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Love Among the Chickens by P. G. Wodehouse

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"Sir," the letter began.

A pleasant cheery opening!

Then it got off the mark, so to speak, like lightning. There was no
sparring for an opening, no dignified parade of set phrases, leading
up to the main point. It was the letter of a man who was almost too
furious to write. It gave me the impression that, if he had not
written it, he would have been obliged to have taken some very violent
form of exercise by way of relief to his soul.

"You will be good enough to look on our acquaintance as closed. I have
no wish to associate with persons of your stamp. If we should happen
to meet, you will be good enough to treat me as a total stranger, as I
shall treat you. And, if I may be allowed to give you a word of
advice, I should recommend you in future, when you wish to exercise
your humour, to do so in some less practical manner than by bribing
boatmen to upset your--(/friends/ crossed out thickly, and
/acquaintances/ substituted.) If you require further enlightenment in
this matter, the enclosed letter may be of service to you."

With which he remained mine faithfully, Patrick Derrick.

The enclosed letter was from one Jane Muspratt. It was bright and

"DEAR SIR,--My Harry, Mr. Hawk, sas to me how it was him upsetting the
boat and you, not because he is not steady in a boat which he is no
man more so in Combe Regis, but because one of the gentlemen what
keeps chikkens up the hill, the little one, Mr. Garnick his name is,
says to him, Hawk, I'll give you a sovrin to upset Mr. Derick in your
boat, and my Harry being esily led was took in and did, but he's sory
now and wishes he hadn't, and he sas he'll niver do a prackticle joke
again for anyone even for a banknote.--Yours obedly.,

Oh, woman, woman!

At the bottom of everything! History is full of tragedies caused by
the lethal sex. Who lost Mark Antony the world? A woman. Who let
Samson in so atrociously? Woman again. Why did Bill Bailey leave home?
Once more, because of a woman. And here was I, Jerry Garnet, harmless,
well-meaning writer of minor novels, going through the same old mill.

I cursed Jane Muspratt. What chance had I with Phyllis now? Could I
hope to win over the professor again? I cursed Jane Muspratt for the
second time.

My thoughts wandered to Mr. Harry Hawk. The villain! The scoundrel!
What business had he to betray me? . . . Well, I could settle with
him. The man who lays a hand upon a woman, save in the way of
kindness, is justly disliked by Society; so the woman Muspratt,
culpable as she was, was safe from me. But what of the man Hawk? There
no such considerations swayed me. I would interview the man Hawk. I
would give him the most hectic ten minutes of his career. I would say
things to him the recollection of which would make him start up
shrieking in his bed in the small hours of the night. I would arise,
and be a man, and slay him; take him grossly, full of bread, with all
his crimes broad-blown, as flush as May, at gaming, swearing, or about
some act that had no relish of salvation in it.

The Demon!

My life--ruined. My future--grey and black. My heart--shattered. And
why? Because of the scoundrel, Hawk.

Phyllis would meet me in the village, on the Cob, on the links, and
pass by as if I were the Invisible Man. And why? Because of the
reptile, Hawk. The worm, Hawk. The dastard and varlet, Hawk.

I crammed my hat on, and hurried out of the house towards the village.



I roamed the place in search of the varlet for the space of half-an-
hour, and, after having drawn all his familiar haunts, found him at
length leaning over the sea-wall near the church, gazing thoughtfully
into the waters below.

I confronted him.

"Well," I said, "you're a beauty, aren't you?"

He eyed me owlishly. Even at this early hour, I was grieved to see, he
showed signs of having looked on the bitter while it was brown. His
eyes were filmy, and his manner aggressively solemn.

"Beauty?" he echoed.

"What have you got to say for yourself?"

"Say f'self."

It was plain that he was engaged in pulling his faculties together by
some laborious process known only to himself. At present my words
conveyed no meaning to him. He was trying to identify me. He had seen
me before somewhere, he was certain, but he could not say where, or
who I was.

"I want to know," I said, "what induced you to be such an abject idiot
as to let our arrangement get known?"

I spoke quietly. I was not going to waste the choicer flowers of
speech on a man who was incapable of understanding them. Later on,
when he had awakened to a sense of his position, I would begin really
to talk to him.

He continued to stare at me. Then a sudden flash of intelligence lit
up his features.

"Mr. Garnick," he said at last.

"From ch--chicken farm," he continued, with the triumphant air of a
cross-examining King's counsel who has at last got on the track.

"Yes," I said.

"Up top the hill," he proceeded, clinchingly. He stretched out a huge

"How you?" he inquired with a friendly grin.

"I want to know," I said distinctly, "what you've got to say for
yourself after letting our affair with the professor become public

He paused awhile in thought.

"Dear sir," he said at last, as if he were dictating a letter, "dear
sir, I owe you--ex--exp----"

He waved his hand, as who should say, "It's a stiff job, but I'm going
to do it."

"Explashion," he said.

"You do," said I grimly. "I should like to hear it."

"Dear sir, listen me."

"Go on then."

"You came me. You said 'Hawk, Hawk, ol' fren', listen me. You tip this
ol' bufflehead into watter,' you said, 'an' gormed if I don't give 'ee
a poond note.' That's what you said me. Isn't that what you said me?"

I did not deny it.

" 'Ve' well,' I said you. 'Right,' I said. I tipped the ol' soul into
watter, and I got the poond note."

"Yes, you took care of that. All this is quite true, but it's beside
the point. We are not disputing about what happened. What I want to
know--for the third time--is what made you let the cat out of the bag?
Why couldn't you keep quiet about it?"

He waved his hand.

"Dear sir," he replied, "this way. Listen me."

It was a tragic story that he unfolded. My wrath ebbed as I listened.
After all the fellow was not so greatly to blame. I felt that in his
place I should have acted as he had done. It was Fate's fault, and
Fate's alone.

It appeared that he had not come well out of the matter of the
accident. I had not looked at it hitherto from his point of view.
While the rescue had left me the popular hero, it had had quite the
opposite result for him. He had upset his boat and would have drowned
his passenger, said public opinion, if the young hero from London--
myself--had not plunged in, and at the risk of his life brought the
professor ashore. Consequently, he was despised by all as an
inefficient boatman. He became a laughing-stock. The local wags made
laborious jests when he passed. They offered him fabulous sums to take
their worst enemies out for a row with him. They wanted to know when
he was going to school to learn his business. In fact, they behaved as
wags do and always have done at all times all the world over.

Now, all this, it seemed, Mr. Hawk would have borne cheerfully and
patiently for my sake, or, at any rate for the sake of the crisp pound
note I had given him. But a fresh factor appeared in the problem,
complicating it grievously. To wit, Miss Jane Muspratt.

"She said to me," explained Mr. Hawk with pathos, " 'Harry 'Awk,' she
said, 'yeou'm a girt fule, an' I don't marry noone as is ain't to be
trusted in a boat by hisself, and what has jokes made about him by
that Tom Leigh!' "

"I punched Tom Leigh," observed Mr. Hawk parenthetically. " 'So,' she
said me, 'you can go away, an' I don't want to see yeou again!' "

This heartless conduct on the part of Miss Muspratt had had the
natural result of making him confess in self-defence; and she had
written to the professor the same night.

I forgave Mr. Hawk. I think he was hardly sober enough to understand,
for he betrayed no emotion. "It is Fate, Hawk," I said, "simply Fate.
There is a Divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will,
and it's no good grumbling."

"Yiss," said Mr. Hawk, after chewing this sentiment for a while in
silence, "so she said me, 'Hawk,' she said--like that--'you're a girt
fule----' "

"That's all right," I replied. "I quite understand. As I say, it's
simply Fate. Good-bye." And I left him.

As I was going back, I met the professor and Phyllis. They passed me
without a look.

I wandered on in quite a fervour of self-pity. I was in one of those
moods when life suddenly seems to become irksome, when the future
stretches black and grey in front of one. I should have liked to have
faded almost imperceptibly from the world, like Mr. Bardell, even if,
as in his case, it had involved being knocked on the head with a pint
pot in a public-house cellar.

