A BID FOR FORTUNE OR; DR. NIKOLA'S VENDETTA

By GUY ­BOO­TH­BY

Au­t­hor of “Dr. Ni­ko­la,” “The Be­au­ti­ful Whi­te De­vil,” et­c., et­c.

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The Pro­ject Gu­ten­berg EBook of A Bid for For­tu­ne, by Guy ­Boo­th­by

This eBook is for the use of anyo­ne any­whe­re at no cost and with al­most no re­stric­ti­ons what­soe­ver. You may co­py it, gi­ve it away or re-u­se it un­der the terms of the Pro­ject Gu­ten­berg Li­cen­se in­clu­de­d with this eBook or on­li­ne at ww­w.­gu­ten­ber­g.org

Tit­le: A Bid for For­tu­ne or Dr. Ni­ko­la’s ­Ven­det­ta

Au­t­hor: Guy ­Boo­th­by

Re­lea­se Da­te: May 29, 2007 [E­Boo­k #21640]

Lan­gua­ge: Eng­lish

Pro­du­ced by Ma­ri­lyn­da Fra­ser-­Cun­lif­fe, Ma­ry Meehan and the On­li­ne Dis­tri­bu­ted Proofrea­ding Team at htt­p://ww­w.pgd­p.­net

Ori­gi­nal­ly pu­blis­he­d ­by:

WARD, LOCK & CO., LI­­MI­TE­D LON­­DON, MEL­­BOUR­­NE AND TO­RON­TO 1918

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PART I

PROLOGUE

The ma­na­­ger of the new Im­­pe­ri­al Re­­stau­rant on the Tha­­mes Em­­bank­­ment went in­to his lu­­xu­rious pri­va­te of­­fi­­ce and shut the door. Ha­ving do­­ne so, he ­­first scrat­ched his chin re­flec­ti­ve­­ly, and then took a let­ter from the dra­wer in which it had re­­po­­sed for mo­­re than two months and pe­ru­­sed it ­­care­­ful­­ly. Though he was not awa­­re of it, this was the thir­tieth ti­­me he had read it sin­­ce break­fast that mor­­ning. And yet he was not a whit ­­nea­­rer un­­­der­­stan­­ding it than he had be­en at the be­­gin­­ning. He tur­­ned it o­­ver and scru­ti­­ni­­zed the back, whe­­re not a sign of wri­ting was to be ­­seen; he held it up to the win­­dow, as if he might ho­­pe to dis­­co­­ver­­ ­­so­­me­thing from the wa­ter-­­mark; but the­­re was nothing in eit­her of the­­se ­­pla­­ces of a na­ture cal­­cu­la­ted to set his troub­led mind at rest. Then he took a ma­g­ni­­fi­­cent re­­pea­ter watch from his waist­­coat pocket and glan­­ce­d at the dial; the hands stood at hal­f-past se­­ven. He im­­me­­dia­te­­ly thre­w ­­the let­ter on the ta­ble, and as he did so his an­­xie­­ty found re­­li­ef in­­ words.

It’s re­al­­ly the most ex­tra­or­­di­na­ry af­fair I ever had to do with,” he re­­mar­ke­d. “And as I’­­ve be­en in the bu­si­­ness just three-an­d-thir­­ty year­s at ele­­ven a.m. next Mon­day mor­­ning, I ought to know so­­me­thing about it. I on­­ly ho­­pe I’­­ve do­­ne right, that’s all.”

As he spo­ke, the chief book­kee­per, who had the treble ad­van­ta­ge of bein­g tall, pret­ty, and just eight-an­d-t­wen­ty years of age, en­te­red the room. S­he no­ti­ced the open let­ter and the look upon her chie­f’s fa­ce, and her ­cu­rio­si­ty was pro­por­tio­na­te­ly ex­ci­te­d.

