The Chemist's Rock
: The Mystery Of The Green Ray
By the time we gave up our hunt for Sholto that night and saw
Hilderman into the Baltimore II. at the landing-stage, the harvest
moon had splashed the mountain side with patches of silver in reckless
profusion. But we were in no mood for aesthetics. We applied the
moonlight to more practical purposes.
"Show me the river, Mr. Ewart," said Garnesk, as we turned away from
the shore. Accordingly I took him up
stream till we came to Dead Man's
"What do you make of things now?" I asked, as we walked along.
"I can't make anything of the stealing of a dog except that someone
coveted it and has now got it. Can you?"
"No," I answered thoughtfully, "I can't. But it's an extraordinary
coincidence, at the least; and who on earth could have stolen him? You
see, no one round here would dream of taking anything that belonged to
Miss McLeod. And, though Sholto is well enough bred, he's never been
in a show, and has no reputation. I can't make it out."
"I'm very sorry it happened just now," said the oculist. "I was in
hopes that by experimenting on the animal I could cure the girl. But
at any rate that is beyond grieving about now. Is this the place?"
"Yes," I said, "this is Dead Man's Pool. That dim white shape there is
the Chemist's Rock. It was there that Miss McLeod lost her sight, and
here that the General had his extraordinary experience. It looks
innocent and peaceful enough," I added, with a sigh.
"The General was very lucky--very lucky indeed!" murmured my
"Why?" I asked.
"He was down here looking at the rock, and he saw some sort of vision;
Miss McLeod was up at the rock looking down at the pool, and she lost
her sight. The General might have been looking this way instead of
that, in which case we might have had another case on our hands."
"Then you think the two adventures are different aspects of the same
thing? If only we knew where Sholto was it might give us even more to
"Have you any tobacco?" he asked abruptly. "I've got a pipe, but I
left my tobacco in my room."
We were in evening dress, and my pouch and pipe were in the house; so
I left him there while I ran in to fetch them. When I returned he was
nowhere to be seen, and for a moment I half suspected some new
tragedy; but as I looked round I caught the gleam of the moonlight on
his shirt-front. I found him kneeling on the Chemist's Rock, looking
out to sea.
"Many thanks, Mr. Ewart," he said, as he handed me back my pouch and
took the light I offered him. "Ah! I'm glad to see you smoke real
tobacco. By the way," he added, "have you a friend--a real friend--you
"I have, thank God!" I replied fervently. "Why?"
"I should like you to send for him. Do anything you can to get him
here at once. Go and drag him here, if you like--only get him here."
"But why this urgency?" I asked again. "I admit that we have some very
horrible natural phenomena to deal with; but, apart from the fact that
some wretched poacher has stolen a dog, we have no human element to
fear. I don't see how he can help, and he might run a risk himself."
"Never mind--fetch him or send for him. If you could have seen
yourself start when you returned to the pool yonder to find me
missing, you would realise that your nervous system would be the
better for a little congenial companionship. Frankly, Mr. Ewart, I
don't like the idea of you being left alone here during the next few
days with a blind girl and an old man--if you'll pardon me for being
"But you'll be here," I said; "and I hope you will have something to
say to us that will put nerves out of the question when you have
Garnesk rose to his feet and laid a friendly hand on my arm.
"As soon as I've seen what this place looks like at a quarter-past
four to a quarter-past five in the afternoon I shall leave you."
"But--good heavens, man!" I cried, aghast, "you won't leave us like
that. We hoped for so much from your visit. You can't realise, man,
what it may mean to--to us all! You see----"
"My dear chap," said my companion, cutting me short with a laugh, "it
is just because I do realise that my presence here may be dangerous to
Miss McLeod that I propose to leave."
"Dangerous to her?" I gasped. "What on earth do you mean now?" The
whole world seemed to have taken leave of its senses, and I mentally
vowed that I should wire for Dennis first thing in the morning.
"I say that because her dog has been drugged and taken away."
