HIS LOSING STREAK
It's a great temptation, when you are bunkered, to substitute a convenient boot for a niblick. Had McBride resisted it he wouldnt have paid so dearly to learn that all real golfers hate a poor loser.
JOSEPH LISTER RUTLEDGE
WHAT’S the trouble with this fellow McBride?” Henry Morrison squinted along the verandah rail of the Meadowvale Club to where, in the distance, a leisurely figure was making his way thither.
“Well, what is the trouble?” Keeling turned on the questioner with an avid gleam in his eys. It was almost as though he hoped that the question presaged some harrowing disclosure.
“That’s what I was asking,” rejoined Henry Morrison, with some asperity.
“It’s my question. If you go asking it back, where’s this conversation going to arrive?”
“It isn’t going to arrive anywhere, anyway. So, if you have the answer handy, you might as well spill it now.”
“He’s a nice boy,” Morrison ruminated. “Isn’t he?” he demanded, sharply.
“Looks nice. Somehow, I don’t take to him myself.” Morrison followed his own reflections. “Plays a tidy game. Behaves with average consideration. Doesn’t waggle half a day before he drives. Doesn’t lie on his stomach to study the lie of his putts. Doesn’t kick his ball into a better lie when he thinks you’re not looking. At least,” he amended, “I’ve never caught him at it. No, he hasn’t any vices that you could put a name to—What’s the matter with him, anyway?”
“You can keep on bleating ‘what’s the matter with him, anyway’ all day long,” Keeling retorted, sourly, “and you won’t get any evidence out of me. He’s a twin brother of the famous Dr. Fell, that’s all.”
“What puzzles me,” Morrison reached for a cigar, and bit it ruminatively—“what puzzles me is how a nice girl like Betty Carpenter can see anything in him.”
“Nice girls don’t use any judgment,” the other retorted, misanthropically—“Don’t have to. Sooner or later, someone does it for them.”
“Not in this case.”
Keeling surveyed his companion with withering scorn. Precisely in this case,” he retorted. “Carpenter scents out this chap McBride as a bit of limburger, and says so—• says so to his daughter—says so not once but a dozen times. You see, she doesn’t have to use any judgment; she hears his, and takes the opposite side. That’s logic, isn’t it?”
A heavy form darkened the doorway behind them, and Ira Carpenter stepped out.
“Seen Betty anywhere,” he demanded, abruptly. It had been a cruel day with him. He had smashed his favorite niblick in a bunker at the fifteenth green. His was not a mood for the soft amenities of life.
His smoldering glance followed the course of Morrison’s pointing finger, and rested on the attractive figure of his daughter, with the hint of a softening expression, which changed, swiftly, as he noticed her companion.
“A pretty picture,” Keeling suggested, maliciously.
Ira Carpenter gave vent to a whinnying gasp that told of a murderous impulse, repressed with difficulty. Without a word he passed into the clubhouse.
Morrison nodded down the fairway toward the approaching figures. “If someone could beat that chap, just once,” he ruminated, “I fancy it might put a crimp in that budding romance.”
Keeling laughed, hollowly. “You get a lot of bright ideas, don’t you? If there had been anyone around who could do it, they would probably have done it before this.”
Morrison nodded. “Still,” he continued, “I’ve never hinted that this McBride chap wasn’t a wise lad; wise where his own interests are concerned at least. He knows that Betty thinks anyone who can shoot a seventy is a young Sir Galahad, and that the better they shoot the more Galahady they are. Also, I hate to mention it, but I would not wonder if that same streak of wisdom hadn’t drawn his attention to the fact that Betty was liable, some day, to have a considerable portion of the Carpenter for-
“Maybe I’m a bit light in the head,” Keeling interposed, “but I don’t see—” “My poor friend, your diagnosis is perhaps over cautious. Let me put it, then, in more simple terms for you. Have you ever seen McBride show any eagerness to play the men who might have a show with him?”
Keeling looked interested. “Now you mention it,” he said, “I’ve noticed that he plays, mostly, with people who don’t make him strain himself.”
“You couldn’t make him do otherwise,” Morrison persisted.
“When you get an idea,” Keeling protested, crossly, “you just chase it around till it dies of exhaustion. Anyway there’s nobody here who could beat him.”
“But, he wouldn’t give them the chance. Would he now?” Morrison persisted.