In such a mood it is imperative that one should seek distraction. The
shining example of Mr. Harry Hawk did not lure me. Taking to drink
would be a nuisance. Work was what I wanted. I would toil like a navvy
all day among the fowls, separating them when they fought, gathering
in the eggs when they laid, chasing them across country when they got
away, and even, if necessity arose, painting their throats with
turpentine when they were stricken with roop. Then, after dinner, when
the lamps were lit, and Mrs. Ukridge nursed Edwin and sewed, and
Ukridge smoked cigars and incited the gramophone to murder "Mumbling
Mose," I would steal away to my bedroom and write--and write--and
/write/. And go on writing till my fingers were numb and my eyes
refused to do their duty. And, when time had passed, I might come to
feel that it was all for the best. A man must go through the fire
before he can write his masterpiece. We learn in suffering what we
teach in song. What we lose on the swings we make up on the
roundabouts. Jerry Garnet, the Man, might become a depressed, hopeless
wreck, with the iron planted immovably in his soul; but Jeremy Garnet,
the Author, should turn out such a novel of gloom, that strong critics
would weep, and the public jostle for copies till Mudie's doorway
became a shambles.

Thus might I some day feel that all this anguish was really a
blessing--effectively disguised.

* * * * *

But I doubted it.

* * * * *

We were none of us very cheerful now at the farm. Even Ukridge's
spirit was a little daunted by the bills which poured in by every
post. It was as if the tradesmen of the neighbourhood had formed a
league, and were working in concert. Or it may have been due to
thought-waves. Little accounts came not in single spies but in
battalions. The popular demand for the sight of the colour of his
money grew daily. Every morning at breakfast he would give us fresh
bulletins of the state of mind of each of our creditors, and thrill us
with the announcement that Whiteley's were getting cross, and Harrod's
jumpy or that the bearings of Dawlish, the grocer, were becoming
overheated. We lived in a continual atmosphere of worry. Chicken and
nothing but chicken at meals, and chicken and nothing but chicken
between meals had frayed our nerves. An air of defeat hung over the
place. We were a beaten side, and we realised it. We had been playing
an uphill game for nearly two months, and the strain was beginning to
tell. Ukridge became uncannily silent. Mrs. Ukridge, though she did
not understand, I fancy, the details of the matter, was worried
because Ukridge was. Mrs. Beale had long since been turned into a
soured cynic by the lack of chances vouchsafed her for the exercise of
her art. And as for me, I have never since spent so profoundly
miserably a week. I was not even permitted the anodyne of work. There
seemed to be nothing to do on the farm. The chickens were quite happy,
and only asked to be let alone and allowed to have their meals at
regular intervals. And every day one or more of their number would
vanish into the kitchen, Mrs. Beale would serve up the corpse in some
cunning disguise, and we would try to delude ourselves into the idea
that it was something altogether different.

There was one solitary gleam of variety in our menu. An editor sent me
a cheque for a set of verses. We cashed that cheque and trooped round
the town in a body, laying out the money. We bought a leg of mutton,
and a tongue and sardines, and pine-apple chunks, and potted meat, and
many other noble things, and had a perfect banquet. Mrs. Beale, with
the scenario of a smile on her face, the first that she had worn in
these days of stress, brought in the joint, and uncovered it with an

"Thank God!" said Ukridge, as he began to carve.

It was the first time I had ever heard him say a grace, and if ever an
occasion merited such a deviation from habit, this occasion did.

After that we relapsed into routine again.

Deprived of physical labour, with the exception of golf and bathing--
trivial sports compared with work in the fowl-run at its hardest--I
tried to make up for it by working at my novel.

It refused to materialise.

The only progress I achieved was with my villain.

I drew him from the professor, and made him a blackmailer. He had
several other social defects, but that was his profession. That was
the thing he did really well.

It was on one of the many occasions on which I had sat in my room, pen
in hand, through the whole of a lovely afternoon, with no better
result than a slight headache, that I bethought me of that little
paradise on the Ware Cliff, hung over the sea and backed by green
woods. I had not been there for some time, owing principally to an
entirely erroneous idea that I could do more solid work sitting in a
straight hard chair at a table than lying on soft turf with the sea
wind in my eyes.

But now the desire to visit that little clearing again drove me from
my room. In the drawing-room below the gramophone was dealing brassily
with "Mister Blackman." Outside the sun was just thinking of setting.
The Ware Cliff was the best medicine for me. What does Kipling say?

"And soon you will find that the sun and the wind
And the Djinn of the Garden, too,
Have lightened the hump, Cameelious Hump,
The Hump that is black and blue."

His instructions include digging with a hoe and a shovel also, but I
could omit that. The sun and the wind were what I needed.

I took the upper road. In certain moods I preferred it to the path
along the cliff. I walked fast. The exercise was soothing.

To reach my favourite clearing I had to take to the fields on the
left, and strike down hill in the direction of the sea. I hurried down
the narrow path.

I broke into the clearing at a jog trot, and stood panting. And at the
same moment, looking cool and beautiful in her white dress, Phyllis
entered in from the other side. Phyllis--without the professor.



She was wearing a panama, and she carried a sketching-block and camp-

"Good evening," I said.

"Good evening," said she.

It is curious how different the same words can sound, when spoken by
different people. My "good evening" might have been that of a man with
a particularly guilty conscience caught in the act of doing something
more than usually ignoble. She spoke like a rather offended angel.

"It's a lovely evening," I went on pluckily.


"The sunset!"



She raised a pair of blue eyes, devoid of all expression save a faint
suggestion of surprise, and gazed through me for a moment at some
object a couple of thousand miles away, and lowered them again,
leaving me with a vague feeling that there was something wrong with my
personal appearance.

Very calmly she moved to the edge of the cliff, arranged her camp-
stool, and sat down. Neither of us spoke a word. I watched her while
she filled a little mug with water from a little bottle, opened her
paint-box, selected a brush, and placed her sketching-block in

She began to paint.

Now, by all the laws of good taste, I should before this have made a
dignified exit. It was plain that I was not to be regarded as an
essential ornament of this portion of the Ware Cliff. By now, if I had
been the Perfect Gentleman, I ought to have been a quarter of a mile

But there is a definite limit to what a man can do. I remained.

The sinking sun flung a carpet of gold across the sea. Phyllis' hair
was tinged with it. Little waves tumbled lazily on the beach below.
Except for the song of a distant blackbird, running through its
repertoire before retiring for the night, everything was silent.

She sat there, dipping and painting and dipping again, with never a
word for me--standing patiently and humbly behind her.

"Miss Derrick," I said.

She half turned her head.


"Why won't you speak to me?" I said.

"I don't understand you."

"Why won't you speak to me?"

"I think you know, Mr. Garnet."

"It is because of that boat accident?"


"Episode," I amended.

She went on painting in silence. From where I stood I could see her
profile. Her chin was tilted. Her expression was determined.

"Is it?" I said.

"Need we discuss it?"

"Not if you do not wish it."

I paused.

"But," I added, "I should have liked a chance to defend myself. . . .
What glorious sunsets there have been these last few days. I believe
we shall have this sort of weather for another month."

"I should not have thought that possible."

"The glass is going up," I said.

"I was not talking about the weather."

"It was dull of me to introduce such a worn-out topic."

"You said you could defend yourself."

"I said I should like the chance to do so."

"You have it."

"That's very kind of you. Thank you."

"Is there any reason for gratitude?"

"Every reason."

"Go on, Mr. Garnet. I can listen while I paint. But please sit down. I
don't like being talked to from a height."

I sat down on the grass in front of her, feeling as I did so that the
change of position in a manner clipped my wings. It is difficult to
speak movingly while sitting on the ground. Instinctively I avoided
eloquence. Standing up, I might have been pathetic and pleading.
Sitting down, I was compelled to be matter-of-fact.

"You remember, of course, the night you and Professor Derrick dined
with us? When I say dined, I use the word in a loose sense."

For a moment I thought she was going to smile. We were both thinking
of Edwin. But it was only for a moment, and then her face grew cold
once more, and the chin resumed its angle of determination.

"Yes," she said.

"You remember the unfortunate ending of the festivities?"


"If you recall that at all clearly, you will also remember that the
fault was not mine, but Ukridge's."


"It was his behaviour that annoyed Professor Derrick. The position,
then, was this, that I was to be cut off from the pleasantest
friendship I had ever formed----"

I stopped for a moment. She bent a little lower over her easel, but
remained silent.

"----Simply through the tactlessness of a prize idiot."

"I like Mr. Ukridge."

"I like him, too. But I can't pretend that he is anything but an idiot
at times."


"I naturally wished to mend matters. It occurred to me that an
excellent way would be by doing your father a service. It was seeing
him fishing that put the idea of a boat-accident into my head. I hoped
for a genuine boat-accident. But those things only happen when one
does not want them. So I determined to engineer one."

