Dr Nikola - Guy Boothby - ebook

Dr Nikola ebook

Guy Boothby

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Opis

Nicola is a very interesting and creepy character, you are never sure how much he will go and what evil he is really capable of. The main character is actually recruited and works together with Nicola as a partner, which shows Nicolaou a more personal side. He could still do evil supernatural acts, and the threat to the traitors was still faced with the realization that you would become worse if you cross him, but that’s all.

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Liczba stron: 435

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Contents

INTRODUCTION

I. HOW I CAME TO MEET DR. NIKOLA

II. NIKOLA’S OFFER

III. NIKOLA’S SCHEME

IV. WE SET OUT FOR TIENTSIN

V. I RESCUE A YOUNG LADY

VI. ON THE ROAD TO PEKIN

VII. A SERIOUS TIME

VIII. HOW PRENDERGAST SUCCEEDED

IX. THE LLAMASERAI

X. AN EXCITING NIGHT IN THE LLAMASERAI

XI. EN ROUTE TO THIBET

XII. THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS

XIII. THE MONASTERY

XIV. AN ORDEAL

XV. HOW NIKOLA WAS INSTALLED

XVI. A TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE

XVII. CONCLUSION

INTRODUCTION

My Dear William George Craigie–

I have no doubt as to your surprise at receiving this letter, after so long and unjustifiable a period of silence, from one whom you must have come to consider either a dead man or at least a permanent refugee. When last we met it was on the deck of Tremorden’s yacht, in the harbour of Honolulu. I had been down to Kauai, I remember, and the day following, you, you lucky dog, were going off to England by the Royal Mail to be married to the girl of your heart. Since then I have heard, quite by chance, that you have settled down to a country life, as if to the manner born; that you take an absorbing interest in mangel-wurzels, and, while you strike terror into the hearts of poachers and other rustic evil-doers, have the reputation of making your wife the very best of husbands. Consequently you are to be envied and considered one of the happiest of men.

While, however, things have been behaving thus prosperously with you, I am afraid I cannot truthfully say that they have fared so well with me. At the termination of our pleasant South Sea cruise, just referred to, when our party dismembered itself in the Sandwich Islands, I crossed to Sydney, passed up inside the Barrier Reef to Cooktown, where I remained three months in order to try my luck upon the Palmer Gold Fields. This proving unsatisfactory I returned to the coast and continued my journey north to Thursday Island. From the last-named little spot I visited New Guinea, gave it my patronage for the better part of six months, and received in return a bad attack of fever, after recovering from which I migrated to Borneo, to bring up finally, as you will suppose, in my beloved China.

Do you remember how in the old days, when we both held positions of more or less importance in Hong-Kong, you used to rally me about my fondness for the Celestial character and my absurd liking for going fantee into the queerest company and places? How little did I imagine then to what straits that craze would ultimately conduct me! But we never know what the future has in store for us, do we? And perhaps it is as well.

You will observe, my dear Craigie, that it is the record of my visit to China on this particular occasion that constitutes this book; and you must also understand that it is because of our long friendship for each other, and by reason of our queer researches into the occult world together, that you find your name placed so conspicuously upon the forefront of it.

A word now as to my present existence and abode. My location I cannot reveal even to you. And believe me I make this reservation for the strongest reasons. Suffice it that I own a farm, of close upon five thousand acres, in a country such as would gladden your heart, if matrimony and continued well-being have not spoilt your eyes for richness of soil. It is shut in on all sides by precipitous mountain ranges, on the western peaks of which at this moment, as I sit in my verandah writing to you, a quantity of cloud, tinted a rose pink by the setting sun, is gathering. A quieter spot, and one more remote from the rush and bustle of civilization, it would be difficult to find. Once every six months my stores are brought up to me on mule-back by a trusted retainer who has never spoken a word of English in his life, and once every six weeks I send to, and receive from, my post office, four hundred miles distant, my mails. In the intervals I imitate the patriarchal life and character; that is to say, I hoe and reap my corn, live in harmony with my neighbour, who is two hundred odd miles away, and, figuratively speaking, enjoy life beneath my own vine and fig-tree.

Perhaps when the cool west wind blows in the long grass, the wild duck whistle upon the lagoons, or a newspaper filled with gossip of the outer world finds its way in to me, I am a little restless, but at other times I can safely say I have few regrets. I have done with the world, and to make my exile easier I have been permitted that greatest of all blessings, a good wife. Who she is and how I won her you will discover when you have perused this narrative, the compiling of which has been my principal and, I might almost say, only recreation all through our more than tedious winter. But now the snow has departed, spring is upon us, clad in its mantle of luscious grass and accompanied by the twitterings of birds and the music of innumerable small waterfalls, and I am a new man. All nature is busy, the swallows are working overtime beneath the eaves, and to-morrow, in proof of my remembrance, this book goes off to you.

