The Golf Mascot.
TOMMY was not one of those over-sensitive people who shrink from any situation which is likely to be at all unpleasant. Rather the reverse, in fact. Situations which might have seemed unpleasant to the ordinary person did not disturb Tommy at all. When in the previous term, shooting with a catapult, he had put a bullet, purely by accident, through a stout gentleman’s top-hat, Tommy had apologised with an easy grace which suggested that the thing struck him merely as an amusing joke against himself. When he had been caught in the very act of lighting a Chinese cracker during a French lesson, he had not turned a hair.
But now he did shrink, to a certain extent, from the task of explaining to Jimmy that the stone entrusted to his care was at that moment lying in Herr Steingruber’s capacious waistcoat-pocket. Jimmy had seemed to set such store on that dingy pebble. Tommy was conscious of feeling a little uncertain as to how he would take the story of its loss.
He broke the bad news to him after school.
By way of breaking it gently he led off with a repetition of his favourite remark, that he didn’t think much of the stone. “It’s a rotten sort of thing,” he said. “No good to anybody, really. You aren’t really awfully keen on it, are you?”
“Great Scott,” cried Jimmy. “You haven’t lost it?”
“Lost it! Good heavens, no. Do you think I can’t look after a thing?”
“Sorry. I thought from what you said——”
“Oh, no. I haven’t lost it. The fact is——”
“Well, it was like this. I had got frightfully nervous about it, wanting to see that it was safe and all that, and I just took it out of my pocket, to look at, just to see that it was all right, you know, and—well, it somehow happened that old Steingruber was hanging about, and—well, he collared it. It’s nothing to look so cut up about,” he added, catching sight of Jimmy’s face. “I’ll get it back all right. I tried to after school. I went up to him, and asked him to play the ’cello to me this afternoon, but he wasn’t taking any. The fact is, we were ragging a good bit in form to-day, and he was a bit fed up.”
“It’s my fault,” said Jimmy resignedly. “I ought never to have let the thing out of my hands. It can’t be helped now, though.”
“That’s right. Keep looking on the bright side.”
“I’ll go and see old Steingruber about it after school. He’ll probably be feeling better then. Anyhow, when I tell him the thing’s really mine, he’ll let me have it back, I should think.”
“Certain to. He’s a good old sort.”
Jimmy found it difficult to keep his mind on his work that afternoon. The loss of the blue stone worried him. It was not quite so bad as if it had actually been lost, of course. Herr Steingruber might be relied upon to keep it safe; and, if approached properly when in his usual good temper, would almost certainly give it back. The German master was fond of the boys, and his wrath never lasted long. But, nevertheless, Jimmy was worried. One result of which was that he received one hundred lines from Mr. Spinder for inattention.
He resolved to approach Herr Steingruber at once.
When he came to the latter’s room, however, he found that he was not there. Herr Steingruber, he was informed, had gone out to the links to play golf with Mr. Spinder. Jimmy decided to postpone his appeal till his return.
The Herr, meanwhile, with his bag of clubs under his arm, was trudging round the links with Mr. Spinder. The latter was a good golfer, but the Herr, at present, was a novice. He was vigorous and enthusiastic, but he lacked skill.
They were now at the fourth tee. Mr. Spinder drove off, a hard, skimming drive which took him on to the green. Then Herr Steingruber stepped forward.
It was a pleasant sight to see the German master at work on the links. He had a way of addressing the ball that was all his own. He stood with legs widely stretched, a fixed and serious expression on his face. Swaying slightly, he waggled his club to and fro for a few moments, then very slowly raised it above his shoulder. Then, drawing a deep breath, he swiped. The ball remained where it was. Breathing a guttural exclamation, he proceeded, still with the same fixed look, to get into position again. This time about a foot of turf came away, gashed up by his club. Herr Steingruber looked at it owlishly.
“How happen did dot?” he asked.
“You did not keep your eye on the ball,” said Mr. Spinder.
“Ach, Himmel, my eye on der ball from der very beginning vos. Vhot shall I now do?”
“Better replace England first of all,” suggested his opponent. The Herr picked up the slab of turf, and patted it down into its place. After which he got into position again.
