Read CHAPTER IV. VIOLA’S DECISION of The Golf Course Mystery, free online book, by Chester K. Steele, on ReadCentral.com.

“That is the very question we have been asking ourselves, my dear Captain,” said Dr. Lambert wearily. “And we are no nearer an answer now than, apparently, you are. Why did he do it?”

The three men, two gravely professional, one, the younger, more so than his elder colleague, and the third plainly upset over the surprising news, looked at one another behind the closed door of the little room off the imposing reception hall at The Haven. They were in the house of death, and they had to do with more than death, for there was, in the reputed action of Horace Carwell, the hint of disgrace which suicide always engenders.

“I suppose,” began Captain Poland, rather weakly, “that there can be no chance of error He looked from one medical man to the other.

“Not the least in the world!” quickly exclaimed Baird. “We made a most careful examination of the deceased’s organs. They plainly show traces of a violent poison, though whether it was irritant or one of the neurotics, we are not yet prepared to say.”

“It couldn’t have been an irritant,” said Dr. Lambert gently. It was as though he had corrected a too zealous student reciting in class. Dr. Baird was painfully young, though much in earnest.

“Perhaps not an irritant,” he agreed. “Though I know of no neurotic that would produce such effects as we saw.

“You are right there,” said Dr. Lambert. “Whatever poison was used it was one the effects of which I have never seen before. But we have not yet finished our analysis. We have only reached a certain conclusion that may ultimately be changed.”

“You mean as to whether or not it was suicide?” asked Captain Poland eagerly.

“No, I don’t see how we can get away from that,” said Dr. Lambert. “That fact remains. But if we establish the kind of poison used it may lead us to the motive. That is what we must find.”

“And we will find the kind of poison!” declared Dr. Baird.

The older medical man shook his head.

“There are some animal and vegetable poisons for which there is no known test,” he said gently. “It may turn out to be one of these.”

“Then may it not develop that Mr. Carwell, assuming that he did take poison, did it by mistake?” asked the captain.

“I hope so,” murmured Dr. Lambert.

“But from the action of the poison, as shown by the condition of the mucous coat of the alimentary canal, I hardly see how Mr. Carwell could not have known that he took poison,” declared Dr. Baird.

“Yet he seemed all right except for a little pardonable exhilaration during the game of golf,” remarked Captain Poland. “He was feeling ‘pretty good’ as we say. I don’t see how he could have taken poison knowingly or unknowingly.”

“There are some poisons which, taken in combination, might mix and form a comparatively harmless mixture,” said Dr. Lambert. “Though I confess this is a very remote possibility. Some poisons are neutralized by an alcoholic condition. And some persons, who may have been habitual users of a drug, may take a dose of it that would kill several persons not so addicted.”

“Do you mean that Mr. Carwell was a drug user?” demanded the captain.

“I would hesitate very long before saying so,” answered Dr. Lambert, “and I have known him many years.”

“Then what was it? What in the world does it all mean?” asked Captain Poland. “What’s the answers in other words?”

“I wish I knew,” replied Dr. Lambert, and he shook his head. Something more than the weight of years seemed bowing him down. Dr. Baird seemed duly impressed by the circumstances that had brought him a young and as yet unestablished physician to a connection with such a startling case in the well known and wealthy Carwell family.

As for Captain Gerry Poland, he was clearly startled by the news the physicians had brought. He looked toward the closed door as though seeking to see beyond it into the room where Viola was waiting. To her, sooner or later, the tragic verdict must be told.

“Can’t you say anything?” he asked, a bit sharply, looking from one physician to the other “Is this all you came to tell that Mr. Carwell was a suicide? Isn’t there any mitigating circumstance?”

“I believe he poisoned himself before he began his championship game,” said Dr. Baird, with startling frankness almost brutal it seemed.

“But why should he do such a thing?” demanded the captain, rather petulantly.

“He may have taken some dope, thinking would brace him up,” went on the young medical man, “and it had the opposite effect a depressing action on the heart. Or, he may have taken a overdose of his favorite drug. That is what shall have to find out by making suitable inquiries of members of the family.”

“Oh, must we tell-them,” exclaimed Captain Poland in startled tones. And it was easy to determine by his voice that by “them” he meant Viola. “Must we tell?” he repeated.

“I must do my duty as a physician both to the public and to the family,” said Dr. Lambert, and he straightened up as though ready to assume the burden he knew would fall heavily on his shoulders. “I must also think of Viola. I feel like another father to her now. I have always, more or less, regarded her as my little girl, though she is a young lady now. But the facts must come out. Even if I were disposed to aid in a concealment which I am far from doing Dr. Rowland, the county physician, was present at the autopsy. He knows.”

“Does he know the poison used?” asked Captain Poland quickly, and then, almost as soon as the words had left his lips, he seemed sorry he had uttered them.