"You didn't think of the shock to my father."

"I did. It worried me very much."

"But you upset him all the same."


She looked up, and our eyes met. I could detect no trace of
forgiveness in hers.

"You behaved abominably," she said.

"I played a risky game, and I lost. And I shall now take the
consequences. With luck I should have won. I did not have luck, and I
am not going to grumble about it. But I am grateful to you for letting
me explain. I should not have liked you to have gone on thinking that
I played practical jokes on my friends. That is all I have to say. I
think it was kind of you to listen. Good-bye, Miss Derrick."

I got up.

"Are you going?"

"Why not?"

"Please sit down again."

"But you wish to be alone----"

"Please sit down!"

There was a flush on the cheek turned towards me, and the chin was
tilted higher.

I sat down.

To westward the sky had changed to the hue of a bruised cherry. The
sun had sunk below the horizon, and the sea looked cold and leaden.
The blackbird had long since flown.

"I am glad you told me, Mr. Garnet."

She dipped her brush in the water.

"Because I don't like to think badly of--people."

She bent her head over her painting.

"Though I still think you behaved very wrongly. And I am afraid my
father will never forgive you for what you did."

Her father! As if he counted.

"But you do?" I said eagerly.

"I think you are less to blame than I thought you were at first."

"No more than that?"

"You can't expect to escape all consequences. You did a very stupid

"I was tempted."

The sky was a dull grey now. It was growing dusk. The grass on which I
sat was wet with dew.

I stood up.

"Isn't it getting a little dark for painting?" I said. "Are you sure
you won't catch cold? It's very damp."

"Perhaps it is. And it is late, too."

She shut her paint-box, and emptied the little mug on to the grass.

"May I carry your things?" I said.

I think she hesitated, but only for a moment.

I possessed myself of the camp-stool, and we started on our homeward

We were both silent. The spell of the quiet summer evening was on us.

" 'And all the air a solemn stillness holds,' " she said softly. "I
love this cliff, Mr. Garnet. It's the most soothing place in the

"I found it so this evening."

She glanced at me quickly.

"You're not looking well," she said. "Are you sure you are not
overworking yourself?"

"No, it's not that."

Somehow we had stopped, as if by agreement, and were facing each
other. There was a look in her eyes I had never seen there before. The
twilight hung like a curtain between us and the world. We were alone
together in a world of our own.

"It is because I had offended you," I said.

She laughed a high, unnatural laugh.

"I have loved you ever since I first saw you," I said doggedly.



Hours after--or so it seemed to me--we reached the spot at which our
ways divided. We stopped, and I felt as if I had been suddenly cast
back into the workaday world from some distant and pleasanter planet.
I think Phyllis must have felt much the same sensation, for we both
became on the instant intensely practical and businesslike.

"But about your father," I said.

"That's the difficulty."

"He won't give us his consent?"

"I'm afraid he wouldn't dream of it."

"You can't persuade him?"

"I can in most things, but not in this. You see, even if nothing had
happened, he wouldn't like to lose me just yet, because of Norah."


"My sister. She's going to be married in October. I wonder if we shall
ever be as happy as they will."

"Happy! They will be miserable compared with us. Not that I know who
the man is."

"Why, Tom of course. Do you mean to say you really didn't know?"

"Tom! Tom Chase?"

"Of course."

I gasped.

"Well, I'm hanged," I said. "When I think of the torments I've been
through because of that wretched man, and all for nothing, I don't
know what to say."

"Don't you like Tom?"

"Very much. I always did. But I was awfully jealous of him."

"You weren't! How silly of you."

"Of course I was. He was always about with you, and called you
Phyllis, and generally behaved as if you and he were the heroine and
hero of a musical comedy, so what else could I think? I heard you
singing duets after dinner once. I drew the worst conclusions."

"When was that? What were you doing there?"

"It was shortly after Ukridge had got on your father's nerves, and
nipped our acquaintance in the bud. I used to come every night to the
hedge opposite your drawing-room window, and brood there by the hour."

"Poor old boy!"

"Hoping to hear you sing. And when you did sing, and he joined in all
flat, I used to swear. You'll probably find most of the bark scorched
off the tree I leaned against."

"Poor old man! Still, it's all over now, isn't it?"

"And when I was doing my very best to show off before you at tennis,
you went away just as I got into form."

"I'm very sorry, but I couldn't know, could I? I though you always
played like that."

"I know. I knew you would. It nearly turned my hair white. I didn't
see how a girl could ever care for a man who was so bad at tennis."

"One doesn't love a man because he's good at tennis."

"What /does/ a girl see to love in a man?" I inquired abruptly; and
paused on the verge of a great discovery.

"Oh, I don't know," she replied, most unsatisfactorily.

And I could draw no views from her.

"But about father," said she. "What /are/ we to do?"

"He objects to me."

"He's perfectly furious with you."

"Blow, blow," I said, "thou winter wind. Thou are not so unkind----"

"He'll never forgive you."

"----As man's ingratitude. I saved his life. At the risk of my own.
Why I believe I've got a legal claim on him. Who ever heard of a man
having his life saved, and not being delighted when his preserver
wanted to marry his daughter? Your father is striking at the very root
of the short-story writer's little earnings. He mustn't be allowed to
do it."


I started.

"Again!" I said.


"Say it again. Do, please. Now."

"Very well. Jerry!"

"It was the first time you had called me by my Christian name. I don't
suppose you've the remotest notion how splendid it sounds when you say
it. There is something poetical, almost holy, about it."

"Jerry, please!"

"Say on."

"Do be sensible. Don't you see how serious this is? We must think how
we can make father consent."

"All right," I said. "We'll tackle the point. I'm sorry to be
frivolous, but I'm so happy I can't keep it all in. I've got you and I
can't think of anything else."


"I'll pull myself together. . . . Now, say on once more."

"We can't marry without his consent."

"Why not?" I said, not having a marked respect for the professor's
whims. "Gretna Green is out of date, but there are registrars."

"I hate the very idea of a registrar," she said with decision.


"Poor father would never get over it. We've always been such friends.
If I married against his wishes, he would--oh, you know. Not let me
near him again, and not write to me. And he would hate it all the time
he was doing it. He would be bored to death without me."

"Who wouldn't?" I said.

"Because, you see, Norah has never been quite the same. She has spent
such a lot of her time on visits to people, that she and father don't
understand each other so well as he and I do. She would try and be
nice to him, but she wouldn't know him as I do. And, besides, she will
be with him such a little, now she's going to be married."

"But, look here," I said, "this is absurd. You say your father would
never see you again, and so on, if you married me. Why? It's nonsense.
It isn't as if I were a sort of social outcast. We were the best of
friends till that man Hawk gave me away like that."

"I know. But he's very obstinate about some things. You see, he thinks
the whole thing has made him look ridiculous, and it will take him a
long time to forgive you for that."

I realised the truth of this. One can pardon any injury to oneself,
unless it hurts one's vanity. Moreover, even in a genuine case of
rescue, the rescued man must always feel a little aggrieved with his
rescuer, when he thinks the matter over in cold blood. He must regard
him unconsciously as the super regards the actor-manager, indebted to
him for the means of supporting existence, but grudging him the
limelight and the centre of the stage and the applause. Besides, every
one instinctively dislikes being under an obligation which they can
never wholly repay. And when a man discovers that he has experienced
all these mixed sensations for nothing, as the professor had done, his
wrath is likely to be no slight thing.

Taking everything into consideration, I could not but feel that it
would require more than a little persuasion to make the professor
bestow his blessing with that genial warmth which we like to see in
our fathers-in-law's elect.

"You don't think," I said, "that time, the Great Healer, and so on--?
He won't feel kindlier disposed towards me--say in a month's time?"

"Of course he /might/," said Phyllis; but she spoke doubtfully.

"He strikes me from what I have seen of him as a man of moods. I might
do something one of these days which would completely alter his views.
We will hope for the best."

"About telling father----?"

"Need we, do you think?" I said.

"Yes, we must. I couldn't bear to think that I was keeping it from
him. I don't think I've ever kept anything from him in my life.
Nothing bad, I mean."

"You count this among your darker crimes, then?"

"I was looking at it from father's point of view. He will be awfully
angry. I don't know how I shall begin telling him."

"Good heavens!" I cried, "you surely don't think I'm going to let you
do that! Keep safely out of the way while you tell him! Not much. I'm
coming back with you now, and we'll break the bad news together."