You seem wor­rie­d, Mr. Mc­­Pher­­son,” she said ten­­der­­ly, as she put dow­n ­­the pa­­pers she had brought in for his ­­si­­gna­ture.

You ha­­ve just hit it, Miss O’­­Sul­­li­van,” he an­s­we­re­d, pu­s­hing them f­ar­ther on to the ta­­ble. “I am wor­ried about ma­ny things, but par­ti­­cu­lar­­ly about this let­ter.”

He han­ded the epist­le to her, and she, being de­si­rous of im­pres­sing him with her busi­ness ca­pa­bi­li­ties, read it with os­ten­ta­tious care. But it ­was no­ti­cea­ble that when she re­a­ched the si­gna­ture she too tur­ned back to the be­gin­ning, and then de­li­be­ra­te­ly read it over again. The ma­na­ger ro­se, cros­sed to the man­tel­pie­ce, and rang for the head wai­ter. Ha­ving re­li­e­ved his fee­lings in this way, he sea­ted him­self again at his wri­ting-ta­ble, put on his glas­ses, and sta­red at his com­pa­n­ion, whi­le wai­ting for her to s­peak.

It’s ve­ry fun­ny,” she sai­d. “Ve­ry fun­ny in­­de­e­d!”

It’s the most ex­tra­or­­di­na­ry com­mu­­ni­­ca­ti­on I ha­­ve ever re­­cei­­ve­d,” he re­p­­lied with con­vic­ti­on. “Y­ou see it is writ­ten from Cu­ya­­ba, Bra­­zil. The ­da­te is three months ago to a day. Now I ha­­ve ta­ken the trou­­ble to fin­d out whe­­re and what Cu­ya­­ba is.”

He ma­de this con­fes­si­on with an air of con­s­cious pri­de, and ha­ving do­ne ­so, laid him­self back in his chair, stuck his thumbs in­to the arm­ho­les of his waist­coat, and loo­ked at his fair sub­or­di­na­te for ap­pro­val. Nor ­was he des­ti­ned to be di­s­ap­poin­te­d. He was a ba­che­lor in pos­ses­si­on of a s­nug in­co­me, and she, be­si­des being pret­ty, was a la­dy with a keen eye to the main chan­ce.

And whe­­re is Cu­ya­ba?” she as­ke­d hum­b­ly.

Cu­ya­­ba,” he re­p­­lie­d, rol­­ling his tongue with con­­si­­de­ra­­ble re­­lish roun­d his un­­­con­s­­cious mispro­­nun­­cia­ti­on of the na­­me, “is a town al­­most on the wes­tern or Bo­­li­vi­an bor­­der of Bra­­zil. It is of mo­­de­ra­te si­­ze, is ­­si­tua­ted on the banks of the ri­­ver Cu­ya­­ba, and is con­­si­­dera­b­­ly connec­te­d with the fa­­mous Bra­­zi­­li­an Dia­­mon­d ­­Fields.”

And does the wri­ter of this let­ter li­­ve the­re?”

I can­not say. He wri­tes from the­re—that is enough for us.”

And he or­­ders din­­ner for four—he­re, in a pri­va­te room over­­loo­king the ri­­ver, three months ahea­d—­­pun­c­tual­­ly at eight o’clock, gi­­ves you a list of the things he want­s, and even ar­ran­­ges the de­­cora­ti­on of the ta­­ble. Says he has ne­­ver seen eit­her of his three fri­ends be­­fo­re; that one of them hails from (he­­re she con­­sul­ted the let­ter again) Hang-chow, ano­ther from Bloem­­fon­tein, whi­le the third re­­si­­des, at pre­­sent, in Eng­lan­d. Each o­­ne is to pre­­sent an or­­di­na­ry vi­­si­ting card with a red dot on it to the ­­por­ter in the hall, and to be shown to the room at on­­ce. I don’t un­­der­­stand it at all.”

The ma­na­ger pau­sed for a mo­ment, and then said de­li­be­ra­te­ly,—”Hang-chow is in China, Bloem­fon­tein is in South ­Af­ri­ca.”

