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The intriguers


THEINTRIGUERS

BYWILLIAMLEQUEUX

Authorof“TheDoctorofPimlico,”etc.

NEWYORK
THEMACAULAYCOMPANY

Copyright,1921
BytheMACAULAYCOMPANY

Allrightsreserved

THEINTRIGUERS


CHAPTERI
ThescenewasDeanStreet,Soho,andthisstory
opensonasnowywinternightintheJanuaryof

1888.Themodernimprovementso£Shaftesbury
Avenuewereasyetunmade,andtheforeigndistrict
ofLondonhadstilltobeopenedup.

Acoldnorthwindwasblowingonthefewpedestrianswhomnecessity,orsome
urgentobligation,
hadcompelledtotrampthepavementsladenwith
snow.Afewcabsandcarriagescrawledalongthe
difficultroadwaytotheEoyaltyTheatre,deposited
theiroccupantsandcrawledbackagain.
NelloCorsini,aslim,handsomeyoungItalian,
poorlyclad,carryingaviolin-caseinonehand,wandereddownthenarrow
street,leadingwithhisother
aslendergirlofabouteighteen,hissister,Anita.
Shewasdressedasshabbilyashewas.

Thesnowwaslyingthicklyonthestreetsand
roads,butithadceasedtofallacoupleofhoursago.


Thetwoitinerantmusicianshadcreptoutatonce,
assoonastheweathershowedsignsofmending,from
theirpoorlodging.

Theyhadonlyafewpenceleft.Thebitter
weatherofthelastfewdayshadaffectedtheirmiserabletradeveryadversely.It
wasnecessarythey
shouldtakeadvantageoftonight,forthepurposeof
scratchingtogethersomethingfortheeveningmeal.

Therewerelightsinseveralwindows.Itwas,o£
course,farfrombeingawealthyquarter;butthere
couldbenonebehindthosewarm-lookinglights,
safelyshelteredfromthecoldandwind,sowretched
asthesetwopoorchildrenoffortunewhowouldhave
togosupperlesstobediftheycouldnotcharmafew
penceoutofthepassers-by.

Nellowithdrewhisviolinfromitscasewithhis
coldfingers.Justashewasabouttodrawthebow


acrossthestrings,acarriagepasseddownthestreet


onitswaytotheRoyaltyTheatre.Insidewasa
handsomemanverginguponthirty-five.Besidehim
sataverybeautifulgirl.Nelloglancedatthem
swiftlyastheycameby.Theywereevidentlynot
English,buthecouldnotforthemomentguessat
theirnationality.

Theycertainlydidnotbelongtoanyoneofthe
Latinraces,thatwasevident.Itwasnottilllater
thathediscoveredtheiridentity.Thetall,imperious-lookingmanwasPrince
Zouroff,theRussian
AmbassadortotheCourtofSt.James’s.Thegirl,
abouttwenty,washisyoungsister,thePrincess
Nada.

TheyoungPrincesswasaskindandsweet-naturedasshewasbeautiful.She
caughtsightofthe
twomendicants,forassuchsheregardedthem,
standingthereinthesnow,andagleamofcompassioncameintoherlovely
eyes.Impetuously,she
pulledatthecheck-string,withtheintentionofstoppingthecarriageandgiving
themmoney.



Herbrotherlaidhishandonhersroughly.

“Whatfoolishthingwereyougoingtodonow.
Nada?Yoursentimentalityisanabsolutecurseto
you.Ifyouhadyourownway,youwouldgiveto
everywhiningbeggarinthestreet.”

Sheshrankbackasifhehadstruckherablow.
Therewasnolovelostbetweenthetwo.Hedespised
herforherkind,charitableinstincts;shedisliked
himforhishard,domineeringnature,unsoftenedby
anylovableorgenerousqualities.Sheputbackthe
pursewhichshehaddrawnhastilyfromherpocket.
Hermouthcurledinamutinousandcontemptuous
smile,butshereturnednoanswertothebrutalwords.

Nelloplayedoninthecoldandbitingwind.
Whenhehadfinished,hissisterhadbeentherecipientoftwosmaltdonations
fromthefewpassers-by.
Thegirl’sheartalreadyfeltlighter.Theycouldnot
expectverymuchonsuchanunpropitiousnightas


this.

Andthen,astheyoungviolinistpaused,fromthe
firstfloorofoneofthehousesclosetothem,there
floatedfaintlyintotheairthestrainsofasweetand
melancholyair,playedwithexquisitetasteandfeeling.

