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An Inland Voyage
by [?]

Thomas took a day off last Monday in order to play golf with me. For that day the Admiralty had to get along without Thomas. I tremble to think what would have happened if war had broken out on Monday. Could a Thomasless Admiralty have coped with it? I trow not. Even as it was, battleships grounded, crews mutinied, and several awkward questions in the House of Commons had to be postponed till Tuesday.

Something–some premonition of this, no doubt–seemed to be weighing on him all day.

“Rotten weather,” he growled, as he came up the steps of the club.

“I’m very sorry,” I said. “I keep on complaining to the secretary about it. He does his best.”

“What’s that?”

“He taps the barometer every morning, and says it will clear up in the afternoon. Shall we go out now, or shall we give it a chance to stop?”

Thomas looked at the rain and decided to let it stop. I made him as comfortable as I could. I gave him a drink, a cigarette, and Mistakes with the Mashie. On the table at his elbow I had in reserve Faulty Play with the Brassy and a West Middlesex Directory. For myself I wandered about restlessly, pausing now and again to read enviously a notice which said that C. D. Topping’s handicap was reduced from 24 to 22. Lucky man!

At about half-past eleven the rain stopped for a moment, and we hurried out.

“The course is a little wet,” I said apologetically, as we stood on the first tee, “but with your naval experience you won’t mind that. By the way, I ought to warn you that this isn’t all casual water. Some of it is river.”

“How do you know which is which?”

“You’ll soon find out. The river is much deeper. Go on–your drive.”

Thomas won the first hole very easily. We both took four to the green, Thomas in addition having five splashes of mud on his face while I only had three. Unfortunately the immediate neighbourhood of the hole was under water. Thomas, the bounder, had a small heavy ball, which he managed to sink in nine. My own, being lighter, refused to go into the tin at all, and floated above the hole in the most exasperating way.

“I expect there’s a rule about it,” I said, “if we only knew, which gives me the match. However, until we find that out, I suppose you must call yourself one up.”

“I shall want some dry socks for lunch,” he muttered, as he sploshed off to the tee.

“Anything you want for lunch you can have, my dear Thomas. I promise you that you shall not be stinted. The next green is below sea-level altogether, I’m afraid. The first in the water wins.”

Honours, it turned out, were divided. I lost the hole, and Thomas lost his ball. The third tee having disappeared, we moved on to the fourth.

“There’s rather a nasty place along here,” I said.

“The Secretary was sucked in the other day, and only rescued by the hair.”

Thomas drove a good one. I topped mine badly, and it settled down in the mud fifty yards off. “Excuse me,” I shouted as I ran quickly after it, and I got my niblick on to it just as it was disappearing. It was a very close thing.

“Well,” said Thomas, as he reached his ball, “that’s not what I call a brassy lie.”

“It’s what we call a corkscrew lie down here,” I explained. “If you haven’t got a corkscrew, you’d better dig round it with something, and then when the position is thoroughly undermined–Oh, good shot!”

Thomas had got out of the fairway in one, but he still seemed unhappy.

“My eye,” he said, bending down in agony; “I’ve got about half Middlesex in it.”

He walked round in circles saying strange nautical things, and my suggestions that he should (1) rub the other eye, and (2) blow his nose suddenly, were received ungenerously.