My companion was paralyzed by the sudden horror of it, but I,
as may well be imagined, had every sense on the alert. And I had need, for it was speedily
evident that we were in the presence of an extraordinary case. The man was dressed only in
his Burberry overcoat, his trousers, and an unlaced pair of canvas shoes. As he fell over,
his Burberry, which had been simply thrown round his shoulders, slipped off, exposing his
trunk. We stared at it in amazement. His back was covered with dark red lines as though he
had been terribly flogged by a thin wire scourge. The instrument with which this
punishment had been inflicted was clearly flexible, for the long, angry weals curved round
his shoulders and ribs. There was blood dripping down his chin, for he had bitten through
his lower lip in the paroxysm of his agony. His drawn and distorted face told how terrible
that agony had been.
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. 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. He seemed to live in some high, abstract
region of surds and conic sections, with little to connect him with ordinary life. 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. 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. Such was the strange complex man who now appeared beside us. 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.
Poor fellow! Poor fellow! What can I do? How can I
Were you with him? Can you tell us what has
No, no, I was late this morning. I was not on the beach
at all. I have come straight from The Gables. What can I do?
You can hurry to the police-station at Fulworth. Report
the matter at once.
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. My
first task naturally was to note who was on the beach. 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. Having satisfied
myself upon this point, I walked slowly down the path. There was clay or soft marl mixed
with the chalk, and every here and there I saw the same footstep, both ascending and
descending. No one else had gone down to the beach by this track that morning. At one
place I observed the print of an open hand with the fingers towards the incline. This
could only mean that poor McPherson had fallen as he ascended. There were rounded
depressions, too, which suggested that he had come down upon his knees more than once. At
the bottom of the path was the considerable lagoon left by the retreating tide. At the
side of it McPherson had undressed, for there lay his towel on a rock. It was folded and
dry, so that it would seem that, after all, he had never entered the water. 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. The latter fact proved that
he had made all ready to bathe, though the towel indicated that he had not actually done
And here was the problem clearly definedas strange a one
as had ever confronted me. The man had not been on the beach more than a quarter of an
hour at the most. Stackhurst had followed him from The Gables, so there could be no doubt
about that. He had gone to bathe and had stripped, as the naked footsteps showed. Then he
had suddenly huddled on his clothes againthey were all dishevelled and
unfastenedand he had returned without bathing, or at any rate without drying
himself. 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. Who had done this barbarous deed?
There were, it is true, small grottos and caves in the base of the cliffs, but the low sun
shone directly into them, and there was no place for concealment. Then, again, there were
those distant figures on the beach. 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. On the sea two or three fishing-boats were at no great
distance. Their occupants might be examined at our leisure. There were several roads for
inquiry, but none which led to any very obvious goal.
When I at last returned to the body I found that a little
group of wondering folk had gathered round it. Stackhurst was, of course, still there, and
Ian Murdoch had just arrived with Anderson, the village constable, a big,
ginger-moustached man of the slow, solid Sussex breeda breed which covers much good
sense under a heavy, silent exterior. He listened to everything, took note of all we said,
and finally drew me aside.
be glad of your advice, Mr. Holmes. This is a big thing for me to handle, and Ill
hear of it from Lewes if I go wrong.
I advised him to send for his immediate superior, and for a
doctor; also to allow nothing to be moved, and as few fresh footmarks as possible to be
made, until they came. In the meantime I searched the dead mans pockets. There were
his handkerchief, a large knife, and a small folding card-case. From this projected a slip
of paper, which I unfolded and handed to the constable. There was written on it in a
scrawling, feminine hand:
- I will be there, you may be sure.
It read like a love affair, an assignation, though when and where were a blank. The
constable replaced it in the card-case and returned it with the other things to the
pockets of the Burberry. 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
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. He brought with him
some serious and definite news. As I expected, nothing had been found in the small caves
below the cliff, but he had examined the papers in McPhersons desk, and there were
several which showed an intimate correspondence with a certain Miss Maud Bellamy, of
Fulworth. We had then established the identity of the writer of the note.