Nellolistenedeagerly,whilehisheartcontracted
withaspasmofpain.Themanwhohadplayedthat
beautifullittlemelancholyromancewasascapable
aviolinistashimself.Alas,howdiff’erenttheirlots!

Whenthesoundshaddiedaway,theyoungman
resumedhisinstrument.Heplayedovertwicethat
beautifulthemewhichhadimpressedhimsostrongly,
andthen,asifinspired,woveintoitaseriesofbrilliantvariations.

Hefelthewasplayingashehadonlyplayedonce
ortwicebeforeinhislife.Soon,asmallcrowdwas
gatheredonthepavement,inspiteoftheicytemperature.AndwhenAnitawent
roundshamefacedly


withherlittlebag,shemetwithaliberalresponse.
Nelloneedplaynomorethatnight,theyhadenough
fortheirhumbleneeds;theywouldgethomeas
quicklyaspossible.Hehadcontractedaheavycold
fromwhichhewasstillsuffering.Tomorrowhe
couldstopindoorsandshewouldnursehim,asshe
hadsooftendonebefore.

Shewhisperedthegoodnewsintoherbrother’sear,
andjoyfullyheplacedtheviolinbackintoitscase.
Thesmallcrowd,notingtheaction,meltedaway.
Thefriendlessyoungsoulslinkedtheirarmstogether,
steppedontothepavementandturnedinthedirectionoftheirhumblelodging.

Bvittheyhadnottakenhalfadozenstepswhen
thedoorofahousewasopenedveryquietly,andan
extraordinaryfiguresteppedoutandbeckonedto
them.

“Mypoorchildren,itisawretchednightforyou
tobeout.”Thispeculiar-lookingoldmanwasspeakinginaverykindandgentle


voice.Theynoticed
hisfacewaswitheredandfurrowedwiththedeep
linesofage.Heworeabristlingwhitemoustache,
whichgavehimratheramilitaryairinspiteofhis
stoopingfigure.Hehadonatinyskullcaptodefendhimselfagainstthekeen
nightair,butunderneathithissnow-whitelockswereabundant.

HeturnedtoyoungCorsini,peeringathim
throughhistortoiseshell-rimmedglasses.“Youhave
thegift,myyoungfriend;youplayedthosevariationsdivinely.Ourneighbour
overthewayisadecentperformer,heplaysinaverygoodorchestra,but
hehasnotyourfire,yourbrilliancy.”

Hefumbledinhispocketandproducedashilling,
whichhepresseduponAnita,whoshrankbackalittle.Shehadnotalwaysbeen
accustomedtothis
sortofhalf-charity.

Theoldmansawherembarrassmentandsmiled.
“Ah,itisasIthought,mychild.Butthereisno
causetoblush.IfyourbrotherwereafamousviolinistandIpaidhalf-a-guinea
forastalltohearhim,
youwouldnotthinkhehadloweredhimselfbytaking


mymoneyforthepleasurehegaveme.Well,Ihad
mystalluphereonthethirdfloor!thereisaconvenientlittleholeintheblind
throughwhichIcould
peepandseethewholeproceedings.”

Theyboththankedhimwarmly,andwereabout
tomoveon,whenthestrangeoldmanarrestedthem.

“Stopasecond,mypoorchildren.Youmustbe
numbedwithstandingsolonginthatfrostyair.I
haveagoodfireupstairs.Comeandwarmyourselvesforafewmoments.”

Hisvoiceandmannerwerecompelling.Wonderinglytheyobeyed,althoughat
themoment,theywere
thinkingveryintentlyoftheirsupper.Still,the
nightwasyoungyet.Theycouldwaitalittlelonger
tomaketheirpurchases.Plentyofshopswouldbe
open.Andafewminutesspentatabrightfire
wouldbecomfortable.

Heopenedthedoorwideastheyentereditand
closeditbehindhim.Thenheskipped,wonderfully


nimblyforamanofhisage,infrontofthem.

”’FollowPapaPeron,thatiswhattheycallme
intheseparts,whereIhavelivedforHeavenknows
howmanyyears.ItisabigclimbandIdon’tdo
itaseasilyasIused.Buttochildrenlikeyou,it
isahopandaskip.Followme.”

Theyfollowedhimuptheold-fashionedstaircase
intoasmallroom,wherearoaringfirewasblazing.
Hedrewforthtwoeasy-chairsandmotionedtothem
toseatthemselves.Helightedanothergas-jetin
theirhonour.Helookedintentlyattheirwhite
faces,andwhathereadthereimpelledhimtoaswift
courseofaction.

