At the hour of the day which he had selected the club-house was empty, and he had just resigned himself to a solitary game, when, with a whirr and a rattle, a grey racing-car drove up, and from it emerged the same long young man whom, a couple of days earlier, he had seen wriggle out from underneath the same machine. It was Reggie Byng’s habit also not to allow anything, even love, to interfere with golf; and not even the prospect of hanging about the castle grounds in the hope of catching a glimpse of Alice Faraday and exchanging timorous words with her had been enough to keep him from the links.
Reggie surveyed George with a friendly eye. He had a dim recollection of having seen him before somewhere at some time or other, and Reggie had the pleasing disposition which caused him to rank anybody whom he had seen somewhere at some time or other as a bosom friend.
“Hullo! Hullo! Hullo!” he observed.
“Good morning,” said George.
“Waiting for somebody?”
“How about it, then? Shall we stagger forth?”
George found himself speculating upon Reggie. He was unable to place him. That he was a friend of Maud he knew, and guessed that he was also a resident of the castle. He would have liked to question Reggie, to probe him, to collect from him inside information as to the progress of events within the castle walls; but it is a peculiarity of golf, as of love, that it temporarily changes the natures of its victims; and Reggie, a confirmed babbler off the links, became while in action a stern, silent, intent person, his whole being centred on the game. With the exception of a casual remark of a technical nature when he met George on the various tees, and an occasional expletive when things went wrong with his ball, he eschewed conversation. It was not till the end of the round that he became himself again.
“If I’d known you were such hot stuff,” he declared generously, as George holed his eighteenth putt from a distance of ten feet, “I’d have got you to give me a stroke or two.”
“I was on my game today,” said George modestly. “Sometimes I slice as if I were cutting bread and can’t putt to hit a haystack.”
“Let me know when one of those times comes along, and I’ll take you on again. I don’t know when I’ve seen anything fruitier than the way you got out of the bunker at the fifteenth. It reminded me of a match I saw between—” Reggie became technical. At the end of his observations he climbed into the grey car.
“Can I drop you anywhere?”
“Thanks,” said George. “If it’s not taking you out your way.”
“I’m staying at Belpher Castle.”
“I live quite near there. Perhaps you’d care to come in and have a drink on your way?”
“A ripe scheme,” agreed Reggie
Ten minutes in the grey car ate up the distance between the links and George’s cottage. Reggie Byng passed these minutes, in the intervals of eluding carts and foiling the apparently suicidal intentions of some stray fowls, in jerky conversation on the subject of his iron-shots, with which he expressed a deep satisfaction.