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"Steady as a church," said Corbett. "Only one mistake in four holes," said Bowker.
"I thought I was a long driver," said Horton, aggrievedly, "but you're right with me every shot."
Mr. Cuyler stared at the lofty hill which confronted him.
"There's one thing about it," he proclaimed through chattering teeth. "II've got nerve enough, but against this wind, with a heavy ball-well, it's all in the day's work. What difference does it make?"
"Not the least," Bowker assured him heartily. "We all play for the fun of it.”
Here Mr. Cuyler hooked viciously; almost before the club-head had passed the ball he was scrutinizing it with every symptom of apoplexy.
"Oh, the idiots!" he rasped. "The miserable, lying, cheating, swindling idiots! Look! Look at that! Feel of that club! It 's new; just had it made. Took it out of the bag to-day for the first time. Feel where the balance is! There's two ounces too much lead back there. Feel it turn over of its own weight at the top of the swing! The idea of trying to play golf with a stuffed mallet like that! Now I'm mad! I'll tell you exactly what 'll happen: I 'll dub every shot from here to the finish. Watch me!"
Accordingly, they watched him dub two of them, and run down an approach putt for a par four.
"That's the principle of it," praised Bowker.
"Good recovery, Mr. Cuyler!" said Horton.
"You can't beat him," declared Corbett. But the capitalist was shaking from head to foot. Despite his theory, he had requisitioned a card from his caddy, and recorded his own score; twice, as he was making the entries, the pasteboard fluttered from his palsied fingers.
"Four," he whispered. "One over four, one over four, two over four, two over four. I'm two over four for five holes."
"Your shot, Mr. Cuyler."
"Where?" he inquired weakly. They indicated a yellow flag which, to his disordered fancy, marked a hill at least a mile and a half to westward. "My wrists have gone back on me," he muttered. "Broke one of 'em a few years ago. They 've gone back; afraid to hit a ball any more. If I try to spare it, I 'll fluff it. Hardest shot for anybody in the world 's a spared shot." The mere weight of the club carried the ball out in soaring flight; Mr. Cuyler sat down on the tee-box and mopped his glistening countenance. His expression, as he looked at Corbett, was the harbinger of speech, but he thought better of it, and kept silence, although the effort must have tortured him.
"Bully!" said Bowker. "You'll be under forty for nine holes!"
"Oh, no I won't. You don't know me. You 're a young man. I can't climb around these hills; all out of breath when I come to my second shot. I'll miss it sure."
He topped it, but it rolled miraculously to the green. He putted, and the ball sank with a gratifying tinkle.
"Three for me," he said, fumbling for the card and dropping his pencil. "Three, and it's a par four! It's three hundred and sixty yards; it 's uphill—a birdie three. I'm one over four for six holes." He stretched his arms wide, and inhaled deeply. "Gad! what a wonderful course!" he said. "A wonderful course! It's the hardest in the metropolitan district,everybody says so, and I 'm one over four for six holes! Did n't expect me to be going so strong, did you? Where's the next? Where 's the seventh?"
"Foot of the hill," Bowker told him. "Long, but very easy. All you have to do is swipe it; she 'll roll indefinitely."
Obediently, Mr. Cuyler swiped it. He caught the ball on the toe of the club; it glanced to the right, found the slope, and leaped amazingly downward. Mr. Cuyler, posing rigidly in the attitude in which. all experts are photographed, waited until his muscles ached.
"Foundered," he said, "but it rolled. "I don't know what it is, but I put some
stuff on 'em. They certainly do roll for me."
The other three all outdrove him, but his soul was beyond envy. He found his ball in a hanging lie. Wild-eyed and
panting, he sclaffed badly; but it was beyond his power to nullify the influence of a twenty-per-cent. grade, and he had a short putt for a three. The ball hung on the lip of the cup; Mr. Cuyler whirled toward his caddy.
"There you go again!" he roared. "You coughed! You do that once
"In!" cried Bowker behind him.
"It fiddled around and then dropped. Look in the cup!"
"A three for Mr. Cuyler," said Horton, noting it.
"Even fours to here," commented Corbett. "That's remarkable, especially for a man who never saw the place before to-day."
"But I'm so sore at that caddy," growled Mr. Cuyler, "I 'm likely to go all to pieces any minute. Just my luck, anyway. Wish I'd had some gloves. Well, now for a short slice and a merry one! Take me ten strokes now, I suppose; lucky if I get around under fifty.”
As a matter of fact, he finished the first nine holes in thirty-seven, and took stimulants more from necessity than from inclination.
It was an hour before they could persuade him back to the course.
"I'm satisfied," he said. "You gentlemen go ahead. I'm tired now; I 'd probably hold you back. I'm tired. Nine holes is plenty for an old man, anyway."
"Not by the wildest stretch of the imagination," said Horton, gallantly, "can a man be considered old when he can go out in thirty-seven at Warwick!"
