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22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

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The Adventure of the Lion's Mane


1 It is a most singular thing that a problem which was certainly as abstruse and unusual as any which I have faced in my long professional career should have come to me after my retirement, and be brought, as it were, to my very door. 2 It occurred after my withdrawal to my little Sussex home, when I had given myself up entirely to that soothing life of Nature for which I had so often yearned during the long years spent amid the gloom of London. 3 At this period of my life the good Watson had passed almost beyond my ken. 4 An occasional week-end visit was the most I ever saw of him. 5 Thus I must act as my own chronicler. 6 Ah! had he but been with me, how much he might have made of so wonderful a happening and of my eventual triumph against every difficulty! 7 As it is, however, I must needs tell my tale in my own plain way, showing by my words each step upon the difficult road which lay before me as I searched for the mystery of the Lion's Mane.
8 My villa is situated upon the southern slope of the Downs, commanding a great view of the Channel. 9 At this point the coast line is entirely of chalk cliffs, which can only be descended by a single, long, tortuous path, which is steep and slippery. 10 At the bottom of the path lie a hundred yards of pebbles and shingle, even when the tide is at full. 11 Here and there, however, there are curves and hollows which make splendid swimming pools filled afresh with each flow. 12 This admirable beach extends for some miles in each direction, save only at one point where the little cove and village of Fulworth break the line.
13 My house is lonely. 14 I, my old housekeeper, and my bees have the estate all to ourselves. 15 Half a mile off, however, is Harold Stackhurst's well-known coaching establishment, The Gables - quite a large place, which contains some score of young fellows preparing for various professions, with a staff of several masters. 16 Stackhurst himself was a wellknown rowing Blue in his day, and an excellent all-round scholar. 17 He and I were always friendly from the day I came to the coast, and he was the one man who was on such terms with me that we could drop in on each other in the evenings without an invitation.
18 Towards the end of July 1907, there was a severe gale, the wind blowing up-Channel, heaping the seas to the base of the cliffs, and leaving a lagoon at the turn of the tide. 19 On the morning of which I speak the wind had abated, and all Nature was newly washed and fresh. 20 It was impossible to work upon so delightful a day, and I strolled out before breakfast to enjoy the exquisite air. 21 I walked along the cliff path which led to the steep descent to the beach. 22 As I walked I heard a shout behind me, and there was Harold Stackhurst waving his hand in cheery greeting.
23 'What a morning, Mr Holmes! 24 I thought I should see you out.'
25 'Going for a swim, I see.'
26 'At your old tricks again,' he laughed, patting his bulging pocket. 27 'Yes, McPherson started early, and I expect I may find him there.'
28 Fitzroy McPherson was the science master, a fine upstanding young fellow whose life had been crippled by heart trouble following rheumatic fever. 29 He was a natural athlete, however, and excelled in every game which did not throw too great a strain upon him. 30 Summer and winter he went for his swim, and, as I am a swimmer myself, I have often joined him.
31 At this moment we saw the man himself. 32 His head showed above the edge of the cliff where the path ends. 33 Then his whole figure appeared at the top, staggering like a drunken man. 34 The next instant he threw up his hands, and, with a terrible cry, fell upon his face. 35 Stackhurst and I rushed forward - it may have been fifty yards - and turned him on his back. 36 He was obviously dying. 37 Those glazed sunken eyes and dreadful livid cheeks could mean nothing else. 38 One glimmer of life came into his face for an instant, and he uttered two or three words with an eager air of warning. 39 They were slurred and indistinct, but to my ear the last of them, which burst in a shriek from his lips, were 'the lion's mane'. 40 It was utterly irrelevant and unintelligible, and yet I could twist the sound into no other sense. 41 Then he half raised himself from the ground, threw his arms into the air and fell forward on his side. 42 He was dead.
43 My companion was paralysed by the sudden horror of it, but I, as may well be imagined, had every sense on the alert. 44 And I had need, for it was speedily evident that we were in the presence of an extraordinary case. 45 The man was dressed only in his Burberry overcoat, his trousers, and an unlaced pair of canvas shoes. 46 As he fell over, his Burberry, which had been simply thrown round his shoulders, slipped off, exposing his trunk. 47 We stared at it in amazement. 48 His back was covered with dark red lines as though he had been terribly flogged by a thin wire scourge. 49 The instrument with which this punishment had been inflicted was clearly flexible, for the long, angry weals curved round his shoulders and ribs. 50 There was blood dripping down his chin, for he had bitten through his lower lip in the paroxysm of his agony. 51 His drawn and distorted face told how terrible that agony had been.
