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Wodehouse’s brilliant but human brand of humor is perfectly suited to these stories of love, rivalry, revenge, and fulfillment on the links. While the Oldest Member sits in the clubhouse quoting Marcus Aurelius on patience and wisdom, outside on the green the fiercest human passions burn. All kinds of human life are here, from the cocky professional Sandy McHoots to the shy Ramsden Waters, whose only consolation is golf. And then, of course, there is the young, handsome Cuthbert Banks, whoplus four on the Wood Hills linkscannot seem to win the affections of the girl who has won his heart.
244 pages with a reading time of ~3.75 hours (61047 words), and first published in 1922. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2014.
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The young man came into the smoking-room of the clubhouse, and flung his bag with a clatter on the floor. He sank moodily into an arm-chair and pressed the bell.
The young man pointed at the bag with every evidence of distaste.
“You may have these clubs,” he said. “Take them away. If you don’t want them yourself, give them to one of the caddies.”
Across the room the Oldest Member gazed at him with a grave sadness through the smoke of his pipe. His eye was deep and dreamy–the eye of a man who, as the poet says, has seen Golf steadily and seen it whole.
“You are giving up golf?” he said.
He was not altogether unprepared for such an attitude on the young man’s part: for from his eyrie on the terrace above the ninth green he had observed him start out on the afternoon’s round and had seen him lose a couple of balls in the lake at the second hole after taking seven strokes at the first.
“Yes!” cried the young man fiercely. “For ever, dammit! Footling game! Blanked infernal fat-headed silly ass of a game! Nothing but a waste of time.”
The Sage winced.
“Don’t say that, my boy.”
“But I do say it. What earthly good is golf? Life is stern and life is earnest. We live in a practical age. All round us we see foreign competition making itself unpleasant. And we spend our time playing golf! What do we get out of it? Is golf any use? That’s what I’m asking you. Can you name me a single case where devotion to this pestilential pastime has done a man any practical good?”
The Sage smiled gently.
“I could name a thousand.”
“One will do.”
“I will select,” said the Sage, “from the innumerable memories that rush to my mind, the story of Cuthbert Banks.”
“Never heard of him.”
“Be of good cheer,” said the Oldest Member. “You are going to hear of him now.”
It was in the picturesque little settlement of Wood Hills (said the Oldest Member) that the incidents occurred which I am about to relate. Even if you have never been in Wood Hills, that suburban paradise is probably familiar to you by name. Situated at a convenient distance from the city, it combines in a notable manner the advantages of town life with the pleasant surroundings and healthful air of the country. Its inhabitants live in commodious houses, standing in their own grounds, and enjoy so many luxuries–such as gravel soil, main drainage, electric light, telephone, baths (h. and c.), and company’s own water, that you might be pardoned for imagining life to be so ideal for them that no possible improvement could be added to their lot. Mrs. Willoughby Smethurst was under no such delusion. What Wood Hills needed to make it perfect, she realized, was Culture. Material comforts are all very well, but, if the summum bonum is to be achieved, the Soul also demands a look in, and it was Mrs. Smethurst’s unfaltering resolve that never while she had her strength should the Soul be handed the loser’s end. It was her intention to make Wood Hills a centre of all that was most cultivated and refined, and, golly! how she had succeeded. Under her presidency the Wood Hills Literary and Debating Society had tripled its membership.
But there is always a fly in the ointment, a caterpillar in the salad. The local golf club, an institution to which Mrs. Smethurst strongly objected, had also tripled its membership; and the division of the community into two rival camps, the Golfers and the Cultured, had become more marked than ever. This division, always acute, had attained now to the dimensions of a Schism. The rival sects treated one another with a cold hostility.
Unfortunate episodes came to widen the breach. Mrs. Smethurst’s house adjoined the links, standing to the right of the fourth tee: and, as the Literary Society was in the habit of entertaining visiting lecturers, many a golfer had foozled his drive owing to sudden loud outbursts of applause coinciding with his down-swing. And not long before this story opens a sliced ball, whizzing in at the open window, had come within an ace of incapacitating Raymond Parsloe Devine, the rising young novelist (who rose at that moment a clear foot and a half) from any further exercise of his art. Two inches, indeed, to the right and Raymond must inevitably have handed in his dinner-pail.
To make matters worse, a ring at the front-door bell followed almost immediately, and the maid ushered in a young man of pleasing appearance in a sweater and baggy knickerbockers who apologetically but firmly insisted on playing his ball where it lay, and, what with the shock of the lecturer’s narrow escape and the spectacle of the intruder standing on the table and working away with a niblick, the afternoon’s session had to be classed as a complete frost.