“Then what’s the use of all the talk about it?”
Morrison smoked on in ruminative silence. “Have you ever considered the subject of bait?” he demanded, suddenly.
“Interesting,” Morrison explained, “very interesting subject—bait. Can’t fool the old ones with a bit of red flannel, or worms, or imitation frogs, but they have their own little weaknesses. Some fool thing’ll catch them. Same with humans. I was just thinking—”
“It isn’t thinking,” Keeling complained. “It’s just opening your mouth and letting any words that happen along, drop out. They don’t mean anything. Bait!” he snorted disgustedly, as he walked away.
THE spacious verandah was vacant, save for the lolling figure of a young man. He sat there, pleasantly idle, looking down the vista of rolling hillside and stream that was the pride of the Meadowvale Club. Before him, almost at his feet, was the ninth green that had made the club famous, or infamous; the particular word depending on the mood of the describer.
From where he sat, Bob Hastings could see the tee on the height. Between them stretched an almost flawless fairway, rising in a gentle slope to the tee and, a hundred and fifty yards out, breaking sharply onto a low plateau, that, in turn, gave place to the muddy banks of the stream which guarded this island green.
He had spent a pleasant afternoon considering just how, if one were interested in doing it, it could be done. Not that he had any intention of attempting it. It was a mental exercise rather than a physical. He had watched several sturdy souls clout the ball, masterfully, to the green, and had seen it, not without a measure of commiseration, hop lightly off into the encompassing flood, or trickle down the sloping sides to a snug resting place in the mud. It was, he conceded, an honest effort worthy of a better fate. He had watched the more crafty creep carefully around to the right, by an expensive and circuitous course, to where the island might be attacked from its length, and where a friendly rough protected against the tide beyond.
From his easy-chair Hastings mentally catalogued the course as not very sporting.
He had his own theory on the problem, too. He selected an iron as the implement of destiny. “Just a shade easy,” he reflected, would carry it to the brow. There was enough of a rise to hold it safely there.
He took his mental stance with deliberation, and smote with just that saved ounce of drive. He closed his eyes in pleasant satisfaction, and watched the ball come to rest as he had expected, with just enough of an uphill lie to give free play to the mashie for the backspin he required. He had not overestimated. The ball stopped within a scant six feet of the pin. He lay back luxuriously in his chair, stretching his arms above his head. He generously conceded himself a three.
It was at this pleasant juncture that a heavy figure stepped out on the verandah beside him.
Hastings looked up with a pleasantly ingratiating smile.
Ira Carpenter scowled back at him, darkly.
The scowl passed over Hastings, leaving him unperturbed. He rightly interpreted it as addressed to him only as he represented an insignificant unit of the world at large.
“Nice sporty little green,” he remarked, pleasantly.
“That isn’t a green,” Carpenter snorted, disgustedly, “it’s a mortuary.”
“Of hopes and aspirations,” Hastings agreed. “Now that you mention it, I’ve seen a bagful of them interred there this afternoon.”
Carpenter’s eyes were not on the green but were fixed on the distant tee. Hastings followed his glance and saw a tall figure silhouetted against the sky, and heard the “clack” of a cleanly driven ball. It touched the head of the rise; toppled over onto the plateau, running like a rabbit; hesitated a moment on the brink, then, while Carpenter followed its course malevolently, toppled into the creek.
“A praiseworthy effort!” Hastings remarked, dispassionately.
A praiseworthy damn fiddlesticks!” Carpenter retorted hotly. Then, as though conscious that his words might lack a certain graciousness to the ears of a stranger, he mumbled an apology. “Do you know this fellow McBride?” he enquired.
Hastings shook his head. “Don’t know anyone,” he said, “except Henry Morrison. He put me up here for a month. I’m just loafing. By the way, though, he mentioned a McBride—seemed to think a good deal of him.”
Hastings remembered that Morrison had spoken of this fellow’s game with almost bated breath.
“That’s McBride,” Carpenter broke in, “and that’s my daughter playing with him. My name’s Carpenter.” “Mine’s Hastings.”
Carpenter acknowledged this with a slight inclination of his head, and hurried on. “He’s the low man on this course, and the most damned objectionable horseleech anywhere in Christendom; and my daughter thinks she’s going to be engaged to him.”
“You played the course?” he demanded, suddenly.
Hastings shook his head. “Swore off, day before yesterday.”
