The Books of Bart - Edgar Wallace - ebook

The Books of Bart ebook

Edgar Wallace

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Best remembered for penning the screenplay for the classic film „King Kong”, author Edgar Wallace was an astoundingly popular luminary in the action-adventure genre in the early twentieth century. Born into poverty as an illegitimate London child, joining the army at 21, he was a war correspondent during the Second Boer War for Reuters and The Daily Mail. This early work by Edgar Wallace was originally published in 1923. „The Books of Bart” is a novel of relationships and double-crossing. As the novel is rather short and quite fast-paced with a lot of scenery-changes and adventures, this nice. Highly recommended!

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Liczba stron: 260

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Contents

I. THE BOOK OF ARRANGEMENT

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

II. THE BOOK OF ADJUSTMENT

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

III. THE BOOK OF DEVELOPMENT

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

IV. THE BOOK OF ENLIGHTENMENT

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

I. THE BOOK OF ARRANGEMENT

CHAPTER I

EVERYBODY agreed that a man of twenty-eight was a poor sort of guardian for a girl of sixteen–everybody, that is, except Bart.

It is doubtful whether Bart ever knew his age or reckoned it by years.

He had accepted his trust solemnly and with an exalted sense of responsibility, and went to Cheltenham carrying a Teddy Bear and huge boxes of chocolates. He found a self-possessed orphan reading Browning under a lime tree, and pretended that he had picked up the Teddy Bear in the street. He even advertised his find in the Cheltenham Herald. That was years ago, before Fay came to live with him in the house which had been left by her mother to the erratic Bart.

It was a condition of the will that Fay should so live until her twenty-fifth birthday. Bart thought it was an excellent arrangement, and when people, very correct people, murmured “chaperon,” Bart said “Tush!” out loud and pointed to a housekeeper, a cook, several maids and a respectable butler.

Nobody need be in any sort of doubt as to the kind of man Bart was. His room described and explained him. Its most striking feature said “genius,” loudly and defiantly. The six-sheet poster which mercifully hid an oblong of the egregious wallpaper was emphatic on this point. It demanded that all the world should see “Caught by Fate,” a drama “of love, romance and action” (the phrase is lifted bodily from such letterpress as adorned the advertisement) by Bartholomew Foreman, “author of ‘Shattered Fibres,’ etc.” The lithographic portion of the poster represented a soulful lady in the grip of a villain; and however much, or however loudly, Bartholomew Foreman might deny the fact, there is no question that the lady’s face resembled that of Agatha Tamarand. There was that baby-blueness of eye, the same droopy little mouth and obstinate chin, the same thinness of cheek, and air of general discontent which distinguished Agatha in the life. The artist might very well have been supplied with the newest (as it was then) of Agatha’s picture-photographs, and Bartholomew possessed so many, that he could very well have spared one, without any one being the wiser.

Fay Milton, coming into her guardian’s study, never saw that poster without a little smile of amusement, and amusement salted with contempt, for she lived too near this genius to share the glamour of his large and lovable mind.

If the distressed heroine was Agatha, who else was the villain, with his heavy full moustache and his exaggerated vacuity, than Harold Tirrell? Harold had protested incoherently, indignantly, at the unauthorized portraiture, and had referred ominously to his solicitors.

This adherence to nature had been responsible for the failure of “Caught by Fate,” for, however interesting an Agatha-like heroine might be to Bartholomew, and however paltry and scoundrel-like Harold might seem to his eyes, the public, knowing neither Agatha nor Harold, and accustomed to heroines more tender, and villains less vacuous, had voted the play a bore, and it had run for exactly six nights.

Bartholomew had drawn his characters too faithfully, that was the trouble.

“Make him a baronet, turn the woman into something young and innocent, put in a scene on the Thames Embankment by night, and there’s enough in the play to give it a long run.”

This was the verdict of Ohlson, who assisted with the finances of the play–he had put up a third of the cost, but so hedged about with contingencies that Bartholomew discovered at the end he had to pay the whole cost of the production himself.

The poster was not a solitary representative of its kind. There was a smaller, but less arresting, example of the lithographer’s art upon the wall over the bookcase. It proclaimed the marvellous qualities of Bart’s Boot Burnisher.

