The Adventure of the Lion's Mane - The complete Sherlock Holmes

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1 The Adventure of the Lions Mane Arthur Conan Doyle

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3 I t is a most singular thing that a prob- lem 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. It occurred after my withdrawal to my little Sussex home, when I had before breakfast to enjoy the exquisite air. I walked along the cliff path which led to the steep descent to the beach. As I walked I heard a shout behind me, and there was Harold Stackhurst waving his hand in cheery greeting. What a morning, Mr. Holmes! I thought I should see you out. given myself up entirely to that soothing life of Going for a swim, I see. Nature for which I had so often yearned during the long years spent amid the gloom of London. At At your old tricks again, he laughed, patting this period of my life the good Watson had passed his bulging pocket. Yes. McPherson started early, almost beyond my ken. An occasional week-end and I expect I may find him there. visit was the most that I ever saw of him. Thus I Fitzroy McPherson was the science master, a must act as my own chronicler. Ah! had he but fine upstanding young fellow whose life had been been with me, how much he might have made of crippled by heart trouble following rheumatic fever. so wonderful a happening and of my eventual tri- He was a natural athlete, however, and excelled in umph against every difficulty! As it is, however, I every game which did not throw too great a strain must needs tell my tale in my own plain way, show- upon him. Summer and winter he went for his ing by my words each step upon the difficult road swim, and, as I am a swimmer myself, I have often which lay before me as I searched for the mystery joined him. of the Lions Mane. At this moment we saw the man himself. His My villa is situated upon the southern slope of head showed above the edge of the cliff where the the downs, commanding a great view of the Chan- path ends. Then his whole figure appeared at the nel. At this point the coast-line is entirely of chalk top, staggering like a drunken man. The next in- cliffs, which can only be descended by a single, stant he threw up his hands and, with a terrible long, tortuous path, which is steep and slippery. At cry, fell upon his face. Stackhurst and I rushed the bottom of the path lie a hundred yards of peb- forwardit may have been fifty yardsand turned bles and shingle, even when the tide is at full. Here him on his back. He was obviously dying. Those and there, however, there are curves and hollows glazed sunken eyes and dreadful livid cheeks could which make splendid swimming-pools filled afresh mean nothing else. One glimmer of life came into with each flow. This admirable beach extends for his face for an instant, and he uttered two or three some miles in each direction, save only at one point words with an eager air of warning. They were where the little cove and village of Fulworth break slurred and indistinct, but to my ear the last of the line. them, which burst in a shriek from his lips, were the Lions Mane. It was utterly irrelevant and My house is lonely. I, my old housekeeper, and unintelligible, and yet I could twist the sound into my bees have the estate all to ourselves. Half a mile no other sense. Then he half raised himself from off, however, is Harold Stackhursts well-known the ground, threw his arms into the air, and fell coaching establishment, The Gables, quite a large forward on his side. He was dead. place, which contains some score of young fellows My companion was paralyzed by the sudden preparing for various professions, with a staff of horror of it, but I, as may well be imagined, had several masters. Stackhurst himself was a well- every sense on the alert. And I had need, for it was known rowing Blue in his day, and an excellent speedily evident that we were in the presence of an all-round scholar. He and I were always friendly extraordinary case. The man was dressed only in from the day I came to the coast, and he was the his Burberry overcoat, his trousers, and an unlaced one man who was on such terms with me that we pair of canvas shoes. As he fell over, his Burberry, could drop in on each other in the evenings without which had been simply thrown round his shoul- an invitation. ders, slipped off, exposing his trunk. We stared at it Towards the end of July, 1907, there was a se- in amazement. His back was covered with dark red vere gale, the wind blowing up-channel, heaping lines as though he had been terribly flogged by a the seas to the base of the cliffs and leaving a la- thin wire scourge. The instrument with which this goon at the turn of the tide. On the morning of punishment had been inflicted was clearly flexible, which I speak the wind had abated, and all Nature for the long, angry weals curved round his shoul- was newly washed and fresh. It was impossible to ders and ribs. There was blood dripping down his work upon so delightful a day, and I strolled out chin, for he had bitten through his lower lip in the 1