Carpenter eyed him with mingled admiration and disbelief. The progress of the two down the fairway distracted his attention.
“Can hardly wait for Betty to play her shots,” he grumbled, “and she’s as good as the average.”
Hastings nodded. He had observed the same thing.
“Down for a five.” Carpenter’s voice broke in a few minutes later.
“Fairish,” Hastings admitted, without enthusiasm.
Carpenter looked at him in surprise. “Ever played that hole?”
“In a three,” Hastings admitted, modestly.
“Three! Why it’s a par four, and I don’t know that I ever heard of anyone making it. Besides,” he turned on his companion, suddenly, “I thought you’d sworn off golf?”
“It wasn’t exactly golf,” Hastings admitted. “I played it from here, as an experiment you understand. I was rather pleased with it myself.”
Carpenter looked at him, as though doubtful of his sanity; but gave up that problem in favor of the one uppermost in his mind.
“I’d give my shirt to the man who could beat that fellow.”
Hastings considered the shirt. He was not fond of the pinkish tones, himself. To others, he admitted, tolerantly, it might be an inducement.
“It might be done,” he admitted, pleasantly.
“Will you try it?” Carpenter’s face lighted with a sudden enthusiasm.
Hastings shook his head. “Just the day before yesterday,” he reminded him, in a pained voice.
Carpenter grunted in disgust. “I was afraid so. Everyone seems to stand by when it comes to playing with that cockroach—used to think it was his fault, but guess it must be more than that.” He made no effort to hide his disapproval. He grunted again. The grunt brought a sudden memory to Hastings. It was of something that Henry Morrison had said. He had been speaking of Carpenter, he remembered now. “It would do Ira a lot of good to play with McBride,” he had said. “He’s set against the boy without really knowing why. If you meet him, you might suggest it.”
Hastings smiled to himself. It would be rather pleasant, he admitted, to toddle round and watch prospective father-in-law lock horns with prospective son. All this had stimulated his interest in McBride. “Why not have a try at it yourself?” he suggested, pleasantly.
A choleric color suffused his hearer’s face. “What do you mean?” he demanded with heat.
“You would like to see it done, and, I judge from your remarks, it might influence your daughter’s feelings toward this, horseleech, I believe you said. Wouldn’t it be pleasant to do it yourself?”
“Are you attempting to be humorous?”
“I took it,” Hastings retorted, “that this was a sad topic, where any spirit of levity would not be in the best of taste. My suggestion is quite serious. Also, I would be glad to do anything I could to help.”
“Do you know that once, years ago, I played this course in ninety flat, and that I’ve been trying ever since to do it again?”
“That’s probably your trouble. It gets you thinking where your ball is likely to go, not where it ought to. Why not give up trying to beat yourself, and try to beat him?”
“Do you realize that, that—” Carpenter searched for a suitable epithet, without success, “—that he plays consistently around eighty?”
“Just as many games go bad as go good,” Hastings retorted, sagely. “It’s worth a try, anyway. Challenge him to a game and bet him ten dollars on it. That will supply interest for him, and he may take you.”
Carpenter laughed hollowly. “If I offered twenty tens for twenty games he’d turn octopus, and grab them all.” He turned on Hastings with sudden suspicion. “And what will you do?” he demanded.
Hastings waved his arms in a generous gesture. “I’ll caddy for you,” he said. “There’s more in this caddying than perhaps you realize.”
“And about the ten dollars?”
“You’ll lose it,” Hastings retorted with smiling confidence.
“I hope that I don’t appear parsimonious,” Carpenter retorted. “It may be that I don’t take a lofty enough view of this matter, or that my sense of humor is not as acute as yours; but would you explain just what pleasure I am going to get from losing that ten dollars?”
“Having lost it,” Hastings explained, with admirable patience, “we will not sit placidly by, watching it go without a regret. We’ll go after it and get it back.” As he outlined the program it seemed to him one full of incident and interest.
“And lose another?” It was very manifestly evident that Carpenter did not share his enthusiasm.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me,” Carpenter complained wearily.
The appearance of Henry Morrison only increased his bitterness. “This young friend of yours,” he snorted, “is suggesting that I play McBride, and bet him ten dollars on the game.”
“If Bob suggested it, he must have a good reason,” Morrison beamed on them both.
“Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear,” Carpenter retorted stiffly. “I’m supposed to be betting on myself. That removes the good reason, I should think.”
