The Enchanted Typewriter by John Kendrick Bangs
Chapter X. Golf in Hades
"Jim," said I to Boswell one morning as the type-writer began to work, "perhaps you can enlighten me on a point concerning which a great many people have questioned me recently. Has golf taken hold of Hades yet? You referred to it some time ago, and I've been wondering ever since if it had become a fad with you."
"Has it?" laughed my visitor; "well, I should rather say it had. The fact is, it has been a great boon to the country. You remember my telling you of the projected revolution led by Cromwell, and Caesar, and the others?"
"I do, very well," said I, "and I have been intending to ask you how it came out."
"Oh, everything's as fine and sweet as can be now," rejoined Boswell, somewhat gleefully, "and all because of golf. We are all quiet along the Styx now. All animosities are buried in the general love of golf, and every one of us, high or low, autocrat and revolutionist, is hobnobbing away in peace and happiness on the links. Why, only six weeks ago, Apollyon was for cooking Bonaparte on a waffle iron, and yesterday the two went out to the Cimmerian links together and played a mixed foursome, Bonaparte and Medusa playing against Apollyon and Delilah."
"Dear me! Really?" I cried. "That must have been an interesting match."
"It was, and up to the very last it was nip-and-tuck between 'em," said Boswell. "Apollyon and Delilah won it with one hole up, and they got that on the put. They'd have halved the hole if Medusa's back hair hadn't wiggled loose and bitten her caddie just as she was holeing out."
"It is a remarkable game," said I. "There is no sensation in the world quite equal to that which comes to a man's soul when he has hit the ball a solid clip and sees it sail off through the air towards the green, whizzing musically along like a very bird."
"True," said Boswell; "but I'm rather of the opinion that it's a safer game for shades than for you purely material persons."
"I don't see why," I answered.
"It is easy to understand," returned Boswell. "For instance, with us there is no resistance when by a mischance we come into unexpected contact with the ball. Take the experience of Diogenes and Solomon at the St. Jonah's Links week before last. The Wiseman's Handicap was on. Diogenes and Simple Simon were playing just ahead of Solomon and Montaigne. Solomon was driving in great form. For the first time in his life he seemed able to keep his eye on the ball, and the way he sent it flying through the air was a caution. Diogenes and Simple Simon had both had their second stroke and Solomon drove off. His ball sailed straight ahead like a missile from a catapult, flew in a bee-line for Diogenes, struck him at the base of his brain, continued on through, and landed on the edge of the green."
"Mercy!" I cried. "Didn't it kill him?"
"Of course not," retorted Boswell. "You can't kill a shade. Diogenes didn't know he'd been hit, but if that had happened to one of you material golfers there'd have been a sickening end to that tournament."
"There would, indeed," said I. "There isn't much fun in being hit by a golf-ball. I can testify to that because I have had the experience," and I called to mind the day at St. Peterkin's when I unconsciously stymied with my material self the celebrated Willie McGuffin, the Demon Driver from the Hootmon Links, Scotland. McGuffin made his mark that day if he never did before, and I bear the evidence thereof even now, although the incident took place two years ago, when I did not know enough to keep out of the way of the player who plays so well that he thinks he has a perpetual right of way everywhere.
"What kind of clubs do you Stygians use?" I asked.
"Oh, very much the same kind that you chaps do," returned Boswell. "Everybody experiments with new fads, too, just as you do. Old Peter Stuyvesant, for instance, always drives with his wooden leg, and never uses anything else unless he gets a lie where he's got to."
"His wooden leg?" I roared, with a laugh. "How on earth does he do that?"
"He screws the small end of it into a square block shod like a brassey," explained Boswell, "tees up his ball, goes back ten yards, makes a run at it and kicks the ball pretty nearly out of sight. He can put with it too, like a dream, swinging it sideways."
"But he doesn't call that golf, does he?" I cried.
"What is it?" demanded Boswell.
"I should call it football," I said.
"Not at all," said Boswell. "Not a bit of it. He hasn't any foot on that leg, and he has a golf-club head with a shaft to it. There isn't any rule which says that the shaft shall not look like an inverted nine-pin, nor do any of the accepted authorities require that the club shall be manipulated by the arms. I admit it's bad form the way he plays, but, as Stuyvesant himself says, he never did travel on his shape."
"Suppose he gets a cuppy lie?" I asked, very much interested at the first news from Hades of the famous old Dutchman.
"Oh, he does one of two things," said Boswell. "He stubs it out with his toe, or goes back and plays two more. Munchausen plays a good game too. He beat the colonel forty-seven straight holes last Wednesday, and all Hades has been talking about it ever since."
"Who is the colonel?" I asked, innocently.
"Bogey," returned Boswell. "Didn't you ever hear of Colonel Bogey?"
"Of course," I replied, "but I always supposed Bogey was an imaginary opponent, not a real one."
"So he is," said Boswell.
"Then you mean--"
"I mean that Munchausen beat him forty-seven up," said Boswell.
"Were there any witnesses?" I demanded, for I had little faith in Munchausen's regard for the eternal verities, among which a golf-card must be numbered if the game is to survive.
"Yes, a hundred," said Boswell. "There was only one trouble with 'em." Here the great biographer laughed. "They were all imaginary, like the colonel."
"And Munchausen's score?" I queried.
"The same, naturally. But it makes him king-pin in golf circles just the same, because nobody can go back on his logic," said Boswell. "Munchausen reasoned it out very logically indeed, and largely, he said, to protect his own reputation. Here is an imaginary warrior, said he, who makes a bully, but wholly imaginary, score at golf. He sends me an imaginary challenge to play him forty-seven holes. I accept, not so much because I consider myself a golfer as because I am an imaginer--if there is such a word."
