Read CHAPTER XI. POISONOUS PLANTS of The Golf Course Mystery, free online book, by Chester K. Steele, on ReadCentral.com.

Colonel Ashley still stood, holding his now useless rod and line, gazing first at that, then at Shag and, anon, at the little swirl of the waters, marking where the big fish had disappeared from view.

“Shag!” exclaimed the colonel in an ominously, quiet voice.

“Yes, sah!”

“Do you know what that was?”

“No, sab, Colonel, I don’t.”

“Well, that was a spirit manifestation of Izaak Walton. It was jealous of my success and took that revenge. It was the spirit of the old fisherman himself.”

“Good land ob massy!” gasped Shag. “Does yo’ does yo’ mean a ghost?”

“You might call it that, Shag. Yes, a ghost.”

The colored man looked frightened for a moment, and then a broad grin spread over his face.

“Well, sah, Colonel,” he began, deferentially, “maybe yo’ kin call it dat, but hit looks t’ me mo’ laik one ob dem li’l white balls de gen’mens an’ ladies done knock aroun’ wif iron-headed clubs. Dat’s whut it looks laik t’ me, sah, Colonel,” and Shag picked up a golf ball from the water, where it floated.

“By Jove!” exclaimed the fisherman. “If it was that

His indignant protest was interrupted by the appearance, breaking through the underbrush on the edge of the stream, of two men, each one carrying a bag of golf clubs.

“Did you ” began one, and then, as he caught sight of Shag holding up in his black fingers the white ball, there was added:

“I see you did! Thank you. You were right, Tom. I did go into the water. I sliced worse than I thought.”

Then the two men seemed, for the first time, to have caught sight of Colonel Ashley. They noticed his attitude, the dangling line and his disappointed look.

“I beg pardon,” said the one who had already spoken, “but did we interfere with your fishing?”

“Did you interfere with it?” stormed the colonel. “You just naturally knocked it all to the devil, sir! That’s what you did!” And then, as he saw a curious look on the faces of the two men, he added:

“I beg your pardon. I shouldn’t have said that. I’m an interloper, I realize a trespasser. It’s my own fault for fishing so near the golf course. But I

“Excuse me,” broke in the other man. “But you are Colonel Ashley, aren’t you?”

“I am.”

“My name is Sharwell Tom Sharwell, and this is Bruce Garrigan. I thought I had seen you at the club. Pray excuse our interruption of your sport. We had no idea any one was fishing here.”

“It’s entirely my fault,” declared the colonel, as he removed his cap and bowed, a courtesy the two golfers, after a moment of hesitation, returned. “I was taking chances when I threw in here.”

“And did we scare the fish?” asked Garrigan. “I suppose so. Never was much of a fisherman myself. All I know about them is seventeen million, four hundred and eighty-eight thousand nine hundred and twenty one boxes of sardines were imported into the United States last year. I read it in the paper so it must be true. I know I ate the one box.”

“Be quiet, Bruce,” said Sharwell in a low voice, but the colonel smiled. There was no affront to his dignity, as the golfer had feared.

“I had on a most beautiful catch,” said the colonel, “and then what I thought, at first, was the embodied spirit of Izaak Walton suddenly came zipping into the water just as Shag was about to land the beauty, and knocked it off the hook. Since then I have been informed by my servant that it was no spirit, but a golf ball.”

“It was mine,” confessed Garrigan. “I’m all kinds of sorry about it. Never had the least notion any one was here. Never saw any one fish here before; did we, Tom?”

“Well, I thought there were fish here, and events proved I was right,” said the colonel. “I hope the water isn’t posted?” he inquired anxiously, for he was a stickler for the rights of others.

“Oh, no, nothing like that!” Garrigan hastened to add. “You’re welcome to fish here as long and as often as you like. Only, as this water hazard is often played from the fifth hole, it would be advisable to post a sign just outside the trees, or station your man there to give notice.”

“I’ll do it after this,” said the colonel, as he reeled in.

“You’re not going to quit just because I was so unfortunate as to spoil your first catch, are you?” asked Garrigan.

“I think I’d better,” the colonel said. “I don’t believe I could land anything after what happened. The fish must have thought it was a thunderbolt, from the way that ball landed.”

“I did drive rather hard,” admitted Garrigan. “But we can cut this out of our game, take a stroke apiece and go on with the play. That is, I’m willing. I don’t feel very keen for the game to-day. How about you, Tom?”

