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The Little Lonely Girl
by [?]

The golf links were picturesque; spreading along the shore or climbing through the heart of the island set in the great river; here and there a vista of the huge bulk of the arsenal-shops; walled over the river by the hills behind opulent, bustling little cities, the fair greens jeweled by the sun and dappled with shadow from trees older than the Louisiana Purchase. A breeze shifted the shadows. Willy Butler felt its touch on his wet forehead.

He half turned to take out his handkerchief. In the act he saw her. It was the same girl who had followed the course yesterday. She was alone, just as she had been alone yesterday.

The gallery was bobbing like the crest of a wave over the brow of the hill; the carriages and machines glittered in slow pomp after the rope, while the favorites and their caddies marched over the slope toward the bunkers. But Willy and Dickson had only this one follower, a little lonely figure, slim and straight and nimble, in white linen, whose brown arms and brown face against her dazzling gown made the effect of a Russian eikon minus the gold-incrusted robe. She halted when Willy halted. With impersonal interest she watched Dickson make a strike. At the clean, beautiful drive she nodded approval. Then her black brows met in a slightly worried frown. Willy, club in hand, was aware of the frown. He was aware–in a sort of subconscious way–that she wanted him to play well; and he was acutely aware that he had not played well this afternoon. Even his direction, which had always been his best ally, had not kept its form. Twice had he gone into the rough, losing a shot each time, despite his really hair-raising recoveries. Now the other man was two up, with only four more holes to play. At best Willy could but halve this hole, at best, with a perfect approach and a long putt. “A duffer at golf, like everything else!” ran his own bitter comment to himself. He didn’t know why he looked up; swinging his club for a trial stroke on a leaf. Look he did, however, to catch the dark eyes of the little lonely girl intently watching him. If she had called to him aloud “Brace up!” he couldn’t have heard the words more distinctly. He almost thought he did hear them, and gave the child an involuntary, half-starved smile.

With the same smile on his lips he sent a faultless approach into easy putting distance, and he felt absurdly pleased because she clapped her hands. They halved the hole. Dickson, the Harvard champion, looked bored as he sank on the bench by the red water-cooler. He had been Willy’s classmate a year ago at college, knowing him as the man who makes all the best societies and “leads the life” may know the recluse who makes none; he was conscious of a certain irritation peppering his cool superiority. To think of the millions that shuffling, cowed-looking, insignificant chap would have, while he, Dickson, had to slave on a salary. A duffer who couldn’t even win a golf game that belonged to him, because he was rattled! Dickson felt that the ways of Fate were scandalous.

Willy had limped up. The day before he had blistered his heel somehow, and every step cost a pang. He eased the lame foot by resting his weight on the other. His gray-blue eyes, which only his dead mother had ever found handsome, scanned with a certain wistfulness Dickson’s graceful, athletic figure and clean, dark profile. His own profile was irregular and his figure was awkward, with arms too long and shoulders too square for harmony; he stooped in an ungainly fashion, as if he had the habit of musing as he walked; his plain face was deeply freckled. Yet as there was a suggestion of strength in the figure, so there was the same suggestion in the young mouth and chin, and something clear and strangely innocent, for a young man, looked out of his eyes. As he stood, every muscle seemed to sag; he appeared utterly spent; but the instant Dickson had driven he stepped alertly into his place and sent a drive like a bird sailing far beyond Dickson’s dot of white on the green. Somehow a new uplift of energy and hope had come to him; bless that kid, he would show her that he could still do something with the sticks! He heard her whispered, unconscious ” Beauty! ” This time he kept his head straight, but when the hole was won, he met her smile frankly with another. The next hole was easy. He had steadied; he had his nerve back; every calculation worked; and when Dickson stymied, it was a simple trick (the like of which he had practiced often) to hop over the ball and roll into the hole, to the artless joy of his caddy. “You’re going to be the champeen,” this worthy told Willy when they trudged on; “guess that young lady’s a mascot.”