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The Clicking of Cuthbert - Sundered Hearts

1. Dedication and Contents

2. The Clicking of Cuthbert

3. A Woman is only a Woman

4. A Mixed Threesome

5. Sundered Hearts

6. The Salvation of George Mackintosh

7. Ordeal By Golf

8. The Long Hole

9. The Heel of Achilles

10. The Rough Stuff

11. The Coming of Gowf

Sundered Hearts

In the smoking-room of the club-house a cheerful fire was burning, and
the Oldest Member glanced from time to time out of the window into the
gathering dusk. Snow was falling lightly on the links. From where he
sat, the Oldest Member had a good view of the ninth green; and
presently, out of the greyness of the December evening, there appeared
over the brow of the hill a golf-ball. It trickled across the green,
and stopped within a yard of the hole. The Oldest Member nodded
approvingly. A good approach-shot.

A young man in a tweed suit clambered on to the green, holed out with
easy confidence, and, shouldering his bag, made his way to the
club-house. A few moments later he entered the smoking-room, and
uttered an exclamation of rapture at the sight of the fire.

"I'm frozen stiff!"

He rang for a waiter and ordered a hot drink. The Oldest Member gave a
gracious assent to the suggestion that he should join him.

"I like playing in winter," said the young man. "You get the course to
yourself, for the world is full of slackers who only turn out when the
weather suits them. I cannot understand where they get the nerve to
call themselves golfers."

"Not everyone is as keen as you are, my boy," said the Sage, dipping
gratefully into his hot drink. "If they were, the world would be a
better place, and we should hear less of all this modern unrest."

"I _am_ pretty keen," admitted the young man.

"I have only encountered one man whom I could describe as keener. I
allude to Mortimer Sturgis."

"The fellow who took up golf at thirty-eight and let the girl he was
engaged to marry go off with someone else because he hadn't the time to
combine golf with courtship? I remember. You were telling me about him
the other day."

"There is a sequel to that story, if you would care to hear it," said
the Oldest Member.

"You have the honour," said the young man. "Go ahead!"

* * * * *

Some people (began the Oldest Member) considered that Mortimer Sturgis
was too wrapped up in golf, and blamed him for it. I could never see
eye to eye with them. In the days of King Arthur nobody thought the
worse of a young knight if he suspended all his social and business
engagements in favour of a search for the Holy Grail. In the Middle
Ages a man could devote his whole life to the Crusades, and the public
fawned upon him. Why, then, blame the man of today for a zealous
attention to the modern equivalent, the Quest of Scratch! Mortimer
Sturgis never became a scratch player, but he did eventually get his
handicap down to nine, and I honour him for it.

The story which I am about to tell begins in what might be called the
middle period of Sturgis's career. He had reached the stage when his
handicap was a wobbly twelve; and, as you are no doubt aware, it is
then that a man really begins to golf in the true sense of the word.
Mortimer's fondness for the game until then had been merely tepid
compared with what it became now. He had played a little before, but
now he really buckled to and got down to it. It was at this point, too,
that he began once more to entertain thoughts of marriage. A profound
statistician in this one department, he had discovered that practically
all the finest exponents of the art are married men; and the thought
that there might be something in the holy state which improved a man's
game, and that he was missing a good thing, troubled him a great deal.
Moreover, the paternal instinct had awakened in him. As he justly
pointed out, whether marriage improved your game or not, it was to Old
Tom Morris's marriage that the existence of young Tommy Morris, winner
of the British Open Championship four times in succession, could be
directly traced. In fact, at the age of forty-two, Mortimer Sturgis was
in just the frame of mind to take some nice girl aside and ask her to
become a step-mother to his eleven drivers, his baffy, his twenty-eight
putters, and the rest of the ninety-four clubs which he had accumulated
in the course of his golfing career. The sole stipulation, of course,
which he made when dreaming his daydreams was that the future Mrs.
Sturgis must be a golfer. I can still recall the horror in his face
when one girl, admirable in other respects, said that she had never
heard of Harry Vardon, and didn't he mean Dolly Vardon? She has since
proved an excellent wife and mother, but Mortimer Sturgis never spoke
to her again.