This time he was more fortunate. By a singular accident he happened to strike the ball full and fair. There was always plenty of power in his strokes, so that when, as now, he managed to hit the ball, it always travelled. On this occasion, aided by a puff of wind, it hummed through the air, and landed on the green, only a yard behind his opponent’s.
“Zo!” he grunted triumphantly.
With the luck of the beginner at golf he continued his success. His first putt sent the ball into the hole.
“Zo! I imbrove!” he said.
Mr. Spinder, muttering something under his breath about flukes, turned to his own ball. Putting was his weak point, and it took him two more strokes to hole out. As he was giving his opponent two strokes a hole, this meant that he had not managed even to halve the hole with him. The German master was puffed up with honest pride as they made their way to the next tee.
The fifth hole also fell to Herr Steingruber. He plodded along, and did it in eight. Mr. Spinder, getting entangled in a bunker, which the Herr had miraculously contrived to avoid, could only hole out in seven.
By this time, the Herr was jubilant. His opponent, who never liked being beaten, even when he was giving away strokes, was silent and gloomy. The Herr, beaming, began to enlarge on the situation.
“Almost I begin to dthink,” he said, “dot it vos my liddle masgot dot makes me to-day so well blay. Yah, dot vos der liddle shap.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Steingruber; but I am waiting for you to drive off.”
“Drive off will I, but virst my liddle masgot most I douch.”
He thrust a finger into his waistcoat-pocket.
“I should like to see this mascot,” said Mr. Spinder. “It must be a remarkably powerful charm if it gives you the sort of luck you have been having during this round. A remarkably powerful charm.”
“Dis vos him.”
Herr Steingruber extended the blue stone towards his opponent between a gigantic thumb and forefinger. Mr. Spinder took it.
As he looked at it, a close observer might have noticed him start. He gazed at the small object on the palm of his hand with as keen an interest as if it had been the Koh-i-noor. Herr Steingruber prattled on.
“It vos during der lesson do-day. I see der boy Armsdrong with zomeding under der desk blaying. I do myself ‘Zo!’ zay. ‘What is id dot der liddle Armsdrong do zo with inderest und addention examine?’ Der boy gontinue do examine what he do examine. But me I do wait my obbordunity. I grouch. I sbring. ‘What is id, boy,’ I say, ‘that you instead of addending do your Sherman dranslation loog ad?’ Id vos dis liddle masgot. I id confisgate. Und id bring me der goot lug ad der golf-game. Zo.”
Mr. Spinder continued to behave, as, according to the Herr, Tommy Armstrong had done. His whole attention seemed wrapped up in the blue stone.
“How did you get it?” he said, in a voice which, though the German master did not notice it, was tremulous with excitement.
“I vos telling you, my Sbinder. From der boy Armsdrong in der glass-room. He vos with id blaying, when I grouch, I sbring, und I id gonfisgate.”
“But how did it come into his possession?”
“Zot I do not know.”
Mr. Spinder, with a deep breath, handed back the stone, which the German master replaced in his waistcoat-pocket.
“Do my heart next,” he explained humorously.
“Shall we go on with the game?” said Mr. Spinder.
The Herr prepared once more to address the ball. This time the mascot seemed to have lost its power temporarily. A sandy bunker lay between the tee and the hole. Into this his ball flew. His face clouded, but cleared again almost immediately, for his opponent’s ball performed exactly the same manœuvre.
“We are in misfortune gombanions, my Sbinder,” he remarked.
At the bunker he drew out the stone again. Then, replacing it, he succeeded, after three attempts, in getting his ball to the other side.
“Let me have another look at that stone, Steingruber,” said Mr. Spinder. “It interests me.” He took it in his hand, but hardly had he done so when he let it fall into the sand. Stooping quickly, he had picked it up and transferred it to his own pocket before the short-sighted German master could see what was happening.
“I am extremely sorry, Steingruber,” he said. “I have dropped your mascot into the sand. Don’t you bother. I will look for it.” But, after a prolonged search, he rose to his feet empty-handed.
