John Henry Smith
A Humorous Romance of Outdoor Life
FREDERICK UPHAM ADAMS Author of "John Burt" and "The Kidnapped Millionaires"
Illustrated for Mr. Smith by A.B. FROST
NEW YORK Doubleday, Page & Company 1905
Copyright, 1905, by Doubleday, Page & Company Published June, 1905
All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages, including the Scandinavian.
DEDICATED TO MY DAUGHTER Olive Marie Adams
TO THE READER
John Henry Smith has requested me to revise and edit his diary, and, to use his own expression, "See if I can make some kind of a book from it." It was his idea that I should eliminate certain marked passages, and disguise others, so as to conceal the identity of the originals. Since Mr. Smith is abroad I can do as I please. Aside from renaming his characters, I have left them exactly as he has drawn them. This may lead him to do his own editing in the future.
I have also taken the liberty of reproducing some of the sketches made by Mr. Smith. In addition to literary, artistic, and athletic gifts Mr. Smith has had the rare good fortune to—but I must not anticipate his story.
ENTRY NO. PAGE
I. Miss Harding is Coming 3
II. Mainly about Smith 21
III. Mr. Harding Wins a Bet 29
IV. Bishop's Hired Man 44
V. The Eagle's Nest 54
VI. I Play with Miss Harding 65
VII. Two Boys from Buckfield 77
VIII. Downfall of Mr. Harding 91
IX. Mr. Smith Gets Busy 102
X. The Two Gladiators 115
XI. The Barn Dance 136
XII. The St. Andrews Swing 154
XIII. Our New Professional 176
XIV. Myself and I 188
XV. The Auto and the Bull 199
XVI. Miss Harding Owns Up 219
XVII. The Passing of Percy 235
XVIII. Mr. Harding's Struggle 253
XIX. The Tornado 258
XX. Fat Ewes and Sharp Knives 281
XXI. I am Entirely Satisfied 300
XXII. I am Utterly Miserable 303
XXIII. A Few Closing Confessions 317
JOHN HENRY SMITH, who tells the story. Heir of his father, lives in Woodvale club house, devoted to golf, becomes interested in Wall Street, and falls in love with Grace Harding
GRACE HARDING, only daughter of Robert L. Harding, visitor in Woodvale
ROBERT L. HARDING, millionaire railway magnate, who first despises golf and then becomes infatuated with it
MRS. HARDING, the matter-of-fact wife of the above
JIM BISHOP, farmer near Woodvale, who knew Harding when the two were boys in Buckfield, Maine
WILLIAM WALLACE, Bishop's hired man, later golf professional in Woodvale, and later something else
OLIVE LAWRENCE, pupil to William Wallace
PERCY LAHUME, in love with Miss Lawrence
JAMES CARTER, wealthy member of Woodvale, who knows how to keep a secret
MISS DANGERFIELD, who makes a collection of golf balls
MISS ROSS, who is very pretty
MR. and MRS. CHILVERS, and MR. and MRS. MARSHALL, estimable young people, who enter into this narrative
BOYD, LAWSON, DUFF, BELL, MONAHAN, ETC., members in good standing in the Woodvale Golf and Country Club
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"... and I got it" Frontispiece
"How do I look?" Title Page
"... and threw it in the pond" 9
"Fore there! hay there!!" 15
"It makes an ideal hazard" 25
"... but there was blood in his eye" 37
"There is no law to compel a man to play golf" 57
"We rested on top of the hill" 73
"Did it hit you?" 87
"... and missed the ball by three inches" 95
"It is not necessary to caution me" 105
The dream 113
"At the gate waiting for us" 121
"We're not fighting, my dear!" 131
"It must be tough to have to wear skirts all the time" 135
"What do you think of me?" 137
"Jack ... never stopped a second" 145
"Mr. Harding ... executed a clog dance" 153
"We ran the auto into the sheep pasture" 159
"I have never seen a more perfect shot" 163
"It struck on the rear edge of the green" 181
"LaHume ... stalking toward the club house" 185
"Miss Harding ... smiled and looked innocent as could be" 193
"It was not much of a drive" 207
"Run! Run, boys!" 211
"Then I struck the bull" 213
Diagram, "The auto and the bull" 218
"What are you looking for?" 221
"Had ignited the matches" 225
"He was tall, angular, and whiskered" 237
"LaHume was shot back several yards" 245
"Grasping her by the arm I dragged her" 267
"She left for the South" 282
"Business is business" 291
"Ten up and eight to play" 297
"She rose to her feet" 307
"I cannot turn back if I would" 315
"He looked doubtfully at me" 318
"This takes the cake!" 329
"And then I saw her!" 335
"I believe I could carry it" 345
JOHN HENRY SMITH
JOHN HENRY SMITH
ENTRY No. I
Miss HARDING Is COMING
"Heard the news?" demanded Chilvers, approaching the table where Marshall, Boyd, and I were smoking on the broad veranda of the Woodvale Golf and Country Club. We shook our heads with contented indifference. It was after luncheon, and the cigars were excellent.
"Where's LaHume?" grinned Chilvers. "Where's our Percy? He must hear this."
"LaHume and Miss Lawrence are out playing," languidly answered Marshall. "What's happened? Don't prolong this suspense."
Miss Ross and Miss Dangerfield turned the corner and Chilvers saw them. Chilvers is married, but has lost none of his effervescence and consequently retains his popularity.
"Come here," he called, motioning to these two charming young ladies. "I've got something for you! Great news; great news!"
"What is it?" asked Miss Ross, her deep-brown eyes brightening with curiosity.
"Another heiress coming!" announced Chilvers, with the bow of a jeweller displaying some rare gem "—another heiress on her way to Woodvale! This is going to be a hard season for such perennial bachelors as Smith, Boyd, Carter, and others I could name. You girls will have your work cut out when this new heiress unpacks her trunks and sets fluttering the hearts of these steel-plated golfers."
"Who is it?" impatiently demanded the chorus. Chilvers has all the arts of an actor in working for a climax.
"Miss Grace Harding; that's all!" said Chilvers.
"The famous beauty?" cried Miss Ross.
"Last season's society sensation in Paris and London?" exclaimed Miss Dangerfield.
"Daughter of the great railway magnate?" asked Marshall.
"The one to whom Baron Torpington was reported engaged?" I added.
"You all have guessed it the first time," laughed Chilvers. "She's the only daughter of Robert L. Harding, magnate, financier, Wall Street general, the man who recently beat the pirate kings down there at their own game. How much is Harding supposed to be worth, Smith?"
"Thirty millions or so," I replied.
"Well, I wish I had the 'so.' That would keep me in golf balls for a while," Chilvers continued, turning his attention to the ladies. "What show have you unfortunate girls against a combination like that? And think of Percy LaHume! What will that poor boy do? Percy heads for the richest heiress of each season with that same mighty instinct which leads a boy to cast wistful glances at the largest cut of pie. He thought the heiresses had quit coming, and now this happens; but he has gone so far in his campaign for the hand and cheque-book of Miss Lawrence, that he cannot stop quick without dislocating his spine. I doubt if that poor little Lawrence girl will ever have more than five millions."
"Never mind Percy and his prospects," said Marshall. "Who told you that Miss Grace Harding is coming to Woodvale?"
"Carter told me," replied Chilvers. "Carter knows them. The whole Harding family is coming, which includes Croesus, his wife, and their fair daughter, aged nineteen or thereabouts. Ah! why did I marry so soon?"
Mrs. Chilvers was standing back of him and soundly boxed his ears.
"How does it happen that the Hardings are coming here?" asked Mrs. Chilvers, when told the cause of this excitement. "Are they Mr. Carter's guests?"
"Mr. Harding is a charter member of Woodvale," I informed her. "For some unknown reason he joined the club when it started, but has never been here, and I doubt if he has ever played golf. He is the owner of the majority of the bonds issued against this clubhouse."
"I wonder if Miss Harding plays golf?" said Boyd.
"Golf is not among the list of accomplishments mentioned by those writers who pretend to know all about her," remarked Chilvers. "I have been forced to learn from a casual reading of society events that this remarkable heiress is without an equal as an equestrienne, that she paints, sings, drives a sixty-horse-power Mercedes with a skill and a courage which discourages the French chauffeurs, and does other athletic and artistic feats, but I have yet to learn that she golfs."
"I presume," I said, "that she will take up the game, and also the turf. The three Hardings doubtless will form one of those delightful family parties which add so much to the merriment of a golf course. I can shut my eyes and see them hacking their way around the links; the daughter pretty and more anxious to show off the latest Parisian golfing costumes than to replace a divot; the father determined, perspiring, and red of face, and the mother stout and always in the way."
"Isn't Mr. Smith the incorrigible woman-hater?" exclaimed Mrs. Chilvers. "You did not talk that way before you became so infatuated with golf, Mr. Smith."
"I am not a woman-hater," I protested, "but I—I don't like to——"
"Some day Smith will meet a fair creature on the golf links and lose his drive and his heart at the same time," declared Chilvers. "That was the way I was tripped up and carried into bondage," he added, his hand wandering to his wife's waist.
