leading local amateurs, whose prowess the octogenarians and the men who went round in bath-chairs vainly strove to emulate, Ferdinand Dibble was faced on the eighth morning of his visit by the startling fact that he had no more worlds to conquer. He was monarch of all he surveyed, and, what is more, had won his first trophy, the prize in the great medal-play handicap tournament, in which he had nosed in ahead of the field by two strokes, edging out his nearest rival, a venerable old gentleman, by means of a brilliant and unexpected four on the last hole. The prize was a handsome pewter mug about the size of the old oaken bucket, and Ferdinand used to go to his room immediately after dinner to croon over it like a mother over her child.

You are wondering, no doubt, why, in these circumstances, he did not take advantage of the new spirit of exhilarated pride which had replaced his old humility and instantly propose to Barbara Medway. I will tell you. He did not propose to Barbara because Barbara was not there. At the last moment she had been detained at home to nurse a sick parent and had been compelled to postpone her visit for a couple of weeks. He could, no doubt, have proposed in one of the daily letters which he wrote to her, but somehow, once he started writing, he found that he used up so much space describing his best shots on the links that day that it was difficult to squeeze in a declaration of undying passion. After all, you can hardly cram that sort of thing into a postscript.

He decided, therefore, to wait till she arrived, and meanwhile pursued his conquering course. The longer he waited the better, in one way, for every morning and afternoon that passed was adding new layers to his self-esteem. Day by day in every way he grew chestier and chestier.

Meanwhile, however, dark clouds were gathering. Sullen mutterings were to be heard in corners of the hotel lounge and the spirit of revolt was abroad. For Ferdinand’s chestiness had not escaped the notice of his defeated rivals. There is nobody so chesty as a normally unchesty man who suddenly becomes chesty, and I am sorry to say that the chestiness which had come to Ferdinand was the aggressive type of chestiness which breeds enemies. He had developed a habit of holding the game up in order to give his opponent advice. The Whip-Cracker had not forgiven, and never would forgive, his well-meant but galling criticism of his backswing. The Scooper, who had always scooped since the day when, at the age of sixty-four, he subscribed to the Correspondence Course which was to teach him golf in twelve lessons by mail, resented being told by a snip of a boy that the mashie-stroke should be a smooth, unhurried swing. The Snake-Killer⁠—But I need not weary you with a detailed recital of these men’s grievances; it is enough to say that they all had it in for Ferdinand, and one night after dinner they met in the lounge to decide what was to be done about it.

A nasty spirit was displayed by all.

“A mere lad telling me how to use my mashie!” growled the Scooper. “Smooth and unhurried my left eyeball! I get it up, don’t I? Well, what more do you want?”

“I keep telling him that mine is the old full St. Andrew swing,” muttered the Whip-Cracker, between set teeth, “but he won’t listen to me.”

“He ought to be taken down a peg or two,” hissed the Snake-Killer. It is not easy to hiss a sentence without a single “s” in it, and the fact that he succeeded in doing so shows to what a pitch of emotion the man had been goaded by Ferdinand’s maddening air of superiority.

“Yes, but what can we do?” queried an octogenarian, when this last remark had been passed on to him down his ear-trumpet.

“That’s the trouble,” sighed the Scooper. “What can we do?” And there was a sorrowful shaking of heads.

“I know!” exclaimed the Cat-Stroker, who had not hitherto spoken. He was a lawyer, and a man of subtle and sinister mind. “I have it! There’s a boy in my office⁠—young Parsloe⁠—who could beat this man Dibble hollow. I’ll wire him to come down here and we’ll spring him on this fellow and knock some of the conceit out of him.”

There was a chorus of approval.

“But are you sure he can beat him?” asked the Snake-Killer, anxiously. “It would never do to make a mistake.”

“Of course I’m sure,” said the Cat-Stroker. “George Parsloe once went round in ninety-four.”

“Many changes there have been since ninety-four,” said the octogenarian, nodding sagely. “Ah, many, many changes. None of these motorcars then, tearing about and killing⁠—”

Kindly hands led him off to have an egg-and-milk, and the remaining conspirators returned to the point at issue with bent brows.

“Ninety-four?” said the Scooper, incredulously. “Do you mean counting every stroke?”

“Counting every stroke.”

“Not conceding himself any putts?”

“Not one.”

“Wire him to come at once,” said the meeting with one voice.

That night the Cat-Stroker approached Ferdinand, smooth, subtle, lawyer-like.

“Oh, Dibble,” he said, “just the man I wanted to see. Dibble, there’s a young friend of mine coming down here who goes in for golf a little. George Parsloe is his name. I was wondering if you could spare time to give him a game. He is just a novice, you know.”

“I shall be delighted to play a round with him,” said Ferdinand, kindly.

“He might pick up a pointer or two from watching you,” said the Cat-Stroker.

“True, true,” said Ferdinand.

“Then I’ll introduce you when he shows up.”

“Delighted,” said Ferdinand.

He was in excellent humour that night, for he had had a letter from Barbara saying that she was arriving on the next day but one.

It was Ferdinand’s healthy custom of a morning to get up in good time and take a dip in the sea before breakfast. On the morning of the day of Barbara’s arrival, he arose as usual, donned his flannels, took a good look at the cup, and started out. It was a fine, fresh morning, and he glowed both externally and internally. As he crossed the links, for the nearest route to the water was through the fairway of the seventh, he was whistling happily and rehearsing in his mind the opening sentences of his proposal. For it was his firm resolve that night after dinner to ask Barbara to marry him. He was proceeding over the smooth turf without a care in the world when there was a sudden cry of “Fore!” and the next moment a golf ball, missing him by inches, sailed up the fairway and came to rest fifty yards from where he stood. He looked round and observed a figure coming towards him from the tee.

The distance from the tee was fully a hundred and thirty yards. Add fifty to that, and you have a hundred and eighty yards. No such drive had been made on the Marvis Bay links since their foundation, and such is the generous spirit of the true golfer that Ferdinand’s first emotion, after the not inexcusable spasm of panic caused by the hum of the globule past his ear, was one of cordial admiration. By some kindly miracle, he supposed, one of his hotel acquaintances had been permitted for once in his life to time a drive right. It was only when the other man came up that there began to steal over him a sickening apprehension. The faces of all those who hewed divots on the hotel course were familiar to him, and the fact that this fellow was a stranger seemed to point with dreadful certainty to his being the man he had agreed to play.

“Sorry,” said the man. He was a tall, strikingly handsome youth with brown eyes and a dark moustache.

“Oh, that’s all right,” said Ferdinand. “Er⁠—do you always drive like that?”

“Well, I generally get a bit longer ball, but I’m off my drive this morning. It’s lucky I came out and got this practice. I’m playing a match tomorrow with a fellow named Dibble, who’s a local champion or something.”

“Me,” said Ferdinand, humbly.

“Eh? Oh, you?” Mr. Parsloe eyed him appraisingly. “Well, may the best man win.”

As this was precisely what Ferdinand was afraid was going to happen, he nodded in a sickly manner and tottered off to his bathe. The magic had gone out of the morning. The sun still shone, but in a silly, feeble way; and a cold and depressing wind had sprung up. For Ferdinand’s inferiority complex, which had seemed cured forever, was back again, doing business at the old stand.

How sad it is in this life that the moments to which we have looked forward with the most glowing anticipation so often turn out on arrival flat, cold, and disappointing! For ten days Barbara Medway had been living for that meeting with Ferdinand, when getting out of the train she would see him popping about on the horizon with the lovelight sparkling in his eyes and words of devotion trembling on his lips. The poor girl never doubted for an instant that he would unleash his pent-up emotions inside the first five minutes, and her only worry was lest he should give an embarrassing publicity to the sacred scene by falling on his knees on the station platform.

“Well, here I am at last!” she cried, gaily.

“Hullo!” said Ferdinand, with a twisted smile.

The girl looked at him, chilled. How could she know that his peculiar manner was due entirely to the severe attack of cold feet resultant upon his meeting with George Parsloe that morning? The interpretation which she placed upon it was that he was not glad to see her. If he had behaved like this before, she would of course have put it down to ingrowing goofery, but now she had his written statements to prove that for the last ten days his golf had been one long series of triumphs.

“I got your letters,” she said, persevering bravely.

“I thought you would,” said Ferdinand, absently.

“You seem to have been doing wonders.”


There was a silence.

“Have a nice journey?” said Ferdinand.

“Very,” said Barbara.

She spoke coldly, for she was madder than a wet hen. She saw it all now. In the ten days since they had parted, his love, she realized, had waned. Some other girl, met in the romantic surroundings of this picturesque resort, had supplanted her in his affections. She knew how quickly Cupid gets off the mark at a summer hotel, and for an instant she blamed herself for ever having been so ivory-skulled as to let him come to this place alone. Then regret was swallowed up in wrath, and she became so glacial that Ferdinand, who had been on the point of telling her the secret of his gloom, retired into his shell and conversation during the drive to the hotel never soared above a certain level. Ferdinand said the sunshine was nice and Barbara said yes it was nice, and Ferdinand said it looked pretty on the water and Barbara said yes it did look pretty on the water, and Ferdinand said he hoped it was not going to rain and Barbara said yes it would be a pity if it rained. And then there was another lengthy silence.

“How is my uncle?” asked Barbara at last.

I omitted to mention that the individual to whom I have referred as the Cat-Stroker was Barbara’s mother’s brother and her host at Marvis Bay.

“Your uncle?”

“His name is Tuttle. Have you met him?”

“Oh, yes. I’ve seen a good deal of him. He has got a friend staying with him,” said Ferdinand, his mind returning to the matter nearest his heart. “A fellow named Parsloe.”

“Oh, is George Parsloe here? How jolly!”

“Do you know him?” barked Ferdinand, hollowly. He would not have supposed that anything could have added to his existing depression, but he was conscious now of having slipped a few rungs farther down the ladder of gloom. There had been a horribly joyful ring in her voice. Ah, well, he reflected morosely, how like Life it all was! We never know what the morrow may bring forth. We strike a good patch and are beginning to think pretty well of ourselves, and along comes a George Parsloe.

“Of course I do,” said Barbara. “Why, there he is.”

The cab had drawn up at the door of the hotel, and on the porch George Parsloe was airing his graceful person. To Ferdinand’s fevered eye he looked like a Greek god, and his inferiority complex began to exhibit symptoms of elephantiasis. How could he compete at love or golf with a fellow who looked as if he had stepped out of the movies and considered himself off his drive when he did a hundred and eighty yards?

“Geor-gee!” cried Barbara, blithely. “Hullo, George!”

“Why, hullo, Barbara!”

They fell into pleasant conversation, while Ferdinand hung miserably about in the offing. And presently, feeling that his society was not essential to their happiness, he slunk away.

George Parsloe dined at the Cat-Stroker’s table that night, and it was with George Parsloe that Barbara roamed in the moonlight after dinner. Ferdinand, after a profitless hour at the billiard-table, went early to his room. But not even the rays of the moon, glinting on his cup, could soothe the fever in his soul. He practised putting sombrely into his tooth-glass for a while; then, going to bed, fell at last into a troubled sleep.

Barbara slept late the next morning and breakfasted in her room. Coming down towards noon, she found a strange emptiness in the hotel. It was her experience of summer hotels that a really fine day like this one was the cue for half the inhabitants to collect in the lounge, shut all the windows, and talk about conditions in the jute industry. To her surprise, though the sun was streaming down from a cloudless sky, the only occupant of the lounge was the octogenarian with the ear-trumpet. She observed that he was chuckling to himself in a senile manner.

“Good morning,” she said, politely, for she had made his acquaintance on the previous evening.

“Hey?” said the octogenarian, suspending his chuckling and getting his trumpet into position.

“I said ‘Good morning!’ ” roared Barbara into the receiver.


“Good morning!”

“Ah! Yes, it’s a very fine morning, a very fine morning. If it wasn’t for missing my bun and glass of milk at twelve sharp,” said the octogenarian, “I’d be down on the links. That’s where I’d be, down on the links. If it wasn’t for missing my bun and glass of milk.”

This refreshment arriving at this moment, he dismantled the radio outfit and began to restore his tissues.

“Watching the match,” he explained, pausing for a moment in his bun-mangling.

“What match?”

The octogenarian sipped his milk.

“What match?” repeated Barbara.


“What match?”

The octogenarian began to chuckle again and nearly swallowed a crumb the wrong way.

“Take some of the conceit out of him,” he gurgled.

“Out of who?” asked Barbara, knowing perfectly well that she should have said “whom.”

“Yes,” said the octogenarian.

“Who is conceited?”

“Ah! This young fellow, Dibble. Very conceited. I saw it in his eye from the first, but nobody would listen to me. Mark my words, I said, that boy needs taking down a peg or two. Well, he’s going to be this morning. Your uncle wired to young Parsloe to come down, and he’s arranged a match between them. Dibble⁠—” Here the octogenarian choked again and had to rinse himself out with milk⁠—“Dibble doesn’t know that Parsloe once went round in ninety-four!”


Everything seemed to go black to Barbara. Through a murky mist she appeared to be looking at a negro octogenarian sipping ink. Then her eyes cleared, and she found herself clutching for support at the back of a chair. She understood now. She realized why Ferdinand had been so distrait, and her whole heart went out to him in a spasm of maternal pity. How she had wronged him!

“Take some of the conceit out of him,” the octogenarian was mumbling, and Barbara felt a sudden sharp loathing for the old man. For two pins she could have dropped a beetle in his milk. Then the need for action roused her. What action? She did not know. All she knew was that she must act.

“Oh!” she cried.

“Hey?” said the octogenarian, bringing his trumpet to the ready.

But Barbara had gone.

It was not far to the links, and Barbara covered the distance on flying feet. She reached the clubhouse, but the course was empty except for the Scooper, who was preparing to drive off the first tee. In spite of the fact that something seemed to tell her subconsciously that this was one of the sights she ought not to miss, the girl did not wait to watch. Assuming that the match had started soon after breakfast, it must by now have reached one of the holes on the second nine. She ran down the hill, looking to left and right, and was presently aware of a group of spectators clustered about a green in the distance. As she hurried towards them they moved away, and now she could see Ferdinand advancing to the next tee. With a thrill that shook her whole body she realized that he had the honour. So he must have won one hole, at any rate. Then she saw her uncle.

“How are they?” she gasped.

Mr. Tuttle seemed moody. It was apparent that things were not going altogether to his liking.

“All square at the fifteenth,” he replied, gloomily.

“All square!”

“Yes. Young Parsloe,” said Mr. Tuttle, with a sour look in the direction of that lissom athlete, “doesn’t seem to be able to do a thing right on the greens. He has been putting like a sheep with the botts.”

From the foregoing remark of Mr. Tuttle you will no doubt have gleaned at least a clue to the mystery of how Ferdinand Dibble had managed to hold his long-driving adversary up to the fifteenth green, but for all that you will probably consider that some further explanation of this amazing state of affairs is required. Mere bad putting on the part of George Parsloe is not, you feel, sufficient to cover the matter entirely. You are right. There was another very important factor in the situation⁠—to wit, that by some extraordinary chance Ferdinand Dibble had started right off from the first tee playing the game of a lifetime. Never had he made such drives, never chipped his chips so shrewdly.

About Ferdinand’s driving there was as a general thing a fatal stiffness and over-caution which prevented success. And with his chip-shots he rarely achieved accuracy owing to his habit of rearing his head like the lion of the jungle just before the club struck the ball. But today he had been swinging with a careless freedom and his chips had been true and clean. The thing had puzzled him all the way round. It had not elated him, for, owing to Barbara’s aloofness and the way in which she had gambolled about George Parsloe like a young lamb in the springtime, he was in too deep a state of dejection to be elated by anything. And now, suddenly, in a flash of clear vision, he perceived the reason why he had been playing so well today. It was just because he was not elated. It was simply because he was so profoundly miserable.

That was what Ferdinand told himself as he stepped off the sixteenth after hitting a screamer down the centre of the fairway, and I am convinced that he was right. Like so many indifferent golfers, Ferdinand Dibble had always made the game hard for himself by thinking too much. He was a deep student of the works of the masters, and whenever he prepared to play a stroke he had a complete mental list of all the mistakes which it was possible to make. He would remember how Taylor had warned against dipping the right shoulder, how Vardon had inveighed against any movement of the head; he would recall how Ray had mentioned the tendency to snatch back the club, how Braid had spoken sadly of those who sin against their better selves by stiffening the muscles and heaving.

The consequence was that when, after waggling in a frozen manner till mere shame urged him to take some definite course of action, he eventually swung, he invariably proceeded to dip his right shoulder, stiffen his muscles, heave, and snatch back the club, at the same time raising his head sharply as in the illustrated plate (Some Frequent Faults of Beginners⁠—No. 3, Lifting the Bean) facing page thirty-four of James Braid’s Golf Without Tears. Today he had been so preoccupied with his broken heart that he had made his shots absently, almost carelessly, with the result that at least one in every three had been a lallapaloosa.

Meanwhile, George Parsloe had driven off and the match was progressing. George was feeling a little flustered by now. He had been given to understand that this bird Dibble was a hundred-at-his-best man, and all the way round the fellow had been reeling off fives in great profusion and had once actually got a four. True, there had been an occasional six, and even a seven, but that did not alter the main fact that the man was making the dickens of a game of it. With the haughty spirit of one who had once done a ninety-four, George Parsloe had anticipated being at least three up at the turn. Instead of which he had been two down and had had to fight strenuously to draw level.

Nevertheless, he drove steadily and well, and would certainly have won the hole had it not been for his weak and sinful putting. The same defect caused him to halve the seventeenth after being on in two, with Ferdinand wandering in the desert and only reaching the green with his fourth. Then, however, Ferdinand holed out from a distance of seven yards, getting a five, which George’s three putts just enabled him to equal.

Barbara had watched the proceedings with a beating heart. At first she had looked on from afar; but now, drawn as by a magnet, she approached the tee. Ferdinand was driving off. She held her breath. Ferdinand held his breath. And all around one could see their respective breaths being held by George Parsloe, Mr. Tuttle, and the enthralled crowd of spectators. It was a moment of the acutest tension, and it was broken by the crack of Ferdinand’s driver as it met the ball and sent it hopping along the ground for a mere thirty yards. At this supreme crisis in the match Ferdinand Dibble bad topped.

George Parsloe teed up his ball. There was a smile of quiet satisfaction on his face. He snuggled the driver in his hands and gave it a preliminary swish. This, felt George Parsloe, was where the happy ending came. He would drive as he had never driven before. He would so drive that it would take his opponent at least three shots to catch up with him. He drew back his club with infinite caution, poised it at the top of the swing⁠—

“I always wonder⁠—” said a clear girlish voice, ripping the silence like the explosion of a bomb.

George Parsloe started. His club wobbled. It descended. The ball trickled into the long grass in front of the tee. There was a grim pause.

“You were saying, Miss Medway⁠—” said George Parsloe, in a small, flat voice.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said Barbara. “I’m afraid I put you off.”

“A little, perhaps. Possibly the merest trifle. But you were saying you wondered about something. Can I be of any assistance?”

“I was only saying,” said Barbara, “that I always wonder why tees are called tees.”

George Parsloe swallowed once or twice. He also blinked a little feverishly. His eyes had a dazed, staring expression.

“I am afraid I cannot tell you offhand,” he said. “But I will make a point of consulting some good encyclopaedia at the earliest opportunity.”

“Thank you so much.”

“Not at all. It will be a pleasure. In case you were thinking of inquiring at the moment when I am putting why greens are called greens, may I venture the suggestion now that it is because they are green?”

And, so saying, George Parsloe stalked to his ball and found it nestling in the heart of some shrub of which, not being a botanist, I cannot give you the name. It was a close-knit, adhesive shrub, and it twined its tentacles so lovingly around George Parsloe’s niblick that he missed his first shot altogether. His second made the ball rock, and his third dislodged it. Playing a full swing with his brassie and being by now a mere cauldron of seething emotions, he missed his fourth. His fifth came to within a few inches of Ferdinand’s drive, and he picked it up and hurled it from him into the rough as if it had been something venomous.

“Your hole and match,” said George Parsloe, thinly.

Ferdinand Dibble sat beside the glittering ocean. He had hurried off the course with swift strides the moment George Parsloe had spoken those bitter words. He wanted to be alone with his thoughts.

They were mixed thoughts. For a moment joy at the reflection that he had won a tough match came irresistibly to the surface, only to sink again as he remembered that life, whatever its triumphs, could hold nothing for him now that Barbara Medway loved another.

Mr. Dibble!”

He looked up. She was standing at his side. He gulped and rose to his feet.


There was a silence.

“Doesn’t the sun look pretty on the water?” said Barbara.

Ferdinand groaned. This was too much.

“Leave me,” he said, hollowly. “Go back to your Parsloe, the man with whom you walked in the moonlight beside this same water.”

“Well, why shouldn’t I walk with Mr. Parsloe in the moonlight beside this same water?” demanded Barbara, with spirit.

“I never said,” replied Ferdinand, for he was a fair man at heart, “that you shouldn’t walk with Mr. Parsloe beside this same water. I simply said you did walk with Mr. Parsloe beside this same water. And what I mean is, go back to him.”

“I’ve a perfect right to walk with Mr. Parsloe beside this same water,” persisted Barbara. “He and I are old friends.”

Ferdinand groaned again.

“Exactly! There you are! As I suspected. Old friends! Played together as children and whatnot, I shouldn’t wonder.”

“No, we didn’t. I’ve only known him five years. But he is engaged to be married to my greatest chum, so that draws us together.”

Ferdinand uttered a strangled cry.

“Parsloe engaged to be married!”

“Yes. The wedding takes place next month.”

“But look here.” Ferdinand’s forehead was wrinkled. He was thinking tensely. “Look here,” said Ferdinand, a close reasoner; “if Parsloe’s engaged to your greatest chum, he can’t be in love with you.”


“And you aren’t in love with him?”


“Then, by gad,” said Ferdinand, “how about it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Will you marry me?” bellowed Ferdinand.


“You will?”

“Of course I will.”

“Darling!” cried Ferdinand.

“There is only one thing that bothers me a bit,” said Ferdinand, thoughtfully, as they strolled together over the scented meadows, while in the trees above them a thousand birds trilled Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.”

“What is that?”

“Well, I’ll tell you,” said Ferdinand. “The fact is, I’ve just discovered the great secret of golf. You can’t play a really hot game unless you’re so miserable that you don’t worry over your shots. Take the case of a chip-shot, for instance. If you’re really wretched, you don’t care where the ball is going and so you don’t raise your head to see. Grief automatically prevents pressing and overswinging. Look at the top-notchers. Have you ever seen a happy pro?”

“No. I don’t think I have.”

“Well, then!”

“But pros are all Scotsmen,” argued Barbara.

“It doesn’t matter. I’m sure I’m right. And the darned thing is that I’m going to be so infernally happy all the rest of my life that I suppose my handicap will go up to thirty or something.”

Barbara squeezed his hand lovingly.

“Don’t worry, precious,” she said, soothingly. “It will be all right. I am a woman, and, once we are married, I shall be able to think of at least a hundred ways of snootering you to such an extent that you’ll be fit to win the Amateur Championship.”

“You will?” said Ferdinand, anxiously. “You’re sure?”

“Quite, quite sure, dearest,” said Barbara.

“My angel!” said Ferdinand.

He folded her in his arms, using the interlocking grip.

High Stakes

The summer day was drawing to a close. Over the terrace outside the clubhouse the chestnut trees threw long shadows, and such bees as still lingered in the flowerbeds had the air of tired business men who are about ready to shut up the office and go off to dinner and a musical comedy. The Oldest Member, stirring in his favourite chair, glanced at his watch and yawned.

As he did so, from the neighbourhood of the eighteenth green, hidden from his view by the slope of the ground, there came suddenly a medley of shrill animal cries, and he deduced that some belated match must just have reached a finish. His surmise was correct. The babble of voices drew nearer, and over the brow of the hill came a little group of men. Two, who appeared to be the ringleaders in the affair, were short and stout. One was cheerful, the other dejected. The rest of the company consisted of friends and adherents; and one of these, a young man who seemed to be amused, strolled to where the Oldest Member sat.

“What,” inquired the Sage, “was all the shouting for?” The young man sank into a chair and lighted a cigarette.

“Perkins and Broster,” he said, “were all square at the seventeenth, and they raised the stakes to fifty pounds. They were both on the green in seven, and Perkins had a two-foot putt to halve the match. He missed it by six inches. They play pretty high, those two.”

“It is a curious thing,” said the Oldest Member, “that men whose golf is of a kind that makes hardened caddies wince always do. The more competent a player, the smaller the stake that contents him. It is only when you get down into the submerged tenth of the golfing world that you find the big gambling. However, I would not call fifty pounds anything sensational in the case of two men like Perkins and Broster. They are both well provided with the world’s goods. If you would care to hear the story⁠—”

The young man’s jaw fell a couple of notches.

“I had no idea it was so late,” he bleated. “I ought to be⁠—”

“⁠—of a man who played for really high stakes⁠—”

“I promised to⁠—”

“⁠—I will tell it to you,” said the Sage, affectionately attaching himself to the other’s buttonhole.

“Look here,” said the young man, sullenly, “it isn’t one of those stories about two men who fall in love with the same girl and play a match to decide which is to marry her, is it? Because, if so⁠—”

“The stake to which I allude,” said the Oldest Member, “was something far higher and bigger than a woman’s love. Shall I proceed?”

“All right,” said the young man, resignedly. “Snap into it.”

It has been well said⁠—I think by the man who wrote the subtitles for Cage-Birds of Society (began the Oldest Member)⁠—that wealth does not always bring happiness. It was so with Bradbury Fisher, the hero of the story which I am about to relate. One of America’s most prominent tainted millionaires, he had two sorrows in life⁠—his handicap refused to stir from twenty-four and his wife disapproved of his collection of famous golf relics. Once, finding him crooning over the trousers in which Ouimet had won his historic replay against Vardon and Ray in the American Open, she had asked him why he did not collect something worthwhile like Old Masters or first editions.

Worth while! Bradbury had forgiven, for he loved the woman, but he could not forget.

For Bradbury Fisher, like so many men who have taken to the game in middle age, after a youth misspent in the pursuits of commerce, was no halfhearted enthusiast. Although he still occasionally descended on Wall Street in order to pry the small investor loose from another couple of million, what he really lived for now was golf and his collection. He had begun the collection in his first year as a golfer, and he prized it dearly. And when he reflected that his wife had stopped him purchasing J. H. Taylor’s shirt-stud, which he could have had for a few hundred pounds, the iron seemed to enter into his soul.

The distressing episode had occurred in London, and he was now on his way back to New York, having left his wife to continue her holiday in England. All through the voyage he remained moody and distrait; and at the ship’s concert, at which he was forced to take the chair, he was heard to observe to the purser that if the alleged soprano who had just sung “My Little Grey Home in the West” had the immortal gall to take a second encore he hoped that she would trip over a high note and dislocate her neck.

Such was Bradbury Fisher’s mood throughout the ocean journey, and it remained constant until he arrived at his palatial home at Goldenville, Long Island, where, as he sat smoking a moody after-dinner cigar in the Versailles drawing-room, Blizzard, his English butler, informed him that Mr. Gladstone Bott desired to speak to him on the telephone.

“Tell him to go and boil himself,” said Bradbury.

“Very good, sir.”

“No, I’ll tell him myself,” said Bradbury. He strode to the telephone. “Hullo!” he said, curtly.

He was not fond of this Bott. There are certain men who seem fated to go through life as rivals. It was so with Bradbury Fisher and J. Gladstone Bott. Born in the same town within a few days of one another, they had come to New York in the same week; and from that moment their careers had run side by side. Fisher had made his first million two days before Bott, but Bott’s first divorce had got half a column and two sticks more publicity than Fisher’s.

At Sing-Sing, where each had spent several happy years of early manhood, they had run neck and neck for the prizes which that institution has to offer. Fisher secured the position of catcher on the baseball nine in preference to Bott, but Bott just nosed Fisher out when it came to the choice of a tenor for the glee club. Bott was selected for the debating contest against Auburn, but Fisher got the last place on the crossword puzzle team, with Bott merely first reserve.

They had taken up golf simultaneously, and their handicaps had remained level ever since. Between such men it is not surprising that there was little love lost.

“Hullo!” said Gladstone Bott. “So you’re back? Say, listen, Fisher. I think I’ve got something that’ll interest you. Something you’ll be glad to have in your golf collection.”

Bradbury Fisher’s mood softened. He disliked Bott, but that was no reason for not doing business with him. And though he had little faith in the man’s judgment, it might be that he had stumbled upon some valuable antique. There crossed his mind the comforting thought that his wife was three thousand miles away and that he was no longer under her penetrating eye⁠—that eye which, so to speak, was always “about his bath and about his bed and spying out all his ways.”

“I’ve just returned from a trip down South,” proceeded Bott, “and I have secured the authentic baffy used by Bobbie Jones in his first important contest⁠—the Infants’ All-In Championship of Atlanta, Georgia, open to those of both sexes not yet having finished teething.”

Bradbury gasped. He had heard rumours that this treasure was in existence, but he had never credited them.

“You’re sure?” he cried. “You’re positive it’s genuine?”

“I have a written guarantee from Mr. Jones, Mrs. Jones, and the nurse.”

“How much, Bott, old man?” stammered Bradbury. “How much do you want for it, Gladstone, old top? I’ll give you a hundred thousand dollars.”


“Five hundred thousand.”

“Ha, ha!”

“A million.”

“Ha, ha, ha!”

“Two million.”

“Ha, ha, ha, ha!”

Bradbury Fisher’s strong face twisted like that of a tortured fiend. He registered in quick succession rage, despair, hate, fury, anguish, pique, and resentment. But when he spoke again his voice was soft and gentle.

“Gladdy, old socks,” he said, “we have been friends for years.”

“No, we haven’t,” said Gladstone Bott.

“Yes, we have.”

“No, we haven’t.”

“Well, anyway, what about two million five hundred?”

“Nothing doing. Say, listen. Do you really want that baffy?”

“I do, Botty, old egg, I do indeed.”

“Then listen. I’ll exchange it for Blizzard.”

“For Blizzard?” quavered Fisher.

“For Blizzard.”

It occurs to me that, when describing the closeness of the rivalry between these two men, I may have conveyed the impression that in no department of life could either claim a definite advantage over the other. If that is so, I erred. It is true that in a general way, whatever one had, the other had something equally good to counterbalance it; but in just one matter Bradbury Fisher had triumphed completely over Gladstone Bott. Bradbury Fisher had the finest English butler on Long Island.

From the first, Bradbury had been perfectly aware that Bott coveted Blizzard, and the knowledge had sweetened his life. But this was the first time he had come out into the open and admitted it.

“Blizzard?” whispered Fisher.

“Blizzard,” said Bott, firmly. “It’s my wife’s birthday next week, and I’ve been wondering what to give her.”

Bradbury Fisher shuddered from head to foot, and his legs wobbled like asparagus stalks. Beads of perspiration stood out on his forehead. The serpent was tempting him⁠—tempting him grievously.

“You’re sure you won’t take three million⁠—or four⁠—or something like that?”

“No; I want Blizzard.”

Bradbury Fisher passed his handkerchief over his streaming brow.

“So be it,” he said in a low voice.

The Jones baffy arrived that night, and for some hours Bradbury Fisher gloated over it with the unmixed joy of a collector who has secured the prize of a lifetime. Then, stealing gradually over him, came the realization of what he had done.

He was thinking of his wife and what she would say when she heard of this. Blizzard was Mrs. Fisher’s pride and joy. She had never, like the poet, nursed a dear gazelle, but, had she done so, her attitude towards it would have been identical with her attitude towards Blizzard. Although so far away, it was plain that her thoughts still lingered with the treasure she had left at home, for on his arrival Bradbury had found three cables awaiting him.

The first ran:⁠—

“How is Blizzard? Reply.”

The second:⁠—

“How is Blizzard’s sciatica? Reply.”

The third:⁠—

“Blizzard’s hiccups. How are they? Suggest Doctor Murphy’s Tonic Swamp-Juice. Highly spoken of. Three times a day after meals. Try for week and cable result.”

It did not require a clairvoyant to tell Bradbury that, if on her return she found that he had disposed of Blizzard in exchange for a child’s cut-down baffy, she would certainly sue him for divorce. And there was not a jury in America that would not give their verdict in her favour without a dissentient voice. His first wife, he recalled, had divorced him on far flimsier grounds. So had his second, third, and fourth. And Bradbury loved his wife. There had been a time in his life when, if he lost a wife, he had felt philosophically that there would be another along in a minute; but, as a man grows older, he tends to become set in his habits, and he could not contemplate existence without the company of the present incumbent.

What, therefore, to do? What, when you came right down to it, to do?

There seemed no way out of the dilemma. If he kept the Jones baffy, no other price would satisfy Bott’s jealous greed. And to part with the baffy, now that it was actually in his possession, was unthinkable.

And then, in the small hours of the morning, as he tossed sleeplessly on his Louis Quinze bed, his giant brain conceived a plan.

On the following afternoon he made his way to the clubhouse, and was informed that Bott was out playing a round with another millionaire of his acquaintance. Bradbury waited, and presently his rival appeared.

“Hey!” said Gladstone Bott, in his abrupt, uncouth way. “When are you going to deliver that butler?”

“I will make the shipment at the earliest date,” said Bradbury.

“I was expecting him last night.”

“You shall have him shortly.”

“What do you feed him on?” asked Gladstone Bott.

“Oh, anything you have yourselves. Put sulphur in his port in the hot weather. Tell me, how did your match go?”

“He beat me. I had rotten luck.”

Bradbury Fisher’s eyes gleamed. His moment had come.

“Luck?” he said. “What do you mean, luck? Luck has nothing to do with it. You’re always beefing about your luck. The trouble with you is that you play rottenly.


“It is no use trying to play golf unless you learn the first principles and do it properly. Look at the way you drive.”

“What’s wrong with my driving?”

“Nothing, except that you don’t do anything right. In driving, as the club comes back in the swing, the weight should be shifted by degrees, quietly and gradually, until, when the club has reached its topmost point, the whole weight of the body is supported by the right leg, the left foot being turned at the time and the left knee bent in toward the right leg. But, regardless of how much you perfect your style, you cannot develop any method which will not require you to keep your head still so that you can see your ball clearly.”


“It is obvious that it is impossible to introduce a jerk or a sudden violent effort into any part of the swing without disturbing the balance or moving the head. I want to drive home the fact that it is absolutely essential to⁠—”

“Hey!” cried Gladstone Bott.

The man was shaken to the core. From the local pro, and from scratch men of his acquaintance, he would gladly have listened to this sort of thing by the hour, but to hear these words from Bradbury Fisher, whose handicap was the same as his own and out of whom it was his unperishable conviction that he could hammer the tar any time he got him out on the links, was too much.

“Where do you get off,” he demanded, heatedly, “trying to teach me golf?”

Bradbury Fisher chuckled to himself. Everything was working out as his subtle mind had foreseen.

“My dear fellow,” he said, “I was only speaking for your good.”

“I like your nerve! I can lick you any time we start.”

“It’s easy enough to talk.”

“I trimmed you twice the week before you sailed to England.”

“Naturally,” said Bradbury Fisher, “in a friendly round, with only a few thousand dollars on the match, a man does not extend himself. You wouldn’t dare to play me for anything that really mattered.”

“I’ll play you when you like for anything you like.”

“Very well. I’ll play you for Blizzard.”

“Against what?”

“Oh, anything you please. How about a couple of railroads?”

“Make it three.”

“Very well.”

“Next Friday suit you?”

“Sure,” said Bradbury Fisher.

It seemed to him that his troubles were over. Like all twenty-four handicap men, he had the most perfect confidence in his ability to beat all other twenty-four handicap men. As for Gladstone Bott, he knew that he could disembowel him any time he was able to lure him out of the clubhouse.

Nevertheless, as he breakfasted on the morning of the fateful match, Bradbury Fisher was conscious of an unwonted nervousness. He was no weakling. In Wall Street his phlegm in moments of stress was a byword. On the famous occasion when the B. and G. crowd had attacked C. and D., and in order to keep control of L. and M. he had been compelled to buy so largely of S. and T., he had not turned a hair. And yet this morning, in endeavouring to prong up segments of bacon, he twice missed the plate altogether and on a third occasion speared himself in the cheek with his fork. The spectacle of Blizzard, so calm, so competent, so supremely the perfect butler, unnerved him.

“I am jumpy today, Blizzard,” he said, forcing a laugh.

“Yes, sir. You do, indeed, appear to have the willies.”

“Yes. I am playing a very important golf-match this morning.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“I must pull myself together, Blizzard.”

“Yes, sir. And, if I may respectfully make the suggestion, you should endeavour, when in action, to keep the head down and the eye rigidly upon the ball.”

“I will, Blizzard, I will,” said Bradbury Fisher, his keen eyes clouding under a sudden mist of tears. “Thank you, Blizzard, for the advice.”

“Not at all, sir.”

“How is your sciatica, Blizzard?”

“A trifle improved, I thank you, sir.”

“And your hiccups?”

“I am conscious of a slight, though possibly only a temporary, relief, sir.”

“Good,” said Bradbury Fisher.

He left the room with a firm step; and, proceeding to his library, read for awhile portions of that grand chapter in James Braid’s Advanced Golf which deals with driving into the wind. It was a fair and cloudless morning, but it was as well to be prepared for emergencies. Then, feeling that he had done all that could be done, he ordered the car and was taken to the links.

Gladstone Bott was awaiting him on the first tee, in company with two caddies. A curt greeting, a spin of the coin, and Gladstone Bott, securing the honour, stepped out to begin the contest.

Although there are, of course, endless subspecies in their ranks, not all of which have yet been classified by science, twenty-four handicap golfers may be stated broadly to fall into two classes, the dashing and the cautious⁠—those, that is to say, who endeavour to do every hole in a brilliant one and those who are content to win with a steady nine. Gladstone Bott was one of the cautious brigade. He fussed about for a few moments like a hen scratching gravel, then with a stiff quarter-swing sent his ball straight down the fairway for a matter of seventy yards, and it was Bradbury Fisher’s turn to drive.

Now, normally, Bradbury Fisher was essentially a dasher. It was his habit, as a rule, to raise his left foot some six inches from the ground and, having swayed forcefully back on to his right leg, to sway sharply forward again and lash out with sickening violence in the general direction of the ball. It was a method which at times produced excellent results, though it had the flaw that it was somewhat uncertain. Bradbury Fisher was the only member of the club, with the exception of the club champion, who had ever carried the second green with his drive; but, on the other hand, he was also the only member who had ever laid his drive on the eleventh dead to the pin of the sixteenth.

But today the magnitude of the issues at stake had wrought a change in him. Planted firmly on both feet, he fiddled at the ball in the manner of one playing spillikens. When he swung, it was with a swing resembling that of Gladstone Bott; and, like Bott, he achieved a nice, steady, rainbow-shaped drive of some seventy yards straight down the middle. Bott replied with an eighty-yard brassy shot. Bradbury held him with another. And so, working their way cautiously across the prairie, they came to the green, where Bradbury, laying his third putt dead, halved the hole.

The second was a repetition of the first, the third and fourth repetitions of the second. But on the fifth green the fortunes of the match began to change. Here Gladstone Bott, faced with a fifteen-foot putt to win, smote his ball firmly off the line, as had been his practice at each of the preceding holes, and the ball, hitting a worm-cast and bounding off to the left, ran on a couple of yards, hit another worm-cast, bounded to the right, and finally, bumping into a twig, leaped to the left again and clattered into the tin.

“One up,” said Gladstone Bott. “Tricky, some of these greens are. You have to gauge the angles to a nicety.”

At the sixth a donkey in an adjoining field uttered a raucous bray just as Bott was addressing his ball with a mashie-niblick on the edge of the green. He started violently and, jerking his club with a spasmodic reflex action of the forearm, holed out.

“Nice work,” said Gladstone Bott.

The seventh was a short hole, guarded by two large bunkers between which ran a narrow footpath of turf. Gladstone Bott’s mashie-shot, falling short, ran over the rough, peered for a moment into the depths to the left, then, winding up the path, trickled on to the green, struck a fortunate slope, acquired momentum, ran on, and dropped into the hole.

“Nearly missed it,” said Gladstone Bott, drawing a deep breath.

Bradbury Fisher looked out upon a world that swam and danced before his eyes. He had not been prepared for this sort of thing. The way things were shaping, he felt that it would hardly surprise him now if the cups were to start jumping up and snapping at Bott’s ball like starving dogs.

“Three up,” said Gladstone Bott.

