One Of Our Sufferers by A. A. Milne

There is no question before the country of more importance than that of National Health. In my own small way I have made something of a study of it, and when a Royal Commission begins its enquiries, I shall put before it the evidence which I have accumulated. I shall lay particular stress upon the health of Thomson.

“You’ll beat me to-day,” he said, as he swung his club stiffly on the first tee; “I shan’t be able to hit a ball.”

“You should have some lessons,” I suggested.

Thomson gave a snort of indignation.

“It’s not that,” he said. “But I’ve been very seedy lately, and—-“

“That’s all right; I shan’t mind. I haven’t played a thoroughly well man for a month, now.”

“You know, I think my liver—-“

I held up my hand.

“Not before my caddie, please,” I said severely; “he is quite a child.”

Thomson said no more for the moment, but hit his ball hard and straight along the ground.

“It’s perfectly absurd,” he said with a shrug; “I shan’t be able to give you a game at all. Well, if you don’t mind playing a sick man—-“

“Not if you don’t mind being one,” I replied, and drove a ball which also went along the ground, but not so far as my opponent’s. “There! I’m about the only man in England who can do that when he’s quite well.”

The ball was sitting up nicely for my second shot, and I managed to put it on the green. Thomson’s, fifty yards farther on, was reclining in the worst part of a bunker which he had forgotten about.

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“Well, really,” he said, “there’s an example of luck for you. Your ball—-“

“I didn’t do it on purpose,” I pleaded. “Don’t be angry with me.”

He made two attempts to get out, and then picked his ball up. We walked in silence to the second tee.

“This time,” I said, “I shall hit the sphere properly,” and with a terrific swing I stroked it gently into a gorse bush. I looked at the thing in disgust and then felt my pulse. Apparently I was still quite well. Thomson, forgetting about his liver, drove a beauty. We met on the green.

“Five,” I said.

“Only five?” asked Thomson suspiciously.

“Six,” I said, holing a very long putt.

Thomson’s health had a relapse. He took four short putts and was down in seven.

“It’s really rather absurd,” he said, in a conversational way, as we went to the next tee, “that putting should be so ridiculously important. Take that hole, for instance. I get on the green in a perfect three; you fluff your drive completely and get on in–what was it?”

“Five,” I said again.

“Er–five. And yet you win the hole. It is rather absurd, isn’t it?”

“I’ve often thought so,” I admitted readily. “That is to say, when I’ve taken four putts. I’m two up.”

On the third tee Thomson’s health became positively alarming. He missed the ball altogether.

“It’s ridiculous to try to play,” he said, with a forced laugh. “I can’t see the ball at all.”

“It’s still there,” I assured him.

He struck at it again and it hurried off into a ditch.

“Look here,” he said, “wouldn’t you rather play the pro.? This is not much of a match for you.”

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I considered. Of course, a game with the pro. would be much pleasanter than a game with Thomson, but ought I to leave him in his present serious condition of health? His illness was approaching its critical stage, and it was my duty to pull him through if I could.

“No, no,” I said. “Let’s go on. The fresh air will do you good.”

“Perhaps it will,” he said hopefully. “I’m sorry I’m like this, but I’ve had a cold hanging about for some days, and that on the top of my liver—-“

“Quite so,” I said.

The climax was reached, at the next hole, when, with several strokes in hand, he topped his approach shot into a bunker. For my sake he tried to look as though he had meant to run it up along the ground, having forgotten about the intervening hazard. It was a brave effort to hide from me the real state of his health, but he soon saw that it was hopeless. He sighed and pressed his hand to his eyes. Then he held his fingers a foot away from him, and looked at them as if he were trying to count them correctly. His state was pitiable, and I felt that at any cost I must save him.

I did. The corner was turned at the fifth, where I took four putts.

“You aren’t going to win all the holes,” he said grudgingly, as he ran down his putt.

Convalescence set in at the sixth, when I got into an impossible place and picked up.

“Oh, well, I shall give you a game yet,” he said. “Two down.”

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The need for further bulletins ceased at the seventh hole, which he played really well and won easily.

“A-ha, you won’t beat me by much,” he said, “in spite of my liver.”

“By the way, how is the liver?” I asked.

“Your fresh-air cure is doing it good. Of course, it may come on again, but—-” He drove a screamer. “I think I shall be all right,” he announced.

“All square,” he said cheerily at the ninth. “I fancy I’m going to beat you now. Not bad, you know, considering you were four up. Practically speaking, I gave you a start of four holes.”

I decided that it was time to make an effort again, seeing that Thomson’s health was now thoroughly re-established. Of the next seven holes I managed to win three and halve two. It is only fair to say, though (as Thomson did several times), that I had an extraordinary amount of good luck, and that he was dogged by ill-fortune throughout. But this, after all, is as nothing so long as one’s health is above suspicion. The great thing was that Thomson’s liver suffered no relapse; even though, at the seventeenth tee, he was one down and two to play.

And it was on the seventeenth tee that I had to think seriously how I wanted the match to end. Thomson at lunch when he has won is a very different man from Thomson at lunch when he has lost. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was in rather a happy position. If I won, I won–which was jolly; if I lost, Thomson won–and we should have a pleasant lunch.

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However, as it happened, the match was halved.

“Yes, I was afraid so,” said Thomson; “I let you get too long a start. It’s absurd to suppose that I can give you four holes up and beat you. It practically amounts to giving you four bisques. Four bisques is about six strokes–I’m not really six strokes better than you.”

“What about lunch?” I suggested.

“Good; and you can have your revenge afterwards.” He led the way into the pavilion. “Now I wonder,” he said, “what I can safely eat. I want to be able to give you some sort of a game this afternoon.”

Well, if there is ever a Royal Commission upon the national physique I shall insist on giving evidence. For it seems to me that golf, far from improving the health of the country, is actually undermining it. Thomson, at any rate, since he has taken to the game, has never been quite fit.

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