4 paroxysm of his agony. His drawn and distorted down upon his knees more than once. At the bot- face told how terrible that agony had been. tom of the path was the considerable lagoon left I was kneeling and Stackhurst standing by the by the retreating tide. At the side of it McPherson body when a shadow fell across us, and we found had undressed, for there lay his towel on a rock. that Ian Murdoch was by our side. Murdoch was It was folded and dry, so that it would seem that, the mathematical coach at the establishment, a tall, after all, he had never entered the water. Once or dark, thin man, so taciturn and aloof that none can twice as I hunted round amid the hard shingle I be said to have been his friend. He seemed to live came on little patches of sand where the print of in some high, abstract region of surds and conic his canvas shoe, and also of his naked foot, could sections, with little to connect him with ordinary be seen. The latter fact proved that he had made life. He was looked upon as an oddity by the stu- all ready to bathe, though the towel indicated that dents, and would have been their butt, but there he had not actually done so. was some strange outlandish blood in the man, And here was the problem clearly definedas which showed itself not only in his coal-black eyes strange a one as had ever confronted me. The man and swarthy face but also in occasional outbreaks had not been on the beach more than a quarter of of temper, which could only be described as fero- an hour at the most. Stackhurst had followed him cious. On one occasion, being plagued by a little from The Gables, so there could be no doubt about dog belonging to McPherson, he had caught the that. He had gone to bathe and had stripped, as creature up and hurled it through the plate-glass the naked footsteps showed. Then he had suddenly window, an action for which Stackhurst would cer- huddled on his clothes againthey were all dishev- tainly have given him his dismissal had he not elled and unfastenedand he had returned with- been a very valuable teacher. Such was the strange out bathing, or at any rate without drying himself. complex man who now appeared beside us. He And the reason for his change of purpose had been seemed to be honestly shocked at the sight before that he had been scourged in some savage, inhu- him, though the incident of the dog may show that man fashion, tortured until he bit his lip through in there was no great sympathy between the dead his agony, and was left with only strength enough man and himself. to crawl away and to die. Who had done this bar- Poor fellow! Poor fellow! What can I do? How barous deed? There were, it is true, small grottos can I help? and caves in the base of the cliffs, but the low sun shone directly into them, and there was no place for Were you with him? Can you tell us what has concealment. Then, again, there were those distant happened? figures on the beach. They seemed too far away to No, no, I was late this morning. I was not on have been connected with the crime, and the broad the beach at all. I have come straight from The lagoon in which McPherson had intended to bathe Gables. What can I do? lay between him and them, lapping up to the rocks. You can hurry to the police-station at Fulworth. On the sea two or three fishing-boats were at no Report the matter at once. great distance. Their occupants might be examined Without a word he made off at top speed, and I at our leisure. There were several roads for inquiry, proceeded to take the matter in hand, while Stack- but none which led to any very obvious goal. hurst, dazed at this tragedy, remained by the body. When I at last returned to the body I found My first task naturally was to note who was on the that a little group of wondering folk had gathered beach. From the top of the path I could see the round it. Stackhurst was, of course, still there, and whole sweep of it, and it was absolutely deserted Ian Murdoch had just arrived with Anderson, the save that two or three dark figures could be seen village constable, a big, ginger-moustached man of far away moving towards the village of Fulworth. the slow, solid Sussex breeda breed which covers Having satisfied myself upon this point, I walked much good sense under a heavy, silent exterior. He slowly down the path. There was clay or soft marl listened to everything, took note of all we said, and mixed with the chalk, and every here and there I finally drew me aside. saw the same footstep, both ascending and descend- Id be glad of your advice, Mr. Holmes. This ing. No one else had gone down to the beach by is a big thing for me to handle, and Ill hear of it this track that morning. At one place I observed the from Lewes if I go wrong. print of an open hand with the fingers towards the I advised him to send for his immediate supe- incline. This could only mean that poor McPherson rior, and for a doctor; also to allow nothing to be had fallen as he ascended. There were rounded de- moved, and as few fresh footmarks as possible to be pressions, too, which suggested that he had come made, until they came. In the meantime I searched 2

