What his mission may be, of course I cannot tell, but that it is some diabolical thing or another I haven't a doubt. I paused before I replied. The question involved greater responsibilities than were at first glance apparent. Knowing Nikola so well, I had not the least desire or intention to be drawn into any of the plots or machinations he was so fond of working against other people.
I must confess, nevertheless, that I could not help feeling a large amount of curiosity as to the subsequent history of that little stick, to obtain which he had spent so much money, and had risked so many lives. Good heavens! Fancy you or I being afraid of any other man as we are afraid of him, for mind you, I know that you stand quite as much in awe of him as I do. Why, do you know when my eyes fell upon him this afternoon, I felt a return of the old dread his presence used to cause in me five years ago! The effect he had upon Miss Trevor was also very singular, when you come to, think of it.
I don't know when I have ever met a nicer. Who is she? I was glad to hear this, for I had my own little dreams, and my wife, who, by the way, is a born matchmaker, had long ago come to a similar conclusion. And now, since our cigars are finished, what do you say to bed? It is growing late, and I expect you are tired after your journey.
I only hope and pray that I shall not dream of Nikola. WHETHER it was our excursion upon the canal that was responsible for it, I cannot say; the fact, however, remains, that next morning every member of our party was late for breakfast. My wife and I were the first to put in an appearance, Glenbarth followed shortly after, and Miss Trevor was last of all.
It struck me that the girl looked a little pale as she approached the window to bid me good morning, and as she prided herself upon her punctuality, I jestingly reproved her for her late rising. I expected her to declare in her usual vehement fashion that she would not waste her time dreaming of any man, but to my combined astonishment and horror her eyes filled with tears, until she was compelled to turn her head away in order to hide them from me.
It was all so unexpected that I did not know what to think. As may be supposed, I had not the slightest intention of giving her pain, nor could I quite see how I managed to do so. It was plain, however, that my thoughtless speech had been the means of upsetting her, and I was heartily sorry for my indiscretion. Fortunately my wife had not overheard what had passed between us "Is he teasing you again, Gertrude?
Treat him with contempt. Besides, the coffee is getting cold, and that is a very much more important matter. Let us sit down to breakfast. Nothing could have been more opportune. We took our places at the table, and by the time the servant had handed the first dishes Miss Trevor had recovered herself sufficiently to be able to look me in the face, and to join in the conversation without the likelihood of a catastrophe. Still there could be no doubt that she was far from being in a happy frame of mind. I said as much to my wife afterwards, when we were alone together.
She said that she had dreamt of nothing else. As you know, she is very highly strung, and when you think of the descriptions we have given her of him, it is scarcely to be wondered at that she should attach an exaggerated importance to our unexpected meeting with him. That is the real explanation of the mystery. One thing, however, is quite certain; in her present state of mind she must see no more of him than can be helped.
It might upset her altogether. Oh, why did he come here to spoil our holiday? By the way, I don't know why I should think of it just now, but talking of marriage-bells reminds me that Glenbarth told me last night that he thought Gertrude one of the nicest girls he had ever met. Do you know, I have set my heart upon that coming to something. For very many reasons it would be a most desirable match. You are a matchmaker. I challenge you to refute the accusation. At any rate you must agree with me that Gertrude would make an ideal duchess. Because Glenbarth happens to have said in confidence to me a confidence I am willing to admit I have shamefully abused that he considers Gertrude Trevor a very charming girl, it does not follow that he has the very slightest intention of asking her to be his wife.
Why should he? As a good churchwoman I pray for the nobility every Sunday morning; and if not knowing where to look for the best wife in the world may be taken as a weakness and it undoubtedly is, then all I can say is, that they require all the praying for they can get! You are jealous of him. You don't want him to ask her because you fancy that if he does your reign will be over.
A nice admission for a married man, I must say! How dare you say, Dick, that I flirt with the Duke? Did you not say that he ought to be ashamed of himself if he did not ask her to be his wife? Answer that, my lady. The best wife in the world is beside me now; and since you are already proved to be in the wrong you must perforce pay the penalty. I declare it upsets all one's theories of marriage.
One of my most cherished ideas was that this sort of thing ceased with the honeymoon, and that the couple invariably lead a cat-and-dog life for the remainder of their existence. Never marry, Gertrude. Mark my words: you will repent it if you do! I don't know what he will say next. Of course she does. Allow me to tell you, Lady Hatteras, that you are a coward.
If the truth were known, it would be found that you are trembling in your shoes at this moment. For two centimes, paid down, I would turn King's evidence, and reveal the whole plot. Miss Gertrude, will you not intercede for me? And now, let us settle what we are going to do to-day. When this important matter had been arranged it was reported to us that the ladies were to spend the morning shopping, leaving the Duke and myself free to follow our own inclinations. Accordingly, when we had seen them safely on their way to the Merceria, we held a smoking council to arrange how we should pass the hours until lunch-time.
As we discovered afterwards, we both had a certain thought in our minds, which for some reason we scarcely liked to broach to each other. It was settled, however, just as we desired, but in a fashion we least expected. We were seated in the balcony outside our room, watching the animated traffic on the Grand Canal below, when a servant came in search of us and handed me a note. One glance at the characteristic writing was sufficient to show me that it was from Doctor Nikola. I opened it with an eagerness that I did not attempt to conceal, and read as follows:.
