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The Golf Course Mystery
Chester K. Steele
Published by Mystery Mavens, 2017.
The Golf Course Mystery by Chester K. Steele. First published in 1919.
Cover, interior design and editing © Copyright 2017 Mystery Mavens. All rights reserved.
First e-book edition 2017.
CHAPTER I | PUTTING OUT
CHAPTER II | THE NINETEENTH HOLE
CHAPTER III | “WHY?”
CHAPTER IV | VIOLA’S DECISION
CHAPTER V | HARRY’S MISSION
CHAPTER VI | BY A QUIET STREAM
CHAPTER VII | THE INQUEST
CHAPTER VIII | ON SUSPICION
CHAPTER IX | 58 C. H.—161*
CHAPTER X | A WATER HAZARD
CHAPTER XI | POISONOUS PLANTS
CHAPTER XII | BLOSSOM’S SUSPICIONS
CHAPTER XIII | CAPTAIN POLAND CONFESSES
CHAPTER XIV | THE PRIVATE SAFE
CHAPTER XV | POOR FISHING
CHAPTER XVI | SOME LETTERS
CHAPTER XVII | OVER THE TELEPHONE
CHAPTER XVIII | A LARGE BLONDE LADY
CHAPTER XIX | “UNKNOWN”
CHAPTER XX | A MEETING
CHAPTER XXI | THE LIBRARY POSTAL
CHAPTER XXII | THE LARGE BLONDE AGAIN
CHAPTER XXIII | MOROCCO KATE, ALLY
CHAPTER XXIV | STILL WATERS
Further Reading: British Mystery Multipack Vol. 14 – The Fleming Stone Collection: The Clue, The Gold Bag, A Chain of Evidence and Vicky Van (Illustrated)
THERE WAS NOTHING IN that clear, calm day, with its blue sky and its flooding sunshine, to suggest in the slightest degree the awful tragedy so close at hand—that tragedy which so puzzled the authorities and which came so close to wrecking the happiness of several innocent people.
The waters of the inlet sparkled like silver, and over those waters poised the osprey, his rapidly moving wings and fan-spread tail suspending him almost stationary in one spot, while, with eager and far-seeing eyes, he peered into the depths below. The bird was a dark blotch against the perfect blue sky for several seconds, and then, suddenly folding his pinions and closing his tail, he darted downward like a bomb dropped from an airplane.
There was a splash in the water, a shower of sparkling drops as the osprey arose, a fish vainly struggling in its talons, and from a dusty gray roadster, which had halted along the highway while the occupant watched the hawk, there came an exclamation of satisfaction.
“Did you see that, Harry?” called the occupant of the gray car to a slightly built, bronzed companion in a machine of vivid yellow, christened by some who had ridden in it the “Spanish Omelet.” “Did you see that kill? As clean as a hound’s tooth, and not a lost motion of a feather. Some sport, that fish-hawk! Gad!”
“Yes, it was a neat bit of work, Gerry. But rather out of keeping with the day.”
“Out of keeping? What do you mean?”
“Well, out of tune, if you like that better. It’s altogether too perfect a day for a killing of any sort, seems to me.”
“Oh, you’re getting sentimental all at once, aren’t you, Harry?” asked Captain Gerry Poland, with just the trace of a covert sneer in his voice. “I suppose you wouldn’t have even a fish-hawk get a much needed meal on a bright, sunshiny day, when, if ever, he must have a whale of an appetite. You’d have him wait until it was dark and gloomy and rainy, with a north-east wind blowing, and all that sort of thing. Now for me, a kill is a kill, no matter what the weather.”
“The better the day the worse the deed, I suppose,” and Harry Bartlett smiled as he leaned forward preparatory to throwing the switch of his machine’s self-starter, for both automobiles had come to a stop to watch the osprey.
“Oh, well, I don’t know that the day has anything to do with it,” said the captain—a courtesy title, bestowed because he was president of the Maraposa Yacht Club. “I was just interested in the clean way the beggar dived after that fish. Flounder, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, though usually the birds are glad enough to get a moss-bunker. Well, the fish will soon be a dead one, I suppose.”