What a won­­der­­ful man you are, to be su­re, Mr. Mc­­Pher­­son! I ne­­ver can think how you ma­na­ge to car­ry so much in your hea­d.”

The­re spo­ke the true wo­man. And it was a mo­ve in the right di­rec­tion, ­for the ma­na­ger was suscep­ti­ble to her gent­le in­flu­ence, as she ha­d oc­ca­si­on to know.

At this junc­ture the head wai­ter ap­pea­red upon the sce­ne, and took up a ­po­si­ti­on just in­si­de the door­way, as if he we­re afraid of in­ju­ring the ­car­pet by co­ming f­ar­ther.

Is No. 22 rea­dy, Wil­­liams?”

Qui­te rea­dy, sir. The wi­­ne is on the ice, and cook tells me he’ll be rea­dy to dish pun­c­tu­al to the ­­mo­­ment.”

The let­ter says, ‘no elec­tric light; can­d­les with red sha­­des.’ Ha­­ve you ­­put on tho­­se sha­­des I got this ­­mor­­ning?”

Just seen it do­­ne this ve­ry mi­­nu­te, ­­sir.”

And let me see, the­­re was one other thing.” He took the let­ter from the chief boo­k­kee­­per’s hand and glan­­ced at it. “Ah, yes, a por­­ce­lain sau­­cer, and a small jug of new milk upon the man­tel­pie­­ce. An ex­tra­or­­di­na­ry re­quest, but has it be­en at­ten­­de­d to?”

I put it the­­re my­­sel­f, ­­sir.”

Who wait?”

Jo­­nes, Ed­­munds, Brooks, an­d Tom­kins.”

Ve­ry goo­d. Then I think that will do. Stay! You had bet­ter tell the hall por­ter to look out for three gent­le­­men pre­­sen­ting plain vi­­si­ting ­­cards with a lit­t­le red spot on them. Let Brooks wait in the hall, an­d when they ar­rive tell him to show them straight up to the room.”

It shall be do­­ne, ­­sir.”

The head wai­ter left the room, and the ma­na­ger stret­ched him­self in his chair, yaw­ned by way of sho­wing his im­port­an­ce, and then sai­d ­so­lem­nly,—

I don’t be­­lie­­ve they’ll any of them turn up; but if they do, this Dr. ­­Ni­­ko­la, whoe­­ver he may be, won’t be ab­le to find fault with my ar­ran­­ge­­ment­s.”

Then, lea­ving the dus­ty high road of Busi­ness, he and his com­pa­n­ion wan­de­red in the sha­dy brid­le-paths of Love—to the end that when the chief book­kee­per re­tur­ned to her own de­part­ment she had for­got­ten the stran­ge din­ner par­ty about to ta­ke place ups­tair­s, and was bu­si­ly en­ga­ged upon a cal­cu­la­ti­on as to how she would look in whi­te sa­tin an­d oran­ge blos­soms, an­d, that sett­le­d, fell to won­de­ring whe­ther it was true, as Miss Joy­ce, a sub­or­di­na­te, had be­en heard to de­cla­re, that the ­ma­na­ger had on­ce shown him­self par­ti­al to a cer­tain wi­dow with re­pu­te­d sa­vings and a sha­re in an ex­ten­si­ve egg and dai­ry ­busi­ness.

At ten mi­nu­tes to eight pre­ci­se­ly a han­som drew up at the steps of the ho­tel. As soon as it stop­pe­d, an un­der­si­zed gent­le­man, with a clean s­ha­ven coun­te­nance, a ca­no­ni­cal cor­po­ra­tion, and bow legs, dres­sed in a ­de­ci­ded­ly cle­ri­cal gar­b, aligh­te­d. He paid and dischar­ged his cab­man, and then took from his ticket pocket an or­di­na­ry whi­te vi­si­ting card, which he pre­sen­ted to the gold-la­ced in­di­vi­du­al who had ope­ned the a­pron. The lat­ter, ha­ving no­ted the red spot, cal­led a wai­ter, and the re­ve­rend gent­le­man was im­me­dia­te­ly es­cor­te­d ups­tair­s.