Joyously they chorused directions for reaching the tenth, which was guarded by another of the Inness brooks and by a semicircle of trees.
"Almost wish I had n't said I'd play," the man of money told them. "Sat too long in the house; got cold." Thus armed with a reasonable excuse, he drove almost at right angles to the course.
"Too bad!" said Horton, sorrowfully. "You bet it's too bad," murmured Corbett.
"Just cold-nothing but cold," explained Mr. Cuyler. "Serves me right; ought to have had more sense. Now I can't relax in the swing." He took four shots in the rough, gouged four tremendous clots of sod, approached execrably, putted miserably, and was down in nine. His subsequent monologue was illuminating. The three conspirators stole covert glances at one another as they walked to the eleventh tee.
"We think we 're extravagant if we play for a ball a hole," whispered Corbett to Bowker. "It 's possible that we played the tenth for half a million-and lost!"
"Give him a chance!" said Bowker, mirthlessly.
The eleventh was rated on the card as a par five; Mr. Cuyler, assisted by a flat stone at the root of a tree, accomplished it in seven, broke his putter over his knee, and kicked his tweed hat into the brook.
"Now I've strained my thumb!" he said pathetically. "Never mind; come ahead! Everything breaks against me. I don't care; I play for the fun of it. It keeps me out in the open air. If that caddy eats another apple as loudly as he did the last one, I 'll brain him.”
The twelfth was a simple iron shot; he played it perfectly, got his three, and smiled wearily.
"Nineteen for three holes," he observed.
Eventually they led him out, and again "Great golf! One over six! And now
he paused to admire the landscape. "What rent do you pay?" he asked. "Twenty thousand," said Corbett. "I should want thirty; that's six per cent. on the investment. Where's the next hole?"
I've got to putt with a cleik!"
"Lend you my putter," said three voices in unison.
He shook his head.
"Oh, no. No use, anyway. I'm done. My nerves are all shot to pieces. First
time in my life I ever had a stimulant between rounds. No chance now. Is this a long one?"
"Straight out," said Horton, and a moment later he added: "That's absolutely perfect. Two degrees off that line, and you 'd have been either out of bounds or in the rough."
"But-but that was a hook!" "Exactly. Placed perfectly." "But I was playing off to the right more!"
"You were standing just as I 'm going to. I'd have told you if you were n't." "It may be all right," said Mr. Cuyler, mournfully, "but if I 've got to play these holes without even knowing where I 'm to shoot, I'll be so muddled I can't hit a
Nevertheless, he brought off another shot which Horton characterized as perfect. An approach and two putts. gave him his five.
The fourteenth tee was on the edge of a sickening swamp, inhabited by bullfrogs that croaked malevolently. Once more a battery of trees was placed to penalize a slice; on the left an artistic rockery glinted in the sun.
"If those darned frogs would keep quiet," said Mr. Cuyler, warmly, "perhaps I could give some attention to this ball. How far is it across the Gulf of Mexico?"
"A good, full shot."
"And a good, full shot is something a man of seventy-I 'm nearly seventy
could n't make to save his life. Well, here goes. If I miss it, somebody 'll have to lend me a dredge!" He drove neatly across the swamp; the ball rolled easily to the green. One after the other, Corbett, Bowker, Horton topped among the frogs.
"Twenty-seven for five holes," said Mr. Cuyler, tremulously, "and I beat all three of you! Are there any more Everglades, or do you play the rest of the way on dry land? Say, I'm shivering! This place is n't malarial, is it?"
"We go right back across it," said Corbett; "but this time it 's shorter. Don't take any chances. Use a high tee, and slam it."
a guest here" Choking incontinently, he slashed at the ball, and saw it disappear over a near-by ridge. "Is it safe?" he asked anxiously.
"Could n't be better."
"You really should n't disturb a man who 's driving, you know."
"We 're very sorry, Mr. Cuyler." "I'm going badly enough as it is without being disturbed."
"You 're doing excellently."
"I'm glad you think so-"
"All you need is a four to be even fives for this round."
"Yes, but the way to have a man get fours is n't to touch up his nerves until
Mr. Cuyler annihilated him with a sin- they 're all on edge." In evident irritagle glance.
"If there's anything that puts me off my game quicker than anything else," he lectured, "it's to have a man advise me. I wish you had n't said that. From my friends I want friendship only; when I need advice, I go to a professional." While the trio stood motionless, agonized, he drove a dead, high ball, which missed the water by an eyelash, and permitted him to make his four even with a poor second shot. "You pretty nearly made me spoil that hole," he said severely. "I beg of you, don't do it again."
Bowker and Corbett were shaking hands when the capitalist, in the act of driving, turned quickly upon them.
"Confound it!" he said wrathfully. "What are you two trying to do? Do you want to throw me off my game? Can't anybody in this whole crowd stand. still when I'm going to shoot?"