"With the exception of Mrs. Chilvers," I said, and I came very near making no exceptions, Miss Ross and Miss Dangerfield having left us—"with the exception of Mrs. Chilvers, I have yet to see the woman who shows to advantage with a golf regalia. If Miss Harding is beautiful enough to overcome the handicap which always attaches to the female golf duffer, she can give Venus odds and beat her handily."
"You will meet a golfing Venus some day," smiled Mrs. Chilvers, willing that her sex should be attacked so long as she was exempt.
"That's what he will," added Chilvers; "I'm agile, but I slipped."
"The artists who depict the woman golfer as graceful and attractive," I continued, "must draw from imagination rather than from models. In my humble opinion a woman shows to better advantage climbing a steep flight of stairs than in any possible posture in striking a golf ball."
"The ladies—God bless 'em—and keep them off the links!" muttered Marshall.
"Why, Charlie Marshall!" exclaimed Mrs. Quivers. "I shall see that your wife hears that!"
"Don't tell her; she'll beat him terribly," warned Chilvers. "Did you ever hear, Boyd, why our friend Smith is so sour when he sees a lady on these links?"
Chilvers has told that story on me many times, but Boyd declared he had not heard it.
"As you know," began Chilvers, "Smith was born on this farm. It's the ancestral Smith homestead, and Smith's relatives were very indignant when he leased it to the Woodvale Golf and Country Club. What was the name of that maiden aunt of yours, Smith?"
"My Aunt Sarah Emeline Smith," I replied.
"Yes, yes! Well, Aunt Sarah Emeline was especially incensed over this act of sacrilege on Smith's part," continued this historian, and he followed the facts closely, "and only once since has she stepped foot on the broad acres where her happy girlhood was spent. It was my good-fortune to meet her on that occasion, and I shall never forget it."
"Neither shall I," I said.
"On her visit here Aunt Sarah Emeline persisted in wandering over the links. She had on a wonderful bonnet, and through it she glared disdainfully at the members of the club who yelled 'Fore!' at her. She was headed for the old mill, which now is used as a caddy house. I was playing the last hole and thought she was well out of line of a brassey, so I fell on that ball for all I was worth. I sliced it; yes, I sliced it badly."
Chilvers paused and seemed lost in thought.
"Did it hit her?" asked Boyd.
"Of course it hit her," resumed Chilvers. "Aunt Sarah Emeline is more than plump, and since it did not hit her in the head I can't see how it could have hurt her. She certainly was able to stoop down, pick up that ball and throw it in the pond—and it was a new ball. I ran toward her and apologised the best I could, and what she said to me made a lasting impression. I suppose, Smith, that it was the most expensive sliced ball ever driven on these links?"
"Very likely," I sadly replied. "The following day I received a letter from Aunt Sarah Emeline informing me that she had cut me out of her will. And you still slice abominably, Chilvers."
"Thus you see that Smith has solid reasons for his prejudice against the gentler sex as golfists," concluded Chilvers.
I entered a general denial, and the conversation drifted into other channels. As a matter of fact, my dislike of the woman golfer is based on different grounds.
A pretty woman is a most glorious creature, and I yield to no one in my admiration of the fair sex, but a woman is out of her proper environment when she persists in frequenting a golf course designed for men who are experts at the game.
When I see women on the broad verandas of the Woodvale Club, or when I see them strolling along the shaded paths or indulging in tennis, croquet, and other games to which they are physically fitted, I know that they possess tact and discrimination, but when I see them ahead of me on the golf links—well, it is different.
Women may gain in health by attempting to play golf, but they do so at the expense of shattered masculine nerves and morals. When our board of management decided to permit the ladies to have free use of the course at all times except when tournaments are in progress, I resigned as director, but what good did it do?
A woman never is so tenacious of her rights as when she is in the wrong. I wonder if that is original?
I know of no agony more acute than to be condemned to play golf with women when there is a chance to get in a foursome with good scratch men. The dyspeptic compelled to fast while watching the progress of a banquet, must suffer similar torture.
"What's the use of sitting here and talking?" demanded Chilvers. "It has cooled off; let's have a foursome. Marshall and I will play you and Boyd, Smith. What do you say?"
At this instant the head waiter appeared and said Mr. Thomas wished me to come to his table for a moment. Thomas was on the other side of the veranda, but I had a suspicion of what was in store for me and arose with a sinking heart.
Thomas is the only good player in the club who is willing to make up a foursome with women, or, as it is most properly called, a "mixed foursome." I never saw one which was not mixed before many holes had been played.
Just as I anticipated, I found Thomas at a table with Miss Ross and Miss Dangerfield. Both are so pretty it is a shame they attempt to play golf.
"We are planning a foursome and Miss Dangerfield has chosen you for her partner," began Thomas, who knows exactly how I feel about such matters and who delights to lure me into trouble.
"If you and Miss Dangerfield will give Miss Ross and me two strokes," proposed Thomas, "we will play you for the dinners."
I felt sure it was a put-up job, but what could I say?
"I did not dare choose you for my partner, Mr. Smith," interposed Miss Dangerfield. "I know it is tiresome for a good player to go pottering around the links with women at his heels, and only suggested a game if you had no other engagements."
"Mr. Smith dare not plead another engagement," asserted Miss Ross, her dark eyes flashing a challenge. She is a lovely girl, but digs up the turf terribly.
"Smith has no game on. He has been over there talking for an hour," added Thomas, before I could say a word. I could have murdered him.
"I am delighted, and it is kind of you to ask me," I lied most effusively. "It is an easy game for us, Miss Dangerfield."
"Do not be too sure," scornfully laughed Miss Rosa. "Mr. Thomas is a splendid player."
"But he cannot equal Mr. Smith," declared my loyal partner. "Oh, Mr. Smith, I have heard so much of your long drives and wonderful approach shots! It is so good of you to play with us."
"It is an unexpected pleasure," I replied, rather ashamed of myself.
I have no patience to describe in detail the game which followed. I am usually sure on a drive, but I topped five out of the eighteen and popped half of the others into the air.
Miss Dangerfield distinguished herself by missing her ball four successive times from the tee. This is not the female record for this feat, so I am informed, but it is a very creditable performance for a young lady who selects a scratch player for her partner.
Miss Ross played my ball by mistake on two occasions, and on one of them succeeded in almost cutting it in half. It is a mystery to me why a woman cannot keep track of her own ball, when as a rule she does not knock it more than twenty yards.
The ball she hits is usually a dirty, hacked-up object, but when she goes to look for it she imagines that by some miracle it has been transformed into a clean, white, and unmarked sphere, which has been driven for the first time.
Carter arrived at the club shortly after our "mixed foursome" had started out. He took my place, he and Boyd playing Marshall and Chilvers. Our orbits crossed several times.
Miss Dangerfield found three balls. One of them belonged to Chilvers, and he saw her find it, but he is a perfect gentleman and did not say a word. It was the one redeeming incident in the game.
Miss Dangerfield confided to me that she is making a collection of balls.
"I am awfully lucky," she said, looking critically at Chilvers' ball. "Whenever I find one I keep it as a memento of the game; that is, of course, if it is nice and clean like this one."
"As a memento?" I inquired.
"Certainly," she declared. "I have a cute little brush and some water colours. I paint the date of discovery on the ball and add it to my collection. Sometimes I paint flowers on the ball, and sometimes birds and other things. You should see my collection! Don't you think it's a real cute idea?"
"It is startlingly original," I said, and her bright and innocent smile showed her appreciation of the compliment. "How many have you in your collection?"
"Oh, lots and lots of them," she said. "I am to have a portrait of myself done in oil, showing me in a golfing costume just about to knock the ball as far as I can, and the frame will be composed of golf balls I have found. Oh, here's another lost ball!" and she started for one which was lying on the fair green not many yards away. I knew to whom it belonged.
"Fore! Fore! Hi, hay there; drop it; that's my ball!" yelled a club member named Pepper, coming on a run from behind a bunker. Pepper is a married man, near the fifty-year mark, and he is extremely nervous and even irritable when any one approaches his ball.
"Don't touch it!" shouted Pepper, now on a dead run. "You'll make me lose the hole! Don't you know the make of the ball you're playing? Mine is a Kempshall remade."
"Oh, this is not my ball," frankly declared Miss Dangerfield. "My ball is over there, but I thought this was one which had been lost."
"I pitched it out of that trap a moment ago," insisted Pepper, "and did not take my eyes off it."
"I am sure I do not want it if it is yours!" haughtily declared Miss Dangerfield, turning indignantly away.
"Thank you," said Pepper, politely as he knows how, and we went on our way leaving him to recover his composure as best he could. I looked back and noted that he fumbled his next shot.
"If I thought as much as that of a mere golf ball I would never play the game," pouted Miss Dangerfield. "I think he is horrid, and I shall never speak to him again!"
"If he had lost the ball he would have lost the hole," I explained, anxious to extenuate Pepper's offense as much as possible.
"Suppose he did lose the old hole!" exclaimed the wronged young lady. "What does it amount to if you lose one insignificant hole when there are eighteen in all?"
I could think of nothing else to say, and had the tact to change the conversation to the unique frame for her portrait with its "lost ball" border.
"You will save material and secure a more artistic effect," I suggested, "by having an artisan cut the balls in halves. They will then lie flat to the frame, and one ball will do the service of two."
Miss Dangerfield was so taken with this idea that she speedily forgot that brute Pepper.