With a strong effort Bradbury Fisher mastered his feelings. His mouth set grimly. Matters, he perceived, had reached a crisis. He saw now that he had made a mistake in allowing himself to be intimidated by the importance of the occasion into being scientific. Nature had never intended him for a scientific golfer, and up till now he had been behaving like an animated illustration out of a book by Vardon. He had taken his club back along and near the turf, allowing it to trend around the legs as far as was permitted by the movement of the arms. He had kept his right elbow close to the side, this action coming into operation before the club was allowed to describe a section of a circle in an upward direction, whence it was carried by means of a slow, steady, swinging movement. He had pivoted, he had pronated the wrists, and he had been careful about the lateral hip-shift.

And it had all been wrong. That sort of stuff might suit some people, but not him. He was a biffer, a swatter, and a slosher; and it flashed upon him now that only by biffing, swatting, and sloshing as he had never biffed, swatted, and sloshed before could he hope to recover the ground he had lost.

Gladstone Bott was not one of those players who grow careless with success. His drive at the eighth was just as steady and short as ever. But this time Bradbury Fisher made no attempt to imitate him. For seven holes he had been checking his natural instincts, and now he drove with all the banked-up fury that comes with release from long suppression.

For an instant he remained poised on one leg like a stork; then there was a whistle and a crack, and the ball, smitten squarely in the midriff, flew down the course and, soaring over the bunkers, hit the turf and gambolled to within twenty yards of the green.

He straightened out the kinks in his spine with a grim smile. Allowing himself the regulation three putts, he would be down in five, and only a miracle could give Gladstone Bott anything better than a seven.

“Two down,” he said some minutes later, and Gladstone Bott nodded sullenly.

It was not often that Bradbury Fisher kept on the fairway with two consecutive drives, but strange things were happening today. Not only was his drive at the ninth a full two hundred and forty yards, but it was also perfectly straight.

“One down,” said Bradbury Fisher, and Bott nodded even more sullenly than before.

There are few things more demoralizing than to be consistently outdriven; and when he is outdriven by a hundred and seventy yards at two consecutive holes the bravest man is apt to be shaken. Gladstone Bott was only human. It was with a sinking heart that he watched his opponent heave and sway on the tenth tee: and when the ball once more flew straight and far down the course a strange weakness seemed to come over him. For the first time he lost his morale and topped. The ball trickled into the long grass, and after three fruitless stabs at it with a niblick he picked up, and the match was squared.

At the eleventh Bradbury Fisher also topped, and his tee-shot, though nice and straight, travelled only a couple of feet. He had to scramble to halve in eight.

The twelfth was another short hole; and Bradbury, unable to curb the fine, careless rapture which had crept into his game, had the misfortune to overshoot the green by some sixty yards, thus enabling his opponent to take the lead once more.

The thirteenth and fourteenth were halved, but Bradbury, driving another long ball, won the fifteenth, squaring the match.

It seemed to Bradbury Fisher, as he took his stand on the sixteenth tee, that he now had the situation well in hand. At the thirteenth and fourteenth his drive had flickered, but on the fifteenth it had come back in all its glorious vigour and there appeared to be no reason to suppose that it had not come to stay. He recollected exactly how he had done that last colossal slosh, and he now prepared to reproduce the movements precisely as before. The great thing to remember was to hold the breath on the backswing and not to release it before the moment of impact. Also, the eyes should not be closed until late in the downswing. All great golfers have their little secrets, and that was Bradbury’s.

With these aids to success firmly fixed in his mind, Bradbury Fisher prepared to give the ball the nastiest bang that a golf ball had ever had since Edward Blackwell was in his prime. He drew in his breath and, with lungs expanded to their fullest capacity, heaved back on to his large, flat right foot. Then, clenching his teeth, he lashed out.

When he opened his eyes, they fell upon a horrid spectacle. Either he had closed those eyes too soon or else he had breathed too precipitately⁠—whatever the cause, the ball, which should have gone due south, was travelling with great speed sou’-sou’-east. And, even as he gazed, it curved to earth and fell into as uninviting a bit of rough as he had ever penetrated. And he was a man who had spent much time in many roughs.

Leaving Gladstone Bott to continue his imitation of a spavined octogenarian rolling peanuts with a toothpick, Bradbury Fisher, followed by his caddie, set out on the long trail into the jungle.

Hope did not altogether desert him as he walked. In spite of its erratic direction, the ball had been so shrewdly smitten that it was not far from the green. Provided luck was with him and the lie not too desperate, a mashie would put him on the carpet. It was only when he reached the rough and saw what had happened that his heart sank. There the ball lay, half hidden in the grass, while above it waved the straggling tentacle of some tough-looking shrub. Behind it was a stone, and behind the stone, at just the elevation required to catch the backswing of the club, was a tree. And, by an ironical stroke of fate which drew from Bradbury a hollow, bitter laugh, only a few feet to the right was a beautiful, smooth piece of turf from which it would have been a pleasure to play one’s second.

Dully Bradbury looked round to see how Bott was getting on. And then suddenly, as he found that Bott was completely invisible behind the belt of bushes through which he had just passed, a voice seemed to whisper to him, “Why not?”

Bradbury Fisher, remember, had spent thirty years in Wall Street.

It was at this moment that he realized that he was not alone. His caddie was standing at his side.

Bradbury Fisher gazed upon the caddie, whom until now he had not had any occasion to observe with any closeness.

The caddie was not a boy. He was a man, apparently in the middle forties, with bushy eyebrows and a walrus moustache; and there was something about his appearance which suggested to Bradbury that here was a kindred spirit. He reminded Bradbury a little of Spike Huggins, the safe-blower, who had been a member of his frat at Sing-Sing. It seemed to him that this caddie could be trusted in a delicate matter involving secrecy and silence. Had he been some babbling urchin, the risk might have been too great.

“Caddie,” said Bradbury.

“Sir?” said the caddie.

“Yours is an ill-paid job,” said Bradbury.

“It is, indeed, sir,” said the caddie.

“Would you like to earn fifty dollars?”

“I would prefer to earn a hundred.”

“I meant a hundred,” said Bradbury.

He produced a roll of bills from his pocket, and peeled off one of that value. Then, stooping, he picked up his ball and placed it on the little oasis of turf. The caddie bowed intelligently.

“You mean to say,” cried Gladstone Bott a few moments later, “that you were out with your second? With your second!”

“I had a stroke of luck.”

“You’re sure it wasn’t about six strokes of luck?”

“My ball was right out in the open in an excellent lie.”

“Oh!” said Gladstone Bott, shortly.

“I have four for it, I think.”

“One down,” said Gladstone Bott.

“And two to play,” trilled Bradbury.

It was with a light heart that Bradbury Fisher teed up on the seventeenth. The match, he felt, was as good as over. The whole essence of golf is to discover a way of getting out of rough without losing strokes; and with this sensible, broad-minded man of the world caddying for him he seemed to have discovered the ideal way. It cost him scarcely a pang when he saw his drive slice away into a tangle of long grass, but for the sake of appearances he affected a little chagrin.

“Tut, tut!” he said.

“I shouldn’t worry,” said Gladstone Bott. “You will probably find it sitting up on an india rubber tee which someone has dropped there.”

He spoke sardonically, and Bradbury did not like his manner. But then he never had liked Gladstone Bott’s manner, so what of that? He made his way to where the ball had fallen. It was lying under a bush.

“Caddie,” said Bradbury.

“Sir?” said the caddie.

“A hundred?”

“And fifty.”

“And fifty,” said Bradbury Fisher.

Gladstone Bott was still toiling along the fairway when Bradbury reached the green.

“How many?” he asked, eventually winning to the goal.

“On in two,” said Bradbury. “And you?”

“Playing seven.”

“Then let me see. If you take two putts, which is most unlikely, I shall have six for the hole and match.”

A minute later Bradbury had picked his ball out of the cup. He stood there, basking in the sunshine, his heart glowing with quiet happiness. It seemed to him that he had never seen the countryside looking so beautiful. The birds appeared to be singing as they had never sung before. The trees and the rolling turf had taken on a charm beyond anything he had ever encountered. Even Gladstone Bott looked almost bearable.

“A very pleasant match,” he said, cordially, “conducted throughout in the most sporting spirit. At one time I thought you were going to pull it off, old man, but there⁠—class will tell.”

“I will now make my report,” said the caddie with the walrus moustache.

“Do so,” said Gladstone Bott, briefly.

Bradbury Fisher stared at the man with blanched cheeks. The sun had ceased to shine, the birds had stopped singing. The trees and the rolling turf looked pretty rotten, and Gladstone Bott perfectly foul. His heart was leaden with a hideous dread.

“Your report? Your⁠—your report? What do you mean?”

“You don’t suppose,” said Gladstone Bott, “that I would play you an important match unless I had detectives watching you, do you? This gentleman is from the Quick Results Agency. What have you to report?” he said, turning to the caddie.

The caddie removed his bushy eyebrows, and with a quick gesture swept off his moustache.

“On the twelfth inst.,” he began in a monotonous, singsong voice, “acting upon instructions received, I made my way to the Goldenville Golf Links in order to observe the movements of the man Fisher. I had adopted for the occasion the Number Three disguise and⁠—”

“All right, all right,” said Gladstone Bott, impatiently. “You can skip all that. Come down to what happened at the sixteenth.”

The caddie looked wounded, but he bowed deferentially.

“At the sixteenth hole the man Fisher moved his ball into what⁠—from his actions and furtive manner⁠—I deduced to be a more favourable position.”

“Ah!” said Gladstone Bott.

“On the seventeenth the man Fisher picked up his ball and threw it with a movement of the wrist on to the green.”

“It’s a lie. A foul and contemptible lie,” shouted Bradbury Fisher.

“Realizing that the man Fisher might adopt this attitude, sir,” said the caddie, “I took the precaution of snapshotting him in the act with my miniature wristwatch camera, the detective’s best friend.”

Bradbury Fisher covered his face with his hands and uttered a hollow groan.

“My match,” said Gladstone Bott, with vindictive triumph. “I’ll trouble you to deliver that butler to me f.o.b. at my residence not later than noon tomorrow. Oh, yes, and I was forgetting. You owe me three railroads.”

Blizzard, dignified but kindly, met Bradbury in the Byzantine hall on his return home.

“I trust your golf-match terminated satisfactorily, sir?” said the butler.

A pang, almost too poignant to be borne, shot through Bradbury.

“No, Blizzard,” he said. “No. Thank you for your kind inquiry, but I was not in luck.”

“Too bad, sir,” said Blizzard, sympathetically. “I trust the prize at stake was not excessive?”

“Well⁠—er⁠—well, it was rather big. I should like to speak to you about that a little later, Blizzard.”

“At any time that is suitable to you, sir. If you will ring for one of the assistant-underfootmen when you desire to see me, sir, he will find me in my pantry. Meanwhile, sir, this cable arrived for you a short while back.”

Bradbury took the envelope listlessly. He had been expecting a communication from his London agents announcing that they had bought Kent and Sussex, for which he had instructed them to make a firm offer just before he left England. No doubt this was their cable.

He opened the envelope, and started as if it had contained a scorpion. It was from his wife.

“Returning immediately Aquitania,” (it ran). “Docking Friday night. Meet without fail.”

Bradbury stared at the words, frozen to the marrow. Although he had been in a sort of trance ever since that dreadful moment on the seventeenth green, his great brain had not altogether ceased to function; and, while driving home in the car, he had sketched out roughly a plan of action which, he felt, might meet the crisis. Assuming that Mrs. Fisher was to remain abroad for another month, he had practically decided to buy a daily paper, insert in it a front-page story announcing the death of Blizzard, forward the clipping to his wife, and then sell his house and move to another neighbourhood. In this way it might be that she would never learn of what had occurred.

But if she was due back next Friday, the scheme fell through and exposure was inevitable.

He wondered dully what had caused her change of plans, and came to the conclusion that some feminine sixth sense must have warned her of peril threatening Blizzard. With a good deal of peevishness he wished that Providence had never endowed women with this sixth sense. A woman with merely five took quite enough handling.

“Sweet suffering soupspoons!” groaned Bradbury.

“Sir?” said Blizzard.

“Nothing,” said Bradbury.

“Very good, sir,” said Blizzard.

For a man with anything on his mind, any little trouble calculated to affect the joie de vivre, there are few spots less cheering than the Customs sheds of New York. Draughts whistle dismally there⁠—now to, now fro. Strange noises are heard. Customs officials chew gum and lurk grimly in the shadows like tigers awaiting the luncheon-gong. It is not surprising that Bradbury’s spirits, low when he reached the place, should have sunk to zero long before the gangplank was lowered and the passengers began to stream down it.

His wife was among the first to land. How beautiful she looked, thought Bradbury, as he watched her. And, alas, how intimidating. His tastes had always lain in the direction of spirited women. His first wife had been spirited. So had his second, third, and fourth. And the one at the moment holding office was perhaps the most spirited of the whole platoon. For one long instant, as he went to meet her, Bradbury Fisher was conscious of a regret that he had not married one of those meek, mild girls who suffer uncomplainingly at their husbands’ hands in the more hectic type of feminine novel. What he felt he could have done with at the moment was the sort of wife who thinks herself dashed lucky if the other half of the sketch does not drag her round the billiard-room by her hair, kicking her the while with spiked shoes.

Three conversational openings presented themselves to him as he approached her.

“Darling, there is something I want to tell you⁠—”

“Dearest, I have a small confession to make⁠—”

“Sweetheart, I don’t know if by any chance you remember Blizzard, our butler. Well, it’s like this⁠—”

But, in the event, it was she who spoke first.

“Oh, Bradbury,” she cried, rushing into his arms, “I’ve done the most awful thing, and you must try to forgive me!”

Bradbury blinked. He had never seen her in this strange mood before. As she clung to him, she seemed timid, fluttering, and⁠—although a woman who weighed a full hundred and fifty-seven pounds⁠—almost fragile.

“What is it?” he inquired, tenderly. “Has somebody stolen your jewels?”

“No, no.”

“Have you been losing money at bridge?”

“No, no. Worse than that.”

Bradbury started.

“You didn’t sing ‘My Little Grey Home in the West’ at the ship’s concert?” he demanded, eyeing her closely.

“No, no! Ah, how can I tell you? Bradbury, look! You see that man over there?”

Bradbury followed her pointing finger. Standing in an attitude of negligent dignity beside a pile of trunks under the letter V was a tall, stout, ambassadorial man, at the very sight of whom, even at this distance, Bradbury Fisher felt an odd sense of inferiority. His pendulous cheeks, his curving waistcoat, his protruding eyes, and the sequence of rolling chins combined to produce in Bradbury that instinctive feeling of being in the presence of a superior which we experience when meeting scratch golfers, headwaiters of fashionable restaurants, and traffic-policemen. A sudden pang of suspicion pierced him.

“Well?” he said, hoarsely. “What of him?”

“Bradbury, you must not judge me too harshly. We were thrown together and I was tempted⁠—”

“Woman,” thundered Bradbury Fisher, “who is this man?”

“His name is Vosper.”

“And what is there between you and him, and when did it start, and why and how and where?”

Mrs. Fisher dabbed at her eyes with her handkerchief.

“It was at the Duke of Bootle’s, Bradbury. I was invited there for the weekend.”

“And this man was there?”


“Ha! Proceed!”

“The moment I set eyes on him, something seemed to go all over me.”


“At first it was his mere appearance. I felt that I had dreamed of such a man all my life, and that for all these wasted years I had been putting up with the second-best.”

“Oh, you did, eh? Really? Is that so? You did, did you?” snorted Bradbury Fisher.

“I couldn’t help it, Bradbury. I know I have always seemed so devoted to Blizzard, and so I was. But, honestly, there is no comparison between them⁠—really there isn’t. You should see the way Vosper stood behind the Duke’s chair. Like a high priest presiding over some mystic religious ceremony. And his voice when he asks you if you will have sherry or hock! Like the music of some wonderful organ. I couldn’t resist him. I approached him delicately, and found that he was willing to come to America. He had been eighteen years with the Duke, and he told me he couldn’t stand the sight of the back of his head any longer. So⁠—”

Bradbury Fisher reeled.

“This man⁠—this Vosper. Who is he?”

“Why, I’m telling you, honey. He was the Duke’s butler, and now he’s ours. Oh, you know how impulsive I am. Honestly, it wasn’t till we were halfway across the Atlantic that I suddenly said to myself, ‘What about Blizzard?’ What am I to do, Bradbury? I simply haven’t the nerve to fire Blizzard. And yet what will happen when he walks into his pantry and finds Vosper there? Oh, think, Bradbury, think!”

Bradbury Fisher was thinking⁠—and for the first time in a week without agony.

“Evangeline,” he said, gravely, “this is awkward.”

“I know.”

“Extremely awkward.”

“I know, I know. But surely you can think of some way out of the muddle!”

“I may. I cannot promise, but I may.” He pondered deeply. “Ha! I have it! It is just possible that I may be able to induce Gladstone Bott to take on Blizzard.”

“Do you really think he would?”

“He may⁠—if I play my cards carefully. At any rate, I will try to persuade him. For the moment you and Vosper had better remain in New York, while I go home and put the negotiations in train. If I am successful, I will let you know.”

“Do try your very hardest.”

“I think I shall be able to manage it. Gladstone and I are old friends, and he would stretch a point to oblige me. But let this be a lesson to you, Evangeline.”

“Oh, I will.”

“By the way,” said Bradbury Fisher, “I am cabling my London agents today to instruct them to buy J. H. Taylor’s shirt-stud for my collection.”

“Quite right, Bradbury, darling. And anything else you want in that way you will get, won’t you?”

“I will,” said Bradbury Fisher.

Keeping in with Vosper

The young man in the heather-mixture plus fours, who for some time had been pacing the terrace above the ninth green like an imprisoned jaguar, flung himself into a chair and uttered a snort of anguish.

“Women,” said the young man, “are the limit.”

The Oldest Member, ever ready to sympathize with youth in affliction, turned a courteous ear.

“What,” he inquired, “has the sex been pulling on you now?”

“My wife is the best little woman in the world.”

“I can readily believe it.”

“But,” continued the young man, “I would like to bean her with a brick, and bean her good. I told her, when she wanted to play a round with me this afternoon, that we must start early, as the days are drawing in. What did she do? Having got into her things, she decided that she didn’t like the look of them and made a complete change. She then powdered her nose for ten minutes. And when finally I got her on to the first tee, an hour late, she went back into the clubhouse to phone to her dressmaker. It will be dark before we’ve played six holes. If I had my way, golf clubs would make a rigid rule that no wife be allowed to play with her husband.”

The Oldest Member nodded gravely.

“Until this is done,” he agreed, “the millennium cannot but be set back indefinitely. Although we are told nothing about it, there can be little doubt that one of Job’s chief trials was that his wife insisted on playing golf with him. And, as we are on this topic, it may interest you to hear a story.”

“I have no time to listen to stories now.”

“If your wife is telephoning to her dressmaker, you have ample time,” replied the Sage. “The story which I am about to relate deals with a man named Bradbury Fisher⁠—”

“You told me that one.”

“I think not.”

“Yes, you did. Bradbury Fisher was a Wall Street millionaire who had an English butler named Blizzard, who had been ten years with an earl. Another millionaire coveted Blizzard, and they played a match for him, and Fisher lost. But, just as he was wondering how he could square himself with his wife, who valued Blizzard very highly, Mrs. Fisher turned up from England with a still finer butler named Vosper, who had been fifteen years with a duke. So all ended happily.”

“Yes,” said the Sage. “You appear to have the facts correctly. The tale which I am about to relate is a sequel to that story, and runs as follows:”

You say (began the Oldest Member) that all ended happily. That was Bradbury Fisher’s opinion, too. It seemed to Bradbury in the days that followed Vosper’s taking of office as though Providence, recognizing his sterling merits, had gone out of its way to smooth the path of life for him. The weather was fine; his handicap, after remaining stationary for many years, had begun to decrease; and his old friend Rupert Worple had just come out of Sing-Sing, where he had been taking a postgraduate course, and was paying him a pleasant visit at his house in Goldenville, Long Island.

The only thing, in fact, that militated against Bradbury’s complete tranquillity was the information he had just received from his wife that her mother, Mrs. Lora Smith Maplebury, was about to infest the home for an indeterminate stay.

Bradbury had never liked his wives’ mothers. His first wife, he recalled, had had a particularly objectionable mother. So had his second, third, and fourth. And the present holder of the title appeared to him to be scratch. She had a habit of sniffing in a significant way whenever she looked at him, and this can never make for a spirit of easy comradeship between man and woman. Given a free hand, he would have tied a brick to her neck and dropped her in the water-hazard at the second; but, realizing that this was but a Utopian dream, he sensibly decided to make the best of things and to content himself with jumping out of window whenever she came into a room in which he happened to be sitting.

His mood, therefore, as he sat in his Louis Quinze library on the evening on which this story opens, was perfectly contented. And when there was a knock at the door and Vosper entered, no foreboding came to warn him that the quiet peace of his life was about to be shattered.

“Might I have a word, sir?” said the butler.

“Certainly, Vosper. What is it?”

Bradbury Fisher beamed upon the man. For the hundredth time, as he eyed him, he reflected how immeasurably superior he was to the departed Blizzard. Blizzard had been ten years with an earl, and no one disputes that earls are all very well in their way. But they are not dukes. About a butler who has served in a ducal household there is a something which cannot be duplicated by one who has passed the formative years of his butlerhood in humbler surroundings.

“It has to do with Mr. Worple, sir.”

“What about him?”

Mr. Worple,” said the butler, gravely, “must go. I do not like his laugh, sir.”


“It is too hearty, sir. It would not have done for the Duke.”

Bradbury Fisher was an easygoing man, but he belonged to a free race. For freedom his fathers had fought and, if he had heard the story correctly, bled. His eyes flashed.

“Oh!” he cried. “Oh, indeed!”

“Yes, sir.”

“Is zat so?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, let me tell you something, Bill⁠—”

“My name is Hildebrand, sir.”

“Well, let me tell you, whatever your scarlet name is, that no butler is going to boss me in my own home. You can darned well go yourself.”

“Very good, sir.”

Vosper withdrew like an ambassador who has received his papers; and presently there was a noise without like hens going through a hedge, and Mrs. Fisher plunged in.

“Bradbury,” she cried, “are you mad? Of course Mr. Worple must go if Vosper says so. Don’t you realize that Vosper will leave us if we don’t humour him?”

“I should worry about him leaving!”

A strange, set look came into Mrs. Fisher’s face.

“Bradbury,” she said, “if Vosper leaves us, I shall die. And, what is more, just before dying I shall get a divorce. Yes, I will.”

“But, darling,” he gasped. “Rupert Worple! Old Rupie Worple! We’ve been friends all our lives.”

“I don’t care.”

“We were freshers at Sing-Sing together.”

“I don’t care.”

“We were initiated into the same Frat, the dear old Cracka-Bitta-Rock, on the same day.”

“I don’t care. Heaven has sent me the perfect butler, and I’m not going to lose him.”

There was a tense silence.

“Ah, well!” said Bradbury Fisher with a deep sigh.

That night he broke the news to Rupert Worple.

“I never thought,” said Rupert Worple sadly, “when we sang together on the glee-club at the old Alma Mater, that it would ever come to this.”

“Nor I,” said Bradbury Fisher. “But so it must be. You wouldn’t have done for the Duke, Rupie, you wouldn’t have done for the Duke.”

“Goodbye, Number 8,097,564,” said Rupert Worple in a low voice.

“Goodbye, Number 8,097,565,” whispered Bradbury Fisher.

And with a silent handclasp the two friends parted.

With the going of Rupert Worple a grey cloud seemed to settle upon the glowing radiance of Bradbury Fisher’s life. Mrs. Lora Smith Maplebury duly arrived; and, having given a series of penetrating sniffs as he greeted her in the entrance-hall, dug herself in and settled down to what looked like the visit of a lifetime. And then, just as Bradbury’s cup seemed to be full to overflowing, Mrs. Fisher drew him aside one evening.

“Bradbury,” said Mrs. Fisher, “I have some good news for you.”

“Is your mother leaving?” asked Bradbury eagerly.

“Of course not. I said good news. I am taking up golf again.”

Bradbury Fisher clutched at the arms of his chair, and an ashen pallor spread itself over his clean-cut face.

“What did you say?” he muttered.

“I’m taking up golf again. Won’t it be nice? We’ll be able to play together every day.”

Bradbury Fisher shuddered strongly. It was many years since he had played with his wife, but, like an old wound, the memory of it still troubled him occasionally.

“It was Vosper’s idea.”


A sudden seething fury gripped Bradbury. This pestilent butler was an absolute home-wrecker. He toyed with the idea of poisoning Vosper’s port. Surely, if he were to do so, a capable lawyer could smooth things over and get him off with at the worst a nominal fine.

“Vosper says I need exercise. He says he does not like my wheezing.”

“Your what?”

“My wheezing. I do wheeze, you know.”

“Well, so does he.”

“Yes, but a good butler is expected to wheeze. A wheezing woman is quite a different thing. My wheezing would never have done for the Duke, Vosper says.”

Bradbury Fisher breathed tensely.

“Ha!” he said.

“I think it’s so nice of him, Bradbury. It shows he has our interests at heart, just like a faithful old retainer. He says wheezing is an indication of heightened blood-pressure and can be remedied by gentle exercise. So we’ll have our first round tomorrow morning, shall we?”

“Just as you say,” said Bradbury dully. “I had a sort of date to make one of a foursome with three men at the club, but⁠—”

“Oh, you don’t want to play with those silly men any more. It will be much nicer, just you and I playing together.”

It has always seemed to me a strange and unaccountable thing that nowadays, when gloom is at such a premium in the world’s literature and all around us stern young pessimists are bringing home the bacon with their studies in the greyly grim, no writer has thought of turning his pen to a realistic portrayal of the golfing wife. No subject could be more poignant, and yet it has been completely neglected. One can only suppose that even modern novelists feel that the line should be drawn somewhere.

Bradbury Fisher’s emotions, as he stood by the first tee watching his wife prepare to drive off, were far beyond my poor powers to describe. Compared with him at that moment, the hero of a novel of the Middle West would have seemed almost offensively chirpy. This was the woman he loved, and she was behaving in a manner that made the iron sink deep into his soul.

Most women golfers are elaborate wagglers, but none that Bradbury had ever seen had made quite such a set of Swedish exercises out of the simple act of laying the club-head behind the ball and raising it over the right shoulder. For fully a minute, it seemed to him, Mrs. Fisher fiddled and pawed at the ball; while Bradbury, realizing that there are eighteen tees on a course and that this Russian Ballet stuff was consequently going to happen at least seventeen times more, quivered in agony and clenched his hands till the knuckles stood out white under the strain. Then she drove, and the ball trickled down the hill into a patch of rough some five yards distant.

“Tee-hee!” said Mrs. Fisher.

Bradbury uttered a sharp cry. He was married to a golfing giggler.

“What did I do then?”

“God help you, woman,” said Bradbury, “you jerked your head up till I wonder it didn’t come off at the neck.”

It was at the fourth hole that further evidence was afforded the wretched man of how utterly a good, pure woman may change her nature when once she gets out on the links. Mrs. Fisher had played her eleventh, and, having walked the intervening three yards, was about to play her twelfth when behind them, grouped upon the tee, Bradbury perceived two of his fellow-members of the club. Remorse and shame pierced him.

“One minute, honey,” he said, as his life’s partner took a strangelhold on her mashie and was about to begin the movements. “We’d better let these men through.”

“What men?”

“We’re holding up a couple of fellows. I’ll wave to them.”

“You will do nothing of the sort,” cried Mrs. Fisher. “The idea!”

“But, darling⁠—”

“Why should they go through us? We started before them.”

“But, pettie⁠—”

“They shall not pass!” said Mrs. Fisher. And, raising her mashie, she dug a grim divot out of the shrinking turf. With bowed head, Bradbury followed her on the long, long trail.

The sun was sinking as they came at last to journey’s end.

“How right Vosper is!” said Mrs. Fisher, nestling into the cushions of the car. “I feel ever so much better already.”

“Do you?” said Bradbury wanly. “Do you?”

“We’ll play again tomorrow afternoon,” said his wife.

Bradbury Fisher was a man of steel. He endured for a week. But on the last day of the week Mrs. Fisher insisted on taking as a companion on the round Alfred, her pet Airedale. In vain Bradbury spoke of the Green Committee and their prejudice against dogs on the links. Mrs. Fisher⁠—and Bradbury, as he heard the ghastly words, glanced involuntarily up at the summer sky, as if preparing to dodge lightening bolt which could scarcely fail to punish such blasphemy⁠—said that the Green Committee were a lot of silly, fussy old men, and she had no patience with them.

So Alfred came along⁠—barking at Bradbury as he endeavoured to concentrate on the smooth pronation of the wrists, bounding ahead to frolic round distant players who were shaping for delicate chip-shots, and getting a deep toehold on the turf of each successive green. Hell, felt Bradbury, must be something like this; and he wished that he had led a better life.

But that retribution which waits on all, both small and great, who defy Green Committees had marked Alfred down. Taking up a position just behind Mrs. Fisher as she began her down swing on the seventh, he received so shrewd a blow on his right foreleg that with a sharp yelp he broke into a gallop, raced through a foursome on the sixth green, and, charging across country, dived headlong into the water-hazard on the second; where he remained until Bradbury, who had been sent in pursuit, waded in and fished him out.

Mrs. Fisher came panting up, full of concern.

“What shall we do? The poor little fellow is quite lame. I know, you can carry him, Bradbury.”

Bradbury Fisher uttered a low, bleating sound. The water had had the worst effect on the animal. Even when dry, Alfred was always a dog of powerful scent. Wet, he had become definitely one of the six best smellers. His aroma had what the advertisement-writers call “strong memory-value.”

“Carry him? To the car, do you mean?”

“Of course not. Round the links. I don’t want to miss a day’s golf. You can put him down when you play your shots.”

For a long instant Bradbury hesitated. The words “Is zat so?” trembled on his lips.

“Very well,” he said, swallowing twice.

That night, in his du Barri bedroom, Bradbury Fisher lay sleepless far into the dawn. A crisis, he realized, had come in his domestic affairs. Things, he saw clearly, could not go on like this. It was not merely the awful spiritual agony of playing these daily rounds of golf with his wife that was so hard to endure. The real trouble was that the spectacle of her on the links was destroying his ideals, sapping away that love and respect which should have been as imperishable as steel.

To a good man his wife should be a goddess, a being far above him to whom he can offer worship and reverence, a beacon-star guiding him over the tossing seas of life. She should be ever on a pedestal and in a shrine. And when she waggles for a minute and a half and then jerks her head and tops the ball, she ceases to be so. And Mrs. Fisher was not merely a head-lifter and a super-waggler; she was a scoffer at Golf’s most sacred things. She held up scratch-men. She omitted to replace divots. She spoke lightly of Green Committees.

The sun was gilding Goldenville in its morning glory when Bradbury made up his mind. He would play with her no more. To do so would be fair neither to himself nor to her. At any moment, he felt, she might come out on the links in high heels or stop to powder her nose on the green while frenzied foursomes waited to play their approach-shots. And then love would turn to hate, and he and she would go through life estranged. Better to end it now, while he still retained some broken remains of the old esteem.

He had got everything neatly arranged. He would plead business in the City and sneak off each day to play on another course five miles away.

“Darling,” he said at breakfast, “I’m afraid we shan’t be able to have our game for a week or so. I shall have to be at the office early and late.”

“Oh, what a shame!” said Mrs. Fisher.

“You will, no doubt, be able to get a game with the pro or somebody. You know how bitterly this disappoints me. I had come to look on our daily round as the bright spot of the day. But business is business.”

“I thought you had retired from business,” said Mrs. Lora Smith Maplebury, with a sniff that cracked a coffee-cup.

Bradbury Fisher looked at her coldly. She was a lean, pale-eyed woman with high cheekbones, and for the hundredth time since she had come into his life he felt how intensely she needed a punch on the nose.

“Not altogether,” he said. “I still retain large interests in this and that, and I am at the moment occupied with affairs which I cannot mention without revealing secrets which might⁠—which would⁠—which are⁠—Well, anyway, I’ve got to go to the office.”

“Oh, quite,” said Mrs. Maplebury.

“What do you mean, quite?” demanded Bradbury.

“I mean just what I say. Quite!”

“Why quite?”

“Why not quite? I suppose I can say ‘Quite!’ can’t I?”

“Oh, quite,” said Bradbury.

He kissed his wife and left the room. He felt a little uneasy. There had been something in the woman’s manner which had caused him a vague foreboding.

Had he been able to hear the conversation that followed his departure, he would have been still more uneasy.

“Suspicious!” said Mrs. Maplebury.

“What is?” asked Mrs. Fisher.

“That man’s behaviour.”

“What do you mean?”

“Did you observe him closely while he was speaking?”


“The tip of his nose wiggled. Always distrust a man who wiggles the tip of his nose.”

“I am sure Bradbury would not deceive you.”

“So am I. But he might try to.”

“I don’t understand, mother. Do you mean you think Bradbury is not going to the office?”

“I am sure he is not.”

“You think⁠—?”

“I do.”

“You are suggesting⁠—?”

“I am.”

“You would imply⁠—?”

“I would.”

A moan escaped Mrs. Fisher.

“Oh, mother, mother!” she cried. “If I thought Bradbury was untrue to me, what I wouldn’t do to that poor clam!”

“I certainly think that the least you can do, as a good womanly woman, is to have a capable lawyer watching your interests.”

“But we can easily find out if he is at the office. We can ring them up on the phone and ask.”

“And be told that he is in conference. He will not have neglected to arrange for that.”

“Then what shall I do?”

“Wait,” said Mrs. Maplebury. “Wait and be watchful.”

The shades of night were falling when Bradbury returned to his home. He was fatigued but jubilant. He had played forty-five holes in the society of his own sex. He had kept his head down and his eye on the ball. He had sung negro spirituals in the locker-room.

“I trust, Bradbury,” said Mrs. Maplebury, “that you are not tired after your long day?”

“A little,” said Bradbury. “Nothing to signify.” He turned radiantly to his wife. “Honey,” he said, “you remember the trouble I was having with my iron? Well, today⁠—”

He stopped aghast. Like every good husband it had always been his practice hitherto to bring his golfing troubles to his wife, and in many a cosy after-dinner chat he had confided to her the difficulty he was having in keeping his iron-shots straight. And he had only just stopped himself now from telling her that today he had been hitting ’em sweetly on the meat right down the middle.

“Your iron?”

“Er⁠—ah⁠—yes. I have large interests in Iron⁠—as also in Steel, Jute, Woollen Fabrics, and Consolidated Peanuts. A gang has been trying to hammer down my stock. Today I fixed them.”

“You did, did you?” said Mrs. Maplebury.

“I said I did,” retorted Bradbury, defiantly.

“So did I. I said you did, did you?”

“What do you mean, did you?”

“Well, you did, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Exactly what I said. You did. Didn’t you?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Yes, you did!” said Mrs. Maplebury.

Once again Bradbury felt vaguely uneasy. There was nothing in the actual dialogue which had just taken place to cause him alarm⁠—indeed, considered purely as dialogue, it was bright and snappy and well calculated to make things gay about the home. But once more there had been a subtle something in his mother-in-law’s manner which had jarred upon him. He mumbled and went off to dress for dinner.

“Ha!” said Mrs. Maplebury, as the door closed.

Such, then, was the position of affairs in the Fisher home. And now that I have arrived thus far in my story and have shown you this man systematically deceiving the woman he had vowed⁠—at one of the most exclusive altars in New York⁠—to love and cherish, you⁠—if you are the sort of husband I hope you are⁠—must be saying to yourself: “But what of Bradbury Fisher’s conscience?” Remorse, you feel, must long since have begun to gnaw at his vitals; and the thought suggests itself to you that surely by this time the pangs of self-reproach must have interfered seriously with his short game, even if not as yet sufficiently severe to affect his driving off the tee.

You are overlooking the fact that Bradbury Fisher’s was the trained and educated conscience of a man who had passed a large portion of his life in Wall Street; and years of practice had enabled him to reduce the control of it to a science. Many a time in the past, when an active operator on the Street, he had done things to the small investor which would have caused raised eyebrows in the fo’c’sle of a pirate sloop⁠—and done them without a blush. He was not the man, therefore, to suffer torment merely because he was slipping one over on the Little Woman.

Occasionally he would wince a trifle at the thought of what would happen if she ever found out; but apart from that, I am doing no more than state the plain truth when I say that Bradbury Fisher did not care a whoop.

Besides, at this point his golf suddenly underwent a remarkable improvement. He had always been a long driver, and quite abruptly he found that he was judging them nicely with the putter. Two weeks after he had started on his campaign of deception he amazed himself and all who witnessed the performance by cracking a hundred for the first time in his career. And every golfer knows that in the soul of the man who does that there is no room for remorse. Conscience may sting the player who is going round in a hundred and ten, but when it tries to make itself unpleasant to the man who is doing ninety-sevens and ninety-eights, it is simply wasting its time.

I will do Bradbury Fisher justice. He did regret that he was not in a position to tell his wife all about that first ninety-nine of his. And the forlorn feeling of being unable to confide his triumphs to a sympathetic ear deepened a week later when, miraculously achieving ninety-six in the medal round, he qualified for the sixth sixteen in the annual invitation tournament of the club to which he had attached himself.

“Shall I?” he mused, eyeing her wistfully across the Queen Anne table in the Crystal Boudoir, to which they had retired to drink their after-dinner coffee. “Better not, better not,” whispered Prudence in his ear.

“Bradbury,” said Mrs. Fisher.

“Yes, darling?”

“Have you been hard at work today?”

“Yes, precious. Very, very hard at work.”

“Ho!” said Mrs. Maplebury.

“What did you say?” said Bradbury.

“I said ho!”

“What do you mean, ho?”

“Just ho. There is no harm, I imagine, in my saying ho, if I wish to.”

“Oh, no,” said Bradbury. “By no means. Not at all. Pray do so.”

“Thank you,” said Mrs. Maplebury. “Ho!”

“You do have to slave at the office, don’t you?” said Mrs. Fisher.

“I do, indeed.”

“It must be a great strain.”

“A terrible strain. Yes, yes, a terrible strain.”

“Then you won’t object to giving it up, will you?”

Bradbury started.

“Giving it up?”

“Giving up going to the office. The fact is, dear,” said Mrs. Fisher, “Vosper has complained.”

“What about?”

“About you going to the office. He says he has never been in the employment of anyone engaged in commerce, and he doesn’t like it. The Duke looked down on commerce very much. So I’m afraid, darling, you will have to give it up.”

Bradbury Fisher stared before him, a strange singing in his ears. The blow had been so sudden that he was stunned.

His fingers picked feverishly at the arm of his chair. He had paled to the very lips. If the office was barred to him, on what pretext could he sneak away from home? And sneak he must, for tomorrow and the day after the various qualifying sixteens were to play the match-rounds for the cups; and it was monstrous and impossible that he should not be there. He must be there. He had done a ninety-six, and the next best medal score in his sixteen was a hundred and one. For the first time in his life he had before him the prospect of winning a cup; and, highly though the poets have spoken of love, that emotion is not to be compared with the frenzy which grips a twenty-four handicap man who sees himself within reach of a cup.

Blindly he tottered from the room and sought his study. He wanted to be alone. He had to think, think.

The evening paper was lying on the table. Automatically he picked it up and ran his eye over the front page. And, as he did so, he uttered a sharp exclamation.

He leaped from his chair and returned to the boudoir, carrying the paper.

“Well, what do you know about this?” said Bradbury Fisher, in a hearty voice.

“We know a great deal about a good many things,” said Mrs. Maplebury.

“What is it, Bradbury?” said Mrs. Fisher.

“I’m afraid I shall have to leave you for a couple of days. Great nuisance, but there it is. But, of course, I must be there.”


“Ah, where?” said Mrs. Maplebury.

“At Sing-Sing. I see in the paper that tomorrow and the day after they are inaugurating the new Osborne Stadium. All the men of my class will be attending, and I must go, too.”

“Must you really?”

“I certainly must. Not to do so would be to show a lack of college spirit. The boys are playing Yale, and there is to be a big dinner afterwards. I shouldn’t wonder if I had to make a speech. But don’t worry, honey,” he said, kissing his wife affectionately. “I shall be back before you know I’ve gone.” He turned sharply to Mrs. Maplebury. “I beg your pardon?” he said, stiffly.

“I did not speak.”

“I thought you did.”

“I merely inhaled. I simply drew in air through my nostrils. If I am not at liberty to draw in air through my nostrils in your house, pray inform me.”

“I would prefer that you didn’t,” said Bradbury, between set teeth.

“Then I would suffocate.”

“Yes,” said Bradbury Fisher.