“Yes, food for the little ospreys, I imagine. Well, it’s a good death to die—serving some useful purpose, even if it’s only to be eaten. Gad! I didn’t expect to get on such a gruesome subject when we started out. By the way, speaking of killings, I expect to make a neat one today on this cup-winners’ match.”
“How? I didn’t know there was much betting.”
“Oh, but there is; and I’ve picked up some tidy odds against our friend Carwell. I’m taking his end, and I think he’s going to win.”
“Better be careful, Gerry. Golf is an uncertain game, especially when there’s a match on among the old boys like Horace Carwell and the crowd of past-performers and cup-winners he trails along with. He’s just as likely to pull or slice as the veriest novice, and once he starts to slide he’s a goner. No reserve comeback, you know.”
“Oh, I’m not so sure about that. He’ll be all right if he’ll let the champagne alone before he starts to play. I’m banking on him. At the same time I haven’t bet all my money. I’ve a ten spot left that says I can beat you to the clubhouse, even if one of my cylinders has been missing the last two miles. How about it?”
“You’re on!” said Harry Bartlett shortly.
There was a throb from each machine as the electric motors started the engines, and then they shot down the wide road in clouds of dust—the sinister gray car and the more showy yellow—while above them, driving its talons deeper into the sides of the fish it had caught, the osprey circled off toward its nest of rough sticks in a dead pine tree on the edge of the forest.
And on the white of the flounder appeared bright red spots of blood, some of which dripped to the ground as the cruel talons closed until they met inside.
It was only a little tragedy, such as went on every day in the inlet and adjacent ocean, and yet, somehow, Harry Bartlett, as he drove on with ever-increasing speed in an endeavor to gain a length on his opponent, could not help thinking of it in contrast to the perfect blue of the sky, in which there was not a cloud. Was it prophetic?
Ruddy-faced men, bronze-faced men, pale-faced men; young women, girls, matrons and “flappers”; caddies burdened with bags of golf clubs and pockets bulging with cunningly found balls; skillful waiters hurrying here and there with trays on which glasses of various shapes, sizes, and of diversified contents tinkled musically-such was the scene at the Maraposa Club on this June morning when Captain Gerry Poland and Harry Bartlett were racing their cars toward it.
It was the chief day of the year for the Maraposa Golf Club, for on it were to be played several matches, not the least in importance being that of the cup-winners, open only to such members as had won prizes in hotly contested contests on the home links.
In spite of the fact that on this day there were to be played several matches, in which visiting and local champions were to try their skill against one another, to the delight of a large gallery, interest centered in the cup-winners’ battle. For it was rumored, and not without semblance of truth, that large sums of money would change hands on the result.
Not that it was gambling-oh, my no! In fact any laying of wagers was strictly prohibited by the club’s constitution. But there are ways and means of getting cattle through a fence without taking down the bars, and there was talk that Horace Carwell had made a pretty stiff bet with Major Turpin Wardell as to the outcome of the match, the major and Mr. Carwell being rivals of long standing in the matter of drives and putts.
“Beastly fine day, eh, what?” exclaimed Bruce Garrigan, as he set down on a tray a waiter held out to him a glass he had just emptied with every indication of delight in its contents. “If it had been made to order couldn’t be improved on,” and he flicked from the lapel of Tom Sharwell’s coat some ashes which had blown there from the cigarette which Garrigan had lighted.
“You’re right for once, Bruce, old man,” was the laughing response. “Never mind the ashes now, you’ll make a spot if you rub any harder.”
“Right for once? ‘m always right!” cried Garrigan “And it may interest you to know that the total precipitation, including rain and melted snow in Yuma, Arizona, for the calendar year 1917, was three and one tenth inches, being the smallest in the United States.”
“It doesn’t interest me a bit, Bruce!” laughed Sharwell. “And to prevent you getting any more of those statistics out of your system, come on over and we’ll do a little precipitating on our own account. I can stand another Bronx cocktail.”
“I’m with you! But, speaking of statistics, did you know that from the national forests of the United States in the last year there was cut 840,612,030 board feet of lumber? What the thirty feet were for I don’t know, but—”
“And I don’t care to know,” interrupted Tom. “If you spring any more of those beastly dry figures—Say, there comes something that does interest me, though!” he broke in with. “Look at those cars take that turn!”