Coming in we were passed by Marshall, Chilvers, Carter, and Boyd. How I envied them! We stood and silently watched while each made ripping long drives. There is nothing which contributes more to a man's good opinion of himself than to line a ball straight out two hundred yards when a bevy of pretty girls is watching him.
The tendency of the woman golfer to frankly express her admiration for the strength and skill of a man who can drive a clean and long ball is her great redeeming trait when on the links.
The man who is careless of the praise of his male peers is prone to be raised to the seventh heaven of golf bliss when listening to the long-drawn chorus of "Oh!" "Wasn't that splendid!" "I could just die if I could drive like that!" and similar expressions from dainty maidens who do not know the difference between a follow through and a jigger.
An ideal golf course would be one where the members of the fair sex are content to group themselves about the driving tees and award an honest meed of praise and applause to their fathers, husbands, or sweethearts.
"You're up, Thomas," I said when the crack foursome was out of range.
Thomas basted out a screecher, and Miss Ross followed with the best shot she ever made. Miss Dangerfield missed as usual.
"I'm awfully sorry," she said, "but I'm sure you will do better than Mr. Thomas."
In my anxiety to verify her prediction I pressed, topped my ball, and it rolled into the bunker. Chilvers looked back and grinned and then said something to Marshall at which both of them laughed.
Of course we were beaten, and beaten disgracefully. Miss Dangerfield did not take it the least to heart, but the dinner did not cost her thirty-two dollars. Not that I care for the money, but it is the first time this year that my score has been more than ninety.
I can take Thomas out alone and beat him so badly he will not dare turn in his score, but in a mixed foursome he can put it all over me.
It does not take much to throw a man off his golf game. For instance: My private secretary came up from the city early this morning. Among other matters he called my attention to the fact that my N.O. & G. railway stock has dropped three points during the week. I seldom indulge in stock speculation, but was induced to buy two thousand shares of this security on what I believed to be inside information. The stock is now selling at five points below my purchase price, a paper loss of $10,000.
"Your brokers inform me that unless you desire to take your losses it will be necessary to put up a ten-point margin," said my secretary.
"That means a cheque for $20,000, I presume," I observed, making a hurried calculation. He said it did, and I gave it to him.
As soon as he had gone I went out with Kirkaldy, our club professional, and played a few holes before luncheon, hoping to get that confounded N.O. & G. stock affair out of my mind so that I could play a good game in the afternoon. I made the fifth hole in five, which reminded me that the cursed stock had dropped five points. As a consequence I drove wide on the next hole, and Kirkaldy won half a dozen balls from me.
In order to play a perfect game of golf one's mind must reflect no outside matter, and I shall sell that miserable stock the moment I can get out without serious loss. This should be a lesson to me.
I saw Carter a few minutes ago and he tells me he understands that the famous Grace Harding does play golf. My worst fears are confirmed.
I shall now clean my clubs and go to bed.
ENTRY NO. II
MAINLY ABOUT SMITH
It has rained all day and nothing of interest has happened. The ladies are clustered on the sheltered side of the veranda. Some are reading, others are engaged in fancy work. The leading topic of discussion is the coming of the Hardings—or rather a fruitless inquiry as to what gowns and how many Miss Grace Harding will wear.
They are due to-morrow. I wonder if old Harding knows anything about N.O. & G. stock? He probably does—and will keep it to himself.
There being nothing else to write about I shall write of myself.
As Chilvers said yesterday, I was born on the farm which now constitutes the Woodvale golf links. When my father died he willed this land and other property to me. I take it that a man has a right to do as he pleases with his own.
The old farm makes a sporty golf course, and I cannot say that I have ever regretted my action in signing the lease which transfers its use to the Woodvale Golf and Country Club for a long term of years.
I doubt if the two hundred odd acres ever yielded so large an income as I now receive semi-annually from the treasurer of the club, but this does not appeal to my Uncle Henry.
"It is an outrage," he once said to me, with unnecessary adjectives, "to use the fine old farmhouse, sacred to long generations of Smiths, as an ell to a club house."
He said other things which I will not repeat. He is a banker, and I sincerely hope Chilvers does not hit him with a golf ball. That infernal slice of Chilvers' has already cost me one legacy.
I have traced my ancestry as far back as I dare, and have a certain amount of reverence for hallowed traditions and all that sort of thing. I must admit there have been times when I have almost imagined that the shades of three generations of more or less distinguished Smiths were holding an indignation meeting to protest against this golf invasion of their mundane haunts.
Where my great-grandmother once sang over her spinning wheel there has been installed a modern shower bath. The huge old-fashioned dining-room, with its cavernous fireplace, is now lined on three sides with lockers. The place above it which was once filled with the blackened oil portrait of our original Smith is now adorned with an engraving of Harry Varden at the finish of his drive.
This picture of Varden's is said to be the best likeness yet produced of this truly remarkable man. I have studied it for hours, but cannot understand how he can grip a club as he does without hooking his ball.
All the bed-chambers on the second floor have been thrown into one large room, which is used as a gymnasium. As near as I can make out, the place where I once knelt to say my prayers is now occupied by a punching bag.
The ceiling has been removed, which, of course, does away with the attic, and trapeze ropes now hang from rafters where successive grandmothers suspended peppermint, pennyroyal and other weeds and herbs possessing medicinal or culinary virtues.
I confess it does look a bit odd, but it makes a ripping good gym.
Certain it is that the old farm never looked as beautiful as it does now. The cow pasture once flanked with boggy marshes has been drained and rolled until the turf is smooth as velvet. The cornfields have disappeared. The straggling stone walls have been converted into bunkers, and the whole area has been converted into a park.
Old Bishop owns the adjoining farm, and whenever he sees our employees at work with rollers or grass-mowers he is overcome with rage.
"The best tract of land for corn, oats or hay in the county!" he exclaims, "and you have made it the playground of a lot of rich dudes! Jack, I should think your father would turn over in his grave. I'd like to run a plow an' harrer over them puttin' greens of yours, as ye call them. You've wasted enough manure on that grass to make me rich."
Bishop does not understand or appreciate the beauties and niceties of golf.
The first tee is under an elm which was planted by the Smith who was born in 1754, and who served under Washington. Facing it is the quaint old country church where the Father of our Country has attended many services, and in which my parents were married.
A straight drive of one hundred and thirty yards will carry the lane and insure a good lie, but a sliced ball is likely to go through a window of the church. However, the church is no longer used, and besides there is no excuse for slicing a ball. Some of the members assert that the old belfry is a "mental hazard."
On the second hole it is necessary to carry the old graveyard. A topped ball or even a low one is likely to strike one of the blackened slate slabs. The grass is so thick and rank that it is almost impossible to find a ball driven into this last resting place of my ancestors.
It makes an ideal hazard.
The second time I ever played this hole I lined out a low ball which struck the tombstone of Deacon Lemuel Smith. It bounded back at least seventy-five yards, but I had a good lie and my second shot was a screaming brassie. It carried the graveyard and landed on the edge of the green.
After carefully studying my putt I holed out from twenty yards, making the hole in three after practically throwing my first shot away.
This ability to recover from an indifferent or unfortunate shot is one of the strong points of my game.
The third hole requires a hundred-and-thirty-yard drive over the brook where I used to fish when a boy, and on the fourth hole you must carry the pond. I came very near being drowned in that pond when a youngster, and I firmly believe that this is the reason I so often flub my drive on this hole.
But it is unnecessary to describe all of the eighteen holes. The links are 3,327 yards out and 3,002 yards in, a long and sporty course, the delight of the true golfer and the terror of the duffer.
Woodvale is very exclusive. The membership is limited, and hundreds of the best people in the city are on the waiting list. Our club house is one of the finest in the country. In addition to the links we have tennis courts, croquet grounds, bowling alleys and other games, but why one should care to indulge in any game other than golf is a mystery to me.
We also have bicycle and riding paths, flower gardens and all the luxuries and artificial scenic charms possible from the judicious expenditure of nearly four hundred thousand dollars. Nothing can surpass it.
I live here during the golfing season, and one is unfortunate if he cannot play nine months in the year in Woodvale. In the winter it is safer to go to Florida or California, and I propose to do so in the future rather than risk a repetition of last season's heavy snows which made golf impossible for days at a time.
My suite of rooms in the club house is as finely furnished as any in the city, and the service and cuisine are excellent.
One saves a vast amount of time by living in such a club house as that of Woodvale. The hours expended by golfers in travelling between their places of business and the links will foot up to an enormous total each year. I remain here and thus save all that time.
Not that I neglect my business; far from it. Once a week my private secretary comes to the club house from my office in the city. He brings with him letters and other matters which imperatively demand my personal attention, and I sternly abandon all else for the time being.
On the days when he is here I play twenty-four holes instead of the usual thirty-six or more, but I find the change diverting rather than otherwise. Without claiming special merit for an original discovery, I believe I have struck what may be termed the happy medium between work and relaxation.
I do not class the keeping of this diary as work for the reason that I shall not permit it to interfere with my golf. When I feel disposed to make a note of an event, an idea or a score I shall do so, but I do not propose to be a slave to this diary.
I have just returned from a walk on the veranda. Miss Ross came to me, greatly excited.
"They are here!" she exclaimed.
