Nig-Nog and Other Humorous Stories - Edgar Wallace - ebook

Nig-Nog and Other Humorous Stories ebook

Edgar Wallace

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Opis

„Nig Nog and Other Humorous Stories” is a collection of short humorous stories that include „Jimmy’s Brother”, „Sentimental Simpson”, „Chubb of the Slipper”, and many more. There are reasons worth exploring why Edgar Wallace was so successful in his writings and amongst them were his imagination, cleverness, and humor as demonstrated in these initial short stories, especially „Nig- Nog” (making an in-your-face patent medicine pedlar and a burglar endearing characters, and flipping the story endings upside down with nifty consequences – is the work of a genius with a sense of humor). Edgar Wallace provides a humor of another sort!

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Liczba stron: 274

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Contents

1. "NIG-NOG!"

2. JIMMY'S BROTHER

3. SENTIMENTAL SIMPSON

4. CHUBB OF THE "SLIPPER"

5. INDIAN MAGIC

6. ESTABLISHING CHARLES BULLIVANT

7. THE CAT BURGLAR

8. VIA MADEIRA

9. JAKE'S BROTHER BILL

10. THE JEWEL BOX

11. WHITE STOCKING

12. IN THRALL

1. “NIG-NOG!"

This story is about a matter which, in itself, is ancient history. It is only told now because Mr. Cymbeline Smith (his real name is something which is almost as outrageous) has placed himself under a fifty-thousand dollar bond that he will not “associate in any way whatsoever” his name or his preparation with those which occur in this story, “providing a genteel account of the aforesaid affair be put into writing by a newspaper man.” This is that genteel account.

Cymbeline Smith is an American citizen who made a deal of money in the traveling circus business before he took up the serious study of medicines. It had been an asset of his that he might have stood as a model for any artist who desired to draw Uncle Sam. He had a long, somewhat dissatisfied face, a fringe of amber and gray whisker at his chin, he always wore a top hat of antique shape and trousers which were strapped under Wellington boots. In the circus days he affected a blue cut-away swallowtail and a high stock, but these he abandoned when he gave his mind and money to medical science, and produced in conjunction with a drummer (who afterwards drank himself to death) the preparation which is known commercially as “Nig-Nog!” I have little space to dilate upon the pharmaceutical values of “Nig-Nog!” You have read the full page and the double page ads., and you know (or you disbelieve) that “Nig-Nog!” cures all nervous ailments, builds up nerve forces, clears the dazed and dopey brain, and restores to its vie–, to its grateful and delighted purchaser that roseate outlook upon life, that balance of reason, that clarity of vision which the brainworker, the cigarette-fiend, and the chronic pessimist cannot enjoy.

It was described as being compounded from a prescription which had been in the family of a Royal House of Europe for five hundred years, but this may not have been true. Now it is a fact that an advertised patent medicine which does not produce most of the results it claims brings ruin to its proprietor, for it costs more money to put the first supplies on the market than it is humanly possible to get back even if every bottle is sold. But “Nig-Nog!” was a success from the beginning. It sold in the United States of America by the million. It did build up nerve forces and clear the dazed and dopey brain. It did restore the balance of reason and the clarity of vision. And its delighted patrons told other sufferers that “Nig-Nog!” was according to specification, and in consequence Cymbeline Smith grew rich and lived in a suite at Knickerbocker House and drove a machine which was something between Cinderella’s Fancy Coach and a Band Wagon.

And then he crossed the waters to conquer Europe. He flooded the London market with “Nig-Nog!”; he added a new tone to the English landscape; in car and train, on omnibus, on house-side, in druggist window, in printed page he spoke earnestly, violently, almost convincingly of “Nig-Nog!”–its virtues, its amazing qualities, and, still more, amazing cheapness.

