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Chapter 2 A GRUESOME TALE.

  • "THERE are three things to be borne in mind," said Nikola, when  _I_  ha_ecovered myself a little: "the first is the dependent point, namely, that th_an has to be, well, shall we call it, relieved of the responsibility of hi_xistence! Secondly, the deed must be done at once; and, thirdly, it must b_ccomplished in such a manner that no suspicion is aroused against you. Now, to you who know the world, and England in particular,  _I_  need scarcel_xplain that there are very few ways in which this can be done.  _If_  yo_esire to follow the melodramatic course, you will decoy your enemy to a_mpty house and stab him there; in that case, however, there will, in al_robability, be a tramp taking refuge in the coal cellar who will overhea_ou, the marks of blood on the floor will give evidence against you, and—wha_ill be worse than all—there will be the body to dispose of.  _It_  tha_rocedure does not meet with your approval, you might follow him about nigh_fter night until you find an opportunity of effecting your purpose in som_eserted thoroughfare; but then you must take into consideration the fact tha_here will always be the chance of his calling out, or in other way_ttracting the attention of the neighbourhood, or of someone coming round th_orner before you have quite finished. A railway train has been trie_epeatedly, but never with success; for there is an increased difficulty i_etting rid of the body, while porters and ticket collectors have a peculia_emory for faces, and history shows that whatever care you may take you ar_ound to be discovered sooner or later. In his own house the man is as secure, or more so, than he would be in the Tower of London; and even if you di_anage to reach him there, the betting would be something like a million t_ne that you would be detected. No; none of these things are worthy of ou_onsideration. I came to this conclusion in another and similar case in whic_y assistance was invoked three months ago. If one wants to succeed in murder, as in anything else, one must endeavour to be original."
  • "For heaven's sake, man, choose your words less carefully!" I cried, with _udden fierceness for which I could not afterwards account. "You talk as if w_ere discussing an ordinary business transaction."
  • "And are we not?" he replied calmly, paying no attention to my outburst o_emper. "I am inclined to think we are. You desire to revenge yourself upon _an who has wronged you. For a consideration I find you the means of doing it.
  • You want—I supply. Surely supply and demand constitute the component parts o_n ordinary business transaction?"
  • "You said nothing just now about a consideration. What is it to be?"
  • "We will discuss that directly."
  • "No, not directly. Now! I must know everything before I hear more of you_lans."
  • "By all means let us discuss it then. Properly speaking, I suppose I shoul_emand your soul as my price, and write the bond with a pen dipped in you_lood. But, though you may doubt it, I am not Mephistopheles. My terms ar_ifty thousand pounds, to be paid down within six months of your coming in t_our money. I think you will admit that that is a small enough sum to charg_or helping a man to obtain possession of nearly two millions. I don't doub_ur friend Bartrand would pay three times as much to be allowed to remain o_n Park Lane. What do you think?"
  • The mere mention of Bartrand's name roused me again to fury.
  • "You shall have the money," I cried. "And much good may it do you. Come wha_ay, I will not touch a penny of it myself. I want to punish him, not to ge_is fortune. Now what is your scheme?"
  • "Pardon me, one thing at a time if you please."
  • He crossed to the escritoire standing in the corner of the room, and from _rawer took a sheet of paper. Having glanced at it he brought it to me with _en and ink.
  • "Read it, and when you have done so, sign. We will then proceed to business."
  • I glanced at it, and discovered that it was a legally drawn up promise to pa_r. Antonio Nikola fifty thousand pounds within six months of my succeeding t_he property of Richard Bartrand, of Park Lane, London, and Chenningto_astle, Shropshire, should such an event ever occur. Dipping the pen into th_nk I signed what he had written, and then waited for him to continue. H_olded up the paper with great deliberation, returned it to its place in th_scritoire, and then seated himself opposite me again.
  • "Now I am with you hand and glove," he said with a faint smile upon his sallo_ace. "Listen to my arrangement. In considering the question of murder I hav_hought of houses, trains, street stabbings, poisonings, burnings, drowning, shipwreck, dynamite, and even electricity; and from practical experience _ave arrived at the conclusion that the only sure way in which you can ri_ourself of an enemy is to do the deed in a hansom cab."
  • "A hansom cab?" I cried. "You must be mad. How can that be safe at all?"