The police have the letters, he explained. I
could not bring them. But there is no doubt that it was a serious love affair. I see no
reason, however, to connect it with that horrible happening save, indeed, that the lady
had made an appointment with him.
But hardly at a bathing-pool which all of you were in
the habit of using, I remarked.
It is mere chance, said he, that several of
the students were not with McPherson.
Was it mere chance?
Stackhurst knit his brows in thought.
Ian Murdoch held them back, said he. He
would insist upon some algebraic demonstration before breakfast. Poor chap, he is
dreadfully cut up about it all.
And yet I gather that they were not friends.
At one time they were not. But for a year or more
Murdoch has been as near to McPherson as he ever could be to anyone. He is not of a very
sympathetic disposition by nature.
So I understand. I seem to remember your telling me once
about a quarrel over the ill-usage of a dog.
That blew over all right.
But left some vindictive feeling, perhaps.
No, no, I am sure they were real friends.
Well, then, we must explore the matter of the girl. Do
you know her?
Everyone knows her. She is the beauty of the
neighbourhooda real beauty, Holmes, who would draw attention everywhere. 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.
who is she?
She is the daughter of old Tom Bellamy, who owns all the
boats and bathing-cots at Fulworth. He was a fisherman to start with, but is now a man of
some substance. He and his son William run the business.
Shall we walk into Fulworth and see them?
On what pretext?
Oh, we can easily find a pretext. After all, this poor
man did not ill-use himself in this outrageous way. Some human hand was on the handle of
that scourge, if indeed it was a scourge which inflicted the injuries. His circle of
acquaintances in this lonely place was surely limited. 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
It would have been a pleasant walk across the thyme-scented
downs had our minds not been poisoned by the tragedy we had witnessed. The village of
Fulworth lies in a hollow curving in a semicircle round the bay. Behind the old-fashioned
hamlet several modern houses have been built upon the rising ground. It was to one of
these that Stackhurst guided me.
Thats The Haven, as Bellamy called it. The one
with the corner tower and slate roof. Not bad for a man who started with nothing but
By Jove, look at that!
The garden gate of The Haven had opened and a man had emerged.
There was no mistaking that tall, angular, straggling figure. It was Ian Murdoch, the
mathematician. A moment later we confronted him upon the road.
Hullo! said Stackhurst. The man nodded, gave us a
sideways glance from his curious dark eyes, and would have passed us, but his principal
pulled him up.
What were you doing there? he asked.
Murdochs face flushed with anger. I am your
subordinate, sir, under your roof. I am not aware that I owe you any account of my private
Stackhursts nerves were near the surface after all he
had endured. Otherwise, perhaps, he would have waited. Now he lost his temper completely.
In the circumstances your answer is pure impertinence,
Your own question might perhaps come under the same
This is not the first time that I have had to overlook
your insubordinate ways. It will certainly be the last. You will kindly make fresh
arrangements for your future as speedily as you can.
I had intended to do so. I have lost to-day the only
person who made The Gables habitable.
He strode off upon his way, while Stackhurst, with angry eyes,
stood glaring after him. Is he not an impossible, intolerable man? he cried.
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. Suspicion, vague and nebulous, was now beginning to take outline in my mind.
Perhaps the visit to the Bellamys might throw some further light upon the matter.
Stackhurst pulled himself together, and we went forward to the house.
Mr. Bellamy proved to be a middle-aged man with a flaming red
beard. He seemed to be in a very angry mood, and his face was soon as florid as his hair.
No, sir, I do not desire any particulars. My son
hereindicating a powerful young man, with a heavy, sullen face, in the corner
of the sitting-room is of one mind with me that Mr. McPhersons
attentions to Maud were insulting. 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. She has no mother,
and we are her only guardians. We are determined
But the words were taken from his mouth by the appearance of
the lady herself. There was no gainsaying that she would have graced any assembly in the
world. Who could have imagined that so rare a flower would grow from such a root and in
such an atmosphere? 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. Such was the girl who had pushed open the door and stood
now, wide-eyed and intense, in front of Harold Stackhurst.
