The Adventure of the Lion's Mane
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. 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. At this period of my life the good Watson had passed
almost beyond my ken. An occasional week-end visit was the
most that I ever saw of him. Thus I must act as my own
chronicler. 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! 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.
My villa is situated upon the southern slope of the downs,
commanding a great view of the Channel. 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. At
the bottom of the path lie a hundred yards of pebbles and
shingle, even when the tide is at full. Here and there, however,
there are curves and hollows which make splendid swimming-
pools filled afresh with each flow. 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.
My house is lonely. I, my old housekeeper, and my bees have
the estate all to ourselves. 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.
Stackhurst himself was a well-known rowing Blue in his day,
and an excellent all-round scholar. 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.
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. On the morning
of which I speak the wind had abated, and all Nature was newly
washed and fresh. It was impossible to work upon so delightful a
day, and I strolled out 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
"Going for a swim, I see."
"At your old tricks again," he laughed, patting his bulging
pocket. "Yes. McPherson started early, and I expect I may find
Fitzroy McPherson was the science master, a fine upstanding
young fellow whose life had been crippled by heart trouble
following rheumatic fever. He was a natural athlete, however,
and excelled in every game which did not throw too great a
strain upon him. Summer and winter he went for his swim, and,
as I am a swimmer myself, I have often joined him.
At this moment we saw the man himself. His head showed
above the edge of the cliff where the path ends. Then his whole
figure appeared at the top, staggering like a drunken man. The
next instant he threw up his hands and, with a terrible cry, fell
upon his face. Stackhurst and I rushed forward -- it may have
been fifty yards -- and turned him on his back. He was obviously
dying. Those glazed sunken eyes and dreadful livid cheeks could
mean nothing else. One glimmer of life came into his face for an
instant, and he uttered two or three words with an eager air of
warning. 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." It was utterly irrelevant and unintelligible, and yet I
could twist the sound into no other sense. Then he half raised
himself from the ground, threw his arms into the air, and fell
forward on his side. He was dead.
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 establish-
ment, 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 occa-
sional outbreaks of temper, which could only be described as
ferocious. On one occasion, being plagued by a little dog be-
longing 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
"Poor fellow! Poor fellow! What can I do? How can I help?"
"Were you with him? Can you tell us what has happened?"
"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 so.
And here was the problem clearly defined -- as 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 foot-
steps showed. 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.
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 exam-
ined 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 Ander-
son, the village constable, a big, ginger-moustached man of the
slow, solid Sussex breed -- a 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.
"I'd be glad of your advice, Mr. Holmes. This is a big thing
for me to handle, and I'll 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 man's 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 searched.
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 McPherson's 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
"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
"Everyone knows her. She is the beauty of the neighbourhood --
a 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."
"But 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 the criminal."
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 sev-
eral modern houses have been built upon the rising ground. It
was to one of these that Stackhurst guided me.
"That's 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 side-
ways glance from his curious dark eyes, and would have-passed
us, but his principal pulled him up.
"What were you doing there?" he asked.
Murdoch's 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 actions."
Stackhurst's 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, Mr.
"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
"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, intoler-
able 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. Per-
haps 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 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. 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
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 remark-
able woman. It seems that she already knew me by sight, for she
turned to me at the end.
"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 woman's 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 him."
"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 man's 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
Fitzroy's 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 sympathy."
"I object to my girl picking up with men outside her own
"It was your prejudice against him which prevented us from
telling you. As to this appointment" -- she 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.
"Tuesday was to-day, and I had meant to meet him to-night."
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
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. Person-
ally, 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
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. McPherson's dog," said she
I do not encourage such conversations, but the words arrested
"What of Mr. McPherson's 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 dead -- down 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 mem-
ory. 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 dog's spoor upon the sand round the
very rock on which his master's 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 with-
out 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 therein -- so 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
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 Con-
stabulary -- 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. "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 not?"
"Meaning Mr. Ian Murdoch?"
"Yes, sir. There is really no one else when you come to think
of it. That's 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
Murdoch's 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 McPher-
son 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 mind.
"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 McPherson's 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 instru-
ment with which these injuries were inflicted."
"What could it be but a scourge or flexible whip of some sort?"
"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
"What are they, Mr. Holmes?"
I stepped to my bureau and brought out an enlarged photo-
graph. "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 remarkable?"
"I can't 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
"I have no idea. Have you?"
"Perhaps I have. Perhaps I haven't. 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
"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 words -- the 'Lion's Mane.' "
"I have wondered whether Ian --"
"Yes, I have considered that. If the second word had borne
any resemblance to Murdoch -- but 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 hour -- possibly less."
The inspector rubbed his chin and looked at me with dubious
"I wish I could see what was in your mind, Mr. Holmes.
Perhaps it's those fishing-boats."
"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
"No, no, you won't 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 interrup-
tion which was the beginning of the end.
My outer door was flung open, there were blundering foot-
steps 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 God's sake oil, opium, morphia!" he
cried. "Anything to ease this infernal agony!"
The inspector and I cried out at the sight. There, crisscrossed
upon the man's naked shoulder, was the same strange reticulated
pattern of red, inflamed lines which had been the death-mark of
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. 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. Ex-
hausted 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
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 is it?"
"Where did you find him?"
"Down on the beach. Exactly where poor McPherson met his
end. If this man's heart had been weak as McPherson's 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
"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
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. 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 hands."
Leaving the unconscious man in the charge of my house-
keeper, 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 triumph.
"Cyanea!" I cried. "Cyanea! Behold the Lion's Mane!"
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, vibrat-
ing, 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
"Well, this gets me!" cried the inspector. "What was it, Mr.
Holmes? I'm born and bred in these parts, but I never saw such a
thing. It don't 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
miscreant's 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
"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.
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 almost fatal.
"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
"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 experience."
"But how did you know, Mr. Holmes?"
"I am an omnivorous reader with a strangely retentive mem-
ory for trifles. That phrase 'the Lion's 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 friend's 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
"Well, you've done it!" he cried at last. "I had read of you,
but I never believed it. It's wonderful!"
I was forced to shake my head. To accept such praise was to
lower one's own standards.
"I was slow at the outset -- culpably 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 Scot-