"Who; the Hardings?" I asked.
"No, their trunks are here. And what do you think?"
"I would not make a guess," I declared.
"Miss Harding has only six trunks, and I had seven myself."
The sweet creature was happy and immensely relieved. I forgot to ask her if any golf clubs were included in the Harding luggage.
ENTRY NO. III
MR. HARDING WINS A BET
I have met Harding, the western railroad magnate, and he is a character. His wife is in the city, but will be out here in a few days.
Harding—I call him Mister when addressing him, since he is worth thirty millions or more, and he is old enough to be my father—Harding strolled out to the first tee early this morning and stood with his hands in his pockets watching some of the fellows drive off.
I should judge him to be a man of about fifty-five, or perhaps a year of two older. He stands more than six feet, is broad of shoulder and equally broad of waist, ruddy of complexion, clear of eye and quick of motion. He is of the breezy, independent type peculiar to those who have risen to fortune with the wonderful development of our western country, and it is difficult to realise that he is a real live magnate.
His close-cropped beard shows few gray hairs, and does not entirely hide the lines of a resolute chin. He looks like a prosperous farmer who has been forced to become familiar with metropolitan conventionalities, but whose rough edges have withstood the friction. His voice is heavy but not unpleasant, and his laugh jovial but defiant. He reminds me of no one I have seen, and I shall study him with much interest.
He was with Carter, who seemed well acquainted with him, and he greeted each drive whether it was good or bad with a sneering smile. This told me that he had never played the game, and that he had all of the outsider's contempt for it. I knew exactly what he thought, for I was once as ignorant and unappreciative as he is now.
A mutual contempt exists between those who play golf and those who do not. Those who have not played are sure they could become expert in a week, if they had so little sense as to waste time on so simple and objectless a game. Those who are familiar with the game know that no man living can ever hope to approach its possibilities, and they also know that it is the grandest sport designed since man has inhabited this globe.
I have sometimes thought that this old globe of ours is nothing more nor less than a golf ball, brambled with mountains and valleys, and scarred with ravines where the gods in their play have topped their drives. The spin around its axis causes it to slice about the sun. This strikes me as rather poetic, and when I write a golf epic I shall elaborate on this fancy.
Harding has no such conception of this whirling earth of ours. He is fully convinced that it was created for the purpose of being cross-hatched with railroads, and that it never had any real utility until he gridironed the western prairies with ten thousand miles of rust and grease. I thought of that as I watched him standing by the side of Carter, his huge hands thrust deep in his pockets, his bushy head thrown back, and a tolerant grin on his bearded lips.
I was practising putting on a green set aside for that purpose, and Carter saw me and motioned me to come to him. He introduced Harding, who shook hands and then glanced curiously at my putter.
"What do you call that?" he asked, taking it from my hand. It was an aluminum putter of my own design, and I have won many a game with it. I told him what it was.
"Looks like a brake shoe on the new-model hand-cars," he said, swinging it viciously with one hand. "How far can you knock one of those little pills with it?"
"I see that you do not play golf," I said, rather offended at his manner.
"No, there are a lot of things I do not do, and this is one of them," he replied, and then he laughed. "But let me tell you," he added, "I used to be a wonder at shinny."
I would have wagered he would make some such remark.
"Do you see that scar on the bridge of my nose?" he asked. "That came from a crack with a shinny club when I was not more than ten years old. Shinny is a great game; a great game! It requires quickness of eye and limb, and more than that it demands a high degree of courage. It teaches a boy to stand a hard knock without whimpering. Yes, sir, shinny is a great game, and all boys should play it," and he rubbed the scar on his nose tenderly.
A man who would compare golf with shinny is capable of contrasting Venice with a drainage canal, and I came near telling him so. Golf and shinny! Whist and old maid! Pink lemonade and champagne!
"No, sir, I never could see much in this golf game," said Harding, handing back my putter. "It certainly isn't much of a trick to hit one of those balls with a mallet like that. When I was your age," turning to Carter, "I could swing a maul and send a railroad spike into five inches of seasoned oak, and never miss once a week, and I'll bet that if I had to I could do it again. That was what your father used to do for a living, and if he hadn't worked up from a section boss to the presidency of a railroad you would have something else to do besides batting balls around a farm and then hunting for 'em. But I suppose you must like it or you wouldn't do it."
"I think you would find the game interesting if you took it up," suggested Carter, whose father is nearly as rich as Harding. "Smith and I will initiate you into the mysteries of the game."
"Oh, I suppose I'll have to play now that I'm here," he said, with the most exasperating complacency. "My daughter plays some, and she is as crazy about it as the rest of them. I don't see where the fascination comes in. I called the other day on a man who was once in the Cabinet. He is rich and famous, and can have anything or do anything he likes, but he spends most of his time playing golf. I went to him and attempted to induce him to represent us in a big railway lawsuit, but he said it would prevent his playing in some tournament where he expected to win five dollars' worth of plated pewter. What do you think of that? Wouldn't take the case, and there was fifty thousand in it for him! I roasted the life out of him."
"'If you would drop this fool game and pay the same amount of attention to your political fortunes,' I said to him, 'you would have a right to aspire to the Presidency of the United States.' And what do you suppose he said to me?"
I assured him that I had not the slightest idea.
"'Mr. Harding,' he said to me in perfect seriousness, when I attempted to put this presidential bee in his bonnet, 'Mr. Harding, I would rather be able to drive a golf ball two hundred and fifty feet than be President of the United States for life.' That's what he said, and I told him he was crazy, and he is so mad at me that I don't dare go near him."
"Didn't he say two hundred and fifty yards?" asked Carter, who had been listening intently. "Two hundred and fifty feet is no drive."
"Mebbe it was yards," admitted Harding, disgusted that Carter ignored the point of his story, "but let me tell you that I'd rather be President of the United States for one minute than to be able to drive one of those little pellets two hundred and fifty miles! I'll tell you what I'll do!" he exclaimed, turning fiercely on both of us. "I never tried to play this idiotic game in my life, but I'll bet the Scotch and soda for the three of us that I can drive a ball further than either of you."
"That would hardly be fair," I protested, though I was delighted at the chance to take some of the conceit out of him. I have seen many of his type before, and it is a pleasure to witness their downfall.
"Why wouldn't it be fair?" he demanded.
"Because you know nothing of the swing of a club or of the follow through," I attempted to explain.
"The follow what?" he asked.
"The follow through," I repeated.
"What the devil is the follow through?" he asked, reaching for Carter's bag. "Let me take yours and I'll try it anyhow."
"The 'follow through' is not a club," I explained when we had ceased laughing, "but it is the trick of sending the face of the club after the ball when you have hit it. It is the end of the stroke, and by it you get both distance and direction. Without a good follow through it is impossible to drive a ball any considerable distance, no matter how great the strength with which you hit it. This knack can only be acquired after much practise."
"You don't say?" he laughed. "Let me tell you that when I used to play baseball I had a 'follow through' which made the fielders get out so far when I came to bat that the spectators had to use fieldglasses to see where they were. If I hit that golf ball good and fair it will 'follow through' into the next county, and don't you forget that I told you so! Come on, boys!"
Carter looked at me and winked. There was no one waiting on the first tee, and a clear field ahead. It was agreed that Carter should have the honour, I to follow, and that Harding should drive last.
Harding stripped off his coat and waistcoat, removed his collar and rolled up his sleeves. I was impressed with his magnificent physique, and do not recall when I have seen so massive and well-formed a forearm. From my bag he selected a driver which I seldom use on account of its excessive weight, and looked at it critically.
"Pretty fair sort of a stick," he observed, swinging it clumsily and viciously, "but I'd rather have one of those hickory roots we used to cut for shinny when I was a boy. Go ahead and soak it, Carter, so that I may know what I've got to beat."
I mentally resolved to press even at the chance of flubbing. Carter hit the ball too low, and it sailed into the air barely clearing the lane, stopping not more than one hundred and fifty yards away.
"That's not so much," said Harding, grimly. "Bat her out, Smith, and then watch your Uncle Dudley!"
I carefully teed a new ball and took a practise swing or two. I felt morally certain that Harding could not beat Carter's drive, poor as it was, but I was anxious to show him how a golf ball will fly when properly struck.
I fell on that ball for one of the longest and cleanest drives I ever made, and it did not stop rolling until it was twenty yards past the two-hundred-yard post. I was properly proud of that shot, and despite his loud talk I felt a sort of pity for Harding.
"Is that considered a fairly good shot?" he asked.
"It was a good one for Smith, or for that matter for anyone," replied Carter, who was a bit sore that he had fallen down.
"It looks easy for me," calmly declared Harding stepping up to the tee. "Can you make as high a pile of sand as you want to?"
"Yes, but it is better to tee it close to the ground," advised Carter. "If you tee it high you are apt to go under it."
Ignoring Carter's advice he reached into the box, scooped out a double-handful of sand and piled it in a pyramid at least four inches high. On the apex of this he placed a new ball I had taken from my bag, and which I felt reasonably certain would be cut in two in the improbable event that he hit it. He stood back and surveyed his preparations with evident satisfaction.
It was impossible for Carter and me to keep our faces straight, but Harding paid no attention to us.