“Some speed,” murmured Garrigan. “It’s Bartlett and Poland,” he went on, as a shift of wind blew the dust to one side and revealed the gray roadster and the Spanish Omelet. “The rivals are at it again.”
Bruce Garrigan, who had a name among the golf club members as a human encyclopedia, and who, at times, would inform his companions on almost any subject that chanced to come uppermost, tossed away his cigarette and, with Tom Sharwell, watched the oncoming automobile racers.
“They’re rivals in more ways than one,” remarked Sharwell. “And it looks, now, as though the captain rather had the edge on Harry, in spite of the fast color of Harry’s car.”
“That’s right,” admitted Garrigan. “Is it true what I’ve heard about both of them-that each hopes to place the diamond hoop of proprietorship on the fair Viola?”
“I guess if you’ve heard that they’re both trying for her, it’s true enough,” answered Sharwell. “And it also happens, if that old lady, Mrs. G. 0. 5. Sipp, is to be believed, that there, also, the captain has the advantage.”
“How’s that? I thought Harry had made a tidy sum on that ship-building project he put through.”
“He did, but it seems that he and his family have a penchant for doing that sort of thing, and, some years ago, in one of the big mergers in which his family took a prominent part, they, or someone connected with them, pinched the Honorable Horace Carwell so that he squealed for mercy like a lamb led to the Wall street slaughter house.”
“So that’s the game, is it?”
“Yes. And ever since then, though Viola Carwell has been just as nice to Harry as she has to Gerry—as far as anyone can tell-there has been talk that Harry is persona non grata as far as her father goes. He never forgives any business beat, I understand.”
“Was it anything serious?” asked Garrigan, as they watched the racing automobiles swing around the turn of the road that led to the clubhouse.
“I don’t know the particulars. It was before my time—I mean before I paid much attention to business.”
“Rot! You don’t now. You only think you do. But I’m interested. I expect to have some business dealing with Carwell myself, and if I could get a line—”
“Sorry, but I can’t help you out, old man. Better see Harry. He knows the whole story, and he insists that it was all straight on his relatives’ part. But it’s like shaking a mince pie at a Thanksgiving turkey to mention the matter to Carwell. He hasn’t gone so far as to forbid Harry the house, but there’s a bit of coldness just the same.”
“I see. And that’s why the captain has the inside edge on the love game. Well, Miss Carwell has a mind of her own, I fancy.”
“Indeed she has! She’s more like her mother used to be. I remember Mrs. Carwell when I was a boy. She was a dear, somewhat conventional lady. How she ever came to take up with the sporty Horace, or he with her, was a seven-days’ wonder. But they lived happily, I believe.”
“Then Mrs. Carwell is dead?”
“Oh, yes-some years. Mr. Carwell’s sister, Miss Mary, keeps The Haven up to date for him. You’ve been there?”
“Once, at a reception. I’m not on the regular calling list, though Miss Viola is pretty enough to—”
“Look out!” suddenly cried Sharwell, as though appealing to the two automobilists, far off as they were. For the yellow car made a sudden swerve and seemed about to turn turtle.
But Bartlett skillfully brought the Spanish Omelet back on the road again, and swung up alongside his rival for the home stretch-the broad highway that ran in front of the clubhouse.
The players who were soon to start out on the links; the guests, the gallery, and the servants gathered to see the finish of the impromptu race, murmurs arising as it was seen how close it was likely to be. And close it was, for when the two machines, with doleful whinings of brakes, came to a stop in front of the house, the front wheels were in such perfect alignment that there was scarcely an inch of difference.
“A dead heat!” exclaimed Bartlett, as he leaped out and motioned for one of the servants to take the car around to the garage.
“Yes, you win!” agreed Captain Poland, as he pushed his goggles back on his cap. He held out a bill.
“What’s it for?” asked Bartlett, drawing back.
“Why, I put up a ten spot that I’d beat you. I didn’t, and you win.”
“Buy drinks with your money!” laughed Bartlett. “The race was to be for a finish, not a dead heat. We’ll try it again, sometime.”
“All right-any time you like!” said the captain crisply, as he sat down at a table after greeting some friends. “But you won’t refuse to split a quart with me?”