"No, not to-night. He may be tired and rather cross. We had better
wait till to-morrow. You might speak to him in the morning."

"Where shall I find him?"

"He is certain to go to the beach before breakfast for a swim."

"Good. I'll be there."

* * * * *

"Ukridge," I said, when I got back, "I want your advice."

It stirred him like a trumpet blast. I suppose, when a man is in the
habit of giving unsolicited counsel to everyone he meets, it is as
invigorating as an electric shock to him to be asked for it

"Bring it out, laddie!" he replied cordially. "I'm with you. Here,
come along into the garden, and state your case."

This suited me. It is always easier to talk intimately in the dark,
and I did not wish to be interrupted by the sudden entrance of the
Hired Man or Mrs. Beale, of which there was always a danger indoors.
We walked down to the paddock. Ukridge lit a cigar.

"Ukridge," I said, "I'm engaged!"

"What!" A huge hand whistled through the darkness and smote me heavily
between the shoulder-blades. "By Jove, old boy, I wish you luck. 'Pon
my Sam I do! Best thing in the world for you. Bachelors are mere
excrescences. Never knew what happiness was till I married. When's the
wedding to be?"

"That's where I want your advice. What you might call a difficulty has
arisen about the wedding. It's like this. I'm engaged to Phyllis

"Derrick? Derrick?"

"You can't have forgotten her! Good Lord, what eyes some men have!
Why, if I'd only seen her once, I should have remembered her all my

"I know, now. Rather a pretty girl, with blue eyes."

I stared at him blankly. It was not much good, as he could not see my
face, but it relieved me. "Rather a pretty girl!" What a description!

"Of course, yes," continued Ukridge. "She came to dinner here one
night with her father, that fat little buffer."

"As you were careful to call him to his face at the time, confound
you! It was that that started all the trouble."

"Trouble? What trouble?"

"Why, her father. . . ."

"By Jove, I remember now! So worried lately, old boy, that my memory's
gone groggy. Of course! Her father fell into the sea, and you fished
him out. Why, damme, it's like the stories you read."

"It's also very like the stories I used to write. But they had one
point about them which this story hasn't. They invariably ended
happily, with the father joining the hero's and heroine's hands and
giving his blessing. Unfortunately, in the present case, that doesn't
seem likely to happen."

"The old man won't give his consent?"

"I'm afraid not. I haven't asked him yet, but the chances are against

"But why? What's the matter with you? You're an excellent chap, sound
in wind and limb, and didn't you once tell me that, if you married,
you came into a pretty sizeable bit of money?"

"Yes, I do. That part of it is all right."

Ukridge's voice betrayed perplexity.

"I don't understand this thing, old horse," he said. "I should have
thought the old boy would have been all over you. Why, damme, I never
heard of anything like it. You saved his life! You fished him out of
the water."

"After chucking him in. That's the trouble."

"You chucked him in?"

"By proxy."

I explained. Ukridge, I regret to say, laughed in a way that must have
been heard miles away in distant villages in Devonshire.

"You devil!" he bellowed. " 'Pon my Sam, old horse, to look at you one
would never have thought you'd have had it in you."

"I can't help looking respectable."

"What are you going to do about it?"

"That's where I wanted your advice. You're a man of resource. What
would you do in my place?"

Ukridge tapped me impressively on the shoulder.

"Laddie," he said, "there's one thing that'll carry you through any

"And that is----?"

"Cheek, my boy, cheek. Gall. Nerve. Why, take my case. I never told
you how I came to marry, did I. I thought not. Well, it was this way.
It'll do you a bit of good, perhaps, to hear the story, for, mark you,
blessings weren't going cheap in my case either. You know Millie's
Aunt Elizabeth, the female who wrote that letter? Well, when I tell
you that she was Millie's nearest relative and that it was her consent
I had to snaffle, you'll see that I was faced with a bit of a

"Let's have it," I said.

"Well, the first time I ever saw Millie was in a first-class carriage
on the underground. I'd got a third-class ticket, by the way. The
carriage was full, and I got up and gave her my seat, and, as I hung
suspended over her by a strap, damme, I fell in love with her then and
there. You've no conception, laddie, how indescribably ripping she
looked, in a sort of blue dress with a bit of red in it and a hat with
thingummies. Well, we both got out at South Kensington. By that time I
was gasping for air and saw that the thing wanted looking into. I'd
never had much time to bother about women, but I realised that this
must not be missed. I was in love, old horse. It comes over you quite
suddenly, like a tidal wave. . . ."

"I know! I know! Good Heavens, you can't tell me anything about that."

"Well, I followed her. She went to a house in Thurloe Square. I waited
outside and thought it over. I had got to get into that shanty and
make her acquaintance, if they threw me out on my ear. So I rang the
bell. 'Is Lady Lichenhall at home?' I asked. You spot the devilish
cunning of the ruse, what? My asking for a female with a title was to
make 'em think I was one of the Upper Ten."

"How were you dressed?" I could not help asking.

"Oh, it was one of my frock-coat days. I'd been to see a man about
tutoring his son, and by a merciful dispensation of Providence there
was a fellow living in the same boarding-house with me who was about
my build and had a frock-coat, and he had lent it to me. At least, he
hadn't exactly lent it to me, but I knew where he kept it and he was
out at the time. There was nothing the matter with my appearance.
Quite the young duke, I assure you, laddie, down to the last button.
'Is Lady Lichenhall at home?' I asked. 'No,' said the maid, 'nobody of
that name here. This is Lady Lakenheath's house.' So, you see, I had a
bit of luck at the start, because the names were a bit alike. Well, I
got the maid to show me in somehow, and, once in you can bet I talked
for all I was worth. Kept up a flow of conversation about being
misdirected and coming to the wrong house. Went away, and called a few
days later. Gradually wormed my way in. Called regularly. Spied on
their movements, met 'em at every theatre they went to, and bowed, and
finally got away with Millie before her aunt knew what was happening
or who I was or what I was doing or anything."

"And what's the moral?"

"Why, go in like a mighty, rushing wind! Bustle 'em! Don't give 'em a
moment's rest or time to think or anything. Why, if I'd given Millie's
Aunt Elizabeth time to think, where should we have been? Not at Combe
Regis together, I'll bet. You heard that letter, and know what she
thinks of me now, on reflection. If I'd gone slow and played a timid
waiting-game, she'd have thought that before I married Millie, instead
of afterwards. I give you my honest word, laddie, that there was a
time, towards the middle of our acquaintance--after she had stopped
mixing me up with the man who came to wind the clocks--when that woman
ate out of my hand! Twice--on two separate occasions--she actually
asked my advice about feeding her toy Pomeranian! Well, that shows
you! Bustle 'em, laddie! Bustle 'em!"

"Ukridge," I said, "you inspire me. You would inspire a caterpillar. I
will go to the professor--I was going anyhow, but now I shall go
aggressively. I will prise a father's blessing out of him, if I have
to do it with a crowbar."

"That's the way to talk, old horse. Don't beat about the bush. Tell
him exactly what you want and stand no nonsense. If you don't see what
you want in the window, ask for it. Where did you think of tackling

"Phyllis tells me that he always goes for a swim before breakfast. I
thought of going down to-morrow and waylaying him."

"You couldn't do better. By Jove!" said Ukridge suddenly. "I'll tell
you what I'll do, laddie. I wouldn't do it for everybody, but I look
on you as a favourite son. I'll come with you, and help break the


"Don't you be under any delusion, old horse," said Ukridge paternally.
"You haven't got an easy job in front of you and what you'll need more
than anything else, when you really get down to brass-tacks, is a
wise, kindly man of the world at your elbow, to whoop you on when your
nerve fails you and generally stand in your corner and see that you
get a fair show."

"But it's rather an intimate business. . . ."

"Never mind! Take my tip and have me at your side. I can say things
about you that you would be too modest to say for yourself. I can
plead your case, laddie. I can point out in detail all that the old
boy will be missing if he gives you the miss-in-baulk. Well, that's
settled, then. About eight to-morrow morning, what? I'll be there, my
boy. A swim will do me good."



Reviewing the matter later, I could see that I made one or two
blunders in my conduct of the campaign to win over Professor Derrick.
In the first place, I made a bad choice of time and place. At the
moment this did not strike me. It is a simple matter, I reflected, for
a man to pass another by haughtily and without recognition, when they
meet on dry land; but, when the said man, being it should be
remembered, an indifferent swimmer, is accosted in the water and out
of his depth, the feat becomes a hard one. It seemed to me that I
should have a better chance with the professor in the water than out
of it.