“If Bob suggested it,” Morrison maintained his position, stoutly, “it’s all right. I know Bob. Knew his father before him. Clever fellow, Bob’s father.”
“I doubt if it was inherited,” Carpenter retorted morosely.
A FRESH young figure, in an attractive sports suit, ■Cx. came dancing along the verandah. “Is that you, Dad?” she called.
Hastings looked up with interest. His eyes took in, with approval, the easy grace of that short-skirted young figure, and the delicately flushed face framed by a broadbrimmed hat. M
She stopped, suddenly, as she saw the stranger, and half turned to retreat.
Hastings rose, pleasantly expectant. She saw him, changed her mind about retreating, and came forward with a gay little laugh on her lips.
From what he had heard of McBride, Hastings had come to think that the girl who would take to him must be something of a nutmeg. He made a hurried readjustment of his earlier judgment, setting it aside, generously, as the misguided exuberance of youth.
“My daughter, Betty.” There was something almost grudging in Carpenter’s voice. “Mr.—”
“Hastings, Bob Hastings.” He supplied the necessary information gladly.
Betty Carpenter surveyed his muscular young figure with an appreciative glance. “You’ll have to play a round with me sometime,” she said. “Poor old Ted is feeling rather low.” She laughed a little, but there was something not quite spontaneous in it. “It must be dull just playing around with me,” she concluded with an effort at fairness.
“I’m sure it must be a pleasure,” Morrison bowed gallantly.
“Stodgily put,” Hastings reflected, “but the heart is right.”
“You play, of course, Mr. Hastings?” Betty Carpenter asked.
“Used to, a little,” he replied, “but I’ve given it up.” “Not for good?”
Hastings seized upon the excuse her words offered, with enthusiasm. “No, not for good. I'll try it again sometime.”
“Your father,” Morrison interposed, “is going to challenge McBride to a game.”
“Your father,” Hastings added, “has ten golden dollars that have an impression, whether mistaken or not. we cannot say, that he can beat Mr. McBride.” The girl’s rippling laugh broke out, fresh and vibrant. “Like the tinkle of silver bells,” thought young Mr. Hastings, with a suddenly acquired poetic fancy.
It awoke no poetic thoughts in her father’s breast. There was a steely glitter in his eyes. “Just for that,” he announced in surly decision, “I’ll do it.”
“But, Dad—” the silvery voice began. But Ira Carpenter was already out of hearing, on his way to the locker room.
A few moments later they saw his sturdy form returning.
“If there had been a knot in his towel,” he snarled. “I would have brained him with it. The fellow actually laughed.” “But he accepted?” Hastings enquired, earnestly.
“Wednesday,” Carpenter snapped. “And as for you, young fellow, you’re going to follow around with me, and carry my bag, and it’s going to weight like a coal truck; and hunt for my lost balls. And I warn you that I’m a devil of a fellow with the rough. And if you think you are going to get a laugh out of it, you’d better take it now while I’m feeling good humored.”
“And you, young lady,” he turned on his daughter stormily, “if I lose that ten, I’m thinking that you will be ten dollars short in your allowance.”
WEDNESDAY dawned, one of those flawless days, that a beneficent Providence sometime provides for golf.
But Ira Carpenter stood on the first tee with none of the sunshine of the day in his face. Beside him was young Mr. Hastings in immaculate flannels, while, leaning against the tee box, McBride talked to Betty Carpente1-, and surveyed the scene with an indolent amusement.
“Smack him!” said Hastings. He referred to the waiting golf ball but his eyes were on McBride.
Carpenter took a few preliminary swings, and hit the ball. It was a creditable performance. It shot out and down the fairway, and came to rest a good two hundred yards from the tee.
Suddenly Ira Carpenter noticed the sunshine, and the friendly chirping of the birds. He even smiled pleasantly at McBride taking his stance on the tee.
But joys are often fleeting. McBride’s all bettered his own by twenty-five yards. “You and your ten dollar bet,” Carpenter addressed his jaunty caddy bitterly.
Hastings only smiled. “Some of us tortoises grow wings,” he suggested pleasantly. “Up, and whang it with an iron!”
Carpenter lost the first hole and the second, and from then on with painful regularity.
At the fourteenth hole, McBride’s ball found a bunker.