With the coming of January, it was Mortimer's practice to leave England
and go to the South of France, where there was sunshine and crisp dry
turf. He pursued his usual custom this year. With his suit-case and his
ninety-four clubs he went off to Saint Brule, staying as he always did
at the Hotel Superbe, where they knew him, and treated with an amiable
tolerance his habit of practising chip-shots in his bedroom. On the
first evening, after breaking a statuette of the Infant Samuel in
Prayer, he dressed and went down to dinner. And the first thing he saw
was Her.

Mortimer Sturgis, as you know, had been engaged before, but Betty
Weston had never inspired the tumultuous rush of emotion which the mere
sight of this girl had set loose in him. He told me later that just to
watch her holing out her soup gave him a sort of feeling you get when
your drive collides with a rock in the middle of a tangle of rough and
kicks back into the middle of the fairway. If golf had come late in
life to Mortimer Sturgis, love came later still, and just as the golf,
attacking him in middle life, had been some golf, so was the love
considerable love. Mortimer finished his dinner in a trance, which is
the best way to do it at some hotels, and then scoured the place for
someone who would introduce him. He found such a person eventually and
the meeting took place.

* * * * *

She was a small and rather fragile-looking girl, with big blue eyes and
a cloud of golden hair. She had a sweet expression, and her left wrist
was in a sling. She looked up at Mortimer as if she had at last found
something that amounted to something. I am inclined to think it was a
case of love at first sight on both sides.

"Fine weather we're having," said Mortimer, who was a capital

"Yes," said the girl.

"I like fine weather."

"So do I."

"There's something about fine weather!"


"It's--it's--well, fine weather's so much finer than weather that isn't
fine," said Mortimer.

He looked at the girl a little anxiously, fearing he might be taking
her out of her depth, but she seemed to have followed his train of
thought perfectly.

"Yes, isn't it?" she said. "It's so--so fine."

"That's just what I meant," said Mortimer. "So fine. You've just hit

He was charmed. The combination of beauty with intelligence is so rare.

"I see you've hurt your wrist," he went on, pointing to the sling.

"Yes. I strained it a little playing in the championship."

"The championship?" Mortimer was interested. "It's awfully rude of me,"
he said, apologetically, "but I didn't catch your name just now."

"My name is Somerset."

Mortimer had been bending forward solicitously. He overbalanced and
nearly fell off his chair. The shock had been stunning. Even before he
had met and spoken to her, he had told himself that he loved this girl
with the stored-up love of a lifetime. And she was Mary Somerset! The
hotel lobby danced before Mortimer's eyes.

The name will, of course, be familiar to you. In the early rounds of
the Ladies' Open Golf Championship of that year nobody had paid much
attention to Mary Somerset. She had survived her first two matches, but
her opponents had been nonentities like herself. And then, in the third
round, she had met and defeated the champion. From that point on, her
name was on everybody's lips. She became favourite. And she justified
the public confidence by sailing into the final and winning easily. And
here she was, talking to him like an ordinary person, and, if he could
read the message in her eyes, not altogether indifferent to his charms,
if you could call them that.

"Golly!" said Mortimer, awed.

* * * * *

Their friendship ripened rapidly, as friendships do in the South of
France. In that favoured clime, you find the girl and Nature does the
rest. On the second morning of their acquaintance Mortimer invited her
to walk round the links with him and watch him play. He did it a little
diffidently, for his golf was not of the calibre that would be likely
to extort admiration from a champion. On the other hand, one should
never let slip the opportunity of acquiring wrinkles on the game, and
he thought that Miss Somerset, if she watched one or two of his shots,
might tell him just what he ought to do. And sure enough, the opening
arrived on the fourth hole, where Mortimer, after a drive which
surprised even himself, found his ball in a nasty cuppy lie.

He turned to the girl.

"What ought I to do here?" he asked.

Miss Somerset looked at the ball. She seemed to be weighing the matter
in her mind.

"Give it a good hard knock," she said.

Mortimer knew what she meant. She was advocating a full iron. The only
trouble was that, when he tried anything more ambitious than a
half-swing, except off the tee, he almost invariably topped. However,
he could not fail this wonderful girl, so he swung well back and took a
chance. His enterprise was rewarded. The ball flew out of the
indentation in the turf as cleanly as though John Henry Taylor had been
behind it, and rolled, looking neither to left nor to right, straight
for the pin. A few moments later Mortimer Sturgis had holed out one
under bogey, and it was only the fear that, having known him for so
short a time, she might be startled and refuse him that kept him from
proposing then and there. This exhibition of golfing generalship on her
part had removed his last doubts. He knew that, if he lived for ever,
there could be no other girl in the world for him. With her at his
side, what might he not do? He might get his handicap down to six--to
three--to scratch--to plus something! Good heavens, why, even the
Amateur Championship was not outside the range of possibility. Mortimer
Sturgis shook his putter solemnly in the air, and vowed a silent vow
that he would win this pearl among women.