"I'm sorry," said Corbett, hastily. "You ought to be!" He returned to the ball. "Confound it!" he repeated. "Something's wrong every hole. First it's a caddy, and then it is n't. You 've got me shaking like a convict. Look at me!"
Indeed, his hands were strikingly unsteady.
"There's no hurry," soothed Horton. "Take your time, Mr. Cuyler."
"Oh, another counselor!" He breathed hard, and swung his club. "If I were n't
tion he topped two brassy shots; the second was a yard from the green.
"Play it safe!" said Corbett, unthink
Mr. Cuyler, gritting his teeth, struck blindly with his mashy, and the ball ran unerringly to the cup and dropped. He looked at the cup, looked at Corbett, opened his mouth, closed it again, and said nothing.
"Fives!" said Horton, jubilantly. "You need two fours for an eighty!"
The capitalist went through the motions of addressing, but his legs shook, and in the waggle he could n't bring the face of his driver within six inches of the ball. "How-how far is it?" he faltered. "Four hundred and twenty-five-a good four."
His face was ashen, and his mouth was working grotesquely as he swung. He heeled the ball; it wandered casually down a gentle slope, and found a cozy seat in a boot-mark.
"All over," he said. "I'm all through. Did the best I could; too much for me. I don't believe I can even lift the club." "Try!" begged Horton. "You can make it up-"
"No, it's too late! I wasted two strokes in the first nine; they'd have helped me here! It's too late now." He swung half-heartedly.
"Only one more!" urged Bowker at his elbow. "Just an ordinary iron. Get a
five here and a three on the home hole, and you'll still have your eighty."
"No, I never have any luck." He could hardly hold the club the caddy gave him; he stared at it stupidly; when he finally used it, the stroke was feeble, unorthodox, clumsy, and yet effective. It left him so close to the hole that he went down in two putts, one of a foot, the other of two inches; and he remained crouching until Corbett took him tenderly by the arm and escorted him to the last tee.
"Lots of nerve, Mr. Cuyler," he encouraged. "It's only a hundred and sixty yards. Just hit it cleanly; that's all you need. Don't bother about the brook or anything else. Just one more hole, please! You 've done magnificently. I know you 're tired, but you'll want to remember this. Take a few practice swings."
Bowker, who had been talking violently to Horton, joined them, and stepped on Corbett's toe.
"They 've changed the hole, Mr. Cuyler," he said. "It 's only about a hundred yards. Take a wooden club, and merely tap it. You can't fall down now."
"Never mind about the practice swings; let him drive!" warned Horton. "Hurry up! Speed! Make him shoot, or he'll faint!"
Mr. Cuyler regarded his driver dispassionately.
"You know," he said almost inaudibly, "I'm an old man-little bit of vertigo. If I'd had my gloves with me and my regular putter-"
There was a click of wood against rubber; three men shaded their eyes. Horton emitted a yell of triumph, and without delaying to play his own ball, dashed for the green.
Corbett and Bowker had the capitalist between them; they guided him carefully over the tiny foot-bridge, set him firmly in position, gave him a club-any club!
"Two putts, Mr. Cuyler!"
"Don't try to sink it; get near the hole." "Play it right for here-where my hand. is now. Easy!"
"Not too hard, whatever you do! It's a fast green!"
"Don't hurry! Lots of time!" "Get his club in line, Corbett!" "It 's in line now."
"For Heaven's sake! that's a deepfaced mashy he 's got!"
"That's fair enough; let it alone!" "Don't let him hit it too hard!"
"No; just easy, Mr. Cuyler! Take two for it!"
Mr. Cuyler putted with a potent shove. The ball, traveling swiftly, struck the back of the tin, hopped nimbly upward, and was abruptly swallowed by the metallic haven of victory.
"Seventy-nine!" gasped Horton, falling recumbent upon the turf. That made it unanimous.
It was eight o'clock before the guest of honor had recovered sufficiently to be helped into the private dining-room; and it was ten o'clock before he was able to return thanks for the initial toast.
"Boys," he said, "it was a fine day. I'm glad it was, because it 's my last. I guess the doctors were right. My heart won't stand it. I'm sorry, because if I had time to practise, I might be pretty good. It is n't usual to drag business into pleasure, but I 'm going to this time. Bob Corbett here has been trying to get me interested in the club property. It looks good to me as an investment, I mean. understand you 've been in danger of losing your club. That won't happen. It's a lovely club; it 's the best and the hardest course I ever played over. I made my best score on it, and I had a couple of bad holes, too. Some of your holes are too short, but you 've got to play 'em with deadly accuracy. That's how I made my score to-day-I was deadly accurate. Well, it's too lovely a club to let go by. default. So I 'm going to take it over, and lease it to you for a term of years. All I ask from you, to please an old man's vanity, is your affidavits about my card. You'll do that, won't you?"
"Certainly we will," said Bowker, clearing his throat. "Is it-is it absolutely definite that you 're through with golf?" "Absolutely."