It immensely adds to the zest of an investigation, my dear Mr. Mac, when one is in conscious sympathy with the historical atmosphere of ones surroundings. Dont look so impatient; for I assure you that even so bald an account as this raises some sort of picture of the past in ones 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 wont 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 dont 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.
Im 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, Ill 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 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.
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, were bound to take you on your own terms, said the inspector; but when it comes to telling us to abandon the casewhy 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.
We are investigating the murder of Mr. John Douglas of Birlstone Manor.
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