52 I was kneeling and Stackhurst standing by the body when a shadow fell across us, and we found that Ian Murdoch was by our side. 53 Murdoch was the mathematical coach at the establishment, a tall, dark, thin man, so taciturn and aloof that none can be said to have been his friend. 54 He seemed to live in some high abstract region of surds and conic sections with little to connect him with ordinary life. 55 He was looked upon as an oddity by the students, and would have been their butt, but there was some strange outlandish blood in the man which showed itself not only in his coal-black eyes and swarthy face, but also in occasional outbreaks of temper, which could only be described as ferocious. 56 On one occasion, being plagued by a little dog belonging to McPherson, he had caught the creature up and hurled it through the plate-glass window - an action for which Stackhurst would certainly have given him his dismissal had he not been a very valuable teacher. 57 Such was the strange, complex man who now appeared beside us. 58 He seemed to be honestly shocked at the sight before him, though the incident of the dog may show that there was no great sympathy between the dead man and himself.
59 'Poor fellow! 60 Poor fellow! 61 What can I do? 62 How can I help?'
63 'Were you with him? 64 Can you tell us what has happened?'
65 'No, no, I was late this morning. 66 I was not on the beach at all. 67 I have come straight from The Gables. 68 What can I do?'
69 'You can hurry to the police station at Fulworth. 70 Report the matter at once.'
71 Without a word he made off at top speed, and I proceeded to take the matter in hand, while Stackhurst, dazed at this tragedy, remained by the body. 72 My first task naturally was to note who was on the beach. 73 From the top of the path I could see the whole sweep of it, and it was absolutely deserted save that two or three dark figures could be seen far away moving towards the village of Fulworth. 74 Having satisfied myself upon this point, I walked slowly down the path. 75 There was clay or soft marl mixed with the chalk, and every here and there I saw the same footstep, both ascending and descending. 76 No one else had gone down to the beach by this track that morning. 77 At one place I observed the print of an open hand with the fingers towards the incline. 78 This could only mean that poor McPherson had fallen as he ascended. 79 There were rounded depressions, too, which suggested that he had come down upon his knees more than once. 80 At the bottom of the path was the considerable lagoon left by the retreating tide. 81 At the side of it McPherson had undressed, for there lay his towel on a rock. 82 It was folded and dry, so that it would seem that after all he had never entered the water. 83 Once or twice as I hunted round amid the hard shingle I came on little patches of sand where the print of his canvas shoe, and also of his naked foot, could be seen. 84 The latter fact proved that he had made all ready to bathe, though the towel indicated that he had not actually done so.
85 And here was the problem clearly defined - as strange a one as had ever confronted me. 86 The man had not been on the beach more than a quarter of an hour at the most. 87 Stackhurst had followed him from The Gables, so there could be no doubt about that. 88 He had gone to bathe and had stripped, as the naked footsteps showed. 89 Then he had suddenly huddled on his clothes again - they were all dishevelled and unfastened - and he had returned without bathing, or at any rate without drying himself. 90 And the reason for his change of purpose had been that he had been scourged in some savage, inhuman fashion, tortured until he bit his lip through in his agony, and was left with only strength enough to crawl away and to die. 91 Who had done this barbarous deed? 92 There were, it is true, small grottoes and caves in the base of the cliffs, but the low sun shone directly into them, and there was no place for concealment. 93 Then, again, there were those distant figures on the beach. 94 They seemed too far away to have been connected with the crime, and the broad lagoon in which McPherson had intended to bathe lay between him and them, lapping up to the rocks. 95 On the sea two or three fishing boats were at no great distance. 96 Their occupants might be examined at our leisure. 97 There were several roads for inquiry, but none which led to any very obvious goal.
98 When I at last returned to the body I found that a little group of wandering folk had gathered round it. 99 Stackhurst was, of course, still there, and Ian Murdoch had just arrived with Anderson, the village constable, a big, gingermoustached man of the slow solid Sussex breed - a breed which covers much good sense under a heavy, silent exterior. 100 He listened to everything, took note of all we said, and finally drew me aside.
101 'I'd be glad of your advice, Mr Holmes. 102 This is a big thing for me to handle, and I'll hear of it from Lewes if I go wrong.'