Of all the tainted millionaires who, after years of plundering the widow and the orphan, have devoted the evening of their life to the game of golf, few can ever have been so boisterously exhilarated as was Bradbury Fisher when, two nights later, he returned to his home. His dreams had all come true. He had won his way to the foot of the rainbow. In other words, he was the possessor of a small pewter cup, value three dollars, which he had won by beating a spavined old gentleman with one eye in the final match of the competition for the sixth sixteen at the Squashy Hollow Golf Club Invitation Tournament.

He entered the house, radiant.

“Tra-la!” sang Bradbury Fisher. “Tra-la!”

“I beg your pardon, sir?” said Vosper, who had encountered him in the hall.

“Eh? Oh, nothing. Just tra-la.”

“Very good, sir.”

Bradbury Fisher looked at Vosper. For the first time it seemed to sweep over him like a wave that Vosper was an uncommonly good fellow. The past was forgotten, and he beamed upon Vosper like the rising sun.

“Vosper,” he said, “what wages are you getting?”

“I regret to say, sir,” replied the butler, “that, at the moment, the precise amount of the salary of which I am in receipt has slipped my mind. I could refresh my memory by consulting my books, if you so desire it, sir.”

“Never mind. Whatever it is, it’s doubled.”

“I am obliged, sir. You will, no doubt, send me a written memo to that effect?”

“Twenty, if you like.”

“One will be ample, sir.”

Bradbury curveted past him through the baronial hall and into the Crystal Boudoir. His wife was there alone.

“Mother has gone to bed,” she said. “She has a bad headache.”

“You don’t say!” said Bradbury. It was as if everything was conspiring to make this a day of days. “Well, it’s great to be back in the old home.”

“Did you have a good time?”


“You saw all your old friends?”

“Every one of them.”

“Did you make a speech at the dinner?”

“Did I! They rolled out of their seats and the waiters swept them up with dusters.”

“A very big dinner, I suppose?”


“How was the football game?”

“Best I’ve ever seen. We won. Number 432,986 made a hundred-and-ten-yard run for a touch down in the last five minutes.”


“And that takes a bit of doing, with a ball and chain round your ankle, believe me!”

“Bradbury,” said Mrs. Fisher, “where have you been these last two days?”

Bradbury’s heart missed a beat. His wife was looking exactly like her mother. It was the first time he had ever been able to believe that she could be Mrs. Maplebury’s daughter.

“Been? Why, I’m telling you.”

“Bradbury,” said Mrs. Fisher, “just one word. Have you seen the paper this morning?”

“Why, no. What with all the excitement of meeting the boys and this and that⁠—”

“Then you have not seen that the inauguration of the new Stadium at Sing-Sing was postponed on account of an outbreak of mumps in the prison?”

Bradbury gulped.

“There was no dinner, no football game, no gathering of Old Grads⁠—nothing! So⁠—where have you been, Bradbury?”

Bradbury gulped again.

“You’re sure you haven’t got this wrong?” he said at length.


“I mean, sure it wasn’t some other place?”


“Sing-Sing? You got the name correctly?”

“Quite. Where, Bradbury, have you been these last two days?”


Mrs. Fisher coughed dryly.

“I merely ask out of curiosity. The facts will, of course, come out in court.”

“In court!”

“Naturally I propose to place this affair in the hands of my lawyer immediately.”

Bradbury started convulsively.

“You mustn’t!”

“I certainly shall.”

A shudder shook Bradbury from head to foot. He felt worse than he had done when his opponent in the final had laid him a stymie on the last green, thereby squaring the match and taking it to the nineteenth hole.

“I will tell you all,” he muttered.


“Well⁠—it was like this.”


“Er⁠—like this. In fact, this way.”


Bradbury clenched his hands; and, as far as that could be managed, avoided her eye.

“I’ve been playing golf,” he said in a low, toneless voice.

“Playing golf?”

“Yes.” Bradbury hesitated. “I don’t mean it in an offensive spirit, and no doubt most men would have enjoyed themselves thoroughly, but I⁠—well, I am curiously constituted, angel, and the fact is I simply couldn’t stand playing with you any longer. The fault, I am sure, was mine, but⁠—well, there it is. If I had played another round with you, my darling, I think that I should have begun running about in circles, biting my best friends. So I thought it all over, and, not wanting to hurt your feelings by telling you the truth, I stooped to what I might call a ruse. I said I was going to the office; and, instead of going to the office, I went off to Squashy Hollow and played there.”

Mrs. Fisher uttered a cry.

“You were there today and yesterday?”

In spite of his trying situation, the yeasty exhilaration which had been upon him when he entered the room returned to Bradbury.

“Was I!” he cried. “You bet your Russian boots I was! Only winning a cup, that’s all!”

“You won a cup?”

“You bet your diamond tiara I won a cup. Say, listen,” said Bradbury, diving for a priceless Boule table and wrenching a leg off it. “Do you know what happened in the semifinal?” He clasped his fingers over the table-leg in the overlapping grip. “I’m here, see, about fifteen feet off the green. The other fellow lying dead, and I’m playing the like. Best I could hope for was a half, you’ll say, eh? Well, listen. I just walked up to that little white ball, and I gave it a little flick, and, believe me or believe me not, that little white ball never stopped running till it plunked into the hole.”

He stopped. He perceived that he had been introducing into the debate extraneous and irrelevant matter.

“Honey,” he said, fervently, “you mustn’t get mad about this. Maybe, if we try again, it will be all right. Give me another chance. Let me come out and play a round tomorrow. I think perhaps your style of play is a thing that wants getting used to. After all, I didn’t like olives the first time I tried them. Or whisky. Or caviar, for that matter. Probably if⁠—”

Mrs. Fisher shook her head.

“I shall never play again.”

“Oh, but, listen⁠—”

She looked at him fondly, her eyes dim with happy tears.

“I should have known you better, Bradbury. I suspected you. How foolish I was.”

“There, there,” said Bradbury.

“It was mother’s fault. She put ideas into my head.”

There was much that Bradbury would have liked to say about her mother, but he felt that this was not the time.

“And you really forgive me for sneaking off and playing at Squashy Hollow?”

“Of course.”

“Then why not a little round tomorrow?”

“No, Bradbury, I shall never play again. Vosper says I mustn’t.”


“He saw me one morning on the links, and he came to me and told me⁠—quite nicely and respectfully⁠—that it must not occur again. He said with the utmost deference that I was making a spectacle of myself and that this nuisance must now cease. So I gave it up. But it’s all right. Vosper thinks that gentle massage will cure my wheezing, so I’m having it every day, and really I do think there’s an improvement already.”

“Where is Vosper?” said Bradbury, hoarsely.

“You aren’t going to be rude to him, Bradbury? He is so sensitive.”

But Bradbury Fisher had left the room.

“You rang, sir?” said Vosper, entering the Byzantine smoking-room some few minutes later.

“Yes,” said Bradbury. “Vosper, I am a plain, rugged man and I do not know all that there is to be known about these things. So do not be offended if I ask you a question.”

“Not at all, sir.”

“Tell me, Vosper, did the Duke ever shake hands with you?”

“Once only, sir⁠—mistaking me in a dimly-lit hall for a visiting archbishop.”

“Would it be all right for me to shake hands with you now?”

“If you wish it, sir, certainly.”

“I want to thank you, Vosper. Mrs. Fisher tells me that you have stopped her playing golf. I think that you have saved my reason, Vosper.”

“That is extremely gratifying, sir.”

“Your salary is trebled.”

“Thank you very much, sir. And, while we are talking, sir, if I might⁠—There is one other little matter I wished to speak of, sir.”

“Shoot, Vosper.”

“It concerns Mrs. Maplebury, sir.”

“What about her?”

“If I might say so, sir, she would scarcely have done for the Duke.”

A sudden wild thrill shot through Bradbury.

“You mean⁠—?” he stammered.

“I mean, sir, that Mrs. Maplebury must go. I make no criticism of Mrs. Maplebury, you will understand, sir. I merely say that she would decidedly not have done for the Duke.”

Bradbury drew in his breath sharply.

“Vosper,” he said, “the more I hear of that Duke of yours, the more I seem to like him. You really think he would have drawn the line at Mrs. Maplebury?”

“Very firmly, sir.”

“Splendid fellow! splendid fellow! She shall go tomorrow, Vosper.”

“Thank you very much, sir.”

“And, Vosper.”


“Your salary. It is quadrupled.”

“I am greatly obliged, sir.”

“Tra-la, Vosper!”

“Tra-la, sir. Will that be all?”

“That will be all. Tra-la!”

“Tra-la, sir,” said the butler.

Chester Forgets Himself

The afternoon was warm and heavy. Butterflies loafed languidly in the sunshine, birds panted in the shady recesses of the trees.

The Oldest Member, snug in his favourite chair, had long since succumbed to the drowsy influence of the weather. His eyes were closed, his chin sunk upon his breast. The pipe which he had been smoking lay beside him on the turf, and ever and anon there proceeded from him a muffled snore.

Suddenly the stillness was broken. There was a sharp, cracking sound as of splitting wood. It rang out like the report of a rifle, and the Oldest Member sat up, blinking. As soon as his eyes had become accustomed to the glare, he perceived that the foursome had holed out on the ninth and was disintegrating. Two of the players were moving with quick, purposeful steps in the direction of the side door which gave entrance to the bar; a third was making for the road that led to the village, bearing himself as one in profound dejection; the fourth came on to the terrace.

“Finished?” said the Oldest Member, accosting this individual.

The other stopped, wiping a heated brow. He lowered himself into the adjoining chair and stretched his legs out.

“Yes. We started at the tenth. Golly, I’m tired. No joke playing in this weather.”

“How did you come out?”

“We won on the last green. Jimmy Fothergill and I were playing the vicar and Rupert Blake.”

“What was that sharp, cracking sound I heard?” asked the Oldest Member.

“That was the vicar smashing his putter. He had a two-foot putt to halve the hole and match, and he missed it. Poor old chap, he had rotten luck all the way round, and it didn’t seem to make it any better for him that he wasn’t able to relieve his feelings in the ordinary way.

“I suspected some such thing,” said the Oldest Member, “from the look of his back as he was leaving the green. His walk was the walk of an overwrought soul.”

His companion did not reply. He was breathing deeply and regularly.

“It is a moot question,” proceeded the Oldest Member, thoughtfully, “whether the clergy, considering their peculiar position, should not be more liberally handicapped at golf than the laymen with whom they compete. I have made a close study of the game since the days of the feather ball, and I am firmly convinced that to refrain entirely from oaths during a round is almost equivalent to giving away three bisques. There are certain occasions when an oath seems to be so imperatively demanded that the strain of keeping it in must inevitably affect the ganglions or nerve-centres in such a manner as to diminish the steadiness of the swing.”

The man beside him slipped lower down in his chair. His mouth had opened slightly.

“I am reminded in this connection,” said the Oldest Member, “of the story of young Chester Meredith, a friend of mine whom you have not, I think, met. He moved from this neighbourhood shortly before you came. There was a case where a man’s whole happiness was very nearly wrecked purely because he tried to curb his instincts and thwart nature in this very respect. Perhaps you would care to hear the story?”

A snore proceeded from the next chair.

“Very well, then,” said the Oldest Member, “I will relate it.”

Chester Meredith (said the Oldest Member) was one of the nicest young fellows of my acquaintance. We had been friends ever since he had come to live here as a small boy, and I had watched him with a fatherly eye through all the more important crises of a young man’s life. It was I who taught him to drive, and when he had all that trouble in his twenty-first year with shanking his short approaches, it was to me that he came for sympathy and advice. It was an odd coincidence, therefore, that I should have been present when he fell in love.

I was smoking my evening cigar out here and watching the last couples finishing their rounds, when Chester came out of the clubhouse and sat by me. I could see that the boy was perturbed about something, and wondered why, for I knew that he had won his match.

“What,” I inquired, “is on your mind?”

“Oh, nothing,” said Chester. “I was only thinking that there are some human misfits who ought not to be allowed on any decent links.”

“You mean⁠—?”

“The Wrecking Crew,” said Chester, bitterly. “They held us up all the way round, confound them. Wouldn’t let us through. What can you do with people who don’t know enough of the etiquette of the game to understand that a single has right of way over a four-ball foursome? We had to loaf about for hours on end while they scratched at the turf like a lot of crimson hens. Eventually all four of them lost their balls simultaneously at the eleventh and we managed to get by. I hope they choke.”

I was not altogether surprised at his warmth. This Wrecking Crew consisted of four retired business men who had taken up the noble game late in life because their doctors had ordered them air and exercise. Every club, I suppose, has a cross of this kind to bear, and it was not often that our members rebelled; but there was undoubtedly something particularly irritating in the methods of the Wrecking Crew. They tried so hard that it seemed almost inconceivable that they should be so slow.

“They are all respectable men,” I said, “and were, I believe, highly thought of in their respective businesses. But on the links I admit that they are a trial.”

“They are the direct lineal descendants of the Gadarene swine,” said Chester, firmly. “Every time they come out I expect to see them rush down the hill from the first tee and hurl themselves into the lake at the second. Of all the⁠—”

“Hush!” I said.

Out of the corner of my eye I had seen a girl approaching, and I was afraid lest Chester in his annoyance might use strong language. For he was one of those golfers who are apt to express themselves in moments of emotion with a good deal of generous warmth.

“Eh?” said Chester.

I jerked my head, and he looked round. And, as he did so, there came into his face an expression which I had seen there only once before, on the occasion when he won the President’s Cup on the last green by holing a thirty-yard chip with his mashie. It was a look of ecstasy and awe. His mouth was open, his eyebrows raised, and he was breathing heavily through his nose.

“Golly!” I heard him mutter.

The girl passed by. I could not blame Chester for staring at her. She was a beautiful young thing, with a lissom figure and a perfect face. Her hair was a deep chestnut, her eyes blue, her nose small and laid back with about as much loft as a light iron. She disappeared, and Chester, after nearly dislocating his neck trying to see her round the corner of the clubhouse, emitted a deep, explosive sigh.

“Who is she?” he whispered.

I could tell him that. In one way and another I get to know most things around this locality.

“She is a Miss Blakeney. Felicia Blakeney. She has come to stay for a month with the Waterfields. I understand she was at school with Jane Waterfield. She is twenty-three, has a dog named Joseph, dances well, and dislikes parsnips. Her father is a distinguished writer on sociological subjects; her mother is Wilmot Royce, the well-known novelist, whose last work, Sewers of the Soul, was, you may recall, jerked before a tribunal by the Purity League. She has a brother, Crispin Blakeney, an eminent young reviewer and essayist, who is now in India studying local conditions with a view to a series of lectures. She only arrived here yesterday, so this is all I have been able to find out about her as yet.”

Chester’s mouth was still open when I began speaking. By the time I had finished it was open still wider. The ecstatic look in his eyes had changed to one of dull despair.

“My God!” he muttered. “If her family is like that, what chance is there for a roughneck like me?”

“You admire her?”

“She is the alligator’s Adam’s apple,” said Chester, simply.

I patted his shoulder.

“Have courage, my boy,” I said. “Always remember that the love of a good man to whom the pro can only give a couple of strokes in eighteen holes is not to be despised.”

“Yes, that’s all very well. But this girl is probably one solid mass of brain. She will look on me as an uneducated warthog.”

“Well, I will introduce you, and we will see. She looked a nice girl.”

“You’re a great describer, aren’t you?” said Chester. “A wonderful flow of language you’ve got, I don’t think! Nice girl! Why, she’s the only girl in the world. She’s a pearl among women. She’s the most marvellous, astounding, beautiful, heavenly thing that ever drew perfumed breath.” He paused, as if his train of thought had been interrupted by an idea. “Did you say that her brother’s name was Crispin?”

“I did. Why?”

Chester gave vent to a few manly oaths.

“Doesn’t that just show you how things go in this rotten world?”

“What do you mean?”

“I was at school with him.”

“Surely that should form a solid basis for friendship?”

“Should it? Should it, by gad? Well, let me tell you that I probably kicked that blighted worm Crispin Blakeney a matter of seven hundred and forty-six times in the few years I knew him. He was the world’s worst. He could have walked straight into the Wrecking Crew and no questions asked. Wouldn’t it jar you? I have the luck to know her brother, and it turns out that we couldn’t stand the sight of each other.”

“Well, there is no need to tell her that.”

“Do you mean⁠—?” He gazed at me wildly. “Do you mean I might pretend we were pals?”

“Why not? Seeing that he is in India, he can hardly contradict you.”

“My gosh!” He mused for a moment. I could see that the idea was beginning to sink in. It was always thus with Chester. You had to give him time. “By Jove, it mightn’t be a bad scheme at that. I mean, it would start me off with a rush, like being one up on bogey in the first two. And there’s nothing like a good start. By gad, I’ll do it.”

“I should.”

“Reminiscences of the dear old days when we were lads together, and all that sort of thing.”


“It isn’t going to be easy, mind you,” said Chester, meditatively. “I’ll do it because I love her, but nothing else in this world would make me say a civil word about the blister. Well, then, that’s settled. Get on with the introduction stuff, will you? I’m in a hurry.”

One of the privileges of age is that it enables a man to thrust his society on a beautiful girl without causing her to draw herself up and say “Sir!” It was not difficult for me to make the acquaintance of Miss Blakeney, and, this done, my first act was to unleash Chester on her.

“Chester,” I said, summoning him as he loafed with an overdone carelessness on the horizon, one leg almost inextricably entwined about the other, “I want you to meet Miss Blakeney. Miss Blakeney, this is my young friend Chester Meredith. He was at school with your brother Crispin. You were great friends, were you not?”

“Bosom,” said Chester, after a pause.

“Oh, really?” said the girl. There was a pause. “He is in India now.”

“Yes,” said Chester.

There was another pause.

“Great chap,” said Chester, gruffly.

“Crispin is very popular,” said the girl, “with some people.”

“Always been my best pal,” said Chester.


I was not altogether satisfied with the way matters were developing. The girl seemed cold and unfriendly, and I was afraid that this was due to Chester’s repellent manner. Shyness, especially when complicated by love at first sight, is apt to have strange effects on a man, and the way it had taken Chester was to make him abnormally stiff and dignified. One of the most charming things about him was his delightful boyish smile. Shyness had caused him to iron this out of his countenance till no trace of it remained. Not only did he not smile, he looked like a man who never had smiled and never would. His mouth was a thin, rigid line. His back was stiff with what appeared to be contemptuous aversion. He looked down his nose at Miss Blakeney as if she were less than the dust beneath his chariot-wheels.

I thought the best thing to do was to leave them alone together to get acquainted. Perhaps, I thought, it was my presence that was cramping Chester’s style. I excused myself and receded.

It was some days before I saw Chester again. He came round to my cottage one night after dinner and sank into a chair, where he remained silent for several minutes.

“Well?” I said at last.

“Eh?” said Chester, starting violently.

“Have you been seeing anything of Miss Blakeney lately?”

“You bet I have.”

“And how do you feel about her on further acquaintance?”

“Eh?” said Chester, absently.

“Do you still love her?”

Chester came out of his trance.

“Love her?” he cried, his voice vibrating with emotion. “Of course I love her. Who wouldn’t love her? I’d be a silly chump not loving her. Do you know,” the boy went on, a look in his eyes like that of some young knight seeing the Holy Grail in a vision, “do you know, she is the only woman I ever met who didn’t overswing. Just a nice, crisp, snappy half-slosh, with a good full follow-through. And another thing. You’ll hardly believe me, but she waggled almost as little as George Duncan. You know how women waggle as a rule, fiddling about for a minute and a half like kittens playing with a ball of wool. Well, she just makes one firm pass with the club and then bing! There is none like her, none.”

“Then you have been playing golf with her?”

“Nearly every day.”

“How is your game?”

“Rather spotty. I seem to be mistiming them.”

I was concerned.

“I do hope, my dear boy,” I said, earnestly, “that you are taking care to control your feelings when out on the links with Miss Blakeney. You know what you are like. I trust you have not been using the sort of language you generally employ on occasions when you are not timing them right?”

“Me?” said Chester, horrified. “Who, me? You don’t imagine for a moment that I would dream of saying a thing that would bring a blush to her dear cheek, do you? Why, a bishop could have gone round with me and learned nothing new.”

I was relieved.

“How do you find you manage the dialogue these days?” I asked. “When I introduced you, you behaved⁠—you will forgive an old friend for criticizing⁠—you behaved a little like a stuffed frog with laryngitis. Have things got easier in that respect?”

“Oh, yes. I’m quite the prattler now. I talk about her brother mostly. I put in the greater part of my time boosting the tick. It seems to be coming easier. Willpower, I suppose. And then, of course, I talk a good deal about her mother’s novels.”

“Have you read them?”

“Every damned one of them⁠—for her sake. And if there’s a greater proof of love than that, show me! My gosh, what muck that woman writes! That reminds me, I’ve got to send to the bookshop for her latest⁠—out yesterday. It’s called The Stench of Life. A sequel, I understand, to Grey Mildew.”

“Brave lad,” I said, pressing his hand. “Brave, devoted lad!”

“Oh, I’d do more than that for her.” He smoked for awhile in silence. “By the way, I’m going to propose to her tomorrow.”


“Can’t put it off a minute longer. It’s been as much as I could manage, bottling it up till now. Where do you think would be the best place? I mean, it’s not the sort of thing you can do while you’re walking down the street or having a cup of tea. I thought of asking her to have a round with me and taking a stab at it on the links.”

“You could not do better. The links⁠—Nature’s cathedral.”

“Right-o, then! I’ll let you know how I come out.”

“I wish you luck, my boy,” I said.

And what of Felicia, meanwhile? She was, alas, far from returning the devotion which scorched Chester’s vital organs. He seemed to her precisely the sort of man she most disliked. From childhood up Felicia Blakeney had lived in an atmosphere of highbrowism, and the type of husband she had always seen in her daydreams was the man who was simple and straightforward and earthy and did not know whether Artbashiekeff was a suburb of Moscow or a new kind of Russian drink. A man like Chester, who on his own statement would rather read one of her mother’s novels than eat, revolted her. And his warm affection for her brother Crispin set the seal on her distaste.

Felicia was a dutiful child, and she loved her parents. It took a bit of doing, but she did it. But at her brother Crispin she drew the line. He wouldn’t do, and his friends were worse than he was. They were high-voiced, supercilious, pince-nezed young men who talked patronizingly of Life and Art, and Chester’s unblushing confession that he was one of them had put him ten down and nine to play right away.

You may wonder why the boy’s undeniable skill on the links had no power to soften the girl. The unfortunate fact was that all the good effects of his prowess were neutralized by his behaviour while playing. All her life she had treated golf with a proper reverence and awe, and in Chester’s attitude towards the game she seemed to detect a horrible shallowness. The fact is, Chester, in his efforts to keep himself from using strong language, had found a sort of relief in a girlish giggle, and it made her shudder every time she heard it.

His deportment, therefore, in the space of time leading up to the proposal could not have been more injurious to his cause. They started out quite happily, Chester doing a nice two-hundred-yarder off the first tee, which for a moment awoke the girl’s respect. But at the fourth, after a lovely brassie-shot, he found his ball deeply embedded in the print of a woman’s high heel. It was just one of those rubs of the green which normally would have caused him to ease his bosom with a flood of sturdy protest, but now he was on his guard.

“Tee-hee!” simpered Chester, reaching for his niblick. “Too bad, too bad!” and the girl shuddered to the depths of her soul.

Having holed out, he proceeded to enliven the walk to the next tee with a few remarks on her mother’s literary style, and it was while they were walking after their drives that he proposed.

His proposal, considering the circumstances, could hardly have been less happily worded. Little knowing that he was rushing upon his doom, Chester stressed the Crispin note. He gave Felicia the impression that he was suggesting this marriage more for Crispin’s sake than anything else. He conveyed the idea that he thought how nice it would be for brother Crispin to have his old chum in the family. He drew a picture of their little home, with Crispin forever popping in and out like a rabbit. It is not to be wondered at that, when at length he had finished and she had time to speak, the horrified girl turned him down with a thud.

It is at moments such as these that a man reaps the reward of a good upbringing.

In similar circumstances those who have not had the benefit of a sound training in golf are too apt to go wrong. Goaded by the sudden anguish, they take to drink, plunge into dissipation, and write vers libre. Chester was mercifully saved from this. I saw him the day after he had been handed the mitten, and was struck by the look of grim determination in his face. Deeply wounded though he was, I could see that he was the master of his fate and the captain of his soul.

“I am sorry, my boy,” I said, sympathetically, when he had told me the painful news.

“It can’t be helped,” he replied, bravely.

“Her decision was final?”


“You do not contemplate having another pop at her?”

“No good. I know when I’m licked.”

I patted him on the shoulder and said the only thing it seemed possible to say.

“After all, there is always golf.”

He nodded.

“Yes. My game needs a lot of tuning up. Now is the time to do it. From now on I go at this pastime seriously. I make it my lifework. Who knows?” he murmured, with a sudden gleam in his eyes. “The Amateur Championship⁠—”

“The Open!” I cried, falling gladly into his mood.

“The American Amateur,” said Chester, flushing.

“The American Open,” I chorused.

“No one has ever copped all four.”

“No one.”

“Watch me!” said Chester Meredith, simply.

It was about two weeks after this that I happened to look in on Chester at his house one morning. I found him about to start for the links. As he had foreshadowed in the conversation which I have just related, he now spent most of the daylight hours on the course. In these two weeks he had gone about his task of achieving perfection with a furious energy which made him the talk of the club. Always one of the best players in the place, he had developed an astounding brilliance. Men who had played him level were now obliged to receive two and even three strokes. The pro himself, conceding one, had only succeeded in halving their match. The struggle for the President’s Cup came round once more, and Chester won it for the second time with ridiculous ease.

When I arrived, he was practising chip-shots in his sitting-room. I noticed that he seemed to be labouring under some strong emotion, and his first words gave me the clue.

“She’s going away tomorrow,” he said, abruptly, lofting a ball over the whatnot on to the Chesterfield.

I was not sure whether I was sorry or relieved. Her absence would leave a terrible blank, of course, but it might be that it would help him to get over his infatuation.

“Ah!” I said, non-committally.

Chester addressed his ball with a well-assumed phlegm, but I could see by the way his ears wiggled that he was feeling deeply. I was not surprised when he topped his shot into the coal-scuttle.

“She has promised to play a last round with me this morning,” he said.

Again I was doubtful what view to take. It was a pretty, poetic idea, not unlike Browning’s “Last Ride Together,” but I was not sure if it was altogether wise. However, it was none of my business, so I merely patted him on the shoulder and he gathered up his clubs and went off.

Owing to motives of delicacy I had not offered to accompany him on his round, and it was not till later that I learned the actual details of what occurred. At the start, it seems, the spiritual anguish which he was suffering had a depressing effect on his game. He hooked his drive off the first tee and was only enabled to get a five by means of a strong niblick shot out of the rough. At the second, the lake hole, he lost a ball in the water and got another five. It was only at the third that he began to pull himself together.

The test of a great golfer is his ability to recover from a bad start. Chester had this quality to a preeminent degree. A lesser man, conscious of being three over bogey for the first two holes, might have looked on his round as ruined. To Chester it simply meant that he had to get a couple of “birdies” right speedily, and he set about it at once. Always a long driver he excelled himself at the third. It is, as you know, an uphill hole all the way, but his drive could not have come far short of two hundred and fifty yards. A brassie-shot of equal strength and unerring direction put him on the edge of the green, and he holed out with a long putt two under bogey. He had hoped for a “birdie” and he had achieved an “eagle.”

I think that this splendid feat must have softened Felicia’s heart, had it not been for the fact that misery had by this time entirely robbed Chester of the ability to smile. Instead, therefore, of behaving in the wholesome, natural way of men who get threes at bogey five holes, he preserved a drawn, impassive countenance; and as she watched him tee up her ball, stiff, correct, polite, but to all outward appearance absolutely inhuman, the girl found herself stifling that thrill of what for a moment had been almost adoration. It was, she felt, exactly how her brother Crispin would have comported himself if he had done a hole in two under bogey.

And yet she could not altogether check a wistful sigh when, after a couple of fours at the next two holes, he picked up another stroke on the sixth and with an inspired spoon-shot brought his medal-score down to one better than bogey by getting a two at the hundred-and-seventy-yard seventh. But the brief spasm of tenderness passed, and when he finished the first nine with two more fours she refrained from anything warmer than a mere word of stereotyped congratulation.

“One under bogey for the first nine,” she said. “Splendid!”

“One under bogey!” said Chester, woodenly.

“Out in thirty-four. What is the record for the course?”

Chester started. So great had been his preoccupation that he had not given a thought to the course record. He suddenly realized now that the pro, who had done the lowest medal-score to date⁠—the other course record was held by Peter Willard with a hundred and sixty-one, achieved in his first season⁠—had gone out in only one better than his own figures that day.

“Sixty-eight,” he said.

“What a pity you lost those strokes at the beginning!”

“Yes,” said Chester.

He spoke absently⁠—and, as it seemed to her, primly and without enthusiasm⁠—for the flaming idea of having a go at the course record had only just occurred to him. Once before he had done the first nine in thirty-four, but on that occasion he had not felt that curious feeling of irresistible force which comes to a golfer at the very top of his form. Then he had been aware all the time that he had been putting chancily. They had gone in, yes, but he had uttered a prayer per putt. Today he was superior to any weak doubtings. When he tapped the ball on the green, he knew it was going to sink. The course record? Why not? What a last offering to lay at her feet! She would go away, out of his life forever; she would marry some other bird; but the memory of that supreme round would remain with her as long as she breathed. When he won the Open and Amateur for the second⁠—the third⁠—the fourth time, she would say to herself, “I was with him when he dented the record for his home course!” And he had only to pick up a couple of strokes on the last nine, to do threes at holes where he was wont to be satisfied with fours. Yes, by Vardon, he would take a whirl at it.

You, who are acquainted with these links, will no doubt say that the task which Chester Meredith had sketched out for himself⁠—cutting two strokes off thirty-five for the second nine⁠—was one at which Humanity might well shudder. The pro himself, who had finished sixth in the last Open Championship, had never done better than a thirty-five, playing perfect golf and being one under bogey. But such was Chester’s mood that, as he teed up on the tenth, he did not even consider the possibility of failure. Every muscle in his body was working in perfect coordination with its fellows, his wrists felt as if they were made of tempered steel, and his eyes had just that hawk-like quality which enables a man to judge his short approaches to the inch. He swung forcefully, and the ball sailed so close to the direction-post that for a moment it seemed as if it had hit it.

“Oo!” cried Felicia.

Chester did not speak. He was following the flight of the ball. It sailed over the brow of the hill, and with his knowledge of the course he could tell almost the exact patch of turf on which it must have come to rest. An iron would do the business from there, and a single putt would give him the first of the “birdies” he required. Two minutes later he had holed out a six-foot putt for a three.

“Oo!” said Felicia again.

Chester walked to the eleventh tee in silence.

“No, never mind,” she said, as he stooped to put her ball on the sand. “I don’t think I’ll play any more. I’d much rather just watch you.”

“Oh, that you could watch me through life!” said Chester, but he said it to himself. His actual words were “Very well!” and he spoke them with a stiff coldness which chilled the girl.

The eleventh is one of the trickiest holes on the course, as no doubt you have found out for yourself. It looks absurdly simple, but that little patch of wood on the right that seems so harmless is placed just in the deadliest position to catch even the most slightly sliced drive. Chester’s lacked the austere precision of his last. A hundred yards from the tee it swerved almost imperceptibly, and, striking a branch, fell in the tangled undergrowth. It took him two strokes to hack it out and put it on the green, and then his long putt, after quivering on the edge of the hole, stayed there. For a swift instant red-hot words rose to his lips, but he caught them just as they were coming out and crushed them back. He looked at his ball and he looked at the hole.

“Tut!” said Chester.

Felicia uttered a deep sigh. That niblick-shot out of the rough had impressed her profoundly. If only, she felt, this superb golfer had been more human! Already, after watching him play the last nine holes, she had picked up more pointers about the game than the pro of her home club had been able to teach her in six months. If only she were able to be constantly in this man’s society, to see exactly what it was that he did with his left wrist that gave that terrific snap to his drives, she might acquire the knack herself one of these days. For she was a clear-thinking, honest girl, and thoroughly realized that she did not get the distance she ought to with her wood. With a husband like Chester beside her to stimulate and advise, of what might she not be capable? If she got wrong in her stance, he could put her right with a word. If she had a bout of slicing, how quickly he would tell her what caused it. And she knew that she had only to speak a word to wipe out the effects of her refusal, to bring him to her side forever.

But could a girl pay such a price? When he had got that “eagle” on the third, he had looked bored. When he had missed this last putt, he had not seemed to care. “Tut!” What a word to use at such a moment! No, she felt sadly, it could not be done. To marry Chester Meredith, she told herself, would be like marrying a composite of Soames Forsyte, Sir Willoughby Patterne, and all her brother Crispin’s friends. She sighed and was silent.

Chester, standing on the twelfth tee, reviewed the situation swiftly, like a general before a battle. There were seven holes to play, and he had to do these in two better than bogey. The one that faced him now offered few opportunities. It was a long, slogging, dogleg hole, and even Ray and Taylor, when they had played their exhibition game on the course, had taken fives. No opening there.

The thirteenth⁠—up a steep hill with a long iron-shot for one’s second and a blind green fringed with bunkers? Scarcely practicable to hope for better than a four. The fourteenth⁠—into the valley with the ground sloping sharply down to the ravine? He had once done it in three, but it had been a fluke. No; on these three holes he must be content to play for a steady bogey and trust to picking up a stroke on the fifteenth.

The fifteenth, straightforward up to the plateau green with its circle of bunkers, presents few difficulties to the finished golfer who is on his game. A bunker meant nothing to Chester in his present conquering vein. His mashie-shot second soared almost contemptuously over the chasm and rolled to within a foot of the pin. He came to the sixteenth with the clear-cut problem before him of snipping two strokes off bogey on the last three holes.

To the unthinking man, not acquainted with the layout of our links, this would no doubt appear a tremendous feat. But the fact is, the Green Committee, with perhaps an unduly sentimental bias towards the happy ending, have arranged a comparatively easy finish to the course. The sixteenth is a perfectly plain hole with broad fairway and a downhill run; the seventeenth, a one-shot affair with no difficulties for the man who keeps them straight; and the eighteenth, though its uphill run makes it deceptive to the stranger and leads the unwary to take a mashie instead of a light iron for his second, has no real venom in it. Even Peter Willard has occasionally come home in a canter with a six, five, and seven, conceding himself only two eight-foot putts. It is, I think, this mild conclusion to a tough course that makes the refreshment-room of our club so noticeable for its sea of happy faces. The bar every day is crowded with rejoicing men who, forgetting the agonies of the first fifteen, are babbling of what they did on the last three. The seventeenth, with its possibilities of holing out a topped second, is particularly soothing.

Chester Meredith was not the man to top his second on any hole, so this supreme bliss did not come his way; but he laid a beautiful mashie-shot dead and got a three; and when with his iron he put his first well on the green at the seventeenth and holed out for a two, life, for all his broken heart, seemed pretty tolerable. He now had the situation well in hand. He had only to play his usual game to get a four on the last and lower the course record by one stroke.

It was at this supreme moment of his life that he ran into the Wrecking Crew.

You doubtless find it difficult to understand how it came about that if the Wrecking Crew were on the course at all he had not run into them long before. The explanation is that, with a regard for the etiquette of the game unusual in these miserable men, they had for once obeyed the law that enacts that foursomes shall start at the tenth. They had begun their dark work on the second nine, accordingly, at almost the exact moment when Chester Meredith was driving off at the first, and this had enabled them to keep ahead until now. When Chester came to the eighteenth tee, they were just leaving it, moving up the fairway with their caddies in mass formation and looking to his exasperated eye like one of those great race-migrations of the Middle Ages. Wherever Chester looked he seemed to see human, so to speak, figures. One was doddering about in the long grass fifty yards from the tee, others debouched to left and right. The course was crawling with them.

Chester sat down on the bench with a weary sigh. He knew these men. Self-centred, remorseless, deaf to all the promptings of their better nature, they never let anyone through. There was nothing to do but wait.

The Wrecking Crew scratched on. The man near the tee rolled his ball ten yards, then twenty, then thirty⁠—he was improving. Ere long he would be out of range. Chester rose and swished his driver.

But the end was not yet. The individual operating in the rough on the left had been advancing in slow stages, and now, finding his ball teed up on a tuft of grass, he opened his shoulders and let himself go. There was a loud report, and the ball, hitting a tree squarely, bounded back almost to the tee, and all the weary work was to do again. By the time Chester was able to drive, he was reduced by impatience, and the necessity of refraining from commenting on the state of affairs as he would have wished to comment, to a frame of mind in which no man could have kept himself from pressing. He pressed, and topped. The ball skidded over the turf for a meagre hundred yards.

“D-d-d-dear me!” said Chester.

The next moment he uttered a bitter laugh. Too late a miracle had happened. One of the foul figures in front was waving its club. Other ghastly creatures were withdrawing to the side of the fairway. Now, when the harm had been done, these outcasts were signalling to him to go through. The hollow mockery of the thing swept over Chester like a wave. What was the use of going through now? He was a good three hundred yards from the green, and he needed bogey at this hole to break the record. Almost absently he drew his brassie from his bag; then, as the full sense of his wrongs bit into his soul, he swung viciously.

Golf is a strange game. Chester had pressed on the tee and foozled. He pressed now, and achieved the most perfect shot of his life. The ball shot from its place as if a charge of powerful explosive were behind it. Never deviating from a straight line, never more than six feet from the ground, it sailed up the hill, crossed the bunker, eluded the mounds beyond, struck the turf, rolled, and stopped fifty feet from the hole. It was the brassie-shot of a lifetime, and shrill senile yippings of excitement and congratulation floated down from the Wrecking Crew. For, degraded though they were, these men were not wholly devoid of human instincts.

Chester drew a deep breath. His ordeal was over. That third shot, which would lay the ball right up to the pin, was precisely the sort of thing he did best. Almost from boyhood he had been a wizard at the short approach. He could hole out in two now on his left ear. He strode up the hill to his ball. It could not have been lying better. Two inches away there was a nasty cup in the turf; but it had avoided this and was sitting nicely perched up, smiling an invitation to the mashie-niblick. Chester shuffled his feet and eyed the flag keenly. Then he stooped to play, and Felicia watched him breathlessly. Her whole being seemed to be concentrated on him. She had forgotten everything save that she was seeing a course record get broken. She could not have been more wrapped up in his success if she had had large sums of money on it.

The Wrecking Crew, meanwhile, had come to life again. They had stopped twittering about Chester’s brassie-shot and were thinking of resuming their own game. Even in foursomes where fifty yards is reckoned a good shot somebody must be away, and the man whose turn it was to play was the one who had acquired from his brother-members of the club the nickname of the First Gravedigger.

A word about the human wen. He was⁠—if there can be said to be grades in such a subspecies⁠—the star performer of the Wrecking Crew. The lunches of fifty-seven years had caused his chest to slip down into the mezzanine floor, but he was still a powerful man, and had in his youth been a hammer-thrower of some repute. He differed from his colleagues⁠—the Man With the Hoe, Old Father Time, and Consul, the Almost Human⁠—in that, while they were content to peck cautiously at the ball, he never spared himself in his efforts to do it a violent injury. Frequently he had cut a blue dot almost in half with his niblick. He was completely muscle-bound, so that he seldom achieved anything beyond a series of chasms in the turf, but he was always trying, and it was his secret belief that, given two or three miracles happening simultaneously, he would one of these days bring off a snifter. Years of disappointment had, however, reduced the flood of hope to a mere trickle, and when he took his brassie now and addressed the ball he had no immediate plans beyond a vague intention of rolling the thing a few yards farther up the hill.

The fact that he had no business to play at all till Chester had holed out did not occur to him; and even if it had occurred he would have dismissed the objection as finicking. Chester, bending over his ball, was nearly two hundred yards away⁠—or the distance of three full brassie-shots. The First Gravedigger did not hesitate. He whirled up his club as in distant days he had been wont to swing the hammer, and, with the grunt which this performance always wrung from him, brought it down.

Golfers⁠—and I stretch this term to include the Wrecking Crew⁠—are a highly imitative race. The spectacle of a flubber flubbing ahead of us on the fairway inclines to make us flub as well; and, conversely, it is immediately after we have seen a magnificent shot that we are apt to eclipse ourselves. Consciously the Gravedigger had no notion how Chester had made that superb brassie-biff of his, but all the while I suppose his subconscious self had been taking notes. At any rate, on this one occasion he, too, did the shot of a lifetime. As he opened his eyes, which he always shut tightly at the moment of impact, and started to unravel himself from the complicated tangle in which his follow-through had left him, he perceived the ball breasting the hill like some untamed jackrabbit of the Californian prairie.