5 the dead mans pockets. There were his handker- No, no, I am sure they were real friends. chief, a large knife, and a small folding card-case. Well, then, we must explore the matter of the From this projected a slip of paper, which I un- girl. Do you know her? folded and handed to the constable. There was Everyone knows her. She is the beauty of the written on it in a scrawling, feminine hand: neighbourhooda real beauty, Holmes, who would I will be there, you may be sure. draw attention everywhere. I knew that McPherson was attracted by her, but I had no notion that it had Maudie. gone so far as these letters would seem to indicate. It read like a love affair, an assignation, though But who is she? when and where were a blank. The constable re- She is the daughter of old Tom Bellamy, who placed it in the card-case and returned it with the owns all the boats and bathing-cots at Fulworth. other things to the pockets of the Burberry. Then, as He was a fisherman to start with, but is now a man nothing more suggested itself, I walked back to my of some substance. He and his son William run the house for breakfast, having first arranged that the business. base of the cliffs should be thoroughly searched. Shall we walk into Fulworth and see them? Stackhurst was round in an hour or two to tell On what pretext? me that the body had been removed to The Gables, Oh, we can easily find a pretext. After all, where the inquest would be held. He brought with this poor man did not ill-use himself in this outra- him some serious and definite news. As I expected, geous way. Some human hand was on the handle nothing had been found in the small caves below of that scourge, if indeed it was a scourge which the cliff, but he had examined the papers in McPher- inflicted the injuries. His circle of acquaintances in sons desk, and there were several which showed an this lonely place was surely limited. Let us follow intimate correspondence with a certain Miss Maud it up in every direction and we can hardly fail to Bellamy, of Fulworth. We had then established the come upon the motive, which in turn should lead identity of the writer of the note. us to the criminal. The police have the letters, he explained. I It would have been a pleasant walk across the could not bring them. But there is no doubt that it thyme-scented downs had our minds not been poi- was a serious love affair. I see no reason, however, soned by the tragedy we had witnessed. The village to connect it with that horrible happening save, in- of Fulworth lies in a hollow curving in a semicircle deed, that the lady had made an appointment with round the bay. Behind the old-fashioned hamlet him. several modern houses have been built upon the But hardly at a bathing-pool which all of you rising ground. It was to one of these that Stackhurst were in the habit of using, I remarked. guided me. It is mere chance, said he, that several of the Thats The Haven, as Bellamy called it. The students were not with McPherson. one with the corner tower and slate roof. Not bad for a man who started with nothing but By Jove, Was it mere chance? look at that! Stackhurst knit his brows in thought. The garden gate of The Haven had opened and Ian Murdoch held them back, said he. He a man had emerged. There was no mistaking that would insist upon some algebraic demonstration tall, angular, straggling figure. It was Ian Murdoch, before breakfast. Poor chap, he is dreadfully cut up the mathematician. A moment later we confronted about it all. him upon the road. And yet I gather that they were not friends. Hullo! said Stackhurst. The man nodded, gave us a sideways glance from his curious dark At one time they were not. But for a year or eyes, and would have passed us, but his principal more Murdoch has been as near to McPherson as pulled him up. he ever could be to anyone. He is not of a very sympathetic disposition by nature. What were you doing there? he asked. Murdochs face flushed with anger. I am your So I understand. I seem to remember your subordinate, sir, under your roof. I am not aware telling me once about a quarrel over the ill-usage that I owe you any account of my private actions. of a dog. Stackhursts nerves were near the surface after That blew over all right. all he had endured. Otherwise, perhaps, he would But left some vindictive feeling, perhaps. have waited. Now he lost his temper completely. 3