103 I advised him to send for his immediate superior, and for a doctor, also to allow nothing to be removed, and as few fresh footmarks as possible to be made, until they came. 104 In the mean time I searched the dead man's pockets. 105 There were his handkerchief, a large knife, and a small folding card-case. 106 From this projected a slip of paper, which I unfolded and handed to the constable. 107 There was written on it in a scrawling feminine hand: 108 'I will be there you may be sure. 109 Maudie.' 110 It read like a love affair, an assignation, though when and where were a blank. 111 The constable replaced it in the card-case and returned it with the other things to the pockets of the Burberry. 112 Then, as nothing more suggested itself, I walked back to my house for breakfast, having first arranged that the base of the cliffs should be thoroughly searched.
113 Stackhurst was round in an hour or two to tell me that the body had been removed to The Gables, where the inquest would be held. 114 He brought with him some serious and definite news. 115 As I expected, nothing had been found in the small caves below the cliff, but he had examined the papers in McPherson's desk, and there were several which showed an intimate correspondence with a certain Miss Maud Bellamy, of Fulworth. 116 We had then established the identity of the writer of the note.
117 'The police have the letters,' he explained. 118 'I could not bring them. 119 But there is no doubt that it was a serious love affair. 120 I see no reason, however, to connect it with that horrible happening save, indeed, that the lady had made an appointment with him.'
121 'But hardly at a bathing-pool which all of you were in the habit of using,' I remarked.
122 'It is mere chance', said he, 'that several of the students were not with McPherson.'
123 'Was it mere chance?'
124 Stackhurst knit his brows in thought.
125 'Ian Murdoch held them back,' said he, 'he would insist upon some algebraic demonstration before breakfast. 126 Poor chap, he is dreadfully cut up about it all.'
127 'And yet I gather that they were not friends.'
128 'At one time they were not. 129 But for a year or more Murdoch has been as near to McPherson as he ever could be to anyone. 130 He is not of a very sympathetic disposition by nature.'
131 'So I understand. 132 I seem to remember your telling me once about a quarrel over the ill-usage of a dog.'
133 'That blew over all right.'
134 'But left some vindictive feeling, perhaps.'
135 'No, no, I am sure they were real friends.'
136 'Well, then, we must explore the matter of the girl. 137 Do you know her?'
138 'Everybody knows her. 139 She is the beauty of the neighbourhood - a real beauty, Holmes, who would draw attention everywhere. 140 I knew that McPherson was attracted by her, but I had no notion that it had gone so far as these letters would seem to indicate.'
141 'But who is she?'
142 'She is the daughter of old Tom Bellamy, who owns all the boats and bathing-cots at Fulworth. 143 He was a fisherman to start with, but is now a man of some substance. 144 He and his son William run the business.'
145 'Shall we walk into Fulworth and see them?'
146 'On what pretext?'
147 'Oh, we can easily find a pretext. 148 After all, this poor man did not ill-use himself in this outrageous way. 149 Some human hand was on the handle of that scourge, if indeed it was a scourge which inflicted the injuries. 150 His circle of acquaintances in this lonely place was surely limited. 151 Let us follow it up in every direction and we can hardly fail to come upon the motive, which in turn should lead us to the criminal.'
152 It would have been a pleasant walk across the thymescented downs had our minds not been poisoned by the tragedy we had witnessed. 153 The village of Fulworth lies in a hollow curving in a semicircle round the bay. 154 Behind the old-fashioned hamlet several modern houses have been built upon the rising ground. 155 It was to one of these that Stackhurst guided me.
156 'That's The Haven, as Bellamy called it. 157 The one with the corner tower and slate roof. 158 Not bad for a man who started with nothing but - By Jove, look at that!'
159 The garden gate of The Haven had opened and a man had emerged. 160 There was no mistaking that tall, angular, straggling figure. 161 It was Ian Murdoch, the mathematician. 162 A moment later we confronted him upon the road.
163 'Hullo!' said Stackhurst. 164 The man nodded, gave us a sideways glance from his curious dark eyes, and would have passed us, but his principal pulled him up.
165 'What were you doing there?' he asked.
166 Murdoch's face flushed with anger. 167 'I am your subordinate, sir, under your roof. 168 I am not aware that I owe you any account of my private actions.'
169 Stackhurst's nerves were near the surface after all he had endured. 170 Otherwise, perhaps, he would have waited. 171 Now he lost his temper completely.
172 'In the circumstances your answer is pure impertinence, Mr Murdoch.'
173 'Your own question might perhaps come under the same heading.'
174 'This is not the first time that I have had to overlook your insubordinate ways. 175 It will certainly be the last. 176 You will kindly make fresh arrangements for your future as speedily as you can.'