Now, when a man feels like that, it is impossible to restrain him long.
For a week Mortimer Sturgis's soul sizzled within him: then he could
contain himself no longer. One night, at one of the informal dances at
the hotel, he drew the girl out on to the moonlit terrace.

"Miss Somerset----" he began, stuttering with emotion like an
imperfectly-corked bottle of ginger-beer. "Miss Somerset--may I call
you Mary?"

The girl looked at him with eyes that shone softly in the dim light.

"Mary?" she repeated. "Why, of course, if you like----"

"If I like!" cried Mortimer. "Don't you know that it is my dearest
wish? Don't you know that I would rather be permitted to call you Mary
than do the first hole at Muirfield in two? Oh, Mary, how I have longed
for this moment! I love you! I love you! Ever since I met you I have
known that you were the one girl in this vast world whom I would die to
win! Mary, will you be mine? Shall we go round together? Will you fix
up a match with me on the links of life which shall end only when the
Grim Reaper lays us both a stymie?"

She drooped towards him.

"Mortimer!" she murmured.

He held out his arms, then drew back. His face had grown suddenly
tense, and there were lines of pain about his mouth.

"Wait!" he said, in a strained voice. "Mary, I love you dearly, and
because I love you so dearly I cannot let you trust your sweet life to
me blindly. I have a confession to make, I am not--I have not always
been"--he paused--"a good man," he said, in a low voice.

She started indignantly.

"How can you say that? You are the best, the kindest, the bravest man I
have ever met! Who but a good man would have risked his life to save me
from drowning?"

"Drowning?" Mortimer's voice seemed perplexed. "You? What do you mean?"

"Have you forgotten the time when I fell in the sea last week, and you
jumped in with all your clothes on----"

"Of course, yes," said Mortimer. "I remember now. It was the day I did
the long seventh in five. I got off a good tee-shot straight down the
fairway, took a baffy for my second, and---- But that is not the point.
It is sweet and generous of you to think so highly of what was the
merest commonplace act of ordinary politeness, but I must repeat, that
judged by the standards of your snowy purity, I am not a good man. I do
not come to you clean and spotless as a young girl should expect her
husband to come to her. Once, playing in a foursome, my ball fell in
some long grass. Nobody was near me. We had no caddies, and the others
were on the fairway. God knows----" His voice shook. "God knows I
struggled against the temptation. But I fell. I kicked the ball on to a
little bare mound, from which it was an easy task with a nice
half-mashie to reach the green for a snappy seven. Mary, there have
been times when, going round by myself, I have allowed myself ten-foot
putts on three holes in succession, simply in order to be able to say I
had done the course in under a hundred. Ah! you shrink from me! You are

"I'm not disgusted! And I don't shrink! I only shivered because it is
rather cold."

"Then you can love me in spite of my past?"


She fell into his arms.

"My dearest," he said presently, "what a happy life ours will be. That
is, if you do not find that you have made a mistake."

"A mistake!" she cried, scornfully.

"Well, my handicap is twelve, you know, and not so darned twelve at
that. There are days when I play my second from the fairway of the next
hole but one, days when I couldn't putt into a coal-hole with
'Welcome!' written over it. And you are a Ladies' Open Champion. Still,
if you think it's all right----. Oh, Mary, you little know how I have
dreamed of some day marrying a really first-class golfer! Yes, that was
my vision--of walking up the aisle with some sweet plus two girl on my
arm. You shivered again. You are catching cold."

"It is a little cold," said the girl. She spoke in a small voice.

"Let me take you in, sweetheart," said Mortimer. "I'll just put you in
a comfortable chair with a nice cup of coffee, and then I think I
really must come out again and tramp about and think how perfectly
splendid everything is."