“I fear it is lost,” he said. “This sand makes it impossible to find a small object like that. I am extremely sorry. It was inexcusably careless of me.”
“My masgot,” moaned the German master.
“Never mind,” said Mr. Spinder. “When a golfer loses his opponent’s mascot, he is far more likely to bring bad luck to himself than to his opponent. Let us play on, shall we?”
And it seemed as if he were right in his supposition, for, though Herr Steingruber played badly, Mr. Spinder played worse; and at the conclusion of the round, the German master had won a substantial victory, and was thoroughly pleased with life once more.
Mr. Spinder and the Stone.
Directly he heard that the golfers had been seen on the school premises, Jimmy hurried to Herr Steingruber’s room, to open negotiations regarding the blue stone. He found the Herr standing in the middle of the floor, addressing an imaginary ball with a brassy. The table was pushed back against the wall, the chairs were stacked in a heap in one corner of the room, and there were some pieces of broken china on the carpet, for Herr Steingruber, in his efforts to improve his game, had broken a gas-globe.
The German master opened conversation directly Jimmy entered.
“All der gread masders of der game,” he said, “der indoor for imbroving der swing bractice regommend. Der feet well abart und virmly vixed do der ground, der zlow zwing up mit der eyes vixed always on der ball; und der quick zwing down——”
Here he suited the action to the words, and the “quick zwing down” nearly took Jimmy on the shin. He jumped back. Herr Steingruber was full of apologies.
“Ach, zo! Vorgetting was I dot der sbace in dis room gonfined vos. Almost I give you der nasty sore blace, my liddle Zdewart. Dot vos voolishness of me, zo?”
“It’s all right, sir,” said Jimmy. “No harm done. Shall I pick up this broken china?”
The German master looked blankly at the ruins on the floor.
“Ach Himmel, how I dot done? Dot der Braid lofding-shot must have been. I vos der gareless shap, hein? Jah, my liddle vellow, der bieces pick up. I must my indoor-bractice do der bood-room gonfine. Zo.”
Jimmy picked up the broken globe, put the pieces in the fireplace, and turned to business.
“Please, sir, do you remember taking a queer little blue stone from Armstrong this morning?”
“Jah! Dot my masgot vos. Der liddle Armsdrong with id in der Sherman lesson play, und I grouch, I sbring, und I id gonfisgate. Zo.”
“I was wondering if you would let me have it back, sir. It was mine, really. I only lent it to Armstrong. I should be awfully obliged if you would give it me, sir. I promised the man who gave it me that I would take great care of it. He’d be sick——”
“Zick? How dot vos?”
“Annoyed, sir. He’d be very much annoyed if I hadn’t got it when he asked me for it.”
The soft-hearted German master was touched.
“Ach, my liddle Zdewart, vot you gall kettle of fish dis vos. As your boet says, of all zad vorts of dongue or ben, der zaddest vos dese, it mide haf been. Willingly would I der ztone redurn, had I id; but alas! on der lingks dis afternoon Mr. Sbinder he says, ‘Let me at dot liddle sdone loog,’ und I id to him give, und he id in der sand of der bunker garelessly drops. Id is lost, my liddle vellow, dis blaything of yours.”
Jimmy’s voice showed his dismay. The good-natured German master was sorry for him.
“Ach, do not zorrowful be, my liddle Zdewart. Zis zo disdressing agcident you vill in dime vorget. See! Here is a shillung. Zpend id on zweets, und vorget der lost blaything.”
Jimmy declined the proffered coin.
“It’s all right, sir,” he said. ‘It really doesn’t matter. If it’s lost, it can’t be helped.”
Herr Steingruber beamed approvingly, ”Dot vos der vilosophigal sbirit, Zdewart, vich I vos glad do zee. In Shermany we are all vilosophers. We do not shed der tear. We zay, as you have zaid, ‘All right!’ Dot vos der broper sdate of mind, Zdewart. Jah, zo.”