  • "Believe me, it is not only the safest, but has been proved to be the mos_uccessful. I will explain more fully, then you will be able to judge of th_eautiful simplicity of my plan for yourself. The cab I have constructe_yself after weeks of labour, in this very house; it is downstairs now; if yo_ill accompany me we will go and see it."
  • He rose from his chair, took up the lamp that stood upon the table, and signe_o me to follow him. I did so, down the stairs by which he had ascended, an_long the passage to a large room at the rear of the building. Folding door_pened from it into the yard, and, standing in the centre of this barn-lik_partment, its shafts resting on an iron trestle, was, a hansom cab of th_atest pattern, fitted with all the most up-to-date improvements.
  • "Examine it," said Nikola, "and I think you will be compelled to admit that i_s as beautiful a vehicle as any man could wish to ride in; get inside and tr_t for yourself."
  • While he held the lamp aloft I climbed in and seated myself upon the sof_ushions. The inside was lined with Russia leather, and was in every wa_xquisitely fitted. A curious electric lamp of rather a cumbersome pattern, _hought, was fixed on the back in such a position as to be well above th_ider's head. A match-box furnished the bottom of one window, and a cigar- cutter the other; the panels on either side of the apron were decorated wit_irrors; the wheels were rubber tyred, and each of the windows had smal_linds of heavy stamped leather. Altogether it was most comfortable an_omplete.
  • "What do you think of it?" said Nikola, when I had finished my scrutiny.
  • "It's exactly like any other hansom," I answered. "Except that it is finishe_n a more expensive style than the average cab, I don't see any difference a_ll."
  • "There you refer to its chief charm," replied Nikola, with a grim chuckle. "I_t  _were_  different in any way to the ordinary hansom, detection would b_asy. As it is I am prepared to defy even an expert to discover the mechanis_ithout pulling it to pieces."
  • "What is the mechanism, then, and what purpose does it serve?"
  • "I will explain."
  • He placed the lamp he held in his hand upon a bracket on the wall, and the_pproached the vehicle.
  • "In the first place examine these cushions," he said, pointing to th_nterior. "You have doubtless remarked their softness. If you study the_losely you will observe that they are pneumatic. The only difference is tha_he air used is the strongest anaesthetic known to science. The glass i_ront, as you will observe now that I have lowered it, fits into a slot in th_pron when the latter is closed, and thus, by a simple process, the interio_ecomes air-tight. When this has been done the driver has but to press thi_nob, which at first sight would appear to be part of the nickel rein-support, and a valve opens on either side of the interior—in the match-box in the righ_indow, in the cigar-cutter in the left; the gas escapes, fills the cab, an_he result is—well, I will leave you to imagine the result for yourself."
  • "And then?" I muttered hoarsely, scarcely able to speak distinctly, s_vercome was I by the horrible exactness and ingenuity of this murderou_ffair.
  • "Then the driver places his foot upon this treadle, which, you see, is made t_ook as if it works the iron support that upholds the vehicle when resting, the seat immediately revolves and the bottom turns over, thus allowing th_ody to drop through on to the road. Its very simplicity is its charm. Havin_arried out your plan you have but to find a deserted street, drive along it, depress the lever, and be rid of your fare when and where you please. By tha_ime he will be far past calling out, and you can drive quietly home, conscious that your work is accomplished. Now what do you think of m_nvention?"
  • For a few moments I did not answer, but sat upon an upturned box close by, m_ead buried in my hands.
  • The agony of that minute no man will ever understand. Shame for myself fo_istening, loathing of my demoniacal companion for tempting me, hatred o_artrand, and desire for revenge, all struggled within me for the mastery. _ould scarcely breathe; the air of that hateful room seemed to suffocate me.
  • At last I rose to my feet, and as I did so another burst of fury seized me.
  • "Monster! Murderer!" I cried, turning like a madman on Nikola, who was testin_he appliances of his awful invention with a smile of quiet satisfaction o_is face. "Let me go, I will not succumb to your temptations. Show me the wa_ut of this house, or I will kill you."
  • Sobs shook my being to its very core. A violent fit of hysteria had seized me, and under its influence I was not responsible for what I said or did.
  • Nikola turned from the cab as calmly as if it had been an ordinary hanso_hich he was examining with a view to purchase, and, concentrating his gaz_pon me as he spoke, said quietly:
  • "My dear Pennethorne, you are exciting yourself. Pray endeavour to be calm.
  • Believe me, there is nothing to be gained by talking in that eccentri_ashion. Sit down again and pull yourself together."
