Precipitate Peggy

A Story of War and Golf— and Other Things

Allan C. Shore October 1 1918

Precipitate Peggy

A Story of War and Golf— and Other Things

Allan C. Shore October 1 1918

Precipitate Peggy

A Story of War and Golf— and Other Things

Allan C. Shore

Who wrote “The Baluchistan League " etc.

THERE can be no doubt about it that Peggy Rylands deliberately, and of malice aforethought, sought the acquaintance of young Mr. Richard Smith. Her purpose was real, pungent, purposeful, corrosive. What made it all the worse was that she knew nothing whatever of the unfortunate young man, all her subtle enquiries having elicited the mere facts of his name and the city he hailed from. One need not mention the Canadian city, because it might tempt curious readers to fly to their directories, and embarrass young Mr. Smith. “Smith” makes most admirable camou-

Observing Peggy walk along the shady lane, whistling martially a martial air, a neat little golf bag slung over her shoulder, it would have seemed sheerest nonsense to imagine she could entertain malice against any man outside the Kaiser class, which, as the world knows, is no class, but a shop-worn job lot. She looked so satisfying^ delightful.

If you had thought, before, that you preferred tall girls, on the plausible theory that, in girls, one may not have too much of a good thing, or plump girls, because they are good-natured, or thin, slim ones of the type the lady novelists used to call “svelte” because they are so gracefully swanlike, you, being a man, would, on seeing Peggy, wonder when ever you were going to get over that habit of hasty judgments. Peggy was neither tall, plump, nor svelte, and she certainly was not the least bit flapperish. She had a trimly rounded figure, abundance of bright, bronzy hair, and eyes of cornflower blue, and was just about hearthigh to the average young man, say like Dick Smith of this narration. Even whistling did not spoil her looks the least bit. Her lips could not be spoiled. There was, in short, a throstle-like vivacity and melodiousness about her, so much so that one wanted to find a jolly leafy twig, perch on it, and pipe back at her. Not a bit the kind of girl to indulge in hates and strafings after the funny manner of the unhumorous Teuton. Pope spoke of man as “the glory, jest, and riddle of the world.” One would have liked to buttonhole Mr. Pope, and asked him, as man to man: “What about girls like Peggy Rylands?”

Of course Pope would have flunked horribly. He dissertated with sonorous elegance on “Man,” the comparatively trivial conundrum, knowing what he would have been up against with girls like Peggy.

'T'HE lane down which she was walking was in Budmouth, and, as everybody knows, Budmouth is one of the most fashionable holiday resorts in Canada. It lies twenty miles west of Carsdale, but is usually silent as to the hideous fact of proximity. The two towns are as sociable

as Jew and Samaritan were supposed to be.

Carsdale is one of those bustling, smoky, vulgar places where people live by steam whistle. It has a developing trade in textiles, manufacturing extensively, and then it is known all over the continent, and other adjacent places, as the home of the “Joyful Jan e,” the car of elegance and power, evolved from the mind of Tom Jordan, and adorned by the artistic skill of young Beatson, his prospective son in law.

A thousand dollars, no more, no less,

F.O.B. Carsdale. Budmouth sniffs haughtily at Carsdale, and Carsdale looks at Budmouth and makes vulgar jokes.

Sometimes, when in need of extreme diversion, Carsdale takes out its “Joyful Janes” and makes a joy pilgrimage to Budmouth, as one visits the pantomime. Budmouth pretends not to notice the blight that has fallen upon it, but it is, nevertheless, a horrid trial to its finer sensibilities. It hates the “Jane” fervently as one of those insidious means by which the distinction between “carriage folk” and “ordinary scrubs” is being obliterated. Budmouth knows none of Carsdale’s thirty thousand people, excep.t the Corries, who are of the inner circle.

For eight months of the year Budmouth slumbers profoundly. The mansions, that are called cottages, with bathotic affectation of humility, are shut and shuttered, packed and padlocked. Lodginghouse keepers, who cater for the less magnificent, return, perforce, to rectitude and reasonableness. Store-keepers take out their consciences from hat boxes and tissue paper wrappings, and try them on again. In the other four months it is a riot of gaiety, refined gaiety, or perhaps it would be better to say, unusual gaiety.