For a moment his only emotion was one of dreamlike amazement. He stood looking at the ball with a wholly impersonal wonder, like a man suddenly confronted with some terrific work of Nature. Then, as a sleepwalker awakens, he came to himself with a start. Directly in front of the flying pilule was a man bending to make an approach-shot.

Chester, always a concentrated golfer when there was man’s work to do, had scarcely heard the crack of the brassie behind him. Certainly he had paid no attention to it. His whole mind was fixed on his stroke. He measured with his eye the distance to the pin, noted the down-slope of the green, and shifted his stance a little to allow for it. Then, with a final swift waggle, he laid his club-head behind the ball and slowly raised it. It was just coming down when the world became full of shouts of “Fore!” and something hard smote him violently on the seat of his plus-fours.

The supreme tragedies of life leave us momentarily stunned. For an instant which seemed an age Chester could not understand what had happened. True, he realized that there had been an earthquake, a cloudburst, and a railway accident, and that a high building had fallen on him at the exact moment when somebody had shot him with a gun, but these happenings would account for only a small part of his sensations. He blinked several times, and rolled his eyes wildly. And it was while rolling them that he caught sight of the gesticulating Wrecking Crew on the lower slopes and found enlightenment. Simultaneously, he observed his ball only a yard and a half from where it had been when he addressed it.

Chester Meredith gave one look at his ball, one look at the flag, one look at the Wrecking Crew, one look at the sky. His lips writhed, his forehead turned vermilion. Beads of perspiration started out on his forehead. And then, with his whole soul seething like a cistern struck by a thunderbolt, he spoke.

“! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !” cried Chester.

Dimly he was aware of a wordless exclamation from the girl beside him, but he was too distraught to think of her now. It was as if all the oaths pent up within his bosom for so many weary days were struggling and jostling to see which could get out first. They cannoned into each other, they linked hands and formed parties, they got themselves all mixed up in weird vowel-sounds, the second syllable of some red-hot verb forming a temporary union with the first syllable of some blistering noun.

“⁠—!⁠—!!⁠—!!!⁠—!!!!⁠—!!!!!” cried Chester.

Felicia stood staring at him. In her eyes was the look of one who sees visions.

“ *** !!! *** !!! *** !!! *** !!!” roared Chester, in part.

A great wave of emotion flooded over the girl. How she had misjudged this silver-tongued man! She shivered as she thought that, had this not happened, in another five minutes they would have parted forever, sundered by seas of misunderstanding, she cold and scornful, he with all his music still within him.

“Oh, Mr. Meredith!” she cried, faintly.

With a sickening abruptness Chester came to himself. It was as if somebody had poured a pint of ice-cold water down his back. He blushed vividly. He realized with horror and shame how grossly he had offended against all the canons of decency and good taste. He felt like the man in one of those “What Is Wrong With This Picture?” things in the advertisements of the etiquette-books.

“I beg⁠—I beg your pardon!” he mumbled, humbly. “Please, please, forgive me. I should not have spoken like that.”

“You should! You should!” cried the girl, passionately. “You should have said all that and a lot more. That awful man ruining your record round like that! Oh, why am I a poor weak woman with practically no vocabulary that’s any use for anything?”

Quite suddenly, without knowing that she had moved, she found herself at his side, holding his hand.

“Oh, to think how I misjudged you!” she wailed. “I thought you cold, stiff, formal, precise. I hated the way you sniggered when you foozled a shot. I see it all now! You were keeping it in for my sake. Can you ever forgive me?”

Chester, as I have said, was not a very quick-minded young man, but it would have taken a duller youth than he to fail to read the message in the girl’s eyes, to miss the meaning of the pressure of her hand on his.

“My gosh!” he exclaimed, wildly. “Do you mean⁠—? Do you think⁠—? Do you really⁠—? Honestly, has this made a difference? Is there any chance for a fellow, I mean?”

Her eyes helped him on. He felt suddenly confident and masterful.

“Look here⁠—no kidding⁠—will you marry me?” he said.

“I will! I will!”

“Darling!” cried Chester.

He would have said more, but at this point he was interrupted by the arrival of the Wrecking Crew, who panted up full of apologies; and Chester, as he eyed them, thought that he had never seen a nicer, cheerier, pleasanter lot of fellows in his life. His heart warmed to them. He made a mental resolve to hunt them up some time and have a good long talk. He waved the Gravedigger’s remorse airily aside.

“Don’t mention it,” he said. “Not at all. Faults on both sides. By the way, my fiancée, Miss Blakeney.”

The Wrecking Crew puffed acknowledgment.

“But, my dear fellow,” said the Gravedigger, “it was⁠—really it was⁠—unforgivable. Spoiling your shot. Never dreamed I would send the ball that distance. Lucky you weren’t playing an important match.”

“But he was,” moaned Felicia. “He was trying for the course record, and now he can’t break it.”

The Wrecking Crew paled behind their whiskers, aghast at this tragedy, but Chester, glowing with the yeasty intoxication of love, laughed lightly.

“What do you mean, can’t break it?” he cried, cheerily. “I’ve one more shot.”

And, carelessly addressing the ball, he holed out with a light flick of his mashie-niblick.

“Chester, darling!” said Felicia.

They were walking slowly through a secluded glade in the quiet evenfall.

“Yes, precious?”

Felicia hesitated. What she was going to say would hurt him, she knew, and her love was so great that to hurt him was agony.

“Do you think⁠—” she began. “I wonder whether⁠—It’s about Crispin.”

“Good old Crispin!”

Felicia sighed, but the matter was too vital to be shirked. Cost what it might, she must speak her mind.

“Chester, darling, when we are married, would you mind very, very much if we didn’t have Crispin with us all the time?”

Chester started.

“Good Lord!” he exclaimed. “Don’t you like him?”

“Not very much,” confessed Felicia. “I don’t think I’m clever enough for him. I’ve rather disliked him ever since we were children. But I know what a friend he is of yours⁠—”

Chester uttered a joyous laugh.

“Friend of mine! Why, I can’t stand the blighter! I loathe the worm! I abominate the excrescence! I only pretended we were friends because I thought it would put me in solid with you. The man is a pest and should have been strangled at birth. At school I used to kick him every time I saw him. If your brother Crispin tries so much as to set foot across the threshold of our little home, I’ll set the dog on him.”

“My hero!” whispered Felicia. “We shall be very, very happy.” She drew her arm through his. “Tell me, dearest,” she murmured, “all about how you used to kick Crispin at school.”

And together they wandered off into the sunset.

The Magic Plus Fours

“After all,” said the young man, “golf is only a game.”

He spoke bitterly and with the air of one who has been following a train of thought. He had come into the smoking-room of the clubhouse in low spirits at the dusky close of a November evening, and for some minutes had been sitting, silent and moody, staring at the log fire.

“Merely a pastime,” said the young man.

The Oldest Member, nodding in his armchair, stiffened with horror, and glanced quickly over his shoulder to make sure that none of the waiters had heard these terrible words.

“Can this be George William Pennefather speaking!” he said, reproachfully. “My boy, you are not yourself.”

The young man flushed a little beneath his tan: for he had had a good upbringing and was not bad at heart.

“Perhaps I ought not to have gone quite so far as that,” he admitted. “I was only thinking that a fellow’s got no right, just because he happens to have come on a bit in his form lately, to treat a fellow as if a fellow was a leper or something.”

The Oldest Member’s face cleared, and he breathed a relieved sigh.

“Ah! I see,” he said. “You spoke hastily and in a sudden fit of pique because something upset you out on the links today. Tell me all. Let me see, you were playing with Nathaniel Frisby this afternoon, were you not? I gather that he beat you.”

“Yes, he did. Giving me a third. But it isn’t being beaten that I mind. What I object to is having the blighter behave as if he were a sort of champion condescending to a mere mortal. Dash it, it seemed to bore him playing with me. Every time I sliced off the tee he looked at me as if I were a painful ordeal. Twice when I was having a bit of trouble in the bushes I caught him yawning. And after we had finished he started talking about what a good game croquet was, and he wondered more people didn’t take it up. And it’s only a month or so ago that I could play the man level!”

The Oldest Member shook his snowy head sadly.

“There is nothing to be done about it,” he said. “We can only hope that the poison will in time work its way out of the man’s system. Sudden success at golf is like the sudden acquisition of wealth. It is apt to unsettle and deteriorate the character. And, as it comes almost miraculously, so only a miracle can effect a cure. The best advice I can give you is to refrain from playing with Nathaniel Frisby till you can keep your tee-shots straight.”

“Oh, but don’t run away with the idea that I wasn’t pretty good off the tee this afternoon!” said the young man. “I should like to describe to you the shot I did on the⁠—”

“Meanwhile,” proceeded the Oldest Member, “I will relate to you a little story which bears on what I have been saying.”

“From the very moment I addressed the ball⁠—”

“It is the story of two loving hearts temporarily estranged owing to the sudden and unforeseen proficiency of one of the couple⁠—”

“I waggled quickly and strongly, like Duncan. Then, swinging smoothly back, rather in the Vardon manner⁠—”

“But as I see,” said the Oldest Member, “that you are all impatience for me to begin, I will do so without further preamble.”

To the philosophical student of golf like myself (said the Oldest Member) perhaps the most outstanding virtue of this noble pursuit is the fact that it is a medicine for the soul. Its great service to humanity is that it teaches human beings that, whatever petty triumphs they may have achieved in other walks of life, they are after all merely human. It acts as a corrective against sinful pride. I attribute the insane arrogance of the later Roman emperors almost entirely to the fact that, never having played golf, they never knew that strange, chastening humility which is engendered by a topped chip-shot. If Cleopatra had been outed in the first round of the Ladies’ Singles, we should have heard a lot less of her proud imperiousness. And, coming down to modern times, it was undoubtedly his rotten golf that kept Wallace Chesney the nice unspoiled fellow he was. For in every other respect he had everything in the world calculated to make a man conceited and arrogant. He was the best-looking man for miles around; his health was perfect; and in addition to this he was rich; danced, rode, played bridge and polo with equal skill; and was engaged to be married to Charlotte Dix. And when you saw Charlotte Dix you realized that being engaged to her would by itself have been quite enough luck for any one man.

But Wallace, as I say, despite all his advantages, was a thoroughly nice, modest young fellow. And I attribute this to the fact that, while one of the keenest golfers in the club, he was also one of the worst players. Indeed, Charlotte Dix used to say to me in his presence that she could not understand why people paid money to go to the circus when by merely walking over the brow of a hill they could watch Wallace Chesney trying to get out of the bunker by the eleventh green. And Wallace took the gibe with perfect good humour, for there was a delightful camaraderie between them which robbed it of any sting. Often at lunch in the clubhouse I used to hear him and Charlotte planning the handicapping details of a proposed match between Wallace and a nonexistent cripple whom Charlotte claimed to have discovered in the village⁠—it being agreed finally that he should accept seven bisques from the cripple, but that, if the latter ever recovered the use of his arms, Wallace should get a stroke a hole.

In short, a thoroughly happy and united young couple. Two hearts, if I may coin an expression, that beat as one.

I would not have you misjudge Wallace Chesney. I may have given you the impression that his attitude towards golf was light and frivolous, but such was not the case. As I have said, he was one of the keenest members of the club. Love made him receive the joshing of his fiancée in the kindly spirit in which it was meant, but at heart he was as earnest as you could wish. He practised early and late; he bought golf books; and the mere sight of a patent club of any description acted on him like catnip on a cat. I remember remonstrating with him on the occasion of his purchasing a wooden-faced driving-mashie which weighed about two pounds, and was, taking it for all in all, as foul an instrument as ever came out of the workshop of a clubmaker who had been dropped on the head by his nurse when a baby.

“I know, I know,” he said, when I had finished indicating some of the weapon’s more obvious defects. “But the point is, I believe in it. It gives me confidence. I don’t believe you could slice with a thing like that if you tried.”

Confidence! That was what Wallace Chesney lacked, and that, as he saw it, was the prime grand secret of golf. Like an alchemist on the track of the Philosopher’s Stone, he was forever seeking for something which would really give him confidence. I recollect that he even tried repeating to himself fifty times every morning the words, “Every day in every way I grow better and better.” This, however, proved such a black lie that he gave it up. The fact is, the man was a visionary, and it is to auto-hypnosis of some kind that I attribute the extraordinary change that came over him at the beginning of his third season.

You may have noticed in your perambulations about the City a shop bearing above its door and upon its windows the legend:⁠—

Cohen Bros.,

Secondhand Clothiers,

a statement which is borne out by endless vistas seen through the door of every variety of what is technically known as Gents’ Wear. But the Brothers Cohen, though their main stock-in-trade is garments which have been rejected by their owners for one reason or another, do not confine their dealings to Gents’ Wear. The place is a museum of derelict goods of every description. You can get a secondhand revolver there, or a secondhand sword, or a secondhand umbrella. You can do a cheap deal in field-glasses, trunks, dog collars, canes, photograph frames, attaché cases, and bowls for goldfish. And on the bright spring morning when Wallace Chesney happened to pass by there was exhibited in the window a putter of such preeminently lunatic design that he stopped dead as if he had run into an invisible wall, and then, panting like an overwrought fish, charged in through the door.

The shop was full of the Cohen family, sombre-eyed, smileless men with purposeful expressions; and two of these, instantly descending upon Wallace Chesney like leopards, began in swift silence to thrust him into a suit of yellow tweed. Having worked the coat over his shoulders with a shoehorn, they stood back to watch the effect.

“A beautiful fit,” announced Isidore Cohen.

“A little snug under the arms,” said his brother Irving. “But that’ll give.”

“The warmth of the body will make it give,” said Isidore.

“Or maybe you’ll lose weight in the summer,” said Irving.

Wallace, when he had struggled out of the coat and was able to breathe, said that he had come in to buy a putter. Isidore thereupon sold him the putter, a dog collar, and a set of studs, and Irving sold him a fireman’s helmet: and he was about to leave when their elder brother Lou, who had just finished fitting out another customer, who had come in to buy a cap, with two pairs of trousers and a miniature aquarium for keeping newts in, saw that business was in progress and strolled up. His fathomless eye rested on Wallace, who was toying feebly with the putter.

“You play golf?” asked Lou. “Then looka here!”

He dived into an alleyway of dead clothing, dug for a moment, and emerged with something at the sight of which Wallace Chesney, hardened golfer that he was, blenched and threw up an arm defensively.

“No, no!” he cried.

The object which Lou Cohen was waving insinuatingly before his eyes was a pair of those golfing breeches which are technically known as Plus Fours. A player of two years’ standing, Wallace Chesney was not unfamiliar with Plus Fours⁠—all the club cracks wore them⁠—but he had never seen Plus Fours like these. What might be termed the main motif of the fabric was a curious vivid pink, and with this to work on the architect had let his imagination run free, and had produced so much variety in the way of chessboard squares of white, yellow, violet, and green that the eye swam as it looked upon them.

“These were made to measure for Sandy McHoots, the Open Champion,” said Lou, stroking the left leg lovingly. “But he sent ’em back for some reason or other.”

“Perhaps they frightened the children,” said Wallace, recollecting having heard that Mr. McHoots was a married man.

“They’ll fit you nice,” said Lou.

“Sure they’ll fit him nice,” said Isidore, warmly.

“Why, just take a look at yourself in the glass,” said Irving, “and see if they don’t fit you nice.”

And, as one who wakes from a trance, Wallace discovered that his lower limbs were now encased in the prismatic garment. At what point in the proceedings the brethren had slipped them on him, he could not have said. But he was undeniably in.

Wallace looked in the glass. For a moment, as he eyed his reflection, sheer horror gripped him. Then suddenly, as he gazed, he became aware that his first feelings were changing. The initial shock over, he was becoming calmer. He waggled his right leg with a certain sangfroid.

There is a certain passage in the works of the poet Pope with which you may be familiar. It runs as follows:⁠—

“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”

Even so was it with Wallace Chesney and these Plus Fours. At first he had recoiled from them as any decent-minded man would have done. Then, after a while, almost abruptly he found himself in the grip of a new emotion. After an unsuccessful attempt to analyse this, he suddenly got it. Amazing as it may seem, it was pleasure that he felt. He caught his eye in the mirror, and it was smirking. Now that the things were actually on, by Hutchinson, they didn’t look half bad. By Braid, they didn’t. There was a sort of something about them. Take away that expanse of bare leg with its unsightly sock-suspender and substitute a woolly stocking, and you would have the lower section of a golfer. For the first time in his life, he thought, he looked like a man who could play golf.

There came to him an odd sensation of masterfulness. He was still holding the putter, and now he swung it up above his shoulder. A fine swing, all lissomeness and supple grace, quite different from any swing he had ever done before.

Wallace Chesney gasped. He knew that at last he had discovered that prime grand secret of golf for which he had searched so long. It was the costume that did it. All you had to do was wear Plus Fours. He had always hitherto played in grey flannel trousers. Naturally he had not been able to do himself justice. Golf required an easy dash, and how could you be easily dashing in concertina-shaped trousers with a patch on the knee? He saw now⁠—what he had never seen before⁠—that it was not because they were crack players that crack players wore Plus Fours: it was because they wore Plus Fours that they were crack players. And these Plus Fours had been the property of an Open Champion. Wallace Chesney’s bosom swelled, and he was filled, as by some strange gas, with joy⁠—with excitement⁠—with confidence. Yes, for the first time in his golfing life, he felt really confident.

True, the things might have been a shade less gaudy: they might perhaps have hit the eye with a slightly less violent punch: but what of that? True, again, he could scarcely hope to avoid the censure of his club-mates when he appeared like this on the links: but what of that? His club-mates must set their teeth and learn to bear these Plus Fours like men. That was what Wallace Chesney thought about it. If they did not like his Plus Fours, let them go and play golf somewhere else.

“How much?” he muttered, thickly. And the Brothers Cohen clustered grimly round with notebooks and pencils.

In predicting a stormy reception for his new apparel, Wallace Chesney had not been unduly pessimistic. The moment he entered the clubhouse Disaffection reared its ugly head. Friends of years’ standing called loudly for the committee, and there was a small and vehement party of the left wing, headed by Raymond Gandle, who was an artist by profession, and consequently had a sensitive eye, which advocated the tearing off and public burial of the obnoxious garment. But, prepared as he had been for some such demonstration on the part of the coarser-minded, Wallace had hoped for better things when he should meet Charlotte Dix, the girl who loved him. Charlotte, he had supposed, would understand and sympathize.

Instead of which, she uttered a piercing cry and staggered to a bench, whence a moment later she delivered her ultimatum.

“Quick!” she said. “Before I have to look again.”

“What do you mean?”

“Pop straight back into the changing-room while I’ve got my eyes shut, and remove the fancy-dress.”

“What’s wrong with them?”

“Darling,” said Charlotte, “I think it’s sweet and patriotic of you to be proud of your cycling club colours or whatever they are, but you mustn’t wear them on the links. It will unsettle the caddies.”

“They are a trifle on the bright side,” admitted Wallace. “But it helps my game, wearing them. I was trying a few practice-shots just now, and I couldn’t go wrong. Slammed the ball on the meat every time. They inspire me, if you know what I mean. Come on, let’s be starting.”

Charlotte opened her eyes incredulously.

“You can’t seriously mean that you’re really going to play in⁠—those? It’s against the rules. There must be a rule somewhere in the book against coming out looking like a sunset. Won’t you go and burn them for my sake?”

“But I tell you they give me confidence. I sort of squint down at them when I’m addressing the ball, and I feel like a pro.”

“Then the only thing to do is for me to play you for them. Come on, Wally, be a sportsman. I’ll give you a half and play you for the whole outfit⁠—the breeches, the red jacket, the little cap, and the belt with the snake’s-head buckle. I’m sure all those things must have gone with the breeches. Is it a bargain?”

Strolling on the clubhouse terrace some two hours later, Raymond Gandle encountered Charlotte and Wallace coming up from the eighteenth green.

“Just the girl I wanted to see,” said Raymond. “Miss Dix, I represent a select committee of my fellow-members, and I have come to ask you on their behalf to use the influence of a good woman to induce Wally to destroy those Plus Fours of his, which we all consider nothing short of Bolshevik propaganda and a menace to the public weal. May I rely on you?”

“You may not,” retorted Charlotte. “They are the poor boy’s mascot. You’ve no idea how they have improved his game. He has just beaten me hollow. I am going to try to learn to bear them, so you must. Really, you’ve no notion how he has come on. My cripple won’t be able to give him more than a couple of bisques if he keeps up this form.”

“It’s something about the things,” said Wallace. “They give me confidence.”

“They give me a pain in the neck,” said Raymond Gandle.

To the thinking man nothing is more remarkable in this life than the way in which Humanity adjusts itself to conditions which at their outset might well have appeared intolerable. Some great cataclysm occurs, some storm or earthquake, shaking the community to its foundations; and after the first pardonable consternation one finds the sufferers resuming their ordinary pursuits as if nothing had happened. There have been few more striking examples of this adaptability than the behaviour of the members of our golf club under the impact of Wallace Chesney’s Plus Fours. For the first few days it is not too much to say that they were stunned. Nervous players sent their caddies on in front of them at blind holes, so that they might be warned in time of Wallace’s presence ahead and not have him happening to them all of a sudden. And even the pro was not unaffected. Brought up in Scotland in an atmosphere of tartan kilts, he nevertheless winced, and a startled “Hoots!” was forced from his lips when Wallace Chesney suddenly appeared in the valley as he was about to drive from the fifth tee.

But in about a week conditions were back to normalcy. Within ten days the Plus Fours became a familiar feature of the landscape, and were accepted as such without comment. They were pointed out to strangers together with the waterfall, the Lovers’ Leap, and the view from the eighth green as things you ought not to miss when visiting the course; but apart from that one might almost say they were ignored. And meanwhile Wallace Chesney continued day by day to make the most extraordinary progress in his play.

As I said before, and I think you will agree with me when I have told you what happened subsequently, it was probably a case of auto-hypnosis. There is no other sphere in which a belief in oneself has such immediate effects as it has in golf. And Wallace, having acquired self-confidence, went on from strength to strength. In under a week he had ploughed his way through the Unfortunate Incidents⁠—of which class Peter Willard was the best example⁠—and was challenging the fellows who kept three shots in five somewhere on the fairway. A month later he was holding his own with ten-handicap men. And by the middle of the summer he was so far advanced that his name occasionally cropped up in speculative talks on the subject of the July medal. One might have been excused for supposing that, as far as Wallace Chesney was concerned, all was for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

And yet⁠—

The first inkling I received that anything was wrong came through a chance meeting with Raymond Gandle, who happened to pass my gate on his way back from the links just as I drove up in my taxi: for I had been away from home for many weeks on a protracted business tour. I welcomed Gandle’s advent and invited him in to smoke a pipe and put me abreast of local gossip. He came readily enough⁠—and seemed, indeed, to have something on his mind and to be glad of the opportunity of revealing it to a sympathetic auditor.

“And how,” I asked him, when we were comfortably settled, “did your game this afternoon come out?”

“Oh, he beat me,” said Gandle, and it seemed to me that there was a note of bitterness in his voice.

“Then He, whoever he was, must have been an extremely competent performer?” I replied, courteously, for Gandle was one of the finest players in the club. “Unless, of course, you were giving him some impossible handicap.”

“No; we played level.”

“Indeed! Who was your opponent?”


“Wallace Chesney! And he beat you, playing level! This is the most amazing thing I have ever heard.”

“He’s improved out of all knowledge.”

“He must have done. Do you think he would ever beat you again?”

“No. Because he won’t have the chance.”

“You surely do not mean that you will not play him because you are afraid of being beaten?”

“It isn’t being beaten I mind⁠—”

And if I omit to report the remainder of his speech it is not merely because it contained expressions with which I am reluctant to sully my lips, but because, omitting these expletives, what he said was almost word for word what you were saying to me just now about Nathaniel Frisby. It was, it seemed, Wallace Chesney’s manner, his arrogance, his attitude of belonging to some superior order of being that had so wounded Raymond Gandle. Wallace Chesney had, it appeared, criticized Gandle’s mashie-play in no friendly spirit; had hung up the game on the fourteenth tee in order to show him how to place his feet; and on the way back to the clubhouse had said that the beauty of golf was that the best player could enjoy a round even with a dud, because, though there might be no interest in the match, he could always amuse himself by playing for his medal score.

I was profoundly shaken.

“Wallace Chesney!” I exclaimed. “Was it really Wallace Chesney who behaved in the manner you describe?”

“Unless he’s got a twin brother of the same name, it was.”

“Wallace Chesney a victim to swelled head! I can hardly credit it.”

“Well, you needn’t take my word for it unless you want to. Ask anybody. It isn’t often he can get anyone to play with him now.”

“You horrify me!”

Raymond Gandle smoked awhile in brooding silence.

“You’ve heard about his engagement?” he said at length.

“I have heard nothing, nothing. What about his engagement?”

“Charlotte Dix has broken it off.”


“Yes. Couldn’t stand him any longer.”

I got rid of Gandle as soon as I could. I made my way as quickly as possible to the house where Charlotte lived with her aunt. I was determined to sift this matter to the bottom and to do all that lay in my power to heal the breach between two young people for whom I had a great affection.

“I have just heard the news,” I said, when the aunt had retired to some secret lair, as aunts do, and Charlotte and I were alone.

“What news?” said Charlotte, dully. I thought she looked pale and ill, and she had certainly grown thinner.

“This dreadful news about your engagement to Wallace Chesney. Tell me, why did you do this thing? Is there no hope of a reconciliation?”

“Not unless Wally becomes his old self again.”

“But I had always regarded you two as ideally suited to one another.”

“Wally has changed completely in the last few weeks. Haven’t you heard?”

“Only sketchily, from Raymond Gandle.”

“I refuse,” said Charlotte, proudly, all the woman in her leaping to her eyes, “to marry a man who treats me as if I were a kronen at the present rate of exchange, merely because I slice an occasional tee-shot. The afternoon I broke off the engagement”⁠—her voice shook, and I could see that her indifference was but a mask⁠—“the afternoon I broke off the en-gug-gug-gagement, he t-told me I ought to use an iron off the tee instead of a dud-dud-driver.”

And the stricken girl burst into an uncontrollable fit of sobbing. And realizing that, if matters had gone as far as that, there was little I could do, I pressed her hand silently and left her.

But though it seemed hopeless I decided to persevere. I turned my steps towards Wallace Chesney’s bungalow, resolved to make one appeal to the man’s better feelings. He was in his sitting-room when I arrived, polishing a putter: and it seemed significant to me even in that tense moment that the putter was quite an ordinary one, such as any capable player might use. In the brave old happy days of his dudhood, the only putters you ever found in the society of Wallace Chesney were patent self-adjusting things that looked like croquet mallets that had taken the wrong turning in childhood.

“Well, Wallace, my boy,” I said.

“Hallo!” said Wallace Chesney. “So you’re back?”

We fell into conversation, and I had not been in the room two minutes before I realized that what I had been told about the change in him was nothing more than the truth. The man’s bearing and his every remark were insufferably bumptious. He spoke of his prospects in the July medal competition as if the issue were already settled. He scoffed at his rivals.

I had some little difficulty in bringing the talk round to the matter which I had come to discuss.

“My boy,” I said at length, “I have just heard the sad news.”

“What sad news?”

“I have been talking to Charlotte⁠—”

“Oh, that!” said Wallace Chesney.

“She was telling me⁠—”

“Perhaps it’s all for the best.”

“All for the best? What do you mean?”

“Well,” said Wallace, “one doesn’t wish, of course, to say anything ungallant, but, after all, poor Charlotte’s handicap is fourteen and wouldn’t appear to have much chance of getting any lower. I mean, there’s such a thing as a fellow throwing himself away.”

Was I revolted at these callous words? For a moment, yes. Then it struck me that, though he had uttered them with a light laugh, that laugh had had in it more than a touch of bravado. I looked at him keenly. There was a bored, discontented expression in his eyes, a line of pain about his mouth.

“My boy,” I said, gravely, “you are not happy.”

For an instant I think he would have denied the imputation. But my visit had coincided with one of those twilight moods in which a man requires above all else sympathy. He uttered a weary sigh.

“I’m fed up,” he admitted. “It’s a funny thing. When I was a dud, I used to think how perfect it must be to be scratch. I used to watch the cracks buzzing round the course and envy them. It’s all a fraud. The only time when you enjoy golf is when an occasional decent shot is enough to make you happy for the day. I’m plus two, and I’m bored to death. I’m too good. And what’s the result? Everybody’s jealous of me. Everybody’s got it in for me. Nobody loves me.”

His voice rose in a note of anguish, and at the sound his terrier, which had been sleeping on the rug, crept forward and licked his hand.

“The dog loves you,” I said, gently, for I was touched.

“Yes, but I don’t love the dog,” said Wallace Chesney.

“Now come, Wallace,” I said. “Be reasonable, my boy. It is only your unfortunate manner on the links which has made you perhaps a little unpopular at the moment. Why not pull yourself up? Why ruin your whole life with this arrogance? All that you need is a little tact, a little forbearance. Charlotte, I am sure, is just as fond of you as ever, but you have wounded her pride. Why must you be unkind about her tee-shots?”

Wallace Chesney shook his head despondently.

“I can’t help it,” he said. “It exasperates me to see anyone foozling, and I have to say so.”

“Then there is nothing to be done,” I said, sadly.

All the medal competitions at our club are, as you know, important events; but, as you are also aware, none of them is looked forward to so keenly or contested so hotly as the one in July. At the beginning of the year of which I am speaking, Raymond Gandle had been considered the probable winner of the fixture; but as the season progressed and Wallace Chesney’s skill developed to such a remarkable extent most of us were reluctantly inclined to put our money on the latter. Reluctantly, because Wallace’s unpopularity was now so general that the thought of his winning was distasteful to all. It grieved me to see how cold his fellow-members were towards him. He drove off from the first tee without a preliminary handclap; and, though the drive was of admirable quality and nearly carried the green, there was not a single cheer. I noticed Charlotte Dix among the spectators. The poor girl was looking sad and wan.

In the draw for partners Wallace had had Peter Willard allotted to him; and he muttered to me in a quite audible voice that it was as bad as handicapping him half-a-dozen strokes to make him play with such a hopeless performer. I do not think Peter heard, but it would not have made much difference to him if he had, for I doubt if anything could have had much effect for the worse on his game. Peter Willard always entered for the medal competition, because he said that competition-play was good for the nerves.

On this occasion he topped his ball badly, and Wallace lit his pipe with the exaggeratedly patient air of an irritated man. When Peter topped his second also, Wallace was moved to speech.

“For goodness’ sake,” he snapped, “what’s the good of playing at all if you insist on lifting your head? Keep it down, man, keep it down. You don’t need to watch to see where the ball is going. It isn’t likely to go as far as all that. Make up your mind to count three before you look up.”

“Thanks,” said Peter, meekly. There was no pride in Peter to be wounded. He knew the sort of player he was.

The couples were now moving off with smooth rapidity, and the course was dotted with the figures of players and their accompanying spectators. A fair proportion of these latter had decided to follow the fortunes of Raymond Gandle, but by far the larger number were sticking to Wallace, who right from the start showed that Gandle or anyone else would have to return a very fine card to beat him. He was out in forty-one, two above bogey, and with the assistance of a superb second, which landed the ball within a foot of the pin, got a three on the tenth, where a four is considered good. I mention this to show that by the time he arrived at the short lake-hole Wallace Chesney was at the top of his form. Not even the fact that he had been obliged to let the next couple through owing to Peter Willard losing his ball had been enough to upset him.

The course has been rearranged since, but at that time the lake-hole, which is now the second, was the eleventh, and was generally looked on as the crucial hole in a medal round. Wallace no doubt realized this, but the knowledge did not seem to affect him. He lit his pipe with the utmost coolness; and, having replaced the matchbox in his hip-pocket, stood smoking nonchalantly as he waited for the couple in front to get off the green.

They holed out eventually, and Wallace walked to the tee. As he did so, he was startled to receive a resounding smack.

“Sorry,” said Peter Willard, apologetically. “Hope I didn’t hurt you. A wasp.”

And he pointed to the corpse, which was lying in a used-up attitude on the ground.

“Afraid it would sting you,” said Peter.

“Oh, thanks,” said Wallace.

He spoke a little stiffly, for Peter Willard had a large, hard, flat hand, the impact of which had shaken him up considerably. Also, there had been laughter in the crowd. He was fuming as he bent to address his ball, and his annoyance became acute when, just as he reached the top of his swing, Peter Willard suddenly spoke.

“Just a second, old man,” said Peter.

Wallace spun round, outraged.

“What is it? I do wish you would wait till I’ve made my shot.”

“Just as you like,” said Peter, humbly.

“There is no greater crime that a man can commit on the links than to speak to a fellow when he’s making his stroke.”

“Of course, of course,” acquiesced Peter, crushed.

Wallace turned to his ball once more. He was vaguely conscious of a discomfort to which he could not at the moment give a name. At first he thought that he was having a spasm of lumbago, and this surprised him, for he had never in his life been subject to even a suspicion of that malady. A moment later he realized that this diagnosis had been wrong.

“Good heavens!” he cried, leaping nimbly some two feet into the air. “I’m on fire!”

“Yes,” said Peter, delighted at his ready grasp of the situation. “That’s what I wanted to mention just now.”

Wallace slapped vigorously at the seat of his Plus Fours.

“It must have been when I killed that wasp,” said Peter, beginning to see clearly into the matter. “You had a matchbox in your pocket.”

Wallace was in no mood to stop and discuss first causes. He was springing up and down on his pyre, beating at the flames.

“Do you know what I should do if I were you?” said Peter Willard. “I should jump into the lake.”

One of the cardinal rules of golf is that a player shall accept no advice from anyone but his own caddie; but the warmth about his lower limbs had now become so generous that Wallace was prepared to stretch a point. He took three rapid strides and entered the water with a splash.

The lake, though muddy, is not deep, and presently Wallace was to be observed standing up to his waist some few feet from the shore.

“That ought to have put it out,” said Peter Willard. “It was a bit of luck that it happened at this hole.” He stretched out a hand to the bather. “Catch hold, old man, and I’ll pull you out.”

“No!” said Wallace Chesney.

“Why not?”

“Never mind!” said Wallace, austerely. He bent as near to Peter as he was able. “Send a caddie up to the clubhouse to fetch my grey flannel trousers from my locker,” he whispered, tensely.

“Oh, ah!” said Peter.

It was some little time before Wallace, encircled by a group of male spectators, was enabled to change his costume; and during the interval he continued to stand waist-deep in the water, to the chagrin of various couples who came to the tee in the course of their round and complained with not a little bitterness that his presence there added a mental hazard to an already difficult hole. Eventually, however, he found himself back ashore, his ball before him, his mashie in his hand.

“Carry on,” said Peter Willard, as the couple in front left the green. “All clear now.”

Wallace Chesney addressed his ball. And, even as he did so, he was suddenly aware that an odd psychological change had taken place in himself. He was aware of a strange weakness. The charred remains of the Plus Fours were lying under an adjacent bush; and, clad in the old grey flannels of his early golfing days, Wallace felt diffident, feeble, uncertain of himself. It was as though virtue had gone out of him, as if some indispensable adjunct to good play had been removed. His corrugated trouser-leg caught his eye as he waggled, and all at once he became acutely alive to the fact that many eyes were watching him. The audience seemed to press on him like a blanket. He felt as he had been wont to feel in the old days when he had had to drive off the first tee in front of a terrace-full of scoffing critics.

The next moment his ball had bounded weakly over the intervening patch of turf and was in the water.

“Hard luck!” said Peter Willard, ever a generous foe. And the words seemed to touch some almost atrophied chord in Wallace’s breast. A sudden love for his species flooded over him. Dashed decent of Peter, he thought, to sympathize. Peter was a good chap. So were the spectators good chaps. So was everybody, even his caddie.

Peter Willard, as if resolved to make his sympathy practical, also rolled his ball into the lake.

“Hard luck!” said Wallace Chesney, and started as he said it; for many weeks had passed since he had commiserated with an opponent. He felt a changed man. A better, sweeter, kindlier man. It was as if a curse had fallen from him.

He teed up another ball, and swung.

“Hard luck!” said Peter.

“Hard luck!” said Wallace, a moment later.

“Hard luck!” said Peter, a moment after that.

Wallace Chesney stood on the tee watching the spot in the water where his third ball had fallen. The crowd was now openly amused, and, as he listened to their happy laughter, it was borne in upon Wallace that he, too, was amused and happy. A weird, almost effervescent exhilaration filled him. He turned and beamed upon the spectators. He waved his mashie cheerily at them. This, he felt, was something like golf. This was golf as it should be⁠—not the dull, mechanical thing which had bored him during all these past weeks of his perfection, but a gay, rollicking adventure. That was the soul of golf, the thing that made it the wonderful pursuit it was⁠—that speculativeness, that not knowing where the dickens your ball was going when you hit it, that eternal hoping for the best, that never-failing chanciness. It is better to struggle hopefully than to arrive, and at last this great truth had come home to Wallace Chesney. He realized now why pro’s were all grave, silent men who seemed to struggle manfully against some secret sorrow. It was because they were too darned good. Golf had no surprises for them, no gallant spirit of adventure.

“I’m going to get a ball over if I stay here all night,” cried Wallace Chesney, gaily, and the crowd echoed his mirth. On the face of Charlotte Dix was the look of a mother whose prodigal son has rolled into the old home once more. She caught Wallace’s eyes and gesticulated to him blithely.

“The cripple says he’ll give you a stroke a hole, Wally!” she shouted.

“I’m ready for him!” bellowed Wallace.

“Hard luck!” said Peter Willard.

Under their bush the Plus Fours, charred and dripping, lurked unnoticed. But Wallace Chesney saw them. They caught his eye as he sliced his eleventh into the marshes on the right. It seemed to him that they looked sullen. Disappointed. Baffled.

Wallace Chesney was himself again.

The Awakening of Rollo Podmarsh

Down on the new bowling-green behind the clubhouse some sort of competition was in progress. The seats about the smooth strip of turf were crowded, and the weak-minded yapping of the patients made itself plainly audible to the Oldest Member as he sat in his favourite chair in the smoking-room. He shifted restlessly, and a frown marred the placidity of his venerable brow. To the Oldest Member a golf club was a golf club, and he resented the introduction of any alien element. He had opposed the institution of tennis-courts; and the suggestion of a bowling-green had stirred him to his depths.

A young man in spectacles came into the smoking-room. His high forehead was aglow, and he lapped up a ginger-ale with the air of one who considers that he had earned it.

“Capital exercise!” he said, beaming upon the Oldest Member.

The Oldest Member laid down his Vardon on Casual Water, and peered suspiciously at his companion.

“What did you go round in?” he asked.

“Oh, I wasn’t playing golf,” said the young man. “Bowls.”

“A nauseous pursuit!” said the Oldest Member, coldly, and resumed his reading.

The young man seemed nettled.

“I don’t know why you should say that,” he retorted. “It’s a splendid game.”

“I rank it,” said the Oldest Member, “with the juvenile pastime of marbles.”

The young man pondered for some moments.

“Well, anyway,” he said at length, “it was good enough for Drake.”

“As I have not the pleasure of the acquaintance of your friend Drake, I am unable to estimate the value of his endorsement.”

The Drake. The Spanish Armada Drake. He was playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe when they told him that the Armada was in sight. ‘There is time to finish the game,’ he replied. That’s what Drake thought of bowls.”

“If he had been a golfer, he would have ignored the Armada altogether.”

“It’s easy enough to say that,” said the young man, with spirit, “but can the history of golf show a parallel case?”

“A million, I should imagine.”

“But you’ve forgotten them, eh?” said the young man, satirically.

“On the contrary,” said the Oldest Member. “As a typical instance, neither more nor less remarkable than a hundred others, I will select the story of Rollo Podmarsh.” He settled himself comfortably in his chair, and placed the tips of his fingers together. “This Rollo Podmarsh⁠—”

“No, I say!” protested the young man, looking at his watch.

“This Rollo Podmarsh⁠—”

“Yes, but⁠—”

This Rollo Podmarsh (said the Oldest Member) was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and like other young men in that position he had rather allowed a mother’s tender care to take the edge off what you might call his rugged manliness. Not to put too fine a point on it, he had permitted his parent to coddle him ever since he had been in the nursery; and now, in his twenty-eighth year, he invariably wore flannel next his skin, changed his shoes the moment they got wet, and⁠—from September to May, inclusive⁠—never went to bed without partaking of a bowl of hot arrowroot. Not, you would say, the stuff of which heroes are made. But you would be wrong. Rollo Podmarsh was a golfer, and consequently pure gold at heart; and in his hour of crisis all the good in him came to the surface.