Hedivedintoasmallsideboard.Inamoment,
asitseemedtothefascinatedwatchers,hehadlaid
aclothuponthesmallandratherricketytable,arrangedknivesandforks.Then
heproducedhalfa
fowl,twosortsofsausages,halfaripeCamembert


cheese,andadishoftinnedfruit.Whenallhis
preparationswerecomplete,hebeckonedthemimperiouslytothetable.He
spokeinshort,sharpaccents,withtheairofamanwhoisaccustomedtobe
obeyed.

“Atonce,please!Youarefamishedwiththat
drearystandinginthisarcticstreet,anditwillbe
sometimebeforeyoucangetfood.Pleasefallinat
once.”

Thesharppangsofhungerwerealreadygnawing
thevitalsofbothbrotherandsister,thetastyviands
wereinvitingenough;buttheyhadobservedthe
poorlyfurnishedroom.MonsieurPeron,inhis
smallfastidiousway,seemedtohaveanairofdistinction,buthisclotheswere
well-worn,Nobody
couldbeaspoorasthemselves,buttheyfeltsure
thiskindheartedoldFrenchmanwasfarfrombeing
well-off.

Corsiniraisedaprotestinghand.“Sir,youhave
beenkindnessitselfalready.Youhavewarmedus,


andweareverygrateful,butwecannoteatyouout
ofhouseandhome.”

Theyguessedprettyaccuratelythattheseviands
whichhehadproducedwithsuchabandon,were
meanttolastsomelittletime.TheaverageFrenchmanisasmalleater,anda
verythriftyperson.

PapaPeronbeatthetableimpetuously.“Mon
Dieu,doyourefusemylittlewhim?Iamnotrich,
Iadmit.Onedoesnotlodgeonthethirdfloorifone
isamillionaire.Thatisunderstood.ButIcan
showhospitalitywhenIchoose.Totableatonce,
mychildren,orIshallbeseriouslydispleased.”

Theoldgentleman,inspiteofhisfrailappearance,
wasverymasterful;itwasimpossibletoresisthim.
Obedientlytheysatdown,buttheirnativepoliteness
forbadethemtoeatverymuch.Theyjuststayed
theirappetites,andleftenoughtosatisfytheirhost
foracoupleofdaysatleast.Invainheexhorted


themtopersevere.Brotherandsisterexchangeda
meaningglance,andassuredtheirhostthattheyhad
alreadydonetoowell.

Whentheyhadfinishedandwerebackinthetwo
easy-chairs,baskinginthewarmthoftheglowing
fire,theoldFrenchmanwenttoalittlecupboardaffixedtothewall.Onhisface
wasaslysmile.

Fromthisreceptacleheproducedabottle,dusty
withage.Heperformedsomestrenuousworkwith
asomewhatrefractorycorkscrewwhosepointhadbecomebluntwiththeyears.
Inatrice,heproduced
threeglassesandplacedthemonasmalltablewhich
hedrewclosetothefire.

“ThisisfineChambertin,”heexplainedtohisastonishedguests.“Adozen
bottlesweresenttome
byanoldfriend,sincedead,threeyearsago.In
thosethreeyearsIhavedrunksix—Iamveryabstemious,mychildren.
Tonight,inyourhonour,I
openthefirstofthesixthatremain.Wewillcarouseandmakemerry.Itisalong
timesinceI


havefeltsoinclinedtomerriment.”

Tothissallytheycouldmakenoretort;theywere
stillinstateofbewilderment.Toacertainextent
theyfeltthemselvesinakindofshabbyfairyland.
WasthisstrangeoldFrenchmanaspoorasappearancessuggested—oramiser
withoccasionalfreakishimpulsesofgenerosity?

PapaPeronshotatthemashrewdglance.Perhapshedivinedtheirthoughts.
Longexperience
hadmadehimverywise,possiblyalittlebitcunning.

“YouthinkIamjustatriflemad,eh?”hequeried.

Withonevoice,orrathertwovoicesraisedina
swiftunison,theydisclaimedtheinsinuation.They
onlyrecognisedseveralfacts:thathewasverykind,
verygenerous,veryhospitable.

PapaPeronsippedtheexcellentChambertinand
fellintoameditativemood.