As I understand the Duke of Glenbarth is with you, will you not bring him also? It will be very pleasant to have a chat upon bygone days, and, what is more, I fancy this old house will interest you. There is one thing, however, that puzzles me: how did he become aware of my arrival in Venice? You say he was with you on the piazza, last night, so that he could not have been at the railway station, as I haven't been outside since I came, except for the row after dinner, I confess it puzzles me.
I am very curious on that point. If he does let us know, I shall begin to grow suspicious, for in that case it is a thousand pounds to this half-smoked cigar that we shall be called upon to render him assistance. However, if you are prepared to run the risk I will do so also. We may change our minds. As a general rule when one sets out to pay a morning call one is not the victim of any particular nervousness; on this occasion; however, both Glenbarth and I, as we confessed to each other afterwards, were distinctly conscious of being in a condition which would be described by persons of mature years as an unpleasant state of expectancy, but which by school boys is denominated "funk.
There was a far-away look on his handsome face that told me that he was recalling some of the events connected with the time when he had been in Nikola's company. This proved to be the case, for as we turned from the Grand Canal into the street in which the palace is situated, he said:. Then I added after a short pause, "By Jove, what strange times those were. But see, here we are. As he spoke the gondola drew up at the steps of the Palace Revecce, and we prepared to step ashore. As we did so I noticed that the armorial bearings of the family still decorated the posts on either side of the door, but by the light of day the palace did not look nearly so imposing as it had done by moonlight the night before.
One thing about it was certainly peculiar. When we ordered the gondolier to wait for us he shook his head. Not for anything would he remain there longer than was necessary to set us down. I accordingly paid him off, and when we had ascended the steps we entered the building. On pushing open the door we found ourselves standing in a handsome courtyard, in the centre of which was a well, its coping elegantly carved with a design of fruit and flowers.
A broad stone staircase at the further end led up to the floor above, but this, as was the case with everything else, showed unmistakable signs of having been allowed to fall to decay. As no concierge was to be seen, and there was no one in sight of whom we might make inquiries, we scarcely knew how to proceed. Indeed, we were just wondering whether we should take our chance and explore the lower regions in search of Nikola, when he appeared at the head of the staircase and greeted us. I must apologise for not having been downstairs to receive you.
By the time he had finished speaking he had reached us, and was shaking hands with Glenbarth with the heartiness of an old friend. Then looking at him once more, he added, "If you will permit me to say so, you have changed a great deal since we last saw each other. But we will not talk of that here. Let us come up to my room, which is the only place in this great house that is in the least degree comfortable. So saying he led the way up the stairs, and then along a corridor, which had once been beautifully frescoed, but which was now sadly given over to damp and decay. At last, reaching a room in the front of the building, he threw open the door and invited us to enter.
And here I might digress for a moment to remark, that of all the men I have ever met, Nikola possessed the faculty of being able to make himself comfortable wherever he might be, in the greatest degree. He would have been at home anywhere. As a matter of fact, this particular apartment was furnished in a style that caused me considerable surprise.
The room itself was large and lofty, while the walls were beautifully frescoed the work of one Andrea Bunopelli, of whom I shall have more to say anon. The furniture was simple, but extremely good; a massive oak writing-table stood beside one wall, another covered with books and papers was opposite it, several easy-chairs were placed here and there, another table in the centre of the room supported various chemical paraphernalia, while books of all sorts and descriptions, in all languages and bindings, were to be discovered in every direction.
What is Kobo Super Points?
Some time ago, and quite by chance, I became acquainted with its history; I do not mean the political history of the respective families that have occupied it; you can find that in any guide-book. I mean the real, inner history of the house itself, embracing not a few of the deeds which have taken place inside its walls. I wonder if you would be interested if I were to tell you that in this very room, in the year fifteen hundred and eleven, one of the most repellent and cold-blooded murders of the Middle Ages took place.
Perhaps now that you have the scene before you you would like to hear the story. You would? In that case pray sit down. Let me offer you this chair, Duke," he continued, and as he spoke he wheeled forward a handsomely carved chair from beside his writing-table. I myself will take up my position here, so that I may be better able to retain your attention for my narrative. So saying he stood between us on the strip of polished floor which showed between two heavy oriental rugs. I fancy, however, that the denouement will prove sufficiently original to merit your attention.
The year fifteen hundred and nine, the same which found the French victorious at Agnadello, and the Venetian Republic at the commencement of that decline from which it has never recovered, saw this house in its glory. The owner, the illustrious Francesco del Revecce, was a sailor, and had the honour of commanding one of the many fleets of the Republic.
He was an ambitious man, a good fighter, and as such twice defeated the fleet of the League of Camberi. The husband being rich, famous, and still young enough to be admired for his personal attractions; the bride one of the wealthiest, as well as one of the most beautiful women in the Republic, it appeared as if all must be well with them for the remainder of their lives.
A series of dazzling fetes, to which all the noblest and most distinguished of the city were invited, celebrated their nuptials and their possession of this house. Yet with it all the woman was perhaps the most unhappy individual in the universe. Unknown to her husband and her father she had long since given her love elsewhere; she was passionately attached to young Andrea Bunopelli, the man by whom the frescoes of this room were painted. Finding that Fate demanded her renunciation of Bunopelli, and her marriage to Revecce, she resolved to see no more of the man to whom she had given her heart.