In giving you this character-sketch of Rollo, I have been at pains to make it crisp, for I observe that you are wriggling in a restless manner and you persist in pulling out that watch of yours and gazing at it. Let me tell you that, if a mere skeleton outline of the man has this effect upon you, I am glad for your sake that you never met his mother. Mrs. Podmarsh could talk with enjoyment for hours on end about her son’s character and habits. And, on the September evening on which I introduce her to you, though she had, as a fact, been speaking only for some ten minutes, it had seemed like hours to the girl Mary Kent, who was the party of the second part to the conversation.

Mary Kent was the daughter of an old schoolfriend of Mrs. Podmarsh, and she had come to spend the autumn and winter with her while her parents were abroad. The scheme had never looked particularly good to Mary, and after ten minutes of her hostess on the subject of Rollo she was beginning to weave dreams of knotted sheets and a swift getaway through the bedroom window in the dark of the night.

“He is a strict teetotaller,” said Mrs. Podmarsh.


“And has never smoked in his life.”

“Fancy that!”

“But here is the dear boy now,” said Mrs. Podmarsh, fondly.

Down the road towards them was coming a tall, well-knit figure in a Norfolk coat and grey flannel trousers. Over his broad shoulders was suspended a bag of golf clubs.

“Is that Mr. Podmarsh?” exclaimed Mary.

She was surprised. After all she had been listening to about the arrowroot and the flannel next the skin and the rest of it, she had pictured the son of the house as a far weedier specimen. She had been expecting to meet a small, slender young man with an eyebrow moustache and pince-nez; and this person approaching might have stepped straight out of Jack Dempsey’s training-camp.

“Does he play golf?” asked Mary, herself an enthusiast.

“Oh, yes,” said Mrs. Podmarsh. “He makes a point of going out on the links once a day. He says the fresh air gives him such an appetite.”

Mary, who had taken a violent dislike to Rollo on the evidence of his mother’s description of his habits, had softened towards him on discovering that he was a golfer. She now reverted to her previous opinion. A man who could play the noble game from such ignoble motives was beyond the pale.

“Rollo is exceedingly good at golf,” proceeded Mrs. Podmarsh. “He scores more than a hundred and twenty every time, while Mr. Jenkinson, who is supposed to be one of the best players in the club, seldom manages to reach eighty. But Rollo is very modest⁠—modesty is one of his best qualities⁠—and you would never guess he was so skilful unless you were told.

“Well, Rollo darling, did you have a nice game? You didn’t get your feet wet, I hope? This is Mary Kent, dear.”

Rollo Podmarsh shook hands with Mary. And at her touch the strange dizzy feeling which had come over him at the sight of her suddenly became increased a thousandfold. As I see that you are consulting your watch once more, I will not describe his emotions as exhaustively as I might. I will merely say that he had never felt anything resembling this sensation of dazed ecstasy since the occasion when a twenty-foot putt of his, which had been going well off the line, as his putts generally did, had hit a worm-cast sou’-sou’-east of the hole and popped in, giving him a snappy six. Rollo Podmarsh, as you will have divined, was in love at first sight. Which makes it all the sadder to think Mary at the moment was regarding him as an outcast and a blister.

Mrs. Podmarsh, having enfolded her son in a vehement embrace, drew back with a startled exclamation, sniffing.

“Rollo!” she cried. “You smell of tobacco-smoke.”

Rollo looked embarrassed.

“Well, the fact is, mother⁠—”

A hard protuberance in his coat-pocket attracted Mrs. Podmarsh’s notice. She swooped and drew out a big-bowled pipe.

“Rollo!” she exclaimed, aghast.

“Well, the fact is, mother⁠—”

“Don’t you know,” cried Mrs. Podmarsh, “that smoking is poisonous, and injurious to health?”

“Yes. But the fact is, mother⁠—”

“It causes nervous dyspepsia, sleeplessness, gnawing of the stomach, headache, weak eyes, red spots on the skin, throat irritation, asthma, bronchitis, heart failure, lung trouble, catarrh, melancholy, neurasthenia, loss of memory, impaired willpower, rheumatism, lumbago, sciatica, neuritis, heartburn, torpid liver, loss of appetite, enervation, lassitude, lack of ambition, and falling out of hair.”

“Yes, I know, mother. But the fact is, Ted Ray smokes all the time he’s playing, and I thought it might improve my game.”

And it was at these splendid words that Mary Kent felt for the first time that something might be made of Rollo Podmarsh. That she experienced one-millionth of the fervour which was gnawing at his vitals I will not say. A woman does not fall in love in a flash like a man. But at least she no longer regarded him with loathing. On the contrary, she found herself liking him. There was, she considered, the right stuff in Rollo. And if, as seemed probable from his mother’s conversation, it would take a bit of digging to bring it up, well⁠—she liked rescue-work and had plenty of time.

Mr. Arnold Bennett, in a recent essay, advises young bachelors to proceed with a certain caution in matters of the heart. They should, he asserts, first decide whether or not they are ready for love; then, whether it is better to marry earlier or later; thirdly, whether their ambitions are such that a wife will prove a hindrance to their career. These romantic preliminaries concluded, they may grab a girl and go to it. Rollo Podmarsh would have made a tough audience for these precepts. Since the days of Antony and Cleopatra probably no one had ever got more swiftly off the mark. One may say that he was in love before he had come within two yards of the girl. And each day that passed found him more nearly up to his eyebrows in the tender emotion.

He thought of Mary when he was changing his wet shoes; he dreamed of her while putting flannel next his skin; he yearned for her over the evening arrowroot. Why, the man was such a slave to his devotion that he actually went to the length of purloining small articles belonging to her. Two days after Mary’s arrival Rollo Podmarsh was driving off the first tee with one of her handkerchiefs, a powder-puff, and a dozen hairpins secreted in his left breast-pocket. When dressing for dinner he used to take them out and look at them, and at night he slept with them under his pillow. Heavens, how he loved that girl!

One evening, when they had gone out into the garden together to look at the new moon⁠—Rollo, by his mother’s advice, wearing a woollen scarf to protect his throat⁠—he endeavoured to bring the conversation round to the important subject. Mary’s last remark had been about earwigs. Considered as a cue, it lacked a subtle something; but Rollo was not the man to be discouraged by that.

“Talking of earwigs, Miss Kent,” he said, in a low, musical voice, “have you ever been in love?”

Mary was silent for a moment before replying.

“Yes, once. When I was eleven. With a conjurer who came to perform at my birthday-party. He took a rabbit and two eggs out of my hair, and life seemed one grand sweet song.”

“Never since then?”


“Suppose⁠—just for the sake of argument⁠—suppose you ever did love anyone⁠—er⁠—what sort of man would it be?”

“A hero,” said Mary, promptly.

“A hero?” said Rollo, somewhat taken aback. “What sort of hero?”

“Any sort. I could only love a really brave man⁠—a man who had done some wonderful heroic action.”

“Shall we go in?” said Rollo, hoarsely. “The air is a little chilly.”

We have now, therefore, arrived at a period in Rollo Podmarsh’s career which might have inspired those lines of Henley’s about “the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole.” What with one thing and another, he was in an almost Job-like condition of despondency. I say “one thing and another,” for it was not only hopeless love that weighed him down. In addition to being hopelessly in love, he was greatly depressed about his golf.

On Rollo in his capacity of golfer I have so far not dwelt. You have probably allowed yourself, in spite of the significant episode of the pipe, to dismiss him as one of those placid, contented⁠—shall I say dilettante?⁠—golfers who are so frequent in these degenerate days. Such was not the case. Outwardly placid, Rollo was consumed inwardly by an ever-burning fever of ambition. His aims were not extravagant. He did not want to become amateur champion, nor even to win a monthly medal; but he did, with his whole soul, desire one of these days to go round the course in under a hundred. This feat accomplished, it was his intention to set the seal on his golfing career by playing a real money-match; and already he had selected his opponent, a certain Colonel Bodger, a tottery performer of advanced years who for the last decade had been a martyr to lumbago.

But it began to look as if even the modest goal he had marked out for himself were beyond his powers. Day after day he would step on to the first tee, glowing with zeal and hope, only to crawl home in the quiet evenfall with another hundred and twenty on his card. Little wonder, then, that he began to lose his appetite and would moan feebly at the sight of a poached egg.

With Mrs. Podmarsh sedulously watching over her son’s health, you might have supposed that this inability on his part to teach the foodstuffs to take a joke would have caused consternation in the home. But it so happened that Rollo’s mother had recently been reading a medical treatise in which an eminent physician stated that we all eat too much nowadays, and that the secret of a happy life is to lay off the carbohydrates to some extent. She was, therefore, delighted to observe the young man’s moderation in the matter of food, and frequently held him up as an example to be noted and followed by little Lettice Willoughby, her granddaughter, who was a good and consistent trencherwoman, particularly rough on the puddings. Little Lettice, I should mention, was the daughter of Rollo’s sister Enid, who lived in the neighbourhood. Mrs. Willoughby had been compelled to go away on a visit a few days before and had left her child with Mrs. Podmarsh during her absence.

You can fool some of the people all the time, but Lettice Willoughby was not of the type that is easily deceived. A nice, old-fashioned child would no doubt have accepted without questioning her grandmother’s dictum that roly-poly pudding could not fail to hand a devastating wallop to the blood-pressure, and that to take two helpings of it was practically equivalent to walking right into the family vault. A child with less decided opinions of her own would have been impressed by the spectacle of her uncle refusing sustenance, and would have received without demur the statement that he did it because he felt that abstinence was good for his health. Lettice was a modern child and knew better. She had had experience of this loss of appetite and its significance. The first symptom which had preceded the demise of poor old Ponto, who had recently handed in his portfolio after holding office for ten years as the Willoughby family dog, had been this same disinclination to absorb nourishment. Besides, she was an observant child, and had not failed to note the haggard misery in her uncle’s eyes. She tackled him squarely on the subject one morning after breakfast. Rollo had retired into the more distant parts of the garden, and was leaning forward, when she found him, with his head buried in his hands.

“Hallo, uncle,” said Lettice.

Rollo looked up wanly.

“Ah, child!” he said. He was fond of his niece.

“Aren’t you feeling well, uncle?”

“Far, far from well.”

“It’s old age, I expect,” said Lettice.

“I feel old,” admitted Rollo. “Old and battered. Ah, Lettice, laugh and be gay while you can.”

“All right, uncle.”

“Make the most of your happy, careless, smiling, halcyon childhood.”

“Right-o, uncle.”

“When you get to my age, dear, you will realize that it is a sad, hopeless world. A world where, if you keep your head down, you forget to let the club-head lead: where, even if you do happen by a miracle to keep ’em straight with your brassie, you blow up on the green and foozle a six-inch putt.”

Lettice could not quite understand what Uncle Rollo was talking about, but she gathered broadly that she had been correct in supposing him to be in a bad state, and her warm, childish heart was filled with pity for him. She walked thoughtfully away, and Rollo resumed his reverie.

Into each life, as the poet says, some rain must fall. So much had recently been falling into Rollo’s that, when Fortune at last sent along a belated sunbeam, it exercised a cheering effect out of all proportion to its size. By this I mean that when, some four days after his conversation with Lettice, Mary Kent asked him to play golf with her, he read into the invitation a significance which only a lover could have seen in it. I will not go so far as to say that Rollo Podmarsh looked on Mary Kent’s suggestion that they should have a round together as actually tantamount to a revelation of undying love; but he certainly regarded it as a most encouraging sign. It seemed to him that things were beginning to move, that Rollo Preferred were on a rising market. Gone was the gloom of the past days. He forgot those sad, solitary wanderings of his in the bushes at the bottom of the garden; he forgot that his mother had bought him a new set of winter woollies which felt like horsehair; he forgot that for the last few evenings his arrowroot had tasted rummy. His whole mind was occupied with the astounding fact that she had voluntarily offered to play golf with him, and he walked out on to the first tee filled with a yeasty exhilaration which nearly caused him to burst into song.

“How shall we play?” asked Mary. “I am a twelve. What is your handicap?”

Rollo was under the disadvantage of not actually possessing a handicap. He had a sort of private system of bookkeeping of his own by which he took strokes over if they did not seem to him to be up to sample, and allowed himself five-foot putts at discretion. So he had never actually handed in the three cards necessary for handicapping purposes.

“I don’t exactly know,” he said. “It’s my ambition to get round in under a hundred, but I’ve never managed it yet.”


“Never! It’s strange, but something always seems to go wrong.”

“Perhaps you’ll manage it today,” said Mary, encouragingly, so encouragingly that it was all that Rollo could do to refrain from flinging himself at her feet and barking like a dog. “Well, I’ll start you two holes up, and we’ll see how we get on. Shall I take the honour?”

She drove off one of those fair-to-medium balls which go with a twelve handicap. Not a great length, but nice and straight.

“Splendid!” cried Rollo, devoutly.

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Mary. “I wouldn’t call it anything special.”

Titanic emotions were surging in Rollo’s bosom as he addressed his ball. He had never felt like this before, especially on the first tee⁠—where as a rule he found himself overcome with a nervous humility.

“Oh, Mary! Mary!” he breathed to himself as he swung.

You who squander your golden youth fooling about on a bowling-green will not understand the magic of those three words. But if you were a golfer, you would realize that in selecting just that invocation to breathe to himself Rollo Podmarsh had hit, by sheer accident, on the ideal method of achieving a fine drive. Let me explain. The first two words, tensely breathed, are just sufficient to take a man with the proper slowness to the top of his swing; the first syllable of the second “Mary” exactly coincides with the striking of the ball; and the final “ry!” takes care of the follow-through. The consequence was that Rollo’s ball, instead of hopping down the hill like an embarrassed duck, as was its usual practice, sang off the tee with a scream like a shell, nodded in passing to Mary’s ball, where it lay some hundred and fifty yards down the course, and, carrying on from there, came to rest within easy distance of the green. For the first time in his golfing life Rollo Podmarsh had hit a nifty.

Mary followed the ball’s flight with astonished eyes.

“But this will never do!” she exclaimed. “I can’t possibly start you two up if you’re going to do this sort of thing.”

Rollo blushed.

“I shouldn’t think it would happen again,” he said. “I’ve never done a drive like that before.”

“But it must happen again,” said Mary, firmly. “This is evidently your day. If you don’t get round in under a hundred today, I shall never forgive you.”

Rollo shut his eyes, and his lips moved feverishly. He was registering a vow that, come what might, he would not fail her. A minute later he was holing out in three, one under bogey.

The second hole is the short lake-hole. Bogey is three, and Rollo generally did it in four; for it was his custom not to count any balls he might sink in the water, but to start afresh with the one which happened to get over, and then take three putts. But today something seemed to tell him that he would not require the aid of this ingenious system. As he took his mashie from the bag, he knew that his first shot would soar successfully on to the green.

“Ah, Mary!” he breathed as he swung.

These subtleties are wasted on a worm, if you will pardon the expression, like yourself, who, possibly owing to a defective education, is content to spend life’s springtime rolling wooden balls across a lawn; but I will explain that in altering and shortening his soliloquy at this juncture Rollo had done the very thing any good pro would have recommended. If he had murmured, “Oh, Mary! Mary!” as before he would have overswung. “Ah, Mary!” was exactly right for a half-swing with the mashie. His ball shot up in a beautiful arc, and trickled to within six inches of the hole.

Mary was delighted. There was something about this big, diffident man which had appealed from the first to everything in her that was motherly.

“Marvellous!” she said. “You’ll get a two. Five for the first two holes! Why, you simply must get round in under a hundred now.” She swung, but too lightly; and her ball fell in the water. “I’ll give you this,” she said, without the slightest chagrin, for this girl had a beautiful nature. “Let’s get on to the third. Four up! Why, you’re wonderful!”

And not to weary you with too much detail, I will simply remark that, stimulated by her gentle encouragement, Rollo Podmarsh actually came off the ninth green with a medal score of forty-six for the half-round. A ten on the seventh had spoiled his card to some extent, and a nine on the eighth had not helped, but nevertheless here he was in forty-six, with the easier half of the course before him. He tingled all over⁠—partly because he was wearing the new winter woollies to which I have alluded previously, but principally owing to triumph, elation, and love. He gazed at Mary as Dante might have gazed at Beatrice on one of his particularly sentimental mornings.

Mary uttered an exclamation.

“Oh, I’ve just remembered,” she exclaimed. “I promised to write last night to Jane Simpson and give her that new formula for knitting jumpers. I think I’ll phone her now from the clubhouse and then it’ll be off my mind. You go on to the tenth, and I’ll join you there.”

Rollo proceeded over the brow of the hill to the tenth tee, and was filling in the time with practice-swings when he heard his name spoken.

“Good gracious, Rollo! I couldn’t believe it was you at first.”

He turned, to see his sister, Mrs. Willoughby, the mother of the child Lettice.

“Hallo!” he said. “When did you get back?”

“Late last night. Why, it’s extraordinary!”

“Hope you had a good time. What’s extraordinary? Listen, Enid. Do you know what I’ve done? Forty-six for the first nine! Forty-six! And holing out every putt.”

“Oh, then that accounts for it.”

“Accounts for what?”

“Why, your looking so pleased with life. I got an idea from Letty, when she wrote to me, that you were at death’s door. Your gloom seems to have made a deep impression on the child. Her letter was full of it.”

Rollo was moved.

“Dear little Letty! She is wonderfully sympathetic.”

“Well, I must be off now,” said Enid Willoughby. “I’m late. Oh, talking of Letty. Don’t children say the funniest things! She wrote in her letter that you were very old and wretched and that she was going to put you out of your misery.”

“Ha ha ha!” laughed Rollo.

“We had to poison poor old Ponto the other day, you know, and poor little Letty was inconsolable till we explained to her that it was really the kindest thing to do, because he was so old and ill. But just imagine her thinking of wanting to end your sufferings!”

“Ha ha!” laughed Rollo. “Ha ha h⁠⸺!”

His voice trailed off into a broken gurgle. Quite suddenly a sinister thought had come to him.

The arrowroot had tasted rummy!

“Why, what on earth is the matter?” asked Mrs. Willoughby, regarding his ashen face.

Rollo could find no words. He yammered speechlessly. Yes, for several nights the arrowroot had tasted very rummy. Rummy! There was no other adjective. Even as he plied the spoon he had said to himself: “This arrowroot tastes rummy!” And⁠—he uttered a sharp yelp as he remembered⁠—it had been little Lettice who had brought it to him. He recollected being touched at the time by the kindly act.

“What is the matter, Rollo?” demanded Mrs. Willoughby, sharply. “Don’t stand there looking like a dying duck.”

“I am a dying duck,” responded Rollo, hoarsely. “A dying man, I mean. Enid, that infernal child has poisoned me!”

“Don’t be ridiculous! And kindly don’t speak of her like that!”

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t blame her, I suppose. No doubt her motives were good. But the fact remains.”

“Rollo, you’re too absurd.”

“But the arrowroot tasted rummy.”

“I never knew you could be such an idiot,” said his exasperated sister with sisterly outspokenness. “I thought you would think it quaint. I thought you would roar with laughter.”

“I did⁠—till I remembered about the rumminess of the arrowroot.”

Mrs. Willoughby uttered an impatient exclamation and walked away.

Rollo Podmarsh stood on the tenth tee, a volcano of mixed emotions. Mechanically he pulled out his pipe and lit it. But he found that he could not smoke. In this supreme crisis of his life tobacco seemed to have lost its magic. He put the pipe back in his pocket and gave himself up to his thoughts. Now terror gripped him: anon a sort of gentle melancholy. It was so hard that he should be compelled to leave the world just as he had begun to hit ’em right.

And then in the welter of his thoughts there came one of practical value. To wit, that by hurrying to the doctor’s without delay he might yet be saved. There might be antidotes.

He turned to go, and there was Mary Kent standing beside him with her bright, encouraging smile.

“I’m sorry I kept you so long,” she said. “It’s your honour. Fire away, and remember that you’ve got to do this nine in fifty-three at the outside.”

Rollo’s thoughts flitted wistfully to the snug surgery where Dr. Brown was probably sitting at this moment surrounded by the finest antidotes.

“Do you know, I think I ought to⁠—”

“Of course you ought to,” said Mary. “If you did the first nine in forty-six, you can’t possibly take fifty-three coming in.”

For one long moment Rollo continued to hesitate⁠—a moment during which the instinct of self-preservation seemed as if it must win the day. All his life he had been brought up to be nervous about his health, and panic gripped him. But there is a deeper, nobler instinct than that of self-preservation⁠—the instinctive desire of a golfer who is at the top of his form to go on and beat his medal-score record. And little by little this grand impulse began to dominate Rollo. If, he felt, he went off now to take antidotes, the doctor might possibly save his life; but reason told him that never again would he be likely to do the first nine in forty-six. He would have to start all over afresh.

Rollo Podmarsh hesitated no longer. With a pale, set face he teed up his ball and drove.

If I were telling this story to a golfer instead of to an excrescence⁠—I use the word in the kindliest spirit⁠—who spends his time messing about on a bowling-green, nothing would please me better than to describe shot by shot Rollo’s progress over the remaining nine holes. Epics have been written with less material. But these details would, I am aware, be wasted on you. Let it suffice that by the time his last approach trickled on to the eighteenth green he had taken exactly fifty shots.

“Three for it!” said Mary Kent. “Steady now! Take it quite easy and be sure to lay your second dead.”

It was prudent counsel, but Rollo was now thoroughly above himself. He had got his feet wet in a puddle on the sixteenth, but he did not care. His winter woollies seemed to be lined with ants, but he ignored them. All he knew was that he was on the last green in ninety-six, and he meant to finish in style. No tame three putts for him! His ball was five yards away, but he aimed for the back of the hole and brought his putter down with a whack. Straight and true the ball sped, hit the tin, jumped high in the air, and fell into the hole with a rattle.

“Oo!” cried Mary.

Rollo Podmarsh wiped his forehead and leaned dizzily on his putter. For a moment, so intense is the fervour induced by the game of games, all he could think of was that he had gone round in ninety-seven. Then, as one waking from a trance, he began to appreciate his position. The fever passed, and a clammy dismay took possession of him. He had achieved his life’s ambition; but what now? Already he was conscious of a curious discomfort within him. He felt as he supposed Italians of the Middle Ages must have felt after dropping in to take potluck with the Borgias. It was hard. He had gone round in ninety-seven, but he could never take the next step in the career which he had mapped out in his dreams⁠—the money-match with the lumbago-stricken Colonel Bodger.

Mary Kent was fluttering round him, bubbling congratulations, but Rollo sighed.

“Thanks,” he said. “Thanks very much. But the trouble is, I’m afraid I’m going to die almost immediately. I’ve been poisoned!”


“Yes. Nobody is to blame. Everything was done with the best intentions. But the fact remains.”

“But I don’t understand.”

Rollo explained. Mary listened pallidly.

“Are you sure?” she gasped.

“Quite sure,” said Rollo, gravely. “The arrowroot tasted rummy.”

“But arrowroot always does.”

Rollo shook his head.

“No,” he said. “It tastes like warm blotting-paper, but not rummy.”

Mary was sniffing.

“Don’t cry,” urged Rollo, tenderly. “Don’t cry.”

“But I must. And I’ve come out without a handkerchief.”

“Permit me,” said Rollo, producing one of her best from his left breast-pocket.

“I wish I had a powder-puff,” said Mary.

“Allow me,” said Rollo. “And your hair has become a little disordered. If I may⁠—” And from the same reservoir he drew a handful of hairpins.

Mary gazed at these exhibits with astonishment.

“But these are mine,” she said.

“Yes. I sneaked them from time to time.”

“But why?”

“Because I loved you,” said Rollo. And in a few moving sentences which I will not trouble you with he went on to elaborate this theme.

Mary listened with her heart full of surging emotions, which I cannot possibly go into if you persist in looking at that damned watch of yours. The scales had fallen from her eyes. She had thought slightingly of this man because he had been a little overcareful of his health, and all the time he had had within him the potentiality of heroism. Something seemed to snap inside her.

“Rollo!” she cried, and flung herself into his arms.

“Mary!” muttered Rollo, gathering her up.

“I told you it was all nonsense,” said Mrs. Willoughby, coming up at this tense moment and going on with the conversation where she had left off. “I’ve just seen Letty, and she said she meant to put you out of your misery but the chemist wouldn’t sell her any poison, so she let it go.”

Rollo disentangled himself from Mary.

“What?” he cried.

Mrs. Willoughby repeated her remarks.

“You’re sure?” he said.

“Of course I’m sure.”

“Then why did the arrowroot taste rummy?”

“I made inquiries about that. It seems that mother was worried about your taking to smoking, and she found an advertisement in one of the magazines about the Tobacco Habit Cured in Three Days by a secret method without the victim’s knowledge. It was a gentle, safe, agreeable method of eliminating the nicotine poison from the system, strengthening the weakened membranes, and overcoming the craving; so she put some in your arrowroot every night.”

There was a long silence. To Rollo Podmarsh it seemed as though the sun had suddenly begun to shine, the birds to sing, and the grasshoppers to toot. All Nature was one vast substantial smile. Down in the valley by the second hole he caught sight of Wallace Chesney’s Plus Fours gleaming as their owner stooped to play his shot, and it seemed to him that he had never in his life seen anything so lovely.

“Mary,” he said, in a low, vibrant voice, “will you wait here for me? I want to go into the clubhouse for a moment.”

“To change your wet shoes?”

“No!” thundered Rollo. “I’m never going to change my wet shoes again in my life.” He felt in his pocket, and hurled a box of patent pills far into the undergrowth. “But I am going to change my winter woollies. And when I’ve put those dashed barbed-wire entanglements into the clubhouse furnace, I’m going to phone to old Colonel Bodger. I hear his lumbago’s worse than ever. I’m going to fix up a match with him for a shilling a hole. And if I don’t lick the boots off him you can break the engagement!”

“My hero!” murmured Mary.

Rollo kissed her, and with long, resolute steps strode to the clubhouse.

Rodney Fails to Qualify

There was a sound of revelry by night, for the first Saturday in June had arrived and the Golf Club was holding its monthly dance. Fairy lanterns festooned the branches of the chestnut trees on the terrace above the ninth green, and from the big dining-room, cleared now of its tables and chairs, came a muffled slithering of feet and the plaintive sound of saxophones moaning softly like a man who has just missed a short putt. In a basket-chair in the shadows the Oldest Member puffed a cigar and listened, well content. His was the peace of the man who has reached the age when he is no longer expected to dance.

A door opened, and a young man came out of the clubhouse. He stood on the steps with folded arms, gazing to left and right. The Oldest Member, watching him from the darkness, noted that he wore an air of gloom. His brow was furrowed and he had the indefinable look of one who has been smitten in the spiritual solar plexus.

Yes, where all around him was joy, jollity, and song, this young man brooded.

The sound of a high tenor voice, talking rapidly and entertainingly on the subject of modern Russian thought, now intruded itself on the peace of the night. From the farther end of the terrace a girl came into the light of the lanterns, her arm in that of a second young man. She was small and pretty, he tall and intellectual. The light shone on his high forehead and glittered on his tortoiseshell-rimmed spectacles. The girl was gazing up at him with reverence and adoration, and at the sight of these twain the youth on the steps appeared to undergo some sort of spasm. His face became contorted and he wobbled. Then, with a gesture of sublime despair, he tripped over the mat and stumbled back into the clubhouse. The couple passed on and disappeared, and the Oldest Member had the night to himself, until the door opened once more and the club’s courteous and efficient secretary trotted down the steps. The scent of the cigar drew him to where the Oldest Member sat, and he dropped into the chair beside him.

“Seen young Ramage tonight?” asked the secretary.

“He was standing on those steps only a moment ago,” replied the Oldest Member. “Why do you ask?”

“I thought perhaps you might have had a talk with him and found out what’s the matter. Can’t think what’s come to him tonight. Nice, civil boy as a rule, but just now, when I was trying to tell him about my short approach on the fifth this afternoon, he was positively abrupt. Gave a sort of hollow gasp and dashed away in the middle of a sentence.”

The Oldest Member sighed.

“You must overlook his brusqueness,” he said. “The poor lad is passing through a trying time. A short while back I was the spectator of a little drama that explains everything. Mabel Patmore is flirting disgracefully with that young fellow Purvis.”

“Purvis? Oh, you mean the man who won the club Bowls Championship last week?”

“I can quite believe that he may have disgraced himself in the manner you describe,” said the Sage, coldly. “I know he plays that noxious game. And it is for that reason that I hate to see a nice girl like Mabel Patmore, who only needs a little more steadiness off the tee to become a very fair golfer, wasting her time on him. I suppose his attraction lies in the fact that he has a great flow of conversation, while poor Ramage is, one must admit, more or less of a dumb Isaac. Girls are too often snared by a glib tongue. Still, it is a pity, a great pity. The whole affair recalls irresistibly to my mind the story⁠—”

The secretary rose with a whir like a rocketing pheasant.

“⁠—the story,” continued the Sage, “of Jane Packard, William Bates, and Rodney Spelvin⁠—which, as you have never heard it, I will now proceed to relate.”

“Can’t stop now, much as I should like⁠—”

“It is a theory of mine,” proceeded the Oldest Member, attaching himself to the other’s coattails and pulling him gently back into his seat, “that nothing but misery can come of the union between a golfer and an outcast whose soul has not been purified by the noblest of games. This is well exemplified by the story of Jane Packard, William Bates, and Rodney Spelvin.”

“All sorts of things to look after⁠—”

“That is why I am hoping so sincerely that there is nothing more serious than a temporary flirtation in this business of Mabel Patmore and bowls-playing Purvis. A girl in whose life golf has become a factor would be mad to trust her happiness to a blister whose idea of enjoyment is trundling wooden balls across a lawn. Sooner or later he is certain to fail her in some crisis. Lucky for her if this failure occurs before the marriage knot has been inextricably tied and so opens her eyes to his inadequacy⁠—as was the case in the matter of Jane Packard, William Bates, and Rodney Spelvin. I will now,” said the Oldest Member, “tell you all about Jane Packard, William Bates, and Rodney Spelvin.”

The secretary uttered a choking groan.

“I shall miss the next dance,” he pleaded.

“A bit of luck for some nice girl,” said the Sage, equably.

He tightened his grip on the other’s arm.

Jane Packard and William Bates (said the Oldest Member) were not, you must understand, officially engaged. They had grown up together from childhood, and there existed between them a sort of understanding⁠—the understanding being that, if ever William could speed himself up enough to propose, Jane would accept him, and they would settle down and live stodgily and happily ever after. For William was not one of your rapid wooers. In his affair of the heart he moved somewhat slowly and ponderously, like a motor-lorry, an object which both in physique and temperament he greatly resembled. He was an extraordinarily large, powerful, ox-like young man, who required plenty of time to make up his mind about any given problem. I have seen him in the club dining-room musing with a thoughtful frown for fifteen minutes on end while endeavouring to weigh the rival merits of a chump chop and a sirloin steak as a luncheon dish. A placid, leisurely man. I might almost call him lymphatic. I will call him lymphatic. He was lymphatic.

The first glimmering of an idea that Jane might possibly be a suitable wife for him had come to William some three years before this story opens. Having brooded on the matter tensely for six months, he then sent her a bunch of roses. In the October of the following year, nothing having occurred to alter his growing conviction that she was an attractive girl, he presented her with a two-pound box of assorted chocolates. And from then on his progress, though not rapid, was continuous, and there seemed little reason to doubt that, should nothing come about to weaken Jane’s regard for him, another five years or so would see the matter settled.

And it did not appear likely that anything would weaken Jane’s regard. They had much in common, for she was a calm, slow-moving person too. They had a mutual devotion to golf, and played together every day; and the fact that their handicaps were practically level formed a strong bond. Most divorces, as you know, spring from the fact that the husband is too markedly superior to his wife at golf; this leading him, when she starts criticizing his relations, to say bitter and unforgivable things about her mashie-shots. Nothing of this kind could happen with William and Jane. They would build their life on a solid foundation of sympathy and understanding. The years would find them consoling and encouraging each other, happy married lovers. If, that is to say, William ever got round to proposing.

It was not until the fourth year of this romance that I detected the first sign of any alteration in the schedule. I had happened to call on the Packards one afternoon and found them all out except Jane. She gave me tea and conversed for a while, but she seemed distrait. I had known her since she wore rompers, so felt entitled to ask if there was anything wrong.

“Not exactly wrong,” said Jane, and she heaved a sigh.

“Tell me,” I said.

She heaved another sigh.

“Have you ever read The Love That Scorches, by Luella Periton Phipps?” she asked.

I said I had not.

“I got it out of the library yesterday,” said Jane, dreamily, “and finished it at three this morning in bed. It is a very, very beautiful book. It is all about the desert and people riding on camels and a wonderful Arab chief with stern yet tender eyes and a girl called Angela and oases and dates and mirages and all like that. There is a chapter where the Arab chief seizes the girl and clasps her in his arms and she feels his hot breath searing her face and he flings her on his horse and they ride off and all around was sand and night and the mysterious stars. And somehow⁠—oh, I don’t know⁠—”

She gazed yearningly at the chandelier.

“I wish mother would take me to Algiers next winter,” she murmured, absently. “It would do her rheumatism so much good.”

I went away frankly uneasy. These novelists, I felt, ought to be more careful. They put ideas into girls’ heads and made them dissatisfied. I determined to look William up and give him a kindly word of advice. It was no business of mine, you may say, but they were so ideally suited to one another that it seemed a tragedy that anything should come between them. And Jane was in a strange mood. At any moment, I felt, she might take a good, square look at William and wonder what she could ever have seen in him. I hurried to the boy’s cottage.

“William,” I said, “as one who dandled you on his knee when you were a baby, I wish to ask you a personal question. Answer me this, and make it snappy. Do you love Jane Packard?”

A look of surprise came into his face, followed by one of intense thought. He was silent for a space.

“Who, me?” he said at length.

“Yes, you.”

“Jane Packard?”

“Yes, Jane Packard.”

“Do I love Jane Packard?” said William, assembling the material and arranging it neatly in his mind.

He pondered for perhaps five minutes.

“Why, of course I do,” he said.


“Devotedly, dash it!”


“You might say madly.”

I tapped him on his barrel-like chest.

“Then my advice to you, William Bates, is to tell her so.”

“Now that’s rather a brainy scheme,” said William, looking at me admiringly. “I see exactly what you’re driving at. You mean it would kind of settle things, and all that?”


“Well, I’ve got to go away for a couple of days tomorrow⁠—it’s the Invitation Tournament at Squashy Hollow⁠—but I’ll be back on Wednesday. Suppose I take her out on the links on Wednesday and propose?”

“A very good idea.”

“At the sixth hole, say?”

“At the sixth hole would do excellently.”

“Or the seventh?”

“The sixth would be better. The ground slopes from the tee, and you would be hidden from view by the dogleg turn.”

“Something in that.”

“My own suggestion would be that you somehow contrive to lead her into that large bunker to the left of the seventh fairway.”


“I have reason to believe that Jane would respond more readily to your wooing were it conducted in some vast sandy waste. And there is another thing,” I proceeded, earnestly, “which I must impress upon you. See that there is nothing tame or tepid about your behaviour when you propose. You must show zip and romance. In fact, I strongly recommend you, before you even say a word to her, to seize her and clasp her in your arms and let your hot breath sear her face.”

“Who, me?” said William.

“Believe me, it is what will appeal to her most.”

“But, I say! Hot breath, I mean! Dash it all, you know, what?”

“I assure you it is indispensable.”

“Seize her?” said William, blankly.


“Clasp her in my arms?”

“Just so.”

William plunged into silent thought once more.

“Well, you know, I suppose,” he said at length. “You’ve had experience, I take it. Still⁠—Oh, all right, I’ll have a stab at it.”

“There spoke the true William Bates!” I said. “Go to it, lad, and Heaven speed your wooing!”

In all human schemes⁠—and it is this that so often brings failure to the subtlest strategists⁠—there is always the chance of the Unknown Factor popping up, that unforeseen X for which we have made no allowance and which throws our whole plan of campaign out of gear. I had not anticipated anything of the kind coming along to mar the arrangements on the present occasion; but when I reached the first tee on the Wednesday afternoon to give William Bates that last word of encouragement which means so much, I saw that I had been too sanguine. William had not yet arrived, but Jane was there, and with her a tall, slim, dark-haired, sickeningly romantic-looking youth in faultlessly-fitting serge. A stranger to me. He was talking to her in a musical undertone, and she seemed to be hanging on his words. Her beautiful eyes were fixed on his face, and her lips slightly parted. So absorbed was she that it was not until I spoke that she became aware of my presence.

“William not arrived yet?”

She turned with a start.

“William? Hasn’t he? Oh! No, not yet. I don’t suppose he will be long. I want to introduce you to Mr. Spelvin. He has come to stay with the Wyndhams for a few weeks. He is going to walk round with us.”

Naturally this information came as a shock to me, but I masked my feelings and greeted the young man with a well-assumed cordiality.

Mr. George Spelvin, the actor?” I asked, shaking hands.

“My cousin,” he said. “My name is Rodney Spelvin. I do not share George’s histrionic ambitions. If I have any claim to⁠—may I say renown?⁠—it is as a maker of harmonies.”

“A composer, eh?”

“Verbal harmonies,” explained Mr. Spelvin. “I am, in my humble fashion, a poet.”

“He writes the most beautiful poetry,” said Jane, warmly. “He has just been reciting some of it to me.”

“Oh, that little thing?” said Mr. Spelvin, deprecatingly. “A mere morceau. One of my juvenilia.”

“It was too beautiful for words,” persisted Jane.

“Ah, you,” said Mr. Spelvin, “have the soul to appreciate it. I could wish that there were more like you, Miss Packard. We singers have much to put up with in a crass and materialistic world. Only last week a man, a coarse editor, asked me what my sonnet, ‘Wine of Desire,’ meant.” He laughed indulgently. “I gave him answer, ’twas a sonnet, not a mining prospectus.”

“It would have served him right,” said Jane, heatedly, “if you had pasted him one on the snoot!”

At this point a low whistle behind me attracted my attention, and I turned to perceive William Bates towering against the skyline.

“Hoy!” said William.

I walked to where he stood, leaving Jane and Mr. Spelvin in earnest conversation with their heads close together.

“I say,” said William, in a rumbling undertone, “who’s the bird with Jane?”

“A man named Spelvin. He is visiting the Wyndhams. I suppose Mrs. Wyndham made them acquainted.”

“Looks a bit of a Gawd-help-us,” said William, critically.

“He is going to walk round with you.”

It was impossible for a man of William Bates’s temperament to start, but his face took on a look of faint concern.

“Walk round with us?”

“So Jane said.”

“But look here,” said William. “I can’t possibly seize her and clasp her in my arms and do all that hot-breath stuff with this pie-faced exhibit hanging round on the outskirts.”

“No, I fear not.”

“Postpone it, then, what?” said William, with unmistakable relief. “Well, as a matter of fact, it’s probably a good thing. There was a most extraordinarily fine steak-and-kidney pudding at lunch, and, between ourselves, I’m not feeling what you might call keyed up to anything in the nature of a romantic scene. Some other time, eh?”

I looked at Jane and the Spelvin youth, and a nameless apprehension swept over me. There was something in their attitude which I found alarming. I was just about to whisper a warning to William not to treat this new arrival too lightly, when Jane caught sight of him and called him over, and a moment later they set out on their round.

I walked away pensively. This Spelvin’s advent, coming immediately on top of that book of desert love, was undeniably sinister. My heart sank for William, and I waited at the clubhouse to have a word with him after his match. He came in two hours later, flushed and jubilant.

“Played the game of my life!” he said. “We didn’t hole out all the putts, but, making allowance for everything, you can chalk me up an eighty-three. Not so bad, eh? You know the eighth hole? Well, I was a bit short with my drive, and found my ball lying badly for the brassy, so I took my driving-iron and with a nice easy swing let the pill have it so squarely on the seat of the pants that it flew⁠—”

“Where is Jane?” I interrupted.

“Jane? Oh, the bloke Spelvin has taken her home.”

“Beware of him, William!” I whispered, tensely. “Have a care, young Bates! If you don’t look out, you’ll have him stealing Jane from you. Don’t laugh. Remember that I saw them together before you arrived. She was gazing into his eyes as a desert maiden might gaze into the eyes of a sheik. You don’t seem to realize, wretched William Bates, that Jane is an extremely romantic girl. A fascinating stranger like this, coming suddenly into her life, may well snatch her away from you before you know where you are.”

“That’s all right,” said William, lightly. “I don’t mind admitting that the same idea occurred to me. But I made judicious inquiries on the way round, and found out that the fellow’s a poet. You don’t seriously expect me to believe that there’s any chance of Jane falling in love with a poet?”