  • As I looked into his face all my strength seemed to go from me. Without _econd's hesitation I sat down as he commanded me, and stared in a stupid, dazed fashion at the floor. I no longer had any will of my own. Of course _an see now that he had hypnotised me; but his methods must have been mor_eadly than I have ever seen exercised before, for he did not insist upon m_ooking into his eyes for any length of time, nor did he make any passe_efore my face as I had seen professional mesmerists do. He simply glanced a_e—perhaps a little more fixedly than usual—and all my will was immediatel_aken from me. When I was calm he spoke again.
  • "You are better now," he said, "so we can talk. You must pay particula_ttention to what I am going to say, and what I tell you to do you will do t_he letter. To begin with, you will now go back to your hotel, and, as soon a_ou reach it, go to bed. You will sleep without waking till four o'clock thi_fternoon; then you will dress and go for a walk. During that walk you wil_hink of the man who has wronged you, and the more you think of him th_iercer your hatred for him will become. At six o'clock you will return t_our hotel and dine, going to sleep again in the smoking-room till ten. Whe_he clock has struck you will wake, take a hansom, and drive to 23, Grea_unter Street, Soho. Arriving at the house, you will ask for Levi Solomon, t_hom you will be at once conducted. He will look after you until I ca_ommunicate with you again. That is your programme for the day. I order yo_ot to fail in any single particular of it. Now you had better be off. It i_early six o'clock."
  • I rose from my seat and followed him out into the passage like a dog; thenc_e made our way into the yard. To my surprise a cab was standing waiting fo_s, the lamps glaring like fierce eyes into the dark archway which led int_he street.
  • "Get in," said Nikola, opening the apron. "My man will drive you to you_otel. On no account give him a gratuity, for I do not countenance it, and h_nows my principle. Good night."
  • I obeyed him mechanically, still without emotion, and when I was seated th_ab drove out into the street.
  • Throughout the journey back to the hotel I sat in the corner trying to think, and not succeeding. I was only conscious that, whatever happened, I must obe_ikola in all he had told me to do. Nothing else seemed of any importance.
  • On approaching my residence, I wondered how I should obtain admittance; but, as it turned out, that proved an easy matter, for when I arrived the servant_ere already up and about, and the front door stood open. Disregarding th_tare of astonishment with which I was greeted, I went upstairs to my room, and in less than ten minutes was in bed and fast asleep.
  • Strangely enough, considering the excitement of the previous twenty-fou_ours, my sleep was dreamless. It seemed only a few minutes from the time _losed my eyes till I was awake again, yet the hands of my watch had stood a_alf-past six a.m. when I went to bed, and when I opened my eyes again the_hronicled four o'clock exactly. So far I had fulfilled Nikola's instruction_o the letter. Without hesitation I rose from my bed, dressed mysel_arefully, and when I was ready, donned my overcoat and went out for a walk.
  • The evening was bitterly cold, and heavy snow was falling. To keep myself war_ hurried along, and as I went I found my thoughts reverting continually t_artrand. I remembered my life at Markapurlie, and the cat-and-dog existence _ad passed there with him. Then the memory of poor old Ben's arrival at th_tation came back to me as distinctly as if it had been but yesterday, an_ith its coming the manager's brutality roused me afresh. I thought of th_ight we had had, and then of the long weeks of nursing at the wretched Mai_hange on the plains. In my mind's eye I seemed to see poor old Ben sitting u_n bed telling me his secret, and when I was once more convalescent, wen_ver, day by day, my journey to the Boolga Ranges,and dreamt again the dream_f wealth that had occupied my brain then, only to find myself robbed of m_ortune at the end. Now the man who had stolen my chance in life was one o_he richest men in England. He had in his possession all that is popularl_upposed to make life worth the living, and while he entertained royalty, bought racehorses and yachts, and enjoyed every advantage in life at m_xpense, left me to get along as best I might. I might die of starvation i_he gutter for all he would care. At that moment I was passing a newsagent'_tall. On a board before the door, setting forth the contents of an evenin_ewspaper, was a line that brought me up all standing with surprise, as th_ailors say. " _Bartrand's Generosity.—A Gift to the People,"_  it ran. I wen_nside, bought a copy of the paper, and stood in the light of the doorway t_ead the paragraph. It was as follows:—
  • "Mr. Richard Bartrand, the well-known Australian millionaire, has, so we ar_nformed, written to the London County Council offering to make a free gift t_he city of that large area of ground recently occupied by Montgomery House, of which he has lately become the possessor. The donor makes but on_tipulation, and that is that it shall be converted into public gardens, an_hall be known in the future as Bartrand Park. As the ground in question wa_urchased at auction by the millionaire last week for the large sum of fift_housand pounds, the generosity of this gift cannot be overestimated."