- Guy Boothby?
- No, now’s not the time for poetry;
- Metro Detroit Boxing (Images of Sports).
- Crocodiles : Just Facts For Kids!
Love, however, proved stronger than her sense of duty, and while her husband, by order of the Senate, had put to sea once more in order to drive back the French, who were threatening the Adriatic, Bunopelli put into operation the scheme that was ultimately to prove their mutual undoing.
Unfortunately for Revecce he was not successful in his venture, and by and by news reached Venice that his fleet had been destroyed, and that he himself had been taken prisoner. Its meaning was plain enough. It proved that for a large sum of money Revecce had agreed to surrender the Venetian fleet, and, in order to secure his own safety, in case the Republic should lay hands on him afterwards, it was to be supposed that he himself had only been taken prisoner after a desperate resistance, as had really been the case.
The letter was written, and that night the painter himself dropped it into the lion's mouth. Revecce might return now as soon as he pleased. His fate was prepared for him. Meanwhile the guilty pair spent the time as happily as was possible under the circumstances, knowing full well, that should the man against whom they had plotted return to Venice, it would only be to find himself arrested, and with the certainty, on the evidence of the incriminating letter, of being immediately condemned to death.
Weeks and months went by. At last Revecce, worn almost to a skeleton by reason of his long imprisonment, did manage to escape. In the guise of a common fisherman he returned to Venice; reached his own house, where a faithful servant recognised him and admitted him to the palace. From the latter's lips he learnt all that had transpired during his absence, and was informed of the villainous plot that had been prepared against him.
His wrath knew no bounds; but with it all he was prudent. He was aware that if his presence in the city were discovered, nothing could save him from arrest. He accordingly hid himself in his own house and watched the course of events. What he saw was sufficient to confirm his worst suspicion. His wife was unfaithful to him, and her paramour was the man to whom he had been so kind a friend, and so generous a benefactor.
Then when the time was ripe, assisted only by his servant, the same who had admitted him to his house, he descended upon the unhappy couple. Under threats of instant death he extorted from them a written confession of their treachery. After having made them secure, he departed for the council-chamber and demanded to be heard.
He was the victim of a conspiracy, he declared, and to prove that what he said was true he produced the confession he had that day obtained. He had many powerful friends, and by their influence an immediate pardon was granted him, while permission was also given him to deal with his enemies as he might consider most desirable. He accordingly returned to this house with a scheme he was prepared to put into instant execution.
It is not a pretty story, but it certainly lends an interest to this room. The painter he imprisoned here. So saying Nikola stooped and drew back one of the rugs to which I have already referred. The square outline of a trap-door showed itself in the floor. He pressed a spring in the wall behind him, and the lid shot back, swung round, and disappeared, showing the black abyss below.
A smell of damp vaults came up to us. Then, when he had closed the trap-door again, Nikola drew the carpet back to its old position. Can you imagine the scene? The dying wretch below, doing his best to die like a man in order not to distress the woman he loved, and the outraged husband calmly pursuing his studies, regardless of both.
Was she mad that she did not summon assistance? Surely the authorities of a State which prided itself upon its enlightenment, even in those dark ages, would not have tolerated such a thing? When both were dead their bodies were tied together and thrown into the canal, and the same day Revecce set sail again, to ultimately perish in a storm off the coast of Sicily. Now you know one of the many stories connected with this old room. There are others in which that trap-door has played an equally important part. I fear, however, none of them can boast so dramatic a setting as that I have just narrated to you.
As a matter of fact, it gives me the opportunity of being free to do what I like. That is my greatest safeguard. I can go away for five years, if I please, and leave the most valuable of my things lying about, and come back to the discovery that nothing is missing. I am not pestered by tourists who ask to see the frescoes, for the simple reason that the guides take very good care not to tell them the legend of the house, lest they may be called upon to take them over it.
Many of the gondoliers will not stop here after nightfall, and the few who are brave enough to do so, invariably cross themselves before reaching, and after leaving it. Do you mean to tell me that you live alone in it? He uttered a low whistle, and a moment later the great beast that I remembered so well stalked solemnly into the room, and began to rub himself against the leg of his master's chair. Perhaps it is not to be wondered at, for he is already far past the average age of the feline race. He has been in many strange places, and has seen many queer things since last we met, but never anything much stranger than he has witnessed in this room.
For a time he will sleep contentedly, then I see him lift his head and watch something, or somebody, I cannot say which, moving about in the room. At first I came to the conclusion that it must be a bat, or some night bird, but that theory exploded. Bats do not remain at the same exact distance from the floor, nor do they stand stationary behind a man's chair for any length of time. The hour will come, however, when it will be possible for us to see these things; I am on the track even now.
Had I not known Nikola, and if I had not remembered some very curious experiments he had performed for my special benefit two years before, I should have inclined to the belief that he was boasting. I knew him too well, however, to deem it possible that he would waste his time in such an idle fashion. That we shall be able to look into the world we have always been taught to consider Unknowable?
Wetherall, in Sydney, imprisoned you in Port Said, and carried the lady, who is now your wife, away to the island in the South Seas. Thereupon Nikola furnished us with a detailed description of all that he had been through since that momentous day when he had obtained possession of the stick that had been bequeathed to Mr. Wetherall, by China Pete. He told us how, armed with this talisman, he had set out for China, where he engaged a man named Bruce, who must have been as plucky as Nikola himself, and together they started off in search of an almost unknown monastery in Thibet.