I know already that Fitzroy is dead, she said.
Do not be afraid to tell me the particulars.
This other gentleman of yours let us know the
news, explained the father.
There is no reason why my sister should be brought into
the matter, growled the younger man.
The sister turned a sharp, fierce look upon him. This is
my business, William. Kindly leave me to manage it in my own way. By all accounts there
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 gone.
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. Maud Bellamy will always remain in my memory as a most complete and
remarkable woman. It seems that she already knew me by sight, for she turned to me at the
Bring them to justice, Mr. Holmes. You have my sympathy
and my help, whoever they may be. It seemed to me that she glanced defiantly at her
father and brother as she spoke.
Thank you, said I. I value a womans
instinct in such matters. You use the word they. You think that more than one
I knew Mr. McPherson well enough to be aware that he was
a brave and a strong man. No single person could ever have inflicted such an outrage upon
Might I have one word with you alone?
I tell you, Maud, not to mix yourself up in the
matter, cried her father angrily.
She looked at me helplessly. What can I do?
The whole world will know the facts presently, so there
can be no harm if I discuss them here, said I. I should have preferred
privacy, but if your father will not allow it he must share the deliberations. Then
I spoke of the note which had been found in the dead mans pocket. It is sure
to be produced at the inquest. May I ask you to throw any light upon it that you
I see no reason for mystery, she answered.
We were engaged to be married, and we only kept it secret because Fitzroys
uncle, who is very old and said to be dying, might have disinherited him if he had married
against his wish. There was no other reason.
You could have told us, growled Mr. Bellamy.
So I would, father, if you had ever shown
I object to my girl picking up with men outside her own
was your prejudice against him which prevented us from telling you. As to this
appointmentshe fumbled in her dress and produced a crumpled note
it was in answer to this.
- DEAREST [ran the message]:
The old place on the beach just after sunset on Tuesday. It is
the only time I can get away.
- F. M.
Tuesday was to-day, and I had meant to meet him
I turned over the paper. This never came by post. How
did you get it?
I would rather not answer that question. It has
really nothing to do with the matter which you are investigating. But anything which bears
upon that I will most freely answer.
She was as good as her word, but there was nothing which was
helpful in our investigation. She had no reason to think that her fiance had any hidden
enemy, but she admitted that she had had several warm admirers.
May I ask if Mr. Ian Murdoch was one of them?
She blushed and seemed confused.
There was a time when I thought he was. But that was all
changed when he understood the relations between Fitzroy and myself.
Again the shadow round this strange man seemed to me to be
taking more definite shape. His record must be examined. His rooms must be privately
searched. Stackhurst was a willing collaborator, for in his mind also suspicions were
forming. We returned from our visit to The Haven with the hope that one free end of this
tangled skein was already in our hands.
A week passed. The inquest had thrown no light upon the matter
and had been adjourned for further evidence. Stackhurst had made discreet inquiry about
his subordinate, and there had been a superficial search of his room, but without result.
Personally, I had gone over the whole ground again, both physically and mentally, but with
no new conclusions. In all my chronicles the reader will find no case which brought me so
completely to the limit of my powers. Even my imagination could conceive no solution to
the mystery. And then there came the incident of the dog.
It was my old housekeeper who heard of it first by that
strange wireless by which such people collect the news of the countryside.
Sad story this, sir, about Mr. McPhersons
dog, said she one evening.
I do not encourage such conversations, but the words arrested
What of Mr. McPhersons dog?
Dead, sir. Died of grief for its master.
Who told you this?
Why, sir, everyone is talking of it. It took on
terrible, and has eaten nothing for a week. Then to-day two of the young gentlemen from
The Gables found it deaddown on the beach, sir, at the very place where its master
met his end.