He spoke incredulously, for there were three things in the world that he held in the smallest esteem⁠—slugs, poets, and caddies with hiccups.

“I think it extremely possible, if not probable,” I replied.

“Nonsense!” said William. “And, besides, the man doesn’t play golf. Never had a club in his hand, and says he never wants to. That’s the sort of fellow he is.”

At this, I confess, I did experience a distinct feeling of relief. I could imagine Jane Packard, stimulated by exotic literature, committing many follies, but I was compelled to own that I could not conceive of her giving her heart to one who not only did not play golf but had no desire to play it. Such a man, to a girl of her fine nature and correct upbringing, would be beyond the pale. I walked home with William in a calm and happy frame of mind.

I was to learn but one short week later that Woman is the unfathomable, incalculable mystery, the problem we men can never hope to solve.

The week that followed was one of much festivity in our village. There were dances, picnics, bathing-parties, and all the other adjuncts of high summer. In these William Bates played but a minor part. Dancing was not one of his gifts. He swung, if called upon, an amiable shoe, but the disposition in the neighbourhood was to refrain from calling upon him; for he had an incurable habit of coming down with his full weight upon his partner’s toes, and many a fair girl had had to lie up for a couple of days after collaborating with him in a foxtrot.

Picnics, again, bored him, and he always preferred a round on the links to the merriest bathing-party. The consequence was that he kept practically aloof from the revels, and all through the week Jane Packard was squired by Rodney Spelvin. With Spelvin she swayed over the waxed floor; with Spelvin she dived and swam; and it was Spelvin who with zealous hand brushed ants off her mayonnaise and squashed wasps with a chivalrous teaspoon. The end was inevitable. Apart from anything else, the moon was at its full and many of these picnics were held at night. And you know what that means. It was about ten days later that William Bates came to me in my little garden with an expression on his face like a man who didn’t know it was loaded.

“I say,” said William, “you busy?”

I emptied the remainder of the water-can on the lobelias, and was at his disposal.

“I say,” said William, “rather a rotten thing has happened. You know Jane?”

I said I knew Jane.

“You know Spelvin?”

I said I knew Spelvin.

“Well, Jane’s gone and got engaged to him,” said William, aggrieved.


“It’s a fact.”


“Absolutely. She told me this morning. And what I want to know,” said the stricken boy, sitting down thoroughly unnerved on a basket of strawberries, “is, where do I get off?”

My heart bled for him, but I could not help reminding him that I had anticipated this.

“You should not have left them so much alone together,” I said. “You must have known that there is nothing more conducive to love than the moon in June. Why, songs have been written about it. In fact, I cannot at the moment recall a song that has not been written about it.”

“Yes, but how was I to guess that anything like this would happen?” cried William, rising and scraping strawberries off his person. “Who would ever have supposed Jane Packard would leap off the dock with a fellow who doesn’t play golf?”

“Certainly, as you say, it seems almost incredible. You are sure you heard her correctly? When she told you about the engagement, I mean. There was no chance that you could have misunderstood?”

“Not a bit of it. As a matter of fact, what led up to the thing, if you know what I mean, was me proposing to her myself. I’d been thinking a lot during the last ten days over what you said to me about that, and the more I thought of it the more of a sound egg the notion seemed. So I got her alone up at the clubhouse and said, ‘I say, old girl, what about it?’ and she said, ‘What about what?’ and I said, ‘What about marrying me? Don’t if you don’t want to, of course,’ I said, ‘but I’m bound to say it looks pretty good to me.’ And then she said she loved another⁠—this bloke Spelvin, to wit. A nasty jar, I can tell you, it was. I was just starting off on a round, and it made me hook my putts on every green.”

“But did she say specifically that she was engaged to Spelvin?”

“She said she loved him.”

“There may be hope. If she is not irrevocably engaged the fancy may pass. I think I will go and see Jane and make tactful inquiries.”

“I wish you would,” said William. “And, I say, you haven’t any stuff that’ll take strawberry-juice off a fellow’s trousers, have you?”

My interview with Jane that evening served only to confirm the bad news. Yes, she was definitely engaged to the man Spelvin. In a burst of girlish confidence she told me some of the details of the affair.

“The moon was shining and a soft breeze played in the trees,” she said. “And suddenly he took me in his arms, gazed deep into my eyes, and cried, ‘I love you! I worship you! I adore you! You are the tree on which the fruit of my life hangs; my mate; my woman; predestined to me since the first star shone up in yonder sky!’ ”

“Nothing,” I agreed, “could be fairer than that. And then?” I said, thinking how different it all must have been from William Bates’s miserable, limping proposal.

“Then we fixed it up that we would get married in September.”

“You are sure you are doing wisely?” I ventured.

Her eyes opened.

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, you know, whatever his other merits⁠—and no doubt they are numerous⁠—Rodney Spelvin does not play golf.”

“No, but he’s very broad-minded about it.”

I shuddered. Women say these things so lightly.


“Yes. He has no objection to my going on playing. He says he likes my pretty enthusiasms.”

There seemed nothing more to say on that subject.

“Well,” I said, “I am sure I wish you every happiness. I had hoped, of course⁠—but never mind that.”


“I had hoped, as you insist on my saying it, that you and William Bates⁠—”

A shadow passed over her face. Her eyes grew sad.

“Poor William! I’m awfully sorry about that. He’s a dear.”

“A splendid fellow,” I agreed.

“He has been so wonderful about the whole thing. So many men would have gone off and shot grizzly bears or something. But William just said ‘Right-o!’ in a quiet voice, and he’s going to caddy for me at Mossy Heath next week.”

“There is good stuff in the boy.”

“Yes.” She sighed. “If it wasn’t for Rodney⁠—Oh, well!”

I thought it would be tactful to change the subject.

“So you have decided to go to Mossy Heath again?”

“Yes. And I’m really going to qualify this year.”

The annual Invitation Tournament at Mossy Heath was one of the most important fixtures of our local female golfing year. As is usual with these affairs, it began with a medal-play qualifying round, the thirty-two players with the lowest net scores then proceeding to fight it out during the remainder of the week by match-play. It gratified me to hear Jane speak so confidently of her chances, for this was the fourth year she had entered, and each time, though she had started out with the brightest prospects, she had failed to survive the qualifying round. Like so many golfers, she was fifty percent better at match-play than at medal-play. Mossy Heath, being a championship course, is full of nasty pitfalls, and on each of the three occasions on which she had tackled it one very bad hole had undone all her steady work on the other seventeen and ruined her card. I was delighted to find her so undismayed by failure.

“I am sure you will,” I said. “Just play your usual careful game.”

“It doesn’t matter what sort of a game I play this time,” said Jane, jubilantly. “I’ve just heard that there are only thirty-two entries this year, so that everybody who finishes is bound to qualify. I have simply got to get round somehow, and there I am.”

“It would seem somewhat superfluous in these circumstances to play a qualifying round at all.”

“Oh, but they must. You see, there are prizes for the best three scores, so they have to play it. But isn’t it a relief to know that, even if I come to grief on that beastly seventh, as I did last year, I shall still be all right?”

“It is, indeed. I have a feeling that once it becomes a matter of match-play you will be irresistible.”

“I do hope so. It would be lovely to win with Rodney looking on.”

“Will he be looking on?”

“Yes. He’s going to walk round with me. Isn’t it sweet of him?”

Her fiancé’s name having slid into the conversation again, she seemed inclined to become eloquent about him. I left her, however, before she could begin. To one so strongly pro-William as myself, eulogistic prattle about Rodney Spelvin was repugnant. I disapproved entirely of this infatuation of hers. I am not a narrow-minded man; I quite appreciate the fact that non-golfers are entitled to marry; but I could not countenance their marrying potential winners of the Ladies’ Invitation Tournament at Mossy Heath.

The Greens Committee, as greens committees are so apt to do in order to justify their existence, have altered the Mossy Heath course considerably since the time of which I am speaking, but they have left the three most poisonous holes untouched. I refer to the fourth, the seventh, and the fifteenth. Even a soulless Greens Committee seems to have realized that golfers, long-suffering though they are, can be pushed too far, and that the addition of even a single extra bunker to any of these dreadful places would probably lead to armed riots in the clubhouse.

Jane Packard had done well on the first three holes, but as she stood on the fourth tee she was conscious, despite the fact that this seemed to be one of her good days, of a certain nervousness; and oddly enough, great as was her love for Rodney Spelvin, it was not his presence that gave her courage, but the sight of William Bates’s large, friendly face and the sound of his pleasant voice urging her to keep her bean down and refrain from pressing.

As a matter of fact, to be perfectly truthful, there was beginning already to germinate within her by this time a faint but definite regret that Rodney Spelvin had decided to accompany her on this qualifying round. It was sweet of him to bother to come, no doubt, but still there was something about Rodney that did not seem to blend with the holy atmosphere of a championship course. He was the one romance of her life and their souls were bound together for all eternity, but the fact remained that he did not appear to be able to keep still while she was making her shots, and his light humming, musical though it was, militated against accuracy on the green. He was humming now as she addressed her ball, and for an instant a spasm of irritation shot through her. She fought it down bravely and concentrated on her drive, and when the ball soared over the cross-bunker she forgot her annoyance. There is nothing so mellowing, so conducive to sweet and genial thoughts, as a real juicy one straight down the middle, and this was a pipterino.

“Nice work,” said William Bates, approvingly.

Jane gave him a grateful smile and turned to Rodney. It was his appreciation that she wanted. He was not a golfer, but even he must be able to see that her drive had been something out of the common.

Rodney Spelvin was standing with his back turned, gazing out over the rolling prospect, one hand shading his eyes.

“That vista there,” said Rodney. “That calm, wooded hollow bathed in the golden sunshine. It reminds me of the island valley of Avilion⁠—”

“Did you see my drive, Rodney?”

“⁠—where falls not rain nor hail nor any snow, nor ever wind blows loudly. Eh? Your drive? No, I didn’t.”

Again Jane Packard was aware of that faint, wistful regret. But this was swept away a few moments later in the ecstasy of a perfect iron-shot which plunked her ball nicely on to the green. The last time she had played this hole she had taken seven, for all round the plateau green are sinister sand-bunkers, each beckoning the ball into its hideous depths; and now she was on in two and life was very sweet. Putting was her strong point, so that there was no reason why she should not get a snappy four on one of the nastiest holes on the course. She glowed with a strange emotion as she took her putter, and as she bent over her ball the air seemed filled with soft music.

It was only when she started to concentrate on the line of her putt that this soft music began to bother her. Then, listening, she became aware that it proceeded from Rodney Spelvin. He was standing immediately behind her, humming an old French love-song. It was the sort of old French love-song to which she could have listened for hours in some scented garden under the young May moon, but on the green of the fourth at Mossy Heath it got right in amongst her nerve-centres.

“Rodney, please!”


Jane found herself wishing that Rodney Spelvin would not say “Eh?” whenever she spoke to him.

“Do you mind not humming?” said Jane. “I want to putt.”

“Putt on, child, putt on,” said Rodney Spelvin, indulgently. “I don’t know what you mean, but, if it makes you happy to putt, putt to your heart’s content.”

Jane bent over her ball again. She had got the line now. She brought back her putter with infinite care.

“My God!” exclaimed Rodney Spelvin, going off like a bomb.

Jane’s ball, sharply jabbed, shot past the hole and rolled on about three yards. She spun round in anguish. Rodney Spelvin was pointing at the horizon.

What a bit of colour!” he cried. “Did you ever see such a bit of colour?”

“Oh, Rodney!” moaned Jane.


Jane gulped and walked to her ball. Her fourth putt trickled into the hole.

“Did you win?” said Rodney Spelvin, amiably.

Jane walked to the fifth tee in silence.

The fifth and sixth holes at Mossy Heath are long, but they offer little trouble to those who are able to keep straight. It is as if the architect of the course had relaxed over these two in order to ensure that his malignant mind should be at its freshest and keenest when he came to design the pestilential seventh. This seventh, as you may remember, is the hole at which Sandy McHoots, then Open Champion, took an eleven on an important occasion. It is a short hole, and a full mashie will take you nicely on to the green, provided you can carry the river that frolics just beyond the tee and seems to plead with you to throw it a ball to play with. Once on the green, however, the problem is to stay there. The green itself is about the size of a drawing-room carpet, and in the summer, when the ground is hard, a ball that has not the maximum of backspin is apt to touch lightly and bound off into the river beyond; for this is an island green, where the stream bends like a serpent. I refresh your memory with these facts in order that you may appreciate to the full what Jane Packard was up against.

The woman with whom Jane was partnered had the honour, and drove a nice high ball which fell into one of the bunkers to the left. She was a silent, patient-looking woman, and she seemed to regard this as perfectly satisfactory. She withdrew from the tee and made way for Jane.

“Nice work!” said William Bates, a moment later. For Jane’s ball, soaring in a perfect arc, was dropping, it seemed, on the very pin.

“Oh, Rodney, look!” cried Jane.

“Eh?” said Rodney Spelvin.

His remark was drowned in a passionate squeal of agony from his betrothed. The most poignant of all tragedies had occurred. The ball, touching the green, leaped like a young lamb, scuttled past the pin, and took a running dive over the cliff.

There was a silence. Jane’s partner, who was seated on the bench by the sandbox reading a pocket edition in limp leather of Vardon’s What Every Young Golfer Should Know, with which she had been refreshing herself at odd moments all through the round, had not observed the incident. William Bates, with the tact of a true golfer, refrained from comment. Jane was herself swallowing painfully. It was left to Rodney Spelvin to break the silence.

“Good!” he said.

Jane Packard turned like a stepped-on worm.

“What do you mean, good?”

“You hit your ball farther than she did.”

“I sent it into the river,” said Jane, in a low, toneless voice.

“Capital!” said Rodney Spelvin, delicately masking a yawn with two fingers of his shapely right hand. “Capital! Capital!”

Her face contorted with pain, Jane put down another ball.

“Playing three,” she said.

The student of Vardon marked the place in her book with her thumb, looked up, nodded, and resumed her reading.

“Nice w⁠—” began William Bates, as the ball soared off the tee, and checked himself abruptly. Already he could see that the unfortunate girl had put too little beef into it. The ball was falling, falling. It fell. A crystal fountain flashed up towards the sun. The ball lay floating on the bosom of the stream, only some few feet short of the island. But, as has been well pointed out, that little less and how far away!

“Playing five!” said Jane, between her teeth.

“What,” inquired Rodney Spelvin, chattily, lighting a cigarette, “is the record break?”

“Playing five,” said Jane, with a dreadful calm, and gripped her mashie.

“Half a second,” said William Bates, suddenly. “I say, I believe you could play that last one from where it floats. A good crisp slosh with a niblick would put you on, and you’d be there in four, with a chance for a five. Worth trying, what? I mean, no sense in dropping strokes unless you have to.”

Jane’s eyes were gleaming. She threw William a look of infinite gratitude.

“Why, I believe I could!”

“Worth having a dash.”

“There’s a boat down there!”

“I could row,” said William.

“I could stand in the middle and slosh,” cried Jane.

“And what’s-his-name⁠—that,” said William, jerking his head in the direction of Rodney Spelvin, who was strolling up and down behind the tee, humming a gay Venetian barcarolle, “could steer.”

“William,” said Jane, fervently, “you’re a darling.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said William, modestly.

“There’s no one like you in the world. Rodney!”

“Eh?” said Rodney Spelvin.

“We’re going out in that boat. I want you to steer.”

Rodney Spelvin’s face showed appreciation of the change of programme. Golf bored him, but what could be nicer than a gentle row in a boat?

“Capital!” he said. “Capital! Capital!”

There was a dreamy look in Rodney Spelvin’s eyes as he leaned back with the tiller-ropes in his hands. This was just his idea of the proper way of passing a summer afternoon. Drifting lazily over the silver surface of the stream. His eyes closed. He began to murmur softly.

“All today the slow sleek ripples hardly bear up shoreward, Charged with sighs more light than laughter, faint and fair, Like a woodland lake’s weak wavelets lightly lingering forward, Soft and listless as the⁠—Here! Hi!”

For at this moment the silver surface of the stream was violently split by a vigorously-wielded niblick, the boat lurched drunkenly, and over his Panama-hatted head and down his grey-flannelled torso there descended a cascade of water.

“Here! Hi!” cried Rodney Spelvin.

He cleared his eyes and gazed reproachfully. Jane and William Bates were peering into the depths.

“I missed it,” said Jane.

“There she spouts!” said William, pointing. “Ready?”

Jane raised her niblick.

“Here! Hi!” bleated Rodney Spelvin, as a second cascade poured damply over him.

He shook the drops off his face, and perceived that Jane was regarding him with hostility.

“I do wish you wouldn’t talk just as I am swinging,” she said, pettishly. “Now you’ve made me miss it again! If you can’t keep quiet, I wish you wouldn’t insist on coming round with one. Can you see it, William?”

“There she blows,” said William Bates.

“Here! You aren’t going to do it again, are you?” cried Rodney Spelvin.

Jane bared her teeth.

“I’m going to get that ball on to the green if I have to stay here all night,” she said.

Rodney Spelvin looked at her and shuddered. Was this the quiet, dreamy girl he had loved? This Maenad? Her hair was lying in damp wisps about her face, her eyes were shining with an unearthly light.

“No, but really⁠—” he faltered.

Jane stamped her foot.

“What are you making all this fuss about, Rodney?” she snapped. “Where is it, William?”

“There she dips,” said William, “Playing six.”

“Playing six.”

“Let her go!” said William.

“Let her go it is!” said Jane.

A perfect understanding seemed to prevail between these two.


The woman on the bank looked up from her Vardon as Rodney Spelvin’s agonized scream rent the air. She saw a boat upon the water, a man rowing the boat, another man, hatless, gesticulating in the stern, a girl beating the water with a niblick. She nodded placidly and understandingly. A niblick was the club she would have used herself in such circumstances. Everything appeared to her entirely regular and orthodox. She resumed her book.


“Playing fifteen,” said Jane.

“Fifteen is right,” said William Bates.

Splash! Splash! Splash!

“Playing forty-four.”

“Forty-four is correct.”

Splash! Splash! Splash! Splash!

“Eighty-three?” said Jane, brushing the hair out of her eyes.

“No. Only eighty-two,” said William Bates.

“Where is it?”

“There she drifts.”

A dripping figure rose violently in the stern of the boat, spouting water like a public fountain. For what seemed to him like an eternity Rodney Spelvin had ducked and spluttered and writhed, and now it came to him abruptly that he was through. He bounded from his seat, and at the same time Jane swung with all the force of her supple body. There was a splash beside which all the other splashes had been as nothing. The boat overturned and went drifting away. Three bodies plunged into the stream. Three heads emerged from the water.

The woman on the bank looked absently in their direction. Then she resumed her book.

“It’s all right,” said William Bates, contentedly. “We’re in our depth.”

“My bag!” cried Jane. “My bag of clubs!”

“Must have sunk,” said William.

“Rodney,” said Jane, “my bag of clubs is at the bottom somewhere. Dive under and swim about and try to find it.”

“It’s bound to be around somewhere,” said William Bates, encouragingly.

Rodney Spelvin drew himself up to his full height. It was not an easy thing to do, for it was muddy where he stood, but he did it.

“Damn your bag of clubs!” he bellowed, lost to all shame. “I’m going home!”

With painful steps, tripping from time to time and vanishing beneath the surface, he sloshed to the shore. For a moment he paused on the bank, silhouetted against the summer sky, then he was gone.

Jane Packard and William Bates watched him go with amazed eyes.

“I never would have dreamed,” said Jane, dazedly, “that he was that sort of man.”

“A bad lot,” said William Bates.

“The sort of man to be upset by the merest trifle!”

“Must have a naturally bad disposition,” said William Bates.

“Why, if a little thing like this could make him so rude and brutal and horrid, it wouldn’t be safe to marry him!”

“Taking a big chance,” agreed William Bates. “Sort of fellow who would poison the cat’s milk and kick the baby in the face.” He took a deep breath and disappeared. “Here are your clubs, old girl,” he said, coming to the surface again. “Only wanted a bit of looking for.”

“Oh, William,” said Jane, “you are the most wonderful man on earth!”

“Would you go so far as that?” said William.

“I was mad, mad, ever to get engaged to that brute!”

“Now there,” said William Bates, removing an eel from his left breast-pocket, “I’m absolutely with you. Thought so all along, but didn’t like to say so. What I mean is, a girl like you⁠—keen on golf and all that sort of thing⁠—ought to marry a chap like me⁠—keen on golf and everything of that description.”

“William,” cried Jane, passionately, detaching a newt from her right ear, “I will!”

“Silly nonsense, when you come right down to it, your marrying a fellow who doesn’t play golf. Nothing in it.”

“I’ll break off the engagement the moment I get home.”

“You couldn’t make a sounder move, old girl.”



The woman on the bank, glancing up as she turned a page, saw a man and a girl embracing, up to their waists in water. It seemed to have nothing to do with her. She resumed her book.

Jane looked lovingly into William’s eyes.

“William,” she said, “I think I have loved you all my life.”

“Jane,” said William, “I’m dashed sure I’ve loved you all my life. Meant to tell you so a dozen times, but something always seemed to come up.”

“William,” said Jane, “you’re an angel and a darling. Where’s the ball?”

“There she pops.”

“Playing eighty-four?”

“Eighty-four it is,” said William. “Slow back, keep your eye on the ball, and don’t press.”

The woman on the bank began Chapter Twenty-five.

Jane Gets Off the Fairway

The side-door leading into the smoking-room opened, and the golf club’s popular and energetic secretary came trotting down the steps on to the terrace above the ninth green. As he reached the gravel, a wandering puff of wind blew the door to with a sharp report, and the Oldest Member, who had been dozing in a chair over his Wodehouse on the Niblick, unclosed his eyes, blinking in the strong light. He perceived the secretary skimming to and fro like a questing dog.

“You have lost something?” he inquired, courteously.

“Yes, a book. I wish,” said the secretary, annoyed, “that people would leave things alone. You haven’t seen a novel called The Man with the Missing Eyeball anywhere about, have you? I’ll swear I left it on one of these seats when I went in to lunch.”

“You are better without it,” said the sage, with a touch of austerity. “I do not approve of these trashy works of fiction. How much more profitably would your time be spent in mastering the contents of such a volume as I hold in my hand! This is the real literature.”

The secretary drew nearer, peering discontentedly about him; and as he approached the Oldest Member sniffed inquiringly.

“What,” he said, “is that odour of⁠—? Ah, I see that you are wearing them in your buttonhole. White violets,” he murmured. “White violets. Dear me!”

The secretary smirked.

“A girl gave them to me,” he said, coyly. “Nice, aren’t they?” He squinted down complacently at the flowers, thus missing a sudden sinister gleam in the Oldest Member’s eye⁠—a gleam which, had he been on his guard, would have sent him scudding over the horizon; for it was the gleam which told that the sage had been reminded of a story.

“White violets,” said the Oldest Member, in a meditative voice. “A curious coincidence that you should be wearing white violets and looking for a work of fiction. The combination brings irresistibly to my mind⁠—”

Realizing his peril too late, the secretary started violently. A gentle hand urged him into the adjoining chair.

“⁠—the story,” proceeded the Oldest Member, “of William Bates, Jane Packard, and Rodney Spelvin.”

The secretary drew a deep breath of relief, and the careworn look left his face.

“It’s all right,” he said, briskly. “You told me that one only the other day. I remember every word of it. Jane Packard got engaged to Rodney Spelvin, the poet, but her better feelings prevailed in time, and she broke it off and married Bates, who was a golfer. I recall the whole thing distinctly. This man Bates was an unromantic sort of chap, but he loved Jane Packard devotedly. Bless my soul, how it all comes back to me! No need to tell it me at all.”

“What I am about to relate now,” said the sage, tightening his grip on the other’s coat-sleeve, “is another story about William Bates, Jane Packard, and Rodney Spelvin.”

Inasmuch (said the Oldest Member) as you have not forgotten the events leading up to the marriage of William Bates and Jane Packard, I will not repeat them. All I need say is that that curious spasm of romantic sentiment which had caused Jane to fall temporarily under the spell of a man who was not only a poet but actually a non-golfer appeared to have passed completely away, leaving no trace behind. From the day she broke off her engagement to Spelvin and plighted her troth to young Bates, nothing could have been more eminently sane and satisfactory than her behaviour. She seemed entirely her old self once more. Two hours after William had led her down the aisle, she and he were out on the links, playing off the final of the Mixed Foursomes, which⁠—and we all thought it the best of omens for their married happiness⁠—they won hands down. A deputation of all that was best and fairest in the village then escorted them to the station to see them off on their honeymoon, which was to be spent in a series of visits to well-known courses throughout the country.

Before the train left, I took young William aside for a moment. I had known both him and Jane since childhood, and the success of their union was very near my heart.

“William,” I said, “a word with you.”

“Make it snappy,” said William.

“You have learned by this time,” I said, “that there is a strong romantic streak in Jane. It may not appear on the surface, but it is there. And this romantic streak will cause her, like so many wives, to attach an exaggerated importance to what may seem to you trivial things. She will expect from her husband not only love and a constant tender solicitude⁠—”

“Speed it up,” urged William.

“What I am trying to say is that, after the habit of wives, she will expect you to remember each year the anniversary of your wedding day, and will be madder than a wet hen if you forget it.”

“That’s all right. I thought of that myself.”

“It is not all right,” I insisted. “Unless you take the most earnest precautions, you are absolutely certain to forget. A year from now you will come down to breakfast, and Jane will say to you, ‘Do you know what day it is today?’ and you will answer ‘Tuesday’ and reach for the ham and eggs, thus inflicting on her gentle heart a wound from which it will not readily recover.”

“Nothing like it,” said William, with extraordinary confidence. “I’ve got a system calculated to beat the game every time. You know how fond Jane is of white violets?”

“Is she?”

“She loves ’em. The bloke Spelvin used to give her a bunch every day. That’s how I got the idea. Nothing like learning the shots from your opponent. I’ve arranged with a florist that a bunch of white violets is to be shipped to Jane every year on this day. I paid five years in advance. I am, therefore, speaking in the most conservative spirit, on velvet. Even if I forget the day, the violets will be there to remind me. I’ve looked at it from every angle, and I don’t see how it can fail. Tell me frankly, is the scheme a wam or is it not?”

“A most excellent plan,” I said, relieved. And the next moment the train came in. I left the station with my mind at rest. It seemed to me that the only possible obstacle to the complete felicity of the young couple had been removed.

Jane and William returned in due season from their honeymoon, and settled down to the normal life of a healthy young couple. Each day they did their round in the morning and their two rounds in the afternoon, and after dinner they would sit hand in hand in the peaceful dusk, reminding one another of the best shots they had brought off at the various holes. Jane would describe to William how she got out of the bunker on the fifth, and William would describe to Jane the low raking windcheater he did on the seventh, and then for a moment they would fall into that blissful silence which only true lovers know, until William, illustrating his remarks with a walking-stick, would show Jane how he did that pin-splitter with the mashie on the sixteenth. An ideally happy union, one would have said.

But all the while a little cloud was gathering. As the anniversary of their wedding-day approached, a fear began to creep into Jane’s heart that William was going to forget it. The perfect husband does not wait till the dawning of the actual day to introduce the anniversary motif into his conversation. As long as a week in advance he is apt to say, dreamily, “About this time a year ago I was getting the old silk hat polished up for the wedding,” or “Just about now, a year ago, they sent home the sponge-bag trousers, as worn, and I tried them on in front of the looking-glass.” But William said none of these things. Not even on the night before the all-important date did he make any allusion to it, and it was with a dull feeling of foreboding that Jane came down to breakfast next morning.

She was first at the table, and was pouring out the coffee when William entered. He opened the morning paper and started to peruse its contents in silence. Not a yip did he let out of him to the effect that this was the maddest, merriest day of all the glad new year.

“William,” said Jane.


“William,” said Jane, and her voice trembled a little, “what day is it today?”

William looked at her over the paper, surprised.

“Wednesday, old girl,” he replied. “Don’t you remember that yesterday was Tuesday? Shocking memory you’ve got.”

He then reached out for the sausages and bacon and resumed his reading.

“Jane,” he said, suddenly. “Jane, old girl, there’s something I want to tell you.”

“Yes?” said Jane, her heart beginning to flutter.

“Something important.”


“It’s about these sausages. They are the very best,” said William, earnestly, “that I have ever bitten. Where did you get them?”

“From Brownlow.”

“Stick to him,” said William.

Jane rose from the table and wandered out into the garden. The sun shone gaily, but for her the day was bleak and cold. That William loved her she did not doubt. But that streak of romance in her demanded something more than mere placid love. And when she realized that the poor mutt with whom she had linked her lot had forgotten the anniversary of their wedding-day first crack out of the box, her woman’s heart was so wounded that for two pins she could have beaned him with a brick.

It was while she was still brooding in this hostile fashion that she perceived the postman coming up the garden. She went to meet him, and was handed a couple of circulars and a mysterious parcel. She broke the string, and behold! a cardboard box containing white violets.

Jane was surprised. Who could be sending her white violets? No message accompanied them. There was no clue whatever to their origin. Even the name of the florist had been omitted.

“Now, who⁠—?” mused Jane, and suddenly started as if she had received a blow. Rodney Spelvin! Yes, it must be he. How many a bunch of white violets had he given her in the brief course of their engagement! This was his poetic way of showing her that he had not forgotten. All was over between them, she had handed him his hat and given him the air, but he still remembered.

Jane was a good and dutiful wife. She loved her William, and no others need apply. Nevertheless, she was a woman. She looked about her cautiously. There was nobody in sight. She streaked up to her room and put the violets in water. And that night, before she went to bed, she gazed at them for several minutes with eyes that were a little moist. Poor Rodney! He could be nothing to her now, of course, but a dear lost friend; but he had been a good old scout in his day.

It is not my purpose to weary you with repetitious detail in this narrative. I will, therefore, merely state that the next year and the next year and the year after that precisely the same thing took place in the Bateses’ home. Punctually every September the seventh William placidly forgot, and punctually every September the seventh the sender of the violets remembered. It was about a month after the fifth anniversary, when William had got his handicap down to nine and little Braid Vardon Bates, their only child, had celebrated his fourth birthday, that Rodney Spelvin, who had hitherto confined himself to poetry, broke out in a new place and inflicted upon the citizenry a novel entitled The Purple Fan.

I saw the announcement of the publication in the papers; but beyond a passing resolve that nothing would induce me to read the thing I thought no more of the matter. It is always thus with life’s really significant happenings. Fate sneaks its deadliest wallops in on us with such seeming nonchalance. How could I guess what that book was to do to the married happiness of Jane and William Bates?

In deciding not to read The Purple Fan I had, I was to discover, overestimated my powers of resistance. Rodney Spelvin’s novel turned out to be one of those things which it is impossible not to read. Within a week of its appearance it had begun to go through the country like Spanish influenza; and, much as I desired to avoid it, a perusal was forced on me by sheer weight of mass-thinking. Every paper that I picked up contained reviews of the book, references to it, letters from the clergy denouncing it; and when I read that three hundred and sixteen mothers had signed a petition to the authorities to have it suppressed, I was reluctantly compelled to spring the necessary cash and purchase a copy.

I had not expected to enjoy it, and I did not. Written in the neodecadent style, which is so popular nowadays, its preciosity offended me; and I particularly objected to its heroine, a young woman of a type which, if met in real life, only ingrained chivalry could have prevented a normal man from kicking extremely hard. Having skimmed through it, I gave my copy to the man who came to inspect the drains. If I had any feeling about the thing, it was a reflection that, if Rodney Spelvin had had to get a novel out of his system, this was just the sort of novel he was bound to write. I remember experiencing a thankfulness that he had gone so entirely out of Jane’s life. How little I knew!

Jane, like every other woman in the village, had bought her copy of The Purple Fan. She read it surreptitiously, keeping it concealed, when not in use, beneath a cushion on the Chesterfield. It was not its general tone that caused her to do this, but rather the subconscious feeling that she, a good wife, ought not to be deriving quite so much enjoyment from the work of a man who had occupied for a time such a romantic place in her life.

For Jane, unlike myself, adored the book. Eulalie French, its heroine, whose appeal I had so missed, seemed to her the most fascinating creature she had ever encountered.

She had read the thing through six times when, going up to town one day to do some shopping, she ran into Rodney Spelvin. They found themselves standing side by side on the pavement, waiting for the traffic to pass.

“Rodney!” gasped Jane.

It was a difficult moment for Rodney Spelvin. Five years had passed since he had last seen Jane, and in those five years so many delightful creatures had made a fuss of him that the memory of the girl to whom he had once been engaged for a few weeks had become a little blurred. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, he had forgotten Jane altogether. The fact that she had addressed him by his first name seemed to argue that they must have met at some time somewhere; but, though he strained his brain, absolutely nothing stirred.

The situation was one that might have embarrassed another man, but Rodney Spelvin was a quick thinker. He saw at a glance that Jane was an extremely pretty girl, and it was his guiding rule in life never to let anything like that get past him. So he clasped her hand warmly, allowed an expression of amazed delight to sweep over his face, and gazed tensely into her eyes.

“You!” he murmured, playing it safe. “You, little one!”

Jane stood five feet seven in her stockings and had a forearm like the village blacksmith’s, but she liked being called “little one.”

“How strange that we should meet like this!” she said, blushing brightly.

“After all these years,” said Rodney Spelvin, taking a chance. It would be a nuisance if it turned out that they had met at a studio-party the day before yesterday, but something seemed to tell him that she dated back a goodish way. Besides, even if they had met the day before yesterday, he could get out of it by saying that the hours had seemed like years. For you cannot stymie these modern poets. The boys are there.

“More than five,” murmured Jane.

“Now where the deuce was I five years ago?” Rodney Spelvin asked himself.

Jane looked down at the pavement and shuffled her left shoe nervously.

“I got the violets, Rodney,” she said.

Rodney Spelvin was considerably fogged, but he came back strongly.

“That’s good!” he said. “You got the violets? That’s capital. I was wondering if you would get the violets.”

“It was like you to send them.”

Rodney blinked, but recovered himself immediately. He waved his hand with a careless gesture, indicative of restrained nobility.

“Oh, as to that⁠—!”

“Especially as I’m afraid I treated you rather badly. But it really was for the happiness of both of us that I broke off the engagement. You do understand that, don’t you?”

A light broke upon Rodney Spelvin. He had been confident that it would if he only stalled along for awhile. Now he placed this girl. She was Jane something, the girl he had been engaged to. By Jove, yes. He knew where he was now.

“Do not let us speak of it,” he said, registering pain. It was quite easy for him to do this. All there was to it was tightening the lips and drawing up the left eyebrow. He had practised it in front of his mirror, for a fellow never knew when it might not come in useful.

“So you didn’t forget me, Rodney?”

“Forget you!”

There was a short pause.

“I read your novel,” said Jane. “I loved it.”

She blushed again, and the colour in her cheeks made her look so remarkably pretty that Rodney began to feel some of the emotions which had stirred him five years ago. He decided that this was a good thing and wanted pushing along.

“I hoped that you might,” he said in a low voice, massaging her hand. He broke off and directed into her eyes a look of such squashy sentimentality that Jane reeled where she stood. “I wrote it for you,” he added, simply.

Jane gasped.

“For me?”

“I supposed you would have guessed,” said Rodney. “Surely you saw the dedication?”

The Purple Fan had been dedicated, after Rodney Spelvin’s eminently prudent fashion, to “One Who Will Understand.” He had frequently been grateful for the happy inspiration.

“The dedication?”

“ ‘To One Who Will Understand,’ ” said Rodney, softly. “Who would that be but you?”

“Oh, Rodney!”

“And didn’t you recognize Eulalie, Jane? Surely you cannot have failed to recognize Eulalie?”

“Recognize her?”

“I drew her from you,” said Rodney Spelvin.

Jane’s mind was in a whirl as she went home in the train. To have met Rodney Spelvin again was enough in itself to stimulate into activity that hidden pulse of romance in her. To discover that she had been in his thoughts so continuously all these years and that she still held such sway over his faithful heart that he had drawn the heroine of his novel from her was simply devastating. Mechanically she got out at the right station and mechanically made her way to the cottage. She was relieved to find that William was still out on the links. She loved William devotedly, of course, but just at the moment he would have been in the way; for she wanted a quiet hour with The Purple Fan. It was necessary for her to reread in the light of this new knowledge the more important of the scenes in which Eulalie French figured. She knew them practically by heart already, but nevertheless she wished to read them again. When William returned, warm and jubilant, she was so absorbed that she only just had time to slide the book under the sofa-cushion before the door opened.

Some guardian angel ought to have warned William Bates that he was selecting a bad moment for his reentry into the home, or at least to have hinted that a preliminary wash and brush-up would be no bad thing. There had been rain in the night, causing the links to become a trifle soggy in spots, and William was one of those energetic golfers who do not spare themselves. The result was that his pleasant features were a good deal obscured by mud. An explosion-shot out of the bunker on the fourteenth had filled his hair with damp sand, and his shoes were a disgrace to any refined home. No, take him for all in all, William did not look his best. He was fine if the sort of man you admired was the brawny athlete straight from the dust of the arena; but on a woman who was picturing herself the heroine of The Purple Fan he was bound to jar. Most of the scenes in which Eulalie French played anything like a fat part took place either on moonlight terraces or in beautifully furnished studios beneath the light of Oriental lamps with pink silk shades, and all the men who came in contact with her⁠—except her husband, a clodhopping brute who spent most of his time in riding-kit⁠—were perfectly dressed and had dark, clean-cut, sensitive faces.

William, accordingly, induced in Jane something closely approximating to the heeby-jeebies.

“Hullo, old girl!” said William, affectionately. “You back? What have you been doing with yourself?”

“Oh, shopping,” said Jane, listlessly.

“See anyone you knew?”

For a moment Jane hesitated.

“Yes,” she said. “I met Rodney Spelvin.”

Jealousy and suspicion had been left entirely out of William Bates’s makeup. He did not start and frown; he did not clutch the arm of his chair; he merely threw back his head and laughed like a hyena. And that laugh wounded Jane more than the most violent exhibition of mistrust could have done.

“Good Lord!” gurgled William, jovially. “You don’t mean to say that bird is still going around loose? I should have thought he would have been lynched years ago. Looks like negligence somewhere.”

There comes a moment in married life when every wife gazes squarely at her husband and the scales seem to fall from her eyes and she sees him as he is⁠—one of Nature’s Class A fatheads. Fortunately for married men, these times of clear vision do not last long, or there would be few homes left unbroken. It was so that Jane gazed at William now, but unhappily her conviction that he was an outsize in roughneck chumps did not pass. Indeed, all through that evening it deepened. That night she went to bed feeling for the first time that, when the clergyman had said “Wilt thou, Jane?” and she had replied in the affirmative, a mean trick had been played on an inexperienced girl.

And so began that black period in the married life of Jane and William Bates, the mere recollection of which in after years was sufficient to put them right off their short game and even to affect their driving from the tee. To William, having no clue to the cause of the mysterious change in his wife, her behaviour was inexplicable. Had not her perfect robustness made such a theory absurd, he would have supposed that she was sickening for something. She golfed now intermittently, and often with positive reluctance. She was frequently listless and distrait. And there were other things about her of which he disapproved.

“I say, old girl,” he said one evening, “I know you won’t mind my mentioning it, and I don’t suppose you’re aware of it yourself, but recently you’ve developed a sort of silvery laugh. A nasty thing to have about the home. Try to switch it off, old bird, would you mind?”

Jane said nothing. The man was not worth answering. All through the pages of The Purple Fan, Eulalie French’s silvery laugh had been highly spoken of and greatly appreciated by one and all. It was the thing about her that the dark, clean-cut, sensitive-faced men most admired. And the view Jane took of the matter was that if William did not like it the poor fish could do the other thing.

But this brutal attack decided her to come out into the open with the grievance which had been vexing her soul for weeks past.

“William,” she said, “I want to say something. William, I am feeling stifled.”

“I’ll open the window.”

“Stifled in this beastly little village, I mean,” said Jane, impatiently. “Nobody ever does anything here except play golf and bridge, and you never meet an artist-soul from one year’s end to the other. How can I express myself? How can I be myself? How can I fulfil myself?”

“Do you want to?” asked William, somewhat out of his depth.

“Of course I want to. And I shan’t be happy unless we leave this ghastly place and go to live in a studio in town.”

William sucked thoughtfully at his pipe. It was a tense moment for a man who hated metropolitan life as much as he did. Nevertheless, if the solution of Jane’s recent weirdness was simply that she had got tired of the country and wanted to live in town, to the town they must go. After a first involuntary recoil, he nerved himself to the martyrdom like the fine fellow he was.