Hard­ly had the at­ten­dant ti­me to re­turn to his sta­ti­on in the hall, ­be­fo­re a se­cond cab ma­de its ap­pea­ran­ce, clo­se­ly fol­lo­wed by a third. Out of the se­cond jum­ped a tall, ac­ti­ve, well-­built man of about thir­ty­ years of age. He was dres­sed in eve­ning dress of the la­test fa­shion, an­d to con­ce­al it from the vul­gar ga­ze, wore a lar­ge In­ver­ness ca­pe of hea­vy tex­ture. He al­so in his turn han­ded a whi­te card to the por­ter, an­d, ha­ving do­ne so, pro­cee­ded in­to the hall, fol­lo­wed by the oc­cu­pant of the last cab, who had clo­se­ly co­pied his ex­am­ple. This in­di­vi­du­al was al­so in eve­ning dress, but it was of a dif­fe­rent stamp. It was old-fa­shio­ne­d and had seen much use. The wea­rer, too, was tal­ler than the or­di­na­ry run of men, whi­le it was no­ti­cea­ble that his hair was snow-whi­te, and that his face was de­e­p­ly pit­ted with small­pox. Af­ter dis­po­sing of their hats and coats in an an­te-room, they re­a­ched room No. 22, whe­re they foun­d ­the gent­le­man in cle­ri­cal co­stu­me pa­cing im­pa­ti­ent­ly up an­d ­dow­n.

Left alo­ne, the tal­lest of the trio, who for want of a bet­ter tit­le we ­may call the Best Dres­sed Man, took out his wat­ch, and ha­ving glan­ced at it, loo­ked at his com­pa­n­ions. “Gent­le­men,” he sai­d, with a slight A­me­ri­can ac­cent, “it is three mi­nu­tes to eight o’clock. My na­me is Eas­to­ver­!”

I’m glad to he­ar it, for I’m most un­­­com­­mon­­ly hun­­gry,” said the nex­t tal­lest, whom I ha­­ve al­rea­dy de­s­­cri­­bed as being so mar­ked by di­­sea­­se. “­­My na­­me is Pren­d­er­­gast!”

We on­­ly wait for our fri­end and host,” re­­mar­ked the cle­ri­­cal gent­le­­man, as if he felt he ought to ta­ke a sha­­re in the con­­ver­­sa­tion, and then, as an af­ter­t­hought, he con­ti­­nue­d, “My na­­me is ­­Ba­x­ter!”

They shook hands all round with mar­ked cor­dia­li­ty, sea­ted them­sel­ve­s a­gain, and took it in turns to ex­ami­ne the clock.

Ha­­ve you ever had the plea­­su­­re of mee­ting our host be­­fo­re?” as­ked Mr. ­­Ba­x­ter of Mr. Pren­d­er­­gast.

Ne­­ver­­,” re­p­­lied that gent­le­­man, with a sha­ke of his hea­d. “Per­haps Mr. Eas­to­­ver has be­en mo­re ­­for­tu­na­te?”

Not I,” was the brief re­­join­­der. “I’­­ve had to do with him off and on ­­for lon­­ger than I care to reckon, but I’­­ve ne­­ver set eyes on him up to ­da­te.”

And whe­­re may he ha­­ve be­en the first ti­­me you heard from him?”

In Nas­h­vil­le, Ten­­nes­­see,” said Eas­to­­ver. “Af­ter that, Ta­hu­pa­pa, Ne­w ­­Zea­lan­d; af­ter that, Pa­­pee­te, in the So­­cie­­ty Is­­lands; then Pe­kin, Chi­­na. An­d y­ou?”

First ti­­me, Brus­­sels; se­­con­d, Mon­te Vi­­deo; third, Man­dalay, and then ­­the Gold Coast, Af­ri­­ca. It’s your turn, Mr. ­­Ba­x­ter.”

The cl­er­gy­man glan­ced at the ti­me­pie­ce. It was ex­act­ly eight o’clock. “­First ti­me, Ca­bul, Af­gha­ni­stan; se­con­d, Ni­j­ni Nov­go­ro­d, Rus­sia; third, Wil­can­nia, Dar­ling Ri­ver, Aus­tra­lia; four­th, Val­pa­rai­so, Chi­li; fift­h, ­Na­gasa­ki, Ja­pan.”

He is evi­­dent­­ly a gre­at tra­­vel­­ler and a most mys­te­rious ­­per­­son.”

He is mo­­re than that,” said Eas­to­­ver with con­vic­tion; “he is la­te for ­­din­­ner!”

Pren­d­er­gast loo­ked at his watch.

That clock is two mi­­nu­tes fast. Hark, the­­re goes Big Ben! Eight exac­t­­ly.”

As he spo­ke the door was thrown open and a voi­ce an­noun­ced “Dr. ­Ni­ko­la.”

The three men sprang to their feet si­mul­ta­neous­ly, with ex­cla­ma­ti­ons of as­to­nis­h­ment, as the man they had be­en dis­cus­sing ma­de his ap­pea­ran­ce.

It would ta­ke mo­re ti­me than I can spa­re the sub­ject to gi­ve you an a­de­qua­te and in­clu­si­ve de­s­crip­ti­on of the per­son who en­te­red the room at that mo­ment. In sta­ture he was slight­ly abo­ve the or­di­na­ry, his s­houl­ders we­re broa­d, his limbs per­fect­ly sha­ped and plain­ly mus­cu­lar, ­but ve­ry slim. His hea­d, which was ma­gni­fi­cent­ly set upon his shoul­der­s, ­was ad­or­ned with a pro­fu­si­on of glos­sy black hair; his face was ­de­sti­tu­te of be­ard or mou­sta­che, and was of oval sha­pe and hand­so­me ­moul­ding; whi­le his skin was of a dark oli­ve hue, a co­lour which har­mo­ni­zed well with his pier­cing black eyes and pear­ly teeth. His hands and feet we­re small, and the grea­test dan­dy must ha­ve ad­mit­ted that he ­was ir­re­proacha­b­ly dres­se­d, with a neat­ness that bor­de­red on the ­pu­ri­ta­ni­cal. In age he might ha­ve be­en any­thing from eight-an­d-t­wen­ty to ­for­ty; in rea­li­ty he was thir­ty­-­three. He ad­van­ced in­to the room an­d wal­ked with out-stret­ched hand di­rect­ly across to whe­re Eas­to­ver was ­stan­ding by the ­fi­re­place.

Mr. Eas­to­­ver, I feel cer­tain,” he sai­d, fi­­xing his glit­te­ring eyes upon ­­the man he ad­dres­­se­d, and al­lo­wi­ng a cu­rious smi­le to play upon his face.

That is my na­­me, Dr. Ni­­ko­la,” the other an­s­we­red with evi­­dent sur­pri­­se. “­­But how on earth can you dis­tin­­guish me from your other ­­guest­s?”

Ah! it would sur­pri­­se you if you kne­w. And Mr. Pren­d­er­­gast, and Mr. ­­Ba­x­ter. This is de­­light­­ful; I ho­­pe I am not la­te. We had a col­­li­­si­on in­­ ­­the Chan­­nel this mor­­ning, and I was al­­most afraid I might not be up to ti­­me. Din­­ner seems rea­dy; shall we sit down to it?” They sea­te­d them­­sel­­ve­s, and the me­al com­­mence­d. The Im­­pe­ri­al Re­­stau­rant has ear­­ne­d an en­via­­ble re­­pu­ta­ti­on for doing things well, and the din­­ner that night ­­did not in any way de­tract from its lus­t­­re. But, de­­light­­ful as it all ­­was, it was no­ti­­cea­­ble that the three guests paid mo­­re at­ten­ti­on to their host than to his ex­­cel­lent me­nu. As they had said be­fo­re his ar­ri­val, they had all had de­alings with him for se­ver­al year­s, but what tho­se de­alings we­re they we­re care­ful not to de­s­cri­be. It was mo­re than ­pos­si­ble that they hard­ly li­ked to re­mem­ber them them­sel­ve­s.

When cof­fee had be­en ser­ved and the ser­vants had with­draw­n, Dr. Ni­ko­la ro­se from the ta­ble, and went across to the mas­si­ve si­de­board. On it ­stood a bas­ket of ve­ry cu­rious sha­pe and work­man­ship. This he ope­ne­d, and as he did so, to the as­to­nis­h­ment of his guest­s, an enor­mous cat, as black as his mas­ter’s coat, lea­ped out on to the floor. The re­a­son for ­the sau­cer and jug of milk be­ca­me e­vi­dent.

Sea­ting him­self at the ta­ble again, the host fol­lo­wed the ex­am­ple of his ­guests and lit a ci­gar, blo­wi­ng a cloud of smo­ke lu­xu­rious­ly through his ­de­li­ca­te­ly chi­sel­led no­strils. His eyes wan­de­red round the cor­ni­ce of ­the room, took in the pic­tu­res and de­cora­ti­ons, and then ca­me down to ­meet the fa­ces of his com­pa­n­ions. As they did so, the black cat, ha­ving ­fi­nis­hed its meal, sprang on to his shoul­der to crouch the­re, wat­ching ­the three men through the cur­ling smo­ke drift with its green blin­king, ­fi­en­dish eyes. Dr. Ni­ko­la smi­led as he no­ti­ced the ef­fect the ani­mal ha­d u­pon his ­guest­s.

Now shall we get to bu­si­­ness?” he sai­d ­­bris­k­ly.

The others al­most si­mul­ta­neous­ly knocked the as­hes off their ci­gars an­d ­brought them­sel­ves to at­ten­ti­on. Dr. Ni­ko­la’s dain­ty, lan­guid man­ner ­see­med to drop from him li­ke a cloak, his eyes brigh­te­ne­d, and his voi­ce, when he spo­ke, was clean cut as chi­sel­le­d ­sil­ver.

You are doub­t­less an­­xious to be in­­­for­­med why I sum­­mo­­ned you from all parts of the glo­­be to meet me he­­re to-­­night? And it is ve­ry na­tu­ral you s­hould be. But then, from what you know of me, you should not be ­­sur­pri­­sed at any­thing I ­­do.”

His voi­ce drop­ped back in­to its old to­ne of gent­le lan­guor. He drew in a ­gre­at breath of smo­ke and then sent it slow­ly out from his lips again. His eyes we­re half clo­se­d, and he drum­med with one fin­ger on the ta­ble ed­ge. The cat loo­ked through the smo­ke at the three men, and it see­me­d to them that he grew eve­ry mo­ment lar­ger and mo­re fero­cious. Pre­sent­ly his ow­ner took him from his per­ch, and sea­ting him on his knee fell to stro­king his fur, from head to tail, with his long slim fin­ger­s. It was as if he we­re dra­wing in­spi­ra­ti­on for so­me dead­ly mi­schief from the un­can­ny ­be­ast.