177 'I had intended to do so. 178 I have lost to-day the only person who made The Gables habitable.'
179 He strode off upon his way, while Stackhurst, with angry eyes, stood glaring after him. 180 'Is he not an impossible, intolerable man?' he cried.
181 The one thing that impressed itself forcibly upon my mind was that Mr Ian Murdoch was taking the first chance to open a path of escape from the scene of the crime. 182 Suspicion, vague and nebulous, was now beginning to take outline in my mind. 183 Perhaps the visit to the Bellamys might throw some further light upon the matter. 184 Stackhurst pulled himself together and we went forward to the house.
185 Mr Bellamy proved to be a middle-aged man with a flaming red beard. 186 He seemed to be in a very angry mood, and his face was soon as florid as his hair.
187 'No, sir, I do not desire any particulars. 188 My son here' - indicating a powerful young man, with a heavy, sullen face, in the corner of the sitting-room - 'is of one mind with me that Mr McPherson's attentions to Maud were insulting. 189 Yes, sir, the word "marriage" was never mentioned, and yet there were letters and meetings, and a great deal more of which neither of us could approve. 190 She has no mother, and we are her only guardians. 191 We are determined-'
192 But the words were taken from his mouth by the appearance of the lady herself. 193 There was no gainsaying that she would have graced any assembly in the world. 194 Who could have imagined that so rare a flower would grow from such a root and in such an atmosphere? 195 Women have seldom been an attraction to me, for my brain has always governed my heart, but I could not look upon her perfect clear-cut face, with all the soft freshness of the Downlands in her delicate colouring, without realizing that no young man would cross her path unscathed. 196 Such was the girl who had pushed open the door and stood now, wide-eyed and intense, in front of Harold Stackhurst.
197 'I know already that Fitzroy is dead,' she said. 198 'Do not be afraid to tell me the particulars.'
199 'This other gentleman of yours let us know the news,' explained the father.
200 'There is no reason why my sister should be brought into the matter,' growled the younger man.
201 The sister turned a sharp, fierce look upon him. 202 'This is my business, William. 203 Kindly leave me to manage it in my own way. 204 By all accounts there has been a crime committed. 205 If I can help to show who did it, it is the least I can do for him who is gone.'
206 She listened to a short account from my companion, with a composed concentration which showed me that she possessed strong character as well as great beauty. 207 Maud Bellamy will always remain in my memory as a most complete and remarkable woman. 208 It seems that she already knew me by sight, for she turned to me at the end.
209 'Bring them to justice, Mr Holmes. 210 You have my sympathy and my help, whoever they may be.' 211 It seemed to me that she glanced defiantly at her father and brother as she spoke.
212 'Thank you,' said I. 213 'I value a woman's instinct in such matters. 214 You use the word "they". 215 You think that more than one person was concerned?'
216 'I knew Mr McPherson well enough to be aware that he was a brave and a strong man. 217 No single person could ever have inflicted such an outrage upon him.'
218 'Might I have one word with you alone?'
219 'I tell you, Maud, not to mix yourself up in the matter,' cried her father angrily.
220 She looked at me helplessly. 221 'What can I do?'
222 'The whole world will know the facts presently, so there can be no harm if I discuss them here,' said I. 223 'I should have preferred privacy, but if your father will not allow it, he must share the deliberations.' 224 Then I spoke of the note which had been found in the dead man's pocket. 225 'It is sure to be produced at the inquest. 226 May I ask you to throw any light upon it that you can?'
227 'I see no reason for mystery,' she answered. 228 'We were engaged to be married, and we only kept it secret because Fitzroy's uncle, who is very old and said to be dying, might have disinherited him if he had married against his wish. 229 There was no other reason.'
230 'You could have told us,' growled Mr Bellamy.
231 'So I would, father, if you had ever shown sympathy.'
232 'I object to my girl picking up with men outside her own station.'
233 'It was your prejudice against him which prevented us from telling you. 234 As to this appointment' - she fumbled in her dress and produced a crumpled note - 'it was in answer to this.'

235 Dearest, [ran the message]

236 The old place on the beach just after sunset on Tuesday. 237 It is the only time I can get away. 238 - F.M.

239 'Tuesday was to-day, and I had meant to meet him tonight.'
240 I turned over the paper. 241 'This never came by post. 242 How did you get it?'
243 'I would rather not answer that question. 244 It has really nothing to do with the matter which you are investigating. 245 But anything which bears upon that I will most freely answer.'