Hastings, watching out of the corner of his eye, saw him surreptitiously pat down the sand behind the ball. The sight steeled his heart. “One doesn’t feed mice whipped cream,” he reflected soberly.
McBride’s bunker shot was perfection. It rested within four feet of the pin, and he sank it for the half, with unrestrained jubiliation.
Carpenter, robbed of a solitary victory, walked doggedly to the next tee. He drove straight and true, but short of the two-twenty-five mark.
McBride followed him with a confident air. Hastings was talking to Betty Carpenter, apparently unconscious of current events. McBride scowled, with the mental reflection that he would warn her to stay away from that fellow. He caught the sound of her hushed laugh, paused, readdressed his ball and, with a vicious cut sliced it into the far rough.
Carpenter played his second to the edge of the green.
It was Hastings who first spied the lost ball. It was balanced just on the edge of an open scar in the ground. He had a twinge of conscience, but the memory of the bunker steeled his heart. He kicked the ball, deftly, into the scar. “Obstacles,” he reflected, “are nuts to the genius.” But being a kindly soul he passed on and left McBride to make the harrowing discovery for himself.
Carpenter won the hole, but he was beyond cheer, and plodded gloomily on. It was his one achievement of the day.
“One’s not so bad,” Hastings remarked cheerily, as they finished the round. “Next time we’ll do better.”
“Next time,” Carpenter snorted, “we’ll do better with someone else doing it.” “We’ll bet him twenty and get our own back.”
“I didn’t know,” Carpenter retorted, shortly, “that these were community funds.”
Hastings smiled pleasantly. “Twenty will do for next time,” he persisted. “We’ll probably lose it—no use raising the ante too fast.”
Carpenter was all planted for a flat refusal when he caught sight of McBride’s triumphant face. “Twenty dollars on the next round,” he said, decisively.
“You can’t do it, Dad,” Betty interposed anxiously.
“Twenty dollars,” Carpenter repeated stonily.
HASTINGS lolling comfortably on the hotel verandah, watched perspiring couples doing their daily eighteen. He did not grudge it to them. He had discovered that being a spectator opened up new fields of interest. For one thing, if he stayed there long enough, Betty Carpenter might be expected to pass that way. It was something worth waiting for. He lay back dreamily thinking of her lithe young beauty, her ready laugh, her patience—he had donated this quality himself. Their acquaintance had been too short for him to have discovered it. Still, he felt, he was justified. Anyone who could play around for weeks with that fellow McBride must have much patience. He had developed a very low opinion of that young man.
Suddenly, he felt something cold and wet touch his hand. He withdrew it sharply, as though he had been bitten, and looked down in some surprise. A small dog, tan colored and of evidently uncertain parentage, sat looking up at him with appraising eyes.
“What ho, young fellow!” said Hastings, pleasantly.
The dog continued to survey him, head on one side. It was evident that he felt there were possibilities of amusement in this gentleman. He barked encouragingly, wagged his stump of a tail, with an air of understanding, and wriggled in ecstatic appreciation as Hastings patted his head.
“It comes to my mind,” said Hastings, surveying him, soberly, “that you may be a dog of destiny. What do you say to a chunk of meat?”
The dog of destiny was a bit doubtful of the gist of the remark, but he recognized the friendly spirit, and registered unqualified approval.
Hastings went to the snack room with his disreputable friend in close and interested attendance, purchased some sandwiches, and, having deposited the bread in a convenient flower box, fed the meat to the dog. “I have decided to christen you Rufus,” Hastings explained.
Rufus observed him with adoring eyes. Here was a man after his own heart, pleasant and playful, and withal, generous.
“And if you drop round every day, I will provide you with rations. It is not quite a disinterested fancy, I must admit, but it is a worth-while graft even at that. So look me up from time to time.”
Rufus jeopardized his spine with a series of frantic wags expressive, no doubt, of understanding and appreciation.
“How did that hound get in here?” Ira Carpenter’s sombre voice broke in.
The hound in question, sensing a change from the genial atmosphere of the moment before, retired to a safer distance and sat watching, his head on his paws.
“Now,” said Ira Carpenter, dropping the original subject, “that you have let me in for this fool contest, what to you intend to do about it?”
Hastings waved the personal application aside, airily. “We intend to beat him,” he announced cheerfully.