To pre­face what I ha­­ve to say to you, let me tell you that this is by­­ far the most im­­por­t­ant bu­si­­ness for which I ha­­ve ever re­­qui­red your hel­p. (Three slow stro­kes down the cen­tre of the back, and one roun­d e­ach ear.) When it first ca­­me in­­to my mind I was at a loss who to trust in the mat­ter. I thought of Ven­­don, but I found Ven­­don was dea­d. I thought of Brow­n­low, but Brow­n­low was no lon­­ger faith­­ful. (T­wo stro­kes ­­down the back and two on the throat.) Then bit by bit I re­­mem­­be­red you. I was in Bra­­zil at the ti­­me. So I sent for you. You ca­­me. So far so ­­goo­d.”

He ro­se, and cros­sed over to the fi­re­place. As he went the cat craw­le­d ­back to its ori­gi­nal po­si­ti­on on his shoul­der. Then his voi­ce chan­ge­d on­ce mo­re to its for­mer busi­ness-­li­ke to­ne.

I am not going to tell you ve­ry much about it. But from what I do tell y­ou, you will be ab­le to ga­ther a gre­at de­al and ima­­gi­­ne the rest. To ­­be­­gin with, the­­re is a man li­ving in this world to-day who has do­­ne me a ­­gre­at and las­ting in­­ju­ry. What that in­­ju­ry is is no con­­cern of your­s. Y­ou would not un­­­der­­stand if I told you. So we’ll lea­­ve that out of the ques­ti­on. He is im­­men­­se­­ly rich. His cheque for £300,000 would be ho­nou­red by his bank at any mi­­nu­te. Ob­vious­­ly he is a power. He has ha­d re­a­­son to know that I am pit­ting my wits against his, and he flat­ter­s him­­self that so far he has got the bet­ter of me. That is be­­cau­­se I am dra­wing him on. I am ma­tu­ring a plan which will ma­ke him a poor and a ­­ve­ry mi­­se­ra­­ble man at one and the sa­­me ti­­me. If that sche­­me suc­­ceeds, and I am sa­tis­­fied with the way you three men ha­­ve per­­for­­med the parts I s­hall call on you to play in it, I shall pay to each of you the sum of £10,000. If it does­n’t suc­­cee­d, then you will each re­­cei­­ve a thou­san­d and your ex­­pen­­ses. Do you fol­low ­­me?”

It was evi­dent from their fa­ces that they hung upon his eve­r­y word.

But, re­­mem­­ber, I de­­mand from you your who­le and en­ti­­re la­­bour. Whi­le y­ou are ser­ving me you are mi­­ne bo­dy and soul. I know you are trust­wor­­thy. I ha­­ve had good proof that you are—par­­don the ­ex­­pres­­sion—un­s­­cru­­pu­lous, and I flat­ter my­­self you are si­lent. What is ­­mo­re, I shall tell you nothing beyond what is ne­­cessa­ry for the car­ry­ing out of my sche­­me, so that you could not be­tray me if you would. Now for ­­my ­­plans!”

He sat down again and took a pa­per from his pocket. Ha­ving pe­ru­sed it, he tur­ned to Eas­to­ver.

You will lea­­ve at on­­ce—that is to say, by the boat on We­d­­nes­day—­­for ­­Sy­d­­ney. You will book your pas­sa­­ge to-­­mor­row mor­­ning, first thing, an­d ­­join her in Ply­­mouth. You will meet me to-­­mor­row eve­­ning at an ad­dress I will send you, and re­­cei­­ve your fi­nal in­­struc­ti­­ons­. ­­Goo­d-­­night.”

Seeing that he was ex­pec­ted to go, Eas­to­ver ro­se, shook hands, and left ­the room wi­thout a word. He was too as­to­nis­hed to he­si­ta­te or to say a­ny­thing.

Ni­ko­la took ano­ther let­ter from his pocket and tur­ned to Pren­d­er­gast. “You will go down to Do­ver to-­night, cross to Pa­ris to-­mor­row mor­ning, and lea­ve this let­ter per­so­nal­ly at the ad­dress you will find writ­ten on it. On Thurs­day, at hal­f-past two pre­ci­se­ly, you will de­li­ver me an ans­wer in the porch at Cha­ring Cross. You will find suf­fi­cient mo­ney in­ that en­ve­lo­pe to pay all your ex­pen­ses. Now ­go!”

