"Perhaps it cloaks a deeper feeling. One of the noblest women I ever
knew used to laugh merrily when she foozled a short putt. It was only
later, when I learned that in the privacy of her home she would weep
bitterly and bite holes in the sofa cushions, that I realized that she
did but wear the mask. Continue to encourage your _fiancee_ to
play the game, my boy. Much happiness will reward you. I could tell you
a story - - "
A young woman of singular beauty and rather statuesque appearance came
out of the club-house carrying a baby swaddled in flannel. As she drew
near the table she said to the baby:
"Chicketty wicketty wicketty wipsey pop!"
In other respects her intelligence appeared to be above the 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 club-house, and paused before the wall of the
smoking-room. This was decorated from top to bottom with bold
caricatures of members of the club.
"These," he said, "are the work of a young newspaper artist who belongs
here. A clever fellow. He has caught the expressions of these men
wonderfully. His only failure, indeed, is that picture of myself." He
regarded it with distaste, and a touch of asperity crept into his
manner. "I don't know why the committee lets it stay there," he said,
irritably. "It isn't a bit like." He recovered himself. "But all the
others are excellent, excellent, though I believe many of the subjects
are under the erroneous impression that they bear no resemblance to the
originals. Here is the picture I wished to show you. That is Ramsden
Waters, the husband of the lady who has just left us."
The portrait which he indicated was that of a man in the early
thirties. Pale saffron hair surmounted a receding forehead. Pale blue
eyes looked out over a mouth which wore a pale, weak smile, from the
centre of which protruded two teeth of a rabbit-like character.
"Golly! What a map!" exclaimed the young man at his side.
"Precisely!" said the Oldest Member. "You now understand my momentary
hesitation in agreeing with Mrs. Waters that the baby was like its
father. I was torn by conflicting emotions. On the one hand, politeness
demanded that I confirm any statement made by a lady. Common humanity,
on the other hand, made it repugnant to me to knock an innocent child.
Yes, that is Ramsden Waters. Sit down and take the weight off your
feet, and I will tell you about him. The story illustrates a favourite
theory of mine, that it is an excellent thing that women should be
encouraged to take up golf. There are, I admit, certain drawbacks
attendant on their presence on the links. I shall not readily forget
the occasion on which a low, raking drive of mine at the eleventh
struck the ladies' tee box squarely and came back and stunned my
caddie, causing me to lose stroke and distance. Nevertheless, I hold
that the advantages outnumber the drawbacks. Golf humanizes women,
humbles their haughty natures, tends, in short, to knock out of their
systems a certain modicum of that superciliousness, that swank, which
makes wooing a tough proposition for the diffident male. You may have
found this yourself?"
"Well, as a matter of fact," admitted the young man, "now I come to
think of it I have noticed that Genevieve has shown me a bit more
respect since she took up the game. When I drive 230 yards after she
had taken six sloshes to cover fifty, I sometimes think that a new
light comes into her eyes."
"Exactly," said the Sage.
* * * * *
From earliest youth (said the Oldest Member) Ramsden Waters had always
been of a shrinking nature. He seemed permanently scared. Possibly his
nurse had frightened him with tales of horror in his babyhood. If so,
she must have been the Edgar Allan Poe of her sex, for, by the time he
reached men's estate, Ramsden Waters had about as much ferocity and
self-assertion as a blanc mange. Even with other men he was noticeably
timid, and with women he comported himself in a manner that roused
their immediate scorn and antagonism. He was one of those men who fall
over their feet and start apologizing for themselves the moment they
see a woman. His idea of conversing with a girl was to perspire and tie
himself into knots, making the while a strange gurgling sound like the
language of some primitive tribe. If ever a remark of any coherence
emerged from his tangled vocal cords it dealt with the weather, and he
immediately apologized and qualified it. To such a man women are
merciless, and it speedily became an article of faith with the feminine
population of this locality that Ramsden Waters was an unfortunate
incident and did not belong. Finally, after struggling for a time to
keep up a connection in social circles, he gave it up and became a sort
I think that caricature I just showed you weighed rather heavily on the
poor fellow. Just as he was nerving himself to make another attempt to
enter society, he would catch sight of it and say to himself, "What
hope is there for a man with a face like that?" These caricaturists are
too ready to wound people simply in order to raise a laugh. Personally
I am broad-minded enough to smile at that portrait of myself. It has
given me great enjoyment, though why the committee permits it to - But
then, of course, it isn't a bit like, whereas that of Ramsden Waters
not only gave the man's exact appearance, very little exaggerated, but
laid bare his very soul. That portrait is the portrait of a chump, and
such Ramsden Waters undeniably was.
