After the 3 guests arrive, Dr Nikola makes his appearance.He is a somewhat tall slim man, "irreproachably dressed, with a neatness that bordered on the puritanical." After they dine and the servants leave the room, Dr Nicola opens a strange basket and removes a mysterious black cat, for whom the milk had of course been requested.
Dr Nikola explains why he called them together -- to execute his plans of revenge against a very wealthy someone who did him great harm.He offers each of them a large sum of money if they perform as he asks:"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!"
To assist him, he hires a destitute young physician, who explains his predicament:"As ill luck would have it, however, I had got into the wrong set, and before I had been two years in the hospital was over head and ears in such a quagmire of debt and difficulties that it looked as if nothing but an absolute miracle could serve to extricate me."That miracle seems to have come to him in the person of Dr. Nikola.
The nefarious and wealthy Nikola has purchased a remote castle in the north of England, where the seclusion will allow him and his new assistant and Nikola's deaf-mute malformed Chinese servant to conduct his grand experiment on a human subject.
"I will confess that the prospect of what I am about to attempt almost frightens me. It is neither more nor less than to penetrate, with the help of certain Chinese secret societies, into the most extraordinary seat of learning that you or any other men ever heard of, and when there to beg, borrow, or steal the marvelous secrets they possess. I cannot go alone, for a hundred reasons, therefore I must find a man to accompany me; that man must be one in a thousand, and he must also necessarily be a consummate Chinese scholar. He must be plucky beyond the average, he must be capable of disguising himself so that his nationality shall never for a moment be suspected, and he must go fully convinced in his own mind that he will never return. If he is prepared to undertake so much I am prepared to be generous."
He is convinced that Bruce is the right man for the task.After consideration of the risks and reward, Bruce joins Dr. Nicola on his quest.