He described with a wealth of exciting detail the perilous adventures they had passed through, and how near they had been to losing their lives in attempting to obtain possession of a certain curious book in which were set forth the most wonderful secrets relating to the laws of Life and Death. He told us of their hairbreadth escapes on the journey back to civilisation, and showed how they were followed to England by a mysterious Chinaman, whose undoubted mission was to avenge the robbery, and to obtain possession of the book. At this moment he paused, and I found the opportunity of asking him whether he had the book in his possession now.
On our answering in the affirmative he crossed to his writing-table, unlocked a drawer, and took from it a small, curiously-bound book, the pages of which were yellow with age, and the writing so faded that it was almost impossible to decipher it. There is the collected wisdom of untold ages in that little volume, and when I have mastered the secret it contains, I shall, like the eaters of forbidden fruit, possess a knowledge of all things, Good and Evil. Replacing the book in the drawer he continued his narrative, told us of his great attempt to probe the secret of existence, and explained to us his endeavour to put new life into a body already worn out by age.
What I failed to do was to give him the power of thought or will. It was the brain that was too much for me—that vital part of man without which he is nothing. When I have mastered that secret I shall try again, and then, perhaps, I shall succeed. But there is much to be accomplished first. Only I know how much! I looked at him in amazement.
Was he jesting, or did he really suppose that it was possible for him, or any other son of man, to restore youth, and by so doing to prolong life perpetually? Yet he spoke with all his usual earnestness, and seemed as convinced of the truth of what he said as if he were narrating some well-known fact. I did not know what to think. At last, seeing the bewilderment on our faces, I suppose, he smiled, and rising from his chair reminded us that if we had been bored we had only ourselves to thank for it. He accordingly changed the conversation by inquiring whether we had made any arrangements for that evening.
I replied that so far as I knew we had not, whereupon he came forward with a proposition. I know her as thoroughly as any man living, and I think I may safely promise that your party will spend an interesting couple of hours. What have you to say to my proposal? If she has made no other arrangements, at what hour shall we start?
I am hermit-like in my habits so far as meals are concerned. If you will allow me I will call for you, shall we say at half-past eight? The moon will have risen by that time, and we should spend a most enjoyable evening. Glenbarth followed my example, and we accordingly bade Nikola good-bye. Despite our protest, he insisted on accompanying us down the great staircase to the courtyard below, his terrible cat following close upon his heels.
Hailing a gondola, we bade the man take us back to our hotel. For some minutes after we had said goodbye to Nikola we sat in silence as the boat skimmed over the placid water. What a ghastly story that was! His dramatic telling of it made it appear so real that towards the end of it I was almost convinced that I could hear the groans of the poor wretch in the pit below, and see the woman wringing her hands and moaning in the room in which we were sitting.
Why he should have told it to us is what I cannot understand, neither can I make out what his reasons can be for living in that house. Do you think Lady Hatteras and Miss Trevor will care about such an excursion? For my own part, I can scarcely imagine anything more interesting. When I reached Galaghetti's we informed my wife and Miss Trevor of Nikola's offer, half expecting that the latter, from the manner in which she had behaved at the mere mention of his name that morning, would decline to accompany us, and, therefore, that the excursion would fall through.
To my surprise, however, she did nothing of the kind. She fell in with the idea at once, and, so far as we could see, without reluctance of any kind. There was nothing for it, therefore, under these circumstances, but for me to fall back upon the old commonplace, and declare that women are difficult creatures to understand. IN the previous chapter I recorded the surprise I felt at Miss Trevor's acceptance of Doctor Nikola's invitation to a gondola excursion.
Almost as suddenly as she had shown her fear of him, she had recovered her tranquility, and the result, as I have stated, was complete perplexity on my part. With a united desire to reserve our energies for the evening, we did not arrange a long excursion for that afternoon, but contented ourselves with a visit to the church of SS.
Giovanni e Paolo. Miss Trevor was quite recovered by this time, and in very good spirits. She and Glenbarth were on the most friendly terms, consequently my wife was a most happy woman. Do you notice how prettily she gives him her hand so that he can help her into the boat? She is as capable of getting into the boat without assistance as he is. Perhaps you cannot recall that day at Capri? You cannot deny it. And why shouldn't I? Has she not the second prettiest hands, and the second neatest ankle, in all Europe?
My wife looked up at me with a suspicion of a smile hovering around her mouth. When she does that her dimples are charming. Women can do that sort of thing with excellent effect. Of one thing there could be no sort of doubt. Miss Trevor had taken a decided liking to Glenbarth, and the young fellow's delight in her company was more than equal to it.
By my wife's orders I left them together as much as possible during the afternoon, that is to say as far as was consistent with the duties of an observant chaperon. For instance, while we were in the right aisle of the church, examining the mausoleum of the Doge, Pietro Mocenningo, and the statues of Lombardi, they were in the choir proper, before the famous tomb of Andrea Vendramin, considered by many to be the finest of its kind in Venice.
As we entered the choir, they departed into the left transept. I fancy, however, Glenbarth must have been a little chagrined when she, playing her hand according to the recognised rules, suggested that they should turn back in search of us. Back they came accordingly, to be received by my wife with a speech that still further revealed to me the duplicity of women. We have been looking for you everywhere!