My second mistake--and this was brought home to me almost immediately
--was in bringing Ukridge along. Not that I really brought him along;
it was rather a case of being unable to shake him off. When he met me
on the gravel outside the house at a quarter to eight on the following
morning, clad in a dingy mackintosh which, swinging open, revealed a
purple bathing-suit, I confess that my heart sank. Unfortunately, all
my efforts to dissuade him from accompanying me were attributed by him
to a pardonable nervousness--or, as he put it, to the needle.

"Buck up, laddie!" he roared encouragingly. "I had anticipated this.
Something seemed to tell me that your nerve would go when it came to
the point. You're deuced lucky, old horse, to have a man like me at
your side. Why, if you were alone, you wouldn't have a word to say for
yourself. You'd just gape at the man and yammer. But I'm with you
laddie, I'm with you. If your flow of conversation dries up, count on
me to keep the thing going."

And so it came about that, having reached the Cob and spying in the
distance the grey head of the professor bobbing about on the face of
the waters, we dived in and swam rapidly towards him.

His face was turned in the opposite direction when we came up with
him. He was floating peacefully on his back, and it was plain that he
had not observed our approach. For when, treading water easily in his
rear, I wished him good morning in my most conciliatory tone, he stood
not upon the order of his sinking, but went under like so much pig-

I waited courteously until he rose to the surface again, when I
repeated my remark.

He expelled the last remnant of water from his mouth with a wrathful
splutter, and cleared his eyes with the back of his hand. I confess to
a slight feeling of apprehension as I met his gaze. Nor was my
uneasiness diminished by the spectacle of Ukridge splashing tactfully
in the background like a large seal. Ukridge so far had made no
remarks. He had dived in very flat, and I imagine that his breath had
not yet returned to him. He had the air of one who intends to get used
to his surroundings before trusting himself to speech.

"The water is delightfully warm," I said.

"Oh, it's you!" said the professor; and I could not cheat myself into
the belief that he spoke cordially. Ukridge snorted loudly in the
offing. The professor turned sharply, as if anxious to observe this
marine phenomenon; and the annoyed gurgle which he gave showed that he
was not approving of Ukridge either. I did not approve of Ukridge
myself. I wished he had not come. Ukridge, in the water, lacks
dignity. I felt that he prejudiced my case.

"You are swimming splendidly this morning," I went on perseveringly,
feeling that an ounce of flattery is worth a pound of rhetoric. "If,"
I added, "you will allow me to say so."

"I will not!" he snapped. "I--" here a small wave, noticing that his
mouth was open, stepped in. "I wish," he resumed warmly, "as I said in
me letter, to have nothing to do with you. I consider that ye've
behaved in a manner that can only be described as abominable, and I
will thank you to leave me alone."

"But allow me--"

"I will not allow ye, sir. I will allow ye nothing. Is it not enough
to make me the laughing-stock, the butt, sir, of this town, without
pursuing me in this way when I wish to enjoy a quiet swim?"

"Now, laddie, laddie," said Ukridge, placing a large hand on his
shoulder, "these are harsh words! Be reasonable! Think before you
speak. You little know . . ."

"Go to the devil!" said the professor. "I wish to have nothing to do
with either of you. I should be glad if you would cease this
persecution. Persecution, sir!"

His remarks, which I have placed on paper as if they were continuous
and uninterrupted, were punctuated in reality by a series of gasps and
puffings, as he received and rejected the successors of the wave he
had swallowed at the beginning of our little chat. The art of
conducting conversation while in the water is not given to every
swimmer. This he seemed to realise, for, as if to close the interview,
he proceeded to make his way as quickly as he could to the shore.
Unfortunately, his first dash brought him squarely up against Ukridge,
who, not having expected the collision, clutched wildly at him and
took him below the surface again. They came up a moment later on the
worst terms.

"Are you trying to drown me, sir?" barked the professor.

"My dear old horse," said Ukridge complainingly, "it's a little hard.
You might look where you're going."

"You grappled with me!"

"You took me by surprise, laddie. Rid yourself of the impression that
you're playing water-polo."

"But, professor," I said, joining the group and treading water, "one

I was growing annoyed with the man. I could have ducked him, but for
the reflection that my prospects of obtaining his consent to my
engagement would scarcely have been enhanced thereby.

"But, professor," I said, "one moment."

"Go away, sir! I have nothing to say to you."

"But he has lots to say to you," said Ukridge. "Now's the time, old
horse," he added encouragingly to me. "Spill the news!"

Without preamble I gave out the text of my address.

"I love your daughter, Phyllis, Mr. Derrick. She loves me. In fact, we
are engaged."

"Devilish well put, laddie," said Ukridge approvingly.

The professor went under as if he had been seized with cramp. It was a
little trying having to argue with a man, of whom one could not
predict with certainty that at any given moment he would not be under
water. It tended to spoil the flow of one's eloquence. The best of
arguments is useless if the listener suddenly disappears in the middle
of it.

"Stick to it, old horse," said Ukridge. "I think you're going to bring
it off."

I stuck to it.

"Mr. Derrick," I said, as his head emerged, "you are naturally

"You would be," said Ukridge. "We don't blame you," he added

"You--you--you--" So far from cooling the professor, liberal doses of
water seemed to make him more heated. "You impudent scoundrel!"

My reply was more gentlemanly, more courteous, on a higher plane

I said, winningly: "Cannot we let bygones be bygones?"

From his remarks I gathered that we could not. I continued. I was
under the unfortunate necessity of having to condense my speech. I was
not able to let myself go as I could have wished, for time was an
important consideration. Ere long, swallowing water at his present
rate, the professor must inevitably become waterlogged.

"I have loved your daughter," I said rapidly, "ever since I first saw
her . . ."

"And he's a capital chap," interjected Ukridge. "One of the best.
Known him for years. You'll like him."

"I learned last night that she loved me. But she will not marry me
without your consent. Stretch your arms out straight from the
shoulders and fill your lungs well and you can't sink. So I have come
this morning to ask for your consent."

"Give it!" advised Ukridge. "Couldn't do better. A very sound fellow.
Pots of money, too. At least he will have when he marries."

"I know we have not been on the best of terms lately. For Heaven's
sake don't try to talk, or you'll sink. The fault," I said,
generously, "was mine . . ."

"Well put," said Ukridge.

"But when you have heard my explanation, I am sure you will forgive
me. There, I told you so."

He reappeared some few feet to the left. I swam up, and resumed.

"When you left us so abruptly after our little dinner-party----"

"Come again some night," said Ukridge cordially. "Any time you're

" . . . you put me in a very awkward position. I was desperately in
love with your daughter, and as long as you were in the frame of mind
in which you left I could not hope to find an opportunity of revealing
my feelings to her."

"Revealing feelings is good," said Ukridge approvingly. "Neat."

"You see what a fix I was in, don't you? Keep your arms well out. I
thought for hours and hours, to try and find some means of bringing
about a reconciliation. You wouldn't believe how hard I thought."

"Got as thin as a corkscrew," said Ukridge.

"At last, seeing you fishing one morning when I was on the Cob, it
struck me all of a sudden . . ."

"You know how it is," said Ukridge.

" . . . all of a sudden that the very best way would be to arrange a
little boating accident. I was confident that I could rescue you all

Here I paused, and he seized the opportunity to curse me--briefly,
with a wary eye on an incoming wavelet.

"If it hadn't been for the inscrutable workings of Providence, which
has a mania for upsetting everything, all would have been well. In
fact, all was well till you found out."

"Always the way," said Ukridge sadly. "Always the way."

"You young blackguard!"

He managed to slip past me, and made for the shore.

"Look at the thing from the standpoint of a philosopher, old horse,"
urged Ukridge, splashing after him. "The fact that the rescue was
arranged oughtn't to matter. I mean to say, you didn't know it at the
time, so, relatively, it was not, and you were genuinely saved from a
watery grave and all that sort of thing."

I had not imagined Ukridge capable of such an excursion into
metaphysics. I saw the truth of his line of argument so clearly that
it seemed to me impossible for anyone else to get confused over it. I
had certainly pulled the professor out of the water, and the fact that
I had first caused him to be pushed in had nothing to do with the
case. Either a man is a gallant rescuer or he is not a gallant
rescuer. There is no middle course. I had saved his life--for he would
certainly have drowned if left to himself--and I was entitled to his
gratitude. That was all there was to be said about it.

