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"Thinking," said Corbett. "I don't doubt for a minute that if I could get my man out here, let him look over the land, investigate values, and all that, he 'd help us out at a profit to himself. Of course I can't say what he would do, but I think he 'd be willing to give us cash and take a bond and mortgage. Perhaps he 'd even buy the property outright and keep on leasing it to us. It's only a chance-"
"Then why have n't you done something about it?"
Corbett grinned in deprecation. "He plays golf."
"Well, is n't that all the better?"
"Hardly. Let me explain. Cuylerthat's the man's name-Cuyler 's sixtyseven years old. He took up the game ten years ago. Up to that time he could n't even talk about it intelligently; to-day his improvement is inconceivable."
"Plays well, does he?"
"No," said Corbett; "talks. Honestly, he could give Jerry Travers two adjectives a hole, and beat him without half trying. You listen to him before he goes out or after he comes back, and you'll think he broke the course record. the meantime"
"I've played this game for a good many years," said Corbett, "and I 've seen some wonderful exhibitions. I've seen men lose their tempers, and I 've seen them break their clubs. I've heard some alibis that would have given Ananias material for another couple of centuries. But when John Cuyler gets up to the teewell, it's a new chapter."
"Still, I don't see your argument.'
"If I brought him out here," explained Corbett, patiently, "he 'd have to be entertained. He's been a big man, an important man; he 's always had attention, and he loves it. There 'd have to be a luncheon before the game-incidentally, he never plays in the morning. If he were n't entertained, he 'd never forget it; so that it would n't do to prejudice him unfavorably before the start. All right. During luncheon he 'd begin to talk. He'd talk some of the best golf you ever heard in
your life; and he 's so constituted that he sees the events of last month through a golden haze. If he made a certain hole in seven, he'll estimate that if he 'd putted another inch to the right, he 'd have been down in six. Morally he 's sure it was six. Fine! Then a little later he'll remember that his drive was a few yards in the rough, and it cost him a stroke to get out. If his drive had been straight, he 'd have saved the stroke. Good! He knows he could have made a five instead of a six if he 'd tried a little harder. Morally at least a five. Then if his approach had been thirty yards farther-you ought to get the idea by this time. I 've played Montclair with him when he made a hundred and twenty-one; two weeks afterward it was ninety-nine; about this time he 'll say he did Montclair in eighty-three, and he'll describe every stroke in detail!" "He's on the road to be a regular player," said Bowker.
"To continue. He recites these things and then goes out, and for three or four holes he 'll put in a string of alibis that 'll stagger you. Then when he sees that it won't do-sky-high! What he'll say or what he'll do is beyond me to imagine. I'll tell you this much: he invests in a good many schemes, he plays a good deal of golf, but there is n't a case on record when he was sold on the links. It can't be done. Furthermore, he 's never yet done business with a man he played with beforehand. He 's too much chagrined and mortified and full of conscience. And certainly he would n't consider buying this golf property without playing here. If he does, and if he plays his best game, he won't better a hundred and twenty, because this is the stiffest course in the district. During the round he 'll say some things that 'll stop business right there. I know. Why, we were playing Montclair with a man who thought he was persuading Cuyler to come in with him on a scheme which would, and eventually did, net three hundred per cent. Before we got off, Cuyler talked in the low eighties. He was twenty-nine for four holes. On the fifth he accused the other man of sneezing so as to spoil a
Now, that 's Remember,
putt, and it was all over. the only chance I have. we 're not asking for a loan of personalty; we want cash. If you want to risk your peace of mind, I'll risk mine, and we 'll have him out here-"
"If he happened to have some luck," said Horton, slowly, "it would n't hurt us, would it?"
"We might use the ladies' tees," added Bowker. "That would cut ten strokes off his score."
"What's the best he 's ever done?" "Why, a hundred and four or five." "That 's at least a hundred and twenty on this course," said Horton.
"A hundred and ten from the short tees, though," persisted Bowker.
Corbett, who had been drumming on the table with his fountain-pen, suddenly ceased.
"Wait a second."
"A mortal thought, is it?" "Possibly. I wonder-"
"Don't disturb him!" said Horton. Corbett brought his hand in startling contact with the champion's knee.
"I've got it!"
"I realize that; you did n't need to flatten it out entirely."
"No, listen! All we need is a thousand dollars and three weeks' time-"
"I'll contribute the time," said Bowker.
The president beamed beatifically upon them.
"Both of you be here at nine o'clock Monday morning without fail. By the way, how much confidence do you think the club has in me?"
