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Title: The Last Drive
Author: Fred M. White
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1100891.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: December 2011
Date most recently updated: December 2011

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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Last Drive
Author: Fred M. White


*

Published in The Australian Town And Country Journal, 3 January 1906, pp 33-34

*


I

THE members of the Royal Crossboro' Golf Club were suffering
from a periodical lack of incidents. For instance, nobody had done any holes
"in one" lately, the merits and demerits of the "Haskell"* et hoc had
been thoroughly thrashed out, so that the select smoking-room company were
actually forced back upon quite mundane matters. The afternoon was too wet
and windy even for golf, and the half-dozen members round the fire had
finished the usual after-lunch abuse of the Green Committee.

[ * A rubber-filled golf ball manufactured by the Haskell
Golf Ball Co., Ohio, USA. ]

"Nor'-west gale for the last week," growled one. "I suppose that's why we
are kept on the back tee at the eighteenth hole. Old Seddon to blame, of
course."

"Of course," said another of the smokers. "It means that every ball that's
fairly well played falls in the Mole brook, and consequently is carried past
Seddon's house and into his private grounds, where he collects them all. He
hasn't bought a new ball for years."

One of the fathers of the club, smoking gravely in his favourite armchair,
smiled meaningly. There was a deadly feud between Mr. Chorsley aforesaid and
the wily Seddon, whose residence was quite close to the home green.

"I've stopped that," Chorsley said. "I had a wire grating fixed across the
brook just as it passed through the hedge into Seddon's grounds. No more
annexed Haskell's now. Did I ever tell you how Seddon served me the last time
we played together in the Spring?"

The assembled company shuffled uneasily. They had all heard the story
times out of number, how Seddon had played with his opponent's ball, and
declared it to be his own. But then Mr. Chorsley was a real good fellow, and
widely hospitable to boot, and the old old story was endured in silence. And
Seddon was no fa- vourite in the club.

"It's a strange thing," another member said, thoughtfully. "For the last
month Frank Bruce has never made one decent drive over the Mole brook at the
last hole. He is playing a better game than he has ever played in his life,
and yet every time he comes to the last tee he slices his drive over the
boundary into the brook, as it passes into Seddon's property."

"And never misses when he drops another ball down for a second drive,"
added another member.

"One way of getting round old Seddon," a further member remarked. "It's
love for Mary Seddon, the old boy's niece, that upsets Bruce's nerve at the
last hole. When he is in sight of the house he is thinking of the
unattainable and other things."

"Is that really a fact?" Chorsley asked eagerly.

"Absolutely," the last speaker replied. "And whatever may be the faults of
old Seddon, his niece Mary is really a nice girl. She'll have a fair amount
of money, too, not that Bruce calculates on that. But Seddon's got a sorry
nephew who comes down from the City now and again, and he's trying to force
the little girl to marry him."

"Why doesn't Bruce take matters in his own hands?" Chorsley growled.

"Well, he can't quite do that. His prospects are good, and he is a really
smart fellow, but as yet his income is small. Seddon has put his foot down.
There is to be no more intercourse, nothing till Frank can show a clear
income of £500 a year. When that comes Seddon mag- nanimously offers to
withdraw all opposition. So it's long odds on the nephew."

Chorsley nodded thoughtfully. He was an easy going kind-hearted old
gentleman, but he had a pretty temper of his own, and he hated Seddon
heartily. He would have gone a long way to thwart the miserly man who laid
traps for golf balls. His eyes twinkled as he looked into the fire. He began
to see his way. He was not yet retired from the stockbroking firm from whence
he derived a large portion of his big income.

"You'll see Bruce when he comes down to- night, Partridge," he said. "I
wish you'd make up a match with him for me on Saturday, if he has nothing
else on. Then you can both come afterwards and have dinner with me."

Partridge promised to arrange the matter if possible, and evidently meant
it. Chorsley's little dinners were by no means to be despised. And though
Frank Bruce was an infinitely better player than his elderly opponent, and
though he was consumed by what looked like a hopeless passion for Mary
Seddon, he fixed up the match without the slightest hesitation.

They came along well enough till the last teeing ground was reached. It
was an interesting match, for at this point the rivals were all square.
Everything depended upon the last hole. Below the tee was a broken sloping
ground ending into the tiny but swiftly running Mole brook. Beyond was the
fair green course and the red flag fluttering in the distance.

"My honour," said Bruce, as he seemed to be selecting a ball with unusual
care. "My drive first. I must try and not miss this one. Latterly I can't
manage this hole at all,"

He made his tee carefully, and placed a perfectly white new ball upon it.
Mr. Chorsley made as if to get out of the way, and in doing so kicked the
ball off the tee, so that it rolled into some heather. With a muttered
apology, he replaced the dismantled ball.

"Now go on," he said. "Give me a good lead."

Bruce swung very slowly up, then his driver came down with a smashing
force. Away went the ball, not straight across the course, but sliced away to
the right well over the boundary fence and down till it hopped into the Mole
brook in Seddon's grounds.

"Funny thing, isn't it?" Bruce said without the slightest emotion.

"Very," Chorsley said gravely. "But you'll do better next drive. Of
course, you can tee up another ball and play three strokes. Go ahead."