"But some fool of a poacher was responsible for that!" I cried.
My companion looked at me thoughtfully as he puffed at his pipe.
"I was the cause of the dog's disappearance," he said quietly.
"I see what you're driving at," I said. "You pretended to steal the
dog because you were afraid Myra would make overwhelming objections to
your vivisecting him, or whatever you want to do. Of course, now I see
you would be the only person about Invermalluch Lodge likely to have
chloroform. But even then I don't see what you mean by saying that
your presence here would be dangerous to Miss McLeod."
"That's a very ingenious construction to put on my words, my dear
fellow," he said; "but in my mind I was relying on you to overcome my
patient's objections to any experiments that might be deemed advisable
on her dog. I meant something much more serious than that. I have
known you only a few hours, Mr. Ewart; but nobody need tell me you are
anything of a fool, unless he wants a very flat contradiction. You are
looking at this affair from a personal point of view--and no wonder,
either. But if you were not so worried about your fiancee your brain
would have grasped my point at once. That is why I want you to send
for a friend."
"I will," I promised solemnly. "Now tell me--what did you mean?"
"When I said I was the cause of the dog's disappearance, I meant that
if I hadn't arrived on the scene the dog would never have been
touched. The dog was taken by someone who knew he was blind, who knew
that I would experiment on him, and who was determined to get there
"But," I exclaimed, "that would be carrying professional jealousy a
bit too far--if that's what you mean!"
"It would be carrying it so far that we can rule it out of court," he
answered. "So that's what I don't mean. Let's go back and analyse the
occurrence. I say the dog was not stolen by poachers, because of the
chloroform; you said the same yourself. I say that the thief knew the
dog was blind, because he knew he was in a darkened room above the
coach-house, and he stole him from there. A poacher would have gone to
the kennel, and found it empty--and that would have been the end of
that. But the man who knew the dog was in a special room must have
known why he was there; and it seems to me that the man who steals a
blind dog steals him because, for some reason or other, he wants a
blind dog--that very one, probably. Have you got me?"
"Yes," I said, "I follow you so far. Go on." And I was surprised to
find how relieved I was at this suggested complication. I felt that if
we could only attribute this amazing week of mysteries to some human
agent I should be able to grapple with it.
"Now I come to my main point," Garnesk continued, "and it's this: The
man who wanted Sholto because he was blind wanted him to experiment
on. But no professional man would do a thing like that, even supposing
there to be one about. That motive again is ruled out of court. There
remains one possible solution----"
"Well?" I asked breathlessly, for even now I failed to grasp the
conclusion my scientific companion could be coming to. "Go on!"
"If this thief did not want Sholto to experiment on himself, he stole
the dog in order to prevent me from experimenting on him."
I laughed aloud from sheer excitement and the relief of finding some
tangible thing to go on, for the oculist's argument struck me as very
"You ought to be at Scotland Yard," I said. "You seem to me to have
hit the nail on the head."
"The two callings are very closely allied," he said modestly.
"Detectives deal with murderers and thieves, and I with nerves and
tissues. It is all a question of diagnosis."
"I must say I think you've diagnosed this case very well, Mr.
Garnesk," I said, "though we are just at the beginning of our troubles
if what you suppose is correct."
"I can't think of any other solution," he answered thoughtfully; "and
we are, as you say, just at the beginning of our troubles. The first
thing to do is----"
"To find the man who stole the dog," I cut in.
"To find the man who knew the dog was blind," he corrected. "By that
means we may come to the man who stole the dog; then we may get his
reason from his own lips, if we are exceptionally lucky. But I fancy I
can supply his motive, failing a full confession."
"You can?" I cried. "Let's hear it."
"You've thought of one yourself, of course?" he asked.
"The only motive I can think of is too fantastic altogether. It is
weak enough to presuppose that someone has a grievance against Miss
McLeod or the General, and that someone took advantage of the
extraordinary circumstances to steal Sholto, and if possible prevent
Myra getting her sight back. Oh, it's too ridiculous!"