These things both Ukridge and I tried to make plain as we swam along.
But whether it was that the salt water he had swallowed had dulled the
professor's normally keen intelligence or that our power of stating a
case was too weak, the fact remains that he reached the beach an
unconvinced man.

"Then may I consider," I said, "that your objections are removed? I
have your consent?"

He stamped angrily, and his bare foot came down on a small, sharp
pebble. With a brief exclamation he seized his foot in one hand and
hopped up the beach. While hopping, he delivered his ultimatum.
Probably the only instance on record of a father adopting this
attitude in dismissing a suitor.

"You may not!" he cried. "You may consider no such thing. My
objections were never more absolute. You detain me in the water, sir,
till I am blue, sir, blue with cold, in order to listen to the most
preposterous and impudent nonsense I ever heard."

This was unjust. If he had listened attentively from the first and
avoided interruptions and had not behaved like a submarine we should
have got through the business in half the time.

I said so.

"Don't talk to me, sir," he replied, hobbling off to his dressing-
tent. "I will not listen to you. I will have nothing to do with you. I
consider you impudent, sir."

"I assure you it was unintentional."

"Isch!" he said--being the first occasion and the last on which I have
ever heard that remarkable monosyllable proceed from the mouth of a
man. And he vanished into his tent.

"Laddie," said Ukridge solemnly, "do you know what I think?"


"You haven't clicked, old horse!" said Ukridge.



People are continually writing to the papers--or it may be one
solitary enthusiast who writes under a number of pseudonyms--on the
subject of sport, and the over-doing of the same by the modern young
man. I recall one letter in which "Efficiency" gave it as his opinion
that if the Young Man played less golf and did more drill, he would be
all the better for it. I propose to report my doings with the
professor on the links at some length, in order to refute this absurd
view. Everybody ought to play golf, and nobody can begin it too soon.
There ought not to be a single able-bodied infant in the British Isles
who has not foozled a drive. To take my case. Suppose I had employed
in drilling the hours I had spent in learning to handle my clubs. I
might have drilled before the professor by the week without softening
his heart. I might have ported arms and grounded arms and presented
arms, and generally behaved in the manner advocated by "Efficiency,"
and what would have been the result? Indifference on his part, or--and
if I overdid the thing--irritation. Whereas, by devoting a reasonable
portion of my youth to learning the intricacies of golf I was
enabled . . .

It happened in this way.

To me, as I stood with Ukridge in the fowl-run in the morning
following my maritime conversation with the professor, regarding a hen
that had posed before us, obviously with a view to inspection, there
appeared a man carrying an envelope. Ukridge, who by this time saw, as
Calverley almost said, "under every hat a dun," and imagined that no
envelope could contain anything but a small account, softly and
silently vanished away, leaving me to interview the enemy.

"Mr. Garnet, sir?" said the foe.

I recognised him. He was Professor Derrick's gardener.

I opened the envelope. No. Father's blessings were absent. The letter
was in the third person. Professor Derrick begged to inform Mr. Garnet
that, by defeating Mr. Saul Potter, he had qualified for the final
round of the Combe Regis Golf Tournament, in which, he understood, Mr.
Garnet was to be his opponent. If it would be convenient for Mr.
Garnet to play off the match on the present afternoon, Professor
Derrick would be obliged if he would be at the Club House at half-past
two. If this hour and day were unsuitable, would he kindly arrange
others. The bearer would wait.

The bearer did wait. He waited for half-an-hour, as I found it
impossible to shift him, not caring to use violence on a man well
stricken in years, without first plying him with drink. He absorbed
more of our diminishing cask of beer than we could conveniently spare,
and then trudged off with a note, beautifully written in the third
person, in which Mr. Garnet, after numerous compliments and thanks,
begged to inform Professor Derrick that he would be at the Club House
at the hour mentioned.

"And," I added--to myself, not in the note--"I will give him such a
licking that he'll brain himself with a cleek."

For I was not pleased with the professor. I was conscious of a
malicious joy at the prospect of snatching the prize from him. I knew
he had set his heart on winning the tournament this year. To be
runner-up two years in succession stimulates the desire for first
place. It would be doubly bitter to him to be beaten by a newcomer,
after the absence of his rival, the colonel, had awakened hope in him.
And I knew I could do it. Even allowing for bad luck--and I am never a
very unlucky golfer--I could rely almost with certainty on crushing
the man.

"And I'll do it," I said to Bob, who had trotted up. I often make Bob
the recipient of my confidences. He listens appreciatively, and never
interrupts. And he never has grievances of his own. If there is one
person I dislike, it is the man who tries to air his grievances when I
wish to air mine.

"Bob," I said, running his tail through my fingers, "listen to me, my
old University chum, for I have matured a dark scheme. Don't run away.
You know you don't really want to go and look at that chicken. Listen
to me. If I am in form this afternoon, and I feel in my bones that I
shall be, I shall nurse the professor. I shall play with him. Do you
understand the principles of Match play at Golf, Robert? You score by
holes, not strokes. There are eighteen holes. All right, how was /I/
to know that you knew that without my telling you? Well, if you
understand so much about the game, you will appreciate my dark scheme.
I shall toy with the professor, Bob. I shall let him get ahead, and
then catch him up. I shall go ahead myself, and let him catch me up. I
shall race him neck and neck till the very end. Then, when his hair
has turned white with the strain, and he's lost a couple of stone in
weight, and his eyes are starting out of his head, and he's praying--
if he ever does pray--to the Gods of Golf that he may be allowed to
win, I shall go ahead and beat him by a hole. /I'll/ teach him,
Robert. He shall taste of my despair, and learn by proof in some wild
hour how much the wretched dare. And when it's all over, and he's torn
all his hair out and smashed all his clubs, I shall go and commit
suicide off the Cob. Because, you see, if I can't marry Phyllis, I
shan't have any use for life."

Bob wagged his tail cheerfully.

"I mean it," I said, rolling him on his back and punching him on the
chest till his breathing became stertorous. "You don't see the sense
of it, I know. But then you've got none of the finer feelings. You're
a jolly good dog, Robert, but you're a rank materialist. Bones and
cheese and potatoes with gravy over them make you happy. You don't
know what it is to be in love. You'd better get right side up now, or
you'll have apoplexy."

It has been my aim in the course of this narrative to extenuate
nothing, nor set down aught in malice. Like the gentleman who played
euchre with the Heathen Chinee, I state but facts. I do not,
therefore, slur over my scheme for disturbing the professor's peace of
mind. I am not always good and noble. I am the hero of this story, but
I have my off moments.

I felt ruthless towards the professor. I cannot plead ignorance of the
golfer's point of view as an excuse for my plottings. I knew that to
one whose soul is in the game as the professor's was, the agony of
being just beaten in an important match exceeds in bitterness all
other agonies. I knew that, if I scraped through by the smallest
possible margin, his appetite would be destroyed, his sleep o' nights
broken. He would wake from fitful slumber moaning that if he had only
used his iron instead of his mashie at the tenth, all would have been
well; that, if he had putted more carefully on the seventh green, life
would not be drear and blank; that a more judicious manipulation of
his brassey throughout might have given him something to live for. All
these things I knew.

And they did not touch me. I was adamant. The professor was waiting
for me at the Club House, and greeted me with a cold and stately
inclination of the head.

"Beautiful day for golf," I observed in my gay, chatty manner. He
bowed in silence.

"Very well," I thought. "Wait. Just wait."

"Miss Derrick is well, I hope?" I added, aloud.

That drew him. He started. His aspect became doubly forbidding.

"Miss Derrick is perfectly well, sir, I thank you."

"And you? No bad effect, I hope, from your dip yesterday?"

"Mr. Garnet, I came here for golf, not conversation," he said.

We made it so. I drove off from the first tee. It was a splendid
drive. I should not say so if there were any one else to say so for
me. Modesty would forbid. But, as there is no one, I must repeat the
statement. It was one of the best drives of my experience. The ball
flashed through the air, took the bunker with a dozen feet to spare,
and rolled on to the green. I had felt all along that I should be in
form. Unless my opponent was equally above himself, he was a lost man.
I could toy with him.

The excellence of my drive had not been without its effect on the
professor. I could see that he was not confident. He addressed his
ball more strangely and at greater length than any one I had ever
seen. He waggled his club over it as if he were going to perform a
conjuring trick. Then he struck, and topped it.