“We,” Carpenter almost choked over the word. “That’s why I stopped to speak to you. I would like you to interpret that ‘we’ stuff. Barring the able pair of legs that haul my bag around, where does your part of the we come in?”
“Did you ever get a good look at yourself while driving?”
A sudden angry flush mounted to Carpenter’s face. “Young man—” he began stiffly.
“I thought not,” Hastings interrupted, pleasantly. “Well, it isn’t a pretty sight. It would break the heart of every pro in this great land, which is a sad thought.” “What’s the matter with my looks?”
“I don’t like ’em much,” Hastings admitted. “You lean forward on your left foot when you’re taking the club back, and, when you get it there, you sit back on your right as though you were planted for good, and there isn’t a kink anywhere in either of your knees. All right, maybe, for a pole-axe, but not for a driver. You can’t hit a golf ball if you’re on stilts. A little more of the supple vine and a little less of the sturdy oak’s the thing.”
“I suppose you know what you’re talking about,” Carpenter growled with grudging interest.
“We’ll just get a handful of the little fellows, and go and try it out,” Hastings retorted.
EVERY morning thereafter, Hastings lolled in the self-same chair. And every morning Rufus appeared, with adoration written large on his honest, if unattractive, face, and his expressive residue of a tail doing its best to wag itself off the dog, ate his part sandwich, and retired to a distance to watch. Every morning Ira Carpenter came also, and together the three of them retired to the practice tee.
There were mornings when Carpenter felt that the world lay at his club head, and there were dark mornings when he decided to take his clubs home and twine weeping willow about their slender shafts. But, by the succeeding week, it became unmistakably evident that his drives were lengthening —nothing spectacular — just an added ten yards or so—and straightening.
Sometimes, and they were memorable mornings for Hastings, Betty -came and sat on the verandah, and talked to Rufus and to him. McBride had found them thus on more than one occasion and had carried her off, with a curt word of reply to Hastings’ greeting.
“A nice appropriate companion for a wake,” he confided to Rufus, “but, across the breakfast table, he’d be apt to sour the cream.” It was, perhaps, this judgment that made him reflect considerably on Betty Carpenter.
THE second game progressed with the monotonous regularity of the first. Carpenter played with a dogged determination. He played better, too, getting distances that had been unknown to him before.
Betty watched his improving game with interest and surprise and just a flicker of expectancy. But as the steady toll of lost holes began to mount, the expectancy died.
McBride was jubilant, and only Hastings, carrying Carpenter’s bag, looked on as an almost indifferent spectator. His eyes were prone to stray toward the clubhouse, where he noted a distant and solitary speck on an otherwise vacant verandah.
As they approached the ninth hole he heard a joyous bark, and his heart warmed.
Carpenter’s ball had found a safe, if costly, harbor on the muddy outpost of the green, and McBride had stepped toward his with an air of confidence, when a small brown tornado passed before him, yelping in an ecstasy of greeting as he saw Hastings.
For just the fraction of a second McBride hesitated. The stroke, just that fraction of a second out of time, topped the ball slightly. It rose in an erratic curve and “plopped” into the water just before the green.
McBride muffled a curse and took another ball. The novelty of it attaracted Rufus. He approached with a preliminary sniff, and scuffled back with an injured air, as McBride lunged at him murderously. From a safer distance Rufus watched the second ball meet the fate of the first. The third ball reached the green.
As they moved forward, Rufus surveyed Hastings with an inquiring air. He had a sensitive heart; he would not push himself where he was not wanted, and the stranger had not appeared friendly. Hastings was his friend, he would wait for a suggestion from him.
Hastings was walking ahead, apparently unheeding. But from his capacious pocket he selected a juicy morsel and tossed it behind him.
Rufus disposed of it in a gulp. In the fractional second of its passage he had
appraised the offering and found it good. He followed with a joyful bark.
Carpenter, playing from the mud, just managed to make a six. McBride holed out for a seven and marched to the next tee in stony silence.
Not so Rufus. He cavorted along in a series of leaps and tumbles, proclaiming in short staccato barks that life was very much to his liking.
The sight of so much care-free joy was too much for McBride. He picked up a stone as he crossed a bit of rough, and as Rufus danced into range, hurled it at him viciously.
For a startled moment Rufus questioned his intentions but gave him the benefit of the doubt and, with a yelp of delight, retrieved the stone and dropped it at McBride’s feet waiting, poised, for the game to continue.
