The Book of all Power - Edgar Wallace - ebook

The Book of all Power ebook

Edgar Wallace

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A really top-notch literary thriller from Edgar Wallace. The story is set in Russia and England around the time of WW1. We follow a 22-year-old man on his first assignment for a Russian-English oil company as he becomes embroiled in intrigue and romance involving a beautiful Grand Duchess, American mobster Cherry Bim, and the influential Israel Kensky and his magical book of „all power”. It is through Hay’s eyes that we see the steady erosion of the existing Russian aristocracy and the rise of the proletariat. The novel really belongs to Hay and his circle of confederates. A high-spirited romp through the Russian Revolution with the aid of more coincidences than you can shake a stick at and a good dose of dramatic licence.

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Liczba stron: 250

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Contents

1. Introducing Malcolm Hay

2. A Gun-Man Refuses Work

3. The Grand Duchess Irene

4. The Prince Who Planned

5. The Raid On The Silver Lion

6. Prince Serganov Pays The Price

7. Kensky Of Kiev

8. The Grand Duke Is Affable

9. The Hand At The Window

10. Terror In Making

11. The Commissary With The Crooked Nose

12. In The Prison Of St. Basil

13. Cherry Bim Makes A Statement

14. In The Holy Village

15. The Red Bride

16. The Book Of All-Power

17. On The Road

18. The Monastery Of St. Basil The Leper

19. The End Of Bulba

20. Chapter The Last

I. INTRODUCING MALCOLM HAY

If a man is not eager for adventure at the age of twenty-two, the enticement of romantic possibilities will never come to him.

The chairman of the Ukraine Oil Company looked with a little amusement at the young man who sat on the edge of a chair by the chairman’s desk, and noted how the eye of the youth had kindled at every fresh discouragement which the chairman had put forward. Enthusiasm, reflected the elder man, was one of the qualities which were most desirable in the man who was to accept the position which Malcolm Hay was at that moment considering.

“Russia is a strange country,” said Mr. Tremayne. “It is one of the mystery places of the world. You hear fellows coming back from China who tell you amazing stories of the idiosyncrasies of the Chink. But I can tell you, from my own personal observations, that the Chinaman is an open book in words of one syllable compared with the average Russian peasant. By the way, you speak Russian, I understand?”

Hay nodded.

“Oh, yes, sir,” he said, “I have been talking Russian ever since I was sixteen, and I speak both the dialects.”

“Good!” nodded Mr. Tremayne. “Now, all that remains for you to do is to think both dialects. I was in Southern Russia attending to our wells for twenty years. In fact, long before our wells came into being, and I can honestly say that, though I am not by any means an unintelligent man, I know just as little about the Russian to-day as I did when I went there. He’s the most elusive creature. You think you know him two days after you have met him. Two days later you find that you have changed all your opinions about him; and by the end of the first year, if you have kept a careful note of your observations and impressions in a diary, you will discover that you have three hundred and sixty-five different views –unless it happens to be a leap year.”

“What happens in a leap year?” asked the innocent Hay.

“You have three hundred and sixty-six views,” said the solemn Mr. Tremayne.

He struck a bell.

“We shan’t want you to leave London for a week or two,” he said, “and in the meantime you had better study up our own special literature. We can give you particulars about the country–that part of the country in which the wells are situated–which you will not find in the guidebooks. There are also a few notable personages whom it will be advisable for you to study.”

“I know most of them,” said the youth with easy confidence. “As a matter of fact, I got the British Consul to send me a local directory and swotted it.”

Mr. Tremayne concealed a smile.

“And what did the local directory say about Israel Kensky?” he asked innocently.

“Israel Kensky?” said the puzzled youth. “I don’t remember that name.”

“It is the only name worth remembering,” said the other dryly, “and, by the way, you’ll be able to study him in a strange environment, for he is in London at this moment.”

A clerk had answered the bell and stood waiting in the doorway.

“Get Mr. Hay those books and pamphlets I spoke to you about,” said Tremayne. “And, by the way, when did M. Kensky arrive?”

“To-day,” said the clerk.

Tremayne nodded.

“In fact,” he said, “London this week will be filled with people whose names are not in your precious directory, and all of whom you should know. The Yaroslavs are paying a sort of state visit.”

“The Yaroslavs?” repeated Hay. “Oh, of course–”

“The Grand Duke and his daughter,” added Mr. Tremayne.

“Well,” smiled the young man, “I’m not likely to meet the Grand Duke or the Grand Duchess. I understand the royal family of Russia is a little exclusive.”

“Everything is likely in Russia,” said the optimistic Mr. Tremayne. “If you come back in a few years’ time and tell me that you’ve been appointed an admiral in the Russian Navy, or that you’ve married the Grand Duchess Irene Yaroslav, I shall not for one moment disbelieve you. At the same time, if you come back from Russia without your ears, the same having been cut off by your peasant neighbours to propitiate the ghost of a martyr who died six hundred years ago, I shall not be surprised either. That is the country you’re going to–and I envy you.”

