THE CLICKING OF CUTHBERT
THE CLICKING OF CUTHBERT
P. G. WODEHOUSE
TO THE IMMORTAL MEMORY OF
JOHN HENRIE AND PAT ROGIE
WHO AT EDINBURGH IN THE YEAR 1593 A.D.
WERE IMPRISONED FOR
"PLAYING OF THE GOWFF ON THE LINKS OF LEITH
EVERY SABBATH THE TIME OF THE SERMONSES"
ALSO OF ROBERT ROBERTSON WHO GOT IT IN THE NECK
IN 1604 A.D. FOR THE SAME REASON
This book marks an epoch in my literary career. It is written in
blood. It is the outpouring of a soul as deeply seared by Fate's
unkindness as the pretty on the dog-leg hole of the second nine was
ever seared by my iron. It is the work of a very nearly desperate man
an eighteen-handicap man who has got to look extremely slippy if he
doesn't want to find himself in the twenties again.
As a writer of light fiction I have always till now been handicapped
by the fact that my disposition was cheerful my heart intact and my
life unsoured. Handicapped I say because the public likes to feel
that a writer of farcical stories is piquantly miserable in his private
life and that if he turns out anything amusing he does it simply in
order to obtain relief from the almost insupportable weight of an
existence which he has long since realized to be a wash-out. Well
today I am just like that.
Two years ago I admit I was a shallow _farceur_. My work lacked
depth. I wrote flippantly simply because I was having a thoroughly good
time. Then I took up golf and now I can smile through the tears and
laugh like Figaro that I may not weep and generally hold my head up
and feel that I am entitled to respect.
If you find anything in this volume that amuses you kindly bear in
mind that it was probably written on my return home after losing three
balls in the gorse or breaking the head off a favourite driver: and
with a murmured "Brave fellow! Brave fellow!" recall the story of the
clown jesting while his child lay dying at home. That is all. Thank you
for your sympathy. It means more to me than I can say. Do you think
that if I tried the square stance for a bit.... But after all this
cannot interest you. Leave me to my misery.
POSTSCRIPT.--In the second chapter I allude to Stout Cortez staring at
the Pacific. Shortly after the appearance of this narrative in serial
form in America I received an anonymous letter containing the words
"You big stiff it wasn't Cortez it was Balboa." This I believe is
historically accurate. On the other hand if Cortez was good enough for
Keats he is good enough for me. Besides even if it _was_ Balboa
the Pacific was open for being stared at about that time and I see no
reason why Cortez should not have had a look at it as well.
P. G. WODEHOUSE.
I. THE CLICKING OF CUTHBERT
II. A WOMAN IS ONLY A WOMAN
III. A MIXED THREESOME
IV. SUNDERED HEARTS
V. THE SALVATION OF GEORGE MACKINTOSH
VI. ORDEAL BY GOLF
VII. THE LONG HOLE
VIII. THE HEEL OF ACHILLES
IX. THE ROUGH STUFF
X. THE COMING OF GOWF
_The Clicking of Cuthbert_
The young man came into the smoking-room of the clubhouse and flung
his bag with a clatter on the floor. He sank moodily into an arm-chair
and pressed the bell.
The young man pointed at the bag with every evidence of distaste.
"You may have these clubs" he said. "Take them away. If you don't want
them yourself give them to one of the caddies."
Across the room the Oldest Member gazed at him with a grave sadness
through the smoke of his pipe. His eye was deep and dreamy--the eye of
a man who as the poet says has seen Golf steadily and seen it whole.
"You are giving up golf?" he said.
He was not altogether unprepared for such an attitude on the young
man's part: for from his eyrie on the terrace above the ninth green he
had observed him start out on the afternoon's round and had seen him
lose a couple of balls in the lake at the second hole after taking
seven strokes at the first.
"Yes!" cried the young man fiercely. "For ever dammit! Footling game!
