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- Her Weight in Gold - 30/40 -
Yorkers say that they'd never seen so many pretty women or better dressed ones than we've got right there in--"
"I know," interrupted Rip. "That's what you hear in every city in America, big or little. And it's always the poor, impressionable New Yorker who says it, the fellow who has to put up with the depressing homeliness and dowdiness of Fifth Avenue. Give us a rest, Charley."
"Have you got a baseball team there?" demanded Jeff sarcastically.
"Sure! A peach, too. We're leading the league."
"The Peewee Valley League, of course. Two country clubs, too, with brand new golf courses. Oh, we're getting to the front, let me tell--"
Charley stared. "Great Scott! Haven't you heard? It's been in all the papers. The row in the Wayside Country Club? It's only two years old, but, by George, they've had enough quarrels to last a New York club a century. There was a split last fall, and a new club was formed--the Elite Country Club. All the nicest people in town belong to the Elite. Lot of muckers run the Wayside. If you---"
"Which one has the distilleries?" asked Pip. "Both. The whiskey people can't very well discriminate, don't you see? Same as the breweries. It's good business for them to support both clubs. Good Lord, it's six o'clock. You fellows will have to be at the church at seven sharp, you know. Better dress pretty soon. So long. See you later."
The long and short of it was that the Van Winkle twins DID go out to W----. They remained in Chicago for three weeks looking for work at teas, bridge-parties, theatre-parties and luncheons at all of the country clubs. They played golf and tennis when not engaged in looking for work. Their joint four thousand dollars, pooled, had dwindled to barely half that amount, but they were cheerful. Their only prayer was that no one else in the class of '08 would decide to get married before the summer was over.
W---- is a thriving, bustling, aggressive town in the Mississippi Valley. It is not necessary to describe it in detail. The Van Winkles were put up at the Commercial Club, the W---- Club and the two country clubs. Charley Whistler attended to that. He was so proud of his two distinguished ushers that he sadly neglected his bride in showing them off to acquaintances during the first week of their stay.
Almost the first thing he did was to introduce them to the Barrows sisters, treasured by W---- as her "fairest daughters." Every one in town, including the editors, spoke of them familiarly as "Toots" and "Beppy" Barrows, applying nicknames that had grown up with them and had no connection whatever with the names they received when christened. They were young, rich, lovely and apparently heart-whole. Charley Whistler, being newly-wedded, wanted every one else in the world to get married. He was continually saying that there was "nothing like it," and resented some of the ironic rejoinders of men who had been married all their lives, to hear them talk about it. So he made haste to introduce the twins to the beautiful Barrows girls.
With a perfectly beautiful fidelity to the fitness of things, the two Van Winkles fell prostrate before the charms of the two young ladies, and spent nearly a month looking for work in their delightful company. It was not until they realised that their funds were reduced to almost nothing that they came down to earth with a thud. They had less than one hundred dollars between them and destitution.
Sitting in the shade of a huge old oak near the first tee on the Elite Club course, awaiting the appearance of the young women with whom they were to play a mixed foursome, the twins fell to discussing a subject they had dreaded to contemplate much less to broach.
"Jeff," said Rip, poking a dandelion with the head of his mashie, "lend me fifty till next week."
"Fifty what?" enquired Jeff gloomily.
"Cents, of course," said Rip. "But I'll take it in dollars if you happen to have them."
"We're up against it, old boy," said his brother, lighting a fresh cigarette. "What's to be done?"
"I suppose we'll have to clear out," sighed Rip. "We can't go on in this way. They are the finest, best girls I've ever known, and it's a bloody shame to--to go on."
"Right-o! We've just got to clear out while our credit is good. I hate to do it, though. I--I don't mind confessing that I'm heels over head in love with her. It's a damned shame, isn't it?"
"You're no worse off than I am," groaned Rip. "We are a nice pair of Romeos, aren't we? Good Lord, what will they think of us when they find us out?"
"Well," mused Jeff, "they're sensible darlings. Maybe they'll understand."