"All there is. Why?"
"Because on Sunday night," stated Corbett, "the club-house and the links close up tight for three weeks by virtue of the authority vested in me-for the good of the people and all that sort of thing. The club-house and course will close for three solid weeks, and I don't intend to give anybody any reasons."
FROM the moment that they sat down to lunch with Mr. Cuyler both Horton and
Bowker recognized the truth of the president's description of him. He was a short, stout man, forceful and incisive; his manner invited, and yet defied, contradiction. "A pretty course- -a pretty course from up here," he began. "Looks too easy, though; not enough trouble. two? That's fair enough. young fellows crack eighty right along. I'm not in your class; I'm satisfied with eighty-five or so. Bob, did you hear I 've got to quit?"
Par seventySuppose you
"Not golf?" inquired Corbett.
"Yes, sir; doctors say so. Say it 's hurting me. I can't see it, but I look at it this way: what do they gain by making me quit? Answer, nothing at all. Can't be mercenary. Next reason, I 'm not fool enough to pay a doctor-best doctor in the world-thirteen or fourteen hundred a year for advice, and then not take it. So pretty soon I'll have to stop."
Bowker kicked Horton under the table. "Er-you'll be glad to have played Warwick," said Horton, desperately.
"I dare say, sir. Heard a lot about it; very hard, they say. Long carries." "Corbett tells us you 're a long driver, though," remarked Bowker.
"Very long at times, very long indeed. Out at Montclair I was driving well-remember it, Bob?"
"You surely were," said Corbett.
"What was it I made? Eighty-nine, I think. It was a bad day, extremely bad. It's an easy course; ought to have been eighty-one or two. I'm likely to play very well or very badly, gentlemen. Don't be alarmed whatever happens. If I'm on my game, I may give you a rub.”
"A great many good players do poorly the first time around Warwick," said Corbett, gravely. "There's no doubt that it's the hardest course in the East, anyway."
"Let's be at it!" said Cuyler, impatiently.
As the quartet emerged from the clubhouse, the capitalist paused.
"How much of this is yours?" he queried.
"Over two hundred acres. The land
across the road is held at three thousand an acre, but of course, that 's developed." "Looks like a good buy. We'll talk business later, Bob. It's better than I expected. Would n't mind having it in my own family. Well, where do we begin?"
"The first hole," said Horton, "is just over the brow of the first hill. You have a card, have n't you?"
"Thanks. Three hundred and ninety yards. How far does that rough go?"
"A hundred and eighty. It is n't the sort of rough you 're probably used to; it's simply good grass about four inches high," cautioned Horton.
"Shoot!" said Mr. Cuyler.
The champion drove prettily; Corbett and Bowker followed; the capitalist stood on the tee and waved his driver threateningly.
"I have n't had a club in my hands for nineteen days," he said, "and my hands. are cold. Never mind; I 'll scratch along somehow." He drove clear across the taller grass, and was delighted to find his ball within twenty yards of Horton's.
"Beautiful drive, Mr. Cuyler," said Bowker in his ear. "Horton 's champion of the club,—handicapped four in the national, and he hit his ball perfectly, too.'
"Oh, I get 'em off now and then. Brassy, boy!" He topped it badly, but the ball rolled to the summit of the little hill, and dipped toward the hollow.
"On!" called Horton. "Good shot!" They all made fours; as they proceeded to the second tee, Mr. Cuyler was moved to eloquence.
"Any man who takes more than four on that hole," he said, "ought to be put off the course. Three hundred and ninety
yards is a short hole. I could have made it with a drive and a mashy. Can't expect to use the right clubs when I don't know where the flag is." He imbedded his ball in an immense cone of sand. "Don't suppose any of you brought a pair of gloves? Well, never mind; only it ends me. Can't hold on to a club without 'em; it turns right over in my hand." He lunged powerfully, and surveyed the result for several
seconds. "Well, that 's a shot any lady 'd be proud of."
"Lady!" said Bowker. "You 're halfway to the green!" "No!"
"Look at it! It did n't carry far, but it must have rolled a hundred and fifty yards."
"I don't know what it is," said Mr. Cuyler, speaking gently, in order that Corbett would not overhear him, "but usually I get an enormous roll on the ball. Have n't the least idea what does it. Something I do to it, I suppose."
"You keep on hitting 'em the same way," said Horton, sagely, "and you'll make a good score."
"It's a fearful handicap; I don't know the distances," said Mr. Cuyler. "Play to left or right of the green?"
"Left, by all means, and well to the left."