“No. My throat is as dusty as a vacuum cleaner. Have any of the matches started yet, Bruce?” he asked, turning to the Human Encyclopedia.
“Only some of the novices. And, speaking of novices, do you know that in Scotland there are fourteen thousand, seven hundred—”
“Cut it, Bruce! Cut it!” begged the captain. “Sit in—you and Tom—and we’ll make it two bottles. Anything to choke off your flow of useless statistics!” and he laughed good-naturedly.
“When does the cup-winners’ match start?” asked Bartlett, as the four young men sat about the table under the veranda. “That’s the one I’m interested in.”
“In about an hour,” announced Sharwell, as he consulted a card. “Hardly any of the veterans are here yet.”
“Has Mr. Carwell arrived?” asked Captain Poland, as he raised his glass and seemed to be studying the bubbles that spiraled upward from the hollow stem.
“You’ll know when he gets here,” answered Bruce Garrigan.
“How so?” asked the captain. “Does he have an official announcer?”
“No, but you’ll hear his car before you see it.”
“No, new car-new color-new everything!” said Garrigan. “He’s just bought a new ten thousand dollar French car, and it’s painted red, white and blue, and-”
“Red, white and blue?” chorused the other three men.
“Yes. Very patriotic. His friends don’t know whether he’s honoring Uncle Sam or the French Republic. However, it’s all the same. His car is a wonder.”
“I must have a brush with him!” murmured Captain Poland.
“Don’t. You’ll lose out,” advised Garrigan. “It can do eighty on fourth speed, and Carwell is sporty enough to slip it into that gear if he needed to.”
“Um! Guess I’ll wait until I get my new machine, then,” decided the captain.
There was more talk, but Bartlett gradually dropped out of the conversation and went to walk about the club grounds.
Maraposa was a social, as well as a golfing, club, and the scene of many dances and other affairs. It lay a few miles back from the shore near Lakeside, in New Jersey. The clubhouse was large and elaborate, and the grounds around it were spacious and well laid out.
Not far away was Loch Harbor, where the yachts of the club of which Captain Gerry Poland was president anchored, and a mile or so in the opposite direction was Lake Tacoma, on the shore of which was Lakeside. A rather exclusive colony summered there, the hotel numbering many wealthy persons among its patrons.
Harry Bartlett, rather wishing he had gone in for golf more devotedly, was wandering about, casually greeting friends and acquaintances, when he heard his name called from the cool and shady depths of a summer-house on the edge of the golf links.
“Oh, Minnie! How are you?” he cordially greeted a rather tall and dark girl who extended her slim hand to him. “I didn’t expect to see you today.”
“Oh, I take in all the big matches, though I don’t play much myself,” answered Minnie Webb. “I’m surprised to find you without a caddy, though, Harry.”
“Too lazy, I’m afraid. I’m going to join the gallery today. Meanwhile, if you don’t mind, I’ll sit in here and help you keep cool.”
“It isn’t very hard to do that today,” and she moved over to make room for him. “Isn’t it just perfect weather!”
At one time Minnie Webb and Harry Bartlett had been very close friends—engaged some rumors had it. But now they were jolly good companions, that was all.
“Seen the Carwells’ new machine?” asked Bartlett.
“No, but I’ve heard about it. I presume they’ll drive up in it today.”
“Does Viola run it?”
“I haven’t heard. It’s a powerful machine, someone said-more of a racer than a touring car, Mr. Blossom was remarking.”
“Well, he ought to know. I understand he’s soon to be taken into partnership with Mr. Carwell.”
“I don’t know,” murmured Minnie, and she seemed suddenly very much interested in the vein structure of a leaf she pulled from a vine that covered the summer-house.
Bartlett smiled. Gossip had it that Minnie Webb and Le Grand Blossom, Mr. Carwell’s private secretary, were engaged. But there had been no formal announcement, though the two had been seen together more frequently of late than mere friendship would warrant.