You will be able to quarrel in greater comfort there. It will also give Phyllis time to collect her thoughts, and to prepare a new indictment. My wife treated me to a look that would have annihilated another man. After that I washed my hands of them and turned to the copy of Titian's Martyrdom of Saint Peter, which Victor Emmanuel had presented to the church in place of the original, which had been destroyed.
Later on we made our way, by a long series of tortuous thoroughfares, to the piazza of Saint Mark, where we intended to sit in front of Florian's cafe and watch the people until it was time for us to return and dress for dinner. As I have already said, Miss Trevor had all the afternoon been in the best of spirits. Nothing could have been happier than her demeanour when we left the church, yet when we reached the piazza everything was changed.
Apparently she was not really unhappy, nor did she look about her in the frightened way that had struck me so unpleasantly on the previous evening. It was only her manner that was strange. At first she was silent, then, as if she were afraid we might notice it, she set herself to talk as if she were doing it for mere talking's sake. Then, without any apparent reason, she became as silent as a mouse once more. Remembering what had happened that morning before breakfast, I did not question her, nor did I attempt to rally her upon the subject. To have done either would have been to have risked a recurrence of the catastrophe we had so narrowly escaped earlier in the day.
I accordingly left her alone, and my wife, in the hope of distracting her attention, entered upon an amusing argument with Glenbarth upon the evils attendant upon excessive smoking, which was the young man's one, and, so far as I knew, only failing. Unable to combat her assertions he appealed to me for protection. When I see a chance of having a little peace I like to grasp it. I am going to take Miss Trevor to Maya's shop on the other side of the piazza, in search of new photographs. We will leave you to quarrel in comfort here.
So saying Miss Trevor and I left them and made our way to the famous shop, where I purchased for her a number of photographs, of which she had expressed her admiration a few days before. After that we rejoined my wife and Glenbarth and returned to our hotel for dinner. Nikola, as you may remember, had arranged to call for us with his gondola at half-past eight, and ten minutes before that time I suggested that the ladies should prepare themselves for the excursion.
I bade them wrap up well for I knew by experience that it is seldom warm upon the water at night. When they had left us the Duke and I strolled into the balcony. I noticed that he spoke with an anxiety that was by no means usual with him. I shouldn't have liked her to have heard that story he told us this morning. I suppose there is no fear of his repeating it to-night? He would be scarcely likely to make such a mistake. No, I rather fancy that to-night we shall see a new side of his character. For my own part I am prepared to confess that I am looking forward to the excursion with a good deal of pleasure.
This little speech set me thinking. Was it possible that Glenbarth was jealous of Nikola? Surely he could not be foolish enough for that.
That Miss Trevor had made an impression upon him was apparent, but it was full early for him to grow jealous, and particularly of such a man. While I was thinking of this the ladies entered the room, and at the same moment we heard Nikola's gondola draw up at the steps. I thought Miss Trevor looked a little pale, but though still very quiet she was more cheerful than she had been before dinner. Miss Trevor, if you will accompany me, the Duke will bring Phyllis. We must not keep Nikola waiting. Little did she guess how true her prophecy was destined to be.
It was indeed a night that every member of the party would remember all his, or her, life long. When we had reached the hall, Nikola had just entered it, and was in the act of sending up a servant to announce his arrival. He shook hands with my wife, with Miss Trevor, afterwards with Glenbarth and myself. His hand was, as usual, as cold as ice and his face was deathly pale.
His tall, lithe figure was concealed by his voluminous coat, but what was lost in one direction was compensated for by the mystery that it imparted to his personality. For same reason I thought of Mephistopheles as I looked at him, and in many ways the illustration does not seem an altogether inapt one. The night being so beautiful, and believing that you would wish to see all you can, I have brought a gondola without a cabin. I trust I did not do wrong. Besides, we should have seen nothing. By this time we were on the steps, at the foot of which the gondola in question, a large one of its class, was lying.
As soon as we had boarded her the gondolier bent to his oar the boat shot out into the stream, and the excursion, which, as I have said, we were each of us to remember all our lives, had commenced. If I shut my eyes now I can recall the whole scene: the still moonlit waters of the canal, the houses on one side of which were brilliantly illuminated by the moon, the other being entirely in the shadow.
Where we were in mid stream a boat decorated with lanterns passed us. It contained a merry party, whose progress was enlivened by the strains of the invariable Finiculi Finicula. The words and the tune ring in my memory even now. Years before we had grown heartily sick of the song; now, however, it possessed a charm that was quite its own.
And the former added, "I could never have believed that it possessed such a wealth of tenderness. Hearing it to-night has unconsciously recalled that association, and Finiculi Finicula, once so despised, immediately becomes a melody that touches your heart strings and so wins for itself a place in your regard that it can never altogether lose. We had crossed the canal by this time; the gondola with the singers proceeding towards the Rialto bridge. The echo of the music still lingered in our ears, and seemed the sweeter by reason of the distance that separated us from it.
Turning to the gondolier, who in the moonlight presented a picturesque figure in the stern of the boat, Nikola said something in Italian. The boat's head was immediately turned in the direction of a side-street, and a moment later we entered it. It is not my intention, nor would it be possible for me, to attempt to furnish you with a definite description of the route we followed.