6 In the circumstances your answer is pure im- This other gentleman of yours let us know the pertinence, Mr. Murdoch. news, explained the father. Your own question might perhaps come under There is no reason why my sister should be the same heading. brought into the matter, growled the younger man. This is not the first time that I have had to over- The sister turned a sharp, fierce look upon him. look your insubordinate ways. It will certainly be This is my business, William. Kindly leave me to the last. You will kindly make fresh arrangements manage it in my own way. By all accounts there for your future as speedily as you can. has been a crime committed. If I can help to show who did it, it is the least I can do for him who is I had intended to do so. I have lost to-day the gone. only person who made The Gables habitable. She listened to a short account from my compan- He strode off upon his way, while Stackhurst, ion, with a composed concentration which showed with angry eyes, stood glaring after him. Is he not me that she possessed strong character as well as an impossible, intolerable man? he cried. great beauty. Maud Bellamy will always remain in The one thing that impressed itself forcibly my memory as a most complete and remarkable upon my mind was that Mr. Ian Murdoch was woman. It seems that she already knew me by sight, taking the first chance to open a path of escape for she turned to me at the end. from the scene of the crime. Suspicion, vague and Bring them to justice, Mr. Holmes. You have nebulous, was now beginning to take outline in my sympathy and my help, whoever they may be. my mind. Perhaps the visit to the Bellamys might It seemed to me that she glanced defiantly at her throw some further light upon the matter. Stack- father and brother as she spoke. hurst pulled himself together, and we went forward to the house. Thank you, said I. I value a womans instinct in such matters. You use the word they. You think Mr. Bellamy proved to be a middle-aged man that more than one was concerned? with a flaming red beard. He seemed to be in a very angry mood, and his face was soon as florid I knew Mr. McPherson well enough to be as his hair. aware that he was a brave and a strong man. No single person could ever have inflicted such an out- No, sir, I do not desire any particulars. My rage upon him. son hereindicating a powerful young man, with Might I have one word with you alone? a heavy, sullen face, in the corner of the sitting- roomis of one mind with me that Mr. McPher- I tell you, Maud, not to mix yourself up in the sons attentions to Maud were insulting. Yes, sir, matter, cried her father angrily. the word marriage was never mentioned, and yet She looked at me helplessly. What can I do? there were letters and meetings, and a great deal The whole world will know the facts presently, more of which neither of us could approve. She so there can be no harm if I discuss them here, has no mother, and we are her only guardians. We said I. I should have preferred privacy, but if your are determined father will not allow it he must share the deliber- But the words were taken from his mouth by ations. Then I spoke of the note which had been the appearance of the lady herself. There was no found in the dead mans pocket. It is sure to be gainsaying that she would have graced any assem- produced at the inquest. May I ask you to throw bly in the world. Who could have imagined that any light upon it that you can? so rare a flower would grow from such a root and I see no reason for mystery, she answered. in such an atmosphere? Women have seldom been We were engaged to be married, and we only kept an attraction to me, for my brain has always gov- it secret because Fitzroys uncle, who is very old erned my heart, but I could not look upon her and said to be dying, might have disinherited him perfect clear-cut face, with all the soft freshness of if he had married against his wish. There was no the downlands in her delicate colouring, without other reason. realizing that no young man would cross her path unscathed. Such was the girl who had pushed open You could have told us, growled Mr. Bellamy. the door and stood now, wide-eyed and intense, in So I would, father, if you had ever shown sym- front of Harold Stackhurst. pathy. I know already that Fitzroy is dead, she said. I object to my girl picking up with men outside Do not be afraid to tell me the particulars. her own station. 4