There was a stir in front of the clubhouse, followed by a murmur of voices, and Minnie, peering through a space in the vines, announced:
“There’s the big car now. Oh, I don’t like that color at all! I’m as patriotic as anyone, but to daub a perfectly good car up like that—well, it’s—”
“Sporty, I suppose Carwell thinks,” finished Bartlett. He had risen as though to leave the summerhouse, but as he saw Captain Poland step up and offer his hand to Viola Carwell, he drew back and again sat down beside Minnie.
A group gathered about the big French car, obviously to the delight of Mr. Carwell, who was proud of the furor created by his latest purchase.
Though he kept up his talk with Minnie in the summer-house, Harry Bartlett’s attention was very plainly not on his present companion nor the conversation. At any other time Minnie Webb would have noticed it and taxed him with it, but now, she, too, had her attention centered elsewhere. She watched eagerly the group about the big machine, and her eyes followed the figure of a man who descended from the rear seat and made his way out along a path that led to a quiet spot.
“I think I’ll go in now,” murmured Minnie Webb. “I have to see—” Bartlett was not listening. In fact he was glad of the diversion, for he saw Viola Carwell turn with what he thought was impatience aside from Captain Poland, and that was the very chance the other young man had been waiting for.
He followed Minnie Webb from the little pavilion, paying no attention to where she drifted. But he made his way through the press of persons to where Viola stood, and he saw her eyes light up as he approached. His, too, seemed brighter.
“I was wondering if you would come to see dad win,” she murmured to him, as he took her hand, and Captain Poland, with a little bow, stepped back.
“You knew I’d come, didn’t you?” Bartlett asked in a low voice.
“I hoped so,” she murmured. “Now, Harry,” she went on in a low voice, as they moved aside, “this will be a good time for you to smooth things over with father. If he wins, as he feels sure he will, you must congratulate him very heartily—exceptionally so. Make a fuss over him, so to speak. He’ll be club champion, and it will seem natural for you to bubble over about it.”
“But why should I, Viola? I haven’t done anything to merit his displeasure.”
“I know. But you remember what a touch-fire he is. He’s always held that business matter against you, though I’m sure you had nothing to do with it. Now, if he wins, and I hope he will, you can take advantage of it to get on better terms with him, and—”
“Well, I’m willing to be friends, you know that, Viola. But I can’t pretend—I never could!”
“You’re stubborn, Harry!” and Viola pouted.
“Well, perhaps I am. When I know I’m right—”
“Couldn’t you forget it just once?”
“I don’t see how!”
“Oh, you provoke me! But if you won’t you won’t, I suppose. Only it would be such a good chance...”
“Well, I’ll see him after the match, Viola. I’ll do my best to be decent.”
“You must go a little farther than that, Harry. Dad will be all worked up if he wins, and he’ll want a fuss made over him. It will be the very chance for you.”
“All right-I’ll do my best,” murmured Bartlett. And then a servant came up to summon him to the telephone.
Viola was not left long alone, for Captain Poland was watching her from the tail of his eye, and he was at her side before Harry Bartlett was out of sight.
“Perhaps you’d like to come for a little spin with me, Miss Carwell,” said the captain. “I just heard that they’ve postponed the cup-winners’ match an hour; and unless you want to sit around here—”
“Come on!” cried Viola, impulsively. “It’s too perfect a day to sit around, and I’m only interested in my father’s match.”
There was another reason why Viola Carwell was glad of the chance to go riding with Captain Poland just then. She really was a little provoked with Bartlett’s stubbornness, or what she called that, and she thought it might “wake him up,” as she termed it, to see her with the only man who might be classed as his rival.
As for herself, Viola was not sure whether or not she would admit Captain Poland to that class. There was time enough yet.
And so, as Bartlett went in to the telephone, to answer a call that had come most inopportunely for him, Viola Carwell and Captain Poland swept off along the pleasantly shaded country road.
Left to herself, for which just then she was thankful, Minnie Webb drifted around until she met LeGrand Blossom.
“What’s the matter, Lee?” she asked him in a low voice, and he smiled with his eyes at her, though his face showed no great amount of jollity. “You’re as solemn as though every railroad stock listed had dropped ten points just after you bought it.”
“No, it isn’t quite as bad as that,” he said, as he fell into step beside her, and they strolled off on one of the less-frequented walks.
“I thought everything was going so well with you. Has there been any hitch in the partnership arrangement?” asked Minnie.