And then he did that which of all things was unpardonable. Overlooking the weald of Sussex was a long and wooded ridge, and at its highest point was Weald Lodge, the country home of the Rt. Hon. Gregory Thessiger, Minister of Ordnance, an irritable, intolerant man who had a mild dislike for most Americans and a violent dislike for that type of American which Cymbeline Smith represented. Because he was a great man and people trembled at his nod, and because he was almost godlike to the villagers of Adfriston, he had never seriously considered the building possibility of the nine-acre lot which lay on the slope of the hill between his estate and the village. He woke one morning to discover that Mr. Cymbeline Smith had purchased that “estate” through a soulless agent at Eastbourne.

To say that Mr. Thessiger was annoyed, was to put the matter with amusing moderation. He endeavored to cancel the sale. He offered to buy the ground, but Cymbeline Smith was first and foremost a showman, and the thought that he was to be a neighbor of the powerful Minister of a most powerful British Cabinet was not wholly abhorrent to him. So he built a dwelling which was a tactful compromise between the White House and the Tower of London, thus reconciling in one spasm of architecture the ideals of the new and the old world. But the culminating point of his infamy came when he took possession and added his final improvement.

The newspaper reporters who saw Mr. Thessiger step from his car at the door of the Treasury reported him as looking ill and worried, and drew conclusions which were wholly erroneous. The Prime Minister also noted the haggard face of his colleague, and his conclusions were almost as wide of the mark as the reporters’.

He walked across to where the Minister sat, and dropped his hand upon his shoulder.

“I think you are worrying too much about this business, Thessiger,” he said; “the outlook is not as bad this morning as it was. I think Baremia will climb down.”

Thessiger looked up.

“It’s not that, Prime Minister,” he said irritably; “It’s that infernal Yankee! Confound his impertinence!”

The Prime Minister was secretly relieved. He had heard about the infernal Yankee before.

“Is his castle finished!” he asked.

“Finished!” spluttered the other. “Do you know what the rascal has done? On the roof of his house, sir, right under my nose so that I cannot miss it, he has had an electric sign put up: ‘NIG-NOG FOR THE NERVES.’ It is illuminated at night. He has made it impossible for me to live in my own house. By-heavens, I’ll sue him!”

“An electric sign?” said the Premier; “but surely he will take it down if you ask?”

“Ask!” roared the other. “I have demanded, I have pleaded–I didn’t go myself, of course, but I sent Grey, my man; but the scoundrel says it is good advertising, for it can be read from the trains six miles away. ‘Nig-Nog!’ for the nerves,” he repeated, grinding his teeth. “Good heavens, if I had only known that he was coming!”

“Why not sue him in the court? He seems to be a nuisance within the meaning of the Act,” said the Prime Minister soothingly.

It was very necessary that he should calm his violent colleague, for certain matters were coming up for consideration which called for Thessiger’s support on a measure to which, as the Prime Minister knew, the Minister of Ordnance was bitterly opposed. His worst fears were realized when that measure was brought forward. If Thessiger had been violent at previous sittings of the Cabinet, he was now wholly unmanageable; and the Prime Minister walked down to the House of Commons with the Minister of Finance.

“Thessiger is going to make a split,” he said moodily, “and at a time when we all ought to stand together and drop petty differences. I’d hate to lose him, but he has things all wrong. He doesn’t seem to realize Baremia’s object. I wish this infernal American had not come to bother him. He was unmanageable enough without that added cause of irritation. You are a suave sort of devil, Ralph,” he said suddenly. “Why don’t you go to this ‘Nig-Nog!’ man and see if you couldn’t persuade him to drop his electric sign?”

The other laughed.

“One has to be a very suave kind of devil,” he repeated, “to persuade a patent medicine advertiser to surrender a good position. My acquaintance with the press, which is fairly extensive, does not encourage me to believe that Mr. Smith is amenable to reason, but I will try if you like.”

So Cymbeline Smith, sitting on his broad verandah, with his red-slippered feet elevated to the rail and with a long cigar between his strong white teeth, had a visitor.