Jimmy retired, feeling in anything but that philosophical frame of mind which Herr Steingruber had praised so highly. What he was to say to Sam Burrows when he came and asked for the stone he did not like to think. Nor could he imagine what the consequences of the loss might be. Sam had hinted vaguely at tremendous issues that hung on the blue stone. He felt more than ever that he had been a fool to entrust so valuable a piece of property to a reckless fellow like Tommy. He was enough of a philosopher not to feel too sore against the latter. He realised that it was really all his own fault. It was not as if he had not known what sort of a fellow Tommy was. Knowing him to be careless and casual, he ought never to have let him have the stone at all.
He was feeling very sorry for himself as he went back to the common-room to write the hundred lines which Mr. Spinder had set him to do.
Mr. Spinder, meanwhile, was also busily occupied. Seated in his room at a table, lit by a green-shaded lamp, he was poring over a ponderous volume of Indian history. The boys at Marleigh knew nothing of it, but Mr. Spinder had almost a European reputation as an authority on the more obscure by-ways of Indian life and thought. He had taken the study up at Oxford more as a hobby than anything else, and it had fascinated him. There were probably not three men in the country who knew more than Mr. Spinder about the curious thoughts and superstitions of the Indian.
His whole body was quivering with excitement as he read. He passed his fingers nervously through his thin hair.
“It is,” he murmured. “It must be. The description tallies exactly. ‘Now this stone is called the Tear of Heaven, for it is blue as the skies and misty as a tear. And on it are the words written, Allah is God.’ The Tear of Heaven! The Sacred Stone itself! What miracle brought it here? What does it all mean?”
He took out the blue stone, and gazed at it fixedly in the lamp-light.
“ ‘Blue as the skies and misty as a tear.’ It is. It must be. What stupendous good fortune. ‘Allah is God.’ ”
He rose from his seat and strode to and fro nervously. His hands trembled as he walked. The pupils of his eyes had narrowed to pin-points.
As he stood by the table, looking down at the blue stone, there was a knock at the door. He was too engrossed to hear it. The knock was repeated. Still he paid no attention.
The door opened, and Jimmy walked in, bearing some sheets of foolscap.
Jimmy had managed to finish his hundred lines in record time. Tommy Armstrong, always full of ingenious schemes, had hit upon a labour-saving device, not unconnected with the tying together of three penholders. This had enabled Jimmy to get through his imposition with unparalleled speed.
Not getting any answer to his knocks, he had walked into the room, to find Mr. Spinder apparently absorbed in contemplation of some object on the table. Jimmy went towards him, his footsteps making little noise on the soft carpet. And as he got to the table, he saw what it was that was occupying the master’s attention. There on the table, in the full glare of the lamp, was the lost stone.
Jimmy was unable to repress a slight cry of astonishment. Mr. Spinder turned like a trapped animal, his face blazing with anger. “Who are you? What do you want?” With a swift movement of his hand he seized the stone, and put it in his pocket. “Why did you come in without knocking?”
“I did knock, sir,” said Jimmy. “But you didn’t hear me. I knocked twice. I came to show up my lines.”
“Put them down, put them down. Thank you, that will do; you may go.”
“May I have that stone, sir?” said Jimmy. “It was really mine, only I lent it to Armstrong, and Herr Steingruber confiscated it. Can I have it back?”
Mr. Spinder was calm again now, icily calm.
He looked at Jimmy through his spectacles.
“Let me see, your name is Stewart, isn’t it? Ah, yes. What were you saying, Stewart?”
“I asked if I might have back that blue stone, sir.”
“You seem to be labouring under some curious delusion, Stewart. What stone is this you are speaking of?”
“The stone you put in your pocket just now, sir.”
Mr. Spinder’s eyebrows went up.
“I still fail to understand what you are talking about, Stewart. I put no stone in my pocket.”
“I saw you, sir.”
“Really, Stewart! It is a little unusual, is it not, for a boy to disbelieve a master’s word? I am afraid you will be getting yourself into trouble if you do not break yourself of that habit. I assure you I know nothing of this stone you mention. Why should I? From your own account it seems that Herr Steingruber should know more about it than I. You may go, Stewart. I take it that you do not propose to search me? That will do, then. Close the door behind you.”
(Next week’s instalment will give us yet more fun and adventure. Don’t miss it.)