“No, not exactly.”
“Have you lost money?”
“No, I can’t say that I have.”
“Then for goodness’ sake what is it? Do I have to pump you like a newspaper reporter?” and Minnie Webb laughed, showing a perfect set of teeth that contrasted well against the dark red and tan of her cheeks.
“Oh, I don’t know that it’s anything much,” replied LeGrand Blossom.
“It’s something!” insisted Minnie.
“Well, yes, it is. And as it’ll come out, sooner or later, I might as well tell you now,” he said, with rather an air of desperation, and as though driven to it. “Have you heard any rumors that Mr. Carwell is in financial difficulties?”
“Why, no! The idea! I always thought he had plenty of money. Not a multi-millionaire, of course, but better off financially than anyone else in Lakeside.”
“He was once; but he won’t be soon, if he keeps up the pace he’s set of late,” went on LeGrand Blossom, and his voice was gloomy.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, things don’t look so well as they did. He was very foolish to buy that ten-thousand-dollar yacht so soon after spending even more than that on this red, white and blue monstrosity of his!”
“You don’t mean to tell me he’s bought a yacht, too?”
“Yes, the Osprey that Colonel Blakeson used to sport up and down the coast in. Paid a cool ten thousand for it, though if he had left it to me I could have got it for eight, I’m sure.”
“Well, twenty thousand dollars oughtn’t to worry Mr. Carwell, I should think,” returned Minnie.
“It wouldn’t have, a year ago,” answered LeGrand. “But he’s been on the wrong side of the market for some time. Then, too, something new has cropped up about that old Bartlett deal.”
“You mean the one over which Harry’s uncle and Mr. Carwell had such a fuss?”
“Yes. Mr. Carwell’s never got over that. And there are rumors that he lost quite a sum in a business transaction with Captain Poland.”
“Oh, dear!” sighed the girl. “Isn’t business horrid! I’m glad I’m not a man. But what is this about Captain Poland?”
“I don’t know? haven’t heard it all yet, as Mr. Carwell doesn’t tell me everything, even if he has planned to take me into partnership with him. But now I’m not so keen on it.”
“Keen on what, Lee?” and Minnie Webb leaned just the least bit nearer to his side.
“On going into partnership with a man who spends money so lavishly when he needs all the ready cash he can lay his hands on. But don’t mention this to anyone, Minnie. If it got out it might precipitate matters, and then the whole business would tumble down like a house of cards. As it is, I may be able to pull him out. But I’ve put the soft pedal on the partnership talk.”
“Has Mr. Carwell mentioned it of late?”
“No. All he seems to be interested in is this golf game that may make him club champion. But keep secret what I have told you.”
Minnie Webb nodded assent, and they turned back toward the clubhouse, for they had reached a too secluded part of the grounds.
Meanwhile, Viola Carwell was not enjoying her ride with Captain Poland as much as she had expected she would. As a matter of fact it had been undertaken largely to cause Bartlett a little uneasiness; and as the car spun on she paid less and less attention to the captain.
Seeing this, the latter changed his mind concerning something he had fully expected to speak to Viola about that day, if he got the chance.
Captain Poland was genuinely in love with Viola, and he had reason to feel that she cared for him, though whether enough to warrant a declaration of love on his part was hard to understand.
“But I won’t take a chance now,” mused the captain, rather moodily; and the talk descended to mere monosyllables on the part of both of them. “I must see Carwell and have it out with him about that insurance deal. Maybe he holds that against me, though the last time I talked with him he gave me to understand that I’d stand a better show than Harry. I must see him after the game. If he wins he’ll be in a mellow humor, particularly after a bottle or so. That’s what I’ll do.”
The captain spun his car up in front of the clubhouse and helped Viola out. “I think we are in plenty of time for your father’s match,” he remarked.
“Yes,” she assented. “I don’t see any of the veterans on the field yet,” and she looked across the perfect course. “I’ll go to look for dad and wish him luck. He always wants me to do that before he starts his medal play. See you again, Captain;” and with a friendly nod she left the somewhat chagrined yachtsman.