246 She was as good as her word, but there was nothing which was helpful in our investigation. 247 She had no reason to think that her fiancé had any hidden enemy, but she admitted that she had had several warm admirers.
248 'May I ask if Mr Ian Murdoch was one of them?'
249 She blushed and seemed confused.
250 'There was a time when I thought he was. 251 But that was all changed when he understood the relations between Fitzroy and myself.'
252 Again the shadow round this strange man seemed to me to be taking more definite shape. 253 His record must be examined. 254 His rooms must be privately searched. 255 Stackhurst was a willing collaborator, for in his mind also suspicions were forming. 256 We returned from our visit to The Haven with the hope that one free end of this tangled skein was already in our hands.
257 A week passed. 258 The inquest had thrown no light upon the matter and had been adjourned for further evidence. 259 Stackhurst had made discreet inquiry about his subordinate, and there had been a superficial search of his room, but without result. 260 Personally, I had gone over the whole ground again, both physically and mentally, but with no new conclusions. 261 In all my chronicles the reader will find no case which brought me so completely to the limit of my powers. 262 Even my imagination could conceive no solution to the mystery. 263 And then there came the incident of the dog.
264 It was my old housekeeper who heard of it first by that strange wireless by which such people collect the news of the countryside.
265 'Sad story this, sir, about Mr McPherson's dog,' said she one evening.
266 I do not encourage such conversations, but the words arrested my attention.
267 'What of Mr McPherson's dog?'
268 'Dead, sir. 269 Died of grief for its master.'
270 'Who told you this?'
271 'Why, sir, everyone is talking of it. 272 It took on terrible, and has eaten nothing for a week. 273 Then to-day two of the young gentlemen from The Gables found it dead - down on the beach, sir, at the very place where its master met his end.'
274 'At the very place.' 275 The words stood out clear in my memory. 276 Some dim perception that the matter was vital rose in my mind. 277 That the dog should die was after the beautiful, faithful nature of dogs. 278 But 'in the very place'! 279 Why should this lonely beach be fatal to it? 280 Was it possible that it also, had been sacrificed to some revengeful feud? 281 Was it possible - Yes, the perception was dim, but already something was building up in my mind. 282 In a few minutes I was on my way to The Gables, where I found Stackhurst in his study. 283 At my request he sent for Sudbury and Blount, the two students who had found the dog.
284 'Yes, it lay on the very edge of the pool,' said one of them. 285 'It must have followed the trail of its dead master.'
286 I saw the faithful little creature, an Airedale terrier, laid out upon the mat in the hall. 287 The body was stiff and rigid, the eyes projecting, and the limbs contorted. 288 There was agony in every line of it. 289 From The Gables I walked down to the bathing pool. 290 The sun had sunk and the shadow of the great cliff lay black across the water, which glimmered dully like a sheet of lead. 291 The place was deserted and there was no sign of life save for two sea-birds circling and screaming overhead. 292 In the fading light I could dimly make out the little dog's spoor upon the sand round the very rock on which his master's towel had been laid. 293 For a long time I stood in deep meditation while the shadows grew darker around me. 294 My mind was filled with racing thoughts. 295 You have known what it was to be in a nightmare in which you feel that there is some all-important thing for which you search and which you know is there, though it remains for ever just beyond your reach. 296 That was how I felt that evening as I stood alone by that place of death. 297 Then at last I turned and walked slowly homewards.
298 I had just reached the top of the path when it came to me. 299 Like a flash, I remembered the thing for which I had so eagerly and vainly grasped. 300 You will know, or Watson has written in vain, that I hold a vast store of out-of-the-way knowledge, without scientific system, but very available for the needs of my work. 301 My mind is like a crowded boxroom with packets of all sorts stowed away therein - so many that I may well have but a vague perception of what was there. 302 I had known that there was something which might bear upon this matter. 303 It was still vague, but at least I knew how I could make it clear. 304 It was monstrous, incredible, and yet it was always a possibility. 305 I would test it to the full.
306 There is a great garret in my little house which is stuffed with books. 307 It was into this that I plunged and rummaged for an hour. 308 At the end of that time I emerged with a little chocolate and silver volume. 309 Eagerly I turned up the chapter of which I had a dim remembrance. 310 Yes, it was indeed a far-fetched and unlikely proposition, and yet I could not be at rest until I had made sure if it might, indeed, be so. 311 It was late when I retired, with my mind eagerly awaiting the work of the morrow.