Blanked infernal fat-headed silly ass of a game! Nothing but a waste of
The Sage winced.
"Don't say that my boy."
"But I do say it. What earthly good is golf? Life is stern and life is
earnest. We live in a practical age. All round us we see foreign
competition making itself unpleasant. And we spend our time playing
golf! What do we get out of it? Is golf any _use_? That's what I'm
asking you. Can you name me a single case where devotion to this
pestilential pastime has done a man any practical good?"
The Sage smiled gently.
"I could name a thousand."
"One will do."
"I will select" said the Sage "from the innumerable memories that
rush to my mind the story of Cuthbert Banks."
"Never heard of him."
"Be of good cheer" said the Oldest Member. "You are going to hear of
* * * * *
It was in the picturesque little settlement of Wood Hills (said the
Oldest Member) that the incidents occurred which I am about to relate.
Even if you have never been in Wood Hills that suburban paradise is
probably familiar to you by name. Situated at a convenient distance
from the city it combines in a notable manner the advantages of town
life with the pleasant surroundings and healthful air of the country.
Its inhabitants live in commodious houses standing in their own
grounds and enjoy so many luxuries--such as gravel soil main
drainage electric light telephone baths (h. and c.) and company's
own water that you might be pardoned for imagining life to be so ideal
for them that no possible improvement could be added to their lot. Mrs.
Willoughby Smethurst was under no such delusion. What Wood Hills needed
to make it perfect she realized was Culture. Material comforts are
all very well but if the _summum bonum_ is to be achieved the
Soul also demands a look in and it was Mrs. Smethurst's unfaltering
resolve that never while she had her strength should the Soul be handed
the loser's end. It was her intention to make Wood Hills a centre of
all that was most cultivated and refined and golly! how she had
succeeded. Under her presidency the Wood Hills Literary and Debating
Society had tripled its membership.
But there is always a fly in the ointment a caterpillar in the salad.
The local golf club an institution to which Mrs. Smethurst strongly
objected had also tripled its membership; and the division of the
community into two rival camps the Golfers and the Cultured had
become more marked than ever. This division always acute had attained
now to the dimensions of a Schism. The rival sects treated one another
with a cold hostility.
Unfortunate episodes came to widen the breach. Mrs. Smethurst's house
adjoined the links standing to the right of the fourth tee: and as
the Literary Society was in the habit of entertaining visiting
lecturers many a golfer had foozled his drive owing to sudden loud
outbursts of applause coinciding with his down-swing. And not long
before this story opens a sliced ball whizzing in at the open window
had come within an ace of incapacitating Raymond Parsloe Devine the
rising young novelist (who rose at that moment a clear foot and a half)
from any further exercise of his art. Two inches indeed to the right
and Raymond must inevitably have handed in his dinner-pail.
To make matters worse a ring at the front-door bell followed almost
immediately and the maid ushered in a young man of pleasing appearance
in a sweater and baggy knickerbockers who apologetically but firmly
insisted on playing his ball where it lay and what with the shock of
the lecturer's narrow escape and the spectacle of the intruder standing
on the table and working away with a niblick the afternoon's session
had to be classed as a complete frost. Mr. Devine's determination from
which no argument could swerve him to deliver the rest of his lecture
in the coal-cellar gave the meeting a jolt from which it never
I have dwelt upon this incident because it was the means of
introducing Cuthbert Banks to Mrs. Smethurst's niece Adeline. As
Cuthbert for it was he who had so nearly reduced the muster-roll of
rising novelists by one hopped down from the table after his stroke
he was suddenly aware that a beautiful girl was looking at him
intently. As a matter of fact everyone in the room was looking at him
intently none more so than Raymond Parsloe Devine but none of the
others were beautiful girls. Long as the members of Wood Hills Literary
Society were on brain they were short on looks and to Cuthbert's
excited eye Adeline Smethurst stood out like a jewel in a pile of
He had never seen her before for she had only arrived at her aunt's
house on the previous day but he was perfectly certain that life even
when lived in the midst of gravel soil main drainage and company's
own water was going to be a pretty poor affair if he did not see her
again. Yes Cuthbert was in love: and it is interesting to record as
showing the effect of the tender emotion on a man's game that twenty
minutes after he had met Adeline he did the short eleventh in one and
as near as a toucher got a three on the four-hundred-yard twelfth.
