fierce and forbidding.” “Well, bar the expression, that might almost be a description of Douglas himself,” said Holmes. “He is just over fifty, with grizzled buy ghd straighteners hair and moustache, and about the same height. Did you get anything else?” “He was dressed in a heavy gray suit with a reefer jacket, and he wore a short yellow overcoat and a soft cap.” “What about the shotgun?” “It is less than two ghds uk feet long. It could very well have fitted into his valise. He could have carried it inside his overcoat without difficulty.” “And how do you consider that all this bears upon the general case?” “Well, Mr. Holmes,” said MacDonald, “when we have got our man- and you may be sure that I had his description on the wires within five minutes of hearing it- we shall be better able to judge. But, even as it stands, we have surely gone a long way. We know that an American calling himself Hargrave came to Tunbridge Wells two days ago with bicycle and valise. In the latter was a sawed-off shotgun; so he came with the deliberate purpose of crime. Yesterday morning he set off for this place on his bicycle, with his gun concealed in his overcoat. No one saw him arrive, so far as we can learn; but he need not pass through the village to reach the park gates, and there are many cyclists upon the road. Presumably he at once concealed his cycle among the laurels where it was found, and possibly lurked there himself, with his eye on the house, waiting for Mr. Douglas to come out. The shotgun is a strange weapon to use inside a house; but he had intended to use it outside, and there it has very obvious advantages, as it would be impossible to miss with it, and the sound of shots is so common in an English sporting neighbourhood that no particular notice would be taken.” That is all very clear,” said Holmes. “Well, Mr. Douglas did not appear. What was he to do next? He left his bicycle and approached the house in the twilight. He found the bridge down and no one about. He took his chance, intending, no doubt, to make some excuse if he met anyone. He met no one. He slipped into the first room that he saw, and concealed himself behind the curtain. Thence he could see the drawbridge go up, and he knew that his only escape was through the moat. He waited until quarter-past eleven, when Mr. Douglas upon his usual nightly round came into the room. He shot him and escaped, as arranged. He was aware that the bicycle would be described by the hotel people and be a clue against him; so he left it there and made his way by some other means to London or to some safe hiding place which he had already arranged. How is that, Mr. Holmes?” “Well, Mr. Mac, it is very good and very clear so far as it goes. That is ghd ceramic straighteners your end of the story. My end is that the crime was committed half an hour earlier than reported; that Mrs. Douglas and Barker are both in a conspiracy to conceal something; that they aided the murderer’s escape- or at least that they reached the room before he escaped- and that they fabricated evidence of his escape through the window, whereas in all probability they had themselves let him go by lowering the bridge. That’s my reading of the first half.” The two detectives shook their heads. “Well, Mr. Holmes, if this is true, we only tumble out of one mystery into another,” said the London inspector. “And in some ways a worse one,” added White Mason. “The lady has never been in America in all her life. What possible connection could she have with an American assassin which would cause her to shelter him?” “I freely admit the difficulties,” said Holmes. “I propose to make a little investigation of my own to-night, and it ghd ceramic straighteners is just possible that it may contribute something to the common cause.” “Can we help you, Mr. Holmes?” “No, no! Darkness and Dr. Watson’s umbrella- my wants are simple. And Ames, the faithful Ames, no doubt he will stretch a point for me. All my lines of thought lead me back invariably to the one basic question- why should an athletic man develop his frame upon so unnatural an instrument as a single dumb-bell?” It was late that night when Holmes returned from his solitary excursion. We slept in a double-bedded room, which was the best that the little country inn could do for us. I was already asleep when I was partly awakened by his entrance. “Well, Holmes,” I murmured, “have you found anything out?” He stood beside me in silence, his candle in his hand. Then the tall, lean figure inclined towards me. “I say, Watson,” he whispered, “would you be afraid to sleep in the same room with a lunatic, a man with softening of the brain, an idiot whose mind has lost its grip?” “Not in the least,” I answered in astonishment. “Ah, that’s lucky,” he said, and not another word would he utter that night. CHAPTER 7 THE SOLUTION Next morning, after breakfast we found Inspector MacDonald and White Mason seated in close consultation in the small parlour of the local police sergeant. On the table in front of them were piled a number of letters and telegrams, which they were carefully sorting and docketing. Three had been placed on one side. “Still on the track of the elusive bicyclist?” Holmes asked cheerfully. “What is the latest news of the ruffian?” MacDonald pointed ruefully to his heap of correspondence. “He is at present reported from Leicester, Nottingham, Southampton, Derby, East Ham, Richmond, and fourteen other places. In three of them- East Ham, Leicester, and Liverpool- there is a clear case against him, and he has actually been arrested. The country seems to be full of the fugitives with yellow coats.” “Dear me!” said Holmes sympathetically. “Now, Mr. Mac, and you, Mr. White Mason, I wish you a very earnest piece of advice. When I went into this case with you I bargained, as you will no doubt remember, that I should not present you