312 But that work met with an annoying interruption. 313 I had hardly swallowed my early cup of tea and was starting for the beach when I had a call from Inspector Bardle of the Sussex Constabulary - a steady, solid, bovine man with thoughtful eyes, which looked at me now with a very troubled expression.
'I know your immense experience sir,' said he. 315 'This is quite unofficial, of course, and need go no farther. 316 But I am fairly up against it in this McPherson case. 317 The question is, shall I make an arrest, or shall I not?'
318 'Meaning Mr Ian Murdoch?'
319 'Yes, sir. 320 There is really no one else when you come to think of it. 321 That's the advantage of this solitude. 322 We narrow it down to a very small compass. 323 If he did not do it, then who did?'
324 'What have you against him?'
325 He had gleaned along the same furrows as I had. 326 There was Murdoch's character and the mystery which seemed to hang round the man. 327 His furious bursts of temper, as shown in the incident of the dog. 328 The fact that he had quarrelled with McPherson in the past, and that there was some reason to think that he might have resented his attentions to Miss Bellamy. 329 He had all my points, but no fresh ones, save that Murdoch seemed to be making every preparation for departure.
330 'What would my position be if I let him slip away with all this evidence against him?' 331 The burly, phlegmatic man was sorely troubled in his mind.
332 'Consider', I said, 'all the essential gaps in your case. 333 On the morning of the crime he can surely prove an alibi. 334 He had been with his scholars till the last moment, and within a few minutes of McPherson's appearance he came upon us from behind. 335 Then bear in mind the absolute impossibility that he could single-handed have inflicted this outrage upon a man quite as strong as himself. 336 Finally there is the question of the instrument with which these injuries were inflicted.'
337 'What could it be but a scourge or flexible whip of some sort?'
338 'Have you examined the marks?' I asked.
339 'I have seen them. 340 So has the doctor.'
341 'But I have examined them very carefully with a lens. 342 They have peculiarities.'
343 'What are they, Mr Holmes?'
344 I stepped to my bureau and brought out an enlarged photograph. 345 'This is my method in such cases,' I explained.
346 'You certainly do things thoroughly, Mr Holmes.'
347 'I should hardly be what I am if I did not. 348 Now let us consider this weal which extends round the right shoulder. 349 Do you observe nothing remarkable?'
350 'I can't say I do.'
351 'Surely it is evident that it is unequal in its intensity. 352 There is a dot of extravasated blood here, and another there. 353 There are similar indications in this other weal down here. 354 What can that mean?'
355 'I have no idea. 356 Have you?'
357 'Perhaps I have. 358 Perhaps I haven't. 359 I may be able to say more soon. 360 Anything which will define what made that mark will bring us a long way towards the criminal.'
361 'It is, of course, an absurd idea,' said the policeman, 'but if a red-hot net of wire had been laid across the back, then these better-marked points would represent where the meshes crossed each other.'
362 'A most ingenious comparison. 363 Or shall we say a very stiff cat-o'-nine-tails with small hard knots upon it?'
364 'By jove, Mr Holmes, I think you have hit it.'
365 'Or there may be some very different cause, Mr Bardle. 366 But you case is far too weak for an arrest. 367 Besides, we have those last words - "Lion's Mane".'
368 'I have wondered whether Ian-'
369 'Yes, I have considered that. 370 If the second word had any resemblance to Murdoch - but it did not. 371 He gave it almost in a shriek. 372 I am sure that it was "Mane".'
373 'Have you no alternative, Mr Holmes?'
374 'Perhaps I have. 375 But I do not care to discuss it until there is something solid to discuss.'
376 'And when will that be?'
377 'In an hour - possibly less.'
378 The Inspector rubbed his chin and looked at me with dubious eyes.
379 'I wish I could see what was in your mind, Mr Holmes. 380 Perhaps it's those fishing-boats.'
381 'No, no, they were too far out.'
382 'Well, then, is it Bellamy and that big son of his? 383 They were not too sweet upon Mr McPherson. 384 Could they have done him a mischief?'
385 'No, no, you won't draw me until I am ready,' said I with a smile. 386 'Now, Inspector, we each have our own work to do. 387 Perhaps if you were to meet me here at midday-?'
388 So far we had got when there came the tremendous interruption which was the beginning of the end.
389 My outer door was flung open, there were blundering footsteps in the passage, and Ian Murdoch staggered into the room, pallid, dishevelled, his clothes in wild disorder, clawing with his bony hands at the furniture to hold himself erect. 390 'Brandy! 391 Brandy!' he gasped, and fell groaning upon the sofa.