“No, no more than we,” said Dr. Baird. “It will require some nice work in medical jurisprudence, and also a very delicate analysis, to determine that. I am inclined to think

But what he thought no one heard or cared to hear at that moment, for, even as he spoke, the door of the little room was thrown hastily and somewhat violently open, and Viola Carwell confronted the three men. Her face showed traces of grief, but it had lost little of the beauty for which she was noted.

Tall and dark, with hair of that blue black sheen so rarely observed, with violet eyes and a poise and grace that made her much observed, Viola Carwell was at the height of her beauty. In a sense she had the gentle grace of her mother and with that the verve and sprightliness of her father mingled perfectly. It was no wonder that Captain Poland and Harry Bartlett and many others, for that matter, were rivals for her favors.

“I thought you were here,” she said quietly to Dr. Lambert. “Oh, Uncle Add, what is it? Tell me the truth!” she begged as she placed a hand on his arm, a hand that trembled in spite of her determination to remain calm. “Please tell me the truth!”

“The truth, Viola?” he questioned gently.

“Yes. I’m afraid you are trying to keep something back from me. This looks like it you men in here talking consulting as to what is best to do. Tell me. My father is dead. But that, I know, is not the worst that can happen. Tell me! Is there-is there any disgrace? I know

Viola stopped as though she herself feared the words she was about to utter. Dr. Lambert quickly spoke.

“There has been no disgrace, my dear Viola,” he said, gently. “We have just come from the from having made an investigation Dr. Baird and myself and Dr. Rowland. We discovered that your father was poisoned, and

“Poisoned?” she gasped, and started back as though struck, while her rapid glances went from face to face, resting longest on the countenance of Captain Poland. It was as though, in this great emergency, she looked to him for comfort more than to the old doctor who had ushered her into the world.

“I am sorry to have to say it, Viola, but such is the case,” went on the family physician. “Your father was poisoned. But the kind of poison we have not yet determined.”

“But who gave it to him?” she cried. “Oh, it doesn’t seem that any one would hate him so, not even his worst enemy. And he had so many friends-too many, perhaps.”

“We don’t know that any one gave him the poison, Viola,” said Dr. Lambert, gently. “In fact, it does not seem that any one did, or your father would have known it. Certainly if any one had tried to make him take poison there would have been a struggle that he would have mentioned. But he died of poison, nevertheless.”

“Then there can be but one other explanation,” she murmured, and her voice was tense and strained. “He must have

“We fear he took it himself,” blurted out Dr. Baird, in spite of the warning look cast at him by his colleague.

“Oh, I won’t believe that! It can’t be true!” cried Viola, and she burst into a storm of sobs. Dr. Lambert placed his arms about her.

“Tell me it isn’t true, Uncle Add! Tell me it isn’t true!” she sobbed.

The three men, looking at one another Dr. Lambert’s glance coming over the bowed head of Viola said nothing for a few moments. Then as her sobs died away, and she became calmer, the old physician said:

“You must not take on so, Vi. I know it is hard, but you must meet the issue squarely. At the same time you must realize that even the most suspicious circumstances may be explained away. While it does look as though your father had deliberately taken the poison, it may easily be established by an investigation that it was an accident an accident of which even your father was ignorant.”

“There are so many poisons that do not manifest themselves for a long time often days after they are taken, that there is every chance of proving this to have been an accident.”

“Then there must be an investigation!” was Viola’s quick decision. There were still tears in her eyes, but she looked through them now, as through a veil that must be torn aside. “I can not believe that my father was a a suicide ” she halted at the awful word. “I will not believe it!” she went on more firmly. “It can not be true!”

Hardly had she uttered the last word than a figure passed through the hall, flitting past the half-opened door of the little room where Viola stood with the three men.

“Who is there?” she called sharply, for she had spoken rather loudly, and she did not want any of the servants to hear. “Who is there?”

“It is I Minnie,” was the answer. “Dear Viola, I have come to see if I could do anything. I rang and rang, but no one answered the bell, and, as the door was open, I walked in.”

“I’m afraid I didn’t close it when I let you in,” said Captain Poland to Dr. Lambert.

“Dear Viola!” said Minnie Webb, as she placed cheek against that of her friend. “Is there anything I can do in your terrible trouble? Please let me do something!”

“Thank you, Minnie. You are very kind. I don’t know. We are in such distress. Tell me ” and Viola seemed to nerve herself for some effort. “Tell me! Did you hear what I said just now as you passed the door?”

“Do you mean about not believing that your father was a suicide?” asked Minnie, in a low voice.

“Yes.”

“I I heard you.”

“Then the only thing you can do is to help me prove otherwise,” said Viola. “That would be the greatest help. It can’t be true, and we want that made plain. Father never killed himself. He was not that kind of man. He did not fear death, but he would not go deliberately to meet it. It is not true that he killed himself!” and Viola’s voice seemed to ring out.

A strange look came over the face of Minnie Webb. There was a great pity shining in her eyes as she said:

“I I am sorry, Viola, but but I am afraid it may be true.”

“What! That my father committed suicide?”

“Yes,” whispered Minnie. “I I’m afraid it may be true!”