"Ask Dr. Johnson," said I, a little sarcastically. I always grow sarcastic when golf is mentioned.
"Dr. Johnson be--" began Boswell.
"Boswell!" I remonstrated.
"Dr. Johnson be it, I was about to say," clicked the type-writer, suavely; but the ink was thick and inclined to spread. "Munchausen felt that Bogey was encroaching on his preserve as a man with an imagination."
"I have always considered Colonel Bogey a liar," said I. "He joins all the clubs and puts up an ideal score before he has played over the links."
"That isn't the point at all," said Boswell. "Golfers don't lie. Realists don't lie. Nobody in polite--or say, rather, accepted-- society lies. They all imagine. Munchausen realizes that he has only one claim to recognition, and that is based entirely upon his imagination. So when the imaginary Colonel Bogey sent him an imaginary challenge to play him forty-seven holes at golf--"
"Why forty-seven?" I asked.
"An imaginary number," explained Boswell. "Don't interrupt. As I say, when the imaginary colonel--"
"I must interrupt," said I. "What was he colonel of?"
"A regiment of perfect caddies," said Boswell.
"Ah, I see," I replied. "Imaginary in his command. There isn't one perfect caddy, much less a regiment of the little reprobates."
"You are wrong there," said Boswell. "You don't know how to produce a good caddy--but good caddies can be made."
"How?" I cried, for I have suffered. "I'll have the plan patented."
"Take a flexible brassey, and at the ninth hole, if they deserve it, give them eighteen strokes across the legs with all your strength," said Boswell. "But, as I said before, don't interrupt. I haven't much time left to talk with you."
"But I must ask one more question," I put in, for I was growing excited over a new idea. "You say give them eighteen strokes across the legs. Across whose legs?"
"Yours," replied Boswell. "Just take your caddy up, place him across your knees, and spank him with your brassey. Spank isn't a good golf term, but it is good enough for the average caddy; in fact, it will do him good."
"Go on," said I, with a mental resolve to adopt his prescription.
"Well," said Boswell, "Munchausen, having received an imaginary challenge from an imaginary opponent, accepted. He went out to the links with an imaginary ball, an imaginary bagful of fanciful clubs, and licked the imaginary life out of the colonel."
"Still, I don't see," said I, somewhat jealously, perhaps, "how that makes him king-pin in golf circles. Where did he play?"
"On imaginary links," said Boswell.
"Poh!" I ejaculated.
"Don't sneer," said Boswell. "You know yourself that the links you imagine are far better than any others."
"What is Munchausen's strongest point?" I asked, seeing that there was no arguing with the man--"driving, approaching, or putting?"
"None of the three. He cannot put, he foozles every drive, and at approaching he's a consummate ass," said Boswell.
"Then what can he do?" I cried.
"Count," said Boswell. "Haven't you learned that yet? You can spend hours learning how to drive, weeks to approach, and months to put. But if you want to win you must know how to count."
I was silent, and for the first time in my life I realized that Munchausen was not so very different from certain golfers I have met in my short day as a golfiac, and then Boswell put in:
"You see, it isn't lofting or driving that wins," he continued. "Cups aren't won on putting or approaching. It's the man who puts in the best card who becomes the champion."
"I am afraid you are right," I said, sadly, "but I am sorry to find that Hades is as badly off as we mortals in that matter."
"Golf, sir," retorted Boswell, sententiously, "is the same everywhere, and that which is dome in our world is directly in line with what is developed in yours."
"I'm sorry for Hades," said I; "but to continue about golf-- do the ladies play much on your links?"
"Well, rather," returned Boswell, "and it's rather amusing to watch them at it, too. Xanthippe with her Greek clothes finds it rather difficult; but for rare sport you ought to see Queen Elizabeth trying to keep her eye on the ball over her ruff! It really is one of the finest spectacles you ever saw."
"But why don't they dress properly?"
"Ah," sighed Boswell, "that is one of the things about Hades that destroys all the charm of life there. We are but shades."
"Granted," said I, "but your garments can--"
"Our garments can't," said Boswell. "Through all eternity we shades of our former selves are doomed to wear the shadows of our former clothes."
"Then what the devil does a poor dress-maker do who goes to Hades?" I cried.
"She makes over the things she made before," said Boswell. "That's why, my dear fellow," the biographer added, becoming confidential-- "that's why some people confound Hades with--ah--the other place, don't you know."
"Still, there's golf!" I said; "and that's a panacea for all ills. You enjoy it, don't you?"
"Me?" cried Boswell. "Me enjoy it? Not on all the lives in Christendom. It is the direst drudgery for me."
"Drudgery?" I said. "Bah! Nonsense, Boswell!"
"You forget--" he began.
"Forget? It must be you who forget, if you call golf drudgery."
"No," sighed the genial spirit. "No, *I* don't forget. I remember."
"Remember what?" I demanded.
"That I am Dr. Johnson's caddy!" was the answer. And then came a heart-rending sigh, and from that time on all was silence. I repeatedly put questions to the machine, made observations to it, derided it, insulted it, but there was no response.
It has so continued to this day, and I can only conclude the story of my Enchanted Type-writer by saying that I presume golf has taken the same hold upon Hades that it has upon this world, and that I need not hope to hear more from that attractive region until the game has relaxed its grip, which I know can never be.
Hence let me say to those who have been good enough to follow me through the realms of the Styx that I bid them an affectionate farewell and thank them for their kind attention to my chronicles. They are all truthful; but now that the source of supply is cut off I cannot prove it. I can only hope that for one and all the future may hold as much of pleasure as the place of departed spirits has held for me.