Ask a Budmouth cottager about Budmouth, and she will say:

“Its delicious charm is that it is so exclusive, don’t you know, and in these Bolshevik days it is such a comfort to find one place that is really exclusive and uncontaminated, a haven from the turbulent sea of democracy.”

The top layer of society there consists of those who have successfully soaked the public and survived the operation of the Statute of Limitations. The intermediate are those who are in the process of soaking the public and thus becoming “Malefactors of great wealth.” The bottom tier, apprentices really, are those who are hoping presently to be in a position to get in their first really satisfactory swat at the public—and are digging in. The three layers operate like a three ring circus, a performance of its own in each, all extremely funny and entertaining, but quite distinct. If you do not belong to any of the three, you live under glass—lorgnette, eyeglass, monocle, all three asking, plain as plain can be:

“What is this that has eluded the flaming sword of the warder of Paradise?”

REALLY the only democratic spot in Budmouth, apart from the cemetery, is the golf club, and this, of course, but relatively so. The great games are all democratic. No man can be a snob and a sportsman. Football would just as soon see a duke’s son spun round on his head as a chimney sweep’s, and would not mind a bit if the latter turned the trick.

Golf is a great uplifter because it is so great a leveller. The Tennis Club, the Casino, the best bathing beach, were terrifically exclusive. One had to be quite sure of one’s grandfather before knocking at the gates. If there were any fly specks on the old man’s chart, it was all up. At the golf club a vouched-for visitor received the courte-

sies the reciprocity of sport ensures.

This did not mean that Budmouth became ecstatic over the holder of a card from some club secretary. It meant that you might go ahead and do your worst, and Budmouth would put up with it.

Who Peggy Rylands was, Budmouth knew no more than who Richard Smith was.

She came from the West, and had proper introductions from a club of worthy standing.

Richard Smith was in much the. same position. There was something about Peggy that made Budmouth rather more reserved than usual.

She had arrived under the chaperonage of a seriouslooking, middleaged lady, known as Aunt Polly, a lady whose sole interest in life appeared to be bound up in an unfinished sock she was Knitting, some very active needles, a ball of grey yarn, and an Airedale terrier that was always pretending that the ball was an escaping rat. In a way it was all proper enough, even for residence in a hotel, but it was not regular in the Budmouth way. She might be an adventuress of the deepest, most fascinating dye. She might be a spy bent on blowing up the Methodist church, the Casino, or the town pump. Anyway Budmouth was not at all in the habit of being effusively cordial to attractive young girls with elderly aunts who did not bring the family Bible, or their genealogical tree map for scrutiny.

Sometimes Peggy found it a wee bit dull. She did not get many matches. The people who approved of her she did not approve of, generally speaking, and she had a way with her that left no one in any degree of doubt as to her ability to take good care of herself. There was old Mr. Dunn, a jolly, good-natured Scotsman, but he was very old, and had gout sometimes, and was past playing days. They would wander round half the course now and again, but it was not very ex-

On the whole she would rather sit on the club veranda with him, and listen to his stories of the great golfers of

other days, and their Homeric contests, or discuss the war, or the food problem, all of which, while important and interesting, showed that there was a hitch somewhere in Budmouth’s entertainment óf so charming a girl. Of course, there were not many young men about this year. Most of them were overseas, niblicking the Hun out of Flanders bunkers. For those who were on the links Peggy had the supremest, most biting contempt— mamma’s darlings, and wee wifie’s pets. The putteed ones, with military moustaches, semi-khaki, and wrist watches she regarded poisonously. Some of them mamma had not raised to be a nasty, brutal soldier. Others had wives who would have the most frightful hysterics if their hubbies had to go into the horrid trenches and get their feet wet. So they were brought to Budmouth, and coddled

up pleasantly, and told to play round nicely, and not stray too far lest the cat, in the shape of a recruiting-officer, should pounce on them.

Budmouth had its share of dear little Willies. Peggy was no white feather decorator, but she had views. Her eyes could speak eloquently, and her pretty little nose turned up contemptuously when she saw husky young slackers slogging golf balls when they should have been pelting Fritz with hand bombs. This was her grievance against young Mr. Richard Smith. Had he been fat, squinty, wobbly, flat-footed, or obviously delicate and namby-pamby, she would have pitied him. But he was none of these. He was husky, smart, trim, alive, just the kind, as she would have thought, whose appearance at the edge of a Boche trench would have made the Huns sing whole oratorios

on the Kamerad theme. She even admitted that he was good-looking and that his face was nicely bronzed. She rather approved of his black curly hair, parted in the middle and a bit of wave to it, but she qualified the admission by explaining to herself that if there was one kind of slacker she hated above all the rest, it was the good-looking one. He stayed at a hotel near hers and was always in golfing or boating rig.