The ball rolled two yards.

He looked at it in silence. Then he looked at me--also in silence.

I was gazing seawards.

When I looked round he was getting to work with a brassey.

This time he hit the bunker, and rolled back. He repeated this
manoeuvre twice.

"Hard luck!" I murmured sympathetically on the third occasion, thereby
going as near to being slain with a niblick as it has ever been my lot
to go. Your true golfer is easily roused in times of misfortune; and
there was a red gleam in the eye of the professor turned to me.

"I shall pick my ball up," he growled.

We walked on in silence to the second tee. He did the second hole in
four, which was good. I did it in three, which--unfortunately for him
--was better.

I won the third hole.

I won the fourth hole.

I won the fifth hole.

I glanced at my opponent out of the corner of my eyes. The man was
suffering. Beads of perspiration stood out on his forehead.

His play had become wilder and wilder at each hole in arithmetical
progression. If he had been a plough he could hardly have turned up
more soil. The imagination recoiled from the thought of what he could
be doing in another half-hour if he deteriorated at his present speed.

A feeling of calm and content stole over me. I was not sorry for him.
All the viciousness of my nature was uppermost in me. Once, when he
missed the ball clean at the fifth tee, his eye met mine, and we stood
staring at each other for a full half-minute without moving. I
believe, if I had smiled then, he would have attacked me without
hesitation. There is a type of golfer who really almost ceases to be
human under stress of the wild agony of a series of foozles.

The sixth hole involves the player in a somewhat tricky piece of
cross-country work, owing to the fact that there is a nasty ditch to
be negotiated some fifty yards from the green. It is a beast of a
ditch, which, if you are out of luck, just catches your second shot.
"All hope abandon ye who enter here" might be written on a notice
board over it.

The professor entered there. The unhappy man sent his second, as nice
and clean a brassey shot as he had made all day, into its very jaws.
And then madness seized him. A merciful local rule, framed by kindly
men who have been in that ditch themselves, enacts that in such a case
the player may take his ball and throw it over his shoulder, losing a
stroke. But once, so the legend runs, a scratch man who found himself
trapped, scorning to avail himself of this rule at the expense of its
accompanying penalty, wrought so shrewdly with his niblick that he not
only got out but actually laid his ball dead: and now optimists
sometimes imitate his gallantry, though no one yet has been able to
imitate his success.

The professor decided to take a chance: and he failed miserably. As I
was on the green with my third, and, unless I putted extremely poorly,
was morally certain to be down in five, which is bogey for the hole,
there was not much practical use in his continuing to struggle. But he
did in a spirit of pure vindictiveness, as if he were trying to take
it out of the ball. It was a grisly sight to see him, head and
shoulders above the ditch, hewing at his obstinate colonel. It was a
similar spectacle that once induced a lay spectator of a golf match to
observe that he considered hockey a silly game.

"/Sixteen!/" said the professor between his teeth. Then he picked up
his ball.

I won the seventh hole.

I won the eighth hole.

The ninth we halved, for in the black depths of my soul I had formed a
plan of fiendish subtlety. I intended to allow him to win--with
extreme labour--eight holes in succession.

Then, when hope was once more strong in him, I would win the last, and
he would go mad.

I watched him carefully as we trudged on. Emotions chased one another
across his face. When he won the tenth hole he merely refrained from
oaths. When he won the eleventh a sort of sullen pleasure showed in
his face. It was at the thirteenth that I detected the first dawning
of hope. From then onward it grew.

When, with a sequence of shocking shots, he took the seventeenth hole
in seven, he was in a parlous condition. His run of success had
engendered within him a desire for conversation. He wanted, as it
were, to flap his wings and crow. I could see Dignity wrestling with
Talkativeness. I gave him the lead.

"You have got your form now," I said.

Talkativeness had it. Dignity retired hurt. Speech came from him in a
rush. When he brought off an excellent drive from the eighteenth tee,
he seemed to forget everything.

"Me dear boy,"--he began; and stopped abruptly in some confusion.
Silence once more brooded over us as we played ourselves up the
fairway and on to the green.

He was on the green in four. I reached it in three. His sixth stroke
took him out.

I putted carefully to the very mouth of the hole.

I walked up to my ball and paused. I looked at the professor. He
looked at me.

"Go on," he said hoarsely.

Suddenly a wave of compassion flooded over me. What right had I to
torture the man like this?

"Professor," I said.

"Go on," he repeated.

"That looks a simple shot," I said, eyeing him steadily, "but I might
miss it."

He started.

"And then you would win the Championship."

He dabbed at his forehead with a wet ball of a handkerchief.

"It would be very pleasant for you after getting so near it the last
two years."

"Go on," he said for the third time. But there was a note of
hesitation in his voice.

"Sudden joy," I said, "would almost certainly make me miss it."

We looked at each other. He had the golf fever in his eyes.

"If," I said slowly, lifting my putter, "you were to give your consent
to my marriage with Phyllis----"

He looked from me to the ball, from the ball to me, and back to the
ball. It was very, very near the hole.

"Why not?" I said.

He looked up, and burst into a roar of laughter.

"You young devil," said he, smiting his thigh, "you young devil,
you've beaten me."

"On the contrary," I said, "you have beaten me."

* * * * *

I left the professor at the Club House and raced back to the farm. I
wanted to pour my joys into a sympathetic ear. Ukridge, I knew, would
offer that same sympathetic ear. A good fellow, Ukridge. Always
interested in what you had to tell him; never bored.

"Ukridge!" I shouted.

No answer.

I flung open the dining-room door. Nobody.

I went into the drawing-room. It was empty. I drew the garden, and his
bedroom. He was not in either.

"He must have gone for a stroll," I said.

I rang the bell.

The Hired Retainer appeared, calm and imperturbable as ever.


"Oh, where is Mr. Ukridge, Beale?"

"Mr. Ukridge, sir," said the Hired Retainer nonchalantly, "has gone."


"Yes, sir. Mr. Ukridge and Mrs. Ukridge went away together by the
three o'clock train."



"Beale," I said, "are you drunk?"

"Wish I was, sir," said the Hired Man.

"Then what on earth do you mean? Gone? Where have they gone to?"

"Don't know, sir. London, I expect."

"London? Why?"

"Don't know, sir."

"When did they go? Oh, you told me that. Didn't they say why they were

"No, sir."

"Didn't you ask! When you saw them packing up and going to the
station, didn't you do anything?"

"No, sir."

"Why on earth not?"

"I didn't see them, sir. I only found out as they'd gone after they'd
been and went, sir. Walking down by the Net and Mackerel, met one of
them coastguards. 'Oh,' says he, 'so you're moving?' 'Who's a-moving?'
I says to him. 'Well,' he says to me, 'I seen your Mr. Ukridge and his
missus get into the three o'clock train for Axminster. I thought as
you was all a-moving.' 'Ho,' I says, 'Ho,' wondering, and I goes on.
When I gets back, I asks the missus did she see them packing their
boxes, and she says, No, she says, they didn't pack no boxes as she
knowed of. And blowed if they had, Mr. Garnet, sir."

"What! They didn't pack!"

"No, sir."

We looked at one another.

"Beale," I said.


"Do you know what I think?"

"Yes, sir."

"They've bolted."

"So I says to the missus, sir. It struck me right off, in a manner of

"This is awful," I said.

"Yes, sir."

His face betrayed no emotion, but he was one of those men whose
expression never varies. It's a way they have in the Army.

"This wants thinking out, Beale," I said.

"Yes, sir."

"You'd better ask Mrs. Beale to give me some dinner, and then I'll
think it over."

"Yes, sir."

I was in an unpleasant position. Ukridge by his defection had left me
in charge of the farm. I could dissolve the concern, I supposed, if I
wished, and return to London, but I particularly desired to remain in
Combe Regis. To complete the victory I had won on the links, it was
necessary for me to continue as I had begun. I was in the position of
a general who has conquered a hostile country, and is obliged to
soothe the feelings of the conquered people before his labours can be
considered at an end. I had rushed the professor. It must now be my
aim to keep him from regretting that he had been rushed. I must,
therefore, stick to my post with the tenacity of an able-bodied leech.
There would be trouble. Of that I was certain. As soon as the news got
about that Ukridge had gone, the deluge would begin. His creditors
would abandon their passive tactics, and take active steps. There was
a chance that aggressive measures would be confined to the enemy at
our gates, the tradesmen of Combe Regis. But the probability was that
the news would spread, and the injured merchants of Dorchester and
Axminster rush to the scene of hostilities.