At the very place. The words stood out clear in my
memory. Some dim perception that the matter was vital rose in my mind. That the dog should
die was after the beautiful, faithful nature of dogs. But in the very place!
Why should this lonely beach be fatal to it? Was it possible that it also had been
sacrificed to some revengeful feud? Was it possible ? Yes, the perception was
dim, but already something was building up in my mind. In a few minutes I was on my way  to The Gables, where I found
Stackhurst in his study. At my request he sent for Sudbury and Blount, the two students
who had found the dog.
Yes, it lay on the very edge of the pool, said one
of them. It must have followed the trail of its dead master.
I saw the faithful little creature, an Airedale terrier, laid
out upon the mat in the hall. The body was stiff and rigid, the eyes projecting, and the
limbs contorted. There was agony in every line of it.
From The Gables I walked down to the bathing-pool. The sun had
sunk and the shadow of the great cliff lay black across the water, which glimmered dully
like a sheet of lead. The place was deserted and there was no sign of life save for two
sea-birds circling and screaming overhead. In the fading light I could dimly make out the
little dogs spoor upon the sand round the very rock on which his masters towel
had been laid. For a long time I stood in deep meditation while the shadows grew darker
around me. My mind was filled with racing thoughts. 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 forever just beyond your reach. That was
how I felt that evening as I stood alone by that place of death. Then at last I turned and
walked slowly homeward.
I had just reached the top of the path when it came to me.
Like a flash, I remembered the thing for which I had so eagerly and vainly grasped. 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. My mind
is like a crowded box-room with packets of all sorts stowed away thereinso many that
I may well have but a vague perception of what was there. I had known that there was
something which might bear upon this matter. It was still vague, but at least I knew how I
could make it clear. It was monstrous, incredible, and yet it was always a possibility. I
would test it to the full.
There is a great garret in my little house which is stuffed
with books. It was into this that I plunged and rummaged for an hour. At the end of that
time I emerged with a little chocolate and silver volume. Eagerly I turned up the chapter
of which I had a dim remembrance. 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. It was late when I retired, with my mind eagerly awaiting the work of the morrow.
But that work met with an annoying interruption. 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 Constabularya 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.
This is quite unofficial, of course, and need go no farther. But I am fairly up
against it in this McPherson case. The question is, shall I make an arrest, or shall I
Meaning Mr. Ian Murdoch?
Yes, sir. There is really no one else when you come to
think of it. Thats the advantage of this solitude. We narrow it down to a very small
compass. If he did not do it, then who did?
What have you against him?
He had gleaned along the same furrows as I had. There was
Murdochs character and the mystery which seemed to hang round the man. His furious
bursts of temper,  as
shown in the incident of the dog. 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. He had all my points, but no fresh ones, save that Murdoch seemed to be
making every preparation for departure.
What would my position be if I let him slip away with
all this evidence against him? The burly, phlegmatic man was sorely troubled in his
Consider, I said, all the essential gaps in
your case. On the morning of the crime he can surely prove an alibi. He had been with his
scholars till the last moment, and within a few minutes of McPhersons appearance he
came upon us from behind. Then bear in mind the absolute impossibility that he could
single-handed have inflicted this outrage upon a man quite as strong as himself. Finally,
there is this question of the instrument with which these injuries were inflicted.
What could it be but a scourge or flexible whip of some
Have you examined the marks? I asked.
I have seen them. So has the doctor.
But I have examined them very carefully with a lens.
They have peculiarities.
What are they, Mr. Holmes?
I stepped to my bureau and brought out an enlarged photograph.
This is my method in such cases, I explained.
You certainly do things thoroughly, Mr. Holmes.
I should hardly be what I am if I did not. Now let us
consider this weal which extends round the right shoulder. Do you observe nothing
I cant say I do.
Surely it is evident that it is unequal in its
intensity. There is a dot of extravasated blood here, and another there. There are similar
indications in this other weal down here. What can that mean?
I have no idea. Have you?
