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A short story by A. A. Milne

Uncle Edward

Title:     Uncle Edward
Author: A. A. Milne [More Titles by Milne]

Celia has more relations than would seem possible. I am gradually getting to know some them by sight and a few more by name, but I still make mistakes. The other day, for instance, she happened to say she was going to a concert with Uncle Godfrey.

"Godfrey," I said, "Godfrey. No, don't tell me--I shall get it in a moment. Godfrey ... Yes, that's it; he's the architect. He lives at Liverpool, has five children, and sent us the asparagus-cooler as a wedding present."

"No marks," said Celia.

"Then he's the unmarried one in Scotland who breeds terriers. I knew I should get it."

"As a matter of fact he lives in London and breeds oratorios."

"It's the same idea. That was the one I meant. The great point is that I placed him. Now give me another one." I leant forward eagerly.

"Well, I was just going to ask you--have you arranged anything about Monday?"

"Monday," I said, "Monday. No, don't tell me--I shall get it in a moment. Monday ... He's the one who---- Oh, you mean the day of the week?"

"Who's a funny?" asked Celia of the teapot.

"Sorry; I really thought you meant another relation. What am I doing? I'm playing golf if I can find somebody to play with."

"Well, ask Edward."

I could place Edward at once. Edward, I need hardly say, is Celia's uncle; one of the ones I have not yet met. He married a very young aunt of hers, not much older than Celia.

"But I don't know him," I said.

"It doesn't matter. Write and ask him to meet you at the golf club. I'm sure he'd love to."

"Wouldn't he think it rather cool, this sudden attack from a perfectly unknown nephew? I fancy the first step ought to come from uncle."

"But you're older than he is."

"True. It's rather a tricky point in etiquette. Well, I'll risk it."

This was the letter I sent to him:--

"MY DEAR UNCLE EDWARD,--Why haven't you written to me this term? I have spent the five shillings you gave me when I came back; it was awfully ripping of you to give it to me, but I have spent it now. Are you coming down to see me this term? If you aren't you might write to me; there is a post-office here where you can change postal orders.

"What I really meant to say was, can you play golf with me on Monday at Mudbury Hill? I am your new and favourite nephew, and it is quite time we met. Be at the club-house at 2.30, if you can. I don't quite know how we shall recognize each other, but the well-dressed man in the nut-brown suit will probably be me. My features are plain but good, except where I fell against the bath-taps yesterday. If you have fallen against anything which would give me a clue to your face you might let me know. Also you might let me know if you are a professor at golf; if you are, I will read some more books on the subject between now and Monday. Just at the moment my game is putrid.

"Your niece and my wife sends her love. Good-bye. I was top of my class in Latin last week. I must now stop, as it is my bath-night.

"I am,
"Your loving

The next day I had a letter from my uncle:--

"MY DEAR NEPHEW,--I was so glad to get your nice little letter and to hear that you were working hard. Let me know when it is your bath-night again; these things always interest me. I shall be delighted to play golf with you on Monday. You will have no difficulty in recognizing me. I should describe myself roughly as something like Apollo and something like Little Tich, if you know what I mean. It depends how you come up to me. I am an excellent golfer and never take more than two putts in a bunker.

"Till 2.30 then. I enclose a postal-order for sixpence, to see you through the rest of the term.

"Your favourite uncle,

I showed it to Celia.

"Perhaps you could describe him more minutely," I said. "I hate wandering about vaguely and asking everybody I see if he's my uncle. It seems so odd."

"You're sure to meet all right," said Celia confidently. "He's--well, he's nice-looking and--and clean-shaven--and, oh, _you'll_ recognize him."

At 2.30 on Monday I arrived at the club-house and waited for my uncle. Various people appeared, but none seemed in want of a nephew. When 2.45 came there was still no available uncle. True, there was one unattached man reading in a corner of the smoke-room, but he had a moustache--the sort of heavy moustache one associates with a major.

At three o'clock I became desperate. After all, Celia had not seen Edward for some time. Perhaps he had grown a moustache lately; perhaps he had grown one specially for to-day. At any rate there would be no harm in asking this major man if he was my uncle. Even if he wasn't he might give me a game of golf.

"Excuse me," I said politely, "but are you by any chance my Uncle Edward?"

"Your _what_?"

"I was almost certain you weren't, but I thought I'd just ask. I'm sorry."

"Not at all. Naturally one wants to find one's uncle. Have you--er--lost him long?"

"Years," I said sadly. "Er--I wonder if you would care to adopt me--I mean, give me a game this afternoon. My man hasn't turned up."

"By all means. I'm not very great."

"Neither am I. Shall we start now? Good."

I was sorry to miss Edward, but I wasn't going to miss a game of golf on such a lovely day. My spirits rose. Not even the fact that there were no caddies left and I had to carry my own clubs could depress me.

The Major drove. I am not going to describe the whole game; though my cleek shot at the fifth hole, from a hanging lie to within two feet of the---- However, I mustn't go into that now. But it surprised the Major a good deal. And when at the next hole I laid my brassie absolutely dead, he---- But I can tell you about that some other time. It is sufficient to say now that, when we reached the seventeenth tee, I was one up.

We both played the seventeenth well. He was a foot from the hole in four. I played my third from the edge of the green, and was ridiculously short, giving myself a twenty-foot putt for the hole. Leaving my clubs I went forward with the putter, and by the absurdest luck pushed the ball in.

"Good," said the Major. "Your game."

I went back for my clubs. When I turned round the Major was walking carelessly off to the next tee, leaving the flag lying on the green and my ball still in the tin.

"Slacker," I said to myself, and walked up to the hole.

And then I had a terrible shock. I saw in the tin, not my ball, but a moustache!

"Am I going mad?" I said. "I could have sworn that I drove off with a 'Colonel,' and yet I seem to have holed out with a Major's moustache!" I picked it up and hurried after him.

"Major," I said, "excuse me, you've dropped your moustache. It fell off at the critical stage of the match; the shock of losing was too much for you; the strain of----"

He turned his clean-shaven face round and grinned at me.

"On second thoughts," he said, "I _am_ your long-lost uncle."

[The end]
A. A. Milne's short story: Uncle Edward