Of course she never saw him when she met him, but sometimes she though he was exasperatingly unconscious of the strength of her disapproval. He had a careless, bebonair look that proved him to be absolutely devoid of proper feelings. Sometimes she felt that she would like to shake him, and ask him if he knew that the world was on fire. She had heard of young men who

had taken to the woods at the first hint of service, and of others who received urgent calls to neutral countries when the bugles rang out. Utterly desp i c a b 1 e as these were, they had some fragments of the grace of shame, but this Mr. Richard Smith! He was beyond words. It was quite clear that long

distance bombardment would do no good with him. The attack must be an “over the top” one, grenade, bayonet. So one fine morning she came out, looking her daintiest, sweetest, demurest, but within her heart was purpose fell that boded no good to the slacker Smith.

II.

PEGGY might have had a dozen games that morning. It was a positive wrong for her to sit on the veranda, the sunlight on her pretty bronze hair, provocativeness in her cornflower blue eyes, mirth on her lips, and almost murder in her heart. One after another, men came up and begged the honor, but she had a sitting-out engagement with old Mr. Dunn.

It was rather flattering to the old

man. She enquired about his gout, the Salonika situation, rationing, and then fished a sock from the recesses of her golf-bag, and began to operate upon it. Now and again she would pause thoughtfully, as if meditating on what Mr. Dunn said, but her eyes would always rest on the spot at which the lane joined the club driveway. When she saw young Mr. Smith emerge and come toward the club house, she did her meditation with her eyes on the sock.

“Ah, here comes Smith!” said Mr. Dunn, putting up his glasses.

“Smith!” she echoed absently, innocent enquiry in her eyes. He might have spoken of Hindenberg or Nebuchadnezzar, or some creature like that.

“Yes, Smith—Richard Smith,” he replied. “You know Smith?”

“I know heaps and heaps of Smiths,” she said. “It was Adam’s surname,wasn’t it? Mr. Adam Smith, Eden, Mesopotamia, something like that. It must be rather a horrid thing to have to share your name with half the human

“But you know this Mr. Smith? Ripping good sort,” he said.

“All the ripping good sort of boys are overseas, or getting ready to go,” she countered. He did not reply at once, for he thought much the same.

“There may be a reason,” he suggested.

“Doubtless.” There was an acidity in the reply that bit

“May I present him?” he asked. She pondered a moment, then nodded.

THE introduction made, Mr. Smith sat down on the top step of the approach. He could see her admirably, as she knitted so energetically.

“I think needles should be insulated,” he said presently. “I saw sparks flash just now. You are really a model of industry, Miss Rylands.”

She could have jabbed him with one of the uninsulated needles.

“Why don’t you emulate it?” she asked. “I left mine at home,” he said.

“I’ve got another,” she rejoined quickly, digging out a half finished sock, with wool and needles complete from her caddy-bag.

“That’s lucky,” he said, and, to her utter amazement, set to work, making the needles fly in a most expert manner. Goodness gracious! The mollycoddle actually could knit!

“Socks, stockings, garters, caps, all come alike to me, but my magnum opus is a sweater,” he continued. “I could do you a sweater and cap that would be a perfect dream in color harmonies. The glow of your hair, the cornflower blue of

your eyes, the exquis-I mean the tints

of your face. I’ve made a study of such matters, and I know what would suit your charm—that is, your style, absolutely perfectly.”

“You would be priceless as a matcher at the ribbon counter,” she suggested.

“As a matcher I am sui generis, unique,” he agreed. “In knitting the divine flame bursts forth, though socks do tie one down, don’t they? Standardizing kills genius. Now, note this sock, I cannot put the inspired touch into it. When it is done there will be no soul— S-O-U-L not S-O-L-E to it. If I knew the man who is to wear it, fat leg, thin leg, footman’s calf, pipestem, how different it would be! But that is one of life’s little ironies. Speaking of matchers and matching, the course is rather good. I might not be too despicable an opponent.”