McBride made a vicious pass at him with a mashie, and a startled and outraged Rufus rolled out of harm’s way and came up bristling.
‘I’ll knock the head off that damned dog if he comes near enough,” McBride stormed.
Rufus evidently realized that he meant it. He stood at a safe distance and barked defiance.
McBride drove, slicing his ball into the rough, and marched on with a muffled oath.
“Is that your dog?” he demanded of Hastings. “If it is, I’ll have you ruled off the course.”
“I don’t know who he belongs to,” Hastings answered truthfully.
“He seems to know you.”
Hastings smiled in answer. “I’m fond of dogs,” he said.
McBride stalked away without answering. Following him came father and daughter, and behind them Hastings with Rufus at his heels, an appreciative Rufus, who gulped stray morsels as he danced along.
McBride slashed away, venting on the ball the spleen intended for the dog, and the ball took its vengeance, as only a golf ball can. It landed in rough and bunker. It rolled into cups, and out again, or trembled on the brim, restraining itself with an effort. He took four of the remaining holes and Carpenter, playing his steady, uninspired game/took the balance.
“Six is not so bad;” Hastings remarked as the round was finished, and McBride had walked, sulkily, away, “next time we should do better. I’d bet him thirty.”
Ira Carpenter shook his head. “Betty’s right,” he said, “I can’t do it.”
“But you are doing it. You’re wearing him down.”
Still Carpenter shook his head. “It’s a nice theory,” he said, “and it worked all right for Grant. I might fight it out on this line all summer, and all the next summer, and the next, but I’m fifty-eight. I wouldn’t catch him in time. No, I’m through, Hastings. I’ll write off that thirty dollars to experience.”
“But you took six holes,” Hastings protested.
“Dog took ’em—wouldn’t be around next time.”
“I think he might be,” Hastings urged.
Again Carpenter shook his head. “Greens committee has protest a mile long by now,” he said. “Your nondescript friend has played his last game of golf on this course. I’m not fond of dogs, mostly,” he admitted, “and that one didn’t look much, but I’ll say that his judgment was sound.”
McBride emerged from the locker room and came toward them. “I’ve complained about that dog,” he said, with an effort to make the statement appear merely conversational. “They’ll see that he isn’t around again.”
“Too bad,” Hastings remarked, pleasantly. “He seemed rather friendly.” He turned to Betty Carpenter—“and playful,” he concluded.
Betty laughed with sudden, unrestrained mirth.
McBride faced her with a scowl, then turned on Hastings, savagely. “I think you’ve been putting up a game on me, and you think you can get away with it because you’ve been telling everyone around here that you’ve sworn off golf. Well, I’m going to call that bluff. I’ll play you for a thousand.”
Betty Carpenter came close to him and touched him on the arm. He looked down at her, and her face was not smiling.
“You said that you might play again— sometime,” she reminded him.
He laughed at her sober face, and she smiled back a little hesitatingly.
McBride caught her arm and pushed her aside, almost roughly. “One thousand,” he said, with a sneer, “and something else. This course is too small for the two of us—one thousand, and the loser gets out. I fancy that the fellow who won’t play won’t be able to stick, either, sworn off or not.”
“Now that you remind me of it,” Hastings smiled, “this is the end of the month. I’m not sworn off any more. I’ll play, but I don’t like your terms. We’re not profiteers, we’re reformers. Let’s say thirty.”
“And what about the last clause,” McBride demanded.
“The last clause,” Hastings retorted, slowly, “looks to me like a touch of genius. I’m for it.”
There were signs of excitement on Ira Carpenter’s face. “I’ll caddie for you,” he said, exultantly, “and Betty can help McBride.”
“Suits me,” McBride retorted with returned confidence. “We’ll show ’em some golf to-morrow, Bet. Now let’s run along and have a game of tennis. I’m feeling fit as a fiddle now that dashed dog’s disposed of.”
Betty Carpenter followed him, slowly, with a little frown puckering her brow.
“I don’t suppose,” Carpenter remarked regretfully, “that we could smuggle that dog in somehow.” He looked at Hastings anxiously. “I’d give most anything if I could get that thirty back. There isn’t anything that you want, is there? I’d like to make it worth your while. Don’t suppose you have much of a chance. But if there’s anything—”
“There is something,” Hastings answered, soberly, “Maybe I’ll ask you about it later.”