Whether I shall ever again see Dr. Nikola, the principal character in it, is more than I can tell you. But I sincerely trust not. It is for the sake of circumstances brought about by that extraordinary man that I have doomed myself to perpetual exile; still I have no desire that he should know of my sacrifice. Sometimes when I lie awake in the quiet watches of the night I can hardly believe that the events of the last two years are real. The horror of that time still presses heavily upon me, and if I live to be a hundred I doubt if I shall outgrow it. When I tell you that even the things, I mean the mysteries and weird experiences, into which we thrust our impertinent noses in bygone days were absolutely as nothing compared with those I have passed through since in Nikola’s company, you will at first feel inclined to believe that I am romancing. But I know this, that by the time you have got my curious story by heart all doubt on that score will have been swept away.

One last entreaty. Having read this book, do not attempt to find me, or to set my position right with the world. Take my word for it, it is better as it is.

And now, without further preamble, let us come to the story itself. God bless you, and give you every happiness. Speak kindly of me to your wife, and believe me until death finishes my career, if it does such a thing, which Dr. Nikola would have me doubt,

Your affectionate friend,

Wilfred Bruce.

I. HOW I CAME TO MEET DR. NIKOLA

IT was Saturday afternoon, about a quarter-past four o’clock if my memory serves me, and the road, known as the Maloo, leading to the Bubbling Well, that single breathing place of Shanghai, was crowded. Fashionable barouches, C-spring buggies, spider-wheel dogcarts, to say nothing of every species of “rickshaw, bicycle, and pony, were following each other in one long procession towards the Well. All the European portion of Shanghai, and a considerable percentage of the native, had turned out to witness the finish of the paper hunt, which, though, not exciting in itself, was important as being the only amusement the settlement boasted that afternoon. I had walked as far as the Horse Bazaar myself, and had taken a “rickshaw thence, more from pride than because I could afford it. To tell the truth, which will pop out sooner or later, however much I may try to prevent it, I was keeping up appearances, and though I lay back in my vehicle and smoked my cheroot with a princely air, I was painfully conscious of the fact that when the ride should be paid for the exchequer would scarcely survive the shock.

Since my arrival in Shanghai I had been more than usually unfortunate. I had tried for every billet then vacant, from those choice pickings at the top of the tree among the high gods, to the secretaryship of a Eurasian hub of communistical tendencies located somewhere on the confines of the native city, but always without success. For the one I had not the necessary influence, for the other I lacked that peculiar gift of obsequiousness which is so essential to prosperity in that particular line of business.

In the meantime my expenditure was going remorselessly on, and I very soon saw that unless something happened, and that quickly too, I had every prospect of hiding myself deprived of my belongings, sleeping on the Bund, and finally figuring in that Mixed Court in the Magistrate’s Yamen, which is so justly dreaded by every Englishman, as the debtor of a Cochin China Jew. The position was not a cheerful one, look at it in whatever light I would, but I had experienced it a good many times before, and had always come out of it, if not with an increased amount of self-respect, certainly without any very great degree of personal embarrassment.

Arriving at the Well, I paid off my coolie and took up a position near “the last jump,” which I noticed was a prepared fence and ditch of considerable awkwardness. I was only just in time, for a moment later the horses came at it with a rush; some cleared it, some refused it, while others, adopting a middle course, jumped on the top of it, blundered over, and finally sent their riders spinning over their heads into the mud at the feet of their fairest friends. It was not exactly an aesthetic picture, but it was certainly a very amusing one.

When the last horse, had landed, imagining the sport to be over for the day, I was in the act of moving away when there was a shout to stand clear, and wheeling round again, I was just in time to see a last horseman come dashing at the fence. Though he rode with considerable determination, and was evidently bent on putting a good finish to his day’s amusement, it was plain that his horse was not of the same way of thinking, for, when he was distant about half a dozen yards from the fence, he broke his stride, stuck his feet into the mud, and endeavoured to come to a standstill. The result was not at all what he expected; he slid towards the fence, received his rider’s quirt, viciously administered, round his flank, made up his mind to jump too late, hit the top rail with his forehead, turned a complete somersault, and landed with a crash at my feet. His rider fell into the arms of the ditch, out of which I presently dragged him. When I got him on the bank he did not look a pretty sight, but, on the other hand, that did not prevent him from recognizing me.

“Wilfred Bruce, by all that’s glorious!” he cried, at the same time rising to his feet and mopping his streaming face with a very muddy pocket-handkerchief. “This is a fortunate encounter, for do you know, I spent two hours this morning looking for you?”

“I am very sorry you should have had so much trouble,” I answered; “but are you sure you are not hurt?”

“Not in the least,” he answered, and when he had scraped off as much mud as possible, turned to his horse, which had struggled to his feet and was gazing stupidly about him.

“Let me first send this clumsy brute home,” he said, “then I’ll find my cart, and if you’ll permit me I’ll take you back to town with me.”

We saw the horse led away, and, when we had discovered his dog-cart among the crowd of vehicles waiting for their owners, mounted to our seats and set off–after a few preliminary antics on the part of the leader–on our return to the settlement.

Once comfortably on our way George Barkston, whom, I might mention here, I had known for more than ten years, placed his whip in the bucket and turned to me.