“I’m a little surprised at myself,” admitted Malcolm, “it seems almost incredible. Of course, sir, I have a lot to learn and I’m not placing too much reliance upon my degree.”

“Your science degree?” said Tremayne. “It may be useful, but a divinity degree would have been better.”

“A divinity degree?”

Tremayne nodded.

“It is religion you want in Russia, and especially local religion. You’ll have to do a mighty lot of adapting when you’re out there, Hay, and I don’t think you could do better than get acquainted with the local saints. You’ll find that the birth or death of four or five of them are celebrated every week, and that your workmen will take a day’s holiday for each commemoration. If you’re not pretty smart, they’ll whip in a few saints who have no existence, and you’ll get no work done at all–that will do.”

He ended the interview with a jerk of his head, and as the young man got to his feet to go, added: “Come back again to-morrow. I think you ought to see Kensky.”

“Who is he?” asked Hay courteously. “A local magnate?”

“In a sense he is and in a sense he’s not,” said the careful Mr. Tremayne. “He’s a big man locally, and from a business point of view, I suppose he is a magnate. However, you’ll be able to judge for yourself.”

Malcolm Hay went out into the teeming streets of London, walking on air. It was his first appointment–he was earning money, and it seemed rather like a high-class dream.

In Maida Vale there are many little side streets, composed of shabby houses covered with discoloured stucco, made all the more desolate and gloomy in appearance by the long and narrow strip of “garden” which runs out to the street. In one of these, devoted to the business of a boarding- house, an old man sat at a portable bench, under the one electric light which the economical landlady had allowed him. The room was furnished in a typically boarding-house style.

But both the worker at the bench, and the woman who sat by the table, her chin on her palms, watching him, seemed unaffected by the poverty of their surroundings. The man was thin and bent of back. As he crouched over the bench, working with the fine tools on what was evidently intended to be the leather cover of a book, his face lay in the shadow, and only the end of his straggling white beard betrayed his age.

Presently he looked up at the woman and revealed himself as a hawk- nosed man of sixty. His face was emaciated and seamed, and his dark eyes shone brightly. His companion was a woman of twenty-four, obviously of the Jewish type, as was the old man; what good looks she possessed were marred by the sneer on her lips.

“If these English people see you at work,” she said presently, “they will think you are some poor man, little father.”

Israel Kensky did not stop his work.

“What book are you binding?” she asked after awhile. “Is it the Talmud which Levi Levisky gave you?”

The old man did not answer, and a dark frown gathered on the woman’s heavy face. You might not guess that they were father and daughter, yet such was the case. But between Sophia Kensky and her father there was neither communion of spirit nor friendship. It was amazing that she should accompany him, as she did, wherever he went, or that he should be content to have her as his companion. The gossips of Kiev had it that neither would trust the other out of sight; and it may be that there was something in this, though a stronger motive might be suspected in so far as Sophia’s actions were concerned.

Presently the old man put down his tools, blinked, and pushed back his chair.

“It is a design for a great book,” he said, and chuckled hoarsely. “A book with steel covers and wonderful pages.” He smiled contemptuously. “The Book of All-Power,” he said.

“Little father, there are times when I think you are mad. For how can you know the secrets which are denied to others? And you who write so badly, how can you fill a great book with your writings?”

“The Book of All-Power,” repeated the man, and the smile on the woman’s face grew broader.

“A wonderful book!” she scoffed, “filled with magic and mystery and spells–do you wonder that we of Kiev suspect you?”

“We of Kiev?” he repeated mockingly, and she nodded.

“We of Kiev,” she said.

“So you are with the rabble, Sophia!” He lifted one shoulder in a contemptuous little gesture.

“You are also of the rabble, Israel Kensky,” she said. “Do you take your dinner in the Grand Duke’s palace?”

He was gathering together the tools on the table, and methodically fitting each graver into a big leather purse.

“The Grand Duke does not stone me in the street, nor set fire to my houses,” he said.

“Nor the Grand Duchess,” said the girl meaningly, and he looked at her from under his lowered brows.

“The Grand Duchess is beyond the understanding of such as you,” he said harshly, and the woman laughed.

“There will come a day when she will be on her knees to me,” she said prophetically, and she got up from the table with a heavy yawn. “That I promise myself, and with this promise I put myself to sleep every night.”

She went on and she spoke without heat.

“I see her sweeping my floors and eating the bread I throw to her.”

Israel Kensky had heard all this before, and did not even smile.

“You are an evil woman, Sophia,” he said. “God knows how such a one could be a daughter of mine. What has the Grand Duchess done to you that you should harbour such venom?”

“I hate her because she is,” said the woman evenly. “I hate her not for the harm she has done me, but for the proud smile she gives to her slaves. I hate her because she is high and I am low, and because all the time she is marking the difference between us.”

“You are a fool,” said Israel Kensky as he left the room.

“Perhaps I am,” said the woman, his daughter. “Are you going to bed now?”

He turned in the doorway.

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