392 He was not alone. 393 Behind him came Stackhurst, hatless and panting, almost as distrait as his companion.
394 'Yes, yes, brandy!' he cried. 395 'The man is at his last gasp. 396 It was all I could do to bring him here. 397 He fainted twice upon the way.'
398 Half a tumbler of the raw spirit brought about a wondrous change. 399 He pushed himself up on one arm and swung his coat off his shoulders. 400 'For God's sake! oil, opium, morphia!' he cried. 401 'Anything to ease this infernal agony!'
402 The Inspector and I cried out at the sight. 403 There, criss-crossed upon the man's naked shoulder, was the same strange reticulated pattern of red, inflamed lines which had been the death-mark of Fitzroy McPherson.
404 The pain was evidently terrible and was more than local, for the sufferer's breathing would stop for a time, his face would turn black, and then with loud gasps he would clap his hand to his heart, while his brow dropped beads of sweat. 405 At any moment he might die. 406 More and more brandy was poured down his throat, each fresh dose bringing him back to life. 407 Pads of cotton wool soaked in salad oil seemed to take the agony from the strange wounds. 408 At last his head fell heavily upon the cushion. 409 Exhausted Nature had taken refuge in its last storehouse of vitality. 410 It was half a sleep and half a faint, but at least it was ease from pain.
411 To question him had been impossible, but the moment we were assured of his condition Stackhurst turned upon me.
412 'My God!' he cried, 'what is it, Holmes? 413 What is it?'
414 'Where did you find him?'
415 'Down on the beach. 416 Exactly where poor McPherson met his end. 417 If this man's heart had been weak as McPherson's was, he would not be here now. 418 More than once I thought he was gone as I brought him up. 419 It was too far to The Gables, so I made for you.'
420 'Did you see him on the beach?'
421 'I was walking on the cliff when I heard his cry. 422 He was at the edge of the water, reeling about like a drunken man. 423 I ran down, threw some clothes over him and brought him up. 424 For heaven's sake, Holmes, use all the powers you have and spare no pains to lift the curse from this place, for life is becoming unendurable. 425 Can you, with all your worldwide reputation, do nothing for us?'
426 'I think I can, Stackhurst. 427 Come with me now! 428 And you, Inspector, come along! 429 We will see if we cannot deliver this murderer into your hands.'
430 Leaving the unconscious man in the charge of my housekeeper, we all three went down to the deadly lagoon. 431 On the shingle there was piled a little heap of towels and clothes, left by the stricken man. 432 Slowly I walked round the edge of the water, my comrades in Indian file behind me. 433 Most of the pool was quite shallow, but under the cliff where the beach was hollowed out it was four or five feet deep. 434 It was to this part that a swimmer would naturally go, for it formed a beautiful pellucid green pool as clear as crystal. 435 A line of rocks lay above it at the base of the cliff, and along this I led the way, peering eagerly into the depths beneath me. 436 I had reached the deepest and stillest pool when my eyes caught that for which they were searching, and I burst into a shout of triumph.
437 'Cyanea!' I cried.'Cyanea! 438 Behold the Lion's Mane!'
439 The strange object at which I pointed did indeed look like a tangled mass torn from the mane of a lion. 440 It lay upon a rocky shelf some three feet under the water, a curious waving, vibrating, hairy creature with streaks of silver among its yellow tresses. 441 It pulsated with a slow, heavy dilation and contraction.
442 'It has done mischief enough. 443 Its day is over!' I cried. 444 'Help me, Stackhurst! 445 Let us end the murderer for ever.'
446 There was a big boulder just above the ledge, and we pushed it until it fell with a tremendous splash into the water. 447 When the ripples had cleared we saw that it had settled upon the ledge below. 448 One flapping edge of yellow membrane showed that our victim was beneath it. 449 A thick oily scum oozed out from below the stone and stained the water round, rising slowly to the surface.
450 'Well, this gets me!' cried the Inspector. 451 'What was it, Mr Holmes? 452 I'm born and bred in these parts, but I never saw such a thing. 453 It don't belong to Sussex.'
454 'Just as well for Sussex,' I remarked. 455 'It may have been the South-west gale that brought it up. 456 Come back to my house, both of you, and I will give you the terrible experience of one who had good reason to remember his own meeting with the same peril of the seas.'