Continued on page 90

Precipitate Peggy

Continued from page 25

“Mr. Dunn said you were a scratch man,” she said.

“When I was young,” he replied. “The fact is, I can only use mashie or putter. Out joy-riding I was spilled rather nastily.”

She was glad of it. Thus might the fate of all joy-riding slackers be.

“I think I would rather knit,” she said.

“Can’t blame you,” he agreed amiably. “It would not be any fun to trample on such a golfing worm as I am. Knitting would satisfy the soul more. There is a fine discipline in it, the discipline of the monotonous. You don’t like it at the time, but you feel that it is doing you, beside the soldier, good. Perhaps you know the haunting lyric :

The hours I spend on thee, dear sock, Are ns a string of purls to me.

First two I knit, then two I purl,

And round the leu: I slowly reel.

Now joyful paeans to the heaven’s hurl. I’ve turned the heel !

“I don’t think soldiers’ socks are things to jest about,” she rebuked.

“Some of them are not, I am sure,” he said. “Now a nice silk sock next the foot, and one of these dreadnaughts over them wouldn’t be had.”

SHE could endure him no more. She l olled up her work, jabbed the needles through sock and yarn. Anything to be

rid of him. Mr. Dunn was returning from a short stroll, and she challenged him to a half round, c. f course, being a gallant Scot, what could ho do?

“You won’t mind?" Peggy flung at Young Mr. Smith. He rolled up his sock and delivered it back to her smilingly.

When she got back after an awfully tiresome nine holes Richard Smith was pottering about the home green. She and Mr. Dunn watched him.

“He’s a golfer." pronounced the old man. “Look at his pitches! Throws them right up to the hole like Taylor. N'o more run on them than a dropped poached egg. He doesn’t use his long clubs.”

“He hurt his shoulder, joy-riding,” she explained.

He knew from the way she said it that Young Mr. Smith had not made a good impression. She did not whistle on the homeward walk, though she was satisfied that she had meted out due and proper punishment to the slacker. Presently her impulsive indignation cooled a little. Might it not be possible that she had been unwise in her methods? It should he her business to show him where his duty was. Mere condemnation achieved no satisfactory purpose. Might he not have a selfish mother, or perhaps—this had never occurred to her before—an unpatriotic wife or fiancee?

Still he didn’t look like a married man, and if he had been engaged it was not likely he would be mooning about after that lost dog fashion.

If he asked her to play when next she went to the links, she would be rather nice. No doubt she would find an opening for the message she had to deliver.

When she arrived at the hotel Aunt Mary had great news for her. Her father and mother were to arrive in the course of the evening from the West. For the time being all other interests vanished from her mind.

It had been doubtful whether her father, who was tremendously busy with war work, would be able to find time for a holiday. She was immensely fond of her father. He had big interests—banks, mines, lumber, wheat—but had put his affairs aside and given up all his time to war work. Hither and thither about the continent he was scurrying most of the time, attending to a task that involved the supplying of munitions and food stuffs to the Allied armies. That evening he arrived with her mother. They would remain only three days, and all Peggy’s time belonged to them.

The converting of young Mr. Richard Smith from the error of his ways could

III.

'T^HE next day Budmouth awoke with -*■ something like a shock. Who could have dreamed that Peggy Rylands was the daughter of the great Andrew Rylands? Callers’ carriages streamed up to the hotel. Visitors’ cards were piled high on the table of the reception room of the Rylands’ suite. Dames, Demoiselles, and Dowagers chided Pees-v for preserving so strict an incognito. It was all very funny to Peggy, who mused on the advantage of having a big father. After he had left, promising to return in a few weeks, she found herself in a changed world. Invitations rained upon her to all kinds of sombrely magnificent functions and ordeals, until she wished with all her heart that she could get back to the former state of independence. She had an excuse, however, that enabled her to dodge the greater part of the deluge. Her Aunt had no society interests, and

Peggy herself entertained strict views about war time gaieties. Still the Golf Club was no longer the place of retreat it had been. Members lay in wait for her with proposals of matches so persistently that she timed her arrival so that the players would be on their rounds. One morning, reaching the club at near noon, she saw the neglected Mr. Smith on the first tee, near the club house. He was practising driving, and doing it rather well, from which it appeared as if his shoulder must be getting better. Presently he caught sight of her, and his practice ended.

