"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 Tolstoi 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
near-by 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 chit-chat 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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
re-union 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
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 fair-way 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 food-stuffs 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 pre-eminence 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 grey-beard 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 half-way 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 club-house, 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 back-bone 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
dog-leg 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 back-swing.
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 tea-time 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,
"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
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
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
"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
"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