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The Battle Of Aiken
by [?]

At the Palmetto Golf Club one bright, warm day in January they held a tournament which came to be known as the Battle of Aiken. Colonel Bogey, however, was not in command.

Each contestant’s caddie was provided with a stick cleft at one end and pointed at the other. In the cleft was stuck a square of white card-board on which was printed the contestant’s name, Colonel Bogey’s record for the course, the contestant’s handicap, and the sum of these two. Thus:

A. B. Smith
78 + 9 = 87

And the winner was to be he who travelled farthest around the links in the number of strokes allotted to him.

Old Major Jennings did not understand, and Jimmy Traquair, the professional, explained.

“Do you know what the bogey for the course is?” said he. “It’s seventy-eight. Do you know what your handicap is? It’s twenty.”

Old Major Jennings winced slightly. His handicap had never seemed quite adequate to him.

“Well?” he said.

“Well,” said Jimmie, who ever tempered his speech to his hearer’s understanding, “what’s twenty added to seventy-eight?”

“Eighty-eight–ninety-eight,” said old Major Jennings (but not conceitedly).

“Right,” said Jimmie. “Well, you start at the first tee and play ninety-eight strokes. Where the ball lies after the ninety-eighth, you plant the card with your name on it. And that’s all.”

“Suppose after my ninety-eighth stroke that my ball lies in the pond?” said old Major Jennings with a certain timid conviction. The pond hole is only the twelfth, and Jimmie wanted to laugh, but did not.

“If that happens,” he said, “you’ll have to report it, I’m afraid, to the Green Committee. Who are you going around with?”

“I haven’t got anybody to go around with,” said the major. “I didn’t know there was going to be a tournament till it was too late to ask any one to play with me.”

This conversation took place in the new shop, a place all windows, sunshine, labels, varnishes, vises, files, grips, and clubs of exquisite workmanship. At one of the benches a grave-eyed young negro, aproned and concentrated, was enamelling the head of a driver with shellac. Sudden cannon fire would not have shaken his hand. In one corner a rosy lad with curly yellow hair dangled his legs from the height of a packing-case and chewed gum. He had been born with a golden spoon in his mouth, and was learning golf from the inside. Sometimes he winked with one eye. But these silent comments were hidden from the major.

“I don’t care about the tournament,” said the latter, his loose lip trembling slightly. “I’ll just practice a little.”

“Don’t be in a hurry, sir,” said Jimmie sympathetically; “General Bullwigg hasn’t any one to go around with either. And if you don’t mind—-“

“Bullwigg,” said the major vaguely; “I used to know a Bullwigg.”

“He’s a very fine gentleman indeed, sir,” said Jimmie. “Same handicap as yourself, sir, and if you don’t mind—-“

“Where is he from?” asked the major.

“I don’t know, sir. Mr. Bowers extended the privileges of the club to him. He’s stopping at the Park in the Pines.”

“Oh!” said the major, and then with a certain dignity and resolution: “If Mr. Bowers knows him, and if he doesn’t mind, I’m sure I don’t. Is he here?”

“He’s waiting at the first tee,” said Jimmie, and he averted his face.

At the first tee old Major Jennings found a portly, red-faced gentleman, with fierce, bushy eyebrows, who seemed prepared to play golf under any condition of circumstance and weather. He had two caddies. One carried a monstrous bag, which, in addition to twice the usual number of clubs, contained a crook-handled walking-stick and a crook-handled umbrella; the other carried over his right arm a greatcoat, in case the June-like weather should turn cold, and over his left a mackintosh, in case rain should fall from the cloudless, azure heavens. The gentleman himself was swinging a wooden club, with pudgy vehemence, at an imaginary ball. Upon his countenance was that expression of fortitude which wins battles and championships. Old Major Jennings approached timidly. He was very shy. In the distance he saw two of his intimate friends finishing out the first hole. Except for himself and the well-prepared stranger they had been the last pair to start, and the old major’s pale blue eyes clung to them as those of a shipwrecked mariner may cling to ships upon the horizon. Then he pulled himself together and said: