Ive had a good look, Mr. Holmes, said
White Mason. There is nothing there, no sign that anyone has landedbut why
should he leave any sign?
Exactly. Why should he? Is the water always
Generally about this colour. The stream brings down the
How deep is it?
About two feet at each side and three in the
So we can put aside all idea of the man having been
drowned in crossing.
No, a child could not be drowned in it.
walked across the drawbridge, and were admitted by a quaint, gnarled, dried-up person, who
was the butler, Ames. The poor old fellow was white and quivering from the shock. The
village sergeant, a tall, formal, melancholy man, still held his vigil in the room of
Fate. The doctor had departed.
Anything fresh, Sergeant Wilson? asked White
Then you can go home. Youve had enough. We can
send for you if we want you. The butler had better wait outside. Tell him to warn Mr.
Cecil Barker, Mrs. Douglas, and the housekeeper that we may want a word with them
presently. Now, gentlemen, perhaps you will allow me to give you the views I have formed
first, and then you will be able to arrive at your own.
He impressed me, this country specialist. He had a solid grip
of fact and a cool, clear, common-sense brain, which should take him some way in his
profession. Holmes listened to him intently, with no sign of that impatience which the
official exponent too often produced.
Is it suicide, or is it murderthats our
first question, gentlemen, is it not? If it were suicide, then we have to believe that
this man began by taking off his wedding ring and concealing it; that he then came down
here in his dressing gown, trampled mud into a corner behind the curtain in order to give
the idea someone had waited for him, opened the window, put blood on the
We can surely dismiss that, said MacDonald.
So I think. Suicide is out of the question. Then a
murder has been done. What we have to determine is, whether it was done by someone outside
or inside the house.
Well, lets hear the argument.
There are considerable difficulties both ways, and yet
one or the other it must be. We will suppose first that some person or persons inside the
house did the crime. They got this man down here at a time when everything was still and
yet no one was asleep. They then did the deed with the queerest and noisiest weapon in the
world so as to tell everyone what had happeneda weapon that was never seen in the
house before. That does not seem a very likely start, does it?
No, it does not.
Well, then, everyone is agreed that after the alarm was
given only a minute at the most had passed before the whole householdnot Mr. Cecil
Barker alone, though he claims to have been the first, but Ames and all of them were on
the spot. Do you tell me that in that time the guilty person managed to make footmarks in
the corner, open the window, mark the sill with blood, take the wedding ring off the dead
mans finger, and all the rest of it? Its impossible!
You put it very clearly, said Holmes. I am
inclined to agree with you.
Well, then, we are driven back to the theory that it was
done by someone from outside. We are still faced with some big difficulties; but anyhow
they have ceased to be impossibilities. The man got into the house between four-thirty and
six; that is to say, between dusk and the time when the bridge was raised. There had been
some visitors, and the door was open; so there was nothing to prevent him. He may have
been a common burglar, or he may have had some private grudge against Mr. Douglas. Since
Mr. Douglas has spent most of his life in America, and this shotgun seems to be an
American weapon, it would seem that the private grudge is the more likely theory. He
slipped into this room because it was the first he came to, and he hid behind the curtain.
There he remained  until
past eleven at night. At that time Mr. Douglas entered the room. It was a short interview,
if there were any interview at all; for Mrs. Douglas declares that her husband had not
left her more than a few minutes when she heard the shot.
The candle shows that, said Holmes.
Exactly. The candle, which was a new one, is not burned
more than half an inch. He must have placed it on the table before he was attacked;
otherwise, of course, it would have fallen when he fell. This shows that he was not
attacked the instant that he entered the room. When Mr. Barker arrived the candle was lit
and the lamp was out.
Thats all clear enough.
Well, now, we can reconstruct things on those lines. Mr.
Douglas enters the room. He puts down the candle. A man appears from behind the curtain.
He is armed with this gun. He demands the wedding ringHeaven only knows why, but so
it must have been. Mr. Douglas gave it up. Then either in cold blood or in the course of a
struggleDouglas may have gripped the hammer that was found upon the mathe shot
Douglas in this horrible way. He dropped his gun and also it would seem this queer
cardV. V. 341, whatever that may mean and he made his escape through the
window and across the moat at the very moment when Cecil Barker was discovering the crime.
Hows that, Mr. Holmes?
Very interesting, but just a little unconvincing.