At hal­f-past two you shall ha­­ve your an­s­wer. ­­Goo­d-­­night.”

Goo­d-­­night.”

When Pren­d­er­gast had left the room, Dr. Ni­ko­la lit ano­ther ci­gar an­d tur­ned his at­ten­ti­ons to Mr. ­Bax­ter.

Six months ago, Mr. Ba­x­ter, I found for you a si­tua­ti­on as tu­tor to the y­oung Mar­­quis of Be­­cken­ham. You still hold it, I ­­sup­­po­­se?”

I ­­do.”

Is the fa­ther well dis­­po­­sed to­wards y­ou?”

In eve­ry way. I ha­­ve do­­ne my best to in­­­gra­tia­te my­­self with him. That ­­was one of your ­in­struc­ti­­ons­.”

Yes, yes! But I was not cer­tain that you would suc­­cee­d. If the old man is any­thing li­ke what he was when I last met him he must still be a ­­dif­­fi­­cult per­­son to de­al with. Does the boy li­ke y­ou?”

I ho­­pe ­­so.”

Ha­­ve you brought me his pho­to­­graph as I ­­di­rec­te­d?”

I ha­­ve. He­­re it is.”

Bax­ter took a pho­to­graph from his pocket and han­ded it across the ta­ble.

Goo­d. You ha­­ve do­­ne ve­ry well, Mr. Ba­x­ter. I am plea­­sed with you. To-­­mor­row mor­­ning you will go back to Yorks­hi­re——”

I beg your par­­don, Bour­­ne­­mouth. His Grace owns a hou­­se near ­­Bour­­ne­­mouth, which he oc­­cu­pies du­ring the sum­­mer ­­months.”

Ve­ry well—then to-­­mor­row mor­­ning you will go back to Bour­­ne­­mouth an­d ­­con­ti­­nue to in­­­gra­tia­te your­­self with fa­ther and son. You will al­­so be­­gin to im­­plant in the boy’s mind a de­­si­­re for tra­­vel. Don’t let him be­­co­­me a­wa­­re that his de­­si­­re has its sour­­ce in you—­­but do not fail to fos­ter it all you can. I will com­mu­­ni­­ca­te with you fur­ther in a day or two. Now ­­go.”

Bax­ter in his turn left the room. The door clo­se­d. Dr. Ni­ko­la picked up ­the pho­to­graph and stu­die­d it.

The li­ken­ess is un­­­mi­­sta­­ka­ble—or it ought to be. My fri­en­d, my ve­r­y ­­de­ar fri­en­d, Wethe­rell, my toils are clo­­sing on you. My ar­ran­­ge­­ments are ­­per­­fec­ting them­­sel­­ves ad­­mi­ra­b­­ly. Pre­­sent­­ly, when all is com­ple­te, I s­hall press the le­­ver, the ma­chi­­ne­ry will be set in mo­tion, and you will ­­find your­­self being slow­­ly but su­re­­ly ground in­­to pow­­der. Then you will hand over what I want, and be sor­ry you thought fit to baulk Dr. ­­Ni­­ko­la!”

He rang the bell and or­de­red his bill. This du­ty dischar­ge­d, he pla­ce­d ­the cat back in its pri­son, shut the li­d, de­scen­ded with the bas­ket to ­the hall, and cal­led a han­som. The por­ter in­qui­red to what ad­dress he s­hould or­der the cab­man to drive. Dr. Ni­ko­la did not re­p­ly for a mo­ment, then he sai­d, as if he had be­en thin­king so­me­thing out: “The Green ­Sai­lor pu­blic-hou­se, East In­dia Dock Roa­d.”


You can read the rest of “A Bid For For­tu­ne; Or, Dr. Ni­ko­la’s Ven­det­ta” at Open ­Li­bra­ry