“Ileadaverylonelylife,andyouth,especially
strugglingyouth,hasagreatattractionforme.I
watchedyoutwopoorchildrentonightthroughthe
littlepeep-holeinmyblind.MonDieu!Iguessed
thepositionatonce.Youhadcomeoutinthesnow
andbitterwind,totryandmakealiving.Youare
twohonestpeople,Iamsure.N’est-cepas?”They
hadbe^nspeakinginEnglishuptothepresentmoment,butmomentary
excitement,thestimulusofthe
Burgimdy,hadmadehimindulgeinhisnative
tongue.

Thevassuredhimthattheywere.

PapaPeronsmiledalittlesardonically.“Of
courseyouare.Ifyouwereinclinedinotherdirections,youwithyourtalents,
yoursisterwithhergood
looks,wouldhavetakenupmorepayingtradesthan
this.Whathaveyouearnedtonight?”heconcludedsharply.

Anitaansweredinafalteringvoice.“Overthree
shillings,Monsieur.”



Thesardonicsmilevanished.Alookofinfinite
compassionspreadoverthelinedface.

“Mypoorchildren.Virtueisindeeditsownreward.”HeturnedtoNello,andhis
eyesflashedfire.
“Andthatcharlatan,Bauquel,getsahundred
guineasforasingleperformance.Andheisnot
inthesamestreetwithyou.”

“ButBauquelisagenius,surely,Monsieur?”venturedCorsinideferentially.“I
haveneverheard
himplay,certainly,buthisreputation!Surelyhe
didnotgetthatfornothing?”

Hespokeverycautiously,foralthoughhehad
notknownPapaPeronforverylong,hehadrecognisedthatunderthatkindly
andpolitedemeanourwas
averypepperytemperament.Ifhewerecrossedin
argument,theoldErenchmanmightproveavery
cantankerousperson.



Peronsnappedhisfingers.“Banquel,bah!A
manoftheSchools,amachine-madeexecutant.He
neverhalfunderstandswhatheattemptstorender.”
Againhesnappedhiscontemptuousfingers.“Bauquel,bah!Acharlatan?It
amazesmethatthe
publicrunsafterhim.Hehasapowerfulpress,and
heemploysabigclaque.VoilalOnthebusiness^
side,Iadmitheisgreat;ontheartisticside,not
worthamoment’sconsideration.”

“Youunderstandmusic.Monsieur,youarea
critic?”suggestedtheyoungmantimidly.Papa
Peronwasevidentlyaveryexplosiveperson;it
wouldnotbepoliteorgratefultoriskhisanger.

Eoralittletimetheoldmandidnotanswer.
Whenhespoke,itwasinadreamytone.

“OnceIwasfamousasBauquelisto-day—with
thisdifference:thatIwasanartistandheisapretender,withnotanounceof
artistryinhim.”



“Wasyourinstrumenttheviolin.Monsieur?”

“Alas,no,”wastheoldman’sanswer.“Chance
ledmetothepiano.IthinkIdidwell.ButI
havealwaysregrettedthatIdidnottakeupthe
violin.Itistheoneinstrumentthatcansing.The
humanvoicealonerivalsit.”

Afteramoment’spause,headdedabruptly,“Are
youverytired?”

No,Corsiniwasnotintheleasttired.The
warmth,themealofwhichhehadeatensparingly
frommotivesofdelicacy,theBurgundy,hadwarmed
hisblood.Hewasnolongertheweak,pallidcreaturewhohadsetoutfromhis
lodgingtoearna
night’ssustenance.

“Whydoyouask,Monsieur?”

“Ifyouarenotreallytired,Iwouldlovetohear


thatexquisiteromanceagain,withoneortwobrilliantvariations.See,inthat
corner,standsapiano
offairlygoodtone.Iwillaccompanyyou,orrather
followyou.”

Corsini,hisbloodaglowwiththegenerousstimulant,thestrangecircumstances,
roseup,tookhis
violinfromitscase,anddrewthebowlovinglyacrosa
thestrings.TheFrenchmanwentacrosstothe
piano,openedthelid,andstruckafewchordswith
atouchthatrevealedthehandofthemaster.

Forthenexttenminutestheroomresoundedwith
thedivinestmelody.Thedeepnotesofthepiano
mingledwiththesoaringstrainsoftheviolin.

Corsini,strangelyinspired,playedasonepossessed.AndPapaPeroncaught
everyinflection,
everysubtlechangeofkey.Never,duringthebrief
performance,wasthereasinglediscord.Allthe
timetheFrenchman,oldinyears,hadfollowedevery
moodoftheyoungermusician.