Perhaps I have. Perhaps I havent. I may be able to
say more soon. Anything which will define what made that mark will bring us a long way
towards the criminal.
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.
A most ingenious comparison. Or shall we say a very
stiff cat-o-nine-tails with small hard knots upon it?
By Jove, Mr. Holmes, I think you have hit it.
Or there may be some very different cause, Mr. Bardle.
But your case is far too weak for an arrest. Besides, we have those last wordsthe
I have wondered whether Ian
Yes, I have considered that. If the second word had
borne any resemblance to Murdochbut it did not. He gave it almost in a shriek. I am
sure that it was Mane.
Have you no alternative, Mr. Holmes?
Perhaps I have. But I do not care to discuss it until
there is something more solid to discuss.
And when will that be?
In an hourpossibly less.
The inspector rubbed his chin and looked at me with dubious
wish I could see what was in your mind, Mr. Holmes. Perhaps its those
No, no, they were too far out.
Well, then, is it Bellamy and that big son of his? They
were not too sweet upon Mr. McPherson. Could they have done him a mischief?
No, no, you wont draw me until I am ready,
said I with a smile. Now, Inspector, we each have our own work to do. Perhaps if you
were to meet me here at midday
So far we had got when there came the tremendous interruption
which was the beginning of the end.
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.
Brandy! Brandy! he gasped, and fell groaning upon the sofa.
He was not alone. Behind him came Stackhurst, hatless and
panting, almost as distrait as his companion.
Yes, yes, brandy! he cried. The man is at
his last gasp. It was all I could do to bring him here. He fainted twice upon the
Half a tumbler of the raw spirit brought about a wondrous
change. He pushed himself up on one arm and swung his coat from his shoulders. For
Gods sake, oil, opium, morphia! he cried. Anything to ease this infernal
The inspector and I cried out at the sight. There,
crisscrossed upon the mans naked shoulder, was the same strange reticulated pattern
of red, inflamed lines which had been the death-mark of Fitzroy McPherson.
The pain was evidently terrible and was more than local, for
the sufferers 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. At any moment he might die. More and more brandy was poured down his throat, each
fresh dose bringing him back to life. Pads of cotton-wool soaked in salad-oil seemed to
take the agony from the strange wounds. At last his head fell heavily upon the cushion.
Exhausted Nature had taken refuge in its last storehouse of vitality. It was half a sleep
and half a faint, but at least it was ease from pain.
To question him had been impossible, but the moment we were
assured of his condition Stackhurst turned upon me.
My God! he cried, what is it, Holmes? What
Where did you find him?
Down on the beach. Exactly where poor McPherson met his
end. If this mans heart had been weak as McPhersons was, he would not be here
now. More than once I thought he was gone as I brought him up. It was too far to The
Gables, so I made for you.
Did you see him on the beach?
I was walking on the cliff when I heard his cry. He was
at the edge of the water, reeling about like a drunken man. I ran down, threw some clothes
about him, and brought him up. For heavens sake, Holmes, use all the powers you have
and spare no pains to lift the curse from this place, for life is becoming unendurable.
Can you, with all your world-wide reputation, do nothing for us?
I think I can, Stackhurst. Come with me now! And you,
Inspector, come along! We will see if we cannot deliver this murderer into your
Leaving the unconscious man in the charge of my housekeeper,
we all three  went
down to the deadly lagoon. On the shingle there was piled a little heap of towels and
clothes left by the stricken man. Slowly I walked round the edge of the water, my comrades
in Indian file behind me. Most of the pool was quite shallow, but under the cliff where
the beach was hollowed out it was four or five feet deep. It was to this part that a
swimmer would naturally go, for it formed a beautiful pellucid green pool as clear as
crystal. 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. 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
Cyanea! I cried. Cyanea! Behold the
The strange object at which I pointed did indeed look like a
tangled mass torn from the mane of a lion. 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. It pulsated with a slow, heavy dilation and contraction.