  • To the surprise of the newsagent I crushed the paper up, threw it on th_round, and rushed from the shop in a blind rage. What right had he to pose a_ public benefactor, who was only a swindler and a robber? What right had h_o make gifts of fifty thousand pounds to the people, when it was only by hi_illainy he had obtained the money? But ah! I chuckled to myself, before man_ours were over I should be even with him, and then we would see what woul_appen. A hatred more intense, more bitter, than I could ever have believe_ne man could entertain for another, filled my breast. Under its influence al_y scruples vanished, and I wanted nothing but to cry quits with my enemy.
  • For more than half an hour I hurried along, scarcely heeding where I went, thinking only of my hatred, and gloating over the hideous revenge I was abou_o take. That I was doing all this under Nikola's hypnotic influence I no_eel certain; but at the time I seemed to be acting on my own initiative, an_ikola to be only playing the part of the  _deus ex machina._
  • At last I began to weary of my walk, so, hailing a hansom, I directed th_river to convey me back to my hotel. As I passed through the hall the cloc_ver the billiard-room door struck six, and on hearing it I became aware tha_n one other particular I had fulfilled Nikola's orders. After dinner I wen_nto the smoking-room, and, seating myself in an easy chair before the fire, lit a cigar. Before I had half smoked it I was fast asleep, dreaming that _as once more in Australia and tossing on a bed of sickness in the Mail Chang_t Markapurlie. A more vivid dream it would be impossible to imagine. I sa_yself, pale and haggard, lying upon the bed, unconscious of what was passin_round me. I saw Bartrand and Gibbs standing looking down at me. Then th_ormer came closer, and bent over me. Next moment he had taken a paper fro_he pocket of my shirt, and carried it with him into the adjoining bar. A fe_inutes Later he returned with it and replaced it in the pocket. As he did s_e turned to the landlord, who stood watching him from the doorway, an_aid—"You're sure he's delirious, that he's not shamming?"
  • "Shamming? Poor beggar," answered Gibbs, who after all was not such a ba_ellow at heart. "Take a good look at him and see for yourself. I hope I ma_ever be as near gone as he is now."
  • "So much the better," said Bartrand with a sneer, as he stepped away from th_ed. "We'll save him the trouble of making us his legatees."
  • "You don't mean to steal the poor beggar's secret, surely?" replied Gibbs. "_ouldn't have told you if I'd thought that."
  • "More fool you then," said Bartrand. "Of course I'm not going to  _steal_  it, only to borrow it. Such chances don't come twice in a lifetime. But are yo_ure of your facts? Are you certain the old fellow said there was gold enoug_here to make both of them millionaires half-a-dozen times over?"
  • "As certain as I'm sitting here," answered Gibbs.
  • "Very good; then I'm off to-night for the Boolga Ranges. In ten days I'll hav_he matter settled, and by the time that dog there gets on to his feet agai_e'll both be on the high road to fortune."
  • "And I'm only to have a quarter of what you get? It's not fair, Bartrand."
  • Bartrand stepped up to him with that nasty, bullying look on his face that _new so well of old.
  • "Look here, my friend," he said, "You know Richard Bartrand, don't you? An_ou also know what I can tell about you. I offer you a fourth of the mine fo_our information, but I don't give it to you for the reason that I'm afraid o_ou, for I'm not. Remember I know enough of your doings in this grog shanty t_ang you a dozen times over; and, by the Lord Harry, if you make yourself _uisance to me I'll put those on your track who'll set you swinging. Stan_ast by me and I'll treat you fair and square, but get up to any hanky-pank_nd I'll put such a stopper on your mouth that you'll never be able to open i_gain."
  • Gibbs leaned against the door with a face like lead. It was evident tha_owever much he hated Bartrand he feared him a good deal more. A prettier pai_f rogues it would have been difficult to find in a long day's march.
  • "You needn't be afraid, Mr. Bartrand," he said at last, but this time in n_ertain voice. "I'll not split on yon as long as you treat me fairly. You'v_een a good friend to me in the past, and I know you mean me well though yo_peak so plain."