Bartholomew had invented his Burnisher, during one fussy, smelly week, when the kitchen became a place of noisome stinks, and his desk a litter of unsavoury messes. Here again something had gone wrong. Possibly Bartholomew’s superintendence of the advertisements had been at fault. He had insisted upon a range of humorous announcements, and it is an axiom in the advertising world that comic announcements do not draw trade. Money is a very serious thing and shrinks from ribaldry. Twelve hundred pounds this venture had cost, some four hundred and fifty of which Fay had contributed.

She could have paid the whole amount without any trouble, for she, the favourite niece of John Banter–as her mother had been his favourite sister–had been the heiress, through her mother, of his quarter million, but there was a streak of John Banter in her composition–and she wanted to punish Bartholomew for having engaged in a speculation against her advice.

There was nothing of John Banter in Bartholomew. He had loathed his wealthy, unforgiving uncle, and from the day when Bart, after a furious family quarrel, had circulated the fatal limerick which began:

There was a curmudgeon named Banter Who lived very near a decanter….

his name had been anathema, and in the old man’s will was mentioned in a manner which afforded Bart almost as much glee as though he had been made heir to the property. For Bart’s legacy was that same decanter.

In the circumstances it was something of a tragedy that Mrs. Milton, dying a year after her brother, should have made Bart Foreman the sole executor of her estate, and co-trustee and guardian of her sixteen-year old daughter. Bart was twenty-eight at the time, and in the eyes of the girl an aged man. At seventeen she respected him, at eighteen felt superior to him–at twenty she looked upon him with the contempt which capable youth has for middle-age failure. For Bart was not a success.

He had a thousand a year from his mother, and this, sufficient for his daily needs, was of little assistance to him in the crises which came so frequently in his life.

He wrote a novel and published it himself. He organized a lecture tour and financed it. He produced a new cure for neuralgia and put it on the market. The market, after an unconscionable period of reflection, had put it back on him. When the war broke out he offered his services, but was rejected on the eyesight test. Later, when that test was less rigid, he went to the Admiralty and did nothing in particular for two years.

In a score of ways you might trace the temperamental progress of Bartholomew Foreman by a careful examination of his room. It was a big apartment on the ground floor of 23, Colholm Place, Kensington. From the large, leaded windows on the north side there was a view of the garden, for Number 23 was one of those old-fashioned houses which boasted that bourgeois appendage.

From the east side you overlooked Colholm Place, and a parallelogram of tree-shaded green, entirely surrounded by railings, where, on sunny afternoons, nursemaids gossiped, whilst their diminutive charges either slept in their expensive perambulators, or toddled recklessly about so much of the world as the railings enclosed.

One wall of the study was occupied by bookshelves, in which had assembled a whole tatterdemalion army of books, ranging from the costly volumes which Bartholomew purchased at sales, in moments of mental aberration, to the paper-covered novels which were the relics of innumerable railway journeys, and were now preserved because they contained “ideas” which Bartholomew had indicated with conspicuous blue pencil marks, though he could never recall the ideas they suggested when he came to examine the books.

The pictures which hung upon the walls were in excellent taste, the engravings, if modem, were pleasing, and the great china bowls which were kept filled with flowers all the year round, condoned, to some extent, the bizarre character of the other decorations.

On the left of a large desk (built to his own design) stood a japanned dictaphone into which, in moments of literary frenzy, Bartholomew might express the thoughts which arose in him.

Sometimes he forgot to pull the recording lever over, and the end of his efforts was a number of cylinders blandly blank and uncommunicative; whereupon he would write furious letters to the manufacturers, and they would send a pleasant young man to explain that unless the recording needle touched the wax it was impossible for the machine to do its work, since a dictaphone had no intuitions.

Picture this room, all speckled and flooded with the golden light of a sunny morning in May. Picture it in its tidiest aspect, with a desk clear of papers and a stretch of white blotting paper innocent of inky impression; with new nibs in agate pen-holders, a virgin jar of paste, the date of the month truthfully displayed in a red morocco case; with absolute serenity and quiet reigning in the house.

For Bartholomew Foreman was still in America offering a new life-saving boat to the Marine department–a boat which he had invented on the spur of the moment, whilst watching the children sail their little ships on the waters of Kensington Gardens.