I summoned Beale after dinner and held a council of war. It was no
time for airy persiflage. I said, "Beale, we're in the cart."


"Mr. Ukridge going away like this has left me in a most unpleasant
position. I would like to talk it over with you. I daresay you know
that we--that Mr. Ukridge owes a considerable amount of money round
about here to tradesmen?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, when they find out that he has--er----"

"Shot the moon, sir," suggested the Hired Retainer helpfully.

"Gone up to town," I amended. "When they find out that he has gone up
to town, they are likely to come bothering us a good deal."

"Yes, sir."

"I fancy that we shall have them all round here to-morrow. News of
this sort always spreads quickly. The point is, then, what are we to

He propounded no scheme, but stood in an easy attitude of attention,
waiting for me to continue.

I continued.

"Let's see exactly how we stand," I said. "My point is that I
particularly wish to go on living down here for at least another
fortnight. Of course, my position is simple. I am Mr. Ukridge's guest.
I shall go on living as I have been doing up to the present. He asked
me down here to help him look after the fowls, so I shall go on
looking after them. Complications set in when we come to consider you
and Mrs. Beale. I suppose you won't care to stop on after this?"

The Hired Retainer scratched his chin and glanced out of the window.
The moon was up, and the garden looked cool and mysterious in the dim

"It's a pretty place, Mr. Garnet, sir," he said.

"It is," I said, "but about other considerations? There's the matter
of wages. Are yours in arrears?"

"Yes, sir. A month."

"And Mrs. Beale's the same, I suppose?"

"Yes, sir. A month."

"H'm. Well, it seems to me, Beale, you can't lose anything by stopping

"I can't be paid any less than I have bin, sir," he agreed.

"Exactly. And, as you say, it's a pretty place. You might just as well
stop on, and help me in the fowl-run. What do you think?"

"Very well, sir."

"And Mrs. Beale will do the same?"

"Yes, sir."

"That's excellent. You're a hero, Beale. I shan't forget you. There's
a cheque coming to me from a magazine in another week for a short
story. When it arrives, I'll look into that matter of back wages. Tell
Mrs. Beale I'm much obliged to her, will you?"

"Yes, sir."

Having concluded that delicate business, I lit my pipe, and strolled
out into the garden with Bob. I cursed Ukridge as I walked. It was
abominable of him to desert me in this way. Even if I had not been his
friend, it would have been bad. The fact that we had known each other
for years made it doubly discreditable. He might at least have warned
me, and given me the option of leaving the sinking ship with him.

But, I reflected, I ought not to be surprised. His whole career, as
long as I had known him, had been dotted with little eccentricities of
a type which an unfeeling world generally stigmatises as shady. They
were small things, it was true; but they ought to have warned me. We
are most of us wise after the event. When the wind has blown, we can
generally discover a multitude of straws which should have shown us
which way it was blowing.

Once, I remembered, in our schoolmaster days, when guineas, though
regular, were few, he had had occasion to increase his wardrobe. If I
recollect rightly, he thought he had a chance of a good position in
the tutoring line, and only needed good clothes to make it his. He
took four pounds of his salary in advance,--he was in the habit of
doing this: he never had any salary left by the end of term, it having
vanished in advance loans beforehand. With this he was to buy two
suits, a hat, new boots, and collars. When it came to making the
purchases, he found, what he had overlooked previously in his
optimistic way, that four pounds did not go very far. At the time, I
remember, I thought his method of grappling with the situation
humorous. He bought a hat for three-and-sixpence, and got the suits
and the boots on the instalment system, paying a small sum in advance,
as earnest of more to come. He then pawned one suit to pay for the
first few instalments, and finally departed, to be known no more. His
address he had given--with a false name--at an empty house, and when
the tailor arrived with his minions of the law, all he found was an
annoyed caretaker, and a pile of letters written by himself,
containing his bill in its various stages of evolution.

Or again. There was a bicycle and photograph shop near the school. He
went into this one day, and his roving eye fell on a tandem bicycle.
He did not want a tandem bicycle, but that influenced him not at all.
He ordered it provisionally. He also ordered an enlarging camera, a
kodak, and a magic lantern. The order was booked, and the goods were
to be delivered when he had made up his mind concerning them. After a
week the shopman sent round to ask if there were any further
particulars which Mr. Ukridge would like to learn before definitely
ordering them. Mr. Ukridge sent back word that he was considering the
matter, and that in the meantime would he be so good as to let him
have that little clockwork man in his window, which walked when wound
up? Having got this, and not paid for it, Ukridge thought that he had
done handsomely by the bicycle and photograph man, and that things
were square between them. The latter met him a few days afterwards,
and expostulated plaintively. Ukridge explained. "My good man," he
said, "you know, I really think we need say no more about the matter.
Really, you're come out of it very well. Now, look here, which would
you rather be owed for? A clockwork man--which is broken, and you can
have it back--or a tandem bicycle, an enlarging camera, a kodak, and a
magic-lantern? What?" His reasoning was too subtle for the uneducated
mind. The man retired, puzzled, and unpaid, and Ukridge kept the
clockwork toy.



Rather to my surprise, the next morning passed off uneventfully. Our
knocker advertised no dun. Our lawn remained untrodden by hob-nailed
boots. By lunch-time I had come to the conclusion that the expected
Trouble would not occur that day, and I felt that I might well leave
my post for the afternoon, while I went to the professor's to pay my
respects. The professor was out when I arrived. Phyllis was in, and it
was not till the evening that I started for the farm again.

As I approached, the sound of voices smote my ears.

I stopped. I could hear Beale speaking. Then came the rich notes of
Vickers, the butcher. Then Beale again. Then Dawlish the grocer. Then
a chorus.

The storm had burst, and in my absence.

I blushed for myself. I was in command, and I had deserted the fort in
time of need. What must the faithful Hired Man be thinking of me?
Probably he placed me, as he had placed Ukridge, in the ragged ranks
of those who have Shot the Moon.

Fortunately, having just come from the professor's I was in the
costume which of all my wardrobe was most calculated to impress. To a
casual observer I should probably suggest wealth and respectability. I
stopped for a moment to cool myself, for, as is my habit when pleased
with life, I had been walking fast; then opened the gate and strode
in, trying to look as opulent as possible.

It was an animated scene that met my eyes. In the middle of the lawn
stood the devoted Beale, a little more flushed than I had seen him
hitherto, parleying with a burly and excited young man without a coat.
Grouped round the pair were some dozen men, young, middle-aged, and
old, all talking their hardest. I could distinguish nothing of what
they were saying. I noticed that Beale's left cheekbone was a little
discoloured, and there was a hard, dogged expression on his face. He,
too, was in his shirt-sleeves.

My entry created no sensation. Nobody, apparently, had heard the latch
click, and nobody had caught sight of me. Their eyes were fixed on the
young man and Beale. I stood at the gate, and watched them.

There seemed to have been trouble already. Looking more closely, I
perceived sitting on the grass apart a second young man. His face was
obscured by a dirty pocket handkerchief, with which he dabbed tenderly
at his features. Every now and then the shirt-sleeved young man flung
his hand towards him with an indignant gesture, talking hard the
while. It did not need a preternaturally keen observer to deduce what
had happened. Beale must have fallen out with the young man who was
sitting on the grass and smitten him; and now his friend had taken up
the quarrel

"Now this," I said to myself, "is rather interesting. Here, in this
one farm, we have the only three known methods of dealing with duns.
Beale is evidently an exponent of the violent method. Ukridge is an
apostle of Evasion. I shall try Conciliation. I wonder which of us
will be the most successful."

Meanwhile, not to spoil Beale's efforts by allowing him too little
scope for experiment, I refrained from making my presence known, and
continued to stand by the gate, an interested spectator.

Things were evidently moving now. The young man's gestures became more
vigorous. The dogged look on Beale's face deepened. The comments of
the Ring increased in point and pungency.

"What did you hit him for, then?"

The question was put, always the same words and with the same air of
quiet triumph, at intervals of thirty seconds by a little man in a
snuff-coloured suit with a purple tie. Nobody ever answered him, or
appeared to listen to him, but he seemed each time to think that he
had clinched the matter and cornered his opponent.

Other voices chimed in.

"You hit him, Charlie. Go on. You hit him."

"We'll have the law."

"Go on, Charlie."

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