PapaPerondroppedhisslender,artistichandson
thelastchord.“Myyoungfriend,youaregreat,”
hesaidquietly.“Successtoyouisonlyamatterof
time.AnotherglassofChambcrtin?”

Nellodrainedit;hefeltstrangelyelated.“Ah,
Monsieur,butyouraccompanimentwashalfthebattle.WhenIfaltered,you
stimulatedme.You
musthavebeenamagnificentpianist.”

Anitabrokeininhergentlevoice.Thedaughter
ofanEnglishmother,shespokethetongueofher
adoptedcountryveryfluently.

“Youputgreatheartintous,Monsieur.But
whenyouspeakofsuccess,Irememberthatwehave
earnedjustaboutthreeshillingstonight.”

Peron,theoptimist,wavedhishandairily.
“Lookuptothestars,mychild,andhope.Ihave


alittleinfluenceleftyet.PerhapsIcanputyouon
therighttrack;takeyouatleastoutofthesemiserablestreets.Sitdownfor
anothertenminutes;
makeasecondsupperifyoulike.”Heguessedthat
theyhadnotfullysatisfiedtheirhunger.

Butthistheyresolutelydeclined.Hewavedthem
totheirchairs.

“Fiveminutes,then.Tellmealittlesomething
ofyourhistory.Iamsureithasbeenatragicone.”

AndCorsini,departingfromhisusualmoodof
reticence,impartedtotheoldFrenchmanthedetails
ofhiscareer.

Hisfather,theelderCorsini,hadbeenfirstviolin
atthePoliteamaTheatreinFlorence,whilecomparativelyayoungman.Hehad
quarrelledviolently
withthemanagerandbeendismissed.Confidentin
hisability,hehadcomeovertoEnglandtoseekhis
fortuneafresh.Herehehadmetandfallenviolentlyinlovewith,ayoung


Englishgirl,somefew
yearshisjunior.Shewasapianistbyprofession,in
asmallway.Sheattendedatdances,playedaccompanimentsatCitydinners.
Herincomewasavery
meagreone.Shewastheproductofoneofthenumerousschoolsthatturnout
suchperformersbythe
dozen.

Thevmarried,andCorsinisoondiscoveredtiiat
hewasnotthegreatmanheimaginedhimselftobe.
Also,hewasofafrailandweaklvconstitution.Ten
yearsafterhismarriagehediedofrapidconsumption.]VIadameCorsiniwasleft
withtwochildrenon
herhands.

Shewasadevotedmother.Nellodweltonthis
episodeoftheirsadlifewithtearsinhiseyes.She
workedhardforamiserablepittance;andthenshe
waswornoutwiththestrain.Nelloandhissister,
Anita,wereleftorphans.Nellohadbeentaughtthe
rudimentsoftheviolinbyhisfather;alltheresthe
hadpickeduphimself.



Afterhismother’sdeaththerestwasanightmare.
Hehaddonehisbestforhimselfandhissister.
Thatbesthadlandedtheminthissnow-ladenstreet
tonight.

PapaPeronlistenedquietlytothisyoungviolinist’srecital,buthemadelittle
comment.Herewas
oneofthenumeroustragediesthatwereoccurring
everydayineverypopulouscity.

Heroseandshookhandswiththetwo.“Youhave
alodgingtogoto,mypoorchildren?”heaskedanxiously.

Withadeepblush,Corsiniassuredhimthatthey
hadalodgingtogoto;hedidnotdaretogivehimthe
address.DeanStreetwasacomparativelyaristocraticabode.PapaPeron’s
humblyfurnishedroom
seemedaParadise.Andthepianowasgood—that
musthavebeensavedfromtheprosperousdays—
andwashisown.NoSoholandladyw’ouldprovide
suchapianoasthat.



Peronshookthemwarmlybythehand.“You
mustcomeandseemetomorrow.Ishallbeinall
themorning.Ishallthinkthingsoverbetweennow
andthen.Iamapoormanmyself,butImaybe
abletohelpyouwithintroductions.Imustgetyou
outofthesemiserablestreets.”

Theywalkedhome,wonderingaboutPapaPeron.
Whocouldhebe?Anitainclinedtothebeliefthat
hewasamiser.Nellohadhisdoubts.

Stillveryhungry,theyboughtsomesausageson
theirwayhomeanddevouredthembeforetheywent
tobed.Theystillhadasubstantialbalanceonhand,
accordingtethethriftvAnita.

Andthenextmorning,NellowasroundatDean
StreettolearnwhatPapaPeronhadthoughtofin
themeanwhile.


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