Mr. Cuyler sliced thirty degrees to the right.
"I knew it," he said bitterly. "The caddy stood just where I could see him out of the tail of my eye. Boy, are you on exhibition? Did you mark that ball? Know where it is?" He went forward, elucidating the caddy's pedigree to him as he went. The others played up to the green; Mr. Cuyler found himself hole high, in grass to his shoe-tops. "If I only had a mashy-niblick," he accused the caddy. "This thing is n't balanced right. Still-" He chipped out to the green, and took two putts; and overcome by the realization that his score was good, he regarded the ball for several seconds and stole furtive glances at his partners. Once he made as though to speak to Corbett, but chose the part of discretion, and endeavored to look diffident.
"Did you see him play his third?" said Horton to Bowker, very loudly. "He talks about playing in the eighties. I don't believe he ever made an eighty in his life; he makes seventies." The capitalist, who had started angrily, became calmer at the conclusion of the last sentence.
"I should have been on in two," he asserted, still holding Corbett with his eye.
"Absolutely threw away a stroke. My regular game, though-throw away one stroke every hole. Well, I got a five; should have been a four. I was saying, if I had a mashy-niblick I 'd have had a
Well, I'm one over four for two
They showed it to him. On the right, parallel with the line, ran a row of trees cunningly planted in echelon; on the left,
"Not having had a club in my hands for nineteen days," said Mr. Cuyler, "I may not make it. I see you 've got to land on the green, and stick. I may not do it; probably I won't." He did n't; but the ball bobbed and bobbed until at last it trickled within a dozen feet of the hole and came to rest. He looked at the divot he had slashed; he examined critically the head of his driver. "Little muscular strain in my shoulder," he confessed. "Had a touch of neuritis last night. It's a wonder I can get 'em off the ground."
"If there had n't been power behind it," said Bowker, "you would n't have. That's what got you through." He pitched squarely on the flag; the ball bounded into the brook.
"You hesitate at the top of your swing,' said Mr. Cuyler. "You 'll pardon me for saying so, but it 's very noticeable." He marched dignifiedly down to his ball, and took three skittish putts. "One over four for three holes," he stated, fighting down his pride. "If your course has correct architecture, the next hole ought to be a long one."
"Five hundred and thirty yards," said Corbett. "You want to clear the brook on your drive, that 's all."
"He'd better play safe," objected Bowker.
Mr. Cuyler addressed his ball gingerly. His hands trembled, and his shoulders sagged limply. His mouth was firmly set; his eyes showed indomitable resolution, mixed with unholy fear.
"If you gentlemen will stop talking," he mumbled. "It throws me off; it always throws me off." In his anxiety he touched the ball, so that it toppled from its nest of sand. "There!" he snapped. "That's what I get for it! Took my mind off it! Enough to rattle anybody. It makes you stiffen up-and-" Here he drove with admirable precision into the
second brook. There was a silver splash in the sunshine, a dot of white on the fairway ahead.
"Out, by George!" breathed Bowker. "You hit that hard," said Horton. "Right on your drive to-day," said Corbett.
The capitalist faced them frowningly. "I don't know what it is," he admitted; "it's beyond me. No matter how I hit 'em, they go! I must put something on the ball." He clipped the heads from a pair of misplaced daisies. "It was the follow through that saved me," he reported. "The shot was rotten-all but the follow through. That saved it. That always comes when I need it. And it's funny, because I don't feel like playing golf to-day. I don't believe I slept three hours last night." He followed the flight of Horton's ball, a perfectly straight, clean drive which escaped the water hazard by the barest of margins. "How far do you estimate that shot?" he demanded.
"He averaged two hundred and thirty off the tee in the championship," said Corbett.
"My reason for asking," said Mr. Cuyler, smiling a trifle cynically as Bowker pulled into trouble, "is that I wondered how far mine went. I think I could do better if my shoulders were n't so stiff with neuritis." He topped savagely, and analyzed the effort with a wealth of imagery. His third attempt was successful enough to justify a putter on the fourth. "Down in five," he announced, beaming rapturously and breathing hard. "Four," said Horton. "Four," said Corbett. "Six," said Bowker.
"I am almost sorry," proclaimed the capitalist, drying the moisture from his clammy hands, "that I 'm starting so well. Of course it's nothing extraordinary, but I seem to be one over par for four holes. It's too good; it distresses me. Ought not to keep medal scores at all-that 's my theory. Now I'll probably press; natural for anybody. I wish I had n't lost a stroke on the second; I 'd be even with par."