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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAnna The Adventuress - Chapter 11. The Puzzlement Of Nigel Ennison
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Anna The Adventuress - Chapter 11. The Puzzlement Of Nigel Ennison Post by :EricMartello Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :May 2012 Read :2930

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Anna The Adventuress - Chapter 11. The Puzzlement Of Nigel Ennison

Chapter XI. THE PUZZLEMENT OF NIGEL ENNISON

Nigel Ennison walked towards his club the most puzzled man in London. There could not, he decided, possibly be two girls so much alike. Besides, she had admitted her identity. And yet--he thought of the supper party where he had met Annabel Pellissier, the stories about her, his own few minutes' whispered love-making! He was a self-contained young man, but his cheeks grew hot at the thought of the things which it had seemed quite natural to say to her then, but which he knew very well would have been instantly resented by the girl whom he had just left. He went over her features one by one in his mind. They were the same. He could not doubt it. There was the same airy grace of movement, the same deep brown hair and alabaster skin. He found himself thinking up all the psychology which he had ever read. Was this the result of some strange experiment? It was the person of Annabel Pellissier--the soul of a very different order of being.

He spent the remainder of the afternoon looking for a friend whom he found at last in the billiard room of one of the smaller clubs to which he belonged. After the usual laconic greetings, he drew him on one side.

"Fred," he said, "do you remember taking me to dinner at the 'Ambassador's,' one evening last September, to meet a girl who was singing there? Hamilton and Drummond and his lot were with us."

"Of course," his friend answered. "_La belle 'Alcide,' wasn't it? Annabel Pellissier was her real name. Jolly nice girl, too."

Ennison nodded.

"I thought I saw her in town to-day," he said. "Do you happen to know whether she is supposed to be here?"

"Very likely indeed," Captain Fred Meddoes answered, lighting a cigarette. "I heard that she had chucked her show at the French places and gone in for a reform all round. Sister's got married to that bounder Ferringhall."

Ennison took an easy chair.

"What a little brick!" he murmured. "She must have character. It's no half reform either. What do you know about her, Fred? I am interested."

Meddoes turned round from the table on which he was practising shots and shrugged his shoulders.

"Not much," he answered, "and yet about all there is to be known, I fancy. There were two sisters, you know. Old Jersey and Hampshire family, the Pellissiers, and a capital stock, too, I believe."

"Any one could see that the girls were ladies," Ennison murmured.

"No doubt about that," Meddoes continued. "The father was in the army, and got a half-pay job at St. Heliers. Died short, I suppose, and the girls had to shift for themselves. One went in for painting, kept straight and married old Ferringhall a week or so ago--the Lord help her. The other kicked over the traces a bit, made rather a hit with her singing at some of those French places, and went the pace in a mild, ladylike sort of way. Cheveney was looking after her, I think, then. If she's over, he probably knows all about it."

Ennison looked steadily at the cigarette which he was tapping on his forefinger.

"So Cheveney was her friend, you think, eh?" he remarked.

"No doubt about that, I fancy," Meddoes answered lightly. "He ran some Austrian fellow off. She was quite the rage, in a small way, you know. Strange, demure-looking young woman, with wonderful complexion and eyes, and a style about her, too. Care for a hundred up?"

Ennison shook his head.

"Can't stop, thanks," he answered. "See you to-night, I suppose?"

He sauntered off.

"I'm damned if I'll believe it," he muttered to himself savagely.

But for the next few days he avoided Cheveney like the plague.

* * * * *

The same night he met Meddoes and Drummond together, the latter over from Paris on a week's leave from the Embassy.

"Odd thing," Meddoes remarked, "we were just talking about the Pellissier girl. Drummond was telling me about the way old Ferringhall rounded upon them all at the club."

"Sounds interesting," Ennison remarked. "May I hear?"

"It really isn't much to tell," Drummond answered. "You know what a fearful old prig Ferringhall is, always goes about as though the whole world were watching him? We tried to show him around Paris, but he wouldn't have any of it. Talked about his years, his position and his constituents, and always sneaked off back to his hotel just when the fun was going to begin. Well one night, some of us saw him, or thought we saw him, at a cafe dining with 'Alcide,'--as a matter of fact, it seems that it was her sister. He came into the club next day, and of course we went for him thick. Jove, he didn't take to it kindly, I can tell you. Stood on his dignity and shut us up in great style. It seems that he was a sort of family friend of the Pellissiers, and it was the artist sister whom he was with. The joke of it is that he's married to her now, and cuts me dead."

"I suppose," Ennison said, "the likeness between the sisters must be rather exceptional?"

"I never saw the goody-goody one close to, so I can't say," Drummond answered. "Certainly I was a little way off at the cafe, and she had a hat and veil on, but I could have sworn that it was 'Alcide.'"

"Is 'Alcide' still in Paris?" Ennison asked.

"Don't think so," Drummond answered. "I heard the other day that she'd been taken in by some cad of a fellow who was cutting a great dash in Paris, personating Meysey Hill, the great railway man. Anyhow, she's disappeared for some reason or other. Perhaps Ferringhall has pensioned her off. He's the sort of johnny who wouldn't care about having a sister-in-law on the loose."

"Ennison here thought he saw her in London," Meddoes remarked.

Drummond nodded.

"Very likely. The two sisters were very fond of one another, I believe. Perhaps Sir John is going to take the other one under his wing. Who's for a rubber of whist?"

Ennison made so many mistakes that he was glad to cut out early in the evening. He walked across the Park and called upon his sister.

"Is Lady Lescelles in?" he asked the butler.

"Her ladyship dined at home," the man answered. "I have just ordered a carriage for her. I believe that her ladyship is going to Carey House, and on to the Marquis of Waterford's ball," he added, hastily consulting a diary on the hall table.

A tall elegantly dressed woman, followed by a maid, came down the broad staircase.

"Is that you, Nigel?" she asked. "I hope you are going to Carey House."

He shook his head, and threw open the door of a great dimly-lit apartment on the ground floor.

"Come in here a moment, will you, Blanche," he said. "I want to speak to you."

She assented, smiling. He was her only brother, and she his favourite sister. He closed the door.

"I want to ask you a question," he said. "A serious question."

She stopped buttoning her glove, and looked at him.

"Well?"

"You and all the rest of them are always lamenting that I do not marry. Supposing I made up my mind to marry some one of good enough family, but who was in a somewhat doubtful position, concerning whose antecedents, in fact there was a certain amount of scandal. Would you stand by me--and her?"

"My dear Nigel!" she exclaimed. "Are you serious?"

"You know very well that I should never joke on such a subject. Mind, I am anticipating events. Nothing is settled upon. It may be, it probably will all come to, nothing. But I want to know whether in such an event you would stand by me?"

She held out her hand.

"You can count upon me, Nigel," she said. "But for you Dad would never have let me marry Lescelles. He was only a younger son, and you know what trouble we had. I am with you through thick and thin, Nigel."

He kissed her, and handed her into the carriage. Then he went back to his rooms and lit a cigar.

"There are two things to be done," he said softly to himself. "The first is to discover what she is here for, and where she is staying. The second is to somehow meet Lady Ferringhall. These fellows must be right," he added thoughtfully, "and yet--there's a mystery somewhere."

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