“Your shoulder is better?” she enquired graciously, as he came up.

“Thanks, yes,” he answered. “Almost as good as new. How goes the knitting?” “Rather badly, I’m afraid,” she said. “Father and mother came down, so I got lazy.”

“Cannot I help you?” he asked politely. “I am in tremendous form. May I congratulate you on the possession of so splendid a father? I guess you are mighty proud of him.”

“Just a little,” she laughed. “I am proud of all my relatives and friends who are standing by their country.”

He paused, thoughtfully.

“I suppose there's no likelihood of your giving me a game?” he asked. Really he seemed quite humble. It must be horrible to have to evade the point of her observation in that manner.

“I’d really like a game,” she said. “That is if it would not hurt your shoulder.” “If it was cracked into little pieces, it would be delighted to work,” he replied gratefully.

It was, she acknowledged to herself, the most delightful round she had ever played. He was not the least bit flippant, yet not over-humble; just a good sporting companion. His game was astonishingly good. They played handicap points, and he pleased her self-esteem by not giving anything away. Perhaps on the last green, when the match was all square, he putted rather wildly and gave her a chance, with her given stroke, to win. She took prompt advantage of it, and victory, plus the consciousness of having earned it, was very agreeable. So pleasant had the match been that she accepted an invitation to go out boating with him in the afternoon, and that was jolly too. He was so companionable, not the least bit mooney or looney, but a sensible man friend.

And so the days slipped by very pleasantly. Sometimes in her moments of reflection she was appalled to find that she had become so very friendly with one of whose antecedents she knew nothing, and whose transgressions or sins of omission in the slacking way were so pronounced.

It leaked out presently that he was interested in engineering, and later she heard that he and Jordan of the “Joyful Jane” were friends, if not associates. One day when she sat on the verandah of the Club House, a number of people around her sipping tea, she saw Smith coming toward the last holes with a stranger. Quite a numerous gallery was at their heels, and, from what could be seen, it was a hot game played by two top-notchers.

“Smith and Beatson of Carsdale having it nip and tuck,” said one of the observers. “By the way, who is Smith?” “Engineer of some sort,” replied Corrie. “Interested in those cheap contraption cars Jordan turns out.”

“Don’t say a word against Jordon’s Jane,” exclaimed Peggy. “I have one and it is a darling. It is Canadian from spark plug to tires. Father says that there are

hundreds of them at the Front, doing ripping service, stopping at nothing, and standing up to their work in the same way that our boys do. Nobody can slight the ‘Joyful Jane’ without protest from me.”

“Aye, Miss Peggy,” said Dunn. “Tom Jordan builds cars on conscience. His shops are practically war munition shops.”

“One would think that a husky young man like Smith could find scope for usefulness at the Front, instead of fussing with cars at home. Beatson there is in khaki, but detailed to car production for the present but Smith—!” And Corrie shrugged his shoulders.

Peggy would have liked to speak. She was a loyal friend, but what was there to say? Corrie was saying just what she had said to herself a score of times.

It was wonderful how the weeks and months slipped away. The season was nearing its close. Peggy and Dick Smith played many rounds of the links, and went out boating many times. He was so delightful, and so utterly inexplicable. Sometimes she thought him the finest, most chivalrous man she had ever known, except her father. Now and again she hinted at what was in her mind, but he seemed so utterly unresponsive, in the right way. If she spoke her admiration of the man at the Front, he shared it, as if it had no application whatever to him.

There came an evening w'hen they lingered on the shore, after the game was over. They had played rather late, and the evenings were drawing in. They had been very silent. There was nothing much to talk about, a most unusual state of affairs for them. She seemed a little depressed, a little afraid-—and it all happened in a moment. He gathered her in his arms and spoke to her of admiration and love and devotion. Tor a moment she almost clung to him, yielding, helpless. Then came the thought of him here in safety, enjoying life, risking nothing, under the ban of all right feeling people, and he seemed suddenly unendurable. She thrust him away.

“No! No!” she exclaimed passionately. “Let me go! We have been foolish. You have mistaken me. I do not—could not care for you—respect—love you.”

She felt terribly shaken, as he released her, very weak and helpless.