"I ought to be able to hit that, all right," he said, walking around the sand pile and viewing it from all sides. Then he stood back and took a practise swing.
He stood square on both feet, his legs spread as far apart as he could extend them. He grasped the shaft of the club with both hands, holding the left one underneath. His practise swing was the typical baseball stroke used by all novices, and I saw at a glance that in all probability he would go under his ball.
"The blamed club is too light, but I suppose it's the best you've got," he said. "It feels like a willow switch. Well, stand back and give me lots of room. Here goes!"
As he grasped the club I saw the muscles of his right forearm stand out like whipcords. His face was wrinkled in a frown, but there was, blood in his eye.
Carter and I stood well away so as to escape a flying club-head. I cannot describe how Harding made that swing; it was done so quickly that I only noted what followed.
When the club came down there was a crack that sounded like a pistol shot, and at that instant I noted that the pyramid of sand was intact. Then I saw the ball! It was headed straight out the course, curving with that slight hook which contributes so much to distance.
When I first caught sight of it I should say it was fifty feet in the air and slowly rising. I never saw a ball travel so in my life. We had sent a caddy out ahead, and he marked the spot where it landed. It was more than twenty-five yards beyond the two-hundred-yard mark, and the ball rolled forty-five yards farther, making a total of two hundred and seventy yards.
It was within ten yards of the longest drive ever made by Kirkaldy, our club professional.
The exertion carried Harding fairly off his feet, and he landed squarely on the tee. He half raised himself, and followed the flight of the ball. His shirt was ripped open at the shoulder and torn at the neck.
"If I hadn't slipped," he declared, rising to a sitting posture, "I could have belted it twice as far as that, but I guess that's enough to win."
I heard the rustle of a woman's garment.
"Why, Papa Harding!" exclaimed a voice, musical as a silver bell. "You said you never would play golf! You should see how you look!"
I turned and saw Grace Harding. She is the most beautiful creature I ever met in my life.
Before any of us could reach him, Harding scrambled to his feet. He was streaked with sand, but there was a merry twinkle in his eye.
"Did you see me soak it, Kid?" he asked, brushing the sand from his trousers, and fumbling at a broken suspender.
"You are nothing but a great big boy," she declared. "Are you sure you are not hurt, papa?"
"Hurt, nothing!" exclaimed Harding, "but I'll bet I hurt that ball. I've lost my collar button," he said, pawing about the tee with his feet. "Your eyes are sharper than mine, Kid, see if you can find it. It must be around here somewhere."
"My friend, Mr. Smith," said Carter, presenting me to Miss Harding. She did not bow coldly, as do most young ladies in our set, neither was there anything bold in accepting this most informal introduction. She acted like a good fellow should act, and frankly offered her hand, her eyes dancing with amusement.
"Smith owns this land," volunteered Harding, still hunting for the button, "but he was too lazy to work it, so he turned it into a golf course. He and Carter are great players, so I have heard, but I have been putting it all over them driving a ball, and I didn't half try at that."
"Did you hit it, papa?" she asked.
"Did I hit it?" he repeated, "Did I hit it? Ask them if I hit it. Where in thunder is that collar-button?"
And then the four of us hunted for that elusive but useful article. Miss Harding found it in a tuft of grass, and I stood and stupidly watched her while she put it in place, adjusted the collar and tied the cravat.
"Papa is very lucky in whatever he undertakes," she said, addressing me rather than Carter, so I believe. "I could have warned you that he would have beaten you, though I cannot understand how he happened to drive a ball as far as that."
She smiled and looked proudly at the huge figure of her father, who patted her on the cheek and laughed disdainfully.
Carter made some commonplace remark, but for the life of me I did not know what to say. The proud little head, the arched eyebrows, the cheeks faintly touched with a healthy tan, the little waist, the slender but perfect figure, and the toe of a dainty shoe held me in an aphasic spell. But the laughing eyes brought me out of it, and I made one of the most brilliant conversational efforts of my career.
"Do you play golf, Miss Harding?" I asked. Having thus broken the ice I experienced a vast sense of relief.
"I won a gold cup in a competition in Paris, didn't I, papa?"
"Sure thing," responded her father, "I ought to know; it cost me fifteen dollars to pay duty on that ornament."
"And I once made the course in ninety-one," continued Miss Harding.
"I don't know anything about that," said Harding. "Is ninety-one supposed to be any good?"
"It is a splendid record for a lady for eighteen holes!" I exclaimed, "and it is not a bad score for a man."
"But this was only a nine-hole course," explained Miss Harding, "and there were many of the ladies who did not do anywhere near as well as that. I have played considerably since then, and am confident that I can do much better."
"You'll have to excuse us, Kid," interrupted her father, patting her on the arm with his huge hand. "I have important business in the club house with these gentlemen, and it is a matter which takes precedence over everything else. You can tell Smith about your golf triumphs some other time."
He talked to her as if she were a child who was in the way. I suppose it does not occur to him that she is a woman grown. I would rather have remained where I was and attempted to talk to her, or even look at her, than to sip the finest Scotch whiskey ever bottled.
Now that I read this last line it does not convey much of a compliment, but I mean all that it implies. She certainly is very pretty. We made our excuses to her, and went to the club cafe, and I have not seen her since. She has gone to the city with her mother on a shopping tour and will not be back for several days.
I wonder how Carter became acquainted with her. He seems to know her very well, and must have met her many times. I should like to ask him, but of course that would not be the proper thing to do.
I had no idea that I would write so much as this when I started.
ENTRY NO. IV
BISHOP'S HIRED MAN
Miss Harding is still in the city, and I have added nothing to this diary for several days. She is expected back to-morrow.
I do not know how to account for it, but since the coming of the Hardings my game has fallen off several strokes. It seems impossible for me to concentrate my mind on my shots.
Ninety-one is very poor golf for nine holes, and I am sure that with practice under a capable golfer Miss Harding could do much better. She has just the figure for a long, true and swinging stroke. I shall make it a point to ask her to play before Carter gets a chance to forestall me.
Unless I am entirely in error Carter is badly smitten with Miss Harding. It also occurs to me that I have written enough about that young lady.
Mr. Harding is also in the city. I wish I had his opinion about the future of N.O. & G. railroad stock. It has gone down another point, which means the loss of two thousand dollars to me.
An odd sort of an incident happened yesterday morning. None of the scratch players was about, so I accepted an invitation to play a round with LaHume and Miss Lawrence. She is a very pretty girl, though in my opinion she is not to be compared with Miss Harding. LaHume is devoted to her, as much as he can be devoted to any one or anything, and there have been rumours now and then that they were engaged or about to be engaged, but since it has always been possible to trace these reports back to LaHume I have had my doubts of their accuracy. Miss Olive Lawrence has inherited a large fortune, and is the master of it and of herself.
LaHume has been a persistent fortune hunter, and if patience be a virtue he deserves to win. He had a tiff yesterday with Miss Lawrence, and it came about curiously enough.
The Bishop farm adjoins the club grounds on the east, and everyone for miles about knows Bishop. He has little use for anything but work and money, and he always has difficulty in keeping farm labourers, or "hired men," as he terms them.
About a month ago he employed a fellow named Wallace, who admitted that he did not know much about farming, but who said he was strong and healthy and was willing to do the best he could. It was in the haying season and Bishop was short of men, so he gave this chap a chance.
I met Bishop one day shortly after he put Wallace to work, and he told me something about him.
"He's strong an' willin' enough," said Bishop, as we stood talking over the fence, "but he surely is the blamedest, funniest hired man I ever had, an' I've had some that'd make a man quit the church. What do you think he wants?"
I assured him that I could not imagine.
"Soap in his room, and cake soap at that!" he exclaimed. "If I hadn't given it to him he'd a quit, so I had to give it to him. He takes a bath every morning, an' shaves. That's what he does! Gets up about four o'clock and goes down to the old swimming hole in the crick, paddles around a while, an' then comes back to the house an' shaves, an' then goes out an' milks an' cleans out the stables. Never saw a man wash his hands so much in my life, but accordin' to his lights he's a mighty good worker. He eats a lot, but then all hired men eats a lot. An' he reads! Brought a big trunk with him, an' in it was a lot of books in French, Dutch or some other language that no white man can understand. And fight! You know Big Dave Cole, that's been with me for years?"
I assured him that I should never forget "Big Dave" Cole. I have known him ever since he went to work for Bishop, and that was when I was a boy. From that day he has been the terror of the neighbourhood, and I have sometimes thought that even Bishop stood in fear of him.
"Wal," he said slowly and impressively, biting the end from a plug of tobacco, "this here Wallace licked the life plumb out of Big Dave no more than yesterday, an' Big Dave is that disgusted he has packed up and quit me."
"What caused the trouble?" I asked.
"Big Dave called him an English dude, an' it seems that Wallace took offense because he's Scotch," explained Bishop, "at least that's what the other men who was there when it started said. I couldn't get a word outer Wallace, who said he'd quit if I wanted him to, but I told him that a man who could lick Big Dave and come out without a scratch had the makings of a rattlin' good hired man, an' I raised his wages two dollars a month an' gave him Big Dave's room, which is bigger than the one he had. If he could milk, an' run a seeder, or a thresher, or stack oats an' corn as well as he can fight, I would give him forty dollars a month."
