The Mendos Violin

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
The thin tone of Hillary's violin does not do her talent justice, and now she faces the end of her livelong dream to be a concert violinist. But a strange encounter sets her on a path which unlocks the amazing secret of her violin....

Submitted: December 19, 2011

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Submitted: December 19, 2011




A Christmas Ghost Story





Geoffrey Kolbe


In the warm corridors of the Royal College of Music there was a noisy, end-of-term atmosphere before it shut for the Christmas holidays. But Hillary stopped and buttoned up her coat, bracing herself for the freezing mist of the evening outside before stepping out onto the snowy streets. It was going to be a cold, dark walk across Hyde Park back to her bed-sit in Bayswater and only the prospect of a steaming bowl of soup and hot buttered toast when she got there gave purpose to her steps. The snow was falling in large flakes and her footsteps were just a muffled crunch, the deepening gloom echoing her spirit as she walked past the looming mass of the Albert Hall.

Gunter Hartman, her violin teacher in the College, had been dismissive that day about her playing of the current study piece, the Chaconne in Bach's Partita in D minor for solo violin. "Vare is your feeling?" Hartman croaked in his heavy German accent. "Vat it is you are trying to tell me?" He said she had concentrated too much on refining her technique – which even he agreed was flawless - and not enough on giving the music meaning.

Hillary had always thought that once she had mastered a formidable technique, the ability to express the meaning of the music would follow. But somehow, her violin's rather thin tone would not reflect any depth of expression she was trying to convey. Hartman would suggest different ways of phrasing or bowing, but it all sounded the same, plain and colourless.

Even for Baroque music, where good playing skills could mask a lack of colour, she was let down by her violin. Playing Baroque music these days demanded the use of a period instrument and Hillary could only dream about affording any new violin, let alone one especially set up for Baroque music. For sure, her violin was old, it was probably even dated from the baroque era – but at some stage in the distant past, her violin had been set up as a modern instrument, with its neck set back at the angle necessary to take the strain of modern strings tightened to the modern pitch. So, it was no longer strictly a "period" instrument and would never sound like one.

Hillary trudged slowly across Hyde Park, where the heavy snow and failing light was making it difficult to make out the path through the trees and bushes. As she walked, she reflected on the problems violin students had in getting their hands on a good instrument. For anyone with ambitions to be a top flight concert artist, a violin made by Guaneri or Stradivarious was almost a necessity. But these ancient violins, made more than two hundred and fifty years ago in the small Italian town of Cremona, were of limited number, highly sought after and crushingly expensive. Hillary was envious of the students who had been lent a good violin by rich institutions or benefactors who would guide their future career, and so get a return on their investment. But she was by nature stubborn and independent. she would make her own way in the world and refused be an "investment" for somebody who would "guide" her career. So, like it or not, she was stuck with her old violin.

Hillary walked past the lake in Hyde Park. The light of the high street-lamps by the pavement, which normally glinted off the water, was lost now in the snow covered ice that spanned the lake. The gates to the Northern edge of the park were now coming into view and from there, it was a short step to her room in the sprawling house at the cheap end of Notting Hill, where she rented a room.

Her violin, at once the well-spring for her ambitions and dreams, was also the trial of her life by virtue of its thin tone. As a small child, her violin teacher – recognising the prodigious talent waiting to be unleashed in the small, plain girl just six years old - had insisted that her mother buy her a violin so she could practice. Any violin would do, Mrs Pomfry had said, but she must be able to practice on her own violin. Hillary was an only child - her father had died when she was just a few months old, so Hillary had been brought up by her mother. Money was always scarce and life was hard for her mother, who took what work she could find as a cleaner and housekeeper.

Her mother often pawned her good jewellery in hard times, only to redeem it when times were better. Old Solly Meyerberg, pawn broker at the local corner pawn shop, had endured his early childhood in Auchwitz which had rather soured his view of the human race. Life had dealt Hillary's mother no favours either and had left her with few illusions. So sharing a common perspective on the world and the people in it, she was one of the few people that got on with the old pawn broker.