“There!” she said, with a deep sigh, presently. “Let us forget all about it. Perhaps it was partly my fault. I should have made you see how impossible such a thing would be. Come, let us go. It is all a silly, ridiculous mistake.”

He was greatly moved, greatly distressed by her vehemence, she could see. That he loved her with all his soul she did not doubt, but he took the repulse wonderfully well.

“Forgive me, Peggy,” he said. “I ought to have known, perhaps. But I couldn’t help it.”

They returned to town very silently. There was a great grief in her heart as she left him. Oh! If he only had been different, a soldier, playing a man’s part in the big task, she could have loved him with all her loyal heart.

She was very weary of Budmouth, the links, the club house, everything pertaining to the place. Her father was returning on the morrow. Then they would go

IV.

“TTELLO, Peg! What has Budmouth

1 been doing io you?” her father asked when he arriv ! She looked pale and tired, not a bif like a girl who has been holidaying for months.

“Oh ! I am tired of it all, father,” she

said. “Everything goes so smoothly. We read the papers, db -uss the war, as if it was a story or some bit of ancient history. And all the time we are enjoying ourselves just as much as when there was no war.”

“You’re run down, little girl,” he said. “There’s no need for all the rest of us to go into mourning, and depress and be depressing. We have to take sane views, but I know what you mean. It does get at one now and again. We’ll get home, and in the busier life there you will see things differently.”

“When can we go?” she asked.

“Eh!” He looked at her again enquiringly suspiciously. “Well, I have some business to attend to. To-morrow I must run over to Carsdale to see Jordan. You’ll come along. The trip will do you good. You see he’s setting up a new branch, building motors for aeroplanes, under the direction ofHello, there

PEGGY looked up. There was a man in an aviator’s uniform, flying wings and all. She gripped the corner of the table. Dick had always been in golf or boating flannels when she had seen him before. He must have just joined up. Then she looked again. She knew the difference between a recruit’s uniform and an officer’s. Then her father spoke.

“Why, Dick, it’s great to see you again,” he said, gripping the soldier’s hand and shaking it with enthusiasm. Then he glanced at Peggy, and turned again to look at Dick. He caught the exchanged messages of their eyes. “What is it, Peggy?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she fibbed very bravely, very happily.

“You have met Dick, then?” he enquired.

“Yes, I think so,” she smiled.

“One moment, Mr. Rylands,” said Dick. “Beatson’s waiting below, and ready for home. He just wants to know if noon to-morrow will suit you. I won’t be a moment.”

“What’s up, Peg?” her father asked rather brusquely, when they were alone.

“He’s a fraud, Dad,” she said. “I didn’t know he was a soldier.”

“A soldier!” laughed Mr. Rylands. “Been flying at the front since the first year of the war. Brought down a bushel of Boches. You mean to say that you never heard of Flight-Commander Smith, D.S.O. ?”

“And that’s Dick?” she asked.

“Got into a bit of a mix-up in the air, tackling three Boches, did for two of them and the other scooted. Then the aircraft guns got him, but he managed to land over his own lines, badly peppered and broken up a bit,” explained her father enthusiastically.

“And I thought he was a slacker,” she groaned.

“Slacker!” He roared with laughter. “Don’t you dare laugh at me!” She held up a small fist very threateningly. “Daddy !” she said.

“Well, Peg,” he answered.

“Would you mind going out of the room for a few minutes?” she asked, her face rosy red. “You see, I’ve got to eat some humble pie.”

“Oh, that’s it!” he said, and being a well brought-up father he went out.

SHE rested against the table, for she needed support. Then he came in.

“I thought your father was here, Peggy,” he observed.

“No, not just now,” she answered

rather faintly. “You see, I wanted -

I thought--”

“Yes,” he helped out, very politely.

“I wanted - I had toI wished

— ! Oh, Dick, for a flying man you are slowest thing on wings. Yes, that is better.” And she sighed as he came to her aid, fearing that she might faint.

“I thought you were a slacker, Dick, and it was awful. And now I have to eat humble pie. It is the only time in my life that I ever liked humble pie. It is really rather nice. Let me breathe, dear, I fee! a wee bit fainty yet. but. oh ! It is a good kind of a world after all.”

And a little bronze-bright head rested, heart-high, on the breast of young Mr. Smith.