“Look here, Bruce,” he said, flushing a little in anticipation of what he was about to say, “I’m not going to mince matters with you, so let us come straight to the point; we are old friends, and though we’ve not seen as much of each other during this visit to Shanghai as we used to do in the old days when you were deputy-commissioner of whatever it was, and I was your graceless subordinate, I think I am pretty well conversant with your present condition. I don’t want you to consider me impertinent, but I do want you to let me help you if I can.”

“That’s very good of you,” I answered, not without a little tremor, however, as he shaved a well-built American buggy by a hair’s breadth. “To tell the honest truth, I want to get something to do pretty badly. There’s a serious deficit in the exchequer, my boy. And though I’m a fairly old hand at the game of poverty, I’ve still a sort of pride left, and I have no desire to figure in the Mixed Court next Wednesday on a charge of inability to pay my landlord twenty dollars for board and lodging.”

“Of course you don’t,” said Barkston warmly; “and so, if you’ll let me help you, I’ve an idea that I can put you on to the right track to something. The fact is, there was a chap in the smoking-room at the club the other night with whom I got into conversation. He interested me more than I can tell you, for he was one of the most curious beings who, I should imagine, has ever visited the East. I never saw such an odd-looking fellow in my life. Talk about eyes–well, his were–augh! Why, he looked you through and through. You know old Benwell, of the revenue-cutter Y-chang? Well, while I was talking to this fellow, after a game of pool, in he came.

“"Hallo! Barkston,’ he said, as he brought up alongside the table, “I thought you were shooting with Jimmy Woodrough up the river? I’m glad to find you’re not, for I–’ He had got as far as this before he became aware of my companion. Then his jaw dropped; he looked hard at him, said something under his breath, and, shaking me by the hand, made a feeble excuse, and fled the room. Not being able to make it out at all, I went after him and found him looking for his hat in the hall. “Come, I say, Benwell, “I cried;’ what’s up? What on earth made you bolt like that? Have I offended you?’ He led me on one side, so that the servants should not hear, and having done so said confidentially: “Barkston, I am not a coward; in my time I’ve tackled Europeans, Zulus, Somalis, Malays, Japanese, and Chinese, to say nothing of Manilla and Solomon boys, and what’s more, I don’t mind facing them all again; but when I find myself face to face with Dr. Nikola, well, I tell you I don’t think twice, I bolt! Take my tip and do the same.’ As he might just as well have talked to me in low Dutch for all I should have understood, I tried to question him, but I might have spared myself the trouble, for I could get nothing satisfactory out of him. He simply shook me by the hand, told the boy in the hall to call him a “rickshaw, and as soon as it drew up at the steps jumped into it and departed. When I got back to the billiard-room Nikola was still there, practising losing hazards of extraordinary difficulty.

“"I’ve an opinion I’ve seen your friend before,’ he said, as I sat down to watch him. “He is Benwell of the Y-chang, and if I mistake not Benwell of the Y-chang remembers me.’

“"He seems to know you,’ I said with a laugh.

“"Yes, Nikola continued after a little pause; “I have had the pleasure of being in Mr. Benwell’s company once before. It was in Haiphong.’ Then with peculiar emphasis: “I don’t know what he thinks of the place, of course, but somehow I have an idea your friend will not willingly go near Haiphong again.’ After he had said this he remained silent for a little while, then he took a letter from his pocket, read it carefully, examined the envelope, and having made up his mind on a certain point turned to me again.

“"I want to ask you a question,’ he said, putting the cue he had been using back into the rack. “You know a person named Bruce, don’t you? a man who used to be in the Civil Service, and who has the reputation of being able to disguise himself so like a Chinaman that even Li Chang Tung would not know him for a European?’

“"I do,’ I answered; “he is an old friend of mine; and what is more, he is in Shanghai at the present moment. It was only this morning I heard of him.’

“"Bring him to me,” said Nikola quickly. “I am told he wants a billet, and if he sees me before twelve to-morrow night I think I can put him in the way of obtaining a good one. Now there you are, Bruce, my boy. I have done my best for you.”

“And I am sincerely grateful to you,” I answered. “But who is this man Nikola, and what sort of a billet do you think he can find me?”

“Who he is I can no more tell you than I can fly. But if he is not the first cousin of the Old Gentleman himself, well, all I can say is, I’m no hand at finding relationships.”

“I am afraid that doesn’t tell me very much,” I answered. “What’s he like to look at?”

“Well, in appearance he might be described as tall, though you must not run away with the idea that he’s what you would call a big man. On the contrary, he is most slenderly built. Anything like the symmetry of his figure, however, I don’t remember to have met with before. His face is clean shaven, and is always deadly pale, a sort of toad-skin pallor, that strikes you directly when you see him and the remembrance of which never leaves you again. His eyes and hair are as black as night, and he is as neat and natty as a new pin. When he is watching you he seems to be looking through the back of your head into the wall behind, and when he speaks you’ve just got to pay attention, whether you want to or not. All things considered, the less I see of him the better I shall like him.”

“You don’t give me a very encouraging report of my new employer. What on earth can he want with me?”

“He’s Apollyon himself,” laughed Barkston, “and wants a maitre d’hotel. I suppose he imagines you’ll suit.”

By this time we had left the Maloo and were entering the town.

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