7 It was your prejudice against him which pre- Sad story this, sir, about Mr. McPhersons dog, vented us from telling you. As to this appoint- said she one evening. mentshe fumbled in her dress and produced a I do not encourage such conversations, but the crumpled noteit was in answer to this. words arrested my attention. Dearest [ran the message]: What of Mr. McPhersons dog? The old place on the beach just after Dead, sir. Died of grief for its master. sunset on Tuesday. It is the only time I Who told you this? can get away. Why, sir, everyone is talking of it. It took on F. M. terrible, and has eaten nothing for a week. Then to- day two of the young gentlemen from The Gables Tuesday was to-day, and I had meant to meet found it deaddown on the beach, sir, at the very him to-night. place where its master met his end. I turned over the paper. This never came by At the very place. The words stood out clear post. How did you get it? in my memory. Some dim perception that the mat- ter was vital rose in my mind. That the dog should I would rather not answer that question. It has die was after the beautiful, faithful nature of dogs. really nothing to do with the matter which you are But in the very place! Why should this lonely investigating. But anything which bears upon that beach be fatal to it? Was it possible that it also had I will most freely answer. been sacrificed to some revengeful feud? Was it She was as good as her word, but there was possible? Yes, the perception was dim, but al- nothing which was helpful in our investigation. ready something was building up in my mind. In a She had no reason to think that her fiance had any few minutes I was on my way to The Gables, where hidden enemy, but she admitted that she had had I found Stackhurst in his study. At my request he several warm admirers. sent for Sudbury and Blount, the two students who May I ask if Mr. Ian Murdoch was one of had found the dog. them? Yes, it lay on the very edge of the pool, said She blushed and seemed confused. one of them. It must have followed the trail of its dead master. There was a time when I thought he was. But that was all changed when he understood the rela- I saw the faithful little creature, an Airedale ter- tions between Fitzroy and myself. rier, laid out upon the mat in the hall. The body was stiff and rigid, the eyes projecting, and the Again the shadow round this strange man limbs contorted. There was agony in every line of seemed to me to be taking more definite shape. it. His record must be examined. His rooms must be From The Gables I walked down to the bathing- privately searched. Stackhurst was a willing collab- pool. The sun had sunk and the shadow of the orator, for in his mind also suspicions were forming. great cliff lay black across the water, which glim- We returned from our visit to The Haven with the mered dully like a sheet of lead. The place was hope that one free end of this tangled skein was deserted and there was no sign of life save for two already in our hands. sea-birds circling and screaming overhead. In the A week passed. The inquest had thrown no fading light I could dimly make out the little dogs light upon the matter and had been adjourned for spoor upon the sand round the very rock on which further evidence. Stackhurst had made discreet his masters towel had been laid. For a long time I inquiry about his subordinate, and there had been stood in deep meditation while the shadows grew a superficial search of his room, but without re- darker around me. My mind was filled with racing sult. Personally, I had gone over the whole ground thoughts. You have known what it was to be in again, both physically and mentally, but with no a nightmare in which you feel that there is some new conclusions. In all my chronicles the reader all-important thing for which you search and which will find no case which brought me so completely you know is there, though it remains forever just be- to the limit of my powers. Even my imagination yond your reach. That was how I felt that evening could conceive no solution to the mystery. And as I stood alone by that place of death. Then at last then there came the incident of the dog. I turned and walked slowly homeward. It was my old housekeeper who heard of it first I had just reached the top of the path when it by that strange wireless by which such people col- came to me. Like a flash, I remembered the thing lect the news of the countryside. for which I had so eagerly and vainly grasped. You 5