“We’ll pop off as soon as I can sell the house,” he said.

“I can’t wait as long as that. I want to go now.”

“All right,” said William, amiably. “We’ll go next week.”

William’s forebodings were quickly fulfilled. Before he had been in the Metropolis ten days he realized that he was up against it as he had never been up against it before. He and Jane and little Braid Vardon had established themselves in what the house-agent described as an attractive bijou studio-apartment in the heart of the artistic quarter. There was a nice bedroom for Jane, a delightful cupboard for Braid Vardon, and a cosy corner behind a Japanese screen for William. Most compact. The rest of the place consisted of a room with a large skylight, handsomely furnished with cushions and samovars, where Jane gave parties to the intelligentsia.

It was these parties that afflicted William as much as anything else. He had not realized that Jane intended to run a salon. His idea of a pleasant social evening was to have a couple of old friends in for a rubber of bridge, and the almost nightly incursion of a horde of extraordinary birds in floppy ties stunned him. He was unequal to the situation from the first. While Jane sat enthroned on her cushion, exchanging gay badinage with rising young poets and laughing that silvery laugh of hers, William would have to stand squashed in a corner, trying to hold off some bobbed-haired female who wanted his opinion of Augustus John.

The strain was frightful, and, apart from the sheer discomfort of it, he found to his consternation that it was beginning to affect his golf. Whenever he struggled out from the artistic zone now to one of the suburban courses, his jangled nerves unfitted him for decent play. Bit by bit his game left him. First he found that he could not express himself with the putter. Then he began to fail to be himself with the mashie-niblick. And when at length he discovered that he was only fulfilling himself about every fifth shot off the tee he felt that this thing must stop.

The conscientious historian will always distinguish carefully between the events leading up to a war and the actual occurrence resulting in the outbreak of hostilities. The latter may be, and generally is, some almost trivial matter, whose only importance is that it fulfils the function of the last straw. In the case of Jane and William what caused the definite rift was Jane’s refusal to tie a can to Rodney Spelvin.

The author of The Purple Fan had been from the first a leading figure in Jane’s salon. Most of those who attended these functions were friends of his, introduced by him, and he had assumed almost from the beginning the demeanour of a master of the revels. William, squashed into his corner, had long gazed at the man with sullen dislike, yearning to gather him up by the slack of his trousers and heave him into outer darkness; but it is improbable that he would have overcome his native amiability sufficiently to make any active move, had it not been for the black mood caused by his rotten golf. But one evening, when, coming home after doing the Mossy Heath course in five strokes over the hundred, he found the studio congested with Rodney Spelvin and his friends, many of them playing ukeleles, he decided that flesh and blood could bear the strain no longer.

As soon as the last guest had gone he delivered his ultimatum.

“Listen, Jane,” he said. “Touching on this Spelvin bloke.”

“Well?” said Jane, coldly. She scented battle from afar.

“He gives me a pain in the neck.”

“Really?” said Jane, and laughed a silvery laugh.

“Don’t do it, old girl,” pleaded William, wincing.

“I wish you wouldn’t call me ‘old girl.’ ”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t like it.”

“You used to like it.”

“Well, I don’t now.”

“Oh!” said William, and ruminated awhile. “Well, be that as it may,” he went on, “I want to tell you just one thing. Either you throw the bloke Spelvin out on his left ear and send for the police if he tries to get in again, or I push off. I mean it! I absolutely push off.”

There was a tense silence.

“Indeed?” said Jane at last.

“Positively push off,” repeated William, firmly. “I can stand a lot, but pie-faced Spelvin tries human endurance too high.”

“He is not pie-faced,” said Jane, warmly.

“He is pie-faced,” insisted William. “Come round to the Vienna Bon-Ton Bakery tomorrow and I will show you an individual custard-pie that might be his brother.”

“Well, I am certainly not going to be bullied into giving up an old friend just because⁠—”

William stared.

“You mean you won’t hand him the mitten?”

“I will not.”

“Think what you are saying, Jane. You positively decline to give this false-alarm the quick exit?”

“I do.”

“Then,” said William, “all is over. I pop off.”

Jane stalked without a word into her bedroom. With a mist before his eyes William began to pack. After a few moments he tapped at her door.



“I’m packing.”


“But I can’t find my spare mashie.”

“I don’t care.”

William returned to his packing. When it was finished, he stole to her door again. Already a faint stab of remorse was becoming blended with his just indignation.



“I’ve packed.”


“And now I’m popping.”

There was silence behind the door.

“I’m popping, Jane,” said William. And in his voice, though he tried to make it cold and crisp, there was a note of wistfulness.

Through the door there came a sound. It was the sound of a silvery laugh. And as he heard it William’s face hardened. Without another word he picked up his suitcase and golf bag, and with set jaw strode out into the night.

One of the things that tend to keep the home together in these days of modern unrest is the fact that exalted moods of indignation do not last. William, released from the uncongenial atmosphere of the studio, proceeded at once to plunge into an orgy of golf that for awhile precluded regret. Each day he indulged his starved soul with fifty-four holes, and each night he sat smoking in bed, pleasantly fatigued, reviewing the events of the past twelve hours with complete satisfaction. It seemed to him that he had done the good and sensible thing.

And then, slowly at first, but day by day more rapidly, his mood began to change. That delightful feeling of jolly freedom ebbed away.

It was on the morning of the tenth day that he first became definitely aware that all was not well. He had strolled out on the links after breakfast with a brassy and a dozen balls for a bit of practice, and, putting every ounce of weight and muscle into the stroke, brought off a snifter with his very first shot. Straight and true the ball sped for the distant green, and William, forgetting everything in the ecstasy of the moment, uttered a gladsome cry.

“How about that one, old girl?” he exclaimed.

And then, with a sudden sinking of the heart, he realized that he was alone.

An acute spasm of regret shot through William’s massive bosom. In that instant of clear thinking he understood that golf is not all. What shall it profit a man that he do the long hole in four, if there is no loving wife at his elbow to squeak congratulations? A dull sensation of forlorn emptiness afflicted William Bates. It passed, but it had been. And he knew it would come again.

It did. It came that same afternoon. It came next morning. Gradually it settled like a cloud on his happiness. He did his best to fight it down. He increased his day’s output to sixty-three holes, but found no relief. When he reflected that he had had the stupendous luck to be married to a girl like Jane and had chucked the thing up, he could have kicked himself round the house. He was in exactly the position of the hero of the movie when the subtitle is flashed on the screen: “Came a Day When Remorse Bit Like An Adder Into Roland Spenlow’s Soul.” Of all the chumps who had ever tripped over themselves and lost a good thing, from Adam downwards, he, he told himself, was the woollen-headedest.

On the fifteenth morning it began to rain.

Now, William Bates was not one of your fair-weather golfers. It took more than a shower to discourage him. But this was real rain, with which not even the stoutest enthusiast could cope. It poured down all day in a solid sheet and set the seal on his melancholy. He pottered about the house, sinking deeper and deeper into the slough of despond, and was trying to derive a little faint distraction from practising putts into a tooth-glass when the afternoon post arrived.

There was only one letter. He opened it listlessly. It was from Jukes, Enderby, and Miller, florists, and what the firm wished to ascertain was whether, his deposit on white violets to be dispatched annually to Mrs. William Bates being now exhausted, he desired to renew his esteemed order. If so, on receipt of the money they would spring to the task of sending same.

William stared at the letter dully. His first impression was that Jukes, Enderby, and Miller were talking through their collective hats. White violets? What was all this drivel about white violets? Jukes was an ass. He knew nothing about white violets. Enderby was a fool. What had he got to do with white violets? Miller was a pinhead. He had never deposited any money to have white violets dispatched.

William gasped. Yes, by George, he had, though, he remembered with a sudden start. So he had, by golly! Good gosh! it all came back to him. He recalled the whole thing, by Jove! Crikey, yes!

The letter swam before William’s eyes. A wave of tenderness engulfed him. All that had passed recently between Jane and himself was forgotten⁠—her weirdness, her wish to live in the Metropolis, her silvery laugh⁠—everything. With one long, loving gulp, William Bates dashed a not unmanly tear from his eye and, grabbing a hat and raincoat, rushed out of the house and sprinted for the station.

At about the hour when William flung himself into the train, Jane was sitting in her studio-apartment, pensively watching little Braid Vardon as he sported on the floor. An odd melancholy had gripped her. At first she had supposed that this was due to the rain, but now she was beginning to realize that the thing went much deeper than that. Reluctant though she was to confess it, she had to admit that what she was suffering from was a genuine soul-sadness, due entirely to the fact that she wanted William.

It was strange what a difference his going had made. William was the sort of fellow you shoved into a corner and forgot about, but when he was not there the whole scheme of things seemed to go blooey. Little by little, since his departure, she had found the fascination of her surroundings tending to wane, and the glamour of her new friends had dwindled noticeably. Unless you were in the right vein for them, Jane felt, they could be an irritating crowd. They smoked too many cigarettes and talked too much. And not far from being the worst of them, she decided, was Rodney Spelvin. It was with a sudden feeling of despair that she remembered that she had invited him to tea this afternoon and had got in a special seed-cake for the occasion. The last thing in the world that she wanted to do was to watch Rodney Spelvin eating cake.

It is a curious thing about men of the Spelvin type, how seldom they really last. They get off to a flashy start and for a while convince impressionable girls that the search for a soul-mate may be considered formally over; but in a very short while reaction always sets in. There had been a time when Jane could have sat and listened to Rodney Spelvin for hours on end. Then she began to feel that from fifteen to twenty minutes was about sufficient. And now the mere thought of having to listen to him at all was crushing her like a heavy burden.

She had got thus far in her meditations when her attention was attracted to little Braid Vardon, who was playing energetically in a corner with some object which Jane could not distinguish in the dim light.

“What have you got there, dear?” she asked.

“Wah,” said little Braid, a child of few words, proceeding with his activities.

Jane rose and walked across the room. A sudden feeling had come to her, the remorseful feeling that for some time now she had been neglecting the child. How seldom nowadays did she trouble to join in his pastimes!

“Let mother play too,” she said, gently. “What are you playing? Trains?”


Jane uttered a sharp exclamation. With a keen pang she saw that what the child had got hold of was William’s spare mashie. So he had left it behind after all! Since the night of his departure it must have been lying unnoticed behind some chair or sofa.

For a moment the only sensation Jane felt was an accentuation of that desolate feeling which had been with her all day. How many a time had she stood by William and watched him foozle with this club! Inextricably associated with him it was, and her eyes filled with sudden tears. And then she was abruptly conscious of a new, a more violent emotion, something akin to panic fear. She blinked, hoping against hope that she had been mistaken. But no. When she opened her eyes and looked again she saw what she had seen before.

The child was holding the mashie all wrong.

“Braid!” gasped Jane in an agony.

All the mother-love in her was shrieking at her, reproaching her. She realized now how paltry, how greedily self-centred she had been. Thinking only of her own pleasures, how sorely she had neglected her duty as a mother! Long ere this, had she been worthy of that sacred relation, she would have been brooding over her child, teaching him at her knee the correct Vardon grip, shielding him from bad habits, seeing to it that he did not get his hands in front of the ball, putting him on the right path as regarded the slow backswing. But, absorbed in herself, she had sacrificed him to her shallow ambitions. And now there he was, grasping the club as if it had been a spade and scooping with it like one of those twenty-four-handicap men whom the hot weather brings out on seaside links.

She shuddered to the very depths of her soul. Before her eyes there rose a vision of her son, grown to manhood, reproaching her. “If you had but taught me the facts of life when I was a child, mother,” she seemed to hear him say, “I would not now be going round in a hundred and twenty, rising to a hundred and forty in anything like a high wind.”

She snatched the club from his hands with a passionate cry. And at this precise moment in came Rodney Spelvin, all ready for tea.

“Ah, little one!” said Rodney Spelvin, gaily.

Something in her appearance must have startled him, for he stopped and looked at her with concern.

“Are you ill?” he asked.

Jane pulled herself together with an effort.

“No, quite well. Ha, ha!” she replied, hysterically.

She stared at him wildly, as she might have stared at a caterpillar in her salad. If it had not been for this man, she felt, she would have been with William in their snug little cottage, a happy wife. If it had not been for this man, her only child would have been laying the foundations of a correct swing under the eyes of a conscientious pro. If it had not been for this man⁠—She waved him distractedly to the door.

“Goodbye,” she said. “Thank you so much for calling.”

Rodney Spelvin gaped. This had been the quickest and most tealess tea-party he had ever assisted at.

“You want me to go?” he said, incredulously.

“Yes, go! go!”

Rodney Spelvin cast a wistful glance at the gate-leg table. He had had a light lunch, and the sight of the seed-cake affected him deeply. But there seemed nothing to be done. He moved reluctantly to the door.

“Well, goodbye,” he said. “Thanks for a very pleasant afternoon.”

“So glad to have seen you,” said Jane, mechanically.

The door closed. Jane returned to her thoughts. But she was not alone for long. A few minutes later there entered the female cubist painter from downstairs, a manly young woman with whom she had become fairly intimate.

“Oh, Bates, old chap!” said the cubist painter.

Jane looked up.

“Yes, Osbaldistone?”

“Just came in to borrow a cigarette. Used up all mine.”

“So have I, I’m afraid.”

“Too bad. Oh, well,” said Miss Osbaldistone, resignedly, “I suppose I’ll have to go out and get wet. I wish I had had the sense to stop Rodney Spelvin and send him. I met him on the stairs.”

“Yes, he was in here just now,” said Jane.

Miss Osbaldistone laughed in her hearty manly way.

“Good boy, Rodney,” she said, “but too smooth for my taste. A little too ready with the salve.”

“Yes?” said Jane, absently.

“Has he pulled that one on you yet about your being the original of the heroine of The Purple Fan?”

“Why, yes,” said Jane, surprised. “He did tell me that he had drawn Eulalie from me.”

Her visitor emitted another laugh that shook the samovars.

“He tells every girl he meets the same thing.”


“Oh, yes. It’s his first move. He actually had the nerve to try to spring it on me. Mind you, I’m not saying it’s a bad stunt. Most girls like it. You’re sure you’ve no cigarettes? No? Well, how about a shot of cocaine? Out of that too? Oh, well, I’ll be going, then. Pip-pip, Bates.”

“Toodle-oo, Osbaldistone,” said Jane, dizzily. Her brain was reeling. She groped her way to the table, and in a sort of trance cut herself a slice of cake.

“Wah!” said little Braid Vardon. He toddled forward, anxious to count himself in on the share-out.

Jane gave him some cake. Having ruined his life, it was, she felt, the least she could do. In a spasm of belated maternal love she also slipped him a jam-sandwich. But how trivial and useless these things seemed now.

“Braid!” she cried, suddenly.


“Come here.”


“Let mother show you how to hold that mashie.”

“What’s a mashie?”

A new gash opened in Jane’s heart. Four years old, and he didn’t know what a mashie was. And at only a slightly-advanced age Bobby Jones had been playing in the American Open Championship.

“This is a mashie,” she said, controlling her voice with difficulty.


“It is called a mashie.”

“What is?”

“This club.”


The conversation was becoming too metaphysical for Jane. She took the club from him and closed her hands over it.

“Now, look, dear,” she said, tenderly. “Watch how mother does it. She puts the fingers⁠—”

A voice spoke, a voice that had been absent all too long from Jane’s life.

“You’ll pardon me, old girl, but you’ve got the right hand much too far over. You’ll hook for a certainty.”

In the doorway, large and dripping, stood William. Jane stared at him dumbly.

“William!” she gasped at length.

“Hullo, Jane!” said William. “Hullo, Braid! Thought I’d look in.”

There was a long silence.

“Beastly weather,” said William.

“Yes,” said Jane.

“Wet and all that,” said William.

“Yes,” said Jane.

There was another silence.

“Oh, by the way, Jane,” said William. “Knew there was something I wanted to say. You know those violets?”


“White violets. You remember those white violets I’ve been sending you every year on our wedding anniversary? Well, what I mean to say, our lives are parted and all that sort of thing, but you won’t mind if I go on sending them⁠—what? Won’t hurt you, what I’m driving at, and’ll please me, see what I mean? So, well, to put the thing in a nutshell, if you haven’t any objection, that’s that.”

Jane reeled against the gate-leg table.

“William! Was it you who sent those violets?”

“Absolutely. Who did you think it was?”

“William!” cried Jane, and flung herself into his arms.

William scooped her up gratefully. This was the sort of thing he had been wanting for weeks past. He could do with a lot of this. He wouldn’t have suggested it himself, but, seeing that she felt that way, he was all for it.

“William,” said Jane, “can you ever forgive me?”

“Oh, rather,” said William. “Like a shot. Though, I mean to say, nothing to forgive, and all that sort of thing.”

“We’ll go back right away to our dear little cottage.”


“We’ll never leave it again.”


“I love you,” said Jane, “more than life itself.”

“Good egg!” said William.

Jane turned with shining eyes to little Braid Vardon.

“Braid, we’re going home with daddy!”


“Home. To our little cottage.”

“What’s a cottage?”

“The house where we used to be before we came here.”

“What’s here?”

“This is.”


“Where we are now.”


“I’ll tell you what, old girl,” said William. “Just shove a green-baize cloth over that kid, and then start in and brew me about five pints of tea as strong and hot as you can jolly well make it. Otherwise I’m going to get the cold of a lifetime.”

The Purification of Rodney Spelvin

It was an afternoon on which one would have said that all Nature smiled. The air was soft and balmy; the links, fresh from the rains of spring, glistened in the pleasant sunshine; and down on the second tee young Clifford Wimple, in a new suit of plus-fours, had just sunk two balls in the lake and was about to sink a third. No element, in short, was lacking that might be supposed to make for quiet happiness.

And yet on the forehead of the Oldest Member, as he sat beneath the chestnut tree on the terrace overlooking the ninth green, there was a peevish frown; and his eye, gazing down at the rolling expanse of turf, lacked its customary genial benevolence. His favourite chair, consecrated to his private and personal use by unwritten law, had been occupied by another. That is the worst of a free country⁠—liberty so often degenerates into licence.

The Oldest Member coughed.

“I trust,” he said, “you find that chair comfortable?”

The intruder, who was the club’s hitherto spotless secretary, glanced up in a goofy manner.


“That chair⁠—you find it fits snugly to the figure?”

“Chair? Figure? Oh, you mean this chair? Oh, yes.”

“I am gratified and relieved,” said the Oldest Member.

There was a silence.

“Look here,” said the secretary, “what would you do in a case like this? You know I’m engaged?”

“I do. And no doubt your fiancée is missing you. Why not go in search of her?”

“She’s the sweetest girl on earth.”

“I should lose no time.”

“But jealous. And just now I was in my office, and that Mrs. Pettigrew came in to ask if there was any news of the purse which she lost a couple of days ago. It had just been brought to my office, so I produced it; whereupon the infernal woman, in a most unsuitably girlish manner, flung her arms round my neck and kissed me on my bald spot. And at that moment Adela came in. Death,” said the secretary, “where is thy sting?”

The Oldest Member’s pique melted. He had a feeling heart.

“Most unfortunate. What did you say?”

“I hadn’t time to say anything. She shot out too quick.”

The Oldest Member clicked his tongue sympathetically.

“These misunderstandings between young and ardent hearts are very frequent,” he said. “I could tell you at least fifty cases of the same kind. The one which I will select is the story of Jane Packard, William Bates, and Rodney Spelvin.”

“You told me that the other day. Jane Packard got engaged to Rodney Spelvin, the poet, but the madness passed and she married William Bates, who was a golfer.”

“This is another story of the trio.”

“You told me that one, too. After Jane Packard married William Bates she fell once more under the spell of Spelvin, but repented in time.”

“This is still another story. Making three in all.”

The secretary buried his face in his hands.

“Oh, well,” he said, “go ahead. What does anything matter now?”

“First,” said the Oldest Member, “let us make ourselves comfortable. Take this chair. It is easier than the one in which you are sitting.”

“No, thanks.”

“I insist.”

“Oh, all right.”

“Woof!” said the Oldest Member, settling himself luxuriously.

With an eye now full of kindly goodwill, he watched young Clifford Wimple play his fourth. Then, as the silver drops flashed up into the sun, he nodded approvingly and began.

The story which I am about to relate (said the Oldest Member) begins at a time when Jane and William had been married some seven years. Jane’s handicap was eleven, William’s twelve, and their little son, Braid Vardon, had just celebrated his sixth birthday.

Ever since that dreadful time, two years before, when, lured by the glamour of Rodney Spelvin, she had taken a studio in the artistic quarter, dropped her golf, and practically learned to play the ukelele, Jane had been unremitting in her efforts to be a good mother and to bring up her son on the strictest principles. And, in order that his growing mind might have every chance, she had invited William’s younger sister, Anastatia, to spend a week or two with them and put the child right on the true functions of the mashie. For Anastatia had reached the semifinals of the last Ladies’ Open Championship and, unlike many excellent players, had the knack of teaching.

On the evening on which this story opens the two women were sitting in the drawing-room, chatting. They had finished tea; and Anastatia, with the aid of a lump of sugar, a spoon, and some crumbled cake, was illustrating the method by which she had got out of the rough on the fifth at Squashy Hollow.

“You’re wonderful!” said Jane, admiringly. “And such a good influence for Braid! You’ll give him his lesson tomorrow afternoon as usual?”

“I shall have to make it the morning,” said Anastatia. “I’ve promised to meet a man in town in the afternoon.”

As she spoke there came into her face a look so soft and dreamy that it roused Jane as if a bradawl had been driven into her leg. As her history has already shown, there was a strong streak of romance in Jane Bates.

“Who is he?” she asked, excitedly.

“A man I met last summer,” said Anastatia.

And she sighed with such abandon that Jane could no longer hold in check her womanly nosiness.

“Do you love him?” she cried.

“Like bricks,” whispered Anastatia.

“Does he love you?”

“Sometimes I think so.”

“What’s his name?”

“Rodney Spelvin.”


“Oh, I know he writes the most awful bilge,” said Anastatia, defensively, misinterpreting the yowl of horror which had proceeded from Jane. “All the same, he’s a darling.”

Jane could not speak. She stared at her sister-in-law aghast. Although she knew that if you put a driver in her hands she could paste the ball into the next county, there always seemed to her something fragile and helpless about Anastatia. William’s sister was one of those small, rose-leaf girls with big blue eyes to whom good men instinctively want to give a stroke a hole and on whom bad men automatically prey. And when Jane reflected that Rodney Spelvin had to all intents and purposes preyed upon herself, who stood five foot seven in her shoes and, but for an innate love of animals, could have felled an ox with a blow, she shuddered at the thought of how he would prey on this innocent half-portion.

“You really love him?” she quavered.

“If he beckoned to me in the middle of a medal round, I would come to him,” said Anastatia.

Jane realized that further words were useless. A sickening sense of helplessness obsessed her. Something ought to be done about this terrible thing, but what could she do? She was so ashamed of her past madness that not even to warn this girl could she reveal that she had once been engaged to Rodney Spelvin herself; that he had recited poetry on the green while she was putting; and that, later, he had hypnotized her into taking William and little Braid to live in a studio full of samovars. These revelations would no doubt open Anastatia’s eyes, but she could not make them.

And then, suddenly, Fate pointed out a way.

It was Jane’s practice to go twice a week to the cinema palace in the village; and two nights later she set forth as usual and took her place just as the entertainment was about to begin.

At first she was only mildly interested. The title of the picture, Tried in the Furnace, had suggested nothing to her. Being a regular patron of the silver screen, she knew that it might quite easily turn out to be an educational film on the subject of clinker-coal. But as the action began to develop she found herself leaning forward in her seat, blindly crushing a caramel between her fingers. For scarcely had the operator started to turn the crank when inspiration came to her.

Of the main plot of Tried in the Furnace she retained, when finally she reeled out into the open air, only a confused recollection. It had something to do with money not bringing happiness or happiness not bringing money, she could not remember which. But the part which remained graven upon her mind was the bit where Gloria Gooch goes by night to the apartments of the libertine, to beg him to spare her sister, whom he has entangled in his toils.

Jane saw her duty clearly. She must go to Rodney Spelvin and conjure him by the memory of their ancient love to spare Anastatia.

It was not the easiest of tasks to put this scheme into operation. Gloria Gooch, being married to a scholarly man who spent nearly all his time in a library a hundred yards long, had been fortunately situated in the matter of paying visits to libertines; but for Jane the job was more difficult. William expected her to play a couple of rounds with him in the morning and another in the afternoon, which rather cut into her time. However, Fate was still on her side, for one morning at breakfast William announced that business called him to town.

“Why don’t you come, too?” he said.

Jane started.

“No. No, I don’t think I will, thanks.”

“Give you lunch somewhere.”

“No. I want to stay here and do some practice-putting.”

“All right. I’ll try to get back in time for a round in the evening.”

Remorse gnawed at Jane’s vitals. She had never deceived William before. She kissed him with even more than her usual fondness when he left to catch the ten-forty-five. She waved to him till he was out of sight; then, bounding back into the house, leaped at the telephone and, after a series of conversations with the Marks-Morris Glue Factory, the Poor Pussy Home for Indigent Cats, and Messrs. Oakes, Oakes, and Parbury, dealers in fancy goods, at last found herself in communication with Rodney Spelvin.

“Rodney?” she said, and held her breath, fearful at this breaking of a two years’ silence and yet loath to hear another strange voice say “Wadnumjerwant?” “Is that you, Rodney?”

“Yes. Who is that?”

Mrs. Bates. Rodney, can you give me lunch at the Alcazar today at one?”

“Can I!” Not even the fact that some unknown basso had got on the wire and was asking if that was Mr. Bootle could blur the enthusiasm in his voice. “I should say so!”

“One o’clock, then,” said Jane. His enthusiastic response had relieved her. If by merely speaking she could stir him so, to bend him to her will when they met face to face would be pie.

“One o’clock,” said Rodney.

Jane hung up the receiver and went to her room to try on hats.

The impression came to Jane, when she entered the lobby of the restaurant and saw him waiting, that Rodney Spelvin looked somehow different from the Rodney she remembered. His handsome face had a deeper and more thoughtful expression, as if he had been through some ennobling experience.

“Well, here I am,” she said, going to him and affecting a jauntiness which she did not feel.

He looked at her, and there was in his eyes that unmistakable goggle which comes to men suddenly addressed in a public spot by women whom, to the best of their recollection, they do not know from Eve.

“How are you?” he said. He seemed to pull himself together. “You’re looking splendid.”

“You’re looking fine,” said Jane.

“You’re looking awfully well,” said Rodney.

“You’re looking awfully well,” said Jane.

“You’re looking fine,” said Rodney.

There was a pause.

“You’ll excuse me glancing at my watch,” said Rodney. “I have an appointment to lunch with⁠—er⁠—somebody here, and it’s past the time.”

“But you’re lunching with me,” said Jane, puzzled.

“With you?”

“Yes. I rang you up this morning.”

Rodney gaped.

“Was it you who phoned? I thought you said ‘Miss Bates.’ ”

“No, Mrs. Bates.”

Mrs. Bates?”

Mrs. Bates.”

“Of course. You’re Mrs. Bates.”

“Had you forgotten me?” said Jane, in spite of herself a little piqued.

“Forgotten you, dear lady! As if I could!” said Rodney, with a return of his old manner. “Well, shall we go in and have lunch?”

“All right,” said Jane.

She felt embarrassed and ill at ease. The fact that Rodney had obviously succeeded in remembering her only after the effort of a lifetime seemed to her to fling a spanner into the machinery of her plans at the very outset. It was going to be difficult, she realized, to conjure him by the memory of their ancient love to spare Anastatia; for the whole essence of the idea of conjuring anyone by the memory of their ancient love is that the party of the second part should be aware that there ever was such a thing.

At the luncheon-table conversation proceeded fitfully. Rodney said that this morning he could have sworn it was going to rain, and Jane said she had thought so, too, and Rodney said that now it looked as if the weather might hold up, and Jane said Yes, didn’t it? and Rodney said he hoped the weather would hold up because rain was such a nuisance, and Jane said Yes, wasn’t it? Rodney said yesterday had been a nice day, and Jane said Yes, and Rodney said that it seemed to be getting a little warmer, and Jane said Yes, and Rodney said that summer would be here any moment now, and Jane said Yes, wouldn’t it? and Rodney said he hoped it would not be too hot this summer, but that, as a matter of fact, when you came right down to it, what one minded was not so much the heat as the humidity, and Jane said Yes, didn’t one?

In short, by the time they rose and left the restaurant, not a word had been spoken that could have provoked the censure of the sternest critic. Yet William Bates, catching sight of them as they passed down the aisle, started as if he had been struck by lightning. He had happened to find himself near the Alcazar at lunchtime and had dropped in for a chop; and, peering round the pillar which had hidden his table from theirs, he stared after them with saucer-like eyes.

“Oh, dash it!” said William.

This William Bates, as I have indicated in my previous references to him, was not an abnormally emotional or temperamental man. Built physically on the lines of a motor-lorry, he had much of that vehicle’s placid and even phlegmatic outlook on life. Few things had the power to ruffle William, but, unfortunately, it so happened that one of these things was Rodney Spelvin. He had never been able entirely to overcome his jealousy of this man. It had been Rodney who had come within an ace of scooping Jane from him in the days when she had been Miss Packard. It had been Rodney who had temporarily broken up his home some years later by persuading Jane to become a member of the artistic set. And now, unless his eyes jolly well deceived him, this human gumboil was once more busy on his dastardly work. Too dashed thick, was William’s view of the matter; and he gnashed his teeth in such a spasm of resentful fury that a man lunching at the next table told the waiter to switch off the electric fan, as it had begun to creak unendurably.

Jane was reading in the drawing-room when William reached home that night.

“Had a nice day?” asked William.

“Quite nice,” said Jane.

“Play golf?” asked William.

“Just practised,” said Jane.

“Lunch at the club?”


“I thought I saw that bloke Spelvin in town,” said William. Jane wrinkled her forehead.

“Spelvin? Oh, you mean Rodney Spelvin? Did you? I see he’s got a new book coming out.”

“You never run into him these days, do you?”

“Oh, no. It must be two years since I saw him.”

“Oh?” said William. “Well, I’ll be going upstairs and dressing.”

It seemed to Jane, as the door closed, that she heard a curious clicking noise, and she wondered for a moment if little Braid had got out of bed and was playing with the Mah-Jongg counters. But it was only William gnashing his teeth.

There is nothing sadder in this life than the spectacle of a husband and wife with practically identical handicaps drifting apart; and to dwell unnecessarily on such a spectacle is, to my mind, ghoulish. It is not my purpose, therefore, to weary you with a detailed description of the hourly widening of the breach between this once ideally united pair. Suffice it to say that within a few days of the conversation just related the entire atmosphere of this happy home had completely altered. On the Tuesday, William excused himself from the morning round on the plea that he had promised Peter Willard a match, and Jane said What a pity! On Tuesday afternoon William said that his head ached, and Jane said Isn’t that too bad? On Wednesday morning William said he had lumbago, and Jane, her sensitive feelings now deeply wounded, said Oh, had he? After that, it came to be agreed between them by silent compact that they should play together no more.

Also, they began to avoid one another in the house. Jane would sit in the drawing-room, while William retired down the passage to his den. In short, if you had added a couple of icons and a photograph of Trotsky, you would have had a mise-en-scène which would have fitted a Russian novel like the paper on the wall.

One evening, about a week after the beginning of this tragic state of affairs, Jane was sitting in the drawing-room, trying to read Braid on Taking Turf. But the print seemed blurred and the philosophy too metaphysical to be grasped. She laid the book down and stared sadly before her.

Every moment of these black days had affected Jane like a stymie on the last green. She could not understand how it was that William should have come to suspect, but that he did suspect was plain; and she writhed on the horns of a dilemma. All she had to do to win him back again was to go to him and tell him of Anastatia’s fatal entanglement. But what would happen then? Undoubtedly he would feel it his duty as a brother to warn the girl against Rodney Spelvin; and Jane instinctively knew that William warning anyone against Rodney Spelvin would sound like a private of the line giving his candid opinion of the sergeant-major.

Inevitably, in this case, Anastatia, a spirited girl and deeply in love, would take offence at his words and leave the house. And if she left the house, what would be the effect on little Braid’s mashie-play? Already, in less than a fortnight, the gifted girl had taught him more about the chip-shot from ten to fifteen yards off the green than the local pro had been able to do in two years. Her departure would be absolutely disastrous.

What it amounted to was that she must sacrifice her husband’s happiness or her child’s future; and the problem of which was to get the loser’s end was becoming daily more insoluble.

She was still brooding on it when the postman arrived with the evening mail, and the maid brought the letters into the drawing-room.

Jane sorted them out. There were three for William, which she gave to the maid to take to him in his den. There were two for herself, both bills. And there was one for Anastatia, in the well-remembered handwriting of Rodney Spelvin.

Jane placed this letter on the mantelpiece, and stood looking at it like a cat at a canary. Anastatia was away for the day, visiting friends who lived a few stations down the line; and every womanly instinct in Jane urged her to get hold of a kettle and steam the gum off the envelope. She had almost made up her mind to disembowel the thing and write “Opened in error” on it, when the telephone suddenly went off like a bomb and nearly startled her into a decline. Coming at that moment, it sounded like the Voice of Conscience.

“Hullo?” said Jane.

“Hullo!” replied a voice.

Jane clucked like a hen with uncontrollable emotion. It was Rodney.

“Is that you?” asked Rodney.

“Yes,” said Jane.

And so it was, she told herself.

“Your voice is like music,” said Rodney.

This may or may not have been the case, but at any rate it was exactly like every other female voice when heard on the telephone. Rodney prattled on without a suspicion.

“Have you got my letter yet?”

“No,” said Jane. She hesitated. “What was in it?” she asked, tremulously.

“It was to ask you to come to my house tomorrow at four.”

“To your house!” faltered Jane.

“Yes. Everything is ready. I will send the servants out, so that we shall be quite alone. You will come, won’t you?”

The room was shimmering before Jane’s eyes, but she regained command of herself with a strong effort.

“Yes,” she said. “I will be there.”

She spoke softly, but there was a note of menace in her voice. Yes, she would indeed be there. From the very moment when this man had made his monstrous proposal, she had been asking herself what Gloria Gooch would have done in a crisis like this. And the answer was plain. Gloria Gooch, if her sister-in-law was intending to visit the apartments of a libertine, would have gone there herself to save the poor child from the consequences of her infatuated folly.

“Yes,” said Jane, “I will be there.”

“You have made me the happiest man in the world,” said Rodney. “I will meet you at the corner of the street at four, then.” He paused. “What is that curious clicking noise?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” said Jane. “I noticed it myself. Something wrong with the wire, I suppose.”

“I thought it was somebody playing the castanets. Until tomorrow, then, goodbye.”


Jane replaced the receiver. And William, who had been listening to every word of the conversation on the extension in his den, replaced his receiver, too.

Anastatia came back from her visit late that night. She took her letter, and read it without comment. At breakfast next morning she said that she would be compelled to go into town that day.

“I want to see my dressmaker,” she said.

“I’ll come, too,” said Jane. “I want to see my dentist.”

“So will I,” said William. “I want to see my lawyer.”

“That will be nice,” said Anastatia, after a pause.

“Very nice,” said Jane, after another pause.

“We might all lunch together,” said Anastatia. “My appointment is not till four.”

“I should love it,” said Jane. “My appointment is at four, too.”

“So is mine,” said William.

“What a coincidence!” said Jane, trying to speak brightly.

“Yes,” said William. He may have been trying to speak brightly, too; but, if so, he failed. Jane was too young to have seen Salvini in Othello, but, had she witnessed that great tragedian’s performance, she could not have failed to be struck by the resemblance between his manner in the pillow scene and William’s now.

“Then shall we all lunch together?” said Anastatia.

“I shall lunch at my club,” said William, curtly.

“William seems to have a grouch,” said Anastatia.

“Ha!” said William.

He raised his fork and drove it with sickening violence at his sausage.

So Jane had a quiet little woman’s lunch at a confectioner’s alone with Anastatia. Jane ordered a tongue-and-lettuce sandwich, two macaroons, marshmallows, ginger-ale, and cocoa; and Anastatia ordered pineapple chunks with whipped cream, tomatoes stuffed with beetroot, three dill pickles, a raspberry nut sundae, and hot chocolate. And, while getting outside this garbage, they talked merrily, as women will, of every subject but the one that really occupied their minds. When Anastatia got up and said goodbye with a final reference to her dressmaker, Jane shuddered at the depths of deceit to which the modern girl can sink.

It was now about a quarter to three, so Jane had an hour to kill before going to the rendezvous. She wandered about the streets, and never had time appeared to her to pass so slowly, never had a city been so congested with hard-eyed and suspicious citizens. Every second person she met seemed to glare at her as if he or she had guessed her secret.

The very elements joined in the general disapproval. The sky had turned a sullen grey, and faraway thunder muttered faintly, like an impatient golfer held up on the tee by a slow foursome. It was a relief when at length she found herself at the back of Rodney Spelvin’s house, standing before the scullery window, which it was her intention to force with the pocketknife won in happier days as second prize in a competition at a summer hotel for those with handicaps above eighteen.

But the relief did not last long. Despite the fact that she was about to enter this evil house with the best motives, a sense of almost intolerable guilt oppressed her. If William should ever get to know of this! Wow! felt Jane.

How long she would have hesitated before the window, one cannot say. But at this moment, glancing guiltily round, she happened to catch the eye of a cat which was sitting on a nearby wall, and she read in this cat’s eye such cynical derision that the urge came upon her to get out of its range as quickly as possible. It was a cat that had manifestly seen a lot of life, and it was plainly putting an entirely wrong construction on her behaviour. Jane shivered, and with a quick jerk prised the window open and climbed in.

It was two years since she had entered this house, but once she had reached the hall she remembered its topography perfectly. She mounted the stairs to the large studio sitting-room on the first floor, the scene of so many Bohemian parties in that dark period of her artistic life. It was here, she knew, that Rodney would bring his victim.

The studio was one of those dim, over-ornamented rooms which appeal to men like Rodney Spelvin. Heavy curtains hung in front of the windows. One corner was cut off by a high-backed Chesterfield. At the far end was an alcove, curtained like the windows. Once Jane had admired this studio, but now it made her shiver. It seemed to her one of those nests in which, as the subtitle of Tried in the Furnace had said, only eggs of evil are hatched. She paced the thick carpet restlessly, and suddenly there came to her the sound of footsteps on the stairs.

Jane stopped, every muscle tense. The moment had arrived. She faced the door, tightlipped. It comforted her a little in this crisis to reflect that Rodney was not one of those massive Ethel M. Dell libertines who might make things unpleasant for an intruder. He was only a welterweight egg of evil; and, if he tried to start anything, a girl of her physique would have little or no difficulty in knocking the stuffing out of him.

The footsteps reached the door. The handle turned. The door opened. And in strode William Bates, followed by two men in bowler hats.

“Ha!” said William.

Jane’s lips parted, but no sound came from them. She staggered back a pace or two. William, advancing into the centre of the room, folded his arms and gazed at her with burning eyes.

“So,” said William, and the words seemed forced like drops of vitriol from between his clenched teeth, “I find you here, dash it!”

Jane choked convulsively. Years ago, when an innocent child, she had seen a conjurer produce a rabbit out of a top-hat which an instant before had been conclusively proved to be empty. The sudden apparition of William affected her with much the same sensations as she had experienced then.

“How-ow-ow⁠—?” she said.

“I beg your pardon?” said William, coldly.


“Explain yourself,” said William.

“How-ow-ow did you get here? And who-oo-oo are these men?”

William seemed to become aware for the first time of the presence of his two companions. He moved a hand in a hasty gesture of introduction.

Mr. Reginald Brown and Mr. Cyril Delancey⁠—my wife,” he said, curtly.

The two men bowed slightly and raised their bowler hats.

“Pleased to meet you,” said one.

“Most awfully charmed,” said the other.

“They are detectives,” said William.


“From the Quick Results Agency,” said William. “When I became aware of your clandestine intrigues, I went to the agency and they gave me their two best men.”

“Oh, well,” said Mr. Brown, blushing a little.

“Most frightfully decent of you to put it that way,” said Mr. Delancey.

William regarded Jane sternly.

“I knew you were going to be here at four o’clock,” he said. “I overheard you making the assignation on the telephone.”

“Oh, William!”

“Woman,” said William, “where is your paramour?”

“Really, really,” said Mr. Delancey, deprecatingly.

“Keep it clean,” urged Mr. Brown.

“Your partner in sin, where is he? I am going to take him and tear him into little bits and stuff him down his throat and make him swallow himself.”

“Fair enough,” said Mr. Brown.