MCBRIDE had taken the first three holes, and was his cheerful, confident self again. He had caught Carpenter’s arm and while the latter held back reluctantly, was hurrying him along to show how far his drive had outdistanced Hastings’.
Betty and Hastings followed at a more sober pace. “Ted is having a good time,” she said, “he’s winning. I’m sorry I urged you into this. If you hadn’t sworn off, it might be different. You can’t afford to swear off golf,” she said, with a little laugh.
“You don’t happen to want me to win, do you?” he inquired; “you shouldn’t you know. There is such a thing as honor among caddies.”
“I want you to try your hardest. It’s all right to wish that.”
He nodded. “I’ll remember,” he said. Hastings edged out the next two holes, and halved the succeeding two. McBride grew a trifle quieter.
As they moved on again Betty found herself with him. “I wish,” he said, ungraciously, “if you’re pretending to caddie for me, that you’d leave that fellow alone. He makes me sick.”
“All right,” she said, but there was a dangerous quiet in her voice.
Coming up to the next hole, her foot touched the ball that had lain hidden in a ridge. It rolled away and lay pocketed before a heavy tuft of grass. “Oh, Ted, I’m so sorry,” she said, contritely. “I didn’t see the ball. I’m awfully sorry.” “Just plain dashed supidity,” he fumed, “that will probably cost me the hole.” •
Betty made no retort, but there was a heightened color on her cheeks. She looked across at Hastings who had overheard, and he nodded, as though in answer to some unspoken challenge. Studying his shot with care, he pitched within a foot of the pin. McBride’s pitch was short and he took two putts. Betty felt sorry for him, his chagrin was so evident. “I’m glad it wasn’t just because of me,” she said, intent on sharing his disappointment.
He turned on her sharply. “Plain stupidity just the same,” he snapped.
They faced the ninth hole all square. As Hastings looked down that long sloping fairway, he smiled faintly, remembering his verandah play. Beyond lay that treacherous island green. He took an iron from his bag, and drove with just that saved ounce of strength. The ball came to rest just under the top of the ridge, with McBride’s well behind and to the left.
With a scowl, McBride played for the long side of the green and a pitch to the rough.
Hastings used a mashie, and his ball lay dead, within six feet of the pin. There was no need to concede the putt. He made it, and with it the hole
The game ended with Hastings four up. McBride did not wait for anything, but took his bag and, without a word to anyone, hurried away.
Hastings looked after him with a puzzled air. Then his face cleared. “Yon laddie’s cut to the heart,” he said.
“I hope it reached right through it,” Carpenter snorted.
Betty turned on him with a laugh that was a little uncertain. “You vindictive old thing,” she said, the heightened color still on her face. “Just for that you are going to give us the very best dinner we can buy. And I suppose,” she added, with a touch of hesitation, “that it had better be a threesome.”
“Come along,” said her father, “and help me hunt it.”
“And you, young fellow,” he turned to Hastings, “whatever it was you wanted, you can have it.”
“I hope so, sir,” said Hastings, his eyes on Betty.
/GEORGE MORRISON lounged comvJ fortably in the verandah chair. “I know what’s the matter with McBride,” he said.
Keeling turned on him sourly. “You still singing that old hymn of hate?” he demanded.
“He’s a poor loser,” Morrison retorted, blandly.
“You might have discovered it before, and saved all the talk,” Keeling grumbled.
“Couldn’t, because he didn’t lose. He didn’t take any chances, and, anyway, there was no one to make him.”
“Then how did you find out?”
“Ever meet young Bob Hastings?” Keeling shook his head.
“Nice boy—you should. I used to know his father—clever chap, Bob’s father—good friend of mine in the old days. Bob had been fooling around in the open championship—got fed up on golf— said he’d sworn off for a month. No man’s got a right to swear off golf. It’s not moral. I put him up here, where he’d have to look at it every day. Proper punishment, don’t you think?” he enquired earnestly.
“You started out to tell me something,” Keeling retorted bitterly, “and you’ve wandered round so much that you’re lost.” “No,” Morrison protested, “I’m still driving straight. You see it was Bob’s game, but I provided him with the bait, and the incentive.”
“Incentive,” Keeling snorted. “Looking at you playing, I suppose.”
Morrison eyed him witheringly. “Looking at Betty Carpenter,” he said. “That’s how I found out.”