The Great Grangemoor Mystery
Mr. Stanton Mowbray was a very wealthy man, a reputed millionaire, residing in that beautiful old mansion that has figured so much in English history, Grangemoor Park. He was a bachelor, spent most of the year at home, and lived quietly enough.
According to the evidence given, on the day preceding the night of the crime he received by the second post a single letter, the contents of which evidently gave him a shock. At ten o'clock at night he dismissed the servants, saying that he had some important business matters to look into, and would be sitting up late. He would require no attendance. It was supposed that after all had gone to bed he had admitted some person to the house, for one of the servants was positive that she had heard loud conversation at a very late hour.
Next morning, at a quarter to seven o'clock, one of the man-servants, on entering the room, found Mr. Mowbray lying on the floor, shot through the head, and quite dead. Now we come to the curious circumstance of the case. It was clear that after the bullet had passed out of the dead man's head it had struck the tall clock in the room, right in the very centre of the face, and actually welded together the three hands; for the clock had a seconds hand that revolved round the same dial as the hour and minute hands. But although the three hands had become welded together exactly as they stood in relation to each other at the moment of impact, yet they were free to revolve round the swivel in one piece, and had been stupidly spun round several times by the servants before Mr. Wiley Slyman was called upon the spot. But they would not move separately.
Now, inquiries by the police in the neighbourhood led to the arrest in London of a stranger who was identified by several persons as having been seen in the district the day before the murder, but it was ascertained beyond doubt at what time on the fateful morning he went away by train. If the crime took place after his departure, his innocence was established. For this and other reasons it was of the first importance to fix the exact time of the pistol shot, the sound of which nobody in the house had heard. The clock face in the illustration shows exactly how the hands were found. Mr. Slyman was asked to give the police the benefit of his sagacity and experience, and directly he was shown the clock he smiled and said:
"The matter is supremely simple. You will notice that the three hands appear to be at equal distances from one another. The hour hand, for example, is exactly twenty minutes removed from the minute hand—that is, the third of the circumference of the dial. You attach a lot of importance to the fact that the servants have been revolving the welded hands, but their act is of no consequence whatever; for although they were welded instantaneously, as they are free on the swivel, they would swing round of themselves into equilibrium. Give me a few moments, and I can tell you beyond any doubt the exact time that the pistol was fired."
Mr. Wiley Slyman took from his pocket a notebook, and began to figure it out. In a few minutes he handed the police inspector a slip of paper, on which he had written the precise moment of the crime. The stranger was proved to be an old enemy of Mr. Mowbray's, was convicted on other evidence that was discovered; but before he paid the penalty for his wicked act, he admitted that Mr. Slyman's statement of the time was perfectly correct.
Can you also give the exact time?
We were told that the bullet that killed Mr. Stanton Mowbray struck the very centre of the clock face and instantly welded together the hour, minute, and second hands, so that all revolved in one piece. The puzzle was to tell from the fixed relative positions of the three hands the exact time when the pistol was fired.
We were also told, and the illustration of the clock face bore out the statement, that the hour and minute hands were exactly twenty divisions apart, "the third of the circumference of the dial." Now, there are eleven times in twelve hours when the hour hand is exactly twenty divisions ahead of the minute hand, and eleven times when the minute hand is exactly twenty divisions ahead of the hour hand. The illustration showed that we had only to consider the former case. If we start at four o'clock, and keep on adding 1 h. 5 m. 27-3/11 sec., we shall get all these eleven times, the last being 2 h. 54 min. 32-8/11 sec. Another addition brings us back to four o'clock. If we now examine the clock face, we shall find that the seconds hand is nearly twenty-two divisions behind the minute hand, and if we look at all our eleven times we shall find that only in the last case given above is the seconds hand at this distance. Therefore the shot must have been fired at 2 h. 54 min. 32-8/11 sec. exactly, or, put the other way, at 5 min. 27-3/11 sec. to three o'clock. This is the correct and only possible answer to the puzzle.