Man, it would be absolute nonsense if it wasnt
that anything else is even worse! cried MacDonald. Somebody killed the man,
and whoever it was I could clearly prove to you that he should have done it some other
way. What does he mean by allowing his retreat to be cut off like that? What does he mean
by using a shotgun when silence was his one chance of escape? Come, Mr. Holmes, its
up to you to give us a lead, since you say Mr. White Masons theory is
Holmes had sat intently observant during this long discussion,
missing no word that was said, with his keen eyes darting to right and to left, and his
forehead wrinkled with speculation.
I should like a few more facts before I get so far as
a theory, Mr. Mac, said he, kneeling down beside the body. Dear me! these
injuries are really appalling. Can we have the butler in for a moment? . . . Ames, I
understand that you have often seen this very unusual marka branded triangle inside
a circleupon Mr. Douglass forearm?
You never heard any speculation as to what it
It must have caused great pain when it was inflicted. It
is undoubtedly a burn. Now, I observe, Ames, that there is a small piece of plaster at the
angle of Mr. Douglass jaw. Did you observe that in life?
Yes, sir, he cut himself in shaving yesterday
Did you ever know him to cut himself in shaving
Not for a very long time, sir.
Suggestive! said Holmes. It may, of course,
be a mere coincidence, or it may point to some nervousness which would indicate that he
had reason to apprehend danger. Had you noticed anything unusual in his conduct,
It struck me that he was a little restless and excited,
Ha! The attack may not have been entirely unexpected. We
do seem to make  a
little progress, do we not? Perhaps you would rather do the questioning, Mr. Mac?
No, Mr. Holmes, its in better hands than
Well, then, we will pass to this cardV. V. 341. It
is rough cardboard. Have you any of the sort in the house?
I dont think so.
Holmes walked across to the desk and dabbed a little ink from
each bottle on to the blotting paper. It was not printed in this room, he
said; this is black ink and the other purplish. It was done by a thick pen, and
these are fine. No, it was done elsewhere, I should say. Can you make anything of the
No, sir, nothing.
What do you think, Mr. Mac?
It gives me the impression of a secret society of some
sort; the same with his badge upon the forearm.
Thats my idea, too, said White Mason.
Well, we can adopt it as a working hypothesis and then
see how far our difficulties disappear. An agent from such a society makes his way into
the house, waits for Mr. Douglas, blows his head nearly off with this weapon, and escapes
by wading the moat, after leaving a card beside the dead man, which will, when mentioned
in the papers, tell other members of the society that vengeance has been done. That all
hangs together. But why this gun, of all weapons?
And why the missing ring?
And why no arrest? Its past two now. I take it for
granted that since dawn every constable within forty miles has been looking out for a wet
That is so, Mr. Holmes.
Well, unless he has a burrow close by or a change of
clothes ready, they can hardly miss him. And yet they have missed him up to now!
Holmes had gone to the window and was examining with his lens the blood mark on the sill.
It is clearly the tread of a shoe. It is remarkably broad; a splay-foot, one would
say. Curious, because, so far as one can trace any footmark in this mud-stained corner,
one would say it was a more shapely sole. However, they are certainly very indistinct.
Whats this under the side table?
Mr. Douglass dumb-bells, said Ames.
Dumb-belltheres only one. Wheres the
I dont know, Mr. Holmes. There may have been only
one. I have not noticed them for months.
One dumb-bell Holmes said seriously;
but his remarks were interrupted by a sharp knock at the door.
A tall, sunburned, capable-looking, clean-shaved man looked in
at us. I had no difficulty in guessing that it was the Cecil Barker of whom I had heard.
His masterful eyes travelled quickly with a questioning glance from face to face.
Sorry to interrupt your consultation, said he,
but you should hear the latest news.
No such luck. But theyve found his bicycle. The
fellow left his bicycle behind him. Come and have a look. It is within a hundred yards of
the hall door.
We found three or four grooms and idlers standing in the drive
inspecting a  bicycle
which had been drawn out from a clump of evergreens in which it had been concealed. It was
a well used Rudge-Whitworth, splashed as from a considerable journey. There was a
saddlebag with spanner and oilcan, but no clue as to the owner.
It would be a grand help to the police, said the
inspector, if these things were numbered and registered. But we must be thankful for
what weve got. If we cant find where he went to, at least we are likely to get
where he came from. But what in the name of all that is wonderful made the fellow leave it
behind? And how in the world has he got away without it? We dont seem to get a gleam
of light in the case, Mr. Holmes.
Dont we? my friend answered thoughtfully.