  • "I know the sort of man with whom I have to deal, you see," returned Bartran_ith another nasty sneer. "Now I must get my horse and be off. I've a lot t_o if I want to get away to-night."
  • He went out into the verandah and unhitched his reins from the nails on whic_hey were hanging.
  • "Let me have word directly that carrion in there comes to himself again," h_aid, as he got into the saddle. "And be sure you never breathe a word to hi_hat I've been over. I'll let you know all that goes on as soon as we've go_ur claim fixed up. In the meantime, mum's the word. Good-bye."
  • Gibbs bade him good-bye, and when he had watched him canter off across th_lain returned to the room where I lay. Evidently his conscience was reprovin_im, for he stood by my bed for some minutes looking down at me in silence.
  • Then he heaved a little sigh and said under his breath, "You miserable beggar, how little you know what is happening, but I'm bothered if I don't think afte_ll that you're a dashed sight happier than I am. I'm beginning to wish I'_ot given you away to that devil. The remembrance of it will haunt me all m_ife long."
  • I woke up with his last speech ringing in my ears, and for a moment coul_carcely believe my own eyes. I had imagined myself back in the bush, and t_ake up in the smoking room of a London hotel was a surprise for which I wa_ot prepared. The clock over the door was just striking eleven as I rose to m_eet and went out into the hall. Taking my coat down from a peg I put it on, and then, donning my hat and turning up my collar, went out into the street.
  • Snow was still falling, and the night was bitterly cold. As I walked I though_gain of the dream from which I had just wakened. It seemed more like a visio_ntended for my guidance than the mere imagining of an over-excited brain. Ho_uch would I not have given to know if it was only imagination, or whether _ad been permitted to see a representation of what had really happened? Thi_uestion, however, I could not of course answer.
  • On reaching the Strand I hailed a hansom and bade the driver convey me wit_ll speed to 23, Great Gunter Street, Soho.
  • "Twenty-three, Great Gunter Street?" repeated the man, staring at me i_urprise. "You don't surely mean that, sir?"
  • "I do," I answered. "If you don't like the job I can easily find another man."
  • "Oh, I'll take you there, never fear, sir," replied the man; "but I didn'_now perhaps whether you was aware what sort of a crib it is. It's not th_hop gentlemen goes to as a general rule at night time, except maybe they'r_fter a dog as has been stole, or the like."
  • "So it's that sort of place is it?" I answered. "Well, I don't know that i_atters. I'm able to take care of myself."
  • As I said this I got into the vehicle, and in half a minute we were drivin_own the Strand in the direction of Soho. In something under a quarter of a_our we had left Leicester Square behind us, crossed Shaftesbury Avenue, an_urned into Great Gunter Street. It proved to be exactly what the driver ha_nsinuated, neither a respectable nor a savoury neighbourhood; and when I sa_t and its inhabitants I ceased to wonder at his hesitation. When he ha_roceeded half-way down the street he pulled his horse up before the entranc_o what looked like a dark alley leading into a court. Realising that thi_ust be my destination I opened the apron and sprang out.
  • "Number 23 is somewhere hereabouts, sir," said the driver, who seemed t_erive a certain amount of satisfaction from his ignorance of the locality. "_on't doubt but what one of these boys will be able to tell you exactly."
  • I paid him his fare and sixpence over for his civility, and then turned t_uestion a filthy little gutter urchin, who, with bare feet and chatterin_eeth, was standing beside me.
  • "Where is 23, my lad?" I inquired. "Can you take me to it?"
  • "Twenty-three, sir?" said the boy. "That's where Crooked Billy lives, sir. Yo_ome along with me and I'll show you the way."
  • "Go ahead then," I answered, and the boy thereupon bolted into the darkness o_he alley before which we had been standing. I followed him as quickly as _ould, but it was a matter of some difficulty, for the court was as black a_he Pit of Tophet, and seemed to twist and turn in every conceivabl_irection. A more unprepossessing place it would have been difficult to find.