8 will know, or Watson has written in vain, that I hold Consider, I said, all the essential gaps in your a vast store of out-of-the-way knowledge without case. On the morning of the crime he can surely scientific system, but very available for the needs prove an alibi. He had been with his scholars till the of my work. My mind is like a crowded box-room last moment, and within a few minutes of McPher- with packets of all sorts stowed away thereinso sons appearance he came upon us from behind. many that I may well have but a vague perception Then bear in mind the absolute impossibility that of what was there. I had known that there was he could single-handed have inflicted this outrage something which might bear upon this matter. It upon a man quite as strong as himself. Finally, was still vague, but at least I knew how I could there is this question of the instrument with which make it clear. It was monstrous, incredible, and yet these injuries were inflicted. it was always a possibility. I would test it to the What could it be but a scourge or flexible whip full. of some sort? There is a great garret in my little house which Have you examined the marks? I asked. is stuffed with books. It was into this that I plunged I have seen them. So has the doctor. and rummaged for an hour. At the end of that time But I have examined them very carefully with I emerged with a little chocolate and silver volume. a lens. They have peculiarities. Eagerly I turned up the chapter of which I had a dim remembrance. Yes, it was indeed a far-fetched What are they, Mr. Holmes? and unlikely proposition, and yet I could not be at I stepped to my bureau and brought out an en- rest until I had made sure if it might, indeed, be so. larged photograph. This is my method in such It was late when I retired, with my mind eagerly cases, I explained. awaiting the work of the morrow. You certainly do things thoroughly, Mr. But that work met with an annoying interrup- Holmes. tion. I had hardly swallowed my early cup of I should hardly be what I am if I did not. Now tea and was starting for the beach when I had a let us consider this weal which extends round the call from Inspector Bardle of the Sussex Constabu- right shoulder. Do you observe nothing remark- larya steady, solid, bovine man with thoughtful able? eyes, which looked at me now with a very troubled I cant say I do. expression. Surely it is evident that it is unequal in its in- I know your immense experience, sir, said tensity. There is a dot of extravasated blood here, he. This is quite unofficial, of course, and need and another there. There are similar indications in go no farther. But I am fairly up against it in this this other weal down here. What can that mean? McPherson case. The question is, shall I make an I have no idea. Have you? arrest, or shall I not? Perhaps I have. Perhaps I havent. I may be Meaning Mr. Ian Murdoch? able to say more soon. Anything which will de- Yes, sir. There is really no one else when you fine what made that mark will bring us a long way come to think of it. Thats the advantage of this soli- towards the criminal. tude. We narrow it down to a very small compass. It is, of course, an absurd idea, said the po- If he did not do it, then who did? liceman, but if a red-hot net of wire had been laid What have you against him? across the back, then these better marked points would represent where the meshes crossed each He had gleaned along the same furrows as I other. had. There was Murdochs character and the mys- A most ingenious comparison. Or shall we say tery which seemed to hang round the man. His a very stiff cat-o-nine-tails with small hard knots furious bursts of temper, as shown in the incident upon it? of the dog. The fact that he had quarrelled with McPherson in the past, and that there was some By Jove, Mr. Holmes, I think you have hit it. reason to think that he might have resented his Or there may be some very different cause, Mr. attentions to Miss Bellamy. He had all my points, Bardle. But your case is far too weak for an ar- but no fresh ones, save that Murdoch seemed to be rest. Besides, we have those last wordsthe Lions making every preparation for departure. Mane. What would my position be if I let him slip I have wondered whether Ian away with all this evidence against him? The burly, Yes, I have considered that. If the second word phlegmatic man was sorely troubled in his mind. had borne any resemblance to Murdochbut it did 6

9 not. He gave it almost in a shriek. I am sure that it was poured down his throat, each fresh dose bring- was Mane. ing him back to life. Pads of cotton-wool soaked in Have you no alternative, Mr. Holmes? salad-oil seemed to take the agony from the strange wounds. At last his head fell heavily upon the cush- Perhaps I have. But I do not care to discuss it ion. Exhausted Nature had taken refuge in its last until there is something more solid to discuss. storehouse of vitality. It was half a sleep and half a And when will that be? faint, but at least it was ease from pain. In an hourpossibly less. To question him had been impossible, but the The inspector rubbed his chin and looked at me moment we were assured of his condition Stack- with dubious eyes. hurst turned upon me. I wish I could see what was in your mind, Mr. My God! he cried, what is it, Holmes? What Holmes. Perhaps its those fishing-boats. is