By the end of the first year in the neighbourhood, Ramsden, as I say,
had become practically a hermit. He lived all by himself in a house
near the fifteenth green, seeing nobody, going nowhere. His only solace
was golf. His late father had given him an excellent education, and,
even as early as his seventeenth year, I believe, he was going round
difficult courses in par. Yet even this admirable gift, which might
have done him social service, was rendered negligible by the fact that
he was too shy and shrinking to play often with other men. As a rule,
he confined himself to golfing by himself in the mornings and late
evenings when the links were more or less deserted. Yes, in his
twenty-ninth year, Ramsden Waters had sunk to the depth of becoming a
One lovely morning in summer, a scented morning of green and blue and
gold, when the birds sang in the trees and the air had that limpid
clearness which makes the first hole look about 100 yards long instead
of 345, Ramsden Waters, alone as ever, stood on the first tee
addressing his ball. For a space he waggled masterfully, then, drawing
his club back with a crisp swish, brought it down. And, as he did so, a
voice behind him cried:
Ramsden's driver wabbled at the last moment. The ball flopped weakly
among the trees on the right of the course. Ramsden turned to perceive,
standing close beside him, a small fat boy in a sailor suit. There was
"Rotten!" said the boy austerely.
Ramsden gulped. And then suddenly he saw that the boy was not alone.
About a medium approach-putt distance, moving gracefully and languidly
towards him, was a girl of such pronounced beauty that Ramsden Waters's
heart looped the loop twice in rapid succession. It was the first time
that he had seen Eunice Bray, and, like most men who saw her for the
first time, he experienced the sensations of one in an express lift at
the tenth floor going down who has left the majority of his internal
organs up on the twenty-second. He felt a dazed emptiness. The world
swam before his eyes.
You yourself saw Eunice just now: and, though you are in a sense
immune, being engaged to a charming girl of your own, I noticed that
you unconsciously braced yourself up and tried to look twice as
handsome as nature ever intended you to. You smirked and, if you had a
moustache, you would have twiddled it. You can imagine, then, the
effect which this vision of loveliness had on lonely, diffident Ramsden
Waters. It got right in amongst him.
"I'm afraid my little brother spoiled your stroke," said Eunice. She
did not speak at all apologetically, but rather as a goddess might have
spoken to a swineherd.
Ramsden yammered noiselessly. As always in the presence of the opposite
sex, and more than ever now, his vocal cords appeared to have tied
themselves in a knot which would have baffled a sailor and might have
perplexed Houdini. He could not even gargle.
"He is very fond of watching golf," said the girl.
She took the boy by the hand, and was about to lead him off, when
Ramsden miraculously recovered speech.
"Would he like to come round with me?" he croaked. How he had managed
to acquire the nerve to make the suggestion he could never understand.
I suppose that in certain supreme moments a sort of desperate
recklessness descends on nervous men.
"How very kind of you!" said the girl indifferently. "But I'm 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
Yet it was with Ramsden that she was paired in the first competition
for which she entered, the annual mixed foursomes. And it was on the
same evening that the list of the draw went up on the notice board that
The mind of a man in love works in strange ways. To you and to me there
would seem to be no reason why the fact that Eunice's name and his own
had been drawn out of a hat together should so impress Ramsden, but he
looked on it as an act of God. It seemed to him to draw them close
together, to set up a sort of spiritual affinity. In a word, it acted
on the poor fellow like a tonic, and that very night he went around to
her house, and having, after a long and extremely interesting
conversation with her aunt, contrived to get her alone, coughed eleven
times in a strangled sort of way, and suggested that the wedding bells
should ring out.
Eunice was more startled than angry.
"Of course, I'm tremendously complimented, Mr. - - " She had to pause to
recall the name. "Mr. - - "
"Waters," said Ramsden, humbly.
"Of course, yes. Mr. Waters. As I say, it's a great compliment - - "
"Not at all!"
"A great compliment - - "
"No, no!" murmured Ramsden obsequiously.
"I wish you wouldn't interrupt!" snapped Eunice with irritation. No
girl likes to have to keep going back and trying over her speeches.
"It's a great compliment, but it is quite impossible."
"Just as you say, of course," agreed Ramsden.
"What," demanded Eunice, "have you to offer me? I don't mean money. I
mean something more spiritual. What is there in you, Mr. Walter - - "
"Mr. Waters. What is there in you that would repay a girl for giving up
the priceless boon of freedom?"
"I know a lot about dried seaweed," suggested Ramsden hopefully.
Eunice shook her head.
"No," she said, "it is quite impossible. You have paid me the greatest
compliment a man can pay a woman, Mr. Waterson - - "
"Waters," said Ramsden. "I'll write it down for you."
"Please don't trouble. I am afraid we shall never meet again - - "
"But we are partners in the mixed foursomes tomorrow."
"Oh, yes, so we are!" said Eunice. "Well, mind you play up. I want to
win a cup more than anything on earth."
"Ah!" said Ramsden, "if only I could win what I want to win more than
anything else on earth! You, I mean," he added, to make his meaning
clear. "If I could win you - - " His tongue tied itself in a bow knot
round his uvula, and he could say no more. He moved slowly to the door,
paused with his fingers on the handle for one last look over his
shoulder, and walked silently into the cupboard where Eunice's aunt
kept her collection of dried seaweed.