This incident was related to me several weeks ago, and I have made it a point to study this chap when I have met him. I should say he is about my age, twenty-five or so, and I must say that he is a good-looking fellow. He is tall, dark of complexion, broad of shoulder and narrow of loin, and certainly looks as if he was able to take care of himself. I presume that he is some college chap who cannot make his way in the profession he has chosen, and who is trying to get a financial start by working on a farm.
I am going to have a talk with him at the first opportunity, and if my suspicion is verified I shall try to find some way to give him a quicker start. I doubt if Bishop is paying him more than twenty dollars a month.
As I started to describe, LaHume, Miss Olive Lawrence and I were playing a threesome. It was along about noon when we came to the tenth tee, which is located so that a sliced ball may go into or over the country road which separates the Bishop farm from the golf course. Miss Lawrence is not an accurate player, but she drives as long a ball as any woman golfer in Woodvale.
She hit the ball hard, but sliced it, and a strong westerly wind helped deflect it to the right. It sailed over the fence, and struck in a ploughed field only a few feet from a man whom I recognised as Wallace.
He had evidently been looking in our direction, and he followed the flight of the ball. He walked up to it.
"Are you playing bounds?" he shouted, lifting his cap.
"Yes!" answered LaHume, "throw it back!"
Wallace carried a stout stick of some kind in his hand. He looked at the end of it critically, placed the ball on a clod of soil, glanced at us and called "Fore!" and then lofted that ball with as clean a shot as ever I saw, dropping it almost at LaHume's feet. He bowed again, twirled the stick about his fingers, and then turned and went toward the farmhouse.
"Well, what do you think of the cold nerve of that clodhopper?" exclaimed LaHume, staring at the retreating figure of Wallace. "I presume he has ruined that new ball."
"Not with that stroke," I said. "I wish I could make as good an approach with any club in my bag as he did with that improvised cane."
I picked up the ball and found that there was not a blemish on it.
"Wasn't he a handsome young gentleman?" murmured Miss Lawrence, whose eyes had been fixed on Wallace until he vanished behind a clump of trees. "Who is he?"
"Gentleman?" laughed LaHume, teeing the ball. "He's a farm labourer; old Bishop's hired man. One of his duties is to deliver milk every morning at the club house."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Miss Lawrence. "I presume it is impossible for him to attend to such duties and remain a gentleman."
"Not impossible, but highly improbable," laughed young LaHume, unaware that he was treading on thin ice.
"My father made his start in that way, and before he died there were many who called themselves gentlemen who were glad to associate with him," declared Miss Lawrence with a warmth uncommon to her. "What did your father do?"
"Really now, I did not mean anything," stammered LaHume, the red flushing through the tan of his face. It suddenly dawned on me that there was a period in the life of my father when he worked as a hired man in order to earn the money with which to marry my mother, and that from this humble start he was able finally to acquire the ancestral Smith farm, then in the possession of a more wealthy branch of the family. I made common cause with Miss Lawrence, and I did it with better grace from the fact that I resent the airs assumed by LaHume.
"LaHume's father founded the roadhouse down yonder," I said, pointing towards a resort which yet goes by the LaHume name, and one which does not enjoy a reputation any too savory. Of course this is not the fault of the elder LaHume, who has since made a fortune in the hotel business. I could see that the shot went home.
"I say, Smith, let's play golf and cut out this family history business," protested LaHume, who was fighting angry. "It is your shot, Miss Lawrence."
"Don't you think he is handsome, Mr. Smith?" she asked.
"Who; Mr. LaHume?" I returned, not averse to rubbing it into the descendant of the roadhouse keeper.
"Of course not," she replied, her eyes sparkling with mischief. "I mean that lovely hired man."
"He's a rustic Apollo," I said, "and it may interest our friend to know that he also combines the qualities of Hercules and Mars."
And while LaHume fumed and Miss Lawrence clapped her hands I told the story of the downfall of "Big Dave" at the hands of the quiet and cleanly Wallace, making sure that the defeat of the village bully lost nothing in its telling.
All the way back to the club house—we did not play out the remaining holes—Miss Lawrence plied me with questions concerning Wallace. Of course I know that her object was to punish LaHume, and she did it most effectively.
She pretended to believe that there is some great romance back of Wallace's present status. She pictured him as a Scotch nobleman, or the son of one, I have forgotten which, forced by most interesting circumstances to remain for a while in foreign lands. She conjured from her fancy the castle in which he was born, and over which he will some time rule, and I helped her as best I could.
I can see that it will be a long time before LaHume will ask me to make up a threesome with Miss Lawrence. I wonder what "the hired man" would think if he knew that his lucky stroke with a hickory club had created so great a furor? I have a suspicion that this was not a lucky day in LaHume's campaign for the Lawrence hand and fortune.
ENTRY NO. V
THE EAGLE'S NEST
Miss Grace Harding is here again, and I am to play a game of golf with her to-morrow. Carter does not know it yet, but that is because I have not had a chance to tell him.
Carter is a rattling good fellow and a fine golfer—he has made Woodvale in seventy-seven; two strokes better than my low score—but he is a bit conceited; he imagines he is a lady's man, and I propose to take him down a peg.
I am certain he schemed to play with Miss Harding before I did, and he went about it in what he doubtless thought was a diplomatic way. He opened his campaign this morning by playing a round with her father. Carter furnished clubs and balls for Mr. Harding, who broke two of the clubs and lost six new balls, to say nothing of those he mutilated.
Diplomacy is not my long suit. I prefer to carry things by assault. When I saw what Carter was up to I formed a plan and put it into operation without delay. It was very simple. I walked right up to Miss Harding and asked her if she would like to play a round with me. That was this morning.
"When?" she asked, with a charming smile which told me victory was in sight.
"Right now!" I said, bold as could be.
"You are brave to ask me to play with you, after what I have told you of my game," she said, pressing down a worm cast with the toe of her dainty shoe. We were standing on the edge of the practise putting green. I am no hand to describe a woman's gowns, and in fact know nothing of them, but I recall distinctly that she was dressed in blue, with some white stuff here and there, and it was very becoming.
"Why?" I inquired.
"If I could play in eighty-five, as you and Mr. Carter do, I would not recognise one who requires from one hundred and thirty to one hundred and sixty," laughed Miss Harding.
For the life of me I cannot recall what I said in answer to this assertion, but it was something stupid, no doubt. She finally promised to play with me to-morrow, explaining that she and her father were about to go automobiling.
We strolled over to one of the practise tees, and I was delighted when she asked me to observe her swing, and advise her how to correct it. I spent half an hour doing this, and she made wonderful improvement. I hoped Carter would come along and see us, but I saw nothing of him.
While we were there, Marshall, Chilvers and Lawson passed and asked me to make up a foursome. For the first time in my life I refused, and the way those idiots looked back at me and grinned tempted me to break a club over their heads. There is no law to compel a man to play golf if he does not wish to. I figured that a rest for half a day would improve my game. The fact is, and the best golfers are coming to realise it, that a man can play so much that he goes stale.
I have just been looking back over the notes of my second entry in this diary of a golfer, and I wish to modify the statement to the effect that a woman under no circumstances appears graceful or attractive in golf attitudes.
In fact I absolutely repudiate that ungallant and prejudiced assertion. In one place I said: "If Miss Harding is beautiful enough to overcome the handicap which always attaches to the golf duffer, she can give Venus all sorts of odds and beat her handily. I have yet to see the woman who shows to advantage with a golf regalia."
I take that back, also.
To see a woman raise a golf club with a jerky, uneven stroke, and come down on the helpless turf with the head of it, as if beating a carpet, has always given me a chill and a sensation of wild rage, but there is something about the way Miss Harding does this which is actually artistic. There are combinations of discords which make for perfect harmony, and it is the same with the little eccentricities of Miss Harding's swing.
The poise of the head and shoulders, the sweep of the arms, and the undulations of the figure seem to take on an added charm from what might be called the "graceful crudity" of her stroke. I do not know why this is so, but it is a fact.
I shall never forget the attempt I once made to instruct my sister in the rudimentary principles of the swing of a golf club. She was a pretty girl; bright, lively and graceful, but after I had given her two lessons we were so mad at one another that we did not speak for weeks. It seemingly was impossible to make her distinguish between the back sweep and the follow through. She would persist in coming down on the tee with the face of her club, but at that she made a splendid marriage, and is a happy wife and mother.
Miss Harding will make a first-class golf player, and I told her so.
"Do you really think so?" she asked, after several swings, most of which would have hit the ball.
"I certainly do," I declared. "All that you need is the constant advice of someone who is thoroughly familiar with the technique of the game."
She utterly ignored this hint.
"My one ambition," she said, with a bewitching little laugh, rather plaintive, I thought, "is to drive a ball far enough so that there will be some difficulty in finding it. It must be jolly to hit a ball straight out so far that you cannot tell within yards just where it is. Do you know," and she looked really sad, "I have never lost a ball in my life?"
"How remarkable!" I exclaimed. "I have known Carter to lose a dozen at one game."
"Indeed! I think Mr. Carter is a perfectly splendid player," she declared. "I was watching him one day last week. He is so strong, confident and easy in his execution of shots. If I could drive like he does I would be willing to lose a dozen balls every time I played."