In the daytime I flatter myself that I have a knowledge of the Venice of a tourist; if you were to give me a pencil and paper I believe I would be able to draw a rough outline of the city, and to place St. Mark's Cathedral, Galaghetti's Hotel, the Rialto bridge, the Arsenal, and certainly the railway station, in something like their proper positions. But at night, when I have left the Grand Canal, the city becomes a sealed book to me. On this particular evening, every street when once we had left the fashionable quarter behind us, seemed alike.
There was the same darkness, the same silence, and the same reflection of the lights in the water. Occasionally we happened upon places where business was still being transacted, and where the noise of voices smote the air with a vehemence that was like sacrilege. A few moments would then elapse, and then we were plunged into a silence that was almost unearthly. All this time Nikola kept us continually interested.
Here was a house with a history as old as Venice itself; there the home of a famous painter; yonder the birthplace of a poet or a soldier, who had fought his way to fame by pen or by sword. On one side of the street was the first dwelling of one who had been a plebeian and had died a Doge; while on the other side was that of a man who had given his life to save his friend. Nor were Nikola's illustrations confined to the past alone. Men whose names were household words to us had preceded us, and had seen Venice as we were seeing it now.
Of each he could tell us something we had never heard before. It was the perfect mastery of his subject, like that of a man who plays upon an instrument of which he has made a lifelong study, that astonished us. He could rouse in our hearts such emotions as he pleased; could induce us to pity at one moment, and to loathing at the next; could make us see the city with his eyes, and in a measure to love it with his own love.
That Nikola did entertain a deep affection for it was as certain as his knowledge of its history. Let me attempt after this to show you something of its inner life. That it will repay you I think you will admit when you have seen it. Once more he gave the gondolier an order. Without a word the man entered a narrow street on the right, then turned to the left, after which to the right again. What were we going to see next? That it would be something interesting I had not the least doubt. Presently, the gondolier made an indescribable movement with his oar, the first signal that he was about to stop.
With two strokes he brought the boat alongside the steps, and Nikola, who was the first to spring out, assisted the ladies to alight. We were now in a portion of Venice with which I was entirely unacquainted. The houses were old and lofty though sadly fallen to decay. Where shops existed business was still being carried on, but the majority of the owners of the houses in the neighbourhood appeared to be early birds, for no lights were visible in their dwellings.
Once or twice men approached us and stared insolently at the ladies of our party. One of these, more impertinent than his companions, placed his hand upon Miss Trevor's arm. In a second, without any apparent effort, Nikola had laid him upon his back. Had I known it was you I would not have dared. Nikola said something in a whisper to him; what it was I have not the least idea, but its effect was certainly excellent, for the man slunk away without another word. After this little incident we continued our walk without further opposition, took several turnings, and at last found ourselves standing before a low doorway.
That it was closely barred on the inside was evident from the sounds that followed when, in response to Nikola's knocks, some one commenced to open it. Presently an old man looked out. At first he seemed surprised to see us, but when his eyes fell upon Nikola all was changed. With a low bow he invited him, in Russian, to enter. Crossing the threshold we found ourselves in a church of the smallest possible description. By the dim light a priest could be seen officiating at the high altar, and there were possibly a dozen worshippers present.
There was an air of secrecy about it all, the light, the voices, and the precautions taken to prevent a stranger entering, that appealed to my curiosity. As we turned to leave the building the little man who had admitted us crept up to Nikola's side and said something in a low voice to him. Nikola replied, and at the same time patted the man affectionately upon the shoulder. Then with the same obsequious respect the latter opened the door once more, and permitted us to pass out, quickly barring it behind us afterwards however.
And why was so much secrecy observed? They are fugitives from injustice, if I may so express it, and it is for that reason that they are compelled to worship, as well as live, in hiding. Finding their efforts hopeless, their properties confiscated, and they themselves in danger of death, or exile, which is worse, they have fled from Russia. Some of them, the richest, manage to get to England, some come to Venice, but knowing that the Italian police will turn them out sans ceremonie if they discover them, they are compelled to remain in hiding until they are in a position to proceed elsewhere.
If he is caught he will without doubt go to Siberia for the rest of his life. But he will not be caught.
About This Item
The old fellow was merely expressing to me the gratification he felt at having got him out of such a difficulty. Now, here is our gondola. Let us get into it. We still have much to see, and time is not standing still with us. Once more we took our places, and once more the gondola proceeded on its way. To furnish you with a complete resume of all we saw would take too long, and would occupy too great a space. Let it suffice that we visited places, the mere existence of which I had never heard of before.
One thing impressed me throughout. Wherever we went Nikola was known, and not only known, but feared and respected. His face was a key that opened every lock, and in his company the ladies were as safe, in the roughest parts of Venice, as if they had been surrounded by a troop of soldiery. When we had seen all that he was able to show us it was nearly midnight, and time for us to be getting back to our hotel.
As he said this the gondola drew up at some steps, where a solitary figure was standing, apparently waiting for us. He wore a cloak and carried a somewhat bulky object in his hand. As soon as the boat came alongside Nikola sprang out and approached him. To our surprise he helped him into the gondola and placed him in the stern. The young man replied in an undertone, and then the gondola passed down a by-street and a moment later we were back in the Grand Canal.