“Perfectly in order,” said Mr. Delancey.

Jane uttered a stricken cry.

“William,” she screamed, “I can explain all.”

“All?” said Mr. Delancey.

“All?” said Mr. Brown.

“All,” said Jane.

“All?” said William.

“All,” said Jane.

William sneered bitterly.

“I’ll bet you can’t,” he said.

“I’ll bet I can,” said Jane.


“I came here to save Anastatia.”



“My sister?”

“Your sister.”

“His sister Anastatia,” explained Mr. Brown to Mr. Delancey in an undertone.

“What from?” asked William.

“From Rodney Spelvin. Oh, William, can’t you understand?”

“No, I’m dashed if I can.”

“I, too,” said Mr. Delancey, “must confess myself a little fogged. And you, Reggie?”

“Completely, Cyril,” said Mr. Brown, removing his bowler hat with a puzzled frown, examining the maker’s name, and putting it on again.

“The poor child is infatuated with this man.”

“With the bloke Spelvin?”

“Yes. She is coming here with him at four o’clock.”

“Important,” said Mr. Brown, producing a notebook and making an entry.

“Important, if true,” agreed Mr. Delancey.

“But I heard you making the appointment with the bloke Spelvin over the phone,” said William.

“He thought I was Anastatia. And I came here to save her.”

William was silent and thoughtful for a few moments.

“It all sounds very nice and plausible,” he said, “but there’s just one thing wrong. I’m not a very clever sort of bird, but I can see where your story slips up. If what you say is true, where is Anastatia?”

“Just coming in now,” whispered Jane. “Hist!”

“Hist, Reggie!” whispered Mr. Delancey.

They listened. Yes, the front door had banged, and feet were ascending the staircase.

“Hide!” said Jane, urgently.

“Why?” said William.

“So that you can overhear what they say and jump out and confront them.”

“Sound,” said Mr. Delancey.

“Very sound,” said Mr. Brown.

The two detectives concealed themselves in the alcove. William retired behind the curtains in front of the window. Jane dived behind the Chesterfield. A moment later the door opened.

Crouching in her corner, Jane could see nothing, but every word that was spoken came to her ears; and with every syllable her horror deepened.

“Give me your things,” she heard Rodney say, “and then we will go upstairs.”

Jane shivered. The curtains by the window shook. From the direction of the alcove there came a soft scratching sound, as the two detectives made an entry in their notebooks.

For a moment after this there was silence. Then Anastatia uttered a sharp, protesting cry.

“Ah, no, no! Please, please!”

“But why not?” came Rodney’s voice.

“It is wrong⁠—wrong.”

“I can’t see why.”

“It is, it is! You must not do that. Oh, please, please don’t hold so tight.”

There was a swishing sound, and through the curtains before the window a large form burst. Jane raised her head above the Chesterfield.

William was standing there, a menacing figure. The two detectives had left the alcove and were moistening their pencils. And in the middle of the room stood Rodney Spelvin, stooping slightly and grasping Anastatia’s parasol in his hands.

“I don’t get it,” he said. “Why is it wrong to hold the dam’ thing tight?” He looked up and perceived his visitors. “Ah, Bates,” he said, absently. He turned to Anastatia again. “I should have thought that the tighter you held it, the more force you would get into the shot.”

“But don’t you see, you poor zimp,” replied Anastatia, “that you’ve got to keep the ball straight. If you grip the shaft as if you were a drowning man clutching at a straw and keep your fingers under like that, you’ll pull like the dickens and probably land out of bounds or in the rough. What’s the good of getting force into the shot if the ball goes in the wrong direction, you cloth-headed goof?”

“I see now,” said Rodney, humbly. “How right you always are!”

“Look here,” interrupted William, folding his arms. “What is the meaning of this?”

“You want to grip firmly but lightly,” said Anastatia.

“Firmly but lightly,” echoed Rodney.

“What is the meaning of this?”

“And with the fingers. Not with the palms.”

“What is the meaning of this?” thundered William. “Anastatia, what are you doing in this man’s rooms?”

“Giving him a golf lesson, of course. And I wish you wouldn’t interrupt.”

“Yes, yes,” said Rodney, a little testily. “Don’t interrupt, Bates, there’s a good fellow. Surely you have things to occupy you elsewhere?”

“We’ll go upstairs,” said Anastatia, “where we can be alone.”

“You will not go upstairs,” barked William.

“We shall get on much better there,” explained Anastatia. “Rodney has fitted up the top-floor back as an indoor practising room.”

Jane darted forward with a maternal cry.

“My poor child, has this scoundrel dared to delude you by pretending to be a golfer? Darling, he is nothing of the kind.”

Mr. Reginald Brown coughed. For some moments he had been twitching restlessly.

“Talking of golf,” he said, “it might interest you to hear of a little experience I had the other day at Marshy Moor. I had got a nice drive off the tee, nothing record-breaking, you understand, but straight and sweet. And what was my astonishment on walking up to play my second to find⁠—”

“A rather similar thing happened to me at Windy Waste last Tuesday,” interrupted Mr. Delancey. “I had hooked my drive the merest trifle, and my caddie said to me, ‘You’re out of bounds.’ ‘I am not out of bounds,’ I replied, perhaps a little tersely, for the lad had annoyed me by a persistent habit of sniffing. ‘Yes, you are out of bounds,’ he said. ‘No, I am not out of bounds,’ I retorted. Well, believe me or believe me not, when I got up to my ball⁠—”

“Shut up!” said William.

“Just as you say, sir,” replied Mr. Delancey, courteously.

Rodney Spelvin drew himself up, and in spite of her loathing for his villainy Jane could not help feeling what a noble and romantic figure he made. His face was pale, but his voice did not falter.

“You are right,” he said. “I am not a golfer. But with the help of this splendid girl here, I hope humbly to be one some day. Ah, I know what you are going to say,” he went on, raising a hand. “You are about to ask how a man who has wasted his life as I have done can dare to entertain the mad dream of ever acquiring a decent handicap. But never forget,” proceeded Rodney, in a low, quivering voice, “that Walter J. Travis was nearly forty before he touched a club, and a few years later he won the British Amateur.”

“True,” murmured William.

“True, true,” said Mr. Delancey and Mr. Brown. They lifted their bowler hats reverently.

“I am thirty-three years old,” continued Rodney, “and for fourteen of those thirty-three years I have been writing poetry⁠—aye, and novels with a poignant sex-appeal, and if ever I gave a thought to this divine game it was but to sneer at it. But last summer I saw the light.”

“Glory! Glory!” cried Mr. Brown.

“One afternoon I was persuaded to try a drive. I took the club with a mocking, contemptuous laugh.” He paused, and a wild light came into his eyes. “I brought off a perfect snifter,” he said, emotionally. “Two hundred yards and as straight as a whistle. And, as I stood there gazing after the ball, something seemed to run up my spine and bite me in the neck. It was the golf-germ.”

“Always the way,” said Mr. Brown. “I remember the first drive I ever made. I took a nice easy stance⁠—”

“The first drive I made,” said Mr. Delancey, “you won’t believe this, but it’s a fact, was a full⁠—”

“From that moment,” continued Rodney Spelvin, “I have had but one ambition⁠—to somehow or other, cost what it might, get down into single figures.” He laughed bitterly. “You see,” he said, “I cannot even speak of this thing without splitting my infinitives. And, even as I split my infinitives, so did I split my drivers. After that first heavenly slosh I didn’t seem able to do anything right.”

He broke off, his face working. William cleared his throat awkwardly.

“Yes, but, dash it,” he said, “all this doesn’t explain why I find you alone with my sister in what I might call your lair.”

“The explanation is simple,” said Rodney Spelvin. “This sweet girl is the only person in the world who seems able to simply and intelligently and in a few easily understood words make clear the knack of the thing. There is none like her, none. I have been to pro after pro, but not one has been any good to me. I am a temperamental man, and there is a lack of sympathy and human understanding about these professionals which jars on my artist soul. They look at you as if you were a half-witted child. They click their tongues. They make odd Scotch noises. I could not endure the strain. And then this wonderful girl, to whom in a burst of emotion I had confided my unhappy case, offered to give me private lessons. So I went with her to some of those indoor practising places. But here, too, my sensibilities were racked by the fact that unsympathetic eyes observed me. So I fixed up a room here where we could be alone.”

“And, instead of going there,” said Anastatia, “we are wasting half the afternoon talking.”

William brooded for a while. He was not a quick thinker.

“Well, look here,” he said at length, “this is the point. This is the nub of the thing. This is where I want you to follow me very closely. Have you asked Anastatia to marry you?”

“Marry me?” Rodney gazed at him, shocked. “Have I asked her to marry me? I, who am not worthy to polish the blade of her niblick! I, who have not even a thirty handicap, ask a girl to marry me who was in the semifinal of last year’s Ladies’ Open! No, no, Bates, I may be a vers-libre poet, but I have some sense of what is fitting. I love her, yes. I love her with a fervour which causes me to frequently and for hours at a time lie tossing sleeplessly upon my pillow. But I would not dare to ask her to marry me.”

Anastatia burst into a peal of girlish laughter.

“You poor chump!” she cried. “Is that what has been the matter all this time? I couldn’t make out what the trouble was. Why, I’m crazy about you. I’ll marry you any time you give the word.”

Rodney reeled.


“Of course I will.”



He folded her in his arms.

“Well, I’m dashed,” said William. “It looks to me as if I had been making rather a lot of silly fuss about nothing. Jane, I wronged you.”

“It was my fault.”

“No, no!”

“Yes, yes!”



He folded her in his arms. The two detectives, having entered the circumstances in their notebooks, looked at one another with moist eyes.

“Cyril!” said Mr. Brown.

“Reggie!” said Mr. Delancey.

Their hands met in a brotherly clasp.

“And so,” concluded the Oldest Member, “all ended happily. The storm-tossed lives of William Bates, Jane Packard, and Rodney Spelvin came safely at long last into harbour. At the subsequent wedding, William and Jane’s present of a complete golfing outfit, including eight dozen new balls, a cloth cap, and a pair of spiked shoes, was generally admired by all who inspected the gifts during the reception.

“From that time forward the four of them have been inseparable. Rodney and Anastatia took a little cottage close to that of William and Jane, and rarely does a day pass without a close foursome between the two couples. William and Jane being steady tens and Anastatia scratch and Rodney a persevering eighteen, it makes an ideal match.”

“What does?” asked the secretary, waking from his reverie.

“This one.”


“I see,” said the Oldest Member, sympathetically, “that your troubles, weighing on your mind, have caused you to follow my little narrative less closely than you might have done. Never mind, I will tell it again.

“The story” (said the Oldest Member) “which I am about to relate begins at a time when⁠—”

Those in Peril on the Tee

The young man with the fresh, ingenuous face turned from the smoking-room window, through which he had been gazing out upon the smiling links.

“Nice day, sir,” he said.

The Oldest Member looked up with a start. He eyed the young man with a pleased surprise, gratified to find one of the younger generation of his own volition engaging him in conversation. For of late he had noticed on the part of his juniors a tendency to flit rapidly past him with vague mutterings.

“A beautiful day,” he agreed. “You are a new member here, I think?”

“Just joined. It’s a great course.”

“None better.”

“They give you a good lunch, too.”


“In fact, the only drawback to the club, the secretary tells me, is that there is a fearful old bore who hangs about the place, lying in wait to collar people and tell them stories.”

The Oldest Member wrinkled his forehead thoughtfully.

“I do not know whom he can have been referring to,” he said. “No, I cannot recall any such person. But, talking of stories, you will be interested in the one I am about to relate. It is the story of John Gooch, Frederick Pilcher, Sidney McMurdo, and Agnes Flack.”

A wordless exclamation proceeded from the young man. His fresh face had lost some of its colour. He looked wistfully at the door.

“John Gooch, Frederick Pilcher, Sidney McMurdo, and Agnes Flack,” repeated the Oldest Member, firmly.

You may have noticed (said the Oldest Member) how frequently it happens that practitioners of the Arts are quiet, timid little men, shy in company and unable to express themselves except through the medium of the pencil or the pen. John Gooch was like that. So was Frederick Pilcher. Gooch was a writer and Pilcher was an artist, and they used to meet a good deal at the house of Agnes Flack, where they were constant callers. And every time they met John Gooch would say to himself, as he watched the other balancing a cup of tea and smiling his weak, propitiatory smile, “I am fond of Pilcher, but his best friend could not deny that he is a pretty dumb brick.” And Pilcher, as he saw Gooch sitting on the edge of his chair and fingering his tie, would reflect, “Nice fellow as Gooch is, he is certainly a total loss in mixed society.”

Mark you, if ever men had an excuse for being ill at ease in the presence of the opposite sex, these two had. They were both eighteen-handicap men, and Agnes Flack was exuberantly and dynamically scratch. She stood about five feet ten in her stockings, and had shoulders and forearms which would have excited the envy and admiration of one of those muscular women who good-naturedly allow six brothers, three sisters, and a cousin by marriage to pile themselves on her collarbone while the orchestra plays a long-drawn chord and the audience streams out to the bar. Her eye resembled the eye of one of the more imperious queens of history; and when she laughed strong men clutched at their temples to keep the tops of their heads from breaking loose.

Even Sidney McMurdo was as a piece of damp blotting-paper in her presence. And he was a man who weighed two hundred and eleven pounds and had once been a semifinalist in the Amateur Championship. He loved Agnes Flack with an ox-like devotion. And yet⁠—and this will show you what life is⁠—when she laughed, it was nearly always at him. I am told by those in a position to know that, on the occasion when he first proposed to her⁠—on the sixth green⁠—distant rumblings of her mirth were plainly heard in the clubhouse locker-room, causing two men who were afraid of thunderstorms to scratch their match.

Such, then, was Agnes Flack. Such, also, was Sidney McMurdo. And such, while we are on the subject, were Frederick Pilcher and John Gooch.

Now John Gooch, though, of course, they had exchanged a word from time to time, was in no sense an intimate of Sidney McMurdo. It was consequently a surprise to him when one night, as he sat polishing up the rough draft of a detective story⁠—for his was a talent that found expression largely in blood, shots in the night, and millionaires who are found murdered in locked rooms with no possible means of access except a window forty feet above the ground⁠—the vast bulk of McMurdo lumbered across his threshold and deposited itself in a chair.

The chair creaked. Gooch stared. McMurdo groaned.

“Are you ill?” said John Gooch.

“Ha!” said Sidney McMurdo.

He had been sitting with his face buried in his hands, but now he looked up; and there was a red glare in his eyes which sent a thrill of horror through John Gooch. The visitor reminded him of the Human Gorilla in his novel, The Mystery of the Severed Ear.

“For two pins,” said Sidney McMurdo, displaying a more mercenary spirit than the Human Gorilla, who had required no cash compensation for his crimes, “I would tear you into shreds.”

“Me?” said John Gooch, blankly.

“Yes, you. And that fellow Pilcher, too.” He rose; and, striding to the mantelpiece, broke off a corner of it and crumbled it in his fingers. “You have stolen her from me.”

“Stolen? Whom?”

“My Agnes.”

John Gooch stared at him, thoroughly bewildered. The idea of stealing Agnes Flack was rather like the notion of sneaking off with the Albert Hall. He could make nothing of it.

“She is going to marry you.”

“What!” cried John Gooch, aghast.

“Either you or Pilcher.” McMurdo paused. “Shall I tear you into little strips and tread you into the carpet?” he murmured, meditatively.

“No,” said John Gooch. His mind was blurred, but he was clear on that point.

“Why did you come butting in?” groaned Sidney McMurdo, absently taking up the poker and tying it into a lover’s knot. “I was getting along splendidly until you two pimples broke out. Slowly but surely I was teaching her to love me, and now it can never be. I have a message for you. From her. I proposed to her for the eleventh time tonight; and when she had finished laughing she told me that she could never marry a mere mass of brawn. She said she wanted brain. And she told me to tell you and the pest Pilcher that she had watched you closely and realized that you both loved her, but were too shy to speak, and that she understood and would marry one of you.”

There was a long silence.

“Pilcher is a splendid fellow,” said John Gooch. “She must marry Pilcher.”

“She will, if he wins the match.”

“What match?”

“The golf match. She read a story in a magazine the other day where two men played a match at golf to decide which was to win the heroine; and about a week later she read another story in another magazine where two men played a match at golf to decide which was to win the heroine. And a couple of days ago she read three more stories in three more magazines where exactly the same thing happened; and she has decided to accept it as an omen. So you and the hound Pilcher are to play eighteen holes, and the winner marries Agnes.”

“The winner?”


“I should have thought⁠—I forget what I was going to say.”

McMurdo eyed him keenly.

“You have not been trifling with this girl’s affections, Gooch, I hope?”

“No, no. Oh, no.”

“Because, if I thought that, I should know what steps to take. Even now⁠—” He paused, and looked at the poker in his hand in a rather yearning sort of way. “No, no,” he said, “better not, better not.” With a gesture of resignation he flung the thing down. “Good night, weed. The match will be played on Friday morning. And may the better⁠—or, rather, the less impossibly foul⁠—man win.”

He banged the door, and John Gooch was alone.

But not for long. Scarcely half an hour had passed when the door opened once more, to admit Frederick Pilcher. The artist’s face was pale, and he was breathing heavily. He sat down, and after a brief interval contrived to summon up a smile. He rose and patted John Gooch on the shoulder.

“John,” he said, “I am a man who as a general rule hides his feelings. I mask my affections. But I want to say, straight out, here and now, that I like you, John.”

“Yes?” said John Gooch.

Frederick Pilcher patted his other shoulder.

“I like you so much, John, old man, that I can read your thoughts, strive to conceal them though you may. I have been watching you closely of late, John, and I know your secret. You love Agnes Flack.”

“I don’t!”

“Yes, you do. Ah, John, John,” said Frederick Pilcher, with a gentle smile, “why try to deceive an old friend? You love her, John. You love that girl. And I have good news for you, John⁠—tidings of great joy. I happen to know that she will look favourably on your suit. Go in and win, my boy, go in and win. Take my advice and dash round and propose without a moment’s delay.”

John Gooch shook his head. He, too, smiled a gentle smile.

“Frederick,” he said, “this is like you. Noble. That’s what I call it. Noble. It’s the sort of thing the hero does in act two. But it must not be, Frederick. It must not, shall not be. I also can read a friend’s heart, and I know that you, too, love Agnes Flack. And I yield my claim. I am excessively fond of you, Frederick, and I give her up to you. God bless you, old fellow. God, in fact, bless both of you.”

“Look here,” said Frederick Pilcher, “have you been having a visit from Sidney McMurdo?”

“He did drop in for a minute.”

There was a tense pause.

“What I can’t understand,” said Frederick Pilcher, at length, peevishly, “is why, if you don’t love this infernal girl, you kept calling at her house practically every night and sitting goggling at her with obvious devotion.”

“It wasn’t devotion.”

“It looked like it.”

“Well, it wasn’t. And, if it comes to that, why did you call on her practically every night and goggle just as much as I did?”

“I had a very good reason,” said Frederick Pilcher. “I was studying her face. I am planning a series of humorous drawings on the lines of Felix the Cat, and I wanted her as a model. To goggle at a girl in the interests of one’s Art, as I did, is a very different thing from goggling wantonly at her like you.”

“Is that so?” said John Gooch. “Well, let me tell you that I wasn’t goggling wantonly. I was studying her psychology for a series of stories which I am preparing, entitled ‘Madeline Monk, Murderess.’ ”

Frederick Pilcher held out his hand.

“I wronged you, John,” he said. “However, be that as it may, the point is that we both appear to be up against it very hard. An extraordinarily well-developed man, that fellow McMurdo.”

“A mass of muscle.”

“And of a violent disposition.”

“Dangerously so.”

Frederick Pilcher drew out his handkerchief and dabbed at his forehead.

“You don’t think, John, that you might ultimately come to love Agnes Flack?”

“I do not.”

“Love frequently comes after marriage, I believe.”

“So does suicide.”

“Then it looks to me,” said Frederick Pilcher, “as if one of us was for it. I see no way out of playing that match.”

“Nor I.”

“The growing tendency on the part of the modern girl to read trashy magazine stories,” said Frederick Pilcher, severely, “is one that I deplore. I view it with alarm. And I wish to goodness that you authors wouldn’t write tales about men who play golf matches for the hand of a woman.”

“Authors must live,” said John Gooch. “How is your game these days, Frederick?”

“Improved, unfortunately. I am putting better.”

“I am steadier off the tee.” John Gooch laughed bitterly. “When I think of the hours of practice I have put in, little knowing that a thing of this sort was in store for me, I appreciate the irony of life. If I had not bought Sandy McHoots’ book last spring, I might now be in a position to be beaten five and four.”

“Instead of which, you will probably win the match on the twelfth.”

John Gooch started.

“You can’t be as bad as that!”

“I shall be on Friday.”

“You mean to say you aren’t going to try?”

“I do.”

“You have sunk to such depths that you would deliberately play below your proper form?”

“I have.”

“Pilcher,” said John Gooch, coldly, “you are a hound, and I never liked you from the start.”

You would have thought that, after the conversation which I have just related, no depth of low cunning on the part of Frederick Pilcher would have had the power to surprise John Gooch. And yet, as he saw the other come out of the clubhouse to join him on the first tee on the Friday morning, I am not exaggerating when I say that he was stunned.

John Gooch had arrived at the links early, wishing to get in a little practice. One of his outstanding defects as a golfer was a pronounced slice; and it seemed to him that, if he drove off a few balls before the match began, he might be able to analyse this slice and see just what was the best stance to take up in order that it might have full scope. He was teeing his third ball when Frederick Pilcher appeared.

“What⁠—what⁠—what⁠—!” gasped John Gooch.

For Frederick Pilcher, discarding the baggy, mustard-coloured plus-fours in which it was his usual custom to infest the links, was dressed in a perfectly-fitting morning-coat, yellow waistcoat, striped trousers, spats, and patent-leather shoes. He wore a high stiff collar, and on his head was the glossiest top-hat ever seen off the Stock Exchange. He looked intensely uncomfortable; and yet there was on his face a smirk which he made no attempt to conceal.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

“Why are you dressed like that?” John Gooch uttered an exclamation. “I see it all. You think it will put you off your game.”

“Some idea of the kind did occur to me,” replied Frederick Pilcher, airily.

“You fiend!”

“Tut tut, John. These are hard words to use to a friend.”

“You are no friend of mine.”

“A pity,” said Frederick Pilcher, “for I was hoping that you would ask me to be your best man at the wedding.” He took a club from his bag and swung it. “Amazing what a difference clothes make. You would hardly believe how this coat cramps the shoulders. I feel as if I were a sardine trying to wriggle in its tin.”

The world seemed to swim before John Gooch’s eyes. Then the mist cleared, and he fixed Frederick Pilcher with a hypnotic gaze.

“You are going to play well,” he said, speaking very slowly and distinctly. “You are going to play well. You are going to play well. You⁠—”

“Stop it!” cried Frederick Pilcher.

“You are going to play well. You are going⁠—”

A heavy hand descended on his shoulder. Sidney McMurdo was regarding him with a black scowl.

“We don’t want any of your confounded chivalry,” said Sidney McMurdo. “This match is going to be played in the strictest spirit of⁠—What the devil are you dressed like that for?” he demanded, wheeling on Frederick Pilcher.

“I⁠—I have to go into the City immediately after the match,” said Pilcher. “I shan’t have time to change.”

“H’m. Well, it’s your own affair. Come along,” said Sidney McMurdo, gritting his teeth. “I’ve been told to referee this match, and I don’t want to stay here all day. Toss for the honour, worms.”

John Gooch spun a coin. Frederick Pilcher called tails. The coin fell heads up.

“Drive off, reptile,” said Sidney McMurdo.

As John Gooch addressed his ball, he was aware of a strange sensation which he could not immediately analyse. It was only when, after waggling two or three times, he started to draw his club back that it flashed upon him that this strange sensation was confidence. For the first time in his life he seemed to have no doubt that the ball, well and truly struck, would travel sweetly down the middle of the fairway. And then the hideous truth dawned on him. His subconscious self had totally misunderstood the purport of his recent remarks and had got the whole thing nicely muddled up.

Much has been written of the subconscious self, and all that has been written goes to show that of all the thickheaded, blundering chumps who take everything they hear literally, it is the worst. Anybody of any intelligence would have realized that when John Gooch said, “You are going to play well,” he was speaking to Frederick Pilcher; but his subconscious self had missed the point completely. It had heard John Gooch say, “You are going to play well,” and it was seeing that he did so.

The unfortunate man did what he could. Realizing what had happened, he tried with a despairing jerk to throw his swing out of gear just as the club came above his shoulder. It was a fatal move. You may recall that when Arnaud Massy won the British Open Championship one of the features of his play was a sort of wiggly twiggle at the top of the swing, which seemed to have the effect of adding yards to his drive. This wiggly twiggle John Gooch, in his effort to wreck his shot, achieved to a nicety. The ball soared over the bunker in which he had hoped to waste at least three strokes; and fell so near the green that it was plain that only a miracle could save him from getting a four.

There was a sardonic smile on Frederick Pilcher’s face as he stepped on to the tee. In a few moments he would be one down, and it would not be his fault if he failed to maintain the advantage. He drew back the head of his club. His coat, cut by a fashionable tailor who, like all fashionable tailors, resented it if the clothes he made permitted his customers to breathe, was so tight that he could not get the club-head more than halfway up. He brought it to this point, then brought it down in a lifeless semicircle.

“Nice!” said Sidney McMurdo, involuntarily. He despised and disliked Frederick Pilcher, but he was a golfer. And a golfer cannot refrain from giving a good shot its meed of praise.

For the ball, instead of trickling down the hill as Frederick Pilcher had expected, was singing through the air like a shell. It fell near John Gooch’s ball and, bounding past it, ran on to the green.

The explanation was, of course, simple. Frederick Pilcher was a man who, in his normal golfing costume, habitually overswung. This fault the tightness of his coat had now rendered impossible. And his other pet failing, the raising of the head, had been checked by the fact that he was wearing a top-hat. It had been Pilcher’s intention to jerk his head till his spine cracked; but the unseen influence of generations of ancestors who had devoted the whole of their intellect to the balancing of top-hats on windy days was too much for him.

A minute later the two men had halved the hole in four.

The next hole, the water-hole, they halved in three. The third, long and over the hill, they halved in five.

And it was as they moved to the fourth tee that a sort of madness came upon both Frederick Pilcher and John Gooch simultaneously.

These two, you must remember, were eighteen-handicap men. That is to say, they thought well of themselves if they could get sixes on the first, sevens on the third, and anything from fours to elevens on the second⁠—according to the number of balls they sank in the water. And they had done these three holes in twelve. John Gooch looked at Frederick Pilcher and Frederick Pilcher looked at John Gooch. Their eyes were gleaming, and they breathed a little stertorously through their noses.

“Pretty work,” said John Gooch.

“Nice stuff,” said Frederick Pilcher.

“Get a move on, blisters,” growled Sidney McMurdo.

It was at this point that the madness came upon these two men.

Picture to yourself their position. Each felt that by continuing to play in this form he was running a deadly risk of having to marry Agnes Flack. Each felt that his opponent could not possibly keep up so hot a pace much longer, and the prudent course, therefore, was for himself to ease off a bit before the crash came. And each, though fully aware of all this, felt that he was dashed if he wasn’t going to have a stab at doing the round of his life. It might well be that, having started off at such a clip, he would find himself finishing somewhere in the eighties. And that, surely, would compensate for everything.

After all, felt John Gooch, suppose he did marry Agnes Flack, what of it? He had faith in his star, and it seemed to him that she might quite easily get run over by a truck or fall off a cliff during the honeymoon. Besides, with all the facilities for divorce which modern civilization so beneficently provides, what was there to be afraid of in marriage, even with an Agnes Flack?

Frederick Pilcher’s thoughts were equally optimistic. Agnes Flack, he reflected, was undeniably a pot of poison; but so much the better. Just the wife to keep an artist up to the mark. Hitherto he had had a tendency to be a little lazy. He had avoided his studio and loafed about the house. Married to Agnes Flack, his studio would see a lot more of him. He would spend all day in it⁠—probably have a truckle bed put in and never leave it at all. A sensible man, felt Frederick Pilcher, can always make a success of marriage if he goes about it in the right spirit.

John Gooch’s eyes gleamed. Frederic Pilcher’s jaw protruded. And neck and neck, fighting grimly for their sixes and sometimes even achieving fives, they came to the ninth green, halved the hole, and were all square at the turn.

It was at this point that they perceived Agnes Flack standing on the clubhouse terrace.

“Yoo-hoo!” cried Agnes in a voice of thunder.

And John Gooch and Frederick Pilcher stopped dead in their tracks, blinking like abruptly-awakened somnambulists.

She made a singularly impressive picture, standing there with her tweed-clad form outlined against the white of the clubhouse wall. She had the appearance of one who is about to play Boadicea in a pageant; and John Gooch, as he gazed at her, was conscious of a chill that ran right down his back and oozed out at the soles of his feet.

“How’s the match coming along?” she yelled, cheerily.

“All square,” replied Sidney McMurdo, with a sullen scowl. “Wait where you are for a minute, germs,” he said. “I wish to have a word with Miss Flack.”

He drew Agnes aside and began to speak to her in a low rumbling voice. And presently it was made apparent to all within a radius of half a mile that he had been proposing to her once again, for suddenly she threw her head back and there went reverberating over the countryside that old familiar laugh.

“Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!” laughed Agnes Flack.

John Gooch shot a glance at his opponent. The artist, pale to the lips, was removing his coat and hat and handing them to his caddie. And, even as John Gooch looked, he unfastened his braces and tied them round his waist. It was plain that from now on Frederick Pilcher intended to run no risk of not overswinging.

John Gooch could appreciate his feelings. The thought of how that laugh would sound across the bacon and eggs on a rainy Monday morning turned the marrow in his spine to ice and curdled every red corpuscle in his veins. Gone was the exhilarating ferment which had caused him to skip like a young ram when a long putt had given him a forty-six for the first nine. How bitterly he regretted now those raking drives, those crisp flicks of the mashie-niblick of which he had been so proud ten minutes ago. If only he had not played such an infernally good game going out, he reflected, he might at this moment be eight or nine down and without a care in the world.

A shadow fell between him and the sun; and he turned to see Sidney McMurdo standing by his side, glaring with a singular intensity.

“Bah!” said Sidney McMurdo, having regarded him in silence for some moments.

He turned on his heel and made for the clubhouse.

“Where are you going, Sidney?” asked Agnes Flack.

“I am going home,” replied Sidney McMurdo, “before I murder these two miserable harvest-bugs. I am only flesh and blood, and the temptation to grind them into powder and scatter them to the four winds will shortly become too strong. Good morning.”

Agnes emitted another laugh like a steam-riveter at work.

“Isn’t he funny?” she said, addressing John Gooch, who had clutched at his scalp and was holding it down as the vibrations died away. “Well, I suppose I shall have to referee the rest of the match myself. Whose honour? Yours? Then drive off and let’s get at it.”

The demoralizing effects of his form on the first nine holes had not completely left John Gooch. He drove long and straight, and stepped back appalled. Only a similar blunder on the part of his opponent could undo the damage.

But Frederick Pilcher had his wits well about him. He overswung as he had never overswung before. His ball shot off into the long grass on the right of the course, and he uttered a pleased cry.

“Lost ball, I fancy,” he said. “Too bad!”

“I marked it,” said John Gooch, grimly. “I will come and help you find it.”

“Don’t trouble.”

“It is no trouble.”

“But it’s your hole, anyway. It will take me three or four to get out of there.”

“It will take me four or five to get a yard from where I am.”

“Gooch,” said Frederick Pilcher, in a cautious whisper, “you are a cad.”

“Pilcher,” said John Gooch, in tones equally hushed, “you are a low bounder. And if I find you kicking that ball under a bush, there will be blood shed⁠—and in large quantities.”

“Ha, ha!”

“Ha, ha to you!” said John Gooch.

The ball was lying in a leathery tuft, and, as Pilcher had predicted, it took three strokes to move it back to the fairway. By the time Frederick Pilcher had reached the spot where John Gooch’s drive had finished, he had played seven.

But there was good stuff in John Gooch. It is often in times of great peril that the artistic temperament shows up best. Missing the ball altogether with his next three swings, he topped it with his fourth, topped it again with his fifth, and, playing the like, sent a low, skimming shot well over the green into the bunker beyond. Frederick Pilcher, aiming for the same bunker, sliced and landed on the green. The six strokes which it took John Gooch to get out of the sand decided the issue. Frederick Pilcher was one up at the tenth.

But John Gooch’s advantage was short-lived. On the right, as you approach the eleventh green, there is a deep chasm, spanned by a wooden bridge. Frederick Pilcher, playing twelve, just failed to put his ball into this, and it rolled on to within a few feet of the hole. It seemed to John Gooch that the day was his. An easy mashie-shot would take him well into the chasm, from which no eighteen-handicap player had ever emerged within the memory of man. This would put him two down⁠—a winning lead. He swung jubilantly, and brought off a nicely-lofted shot which seemed to be making for the very centre of the pit.

And so, indeed, it was; and it was this fact that undid John Gooch’s schemes. The ball, with all the rest of the chasm to choose from, capriciously decided to strike the one spot on the left-hand rail of the wooden bridge which would deflect it towards the flag. It bounded high in the air, fell on the green; and the next moment, while John Gooch stood watching with fallen jaw and starting eyes, it had trickled into the hole.

There was a throbbing silence. Then Agnes Flack spoke.

“Important, if true,” she said. “All square again. I will say one thing for you two⁠—you make this game very interesting.”

And once more she sent the birds shooting out of the treetops with that hearty laugh of hers. John Gooch, coming slowly to after the shattering impact of it, found that he was clutching Frederick Pilcher’s arm. He flung it from him as if it had been a loathsome snake.

A grimmer struggle than that which took place over the next six holes has probably never been seen on any links. First one, then the other seemed to be about to lose the hole, but always a well-judged slice or a timely top enabled his opponent to rally. At the eighteenth tee the game was still square; and John Gooch, taking advantage of the fact that Agnes had stopped to tie her shoelace, endeavoured to appeal to his onetime friend’s better nature.

“Frederick,” he said, “this is not like you.”

“What isn’t like me?”

“Playing this low-down game. It is not like the old Frederick Pilcher.”

“Well, what sort of a game do you think you are playing?”

“A little below my usual, it is true,” admitted John Gooch. “But that is due to nervousness. You are deliberately trying to foozle, which is not only painting the lily but very dishonest. And I can’t see what motive you have, either.”

“You can’t, can’t you?”

John Gooch laid a hand persuasively on the other’s shoulder.

“Agnes Flack is a most delightful girl.”

“Who is?”

“Agnes Flack.”

“A delightful girl?”

“Most delightful.”

“Agnes Flack is a delightful girl?”



“She would make you very happy.”

“Who would?”

“Agnes Flack.”

“Make me happy?”

“Very happy.”

“Agnes Flack would make me happy?”



John Gooch was conscious of a slight discouragement. He did not seem to be making headway.

“Well, then, look here,” he said, “what we had better do is to have a gentleman’s agreement.”

“Who are the gentlemen?”

“You and I.”


John Gooch did not like the other’s manner, nor did he like the tone of voice in which he had just spoken. But then there were so many things about Frederick Pilcher that he did not like that it seemed useless to try to do anything about it. Moreover, Agnes Flack had finished tying her shoelace, and was making for them across the turf like a mastodon striding over some prehistoric plain. It was no time for wasting words.

“A gentleman’s agreement to halve the match,” he said hurriedly.

“What’s the good of that? She would only make us play extra holes.”

“We would halve those, too.”

“Then we should have to play it off another day.”

“But before that we could leave the neighbourhood.”

“Sidney McMurdo would follow us to the ends of the earth.”

“Ah, but suppose we didn’t go there? Suppose we simply lay low in the city and grew beards?”

“There’s something in it,” said Frederick Pilcher, reflectively.

“You agree?”

“Very well.”


“What’s splendid?” asked Agnes Flack, thudding up.

“Oh⁠—er⁠—the match,” said John Gooch. “I was saying to Pilcher that this was a splendid match.”

Agnes Flack sniffed. She seemed quieter than she had been at the outset, as though something were on her mind.

“I’m glad you think so,” she said. “Do you two always play like this?”

“Oh, yes. Yes. This is about our usual form.”

“H’m! Well, push on.”

It was with a light heart that John Gooch addressed his ball for the last drive of the match. A great weight had been lifted from his mind, and he told himself that now there was no objection to bringing off a real sweet one. He swung lustily; and the ball, struck on its extreme left side, shot off at right angles, hit the ladies’ tee-box, and, whizzing back at a high rate of speed, would have mown Agnes Flack’s ankles from under her, had she not at the psychological moment skipped in a manner extraordinarily reminiscent of the high hills mentioned in Sacred Writ.

“Sorry, old man,” said John Gooch, hastily, flushing as he encountered Frederick Pilcher’s cold look of suspicion. “Frightfully sorry, Frederick, old man. Absolutely unintentional.”

“What are you apologizing to him for?” demanded Agnes Flack with a good deal of heat. It had been a near thing, and the girl was ruffled.

Frederick Pilcher’s suspicions had plainly not been allayed by John Gooch’s words. He drove a cautious thirty yards, and waited with the air of one suspending judgment for his opponent to play his second. It was with a feeling of relief that John Gooch, smiting vigorously with his brassie, was enabled to establish his bona fides with a shot that rolled to within mashie-niblick distance of the green.

Frederick Pilcher seemed satisfied that all was well. He played his second to the edge of the green. John Gooch ran his third up into the neighbourhood of the pin.

Frederick Pilcher stooped and picked his ball up.

“Here!” cried Agnes Flack.

“Hey!” ejaculated John Gooch.

“What on earth do you think you’re doing?” said Agnes Flack.

Frederick Pilcher looked at them with mild surprise.

“What’s the matter?” he said. “There’s a blob of mud on my ball. I just wanted to brush it off.”

“Oh, my heavens!” thundered Agnes Flack. “Haven’t you ever read the rules? You’re disqualified.”


“Dis-jolly-well-qualified,” said Agnes Flack, her eyes flashing scorn. “This cripple here wins the match.”

Frederick Pilcher heaved a sigh.

“So be it,” he said. “So be it.”

“What do you mean, so be it? Of course it is.”

“Exactly. Exactly. I quite understand. I have lost the match. So be it.”

And, with drooping shoulders, Frederick Pilcher shuffled off in the direction of the bar.

John Gooch watched him go with a seething fury which for the moment robbed him of speech. He might, he told himself, have expected something like this. Frederick Pilcher, lost to every sense of good feeling and fair play, had double-crossed him. He shuddered as he realized how inky must be the hue of Frederick Pilcher’s soul; and he wished in a frenzy of regret that he had thought of picking his own ball up. Too late! Too late!

For an instant the world had been blotted out for John Gooch by a sort of red mist. This mist clearing, he now saw Agnes Flack standing looking at him in a speculative sort of way, an odd expression in her eyes. And beyond her, leaning darkly against the clubhouse wall, his bulging muscles swelling beneath his coat and his powerful fingers tearing to pieces what appeared to be a section of lead piping, stood Sidney McMurdo.

John Gooch did not hesitate. Although McMurdo was some distance away, he could see him quite clearly; and with equal clearness he could remember every detail of that recent interview with him. He drew a step nearer to Agnes Flack, and, having gulped once or twice, began to speak.

“Agnes,” he said, huskily, “there is something I want to say to you. Oh, Agnes, have you not guessed⁠—”

“One moment,” said Agnes Flack. “If you’re trying to propose to me, sign off. There is nothing doing. The idea is all wet.”

“All wet?”

“All absolutely wet. I admit that there was a time when I toyed with the idea of marrying a man with brains, but there are limits. I wouldn’t marry a man who played golf as badly as you do if he were the last man in the world. Sid-nee!” she roared, turning and cupping her mouth with her hands; and a nervous golfer down by the lake-hole leaped three feet and got his mashie entangled between his legs.


“I’m going to marry you, after all.”


“Yes, you.”

“Three rousing cheers!” bellowed McMurdo.

Agnes Flack turned to John Gooch. There was something like commiseration in her eyes, for she was a woman. Rather on the large side, but still a woman.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“Don’t mention it,” said John Gooch.

“I hope this won’t ruin your life.”

“No, no.”

“You still have your Art.”

“Yes, I still have my Art.”

“Are you working on anything just now?” asked Agnes Flack.

“I’m starting a new story tonight,” said John Gooch. “It will be called ‘Saved From the Scaffold.’ ”


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Golf Stories
was published between 1919 and 1927 by
P. G. Wodehouse.

This ebook was produced for
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