* * * * *

They were married a few weeks later, very quietly, in the little
village church of Saint Brule. The secretary of the local golf-club
acted as best man for Mortimer, and a girl from the hotel was the only
bridesmaid. The whole business was rather a disappointment to Mortimer,
who had planned out a somewhat florid ceremony at St. George's, Hanover
Square, with the Vicar of Tooting (a scratch player excellent at short
approach shots) officiating, and "The Voice That Breathed O'er St.
Andrews" boomed from the organ. He had even had the idea of copying the
military wedding and escorting his bride out of the church under an
arch of crossed cleeks. But she would have none of this pomp. She
insisted on a quiet wedding, and for the honeymoon trip preferred a
tour through Italy. Mortimer, who had wanted to go to Scotland to visit
the birthplace of James Braid, yielded amiably, for he loved her
dearly. But he did not think much of Italy. In Rome, the great
monuments of the past left him cold. Of the Temple of Vespasian, all he
thought was that it would be a devil of a place to be bunkered behind.
The Colosseum aroused a faint spark of interest in him, as he
speculated whether Abe Mitchell would use a full brassey to carry it.
In Florence, the view over the Tuscan Hills from the Torre Rosa,
Fiesole, over which his bride waxed enthusiastic, seemed to him merely
a nasty bit of rough which would take a deal of getting out if.

And so, in the fullness of time, they came home to Mortimer's cosy
little house adjoining the links.

* * * * *

Mortimer was so busy polishing his ninety-four clubs on the evening of
their arrival that he failed to notice that his wife was preoccupied. A
less busy man would have perceived at a glance that she was distinctly
nervous. She started at sudden noises, and once, when he tried the
newest of his mashie-niblicks and broke one of the drawing-room
windows, she screamed sharply. In short her manner was strange, and, if
Edgar Allen Poe had put her into "The Fall Of the House of Usher", she
would have fitted it like the paper on the wall. She had the air of one
waiting tensely for the approach of some imminent doom. Mortimer,
humming gaily to himself as he sand-papered the blade of his
twenty-second putter, observed none of this. He was thinking of the
morrow's play.

"Your wrist's quite well again now, darling, isn't it?" he said.

"Yes. Yes, quite well."

"Fine!" said Mortimer. "We'll breakfast early--say at half-past
seven--and then we'll be able to get in a couple of rounds before
lunch. A couple more in the afternoon will about see us through. One
doesn't want to over-golf oneself the first day." He swung the putter
joyfully. "How had we better play do you think? We might start with you
giving me a half."

She did not speak. She was very pale. She clutched the arm of her chair
tightly till the knuckles showed white under the skin.

To anybody but Mortimer her nervousness would have been even more
obvious on the following morning, as they reached the first tee. Her
eyes were dull and heavy, and she started when a grasshopper chirruped.
But Mortimer was too occupied with thinking how jolly it was having the
course to themselves to notice anything.

He scooped some sand out of the box, and took a ball out of her bag.
His wedding present to her had been a brand-new golf-bag, six dozen
balls, and a full set of the most expensive clubs, all born in

"Do you like a high tee?" he asked.

"Oh, no," she replied, coming with a start out of her thoughts.
"Doctors say it's indigestible."

Mortimer laughed merrily.

"Deuced good!" he chuckled. "Is that your own or did you read it in a
comic paper? There you are!" He placed the ball on a little hill of
sand, and got up. "Now let's see some of that championship form of

She burst into tears.

"My darling!"

Mortimer ran to her and put his arms round her. She tried weakly to
push him away.

"My angel! What is it?"

She sobbed brokenly. Then, with an effort, she spoke.

"Mortimer, I have deceived you!"

"Deceived me?"

"I have never played golf in my life! I don't even know how to hold the

Mortimer's heart stood still. This sounded like the gibberings of an
unbalanced mind, and no man likes his wife to begin gibbering
immediately after the honeymoon.

"My precious! You are not yourself!"

"I am! That's the whole trouble! I'm myself and not the girl you
thought I was!"

Mortimer stared at her, puzzled. He was thinking that it was a little
difficult and that, to work it out properly, he would need a pencil and
a bit of paper.

"My name is not Mary!"

"But you said it was."

"I didn't. You asked if you could call me Mary, and I said you might,
because I loved you too much to deny your smallest whim. I was going on
to say that it wasn't my name, but you interrupted me."

"Not Mary!" The horrid truth was coming home to Mortimer. "You were not
Mary Somerset?"

"Mary is my cousin. My name is Mabel."