it? Where did you find him? No, no, they were too far out. Down on the beach. Exactly where poor Well, then, is it Bellamy and that big son of McPherson met his end. If this mans heart had his? They were not too sweet upon Mr. McPherson. been weak as McPhersons was, he would not be Could they have done him a mischief? here now. More than once I thought he was gone No, no, you wont draw me until I am ready, as I brought him up. It was too far to The Gables, said I with a smile. Now, Inspector, we each have so I made for you. our own work to do. Perhaps if you were to meet Did you see him on the beach? me here at midday I was walking on the cliff when I heard his cry. So far we had got when there came the tremen- He was at the edge of the water, reeling about like dous interruption which was the beginning of the a drunken man. I ran down, threw some clothes end. about him, and brought him up. For heavens sake, My outer door was flung open, there were Holmes, use all the powers you have and spare blundering footsteps in the passage, and Ian Mur- no pains to lift the curse from this place, for life doch staggered into the room, pallid, dishevelled, is becoming unendurable. Can you, with all your his clothes in wild disorder, clawing with his world-wide reputation, do nothing for us? bony hands at the furniture to hold himself erect. I think I can, Stackhurst. Come with me now! Brandy! Brandy! he gasped, and fell groaning And you, Inspector, come along! We will see if we upon the sofa. cannot deliver this murderer into your hands. He was not alone. Behind him came Stackhurst, Leaving the unconscious man in the charge of hatless and panting, almost as distrait as his com- my housekeeper, we all three went down to the panion. deadly lagoon. On the shingle there was piled a little heap of towels and clothes left by the stricken Yes, yes, brandy! he cried. The man is at his man. Slowly I walked round the edge of the water, last gasp. It was all I could do to bring him here. my comrades in Indian file behind me. Most of the He fainted twice upon the way. pool was quite shallow, but under the cliff where Half a tumbler of the raw spirit brought about the beach was hollowed out it was four or five feet a wondrous change. He pushed himself up on deep. It was to this part that a swimmer would nat- one arm and swung his coat from his shoulders. urally go, for it formed a beautiful pellucid green For Gods sake, oil, opium, morphia! he cried. pool as clear as crystal. A line of rocks lay above it Anything to ease this infernal agony! at the base of the cliff, and along this I led the way, The inspector and I cried out at the sight. There, peering eagerly into the depths beneath me. I had crisscrossed upon the mans naked shoulder, was reached the deepest and stillest pool when my eyes the same strange reticulated pattern of red, in- caught that for which they were searching, and I flamed lines which had been the death-mark of burst into a shout of triumph. Fitzroy McPherson. Cyanea! I cried. Cyanea! Behold the Lions The pain was evidently terrible and was more Mane! than local, for the sufferers breathing would stop The strange object at which I pointed did in- for a time, his face would turn black, and then with deed look like a tangled mass torn from the mane loud gasps he would clap his hand to his heart, of a lion. It lay upon a rocky shelf some three feet while his brow dropped beads of sweat. At any under the water, a curious waving, vibrating, hairy moment he might die. More and more brandy creature with streaks of silver among its yellow 7

10 tresses. It pulsated with a slow, heavy dilation and was in danger of death. Even at a distance the effect contraction. upon Wood was almost fatal. It has done mischief enough. Its day is over! I The multitudinous threads caused light cried. Help me, Stackhurst! Let us end the mur- scarlet lines upon the skin which on closer derer forever. examination resolved into minute dots or pustules, each dot charged as it were with a There was a big boulder just above the ledge, red-hot needle making its way through the and we pushed it until it fell with a tremendous nerves. splash into the water. When the ripples had cleared we saw that it had settled upon the ledge below. The local pain was, as he explains, the least part One flapping edge of yellow membrane showed of the exquisite torment. that our victim was beneath it. A thick oily scum Pangs shot through the chest, causing me oozed out from below the stone and stained the to fall as if struck by a bullet. The pulsa- water round, rising slowly to the surface. tion would cease, and then the heart would Well, this gets me! cried the inspector. What give six or seven leaps as if it would force was it, Mr. Holmes? Im born and bred in these its way through the chest. parts, but I never saw