Chorsley got a good drive, and Bruce a beautifully long raking shot. But
the handicap was too strong, and he lost the hole by a stroke. He bore his
defeat with singular philosophy.

"No use getting out of temper," he said.

"Not a bit," Chorsley chuckled. "See you later on at dinner time.
Partridge has to leave early, but don't you hurry. I have a word or two for
your private ear afterwards."

II

A LONG bubbling glass stood at Frank Bruce's elbow, and a
long cigar between his teeth. The smoking-room was comfortably and not too
brilliantly lighted; the glowing fire invited confidence.

Partridge had departed, and Bruce and his host were alone together. For a
long time the former stared thoughtfully into the fire.

"Why don't you make up your mind to marry her in spite of him?" Chorsley
asked.

"It wouldn't be fair," Bryce said, in the most natural manner, and as if
there had been a long conversation on the subject nearest his heart. "I
couldn't afford it yet, and, confound it, Mr. Chorsley, how could you
possibly guess what I was thinking about?"

"So what the fellows at the club house say is perfectly true," Chorsley
went on coolly. "Old Seddon plays the magnanimous, and what he'll do when you
can show a clear £500 a year. Meanwhile, there is a rival in the
path."

"Yes, confound him!" Bruce growled.

"Who has the ears of the wicked uncle. This wicked uncle watches the niece
so carefully that she can't get a line out of the house, and you can't get a
line into it. And yet you can put her on her guard when the rival is coming
down, and if you want an interview when you come down here on Saturdays you
know how to arrange it, don't you?"

Bruce looked up anxiously, and Chorsley smiled.

"Oh, I'm not going to give you away," he said. "It's one of the smartest
tricks I've ever come across, and that is saying a good deal. A young fellow
who can invent a dodge like that is certain to get on in the world, and I can
give him a good start. Here is a golf ball. It is the one that you first put
upon the last tee this morning. When I kicked it off the tee I replaced it
with another. I know your secret, young man, and I congratulate you. Go up to
the last tee in the morning, and drive that ball off in the way it should be
driven, and when you see Miss Seddon at night ask for an interview with her
uncle. Tell him you have your £500 a year all right, and, if he is
incredulous, give him this letter. Now finish up your cigar, and be
off."

* * * * *

At a quarter past nine the following night Frank Bruce was
sitting in a secluded part of Mr. Seddon's grounds, and he was not alone. A
pretty girl with dark eyes was by his side, and his arm was about her
waist.

"I expected your message last night," Mary said.

"Well, I thought I had sent it," Bruce replied. "Mary, our little scheme
has been found out. Mr. Chorsley took the marked ball, and substituted
another for it."

"And I saw you drive off, and when I picked the ball up it was quite
clean," Mary said, "But surely Mr. Chorsley would never have been so
ill-natured--"

"Old Chorsley is a brick. And between ourselves, he would give a great
deal to put a spoke in your uncle's wheel. On the whole we shall have no
occasion to regret--"

An acid voice breaking in on the lovers' sweet converse thought otherwise.
The tall, thin man demanded to know why he had been deceived like this, to
which Bruce coolly responded that there had been no deception whatever. There
was a stipulation as to an income of £500 a year--

"Which remains to be fulfilled," Seddon said, coldly.

"Perhaps when you read this letter you will think otherwise," Bruce said.
"It is intended for you."

Seddon tore open the envelope contemptuously. His face changed as he read,
and he bit his lip.

"I suppose you are aware of the contents of this letter," he said with an
effort. "But, of course you are. In it Mr. Chorsley informs me that he is
going out of the firm of Chorsley and Martin, and that the present manager
comes in. Therefore you are offered the managership, with good prospects at a
salary of £600 a year."

Bruce nodded coolly. But he was absolutely taken by surprise. All the same
his enemy was utterly routed. He dropped the letter on the grass, and walked
away with his hands behind him. Mary bent over her lover, and kissed him with
delighted tears in her eyes.

"Do explain, Frank," she said, rapturously. "Do tell me how it
happened."

"When I've seen Chorsley," Bruce muttered, "but not before, because I'm
hanged if I know."

"Easiest thing in the world," Chorsley said, as he waved his cigar in
front of him. "Why did you always slice it in the same direction? Why did you
always get your ball off so clean? Because you were doing it on purpose.
Again why? Because the object of your affection was near at hand. You wanted
to signal to her. Then it occurred to me that if you wrote a message in blue
pencil on a new golf ball, it wouldn't come out for some time. You do so, and
you drive that ball into the brook, and Miss Seddon finds it. I got hold of a
ball of yours, and I read the message making an appointment. By Jove, a
splendid dodge-- never heard of better. And so that's the way you managed
your love affairs, eh. Well, If you can do so well with one thing you may do
well with another, and that's why I gave you the chance of filling the new
opening in our office. No, you need not thank me, I shall have a good
servant, and I get even with Seddon at the same time. But there will be two
things that I prophesy."

"And what are those?" Bruce asked.

"That you will miss no more drives on the last tee," Chorsley chuckled,
"and that you will not be so prodigal with your 'rubbers' in the
future."

THE END



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