I changed the subject, and was showing her a new way to grip the club when I heard a step behind us.
"Hello, Smith! If you are going out in that buzz-wagon with me, Kid, you had better drop that stick and get a move on."
Of course it was her father. No one else would dare talk to Miss Harding like that. To hear him one would think that she was twelve years old, but I suppose fathers can do as they like.
"Fix up a ball, Kid, and let's see how far you can soak it," he said.
"I am just practising the follow through," explained Miss Harding. "Mr. Smith has told me many things about the correct way to follow through."
"When your mother was your age she was practising the 'follow through,' as you call it, on a scrubbing board over a wash tub," declared Mr. Harding, and he said it as if he were proud of it.
"I could do that if I had to," laughed Miss Harding, handing me the club. "Thank you, Mr. Smith. To-morrow I expect to show decided improvement. Come on, papa!"
"So long, Smith," said Harding. "I'm going to trim you youngsters at your own game before I get through with you."
I took a rest all the afternoon so as to be in shape for to-morrow. I propose to show Miss Harding that I am the peer of Carter or anyone else who plays here.
It never occurred to me that it was possible to get enjoyment out of a golf course by any method other than by playing over it, but I had keen pleasure all the afternoon in studying the men who frequent the Woodvale links. My refusal to play created a sensation, and I enjoyed that.
It is amusing to study the way in which different players go about this game. The railway station is only a few hundred yards away, and as I watched those men who came on the 1:42 train from the city the thought occurred to me that I could have picked out the good players even had I been a stranger to those who approached the club house. You can class the various types of golfers by their mannerisms, even if you have never seen them with a club in their hands. For instance there were two members who left the station platform at the same time—Duff and Monahan. Both are men of standing in the community, and both are charter members. They started to learn the game at the same period, and both play at least five afternoons during the season, yet Monahan plays consistently in eighty-two, while Duff is fortunate to score in ninety-five. Why this woeful inferiority of Duff?
They are great friends and always play together, and they go through the same performance every time they reach the grounds.
The moment Monahan left the train he headed for the club house as if it were on fire and all of his money in its lockers. Duff says Monahan is perfectly quiet and sane until he catches the first glimpse of the links, but that his blood then begins to boil, and that he burns in a fever of haste to get a club in his hands.
Monahan barely nodded to me as he passed and rushed up stairs. In less than two minutes he was back and ready to play. As he tore out he met Duff, who had strolled complacently up the walk, stopping now and then to speak to a friend or to watch a shot.
Duff's clothes were the model of fashion and good taste. In his hand was twirled a cane, and in his lapel was the inevitable boutonniere. He had paused to chat with Miss Ross—Duff is married and has a daughter older than Miss Ross—and was engaged in a discussion concerning a new play when Monahan approached. Monahan had on a golf suit which would cause his arrest as a tramp if he wandered from the links.
"Did you come up here to play golf or to pose on the veranda?" demanded the indignant Monahan, grasping Duff by the shoulder and swinging him half way around. "Please go away from him, Miss Ross; he will talk you to death."
Twenty minutes later Duff wandered leisurely out to the first tee, where Monahan had been waiting, glaring every few seconds at the club house, and swearing under his breath. Duff looked even neater than in his street clothes. His shirts, scarfs, trousers, shoes and caps form combinations which are sartorial poems.
Duff smiled complacently during the tongue lashing administered by the irate Monahan. This happens regularly every time they play. One would think that the calm, unruffled Duff would defeat the nervous and impatient Monahan, but nothing of the kind happens. The latter exacts revenge by beating Duff to a frazzle.
I do not mean to infer that the slow or deliberate person will not make a good player, but with deliberation he must have that keen interest which dominates all of his faculties.
Marshall, for instance, is the slowest player I ever saw, and one of the best. It is tiresome to watch him prepare to make a shot. He averages four practise strokes. He has become so addicted to the practise-stroke habit that he makes a series of preliminary manoeuvres before carving a steak, and he raises his glass and sets it down several times before taking a drink. His game is the sublimation of caution. It is the brilliancy of care.
Later in the afternoon I wandered down the old lane which bisects the links and climbed "The Eagle's Nest," a jagged pile of rocks which rise on the southeastern part of the course. When a boy I discovered a way to reach the crest of the higher ledge, fully two hundred feet above the brook which takes its rambling course to the west. At this altitude there is a natural seat, so formed by the rocks that those below cannot see the one who uses this as a sentinel box.
It suited my mood to climb there this afternoon. Lazily smoking a cigar I drank in the pastoral panorama spread out before me. The old Sumner road wound as a dusty-gray ribbon amid fields of grain and corn. Below were the pigmy figures of golfers, grotesque in their insignificance, striding along like abbreviated compasses.
What dwarfs they were compared with their huge playground; what insects they were contrasted to the splendid area within the sweep of the horizon; what microbes they were when the eye wandered from them to the superb vault of the skies!
I heard the lowing of cattle, and saw the Bishop herd coming over a hill from the meadows. The notes of a Scotch air, sung in a clear, mellow baritone came to my ears, and a moment later I saw Bishop's "hired man," Wallace, driving the kine before him. His cap was in his hand, and his jet-black hair fell back from his forehead.
I have no idea what impelled me to do so, but I leaned over the cliff and looked below.
Half-way up the gentler slope of "The Eagle's Nest" I saw the figure of a girl, or a woman. I keep my eyes on her, and as near as I can determine she never once took hers from Bishop's hired man. Not until he vanished in the woods which surrounds the farmhouse, did she move. Then she turned and slowly picked her way down the rather dangerous path.
It was Miss Olive Lawrence.
ENTRY NO. VI
I PLAY WITH MISS HARDING
I regret that lack of intimacy with the muses prevents me from recording this entry in verse. I have been playing golf with Miss Harding!
Not until this afternoon did I realise that constant association with Marshall, Carter, Chilvers, and other hardened golfers has dulled my finer sensibilities and deadened my appreciation of the wonderful scenic beauties of the Woodvale golf course.
Like the fool bicycle scorcher who tears past beautiful bits of landscape, his eyes fixed on the dusty path spurned by his whirring wheel, or like the goggled maniac who steers an automobile, I now find that I have played hundreds of times over this course without once having seen it.
When I was a boy my foolish parents took me on a tour of the continent, for the reason, I presume, that they did not dare leave me at home. My impression of the colossal splendour beneath the vaulted heights of Saint Peter's was that a certain smooth space on the tiled floor offered unequalled facilities for playing marbles. I marvelled that baseball grounds were not laid out in the noble open spaces surrounding the palaces of Paris, Berlin, and Vienna. The Swiss Alps had a fascination for me by reason of their unsurpassed opportunities for coasting.
It never occurred to me until to-day that nature had any motive in planning Woodvale other than to provide a sporty golf course. Miss Harding has opened my eyes to the fact that it is one of the most beautiful spots on the face of the earth.
When I told Carter I was to play with Miss Harding, he looked sort of queer for a moment, and then bet me a box of balls I would not make eighty-five. This was the only thing he could think to say. He tried hard to conceal his surprise, but I could see that he was hard hit.
He wins the box of balls, all right. As a matter of fact we did not finish the round, but I did not tell Carter that. I simply grinned happily and told him that he had won.
There is no reason why I should attempt to write an account of this game in this diary. I shall never forget the slightest detail of it as long as I live.
The night is black as a raven's wing, but I am certain that I can start from the first tee and retrace every step made by Miss Harding over the fourteen holes played, and I will admit that it was far from a straight line. I will wager that I can place my hand on every place where her club tore up the turf, and can locate the exact spots where she drove out of bounds.
The day was beautiful, the weather perfect. A few fleecy clouds drifted across a deep sky. The rich green of the slopes blended into the darker shades of the encompassing forests. As a rule, the only thing I can recall after a golf game, so far as weather is concerned, is whether it rained or if a high wind were blowing. It was different to-day.
I noted that the breeze was just strong enough to ruffle the lace at her throat, and that the blue of her gown matched perfectly with cloud, sky, and the dominating tones of the undulating carpet on which she tread.
I might play with Marshall or Chilvers a thousand times and not know or care if the links were garbed in green or yellow, or if the clouds were pink or Van Dyke brown, but as I said before, the only sentiment aroused by association with these vindictive golf fiends is a wild and unreasoning desire to beat the life out of them at their own game. I dislike to say it, but they have never inspired in me one sentiment of which I am proud.
At my suggestion we decided to start at the third tee. The first one requires a long drive to carry the lane, and on the second it is necessary to negotiate the old graveyard, and I disliked to put Miss Harding to so severe a test on the start.
As I made a tee for her and carefully placed a new white ball on it, I could not help think of the many times I have sneered and laughed at Thomas, who is the only good player in the club who has really seemed to enjoy a game of golf with one of the opposite sex.
I can see now that I have been very unfair to Thomas.
The man who refuses to play golf with a woman, or who even hesitates, and who justifies such conduct on the plea that she cannot play well enough to make the contest an equal one—well, he has none of the finer instincts of a gentleman.
I told Marshall and Chilvers so this evening, and they laughed at me.