with half-proved theories, but that I should retain and work out my own ideas until I had satisfied myself that they were correct. For this reason I am not at the present moment telling you all that is in my mind. On the other hand, I said that I would play the game fairly by you, and I do not think it ghd limited edition is a fair game to allow you for one unnecessary moment to waste your energies upon a profitless task. Therefore I am here to advise you this morning, and my advice to you is summed up in three words- abandon the case.” MacDonald and White Mason stared in amazement at their celebrated colleague. “You consider it hopeless!” cried the inspector. “I consider your case to be hopeless. I do not consider that it is hopeless to arrive at the truth.” “But this cyclist. He is not an invention. We have his description, his valise, his bicycle. The fellow must be somewhere. Why should we not get him?” “Yes, yes, no doubt he is somewhere, and no doubt we shall get him; but I would not have you waste your energies in East Ham or Liverpool. I am sure that we can find some shorter cut to a result.” “You are holding something back. It’s hardly fair of you, Mr. Holmes.” The inspector was annoyed. “You know my methods of work, Mr. Mac. But I will hold it back for the shortest time possible. I only wish to verify my details in one way, which can very readily be done, and then I make my bow and return to London, leaving my results entirely at your service. I owe you too much to act otherwise; for in all my experience I cannot recall any more singular and interesting study.” “This is clean beyond me, Mr. Holmes. We saw you when we returned from Tunbridge Wells last night, and you were ghd straighteners in general agreement with our results, What has happened since then to give you a completely ghd pure new idea of the case?” “Well, since you ask me, I spent, as I told you that I would, some hours last night at the Manor House.” “What happened?” “Ah, I can only give you a very general answer to that for the moment. By way, I have been reading a short but clear and interesting account of the building, purchasable at the modest sum of one penny from the local tobacconist.” Here Holmes drew a small tract, embellished with a rude engraving of the ancient Manor House, from his waistcoat pocket. “It immensely adds to the zest of an investigation, my dear Mr. Mac, when one is in conscious sympathy with the historical atmosphere of one’s surroundings. Don’t look so impatient; for I assure you that even so bald an account as this raises some sort of picture of the past in one’s mind. Permit me to give you a sample. ‘Erected in the fifth year of the reign of James I, and standing upon the site of a much older building, the Manor House of Birlstone presents one of the finest surviving examples of the moated Jacobean residence-‘” “You are making fools of us, Mr. Holmes!” “Tut tut, Mr. Mac!- the first sign of temper I have detected in you. Well, I won’t read it verbatim, since you feel so strongly upon the subject. But when I tell you that there is some account of the taking of the place by a parliamentary colonel in 1644, of the concealment of Charles for several days in the course of the Civil War, and finally of a visit there by the second George, you will admit that there are various associations of interest connected with this ancient house.” “I don’t doubt it, Mr. Holmes; but that is no business of ours.” “Is it not? Is it not? Breadth of view, my dear Mr. Mac, is one of the essentials of our profession. The interplay of ideas and the oblique uses of knowledge are often of extraordinary interest. You will excuse these remarks from one who, though a mere connoisseur of crime, is still rather older and perhaps more experienced than yourself.” “I’m the first to admit that,” said the detective heartily. “You get to your point, I admit; but you have such a deuced round-the-corner way of doing it.” “Well, well, I’ll drop past history and get down to present-day facts. I called last night, as I have already said, at the Manor House. I did not see either Barker or Mrs. Douglas. I saw no necessity to disturb them; but I was pleased to hear that the lady was not visibly pining and that she had partaken of an excellent dinner. My visit was specially made to the good Mr. Ames, with whom I exchanged some amiabilities, which culminated in his allowing me, without reference to anyone else, to sit alone for a time in the study.” “What! With that?” I ejaculated. “No, no, everything is now in order. You gave permission for that, Mr. Mac, as I am informed. The room was in its normal state, and in it I passed an instructive quarter of an hour.” “What were you doing?” “Well, not to make a mystery of so simple a ghd pure matter, I was looking for the missing dumb-bell. It has always bulked rather large in my estimate of the case. I ended by finding it.” “Where?” “Ah, there we come to the edge of the unexplored. Let me go a little further, a very little further, and I will promise that you shall share everything that I know.” “Well, we’re bound to take you on your own terms,” said the inspector; “but when it comes to telling us to abandon the case- why in the name of goodness should we abandon the case?” “For the simple reason, my dear Mr. Mac, that you have not got the first idea what it is that you are investigating.” ghd hair ” ghd iv We are investigating the murder of Mr. John Douglas of Birlstone Manor.” “Yes, yes, so you are. But don’t trouble to trace the mysterious gentleman upon the bicycle. I assure you that it won’t help you.” “Then what do you suggest that we do?” “I will tell you exactly what to do, if you will do it.” “Well, I’m bound to say I’ve ghd mk4 straighteners always found you had reason behind all your queer ways. I’ll do what you advise.” “And you, Mr. White Mason?” The country detective