His second start was favoured with greater luck, and he found himself
out in the hall, and presently in the cool air of the night, with the
stars shining down on him. Had those silent stars ever shone down on a
more broken-hearted man? Had the cool air of the night ever fanned a
more fevered brow? Ah, yes! Or, rather, ah no!
There was not a very large entry for the mixed foursomes competition.
In my experience there seldom is. Men are as a rule idealists, and wish
to keep their illusions regarding women intact, and it is difficult for
the most broad-minded man to preserve a chivalrous veneration for the
sex after a woman has repeatedly sliced into the rough and left him a
difficult recovery. Women, too - I am not speaking of the occasional
champions, but of the average woman, the one with the handicap of 33,
who plays in high-heeled shoes - are apt to giggle when they foozle out
of a perfect lie, and this makes for misogyny. Only eight couples
assembled on the tenth tee (where our foursomes matches start) on the
morning after Ramsden Waters had proposed to Eunice. Six of these were
negligible, consisting of males of average skill and young women who
played golf because it kept them out in the fresh air. Looking over the
field, Ramsden felt that the only serious rivalry was to be feared from
Marcella Bingley and her colleague, a 16-handicap youth named George
Perkins, with whom they were paired for the opening round. George was a
pretty indifferent performer, but Marcella, a weather-beaten female
with bobbed hair and the wrists of a welterweight pugilist, had once
appeared in the women's open championship and swung a nasty iron.
Ramsden watched her drive a nice, clean shot down the middle of the
fairway, and spoke earnestly to Eunice. His heart was in this
competition, for, though the first prize in the mixed foursomes does
not perhaps entitle the winners to a place in the hall of fame, Ramsden
had the soul of the true golfer. And the true golfer wants to win
whenever he starts, whether he is playing in a friendly round or in the
"What we've got to do is to play steadily," he said. "Don't try any
fancy shots. Go for safety. Miss Bingley is a tough proposition, but
George Perkins is sure to foozle a few, and if we play safe we've got
'em cold. The others don't count."
You notice something odd about this speech. Something in it strikes you
as curious. Precisely. It affected Eunice Bray in the same fashion. In
the first place, it contains forty-four words, some of them of two
syllables, others of even greater length. In the second place, it was
spoken crisply, almost commandingly, without any of that hesitation and
stammering which usually characterized Ramsden Waters's utterances.
Eunice was puzzled. She was also faintly resentful. True, there was not
a word in what he had said that was calculated to bring the blush of
shame to the cheek of modesty; nevertheless, she felt vaguely that
Ramsden Waters had exceeded the limits. She had been prepared for a
gurgling Ramsden Waters, a Ramsden Waters who fell over his large feet
and perspired; but here was a Ramsden Waters who addressed her not
merely as an equal, but with more than a touch of superiority. She eyed
him coldly, but he had turned to speak to little Wilberforce, who was
to accompany them on the round.
"And you, my lad," said Ramsden curtly, "you kindly remember that this
is a competition, and keep your merry flow of conversation as much as
possible to yourself. You've got a bad habit of breaking into small
talk when a man's addressing the ball."
"If you think that my brother will be in the way - - " began Eunice
"Oh, I don't mind him coming round," said Ramsden, "if he keeps 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
"Good shot, partner!" she said.
Ramsden was apparently unaware that she had spoken. He was gazing down
the fairway with his club over his left shoulder in an attitude almost
identical with that of Sandy McBean in the plate labelled "The
Drive - Correct Finish", to face page twenty-four of his monumental
work, "How to Become a Scratch Player Your First Season by Studying
Photographs". Eunice bit her lip. She was piqued. She felt as if she
had patted the head of a pet lamb, and the lamb had turned and bitten
her in the finger.
"I said, 'Good shot, partner!'" she repeated coldly.
"Yes," said Ramsden, "but don't talk. It prevents one concentrating."
He turned to Wilberforce. "And don't let me have to tell you that
again!" he said.
"Wilberforce has been like a mouse!"
"That is what I complain of," said Ramsden. "Mice make a beastly
scratching sound, and that's what he was doing when I drove that ball."
"He was only playing with the sand in the tee box."
"Well, if he does it again, I shall be reluctantly compelled to take
They walked in silence to where the ball had stopped. It was nicely
perched up on the grass, and to have plunked it on to the green with an
iron should have been for any reasonable golfer the work of a moment.
Eunice, however, only succeeded in slicing it feebly into the rough.
Ramsden reached for his niblick and plunged into the bushes. And,
presently, as if it had been shot up by some convulsion of nature, the
ball, accompanied on the early stages of its journey by about a pound
of mixed mud, grass, and pebbles, soared through the air and fell on
the green. But the mischief had been done. Miss Bingley, putting
forcefully, put the opposition ball down for a four and won the hole.
Eunice now began to play better, and, as Ramsden was on the top of his
game, a ding-dong race ensued for the remainder of the first nine
holes. The Bingley-Perkins combination, owing to some inspired work by
the female of the species, managed to keep their lead up to the tricky
ravine hole, but there George Perkins, as might have been expected of
him, deposited the ball right in among the rocks, and Ramsden and
Eunice drew level. The next four holes were halved and they reached the