It has done mischief enough. Its day is over! I
cried. Help me, Stackhurst! Let us end the murderer forever.
There was a big boulder just above the ledge, and we pushed it
until it fell with a tremendous splash into the water. When the ripples had cleared we saw
that it had settled upon the ledge below. One flapping edge of yellow membrane showed that
our victim was beneath it. A thick oily scum oozed out from below the stone and stained
the water round, rising slowly to the surface.
Well, this gets me! cried the inspector.
What was it, Mr. Holmes? Im born and bred in these parts, but I never saw such
a thing. It dont belong to Sussex.
Just as well for Sussex, I remarked. It may
have been the southwest gale that brought it up. Come back to my house, both of you, and I
will give you the terrible experience of one who has good reason to remember his own
meeting with the same peril of the seas.
When we reached my study we found that Murdoch was so far
recovered that he could sit up. He was dazed in mind, and every now and then was shaken by
a paroxysm of pain. 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.
Here is a book, I said, taking up the little
volume, which first brought light into what might have been forever dark. It is Out
of Doors, by the famous observer, J. G. Wood. Wood himself very nearly perished from
contact with this vile creature, so he wrote with a very full knowledge. Cyanea
capillata is the miscreants full name, and he can be as dangerous to life as,
and far more painful than, the bite of the cobra. Let me briefly give this extract.
- If the bather should see a loose roundish mass of
tawny membranes and fibres, something like very large handfuls of lions mane and
silver paper, let him beware, for this is the fearful stinger, Cyanea capillata.
Could our sinister acquaintance be more clearly described?
He goes on to tell of his own encounter with one when
swimming off the coast of Kent. 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. Even at a distance the effect upon Wood was
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.
The local pain was, as he explains, the least part of
the exquisite torment.
- Pangs shot through the chest, causing me to fall as if
struck by a bullet. The pulsation would cease, and then the heart would give six or seven
leaps as if it would force its way through the chest.
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.
He says that he could hardly recognize himself afterwards, so white, wrinkled and
shrivelled was his face. He gulped down brandy, a whole bottleful, and it seems to have
saved his life. There is the book, Inspector. I leave it with you, and you cannot doubt
that it contains a full explanation of the tragedy of poor McPherson.
And incidentally exonerates me, remarked Ian
Murdoch with a wry smile. I do not blame you, Inspector, nor you, Mr. Holmes, for
your suspicions were natural. I feel that on the very eve of my arrest I have only cleared
myself by sharing the fate of my poor friend.
No, Mr. Murdoch. 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
But how did you know, Mr. Holmes?
I am an omnivorous reader with a strangely retentive
memory for trifles. That phrase the Lions Mane haunted my mind. I knew
that I had seen it somewhere in an unexpected context. You have seen that it does describe
the creature. 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.
Then I, at least, am cleared, said Murdoch, rising
slowly to his feet. There are one or two words of explanation which I should give,
for I know the direction in which your inquiries have run. 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. I was well content to stand aside and act as their go-between. 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 friends death, lest someone should forestall
me in a more sudden and heartless manner. She would not tell you, sir, of our relations
lest you should disapprove and I might suffer. But with your leave I must try to get back
to The Gables, for my bed will be very welcome.
Stackhurst held out his hand. Our nerves have all been
at concert-pitch, said he. Forgive what is past, Murdoch. We shall understand
each other better in the future. They passed out together with their arms linked in
friendly fashion. The inspector remained, staring at me in silence with his ox-like eyes.
Well, youve done it! he cried at last.
I had read of you, but I never believed it. Its wonderful!
I was forced to shake my head. To accept such praise was to
lower ones own standards.
I was slow at the outsetculpably slow. Had the
body been found in the water I could hardly have missed it. It was the towel which misled
me. 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. Why, then, should the attack of any water creature suggest itself to
me? That was where I went astray. Well, well, Inspector, I often ventured to chaff you
gentlemen of the police force, but Cyanea capillata very nearly avenged Scotland