Both of these men are married, and both used to play golf with their sweethearts when they were engaged. Once in a great while they now play a round with the alleged partners of their joys and sorrows, but they do it as if it were a penance, and seem immensely relieved when the ordeal is over. It is pitiful to watch these two ladies forced to play together, while their lords and masters indulge in fierce foursomes, waged for the brute love of victory—and incidentally, perhaps for a ball a hole.
If I ever marry I shall play with the habitual golfer only when Mrs. Smith is disinclined to favour me with her society on the links. Chilvers and Marshall say that they made the same resolution—and kept it nearly six months. Let them watch me.
Miss Harding missed the ball entirely the first time she swung at it, and both of us laughed heartily.
Now that I come to think of it, nothing used to infuriate me more than to have to wait on a tee for a woman who was wildly striking at a ball. But one must learn, and it is no disgrace for a lady to miss so small an object as a golf ball.
She hit the ball on the second attempt. It did not go far, it is true, but it went gracefully, describing a parabolic curve considerably to the right of the line of the green.
Then I drove a long, straight ball, and felt just a little bit ashamed of myself. It seemed like taking an unfair advantage of my fair opponent. In fact it seemed a brutal thing to do, but she expressed delight.
"That was splendid, Mr. Smith!" she declared, as my ball stopped rolling, more than two hundred yards away. "I know that my poor little game will bore you to death, but you invited this calamity."
"I only wish that—that I——" and then I stopped in time to keep from saying something foolish.
"Well?" she said, a smile hovering on her lips.
"I only wish that I could drive as far as that every time," I continued, "and—and that you could drive twice as far."
"What an absurd wish!" declared Miss Harding.
It was worse than absurd; it was stupid! Imagine a woman driving a ball four hundred yards! I would never dare marry such a woman, and I came near making some idiotic remark to that effect, but luckily at that moment we came to her ball. I selected the proper club for her, jabbered something about how to play the shot, and thus got safely out of an awkward situation.
At my suggestion we were playing without caddies. There are times when these little terrors take all of the romance out of a situation, and I did not wish to be bothered with them.
On her fourth shot Miss Harding landed her ball in the brook, and it took quite a time to find it. While we were looking for it Boyd and LaHume arrived on the tee, and I motioned them to drive ahead.
I have seen this brook a thousand times. It was my greatest source of amusement and mischief when a boy, but never until this afternoon did I observe its perfect beauty. Heretofore it has been no more nor less than a ribbon of water with weed-lined banks and tall rushes, into which a poor player is likely to drive a ball and lose one or more strokes. It is one of our "natural hazards," and I have thought no more of it than I would of the cushion on a billiard table.
I shall never cross that brook again without thinking of her face as I saw it mirrored in the shadows of the old stone bridge. The reflection was framed with delicate interfacings of water cress, while in the bed of the stream the smooth pebbles gleamed like pearls. The pointed reeds nodded and waved in the gentle breeze.
Now that I think of it, I have cursed those reeds many, many times while hunting for a lost ball.
"Is it not beautiful?" I exclaimed to Miss Harding.
"That drive of Mr. Boyd's?" she asked in reply. Boyd had made a ripper, which went sailing over our heads. "It was a lovely drive! He has beaten you by several yards."
"I meant the brook," I said.
"The brook?" she exclaimed. "I am surprised, Mr. Smith! I had no idea that a confirmed golfer could find beauty in anything outside of a drive, brassie, approach or putt."
"You malign us, Miss Harding," I declared, looking first in her eyes and then in her mirrored image in the water. "From where I stand that brook is the most lovely thing in the world, except—except——"
"Mr. LaHume has put his ball square on the green on his second shot!" interrupted Miss Harding, clapping her hands in excitement.
I do not know whether she knew what I was going to say or not. I wish I had the nerve to finish some of the fine speeches and compliments I plan and begin, but as a rule I end them without a climax.
We found the ball and I dropped it a few yards back of the brook. She promptly drove it into the brook a second time, and what became of it will always remain a mystery to me. It did not go more than fifteen feet, and we looked and looked but could not find it, so I smiled and dropped another one, and this time she made a really good shot.
Counting all of the strokes and penalties it took Miss Harding fifteen to make that hole, the bogy for which is four, but I assured her that I have known men to do worse, and I believe the statement a fact, though I cannot recall at this moment who did it in such woeful figures.
Miss Harding insisted in trying to drive over the pond on the fourth hole, and said she would gladly pay for all the balls that went into it, but of course I would not listen to that. The pond is very shallow at this season of the year, and in fact is a mud hole in most places, and it is therefore impossible to recover a ball which fails to carry less than eighty yards.
She barely touched the ball on her first attempt, and I got it after wading in the mud to my shoe tops. Then she hit it nicely, but it failed to carry the pond by a few yards, and disappeared in the ooze.
"I thought I could do it, but I give it up," she said, and I could see that she was disappointed.
"Try it again," I insisted, teeing up a new one. "Keep your eye on the ball when your club comes down, and don't press."
She made a brave effort, but hit the ball a trifle on top. It struck the water, ricochetted and eventually poised itself on a mud bank. I recall how white it looked against the black slime with lily pads in the background, but I saw at a glance that it would remain there, so far as we were concerned.
Against her protest I teed another ball, but she went under it and it met the fate of its predecessors. It took all my eloquence to induce her to make the five attempts which followed, and then I made the discovery that I had brought only eight new balls with me. So I excused myself and went back to the club house and bought a box of a dozen, but nothing would change her determination not to try it again.
I am firmly convinced that with a little luck she could have done it, but it was the first time Miss Harding had played this course, and that makes lots of difference.
Of the various incidents in this most delightful game nothing gave me more keen enjoyment than when Miss Harding played Carter's ball. It was by mistake, of course. Nature has implanted in woman an instinct which leads her to play any ball rather than her own. The ball thus selected is generally without a blemish, and it has been ordained that a weak little creature can with one stroke cut that sphere in halves.
That is what happened to Carter's ball when Miss Harding played it by mistake, and I never laughed more heartily. Carter smiled and bowed and pretended to be amused, but I knew he was not.
We rested on top of the hill after this exploit and talked of the rare view and of other topics which had nothing whatever to do with golf. Never before have I rested during a game, and I did not think it possible. I have been on that hill innumerable times, but it never occurred to me to take more than a passing glance at the inspiring vista which spreads away to the north and west.
We talked of poetry and of art. Think of sitting with a golf club in your hand, resting a few rods from a tee where a clean shot will carry the railway tracks a hundred feet below and land your ball on a green two hundred and eighty yards from the tee—it is one of the finest holes in the country—think of idling an hour away on the most perfect golf afternoon you ever saw, and repeating line after line of verse descriptive of "meadows green and sylvan shades," and all that sort of thing!
We did that! I would not believe it, but I actually felt sorry for the chaps who went past us, their minds absorbed in the mere struggle to see which would take the fewer numbers of strokes in putting golf balls in certain round holes. Honestly I pitied them.
And they envied me. I could see that. The arrival of Miss Harding has created a sensation, and it was no small honour to play the first game with her. Of course Marshall, Chilvers, Pepper and other married men hardly noticed me, but Thomas, Boyd, Roberts and such young gallants smiled, bowed and looked longingly in my direction.
It took us more than five hours to play twelve holes, and I have played twice around in less than that. I have not the slightest idea what my score is, and that is something which never before happened to me. Carter wins a dozen balls, and he can have them, or a dozen dozen for all I care.
Miss Harding has promised to play with me again.
ENTRY NO. VII
TWO BOYS FROM BUCKFIELD
When Harding was in the city he purchased a huge golf bag, the most wonderful assortment of clubs imaginable, also two golf suits and a bewildering array of shirts, caps, scarfs, shoes and other articles that some dealers assured him were necessary for the proper playing of the game.
"If I have got to play this fool game, and I suppose there is no way I can get out of it," he said to me, looking down disdainfully at his knickerbockered legs and taking an extra hitch on his new leather belt, "I may as well have the regulation uniform. How do I look?"
I told him the suit was very becoming. He was a sight! On his huge, bushy head was a Scotch cap, and it is certain that no clan stands sponsor for that bewildering plaid. The silk shirt was a beauty, but it did not harmonise with the burning red of his coat, with its cuffs and collar of vivid green.
His trousers were of another plaid, but I should say that his stockings were the dominating feature of his make-up. They were of green and gray, the stripes running around instead of up and down, the effect being, of course, to emphasise the appearance of stoutness. When you pull a thick stocking or legging over an eighteen-inch calf you have done something which compels even those who are near-sighted and blase to sit up and give attention.
Harding's feet are of generous proportions, and his tan shoes with their thick, broad soles armed with big spikes to keep him from slipping looked most impressive.
He was the personification of newness. The leather of his bag was flawless, and the grips of his clubs were new and glossy. The steel and nickel of his iron clubs shone without one flaw to dim their lustre. In the pocket of his bag were a dozen new balls, so white and gleaming that it seemed a shame to use them. I could see that the art collection of balls being made by Miss Dangerfield would take on a boom from the advent of Harding.
"Tell you what I want to do, Smith," said Harding, as we stood on the veranda of the club house, early this forenoon. "I want to find some place where I can soak a ball as far as I can and not have it stopped by a hill or a brook, or something like that. I haven't been over this place yet, but isn't there some smooth, level place where a ball would naturally roll a quarter of a mile or so if you hit it good and hard?"