457 When we reached my study, we found that Murdoch was so far recovered that he could sit up. 458 He was dazed in mind, and every now and then was shaken by a paroxysm of pain. 459 In broken words he explained that he had no notion what had occurred to him, save that terrific pangs had suddenly shot through him, and that it had taken all his fortitude to reach the bank.
460 'Here is a book,' I said, taking up the little volume, 'which first brought light into what might have been for ever dark. 461 It is Out of Doors, by the famous observer J. G. Wood. 462 Wood himself very nearly perished from contact with this vile creature, so he wrote with a very full knowledge. 463 Cyanea capillata is the miscreant's full name, and he can be as dangerous to life as, and far more painful than, the bite of the cobra. 464 Let me briefly give this extract.
465 '"If the bather should see a loose roundish mass of tawny membranes and fibres, something like very large handfuls of lion's mane and silver paper, let him beware, for this is the fearful stinger, Cyanea capillata." 466 Could our sinister acquaintance be more clearly described?
467 'He goes on to tell his own encounter with one when swimming off the coast of Kent. 468 He found that the creature radiated almost invisible filaments to the distance of fifty feet, and that anyone within that circumference from the deadly centre was in danger of death. 469 Even at a distance the effect upon Wood was almost fatal. 470 "The multitudinous threads caused light scarlet lines upon the skin which on closer examination resolved into minute dots or pustules, each dot charged as it were with a red-hot needle making its way through the nerves."
471 'The local pain was, as he explains, the least part of the exquisite torment. 472 "Pangs shot through the chest, causing me to fall if as struck by a bullet. 473 The pulsation would cease, and then the heart would give six or seven leaps as if it would force its way through the chest."
474 'It nearly killed him, although he had only been exposed to it in the disturbed ocean and not in the narrow calm waters of a bathing pool. 475 He says that he could hardly recognize himself afterwards, so white, wrinkled and shrivelled was his face. 476 He gulped down brandy, a whole bottleful, and it seems to have saved his life. 477 There is the book, Inspector. 478 I leave it with you, and you cannot doubt that it contains a full explanation of the tragedy of poor McPherson.'
479 'And incidentally exonerates me,' remarked Ian Murdoch with a wry smile. 480 'I do not blame you, Inspector, nor you, Mr Holmes, for your suspicions were natural. 481 I feel that on the very eve of my arrest I have only cleared myself by sharing the fate of my poor friend.'
482 'No, Mr Murdoch. 483 I was already upon the track, and had I been out as early as I intended I might well have saved you from this terrific experience.'
484 'But how did you know, Mr Holmes?'
485 'I am an omnivorous reader with a strangely retentive memory for trifles. 486 That phrase "Lion's Mane" haunted my mind. 487 I knew that I had seen it somewhere in an unexpected context. 488 You have seen that it does describe the creature. 489 I have no doubt that it was floating on the water when McPherson saw it, and that this phrase was the only one by which he could convey to us a warning as to the creature which had been his death.'
490 'Then I, at least, am cleared,' said Murdoch, rising slowly to his feet. 491 'There are one or two words of explanation which I should give, for I know the direction in which your inquiries have run. 492 It is true that I loved this lady, but from the day when she chose my friend McPherson my one desire was to help her to happiness. 493 I was well content to stand aside and act as their go-between. 494 Often I carried their messages, and it was because I was in their confidence and because she was so dear to me that I hastened to tell her of my friend's death, lest someone should forestall me in a more sudden and heartless manner. 495 She would not tell you, sir, of our relations lest you would disapprove and I might suffer. 496 But with your leave I must try to get back to The Gables, for my bed will be very welcome.'
497 Stackhurst held out his hand. 498 'Our nerves have all been at concert pitch,' said he. 499 'Forgive what is past, Murdoch. 500 We shall understand each other better in the future.' 501 They passed out together with their arms linked in friendly fashion. 502 The Inspector remained, staring at me in silence with his ox-like eyes.
503 'Well, you've done it!' he cried at last. 504 'I had read of you, but I never believed it. 505 It's wonderful!'
506 I was forced to shake my head. 507 To accept such praise was to lower one's own standards.
508 'I was slow at the outset - culpably slow. 509 Had the body been found in the water I could hardly have missed it. 510 It was the towel which misled me. 511 The poor fellow had never thought to dry himself, and so I in turn was led to believe that he had never been in the water. 512 Why, then, should the attack of any water creature suggest itself to me? 513 That was where I went astray. 514 Well, well, Inspector, I often ventured to chaff you gentlemen of the police force, but Cyanea capillata very nearly avenged Scotland Yard.'

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