  • Half-way down I heard the boy cry out 'Hold up, mother!" and before I coul_top I found myself in collision with a woman who, besides being unsteady o_er legs, reeked abominably of gin. Disengaging myself, to the accompanimen_f her curses, I sped after my leader, and a moment later emerged into th_pen court itself. The snow had ceased, and the three-quarter moon, sailin_long through swift flying clouds, showed me the surrounding houses. In one o_wo windows, lights were burning, revealing sights which almost made my fles_reep with loathing. In one I could see a woman sewing as if for her very lif_y the light of a solitary candle stuck in a bottle, while two little childre_ay asleep, half-clad, on a heap of straw and rags in the corner. On my righ_ had a glimpse of another room, where the dead body of a man was stretche_pon a mattress on the floor, with two old hags seated at a table beside it, drinking gin from a black bottle, turn and turn about. The wind whistle_ournfully among the roof tops; the snow had been trodden into a disgustin_lush everywhere, save close against the walls, where it still showed white a_ilver; while the reflection of the moon gleamed in the icy puddles golden a_ spade guinea.
  • "This is number 23," said my conductor, pointing to the door before which h_tood.
  • I rewarded him, and then turned my attention to the door indicated.
  • Having rapped with my knuckles upon the panel, I waited for it to be opened t_e. But those inside were in no hurry, and for this reason some minute_lapsed before I heard anyone moving about; then there came the sound o_huffling feet, and next moment the door was opened an inch or two, and _emale voice inquired with an oath—which I will omit—what was wanted and wh_as wanting it.
  • To the first query I replied by asking if Levi Solomon lived there, and, if h_id, whether I could see him. The second I shirked altogether. In answer I wa_nformed that Levi Solomon did reside there, and that if I was the gentlema_ho had called to see him about a hansom cab I was to come in at once.
  • The door was opened to me, and I immediately stepped into the grimiest, mos_vil-smelling passage it has ever been my ill luck to set foot in. The wall_ere soiled and stained almost beyond recognition; the floor was littered wit_range peel, paper, cabbage leaves, and garbage of all sorts and descriptions, while the stench that greeted me baffles description. I have never smelle_nything like it before, and I hope I may never do so again.
  • The most I can say for the old lady who admitted me is that she matched he_urroundings. She was short almost to dwarfishness, well-nigh bald, and ha_ost her left eye. Her dress consisted of a ragged skirt, and in place of _ody—I believe that is the technical expression—she wore a man's coat, whic_ave a finishing touch of comicality to the peculiar outline of her figure. A_oon as she saw that I had entered, she bade me shut the door behind me an_ollow her. This I did by means of a dilapidated staircase, in which almos_very step was taken at the risk of one's life, to the second floor. Havin_rrived there, she knocked upon a door facing her; and I noticed that it wa_ot until she had been ordered to enter that she ventured to turn the handle.
  • "The gentleman what has come about the 'ansom keb," she said, as she ushere_e into the room.
  • The apartment was lit by two candles stuck in their own wax upon a little dea_able, and by their rays I could distinguish the man I had come in search o_tanding by the fireplace awaiting me. He did not greet me until he had mad_ertain, by listening at the keyhole, that the old woman had gone downstairs.
  • He was a quaint little fellow, Jewish from the soles of his feet to the top o_is head. He had the nose of his race, little beady eyes as sharp as gimlets, and a long beard which a little washing might have made white. He was dresse_n a black frock coat two sizes too large for him, black trousers that woul_ave fitted a man three times his size, and boots that had been patched an_therwise repaired till their original maker would not have known them again.
  • "Mr. Pennethorne, I presume," he began, rubbing his hands together an_peaking as if he had a bad cold in his head. "I am delighted to see you. I a_orry that I cannot ask you to sit down, but I have no chair to give you. Fo_he same reason I cannot offer you refreshment. Have you had a good look a_e?"
  • My surprise at this abrupt question prevented my replying for a moment; then _nsinuated that I thought I should know him again, after which, with _uttered "That's all right," he blew out one of the candles, remarking that, as we now knew each other, we could conduct our business quite as well wit_alf the light.
  • "I received word from our mutual acquaintance Dr. Nikola this morning," h_egan, when the illumination had been thus curtailed, "that you would b_oming to see me. Of course I did not ask the business, for Dr. Nikola is m_riend, and I obey and trust him to the letter. By his instructions I am t_it you with a disguise, and then to take you to the place where you wil_iscover a certain hansom cab awaiting you."
  • I nodded. At the very mention of the cab my old hatred of Bartrand sprang u_gain, and I began to question the Jew as to where we were to find it and wha_ was to do when I had got it. But this impetuosity did not meet with hi_pproval.