“I’m ready to quit, and I think the least we can do, considering that we have spoiled Colonel Ashley’s day, is to ask him if he won’t share with us the bottle I won from you on the water hazard.”

“Done!” exclaimed Garrigan. “There were eleven million, four hundred and ten thousand six hundred and six dollars’ worth of soya beans imported into the United States in 1917,” he added, “which, of course, has nothing to do with the number of cold bottles of champagne the steward, at the nineteenth hole, has on the ice for us. So I suggest that we adjourn and

“I will, on one condition,” said Sharwell.

“What is it?” asked his companion.

“That you kindly refrain from telling us how many spools of thread were sent to the cannibals of the Friendly Islands for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1884.”

“Done!” cried Garrigan with a laugh. “I’ll never hint of it. Colonel, will you accept our hospitality? I believe you are already put up at the club?”

“Yes, Miss Carwell was kind enough to secure a visitor’s card for me.”

“Then let’s forget our sorrows; drown them in the bubbling glasses with hollow stems!” cried Garrigan, gayly.

“Here, Shag,” called the colonel, as he gave his rod to his colored servant. “I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

“Well said!” exclaimed Sharwell.

Then they adjourned to the nineteenth hole.

If it is always good weather when good fellows get together, it was certainly a most delightful day as the colonel and his two hosts sat on the shady veranda of the Maraposa Golf Club. They talked of many things, and, naturally, the conversation veered around to the death of Mr. Carwell. Out of respect to his memory, an important match had been called off on the day of his funeral. But now those last rites were over, the clubhouse was the same gay place it had been. Though more than one veteran member sat in silent reverie over his cigar as he recalled the friend who never again would tee a ball with him.

“It certainly is queer why Harry Bartlett doesn’t come out and say what it was that he and Mr. Carwell had words about,” commented Sharwell. “There he stays, in that rotten jail. Bah! I can smell it yet, for I called to see if I could do anything. And yet he won’t talk.”

“It is queer,” said Garrigan. “If he’d only let his friends speak for him it could be cleared. We all know what the quarrel was about.”

“What?” asked the colonel. He had his own theory, but he wanted to see how it jibed with another’s.

“It’s an old story,” went on Bruce Garrigan. “It goes back to the time, about three years ago, when the fair Viola and Harry began to be talked about as more than ordinary friends. Just about then Mr. Carwell lost a large sum of money in a stock deal, or a bond issue, or something I’ve forgotten what and he always said that Harry and his clique engineered the plan by which he was mulcted.”

“And did Mr. Bartlett have anything to do with it?” asked the colonel.

“Well, some say he did, and some say he didn’t. Harry himself denied all knowledge of it. Anyhow the colonel lost a stiffish sum, and some of Harry’s people took in a goodly pile. Naturally there was a bit of coldness between the families, and I did hear Harry was told his presence around Viola wasn’t desired.

“If he was so warned he didn’t heed it, for they went out together as much as ever, though I can’t say he called at the house very often.”

“And you think it was about this he and Mr. Carwell quarreled just before Mr. Carwell was stricken?” asked the colonel.

“I think so, yes,” answered Garrigan. “And I think Harry refuses to admit it, from a notion that it would be dragging in a lady’s name. But it wouldn’t be airing anything that isn’t already pretty well known. Mr. Carwell has a violent temper or he had one and Harry isn’t exactly an angel when he’s roused, though I’ll say say for him that I have rarely seen him angry. And there you are. Boy, another bottle, and have it colder than the last.”

“Yes,” mused the colonel, “there you are or aren’t, according to your viewpoint.”

And so the day grew more sunshiny and mellow, and Colonel Ashley did not regret the fish that the golf ball cheated him of, for he added several new cards to his index file and jotted down, mentally, new facts on some already in it.

“Will return to-morrow. Viola too restless here.”

That was the telegram Colonel Ashley received the day following his acquaintance at the nineteenth hole with Bruce Garrigan and Tom Sharwell.

“She stayed away longer than I thought she would,” mused the detective, “Yes, sah!”

“See if that French chauffeur, Forette, can drive me into town.”

“Yes, sah, Colonel.”

A little later Jean brought the roadster to the front of the house and waited for Colonel Ashley. The latter came forth holding a slip of paper in his hand, and, to the chauffeur, he said:

“Do you know where Dr. Baird lives?”