such a thing. It dont belong It nearly killed him, although he had only been to Sussex. exposed to it in the disturbed ocean and not in Just as well for Sussex, I remarked. It may the narrow calm waters of a bathing-pool. He says have been the southwest gale that brought it up. that he could hardly recognize himself afterwards, Come back to my house, both of you, and I will so white, wrinkled and shrivelled was his face. give you the terrible experience of one who has He gulped down brandy, a whole bottleful, and good reason to remember his own meeting with it seems to have saved his life. There is the book, the same peril of the seas. Inspector. I leave it with you, and you cannot doubt that it contains a full explanation of the tragedy of When we reached my study we found that Mur- poor McPherson. doch was so far recovered that he could sit up. He was dazed in mind, and every now and then was And incidentally exonerates me, remarked shaken by a paroxysm of pain. In broken words he Ian Murdoch with a wry smile. I do not blame explained that he had no notion what had occurred you, Inspector, nor you, Mr. Holmes, for your sus- to him, save that terrific pangs had suddenly shot picions were natural. I feel that on the very eve of through him, and that it had taken all his fortitude my arrest I have only cleared myself by sharing the to reach the bank. fate of my poor friend. Here is a book, I said, taking up the little vol- No, Mr. Murdoch. I was already upon the ume, which first brought light into what might track, and had I been out as early as I intended I have been forever dark. It is Out of Doors, by the might well have saved you from this terrific experi- famous observer, J. G. Wood. Wood himself very ence. nearly perished from contact with this vile creature, But how did you know, Mr. Holmes? so he wrote with a very full knowledge. Cyanea I am an omnivorous reader with a strangely re- capillata is the miscreants full name, and he can tentive memory for trifles. That phrase the Lions be as dangerous to life as, and far more painful Mane haunted my mind. I knew that I had seen it than, the bite of the cobra. Let me briefly give this somewhere in an unexpected context. You have extract. seen that it does describe the creature. I have If the bather should see a loose roundish no doubt that it was floating on the water when mass of tawny membranes and fibres, some- McPherson saw it, and that this phrase was the thing like very large handfuls of lions mane only one by which he could convey to us a warning and silver paper, let him beware, for this is as to the creature which had been his death. the fearful stinger, Cyanea capillata. Then I, at least, am cleared, said Murdoch, Could our sinister acquaintance be more clearly rising slowly to his feet. There are one or two described? words of explanation which I should give, for I He goes on to tell of his own encounter with know the direction in which your inquiries have one when swimming off the coast of Kent. He run. It is true that I loved this lady, but from the found that the creature radiated almost invisible fil- day when she chose my friend McPherson my one aments to the distance of fifty feet, and that anyone desire was to help her to happiness. I was well within that circumference from the deadly centre content to stand aside and act as their go-between. 8

11 Often I carried their messages, and it was because Well, youve done it! he cried at last. I had I was in their confidence and because she was so read of you, but I never believed it. Its wonderful! dear to me that I hastened to tell her of my friends I was forced to shake my head. To accept such death, lest someone should forestall me in a more praise was to lower ones own standards. sudden and heartless manner. She would not tell you, sir, of our relations lest you should disapprove I was slow at the outsetculpably slow. Had and I might suffer. But with your leave I must try the body been found in the water I could hardly to get back to The Gables, for my bed will be very have missed it. It was the towel which misled me. welcome. The poor fellow had never thought to dry himself, Stackhurst held out his hand. Our nerves have and so I in turn was led to believe that he had never all been at concert-pitch, said he. Forgive what been in the water. Why, then, should the attack of is past, Murdoch. We shall understand each other any water creature suggest itself to me? That was better in the future. They passed out together with where I went astray. Well, well, Inspector, I often their arms linked in friendly fashion. The inspector ventured to chaff you gentlemen of the police force, remained, staring at me in silence with his ox-like but Cyanea capillata very nearly avenged Scotland eyes. Yard. 9

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