I had lost interest in the performance, for the cup was mine, but I did admire his Colonial grit.
“Got it,” he cried suddenly, and the ball sailed out on to the pretty. Another shot put him level with me.
“Thirty-two?” I asked.
“About,” he said coldly.
I began to look for my ball. It had got tired of waiting and had hidden itself. Smith joined gloomily in the search.
“This is absurd,” I said, after three or four minutes.
“By jove!” said Smith, suddenly brightening up. “If your ball’s lost I win after all.”
“Nonsense; you’ve given the hole up,” I protested. “You don’t know how many you’ve played. According to the rules, if I ask you how many, and you give wrong information—”
“It’s thirty-five,” he said promptly.
“I don’t believe you counted.”
“Call it forty-five then. There’s nothing to prevent my calling it more than it really is. If it was really only forty, then I’m counting five occasions when the ball rolled over as I was addressing it. That’s very generous of me. Actually I’m doubtful if the ball did roll over five times, but I say it did in order to be on the safe side.” He looked at his watch. “And if you don’t find your ball in thirty seconds, you lose the hole.”
It was ingenious, but the Mother Country can be ingenious too.
“How many have you played exactly?” I asked. “Be careful.”
“Forty-five,” he said. “Exactly.”
“Right.” I took my niblick and swung at the heather. “Bother,” I said. “Missed it. Two.”
“Hallo! Have you found it?”
“I have. It’s somewhere in this field. There’s no rule which insists that you shall hit the ball, or even that you shall hit near the ball, or even that you shall see the ball when you hit at it. Lots of old gentlemen shut their eyes and miss the sphere. I’ve missed. In five minutes I shall miss again.”
“But what’s the point?”
“The point, dear friend,” I smiled, “is that after each stroke one is allowed five minutes in which to find the ball. I have forty-three strokes in hand; that gives me three hours and thirty-five minutes in which to look for it. At regular intervals of five minutes I shall swing my club and probably miss. It’s four-thirty now; at eight o’clock, unless I find my ball before, I shall be playing the like. And if you are a sportsman,” I added, “you will bring me out some tea in half an hour.”
* * * * *
At six-thirty I was still looking—and swinging. Smith then came to terms and agreed to share the cup with me for the first year. He goes back to Canada to-morrow, and will spread the good news there that the Old Country can still hold its own in resource, determination and staying power. But next year we are going to play friendly golf again.