“Why, it’s very good of you,” said Cymbeline, who had reached that point of prosperity where he accepted the unexpected visits of Cabinet Ministers as an ordinary event of life. “I would like to oblige Mr. Thessiger, Sir Ralph, but I am a business man. I am, sir,” he went on in his finest oracular style, “not only a business man, but a humanitarian, a benefactor of the human race, a man to whom the sufferings of his fellow-creatures is a clarion call to duty.

It is my opinion, sir, and it is the opinion shared by the faculty of the United States of America, that there is no more pernicious act that a man can permit than to deny to a suffering world a knowledge of this sovereign remedy. ‘Nig-Nog!’, sir, may be found in the medicine chests of royal and imperial personages. It may be seen, a bright and pleasant sight, on the shelves of the humblest cottages. Until that miraculous compound, which is at once a prophylactic, a refreshment, and a cure which secures the palingenesis of the atrophied nerve centers and the reintegration of the frazzled brain, is known to every man, woman, and child of your ancient country, I cannot, without reproaching myself with my treachery to humanity, relax in the slightest degree my effort to bring ‘Nig-Nog!’ to the notice of the world.”

“But, my dear Mr. Smith,” said Sir Ralph smoothly, “surely it would serve your purpose if the electric sign were placed at our expense nearer to the railway line.”

Mr. Cymbeline Smith shook his head.

“No, sir,” he said, “the very remoteness of these golden words twinkling against the dark and mysterious background of the immemorial hills produces in the mind of the sufferer the impression of hope–for hope, sir, is a distant prospect. Hope, sir, is the Uranus of the psychological sky.”

That night Mr. Thessiger was sitting at his desk in the big library of his house in Chepstowe Place. To be exact, he alternated between the table and the fireplace, for he had half written six letters of resignation which had been consigned to the flames, and the seventh had been begun when his butler came in, closing the door discreetly behind him.

“What is it, Carter?” asked the Minister, looking up.

“The Countess Castlavera. She wishes to see you on a very important matter.”

A look of surprise came to Mr. Thessiger’s face and he pulled out his watch. It was nine o ‘clock.

“Ask the Countess to come in, please, Carter.”

He half crossed the room to meet the beautiful woman who was ushered in by the butler.

“My dear Countess,” he said, “this is a great surprise and a great pleasure.”

“I am afraid you are fearfully busy,” she said, with a quick glance at the table. “What curious blotting paper you use!”

He smiled as he pulled forward a chair for his visitor.

“A11 Ministers use black blotting paper,” he said; “It tells no stories.”

“And you have so many secrets to hide–what a wonderful thing it is to be a Minister!”

The envy and admiration in her tone was particularly flattering to this lonely man, and, indeed, his friendship with the Countess, which had begun in a small Algerian hotel where they had found themselves in the most unfashionable season of the year, the only people of consequence amongst the guests, had been a source of the greatest comfort to him.

They had met in Paris once, and then the Countess, who was a widow, had come to London and had established her little salon in Curzon Street, and Mr. Thessiger had been an occasional visitor. That she was a fascinating woman is well enough known. Absurdly young for a widow, her eyes had that quality of blue which is found only in the eastern skies at sunset. They were that rich, cloudy blue that particularly appealed to him. Her hair he had likened in his one poetical indiscretion to “a mane of daffodils.” Her mouth was small and delicately shaped–her chin, her poise, her air, were all adequately described in that “Memory of Algiers” published in the Saturday Review over the initial “T,” the authorship of which was ascribed by none to the somewhat forbidding Minister of Ordnance.

“I have come to see you on rather an important matter,” she smiled, “and it is because I know I can trust you that I have come at all.”

He inclined his head, at once gratified and curious.

For the moment all thought of the Cabinet crisis, of the grave issues which were pending in the country, even of the exasperating vendor of patent medicines vanished from his mind, and his attention was concentrated upon this fragrant, delicate thing who already occupied too large a portion of his thoughts for his comfort.

“My late husband was, as you know, the agent for an armament firm. He had invented a wonderful howitzer–that is the word?”

Mr. Thessiger nodded.

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