I will skip lightly over the intermediate stages of Cuthbert's
courtship and come to the moment when--at the annual ball in aid of the
local Cottage Hospital the only occasion during the year on which the
lion so to speak lay down with the lamb and the Golfers and the
Cultured met on terms of easy comradeship their differences
temporarily laid aside--he proposed to Adeline and was badly stymied.
That fair soulful girl could not see him with a spy-glass.
"Mr. Banks" she said "I will speak frankly."
"Charge right ahead" assented Cuthbert.
"Deeply sensible as I am of----"
"I know. Of the honour and the compliment and all that. But passing
lightly over all that guff what seems to be the trouble? I love you to
"Love is not everything."
"You're wrong" said Cuthbert earnestly. "You're right off it.
Love----" And he was about to dilate on the theme when she interrupted
"I am a girl of ambition."
"And very nice too" said Cuthbert.
"I am a girl of ambition" repeated Adeline "and I realize that the
fulfilment of my ambitions must come through my husband. I am very
"What!" cried Cuthbert. "You ordinary? Why you are a pearl among
women the queen of your sex. You can't have been looking in a glass
lately. You stand alone. Simply alone. You make the rest look like
"Well" said Adeline softening a trifle "I believe I am fairly
"Anybody who was content to call you fairly good-looking would describe
the Taj Mahal as a pretty nifty tomb."
"But that is not the point. What I mean is if I marry a nonentity I
shall be a nonentity myself for ever. And I would sooner die than be a
"And if I follow your reasoning you think that that lets _me_
"Well really Mr. Banks _have_ you done anything or are you
likely ever to do anything worth while?"
"It's true" he said "I didn't finish in the first ten in the Open
and I was knocked out in the semi-final of the Amateur but I won the
French Open last year."
"The French Open Championship. Golf you know."
"Golf! You waste all your time playing golf. I admire a man who is more
spiritual more intellectual."
A pang of jealousy rent Cuthbert's bosom.
"Like What's-his-name Devine?" he said sullenly.
"Mr. Devine" replied Adeline blushing faintly "is going to be a
great man. Already he has achieved much. The critics say that he is
more Russian than any other young English writer."
"And is that good?"
"Of course it's good."
"I should have thought the wheeze would be to be more English than any
other young English writer."
"Nonsense! Who wants an English writer to be English? You've got to be
Russian or Spanish or something to be a real success. The mantle of the
great Russians has descended on Mr. Devine."
"From what I've heard of Russians I should hate to have that happen to
"There is no danger of that" said Adeline scornfully.
"Oh! Well let me tell you that there is a lot more in me than you
"That might easily be so."
"You think I'm not spiritual and intellectual" said Cuthbert deeply
moved. "Very well. Tomorrow I join the Literary Society."
Even as he spoke the words his leg was itching to kick himself for
being such a chump but the sudden expression of pleasure on Adeline's
face soothed him; and he went home that night with the feeling that he
had taken on something rather attractive. It was only in the cold grey
light of the morning that he realized what he had let himself in for.
I do not know if you have had any experience of suburban literary
societies but the one that flourished under the eye of Mrs. Willoughby
Smethurst at Wood Hills was rather more so than the average. With my
feeble powers of narrative I cannot hope to make clear to you all that
Cuthbert Banks endured in the next few weeks. And even if I could I
doubt if I should do so. It is all very well to excite pity and terror
as Aristotle recommends but there are limits. In the ancient Greek
tragedies it was an ironclad rule that all the real rough stuff should
take place off-stage and I shall follow this admirable principle. It
will suffice if I say merely that J. Cuthbert Banks had a thin time.
