The Vanishing Man eBook

R Austin Freeman
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 356 pages of information about The Vanishing Man.
of this particular snail to leave the water occasionally and take a stroll in the fields.  Thus the cercariae, escaping from the snail, find themselves on the grass, whereupon they promptly drop their tails and stick themselves to the grass-blades.  Then comes the unsuspecting sheep to take his frugal meal, and, cropping the grass, swallows it, cercariae and all.  But the latter, when they find themselves in the sheep’s stomach, make their way straight to the bile-ducts, up which they travel to the liver.  Here, in a few weeks, they grow up into full-blown flukes and begin the important business of producing eggs.

“Such is the pathological romance of ‘liver-rot’; and now what is its connection with this mysterious discovery?  It is this.  After the outbreak of ‘liver-rot,’ above referred to, the ground landlord, a Mr. John Bellingham, instructed his solicitor to insert a clause in the lease of the beds directing that the latter should be periodically cleared and examined by an expert to make sure that they were free from the noxious water-snails.  The last lease expired about two years ago, and since then the beds have been out of cultivation; but, for the safety of the adjacent pastures, it was considered necessary to make the customary periodical inspection, and it was in the course of cleaning the beds for this purpose that the present discovery was made.

“The operation began two days ago.  A gang of three men proceeded systematically to grub up the plants and collect the multitudes of water-snails that they might be examined by the expert to see if any of the obnoxious species were present.  They had cleared nearly half the beds when, yesterday afternoon, one of the men working in the deepest part came upon some bones, the appearance of which excited his suspicion.  Thereupon he called his mates, and they carefully picked away the plants piecemeal, a process that soon laid bare an unmistakable human hand lying on the mud amongst the roots.  Fortunately they had the wisdom not to disturb the remains, but at once sent off a message to the police.  Very soon, an inspector and a sergeant, accompanied by the divisional surgeon, arrived on the scene, and were able to view the remains lying as they had been found.  And now another very strange fact came to light; for it was seen that the hand—­a left one—­lying on the mud was minus its third finger.  This is regarded by the police as a very important fact as bearing on the question of identification, seeing that the number of persons having the third finger of the left hand missing must be quite small.  After a thorough examination on the spot, the bones were carefully collected and conveyed to the mortuary, where they now lie awaiting further inquiries.

“The divisional surgeon, Dr. Brandon, in an interview with our representative, made the following statements: 

“’The bones found are those of the left arm of a middle-aged or elderly man about five feet eight inches in height.  All the bones of the arm are present, including the scapula, or shoulder-blade, and the clavicle, or collar-bone, but the three bones of the third finger are missing.’

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The Vanishing Man from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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