  • "My young friend, you must not be in such a hurry," he said, wagging his hea_eprecatingly at me.
  • "We shall have to be sure we make no mistake, otherwise the doctor would no_e pleased, and I should not like to risk that. Have you known Dr. Nikola ver_ong?"
  • "I met him this morning for the first time in my life," I answered, realisin_n what intimate terms we now stood, considering the length of ou_cquaintance.
  • "If that is so you have much to learn regarding him," the Jew replied. "Let u_e very careful that we do not risk his displeasure. Now we will get to work, for it is nearly time for us to be going."
  • As he spoke he crossed to a cupboard in the corner of the room, and took fro_t some garments which he placed upon the table in the centre.
  • "Here we have the very identical things," he said, "and when you've got the_n, you'll be as smart a cabby as any that mounts his box in the streets o_ondon. Try this and see how it suits you."
  • He handed me a bushy black beard, which worked on springs, and assisted me t_asten it to my face. When it was made secure he stepped back and examined i_ritically; then with a muttered "that will do," turned to the garments on th_able, and selected from the heap a tarpaulin cape, such as cabmen wear in we_eather. This I fixed round my shoulders. A sou'wester was next placed upon m_ead, and when this was done, as far as I was concerned, we were ready to b_ff. My curious acquaintance was not long in making his toilet, and fiv_inutes later found us passing out of the filthy alley into Great Gunte_treet once more.
  • "I'll go first," said the Jew. "You follow two or three paces behind me. It'_ust as well we should not be seen together."
  • I accordingly took up my position a few steps in the rear, and in this fashio_odged along behind him, until we reached the corner of Wardour and Pultne_treets. Here my guide stopped and looked about him. Evidently what he wante_as not forthcoming, for he began to grow uneasy, and stamped up and down th_avement, looking eagerly in each direction. All the time I did not venture t_pproach him. I was considering what I was about to do. I thought of m_ather, and my brother and sisters, and wondered what they would have though_f they could have known to what a pass I had fallen. What would my poo_other have said if she had lived? But she, as far as I could learn from thos_ho had known her, had been a gentle Christian woman, and if she had lived _hould in all probability never have left England. In that case I should no_ave known Bartrand, and this revenge would then not have been necessary. B_hat small chances are our destinies shaped out for us!
  • At last the rattle of wheels sounded, and a moment later a smart hansom cab, which I recognised as that shown me by Nikola at his house that morning, drov_own the street and pulled up at the corner where we stood. The lamps glowe_rightly in the frosty air, and it was evident the horse was one of spirit, for he tossed his head and pawed the ground with impatience to be off again.
  • The driver descended from his perch, while the Jew went to the horse's head.
  • The other was a tall fellow, and until he came into the light of the lamps _ould not see his face. To my surprise, he did not speak, but stood fumblin_n the pocket of his oilskin for something, which proved to be a letter. Thi_e handed to me.
  • I opened it and scanned its contents. It was, of course, from Nikola.
  • "Dear—Everything is arranged, and I send you this, with the cab, by m_ervant, who, as you know, will not reveal anything. As soon as you receiv_t, mount and drive to Pall Mall. Be opposite the Monolith Club punctually a_1.30 and once there, keep your eyes open for the man we want. I will arrang_hat he shall leave exactly as the clock chimes, and will also see that h_akes your cab. When you have dropped your fare in a quiet street, drive a_ast as you can go to Hogarth Square, and wait at, or near, the secon_amppost on the left-hand side. I will pick you up there, and will arrange th_est. The man in question has been entertaining a distinguished company, including two dukes and a Cabinet Minister, at dinner this evening, but I hav_rranged to meet and amuse him at twelve. May good luck attend you.
  • "Yours, N."
  • I stuffed the note into my pocket and then glanced at my watch. It was exactl_ quarter-past eleven, so if I wanted to be at the rendezvous at the tim_tated it was necessary that I should start at once. Without more ado, _limbed on to the seat at the back, wound the rug  _I_  found there round m_egs, put on the badge the Chinaman handed up to me, and, whipping up th_orse, much to the Jew's consternation, drove off down the street at a rapi_ace. As I turned into Great Windmill Street snow began to fall again, and _ave an evil chuckle as I reflected that even the forces of Nature wer_ssisting me in my murderous intentions. In my heart I had no pity for the ma_hom I was about to kill. He had robbed me as cruelly as one man could ro_nother, and now I was going to repay him for his treachery.