A Mayfair Magician - George Griffiths - ebook

A Mayfair Magician ebook

George Griffiths

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Opis

George Griffiths is popular with science and science fiction novels. The desire of every person is to have the power to read minds. George Griffiths decided to make it into reality. A Mayfair Magician is a science fiction novel about a device that allows you to read minds.

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Liczba stron: 407

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Contents

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER XXVIII

CHAPTER XXIX

CHAPTER XXX

CHAPTER XXXI

EPILOGUE

PROLOGUE

Despite the venerable antiquity of the saying, it is not always true that “Out of evil cometh good,” but certainly out of the apparent evil of the snow- burst which, on the morning of a Christmas Eve not many winters ago, suddenly buried H. M. Prison at Nether-moor from the sight of heaven and cut it off from all communication with the rest of earth, there came to me two good things in the shape of spontaneously offered and most generous hospitality, and one of the strangest stories of what I can only call inverted genius and diverted human power that it has ever been my good fortune to hear.

I had been visiting Nethermoor, which, as you doubtless know, is situated on one of the southern slopes of the Scottish border hills, during the course of a series of studies of British and Continental prison systems, and I had to be up early to catch the train to Newcastle if I was to have any chance of spending Christmas at home. But when the doctor, or to give him his official title, the Principal Medical Officer, who had kindly given me a bed, came to my door at daybreak, I heard his pleasant North Country burr saying across the frontiers of the Land of Nod–

“I’m thinking ye’ll have to eat your Christmas dinner off prison fare or something like it this year, Mr Griffith. Get up and take a look at the snow.”

I mustered resolution for the plunge and crept shivering to the window. Yes, there was no doubt about it. Southward and to east and west the white wilderness mingled with the grey sky, and there was no more chance of making the seven-mile drive to the station than there was of bringing the Scotch Express up to Nethermoor. It was in this manner that I came to pass my only Christmas, so far, within prison walls.

My host was one of the most interesting of the many interesting men I have had the good luck to meet. He was a prison doctor by choice, not from necessity. If I were to publish his name and give the locality of the prison a little more exactly–which I faithfully promised not to do–he would be recognised as one of the most distinguished psychologists of the day. He had a splendid London practice, but the attractions of his favourite science were too strong for him, and he gave it up to study criminal psychology under what he rightly considered to be the most favourable circumstances.

I had made the last round with him and the Governor and duly inspected the preparations for the very mild festivities which his Majesty’s involuntary guests are permitted to indulge in when, just as we were leaving the great kitchen, he asked me sotto voce to particularly notice a prisoner who had already attracted my attention owing to the fact that he was wearing a mask and goggles of the style that motoring has brought into fashion.

In spite of the cropped hair and the closely-sheared stubble which covered his cheeks and chin, one could recognise his face at once as that of a man of more than ordinary mental power t even deprived, as it was, of those principal organs of expression, the eyes, which were completely hidden, as I thought on account of ophthalmia, by the huge goggles. Even the hideous prison livery, too, was not sufficient to entirely disguise a distinction of form and a grace of movement which is seldom or never found in the true or natural born criminal.

“This is the season with us North Country folk for story telling,” said my host, as we tramped back to his house along one of the lanes that one of the spade-gangs had made, “and when we get to our grog after supper I’ll tell you the story of that man with the goggles and why he wears them; but if you ever tell it again, of course you’ll use different names and places–and maybe mix a bit of fiction with it.”

I promised all but the last, and that he left to my discretion.

Over supper we naturally fell into a discussion of that most absorbing of all topics for the criminologist–the possible nature of that essential difference of mental function which divides what are commonly called the criminal from the honest classes.

“Of course, I needn’t remind you,” said my host, when he had put a couple of fresh logs on the blazing fire and we had pulled our chairs round and loaded our pipes, “that the first thing the really scientific student of crime, the man who wants to get at the truth, has to do is to get rid once for all of what is called the moral view of crime. He has nothing to do with the right or wrong of the matter, but only with the why and the wherefore. Naturally the student must not carry that principle outside his study. If he does he will have a good chance of getting into trouble with the policeman, and it is just for that reason that the man I called your attention to in the kitchen is here wearing those goggles in prison instead of occupying a distinguished, in fact, I might say a unique, position in the world of science. It is a terrible pity,” he concluded with something like a sigh.

“Yes,” I assented, “it hardly seems, somehow, in the fitness of things that such a lot of knowledge as he must have should be shut up in a prison cell. Still, he may be persuaded to make a legitimate use of it when he gets out.”

“He will never get out,” was the somewhat startling reply. ldquo;He is a prisoner because he failed to realise that there are some things–human life and honour and happiness for instance–which may not be sacrificed on the altar of science, even for the possible ultimate benefit of humanity, and he will die a prisoner because there is no law on the British Statute Book under which he could be hung for the crime he committed, murder though it was.”