"But you said you had sprained your wrist playing in the championship."

"So I had. The mallet slipped in my hand."

"The mallet!" Mortimer clutched at his forehead. "You didn't say 'the

"Yes, Mortimer! The mallet!"

A faint blush of shame mantled her cheek, and into her blue eyes there
came a look of pain, but she faced him bravely.

"I am the Ladies' Open Croquet Champion!" she whispered.

Mortimer Sturgis cried aloud, a cry that was like the shriek of some
wounded animal.

"Croquet!" He gulped, and stared at her with unseeing eyes. He was no
prude, but he had those decent prejudices of which no self-respecting
man can wholly rid himself, however broad-minded he may try to be.

There was a long silence. The light breeze sang in the pines above
them. The grasshoppers chirrupped at their feet.

She began to speak again in a low, monotonous voice.

"I blame myself! I should have told you before, while there was yet
time for you to withdraw. I should have confessed this to you that
night on the terrace in the moonlight. But you swept me off my feet,
and I was in your arms before I realized what you would think of me. It
was only then that I understood what my supposed skill at golf meant to
you, and then it was too late. I loved you too much to let you go! I
could not bear the thought of you recoiling from me. Oh, I was
mad--mad! I knew that I could not keep up the deception for ever, that
you must find me out in time. But I had a wild hope that by then we
should be so close to one another that you might find it in your heart
to forgive. But I was wrong. I see it now. There are some things that
no man can forgive. Some things," she repeated, dully, "which no man
can forgive."

She turned away. Mortimer awoke from his trance.

"Stop!" he cried. "Don't go!"

"I must go."

"I want to talk this over."

She shook her head sadly and started to walk slowly across the sunlit
grass. Mortimer watched her, his brain in a whirl of chaotic thoughts.
She disappeared through the trees.

Mortimer sat down on the tee-box, and buried his face in his hands. For
a time he could think of nothing but the cruel blow he had received.
This was the end of those rainbow visions of himself and her going
through life side by side, she lovingly criticizing his stance and his
back-swing, he learning wisdom from her. A croquet-player! He was
married to a woman who hit coloured balls through hoops. Mortimer
Sturgis writhed in torment. A strong man's agony.

The mood passed. How long it had lasted, he did not know. But suddenly,
as he sat there, he became once more aware of the glow of the sunshine
and the singing of the birds. It was as if a shadow had lifted. Hope
and optimism crept into his heart.

He loved her. He loved her still. She was part of him, and nothing that
she could do had power to alter that. She had deceived him, yes. But
why had she deceived him? Because she loved him so much that she could
not bear to lose him. Dash it all, it was a bit of a compliment.

And, after all, poor girl, was it her fault? Was it not rather the
fault of her upbringing? Probably she had been taught to play croquet
when a mere child, hardly able to distinguish right from wrong. No
steps had been taken to eradicate the virus from her system, and the
thing had become chronic. Could she be blamed? Was she not more to be
pitied than censured?

Mortimer rose to his feet, his heart swelling with generous
forgiveness. The black horror had passed from him. The future seemed
once more bright. It was not too late. She was still young, many years
younger than he himself had been when he took up golf, and surely, if
she put herself into the hands of a good specialist and practised every
day, she might still hope to become a fair player. He reached the house
and ran in, calling her name.

No answer came. He sped from room to room, but all were empty.

She had gone. The house was there. The furniture was there. The canary
sang in its cage, the cook in the kitchen. The pictures still hung on
the walls. But she had gone. Everything was at home except his wife.

Finally, propped up against the cup he had once won in a handicap
competition, he saw a letter. With a sinking heart he tore open the

It was a pathetic, a tragic letter, the letter of a woman endeavouring
to express all the anguish of a torn heart with one of those
fountain-pens which suspend the flow of ink about twice in every three
words. The gist of it was that she felt she had wronged him; that,
though he might forgive, he could never forget; and that she was going
away, away out into the world alone.

Mortimer sank into a chair, and stared blankly before him. She had
scratched the match.

* * * * *

I am not a married man myself, so have had no experience of how it
feels to have one's wife whizz off silently into the unknown; but I
should imagine that it must be something like taking a full swing with
a brassey and missing the ball. Something, I take it, of the same sense
of mingled shock, chagrin, and the feeling that nobody loves one, which
attacks a man in such circumstances, must come to the bereaved husband.
And one can readily understand how terribly the incident must have
shaken Mortimer Sturgis. I was away at the time, but I am told by those
who saw him that his game went all to pieces.