“Oh, yes, sir.”

“Take me there, please. He was one of the physicians called in when Mr. Carwell was poisoned, was he not?”

“Yes,” and the chauffeur nodded and smiled. “You are not ill, I hope, monsieur. If you are, there is a physician nearer

“Oh, no. I’m all right. I just want to have a talk with the doctor. Did you ever consult him?”

“Me? Oh, no, monsieur, I have no need of a doctor. I am never sick. I feel most excellent!” and certainly he looked it. There was a sparkle in his eyes perhaps too brilliant a sparkle, but he did not look like a “dope fiend.”

“If you are in a hurry,” went on the chauffeur, “I can

“No, no hurry,” responded the colonel. “Why, do you feel like driving fast?”

“Very fast, monsieur. I always like to drive fast, only there is seldom call for it. Mr. Carwell, he at times would like speed, and again he was like the tortoise. But as for me poof! What would you?” and he shrugged his shoulders and reverted to his own tongue.

“Hum,” mused the colonel. “Rather a different story from the garage man’s. However, we shall see.”

Dr. Baird was in. In fact, being a very young doctor indeed, he was rather more in than out too much in to suit his own inclination and pocketbook, for, as yet, the number of his patients was small.

“I did not come to see you for myself, professionally,” said Colonel Ashley, as he took a seat in the office, and introduced himself. “I am trying to establish, for the satisfaction of Miss Carwell, that her father was not a suicide, and

“What else could it be?” asked Dr. Baird.

“I do not know. But I read with great interest the interview, you gave the Globe on the effects and detection of various poisons.”

“Yes?” and young Dr. Baird rubbed his hands in delight, and stroked his still younger moustache.

“Yes. And I called to ask what poison or chemical symbol that might be.”

The colonel extended a paper on which was inscribed: 58 C. H. I6I

“That! Hum, why that is not a chemical symbol at all!” promptly declared Dr. Baird.

“Are you sure?”

“Positive.”

“Could it be some formula for poison?”

“It could not. Of course that is not to say it could not be some person’s private memorandum for some combination of elements. C might stand for carbon and H for hydrogen. But that would not make a poison in the ordinary accepted meaning of the term. I am sure you are mistaken if you think that is a chemical symbol.”

“I am sure, also,” said the detective with a smile. “I just wanted your opinion, that is all. Then those letters and figures would mean nothing to you?”

“Nothing at all. Wait though

Young Dr. Percy Baird looked at the slip again. “No, it would mean nothing to me,” he said finally.

“Thank you,” said the colonel.

He came out of the physician’s office to find Jean Forette calmly reading in his side of the car. The paper was put away at once, and with a whirr from the self-starter the motor throbbed.

“It there a free public library in town, Jean?” asked the detective.

“Yes, monsieur.

“Take me there.”

The library was one built partly with the money donated by a celebrated millionaire, and contained a fair variety of books. To the main desk, behind which sat a pretty girl, marched Colonel Ashley.

“Have you any books on poisons?” he asked.

“Poisons?” She looked up at him, startled, a flush mantling her fair cheeks.

“Yes. Any works on poisons a chemistry would do.”

“Oh, yes, we have books on poisons. I’ll jot down the numbers for you. We have not many, I’m afraid. It is it isn’t a pleasant subject.”

“No, I imagine not.”

She busied herself with the card index, and came back to him in a moment with a slip of paper.

“I’m sorry,” said the pretty girl, “but we seem to have only one book on poisons, and I’m afraid that isn’t what you want. It is entitled ‘Poisonous Plants of New Jersey,’ and is one of the bulletins of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at New Brunswick. But it is out at present. Here is the number of it, and if it comes in

“I should be glad to see it,” interrupted the colonel pleasantly.

“Here is the number,” and the pretty girl extended to him a slip which read: 58 C. H i6i

“What is the star for?” asked the colonel.

“It indicates that the book was donated by the state and was not purchased with the endowment appropriation,” she informed him.

“And it is out now. I wonder if you could tell me who has it?”

“Why, yes, sir. Just a moment.”

She looked at some more cards, and came back to him. She looked a bit disturbed.

“The book, ‘Poisonous Plants of New Jersey’ was taken out by Miss Viola Carwell,” said the girl.