He wrote a letter to Agatha Tamarand–one of many. It was addressed from the Manhattan Hotel, Forty-eighth Street and Fifth Avenue, to Mrs. Tamarand, 23, Penter Avenue, Chelsea, and ran:

“My dearest,–

“I am back from Washington, after a terrible struggle to make those infernal American officials understand the immense advantages which my boat offers. They are considering the matter, they say, which means they will hold up my plans for ten years, at the end of which they will inform me that, under the conditions then existing, my invention is valueless. But I find compensation for such disappointment as mine in the thought that three weeks will bring me to you–my dearest dear.

“I must stay another fortnight because Malcolm Suggs, the theatrical person, is going to ‘ try out ’ that one-act play of mine–you remember, darling, the one in which–no, on second thought I remember you have not seen it. It is one I wrote on my way over. Think of it! I have been three months away! It hardly seems possible that I could have been so long without seeing you–without hearing your dear voice. What a fool you must think me sometimes! You are so calm and so wise, and so well-balanced. Do you ever see Fay? I want you to be good friends with her. She is a real good sort, though a cold-blooded little beggar. And please let me have a cable about yourself–are you fit and well? Have you seen anything of that monstrous and bounding Tirrell? Does the brute still persist in sending you flowers? I shall end up by kicking him.

“All my love, dearest,

“Yours for everlasting,

“Bart.”

Agatha Tamarand, a widow of singular attraction–she had lost her husband before they had lived together long enough to spoil her beauty–read the letter through, and with a thoughtful expression on her face put it away in her dainty little bag.

Three weeks. It brought a sense of respite to her. She had three weeks in which she could make up her mind. She had decided one thing, at any rate, that things could not go on as they had gone for three years.

Their friendship had run on conventional lines. Obviously Bart’s thousand a year made marriage possible, but he had so profound a contempt for that sum, and was so confident in his ability to direct fate to his enrichment that the question of marriage had never been considered as an immediate possibility. He was content to wait for the return of that ship which never made harbour. In the meantime she was (as she told herself) growing older, and Bart’s monopoly was, to say the least, compromising.

She was fond of Bartholomew, tremendously fond of him; she even told herself that she loved him. Perhaps she did in her way, but her way was neither a fiery nor a reckless way. It was not altogether the way Bart desired, for he was one of those people who scoffed at the opinions of the Browns and Jones of life.

It was sufficient, he said, if two people loved one another dearly, that they should be content with one another, and let the world go hang. Such philosophy, however, did not satisfy Agatha. To her it was amazing that an impetuous person like Bart should want to wait until his fortune came–she did not know his dreams of magnificence, or sense the splendour he planned for her.

Agatha’s little house was a model of what little houses should be. The furnishing was tasteful and quiet, the air of the home one of subdued refinement.

She was not a woman of any great intellectual capacity. She neither wrote nor read, and, beyond a taste for auction bridge, which developed and exercised an unsuspected mathematical talent in her, she had few occupations. She hated sewing. She disliked children, and she was easily bored.

That she had attracted Bart was a peculiar sense of the grotesque in him which amused her. He was entertaining and prodigal. Mrs. Tamarand wanted to be entertained, and she was something of a spendthrift–a weakness that the meagre annuity to which she became entitled on her husband’s death, gave little scope. Their friendship had developed with startling suddenness. Exactly how it happened she did not know. Bart was impetuous and big and plausible, and carried her off her feet. Before she knew where she was she was engaged to him.

Rather, she was “sort of” engaged–there had been no public announcement which would have implied obligations on the part of both– obligations which neither was anxious to incur. So she had waited whilst Bart’s schemes grew and faded, and had waited with growing impatience.

In the meantime new factors had come into her life, and the most potent of these was Harold Tirrell, with his inconsequent speeches and his large and impressive bank balance. He was a Member of Parliament, and when his party returned to power he would be created a baronet, for he was a generous subscriber to the funds. He offered to Mrs. Tamarand opportunities which were at once dazzling and frightening. She was frightened in the main at the thought of Bart. Shallow as she undoubtedly was, she knew her man, for she was shrewd and was possessed of an insight into humanity which is denied to women much cleverer.

The wife of a popular M.P. and a baronet– that was as good as settled, for the Government of the day was wobbling horribly–one of the leaders of society, and rich…

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