Nurturing Hillary's abilities on the violin were going to be an expensive trial, her mother had confided to Meyerberg, what with lessons and sheet music and so on. And now the girl needed a violin of her own. Did he have an old violin somewhere he would let her have cheap? Meyerberg pulled on his long beard and peered at her over his half moon glasses. His uncle, also a pawn broker, had passed away some 35 years before, and Meyerberg had crammed all his uncle's old stock of unredeemed items into the attic over his own shop. Over the years, the old stock had gradually dissipated, revealing objects that had lain hidden from view by the pile on top. He might have seen a violin the last time he was up there. He would go up and have a look.

Presently, he shuffled back down the dark, bare boarded stairs clutching a rather mildewed and dusty old violin. He peered into the F holes to look at the label inside.

"It says it's a Stradivarius - that I would be so lucky!" he snorted. He glanced up at Hillary's mother. "Five pounds." He said flatly. "And not a penny less." So it was that Hillary got her violin.

Hillary finally reached the front door to the house in which she had her bed-sit. It had been painted bright red in the reign of Queen Victoria, but now it was a battered and sooty maroon. As she swung it open Hillary looked back on what had been her single minded dream, her obsession all her waking life, of becoming a concert violinist. She had spent all her growing years honing and refining a technique which, everyone agreed, was superb. She had never doubted that a glittering career as a concert violinist was her destiny in life, but the breaks had not come as they were supposed to. Now, the dream was coming to an end - she was running out of money. This was the last term for which her scholarship would pay her tuition fees and so in the New Year, she would be on her own and would have to face the prospect of finding a job – any job – which would pay for the necessities of life, but which would take her far from her life's dream.

The next morning was a Saturday. Hillary wakened to a world of white. It had snowed heavily in the night and the streets were a foot deep in a fresh covering of snow. Nibbling on some toast and marmalade, Hillary realised it had been her last piece of bread and needed to do some shopping for food. And then, she thought, she would do some busking at Soho Park. She had often busked when cash was particularly tight and Soho Park was a good spot. Rich people passed by on their way to the boutiques and other Soho shops where only rich people need bother to enter.

Having had a long lunch, lingering in the vegetarian café in Soho and nursing a bowl of thick broth as long as she could in the fuggy warmth, she set out for the square. It was still early afternoon, but the light was already beginning to slide into the long winter twilight. It had been over a month since she had last working this particular pitch in Soho Park and she hoped it would not be occupied. To her relief, it was not.

She set down her violin case, with some loose change in it as encouragement for the passing public to add to it. What would she play? She started off with some arrangements of popular melodies and followed that with some Paganini gymnastics. A few coppers fell into the case, but the passing public were not in a giving mood, huddled as they were in coats and scarves, intent on making their journey outside as short as possible. She would play the Bach Chaconne to finish, thought Hillary. If that doesn't impress the public enough to loosen the change from their pockets, then nothing would.

As Hillary played, a man came out of the shadows of the trees by the bandstand  and stopped to listen. His dress was a little strange, a long greatcoat with a fur lined collar, a trilby hat and highly polished black shoes. The clothes were immaculate, but somehow, dated.

Hillary finished with a flourish of double stopped chords at the end of the Chaconne – it had not loosened the pockets of the passing crowd and hardly any had even lifted their heads to listen as they hurried by. The man in the greatcoat shrugged his shoulders, but did not walk on.

"You weren't impressed." said Hillary, a statement more than a question.

"Well," replied the man in a well modulated voice. "You got through the notes well enough. Your technique is obviously excellent, but I couldn't make out what it was you were trying to say." He had a slight accent, Eastern European perhaps, thought Hillary.

"I am not sure what you mean." said Hillary, her heart sinking to a new low. Gunter Hartman had said exactly that the previous day.

The well modulated voice continued. "Bach only ever wrote one Chaconne for violin and it is not just any piece of violin music. It is without doubt the greatest piece of violin music ever written, and quite possibly the single greatest piece of music ever written. But you play it as if it was a... a minuet. The Chaconne soars to Everest heights of human emotion, stays a while, then goes on again to the heavens themselves. But you, you wandered around the foothills and never found your way to the central truths of this piece."