“That sounds promising, doctor,” I said after a few pulls at my new-lit pipe. “But what about the goggles–are they part of the punishment for this new sort of crime?”

“They,” replied my host, “are not a punishment. They are only a protection, not for his eyes, but against them. Ah! I see you hardly follow me. Well, never mind, you will see what I mean shortly.”

The doctor took a pull at his grog and two or three meditative whiffs at his pipe, and then proceeded to tell me the story of the convict with the goggles, which I reproduce in the following chapters from the notes which I took the same night and also others of lengthy conversations which we had on the subject during the week for which the snow kept me a not unwilling prisoner at Nethermoor.

CHAPTER I

Enstone Manor, one of the finest as well as one of the oldest estates between the Pennines and the North Sea, came into the possession of the late owner, Sir Godfrey Enstone, in this fashion. He was a younger son, but everyone said that he ought to have been the elder, with his handsome face and stalwart figure and high spirit, albeit the last was wont on occasion to flame up somewhat swiftly to anger. The heir and only other child was more of a throw- back to some remote generation than the son in spirit as well as in blood of his own father and mother, for he was not only mean to look upon, but he was in disposition and nature everything that a gentleman ought not to be–secretive, underhand, revengeful, and as close-fisted as a Dutch miser.

That, however, is not germane to the story save in so far as it was responsible for the everlasting quarrels between the brothers which ended when Archibald, the elder, managed to get Godfrey into terrible hot water with his parents over some youthful escapade, and received at his hands a thrashing so sound that Archibald received injuries from which he never quite recovered. Of course, Godfrey was deeply and sincerely penitent when he cooled down and recognised what his momentary passion had led him to do; but his father would have none of his repentance, and so in the end he gave him five hundred pounds and his curse and bade him never let him see his face again. Like most curses, that one duly came home to roost under the old roof-tree.

Godfrey disappeared utterly for over twenty years. The old baronet and his wife died within a few months of each other of pneumonia following influenza. The heir succeeded–a soured, enfeebled misanthrope, who hated women and believed that all the girls of the countryside and in London were after his money and position, whereas no decent woman would have married him if he had been a duke and a millionaire. He killed himself with quack medicines and drugs in little more than a year, and then the solicitors set to work to find Sir Godfrey, as he was now, if alive.

For two or three years nothing was heard of him, and the estate was managed by trustees, appointed by the Court of Chancery. Then, without any notice, he walked one day into the solicitor’s office and explained that he had only heard of the deaths of his father and brother six weeks before in Hong Kong, on his return from a three years’ exploring expedition in Central and North-Eastern Asia.

However, he had made his money; he was evidently very wealthy, and when he had established his identity and taken possession of the carefully-nursed estates he was one of the richest men in the North Country. But although there was no doubt as to his being Godfrey Enstone, all who had known him before his banishment agreed that no one could well have been more unlike what one might have expected “Master Godfrey” to grow up than the thin, grave, slightly- stooping, parchment-skinned man who seemed to have little or no interest in life beyond his estates and his scientific studies–which some of his sporting neighbours looked upon with frank and openly-expressed suspicion.

There was, however, one exception to this rule. He brought back with him a fine, strapping, honest-faced young fellow of about twenty-two, whom all his friends at first hoped was his son. But the world soon learnt that he was really the son of an old comrade and fellow-adventurer, who had lost his life in saving Sir Godfrey’s. He had adopted him, and one of the first things he did when he got settled was to go through the legal process of giving him his name and declaring him his heir to the estates, which were unentailed, and his own personal property.

The title was to die with himself. He had proved that a father’s curse, whether rightly or wrongly given, was a grievous burden to bear. His own wife and child had died together of plague fifteen years before on the anniversary of his banishment. Five years later on the same day his own life had been saved only at the expense of that of the only friend he had on earth. He had not a single blood-relation in the world, and he had determined that the title should die with him and the blood line of Enstones cease to exist.

He had few friends, scarcely any at all in England; but, as the postmaster at Enstone was well aware, he had a large circle of corresponding acquaintances scattered nearly all over the world, and of these, according to the experience of the postmaster, the most frequent and constant was a certain Professor Jenner Halkine who appeared to possess addresses in pretty nearly every corner of the globe.

One morning at breakfast, nearly two years after his return, Sir Godfrey said to his adopted son, who was known legally as Harold Dacre Enstone– his father’s name had been Dacre,–

“Harold, my boy, what do you say to a run up to London for a few days? You want some new guns and hunting-gear before the season, I believe, arid you could have a look round and choose them for yourself. It will be better than having them sent on approval.”