"Never! These western girls are not brought up to understand such blighters as we are. We are a species known only to the effete East. No; they will not understand. God knows I'm willing to work. The trouble is, I haven't time."
"Well, we'll have to work, steal or starve."
"I can't steal and I won't starve. I'm afraid we'll have to move on farther west. Cow-punching isn't bad if one--Here they come. Not a word, old boy. We'll talk it over tonight. It's my notion we'd better move on tomorrow while we've got the wherewithal. I'm not mean enough to borrow money from Whistler and I haven't the face to ask Uncle George to help us out. Darn him, I think he's the one who put it into father's head to do this--"
"Sh!" hissed the other, coming to his feet as the trim, trig figures of the Barrows girls drew near.
"Sorry to keep you waiting," said Toots, the elder of the two. "Mrs. Garvin was telling a story in the locker room." Toots was an exquisite blonde, tall, slender and lithesome.
"I've been slicing horribly of late, Mr. Van Winkle," said Beppy, frowning prettily. "Can you straighten me out? What am I doing that's wrong?" She was dark and brilliant, and quite as tall as her sister. One would go miles to find two more comely maids than these.
"Standing too far away from the ball," said Jeff, to whom the remark was addressed.
"I don't see why the club doesn't hire a professional," complained she. "He could get rich showing the members how to play the sort of golf they needn't be ashamed of."
"Three fourths of them don't know the difference between a mashie and a mid-iron," said Toots. "We learned in England, you know."
"By Jove!" exclaimed Rip, apropos of nothing. A great light beamed in his face.
"By Jove!" repeated Jeff, divining his thought.
Then, just to prove that they understood each other, they drove at least two hundred and fifty yards off the first tee, straight down the course. Jeff showed Beppy how to overcome the slice. She got a hundred and fifty yard ball.
"For heaven's sake!" she exclaimed, surprised by her own prowess. "How wonderful! And how easy, when you know how."
With singular coincidence of purpose, the two Van Winkles set about to teach their partners how to play better golf than they had ever played before. By the time they were playing the long eighth hole, the young men were so exercised over the discovery of a vocation that they sliced badly into the rough. Trudging side by side through the tall grass, looking for balls which the caddies had lost, they addressed each other in excited undertones.
"Nothing could suit me better," said Jeff.
"It's like finding money. Lessons at three dollars an hour and the privilege of selling all the golf balls to the players. How's that? Shall we tackle it?"
Jeff experienced a momentary pang of doubt. "Of course we'd lose our standing as amateurs. We'd be professionals, you know."
"What's the odds? Even amateurs have to live, old son."
"What will the girls think of us?" dolefully.
"They can't blame us for earning an honest dollar."
"A Van Winkle earning an honest dollar!" scoffed Jeff, with a short laugh. "It's incredible. No one will believe it."
"Here's what I think," said Rip seriously. "We ought to make a clean breast of everything those girls. Tell 'em just how we stand. I'll stake my head they'll stand for it."
"Tell 'em we've been kicked out by the governor?" gasped Jeff.
"Sure. A rich man's sons earning their daily bread by the sweat of their brow. Horrible ogre of a father, d'ye see? Romance of the highest order. By ginger, Jeff, I'm strong for it. It's honest work and I'm not ashamed of it."
The Barrows girls witnessed the strange spectacle of two brothers in quest of golf-balls shaking hands with each other in the centre of a wire-grass swamp, and blinked their beautiful eyes in amazement.
At the "nineteenth hole," over tea and highballs, the Van Winkle twins made humble confession to the high priestesses of W----. They did not spare themselves. On the contrary, they confessed their utter worthlessness and paid homage to the father who had sent them out in the world to retrieve themselves.
"And what do you think of the scheme?" asked Rip at the end of a lengthy and comprehensive explanation of the project in mind.
"Fine!" cried the two girls in a breath. "Then, the first thing to do is to convince the club that it needs a professional," said Jeff
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