"We have to remember," my companion suggested, "that our unknown
quantity not only knew that the dog was blind, but also knew that I
was coming or had arrived, and would probably experiment on the beast.
It argues a very terrible urgency that the animal disappeared within
an hour or two of my arrival. From all that I deduce what seems to me
the only possible motive. The dog was stolen by the man who made Miss
"Made her blind!" I cried. "You don't seriously mean that you think
someone--some fiend of hell--deliberately blinded her?"
"Not deliberately," my companion replied. "But I believe it was
through some human agency that she was blinded. I think some person or
persons were anxious that Miss McLeod should remain blind, in case we
should, in the process of recovering her sight, hit upon the cause of
her losing it."
In silence I sat for a few moments, thinking over this extraordinary
new outlook. I must certainly wire for Dennis in the morning.
"Mr. Garnesk," I said presently, "you are bringing a very terrible
charge against some human monster whom we have yet to discover. But I
must admit that you seem to have logic on your side. It remains for
me to discover who these people are--if there are more than one."
"Yes," he mused; "that is what we must discover."
"We!" I exclaimed. "Then you're not going away?"
"Yes," he said. "I think it would be fairer to you all if I left you.
I think my arrival has done some good--my departure may do more. But I
assure you, Mr. Ewart, I shall not give up this case till Miss McLeod
recovers her sight. I give you my hand on that."
I shook hands with him warmly.
"Thank you," I said, as I noticed the eager look on his keen, handsome
face. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart. To-morrow I hope I shall
find the man who knew Sholto was blind."
"I only know of one outside the General's household," he answered.
"But I don't even know that!" I cried, forgetting Dennis for the
moment. As for Olvery, he had gone clean out of my mind. "Who do you
"The American," said my companion.
"Hilderman!" I exclaimed. "Surely you must be mistaken. Why, he was
absolutely astonished when we told him. He can't have known."
"Still," Garnesk insisted, "I felt sure he knew. I suspected something
about him, but I was wrong to do that, quite wrong; I admit that now.
I couldn't at first see why he pretended he hadn't heard that Sholto
was blind. You may have noticed that I tried to give him the
impression that I had examined Miss McLeod and come to the conclusion
that I could do nothing. I confess I did that to see how he took it.
But I was on a wrong scent altogether. He knew about the dog, that was
obvious, but it was also obvious that he hadn't been told from an
official source, so to speak. He kept fishing for information. He
brought up the dog several times, each time with a query mark in his
voice--as you might say. He remarked that the last time he saw Miss
McLeod she had her beautiful dog with her. That made me suspicious,
because from what you told me she always had her dog with her. Then he
said her dog must be feeling it very keenly, you remember. I tried him
with my pessimistic conclusions to see how he took it. You see, as
soon as I saw the dog I put contagious disease out of the question.
Natural forces unguided seemed impossible, but natural forces of some
nature that we can't yet understand seemed probable. Still I was wrong
to suspect Hilderman, quite wrong. Besides he couldn't possibly have
stolen the dog."
"I'm glad you feel you were wrong there," I said, "because I rather
like the man. I shouldn't care to have to suspect him."
"Don't suspect him, whatever you do," said the oculist earnestly.
"Whatever you do, don't do that. He might be very useful. Make a
friend of him. You'll want all your friends."
He rose and stretched his legs, and I followed suit. We stood for a
moment on the Chemist's Rock and gazed up the river, over the top of
the falls, into the silver and purple symphony of a highland night.
Presently my companion turned and took my arm.
"I've seen all I want to see," he said as he began to lead me down to
the pool again. "They'll wonder what has become of us. And as I've
seen enough for one night, let's get back to the house."
"It's a wonderful view at any time of the day or night," I agreed, and
I sighed as I thought of poor Myra.
"It must be," said Garnesk absently, picking his way across the rocks.
"It must be a magnificent view. I haven't noticed it; you must bring
me here to-morrow."