After attending eleven debates and fourteen lectures on _vers libre_
Poetry the Seventeenth-Century Essayists the Neo-Scandinavian
Movement in Portuguese Literature and other subjects of a similar
nature he grew so enfeebled that on the rare occasions when he had
time for a visit to the links he had to take a full iron for his mashie
It was not simply the oppressive nature of the debates and lectures
that sapped his vitality. What really got right in amongst him was the
torture of seeing Adeline's adoration of Raymond Parsloe Devine. The
man seemed to have made the deepest possible impression upon her
plastic emotions. When he spoke she leaned forward with parted lips
and looked at him. When he was not speaking--which was seldom--she
leaned back and looked at him. And when he happened to take the next
seat to her she leaned sideways and looked at him. One glance at Mr.
Devine would have been more than enough for Cuthbert; but Adeline found
him a spectacle that never palled. She could not have gazed at him with
a more rapturous intensity if she had been a small child and he a
saucer of ice-cream. All this Cuthbert had to witness while still
endeavouring to retain the possession of his faculties sufficiently to
enable him to duck and back away if somebody suddenly asked him what he
thought of the sombre realism of Vladimir Brusiloff. It is little
wonder that he tossed in bed picking at the coverlet through
sleepless nights and had to have all his waistcoats taken in three
inches to keep them from sagging.
This Vladimir Brusiloff to whom I have referred was the famous Russian
novelist and owing to the fact of his being in the country on a
lecturing tour at the moment there had been something of a boom in his
works. The Wood Hills Literary Society had been studying them for
weeks and never since his first entrance into intellectual circles had
Cuthbert Banks come nearer to throwing in the towel. Vladimir
specialized in grey studies of hopeless misery where nothing happened
till page three hundred and eighty when the moujik decided to commit
suicide. It was tough going for a man whose deepest reading hitherto
had been Vardon on the Push-Shot and there can be no greater proof of
the magic of love than the fact that Cuthbert stuck it without a cry.
But the strain was terrible and I am inclined to think that he must
have cracked had it not been for the daily reports in the papers of
the internecine strife which was proceeding so briskly in Russia.
Cuthbert was an optimist at heart and it seemed to him that at the
rate at which the inhabitants of that interesting country were
murdering one another the supply of Russian novelists must eventually
One morning as he tottered down the road for the short walk which was
now almost the only exercise to which he was equal Cuthbert met
Adeline. A spasm of anguish flitted through all his nerve-centres as he
saw that she was accompanied by Raymond Parsloe Devine.
"Good morning Mr. Banks" said Adeline.
"Good morning" said Cuthbert hollowly.
"Such good news about Vladimir Brusiloff."
"Dead?" said Cuthbert with a touch of hope.
"Dead? Of course not. Why should he be? No Aunt Emily met his manager
after his lecture at Queen's Hall yesterday and he has promised that
Mr. Brusiloff shall come to her next Wednesday reception."
"Oh ah!" said Cuthbert dully.
"I don't know how she managed it. I think she must have told him that
Mr. Devine would be there to meet him."
"But you said he was coming" argued Cuthbert.
"I shall be very glad" said Raymond Devine "of the opportunity of
"I'm sure" said Adeline "he will be very glad of the opportunity of
"Possibly" said Mr. Devine. "Possibly. Competent critics have said
that my work closely resembles that of the great Russian Masters."
"Your psychology is so deep."
"And your atmosphere."
Cuthbert in a perfect agony of spirit prepared to withdraw from this
love-feast. The sun was shining brightly but the world was black to
him. Birds sang in the tree-tops but he did not hear them. He might
have been a moujik for all the pleasure he found in life.
"You will be there Mr. Banks?" said Adeline as he turned away.
"Oh all right" said Cuthbert.
When Cuthbert had entered the drawing-room on the following Wednesday