Pharos, The Egyptian - Guy Boothby - ebook

Pharos, The Egyptian ebook

Guy Boothby

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Opis

There was a Victorian / Edwardian fascination with evil geniuses. Professor Moriarty, Fu Manchu, Count Fosco, Dracula, Dr. Nicola – they and many others were hiding in the shadows, using their magnetism to persuade others to their will and their significant mental gifts for evil purposes. This is an exciting story for those who like the somewhat predictable traditions of late Victorian history.

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Liczba stron: 500

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Contents

Preface

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Preface

Being a Letter from Sir William Betford, of Bampton St. Mary, in Dorsetshire, To George Trevelyan, of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London.

“My dear Trevelyan: Never in my life have I been placed in such an awkward, not to say invidious, position. I am, as you know, a plain man, fond of a plain life and plain speaking, and yet I am about to imperil that reputation by communicating to you what I fancy you will consider the most extraordinary and unbelievable intelligence you have ever received in your life. For my own part I do not know what to think. I have puzzled over the matter until I am not in a position to judge fairly. You must, therefore, weigh the evidence, first for us both. For pity’s sake, however, do not decide hastily. In dubiis benigniora semper sunt præferenda, as they used to say in our school days, must be our motto, and by it we must abide at any hazards. As far as I can see, we are confronted with one of the saddest and at the same time one of the most inexplicable cases ever yet recorded on paper. Reduced to its proper factors it stands as follows: Either Forrester has gone mad and dreamed it all, or he is sane and has suffered as few others have done in this world. In either case he is deserving of our deepest pity. In one way only are we fortunate. Knowing the man as we do, we are in a position to estimate the value of the accusations he brings against himself. Of one thing I am convinced–a more honourable being does not walk this earth. Our acquaintance with him is of equal length. We were introduced to him, and to each other, on one and the same occasion, upward of twelve years ago; and during that time I know I am right in saying neither of us ever had reason to doubt his word or the honour of a single action. Indeed, to my mind he had but one fault, a not uncommon one in these latter days of the nineteenth century. I refer to his somewhat morbid temperament and the consequent leaning toward the supernatural it produced in him.

“As the world has good reason to remember, his father was perhaps the most eminent Egyptologist our century has seen; a man whose whole mind and being was impregnated with a love for that ancient country and its mystic past. Small wonder, therefore, that the son should have inherited his tastes and that his life should have been influenced by the same peculiar partiality. While saying, however, that he had a weakness for the supernatural, I am by no means admitting that he was what is vulgarly termed a spiritualist. I do not believe for an instant that he ever declared himself so openly. His mind was too evenly balanced, and at the same time too healthy to permit such an enthusiastic declaration of his interest. For my part, I believe he simply inquired into the matter as he would have done into, shall we say, the Kinetic theory of gases, or the history of the ruined cities of Mashonaland, for the purpose of satisfying his curiosity and of perfecting his education on the subject. Having thus made my own feelings known to you, I will leave the matter in your hands, confident that you will do him justice, and will proceed to describe how the pathetic record of our friend’s experiences came into my possession.

“I had been hunting all day and did not reach home until between half-past six and seven o’clock. We had a house full of visitors at the time, I remember, some of whom had been riding with me, and the dressing-gong sounded as we dismounted from our horses at the steps. It was plain that if we wished to change our attire and join the ladies in the drawing-room before dinner was announced, we had no time to lose. Accordingly we departed to our various rooms with all possible speed.

“There is nothing pleasanter or more refreshing after a long day in the saddle than a warm bath. On this particular occasion I was in the full enjoyment of this luxury when a knocking sounded at the door. I inquired who was there.

“"Me, sir–Jenkins,’ replied my servant. “There is a person downstairs, sir, who desires to see you.’

“"To see me at this hour,’ I answered. “What is his name, and what does he want?’

“"His name is Silver, sir,’ the man replied; and then, as if the information might be put forward as some excuse for such a late visit, he continued: “I believe he is a kind of foreigner, sir. Leastways, he’s very dark, and don’t speak the same, quite, as an Englishman might do.’

“I considered for a moment. I knew of no person named Silver who could have any possible reason for desiring to see me at seven o’clock in the evening.

“"Go down and inquire his business,’ I said, at length. “Tell him I am engaged to-night; but if he can make it convenient to call in the morning, I will see him.’

“The man departed on his errand, and by the time he returned I had reached my dressing-room once more.

“"He is very sorry, sir,’ he began, as soon as he had closed the door, “but he says he must get back to Bampton in time to catch the 8.15 express to London. He wouldn’t tell me his business, but asked me to say that it is most important, and he would be deeply grateful if you could grant him an interview this evening.’

“"In that case,’ I said, “I suppose I must see him. Did he tell you no more?’

“"No, sir. Leastways, that wasn’t exactly the way he put it. He said, sir, “If the gentleman won’t see me otherwise, tell him I come to him from Mr. Cyril Forrester. Then I think he will change his mind.”‘

“As the man, whoever he was, had predicted, this did make me change my mind. I immediately bade Jenkins and inform him that I would be with him in a few moments. Accordingly, as soon as I had dressed, I left my room and descended to the study. The fire was burning brightly, and a reading-lamp stood upon the writing-table. The remainder of the room, however, was in shadow, but not sufficiently so to prevent my distinguishing a dark figure seated between the two bookcases. He rose as I entered, and bowed before me with a servility that, thank God! is scarcely English. When he spoke, though what he said was grammatically correct, his accent revealed the fact that he was not a native of our Isles.

“"Sir William Betford, I believe,’ he began, as I entered the room.

“"That is my name,’ I answered, at the same time turning up the lamp and lighting the candles upon the mantelpiece in order that I might see him better. “My man tells me you desire an interview with me. He also mentioned that you have come from my old friend, Mr. Cyril Forrester, the artist, who is now abroad. Is this true?’

“"Quite true,’ he replied. “I do come from Mr. Forrester.’

“The candles were burning brightly by this time, and, as a result, I was able to see him more distinctly. He was of medium height, very thin, and wore a long overcoat of some dark material. His face was distinctly Asiatic in type, though the exact nationality I could not determine. Possibly he might have hailed from Siam.

“"Having come from Mr. Forrester,’ I said, when I had seated myself, “you will be able to tell me his address, I have neither seen nor heard of or from him for more than a year past.’

“"I regret exceedingly that it is impossible for me to give you the information you seek,’ the man replied, civilly but firmly. “My instructions were most explicit upon that point.’

“"You come to me from him, and yet you are instructed not to tell me his address?’ I said, with natural surprise. “That is rather extraordinary, is it not? Remember, I am one of his oldest, and certainly one of his firmest, friends.’

“"Nevertheless, I was instructed on no account to reveal his present residence to you,’ the man replied.

“"What, then, can your business be with me?’ I asked, more nettled at his words than I cared to show.

“"I have brought you a packet,’ he said, “which Mr. Forrester was most anxious I should personally deliver to your hands. There is a letter inside which he said would explain everything. I was also instructed to obtain from you a receipt, which I am to convey to him again.’

“So saying, he dived his hand into the pocket of his greatcoat, and brought thence a roll, which he placed with some solemnity upon the table.

“"There is the packet,’ he said. “Now if you will be kind enough to give me a note stating that you have received it, I will take my departure. It is most necessary that I should catch the express to London, and if I desire to do so, I have a sharp walk in front of me.’

“"You shall have the receipt,’ I answered; and, taking a sheet of notepaper from a drawer, I wrote the following letter:–

“’The Grange, Bampton St. Mary, “‘December 14, 18–.

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