There was not a breath of air, and the moon shone full and clear upon the placid water. Never had Venice appeared more beautiful. Away to the right was the piazza, with the Cathedral of Saint Mark; on our left were the shadows of the islands. The silence of Venice, and there is no silence in the world like it, lay upon everything. The only sound to be heard was the dripping of the water from the gondolier's oar as it rose and fell in rhythmic motion. Then the musician drew his fingers across the strings of his guitar, and after a little prelude commenced to sing.
The song he had chosen was the Salve d'amora from Faust, surely one of the most delightful melodies that has ever occurred to the brain of a musician. Before he had sung a dozen bars we were entranced. Though not a strong tenor, his voice was one of the most perfect I have ever heard. It was of the purest quality, so rich and sweet that the greatest connoisseur could not tire of it. The beauty of the evening, the silence of the lagoon, and the perfectness of the surroundings, helped it to appeal to us as no music had ever done before. It was significant proof of the effect produced upon us, that when he ceased not one of us spoke for some moments.
Our hearts were too full for words. By the time we had recovered ourselves the gondola had drawn up at the steps of the hotel, and we had disembarked. The Duke and I desired to reward the musician; Nikola, however, begged us to do nothing of the kind. And now, good night. I have trespassed too long upon your time already. He bowed low to the ladies, shook hands with the Duke and myself, and then, before we had time to thank him for the delightful evening he had given us, was in his gondola once more and out in midstream.
We watched him until he had disappeared in the direction of the Rio del Consiglio, after we entered the hotel and made our way to our own sitting-room. I said something in reply, I cannot remember what, but I recollect that, as I did so, I glanced at Miss Trevor's face.
It was still very pale, but her eyes shone with extraordinary brilliance. The thought of it haunts me still. Then, having bade me good night, she went off with my wife, leaving me to attempt to understand why she had replied as she had done. Did you notice with what respect he was treated by everybody we met, and how anxious they were not to run the risk of offending him? After that we smoked in silence for some time.
At last I rose and tossed what remained of my cigar over the rails into the dark waters below. Do you recall the gusto with which Nikola related it? When I picture him going back to that house to-night, to that dreadful room, to sleep alone in that great building, it fairly makes me shudder. Good night, old fellow, you have treated me royally to-day; I could scarcely have had more sensations compressed into my waking hours if I'd been a king. During that time matters, so far as our party was concerned, progressed with the smoothness of a well-regulated clock.
In my own mind I had not the shadow of a doubt that Glenbarth was head over ears in love with Gertrude Trevor. He followed her about wherever she went; seemed never to tire of paying her attention, and whenever we were alone together, endeavoured to inveigle me into a discussion of her merits. That she had faults nothing would convince him. Whether she reciprocated his good-feeling was a matter on which, to my mind, there existed a considerable amount of doubt. Women are proverbially more secretive in these affairs than men, and if Miss Trevor entertained a warmer feeling than friendship for the young Duke, she certainly managed to conceal it admirably.
More than once, I believe, my wife endeavoured to sound her upon the subject. She had to confess herself beaten, however. Miss Trevor liked the Duke of Glenbarth very much; she was quite agreed that he had not an atom of conceit in his constitution; he gave himself no airs: moreover, she was prepared to meet my wife halfway, and to say that she thought it a pity he did not marry. No, she had never heard that there was an American millionaire girl, extremely beautiful, and accomplished beyond the average, who was pining to throw her millions and herself at his feet!
So many men of title do nowadays. I can tell you, Dick, I could have shaken her! If you are not very careful you will burn your fingers. Gertrude is almost as clever as you are. She sees that you are trying to pump her, and very naturally declines to be pumped. You would feel as she does were you in her position. The episode I have just described had taken place after we had retired for the night, and at a time when I am far from being at my best.
My wife, on the other hand, as I have repeatedly noticed, is invariably wide awake at that hour. Moreover she has an established belief that it would be an impossibility for her to obtain any rest until she has cleared up all matters of mystery that may have attracted her attention during the day. I generally fall asleep before she is halfway through, and for this reason I am told that I lack interest in what most nearly concerns our welfare.
You know as well as I do, that if a man were to come to me when I had settled down for the night, and were to tell me that he knew where to lay his hand upon the finest horse in England, and where he could put me on to ten coveys of partridges within a couple of hundred yards of my own front door, that he could even tell me the winner of the Derby, I should answer him as I am now answering you.
I am afraid the pains I had been at to illustrate my own argument must have proved too much for me, for I was informed in the morning that I had talked a vast amount of nonsense about seeing Nikola concerning a new pigeon-trap, and had then resigned myself to the arms of Morpheus. If there should be any husbands whose experience have ran on similar lines, I should be glad to hear from them. But to return to my story. One evening, exactly a week after Glenbarth's arrival in Venice, I was dressing for dinner when a letter was brought to me.
Much to my surprise I found it was from Nikola, and in it he inquired whether it would be possible for me to spare the time to come and see him that evening. It appeared that he was anxious to discuss a certain important matter with me. I noticed, however, that he did not mention what that matter was. In a postscript he asked me, as a favour to himself, to come alone. Having read the letter I stood for a few moments with it in my hand, wondering what I should do. I was not altogether anxious to go out that evening; on the other hand I had a strange craving to see Nikola once more.
The suggestion that he desired to consult me upon, a matter of importance flattered my vanity, particularly as it was of such a nature that he did not desire the presence of a third person.