He had never shown much indication of becoming anything in the nature
of a first-class golfer, but he had managed to acquire one or two
decent shots. His work with the light iron was not at all bad, and he
was a fairly steady putter. But now, under the shadow of this tragedy,
he dropped right back to the form of his earliest period. It was a
pitiful sight to see this gaunt, haggard man with the look of dumb
anguish behind his spectacles taking as many as three shots sometimes
to get past the ladies' tee. His slice, of which he had almost cured
himself, returned with such virulence that in the list of ordinary
hazards he had now to include the tee-box. And, when he was not
slicing, he was pulling. I have heard that he was known, when driving
at the sixth, to get bunkered in his own caddie, who had taken up his
position directly behind him. As for the deep sand-trap in front of the
seventh green, he spent so much of his time in it that there was some
informal talk among the members of the committee of charging him a
small weekly rent.

A man of comfortable independent means, he lived during these days on
next to nothing. Golf-balls cost him a certain amount, but the bulk of
his income he spent in efforts to discover his wife's whereabouts. He
advertised in all the papers. He employed private detectives. He even,
much as it revolted his finer instincts, took to travelling about the
country, watching croquet matches. But she was never among the players.
I am not sure that he did not find a melancholy comfort in this, for it
seemed to show that, whatever his wife might be and whatever she might
be doing, she had not gone right under.

Summer passed. Autumn came and went. Winter arrived. The days grew
bleak and chill, and an early fall of snow, heavier than had been known
at that time of the year for a long while, put an end to golf. Mortimer
spent his days indoors, staring gloomily through the window at the
white mantle that covered the earth.

It was Christmas Eve.

* * * * *

The young man shifted uneasily on his seat. His face was long and

"All this is very depressing," he said.

"These soul tragedies," agreed the Oldest Member, "are never very

"Look here," said the young man, firmly, "tell me one thing frankly, as
man to man. Did Mortimer find her dead in the snow, covered except for
her face, on which still lingered that faint, sweet smile which he
remembered so well? Because, if he did, I'm going home."

"No, no," protested the Oldest Member. "Nothing of that kind."

"You're sure? You aren't going to spring it on me suddenly?"

"No, no!"

The young man breathed a relieved sigh.

"It was your saying that about the white mantle covering the earth that
made me suspicious."

The Sage resumed.

* * * * *

It was Christmas Eve. All day the snow had been falling, and now it lay
thick and deep over the countryside. Mortimer Sturgis, his frugal
dinner concluded--what with losing his wife and not being able to get
any golf, he had little appetite these days--was sitting in his
drawing-room, moodily polishing the blade of his jigger. Soon wearying
of this once congenial task, he laid down the club and went to the
front door to see if there was any chance of a thaw. But no. It was
freezing. The snow, as he tested it with his shoe, crackled crisply.
The sky above was black and full of cold stars. It seemed to Mortimer
that the sooner he packed up and went to the South of France, the
better. He was just about to close the door, when suddenly he thought
he heard his own name called.


Had he been mistaken? The voice had sounded faint and far away.


He thrilled from head to foot. This time there could be no mistake. It
was the voice he knew so well, his wife's voice, and it had come from
somewhere down near the garden-gate. It is difficult to judge distance
where sounds are concerned, but Mortimer estimated that the voice had
spoken about a short mashie-niblick and an easy putt from where he

The next moment he was racing down the snow-covered path. And then his
heart stood still. What was that dark something on the ground just
inside the gate? He leaped towards it. He passed his hands over it. It
was a human body. Quivering, he struck a match. It went out. He struck
another. That went out, too. He struck a third, and it burnt with a
steady flame; and, stooping, he saw that it was his wife who lay there,
cold and stiff. Her eyes were closed, and on her face still lingered
that faint, sweet smile which he remembered so well.

* * * * *

The young man rose with a set face. He reached for his golf-bag.

"I call that a dirty trick," he said, "after you promised--" The Sage
waved him back to his seat.

"Have no fear! She had only fainted."

"You said she was cold."

"Wouldn't you be cold if you were lying in the snow?"

"And stiff."