When Captain Poland had parked his car he took a short cut along a path that led through a little clump of bushes. Midway he heard voices. In an instant he recognized them as those of Horace Carwell and Harry Bartlett. He heard Bartlett say:
“But don’t you see how much better it would be to drop it all—to have nothing more to do with her?”
“Look here, young man, you mind your own business!” snapped Mr. Carwell. “I know what I’m doing!”
“I haven’t any doubt of it, Mr. Carwell; but I ventured to suggest?” went on Bartlett.
“Keep your suggestions to yourself, if you please. I’ve had about all I want from you and your family. And if I hear any more of your impudent talk—”
Then Captain Poland moved away, for he did not want to hear any more.
In the meantime Viola hurried back to the clubhouse, and forced herself to be gay. But, somehow, a cloud seemed to have come over her day.
The throng had increased, and she caught sight, among the press, of Jean Forette, their chauffeur.
“Have you seen my father since he arrived, Jean?” asked Viola.
“Oh, he is somewhere about, I suppose,” was the answer, and it was given in such a surly tone with such a churlish manner that Viola flushed with anger and bit her lips to keep back a sharp retort.
At that moment Minnie Webb strolled past. She had heard the question and the answer.
“I just saw your father going out with the other contestants, Viola,” said Minnie Webb, “for they were friends of some years’ standing. I think they are going to start to play. I wonder why they say the French are such a polite race,” she went on, speaking lightly to cover Viola’s confusion caused by the chauffeur’s manner. “He was positively insulting.”
“He was,” agreed Viola. “But I shouldn’t mind him, I suppose. He does not like the new machine, and father has told him to find another place by the end of the month. I suppose that has piqued him.”
While there were many matches to be played at the Maraposa Club that day, interest, as far as the older members and their friends were concerned, was centered in that for cup-winners. These constituted the best players—the veterans of the game—and the contest was sure to be interesting and close.
Horace Carwell was a “sport,” in every meaning of the term. Though a man well along in his forties, he was as lithe and active as one ten years younger. He motored, fished, played golf, hunted, and of late had added yachting to his amusements. He was wealthy, as his father had been before him, and owned a fine home in New York, but he spent a large part of every year at Lakeside, where he might enjoy the two sports he loved best-golfing and yachting.
Viola was an only child, her mother having died when she was about sixteen, and since then Mr. Carwell’s maiden sister had kept watch and ward over the handsome home, The Haven. Viola, though loving her father with the natural affection of a daughter and some of the love she had lavished on her mother, was not altogether in sympathy with the sporting proclivities of Mr. Carwell.
True, she accompanied him to his golf games and sailed with him or rode in his big car almost as often as he asked her. And she thoroughly enjoyed these things. But what she did not enjoy was the rather too jovial comradeship that followed on the part of the men and women her father associated with. He was a good liver and a good spender, and he liked to have about him such persons-men “sleek and fat,” who if they did not “sleep o’ nights,” at least had the happy faculty of turning night into day for their own amusement.
So, in a measure, Viola and her father were out of sympathy, as had been husband and wife before her; though there had never been a whisper of real incompatibility; nor was there now, between father and daughter.
It was the warning cry from the first tee to clear the course for the start of the cup-winners’ match. In anticipation of some remarkable playing, an unusually large gallery would follow the contestants around. The best caddies had been selected, clubs had been looked to with care and tested, new balls were got out, and there was much subdued excitement, as befitted the occasion.
Mr. Carwell, his always flushed face perhaps a trifle more like a mild sunset than ever, strolled to the first tee. He swung his driver with freedom and ease to make sure it was the one that best suited him, and then turned to Major Wardell, his chief rival. “Do you want to take any more?” he asked meaningfully.
“No, thank you,” was the laughing response. “I’ve got all I can carry. Not that I’m going to let you beat me, but I’m always a stroke or two off in my play when the sun’s too bright, as it is now. However, I’m not crawling.”
“You’d better not!” declared his rival. “As for me, the brighter the sun the better I like it. Well, are we all ready?”
The officials held a last consultation and announced that play might start. Mr. Carwell was to lead.
The first hole was not the longest in the course, but to place one’s ball on fair ground meant driving very surely, and for a longer distance than most players liked to think about. Also a short distance from the tee was a deep ravine, and unless one cleared that it was a handicap hard to overcome.