Then I continued my dressing and presently went down to dinner. During the progress of the meal I mentioned the fact that I had received the letter in question, and asked my friends if they would excuse me if I went round in the course of the evening to find out what it was that Nikola had to say to me. Perhaps by virtue of my early training, perhaps by natural instinct, I am a keen observer of trifles. On this occasion I noticed that from the moment I mentioned the fact of my having received a letter from Nikola, Miss Trevor ate scarcely any more dinner.
Upon my mentioning his name she had looked at me with a startled expression upon her face. She said nothing, however, but I observed that her left hand, which she had a trick of keeping below the table as much as possible, was for some moments busily engaged in picking pieces from the roll beside her plate. For some reason she had suddenly grown nervous again, but why she should have done so passes my comprehension.
When the ladies had retired, and we were sitting together over our wine, Glenbarth returned to the subject of my visit that evening. Don't you feel a bit nervous about it yourself? I don't fancy on the present occasion, however, I have any reason to dread either. You'll take a revolver with you of course? Nevertheless, when I went up to my room to change my coat, prior to leaving the house, I took a small revolver from my dressing-case and weighed it in my hand.
Eventually I shook my head and replaced it in its hiding-place. Then, switching off the electric light, I made for the door, only to return, re-open the dressing-case, and take out the revolver. Without further argument I slipped it into the pocket of my coat and then left the room. A quarter of an hour later my gondolier had turned into the Rio del Consiglio, and was approaching the Palace Revecce. The house was in deep shadow, and looked very dark and lonesome.
The gondolier seemed to be of the same opinion, for he was anxious to set me down, to collect his fare, and to get away again as soon as possible. Standing in the porch I rang the great bell which Nikola had pointed out to me, and which we had not observed on the morning of our first visit. It clanged and echoed somewhere in the rearmost portion of the house, intensifying the loneliness of the situation, and adding a new element of mystery to that abominable dwelling.
In spite of my boast to Glenbarth I was not altogether at my ease It was one thing to pretend that I had no objection to the place when I was seated in a well-lighted room, with a glass of port at my hand, and a stalwart friend opposite; it was quite another, however, to be standing in the dark at that ancient portal, with the black water of the canal at my feet and the anticipation of that sombre room ahead.
Then I heard the sound of footsteps crossing the courtyard, and a moment later Nikola himself stood before me and invited me to enter. A solitary lamp had been placed upon the coping of the wall, and its fitful light illuminated the courtyard, throwing long shadows across the pavement and making it look even drearier and more unwholesome than when I had last seen it. After we had shaken hands we made our way in silence up the great staircase, our steps echoing along the stone corridors with startling reverberations.
How thankful I was at last to reach the warm, well-lit room, despite the story Nikola had told us about it, I must leave you to imagine. I trust Lady Hatteras and Miss Trevor are well?
'FAREWELL, NIKOLA' | Guy Boothby, Newell | First edition
Nikola bowed his thanks, and then, when he had placed a box of excellent cigars at my elbow, prepared and lighted a cigarette for himself. All this time I was occupying myself wondering why he had asked me to come to him that evening, and what the upshot of the interview was to be. Knowing him as I did, I was aware that his actions were never motiveless. Everything he did was to be accounted for by some very good reason. After he had tendered his thanks to me for coming to see him, he was silent for some minutes, for so long indeed that I began to wonder whether he had forgotten my presence.
In order to attract his attention I commented upon the fact that we had not seen him for more than a week. Then leaning towards me and speaking with even greater impressiveness than he had yet done, he continued:. Not knowing what else to do I simply bowed I was more than ever convinced that Nikola was going to make use of me. I replied to the effect that I had often wondered, but naturally had never been able to come to a satisfactory conclusion.
There is much to be done before then. And now I am going to give you the story I promised you. You will see why I have told it to you when I have finished. He rose from his chair and began to pace the room. I had never seen Nikola so agitated before. When he turned and faced me again his eyes shone like diamonds, while his body quivered with suppressed excitement. As I said just now, the whole story I cannot tell you at present.
Some day it will come in its proper place and you will know everything. In the meantime—". She married a man many years her senior, whom she did not love. When they had been married just over four years her husband died, leaving her with one child to fight the battles of the world alone. This Book have some digital formats such us :paperbook, ebook, kindle, epub, fb2 and another formats. Elegant, cultured, he is slim with dark hair and eyes, with olive skin. Highly intelligent and with psi powers, he is unscrupulous, but honorable like some other super villains.
His constant companion is a black cat, Apollyon , who perches on his shoulder. His goal is not so much world domination or to run a criminal enterprise, but the search for a formula that will resurrect the dead and prolong life. And any good villain must be opposed by a hero. His main opponent is Richard Hatteras. But he only appears in the first and fifth novel. The second book has Wilfred Bruce who worked alongside Dr Nikola. Gilbert Pennethorne is the protagonist of the third book, but Nikola is not very prominent, so this one could almost be dropped from the series.
The fourth book has Dr. Ingleby who was also an assistant to Dr. The series is fairly easy to find in electronic form. Book form is another case. Wordsworth reprinted the first two in an Omnibus volume. Another publisher, Leonaur , published the whole series in two volumes. Then the pace really quickened and I became thoroughly immersed in the story. Summer of Secrets is a powerful, emotionally-charged novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Summer of Secrets was published by Headline Review on 6 September and is available via the following links:. Nikola Scott was born and raised in Germany and studied at university there.