"Mrs. Sturgis was stiff because the train-service was bad, it being the
holiday-season, and she had had to walk all the way from the junction,
a distance of eight miles. Sit down and allow me to proceed."

* * * * *

Tenderly, reverently Mortimer Sturgis picked her up and began to bear
her into the house. Half-way there, his foot slipped on a piece of ice
and he fell heavily, barking his shin and shooting his lovely burden
out on to the snow.

The fall brought her to. She opened her eyes.

"Mortimer, darling!" she said.

Mortimer had just been going to say something else, but he checked

"Are you alive?" he asked.

"Yes," she replied.

"Thank God!" said Mortimer, scooping some of the snow out of the back
of his collar.

Together they went into the house, and into the drawing-room. Wife
gazed at husband, husband at wife. There was a silence.

"Rotten weather!" said Mortimer.

"Yes, isn't it!"

The spell was broken. They fell into each other's arms. And presently
they were sitting side by side on the sofa, holding hands, just as if
that awful parting had been but a dream.

It was Mortimer who made the first reference to it.

"I say, you know," he said, "you oughtn't to have nipped away like

"I thought you hated me!"

"Hated _you_! I love you better than life itself! I would sooner
have smashed my pet driver than have had you leave me!"

She thrilled at the words.


Mortimer fondled her hand.

"I was just coming back to tell you that I loved you still. I was going
to suggest that you took lessons from some good professional. And I
found you gone!"

"I wasn't worthy of you, Mortimer!"

"My angel!" He pressed his lips to her hair, and spoke solemnly. "All
this has taught me a lesson, dearest. I knew all along, and I know it
more than ever now, that it is you--you that I want. Just you! I don't
care if you don't play golf. I don't care----" He hesitated, then went on
manfully. "I don't care even if you play croquet, so long as you are
with me!"

For a moment her face showed rapture that made it almost angelic. She
uttered a low moan of ecstasy. She kissed him. Then she rose.

"Mortimer, look!"

"What at?"

"Me. Just look!"

The jigger which he had been polishing lay on a chair close by. She
took it up. From the bowl of golf-balls on the mantelpiece she selected
a brand new one. She placed it on the carpet. She addressed it. Then,
with a merry cry of "Fore!" she drove it hard and straight through the
glass of the china-cupboard.

"Good God!" cried Mortimer, astounded. It had been a bird of a shot.

She turned to him, her whole face alight with that beautiful smile.

"When I left you, Mortie," she said, "I had but one aim in life,
somehow to make myself worthy of you. I saw your advertisements in the
papers, and I longed to answer them, but I was not ready. All this
long, weary while I have been in the village of Auchtermuchtie, in
Scotland, studying under Tamms McMickle."

"Not the Tamms McMickle who finished fourth in the Open Championship of
1911, and had the best ball in the foursome in 1912 with Jock McHaggis,
Andy McHeather, and Sandy McHoots!"

"Yes, Mortimer, the very same. Oh, it was difficult at first. I missed
my mallet, and long to steady the ball with my foot and use the toe of
the club. Wherever there was a direction post I aimed at it
automatically. But I conquered my weakness. I practised steadily. And
now Mr. McMickle says my handicap would be a good twenty-four on any
links." She smiled apologetically. "Of course, that doesn't sound much
to you! You were a twelve when I left you, and now I suppose you are
down to eight or something."

Mortimer shook his head.

"Alas, no!" he replied, gravely. "My game went right off for some
reason or other, and I'm twenty-four, too."

"For some reason or other!" She uttered a cry. "Oh, I know what the
reason was! How can I ever forgive myself! I have ruined your game!"

The brightness came back to Mortimer's eyes. He embraced her fondly.

"Do not reproach yourself, dearest," he murmured. "It is the best thing
that could have happened. From now on, we start level, two hearts that
beat as one, two drivers that drive as one. I could not wish it
otherwise. By George! It's just like that thing of Tennyson's."

He recited the lines softly:

_My bride,
My wife, my life. Oh, we will walk the links
Yoked in all exercise of noble end,
And so thro' those dark bunkers off the course
That no man knows. Indeed, I love thee: come,
Yield thyself up: our handicaps are one;
Accomplish thou my manhood and thyself;
Lay thy sweet hands in mine and trust to me._

She laid her hands in his.

"And now, Mortie, darling," she said, "I want to tell you all about how
I did the long twelfth at Auchtermuchtie in one under bogey."

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