Mr. Carwell made his little tee of sand with care, and placed the ball on the apex. Then he took his place and glanced back for a moment to where Viola stood between Captain Poland and Harry Bartlett. Something like a little frown gathered on the face of Horace Carwell as he noted the presence of Bartlett, but it passed almost at once.
“Well, here goes, ladies and gentlemen!” exclaimed Mr. Carwell in rather loud tones and with a free and easy manner he did not often assume. “Here’s where I bring home the bacon and make my friend, the major, eat humble pie.”
Viola flushed. It was not like her father to thus boast. On the contrary he was usually what the Scotch call a “canny” player. He never predicted that he was going to win, except, perhaps, to his close friends. But he was now boasting like the veriest schoolboy.
“Here I go!” he exclaimed again, and then he swung at the ball with his well-known skill.
It was a marvelous drive, and the murmurs of approbation that greeted it seemed to please Mr. Carwell.
“Let’s see anybody beat that!” he cried as he stepped off the tee to give place to Major Wardell.
Mr. Carwell’s white ball had sailed well up on the putting green of the first hole, a shot seldom made at Maraposa.
“A few more strokes like that and he’ll win the match,” murmured Bartlett.
“And when he does, don’t forget what I told you,” whispered Viola to him.
He found her hand, hidden at her side in the folds of her dress, and pressed it. She smiled up at him, and then they watched the major swing at his ball.
“It’s going to be a corking match,” murmured more than one member of the gallery, as they followed the players down the field.
“If anyone asked me, I should say that Carwell had taken just a little too much champagne to make his strokes true toward the last hole,” said Tom Sharwell to Bruce Garrigan.
“Perhaps,” was the admission. “But I’d like to see him win. And, for the sake of saying something, let me inform you that in Africa last year there were used in nose rings alone for the natives seventeen thousand four hundred and twenty-one pounds of copper wire. While for anklets—”
“I’ll buy you a drink if you chop it off short!” offered Sharwell.
“Taken!” exclaimed Garrigan, with a grin.
The cup play went on, the four contestants being well matched, and the shots duly applauded from hole to hole.
The turn was made and the homeward course began, with the excitement increasing as it was seen that there would be the closest possible finish, between the major and Mr. Carwell at least.
“What’s the row over there?” asked Bartlett suddenly, as he walked along with Viola and Captain Poland.
“Where?” inquired the captain.
“Among those autos. Looks as if one was on fire.”
“It does,” agreed Viola. “But I can see our patriotic palfrey, so I guess it’s all right. There are enough people over there, anyhow. But it is something!”
There was a dense cloud of smoke hovering over the place where some of the many automobiles were parked at one corner of the course. Still it might be someone starting his machine, with too much oil being burned in the cylinders.
“Now for the last hole!” exulted Mr. Carwell, as they approached the eighteenth. “I’ve got you two strokes now, Major, and I’ll have you four by the end of the match.”
“I’m not so sure of that,” was the laughing and good-natured reply.
There was silence in the gallery while the players made ready for the last hole.
There was a sharp impact as Mr. Carwell’s driver struck the little white ball and sent it sailing in a graceful curve well toward the last hole.
“A marvelous shot!” exclaimed Captain Poland. “On the green again! Another like that and he’ll win the game!”
“And I can do it, too!” boasted Carwell, who overheard what was said.
The others drove off in turn, and the play reached the final stage of putting. Viola turned as though to go over and see what the trouble was among the automobiles. She looked back as she saw her father stoop to send the ball into the little depressed cup. She felt sure that he would win, for she had kept a record of his strokes and those of his opponents. The game was all but over.
“I wonder if there can be anything the matter with our car?” mused Viola, as she saw the smoke growing denser. “Dad’s won, so I’m going over to see. Perhaps that chauffeur—”
She did not finish the sentence. She turned to look back at her father once more, and saw him make the putt that won the game at the last hole. Then, to her horror she saw him reel, throw up his hands, and fall heavily in a heap, while startled cries reached her ears.
“Oh! Oh! What has happened?” she exclaimed, and deadly fear clutched at her heart—and not without good cause.