“With pleasure, dad,” was the reply; “but, of course, you’re going too?”

“Oh, yes,” said Sir Godfrey, with what was for him an unwonted eagerness. “The fact is that 1 have just had a letter from Professor Halkine and he tells me that he has at last made up his mind to give up wandering and pitch his tent permanently in England. He says his niece is growing up now and he doesn’t think it quite fair to her to keep on the everlasting trek any longer. At anyrate, whatever that resolve may prove to be worth, he landed at Brindisi four days ago and will be in London the day after to-morrow. Curiously enough, although we’ve been friends on notepaper and in the scientific journals for years, this is the first time we have been within about a thousand miles of each other. In this letter he asks me to call on him at Morley’s Hotel on Wednesday and at last make his personal acquaintance.”

Harold remembered as he spoke that Wednesday was the Anniversary, as they called it–the Black Day of the year on which Sir Godfrey never began or ended anything of importance, but he did not share his feelings on this subject, although they had never discontinued the custom of putting on black ties on the day of his father’s death.

“That is distinctly curious,” he said, laying down the paper he was reading. “It ought to be a very interesting meeting for you, though I hope you’ll like the professor personally better than I like those theories of his, great man as he certainly is. I wonder what the niece will be like. Large and angular, most probably, with the muscles of a man and the complexion of a Jap. That’s the worst of those travelling women. They’re neither huggable nor kissable.”

Two days later Mr Harold Enstone had the best of reasons to alter this very sweeping assertion. Sir Godfrey brought back an invitation to dinner from his hitherto unknown friend, whom he enthusiastically described as a most charming man and a thorough gentleman, and warned him that he was to meet the possibly formidable niece. Harold, somewhat against his inclination, found himself forced to agree with him as to the professor. He was certainly a man of birth, breeding and education, and in addition, he possessed that indefinable air of “at-homeness” which only travel can give. But for all that there was something about him, an air of quiet, repressed power which even suggested irresistible authority if once seriously exerted, which he found himself resenting during the first five minutes of conversation over the usual sherry and bitters.

In addition to this he possessed the most extraordinary pair of eyes that Harold had ever seen in a human head. They were very large–too large, in fact, for a man–and intensely luminous. They differed, too, in colour with every changing light. Sometimes they were dusky and sombre almost to blackness. When their owner got animated they brightened to a deep violet which at times paled slowly. When they looked towards the light, which they very seldom did, they were a greenish-grey with frequent glints of reddish fire in them. To look directly into them for more than a momentary glance was not possible without a disquieting feeling or rather suggestion of possible submission to the control of the forceful soul which was looking out of them –at least that was Harold’s first impression of them.

But when he went into the drawing-room and he saw those same eyes set like glorious gems under a pair of dark, delicately-curved brows, and lighting up the most exquisitely lovely face his own glowing fancy had ever dreamed of, his opinion suddenly changed again, both as to rainbow eyes and women travellers.

“My niece, Miss Grace Romanes,” said the professor, as the slender form and the royally-poised head, crowned with its diadem of red-gold coils, bowed before them. When the introduction was over Sir Godfrey looked at him with an expression which reminded him forcibly of his rash remark at breakfast the morning but one before. When Miss Romanes spoke he had some difficulty in repressing a visible start, as often happens when one hears for the first time a voice of extraordinary sweetness.

How the dinner and the couple of hours which followed at the Opera passed Harold never exactly knew, but when he got up the next morning with his soul full of the most fantastically delightful dreams, he first informed himself that he was little better than a drivelling idiot, and then expressed the opinion at breakfast that girls like Miss Grace Romanes ought not to be allowed to go about loose. It was not fair to men who had eyes in their heads and blood in their veins. Sir Godfrey sympathised laughingly with him and told him for his comfort that he had asked Dr Halkine and his niece to pay a visit to the Manor for the purpose of comparing scientific notes. He suggested that if Harold felt that the proximity would be more than his fortitude could safely risk, a month’s fishing in Norway would afford excuse for a dignified retreat. Master Harold decided to take the risk and felt absurdly pleased with himself when a very few days later it developed into a delightful and yet harrowing certainty.

The conquest of Harold Enstone was as rapid as it was complete and irrevocable, and it was accomplished before his fair conqueror appeared to have the slightest knowledge of her unconscious triumph. She was a charming companion, perfectly natural and unaffected, as might be expected of a girl whose education had been begun and completed amidst the realities of life and the eternal problem of Nature instead of the artificial trivialities which form the surroundings of the average Society girl. This gave her an added charm in his eyes which no other woman could have had. His own life and education had been much the same, and so from the beginning there was a bond between them, of which, as she afterwards confessed, she must even then have felt the strength without realising it.

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