A flicker of anger rose unbidden in Hillary. Criticising her interpretation was easy in words, lets see if he has something to say in deeds. "Can you play the Chaconne?" Hillary asked, pointedly.

The man in the greatcoat smiled a wistful smile. "It has been.... a while." he said slowly.

"Here you are then." Hillary thrust out her violin. "Show me what you mean."

Hillary held his gaze with a challenging stare. After a long moment, his eyes left hers and went to the violin, held out with a straight arm in his direction. Finally, he pulled his left hand from the depths of his greatcoat pocket, hesitated, then gently took the violin from her hand. His right hand appeared from its greatcoat pocket and took the bow.

He lifted the violin to his shoulder and checked the tuning. It was obvious, he could play the violin. Then he started to play. Oh yes... he could play the violin!

His tone was strong and rich. In his hands, the violin sang in a way it never had for her. His eyes were shut as he played, a light smile on his lips as he effortlessly and unerringly took his path to the huge climax in the centre of the movement. The hairs stood up on the back of her neck. That had not happened since she had been a girl of ten and persuaded her mother to take her to hear the great cellist Rostropovich play. 

Hillary was suddenly aware that they were not alone. People had looked up when they heard the music and slowed as they approached. Then they stopped, and listened, the journey to the destination they had been so bent on a moment before - postponed for a little while.

As the Chaconne came to its climactic end, a crowd of more than a hundred had gathered. There was a moment of silence, then a cheer went up and they clapped loudly. Cheerfully, they reached into their pocket and threw change and even notes into the case, before happily resuming their journey in the gathering gloom.

"That was good. Well done mate!" said a builder who had set down his bucket to listen. "Have a beer on me!" he said, dropping a £5 note into the case.

With obvious reluctance, the man handed back the violin.

"That... that was absolutely wonderful." said an amazed Hillary, still floating on the cloud of notes that this man had brought forth from her violin. "But how did you get such an incredible tone out of that violin?"

"I must go now." said the man, "You have it in you to be a great violinist, don't give up – but your violin need a little attention. Go to Giles in Piccadilly, he will know what to do." He smiled at her. His eyes, she noticed, were soft and brown, but infinitely sad. The face seemed familiar somehow and touched a memory somewhere in the depths of her mind, but she could not quite place it. Then he turned and walked away and was soon lost in the deep shadows of the trees in Soho Park.

Hillary looked at the violin case. Coins and notes covered the bottom so she could hardly see the red velvet lining. She collected it all up and counted it –  seventy eight pounds, thirty eight pence, two dollar coins, a Danish Krone and an old fashioned penny! Well! The man in the greatcoat with the fur lined collar certainly knew how to shake the change out of the pockets of the passing public! But what playing – it had been a long time since she had really been touched by music in that way. His playing had stirred the bottom of her soul and brought up feelings she had forgotten she had. It reminded her of why she had wanted to be a violinist and had started on that road so many years before.

The next morning Hillary was still full of wonderment at the playing she had heard the day before. Who was the stranger in the park? How had he got such tone out this old violin? It was true that a violin can sound quite different when played by different people, but even Gunter Hartman had screwed his face in disgust as he had tried to play this violin. Had the man in Soho Park been right? Was there a problem with the violin? She played some scales and a series of double stopped chords. No, it sounded as usual. A nimble piece by Scarlatti would warm her fingers up, and she set to with vigour. But about half way through the piece, a very unmusical buzz suddenly came from the violin when she played the E flat? That hadn't been there before.


-o o-


Piccadilly was an absolute zoo first thing on a Monday morning. In the damp fug of the tube train Hillary had feared that she and her violin would be crushed. At Piccadilly Circus, she would have sworn that her feet did not touch the ground as she was borne out of the carriage, up the stairs and was finally released on the street above. She looked around to get her bearings and then headed North for Bridle Lane.

Giles, the violin makers had been in their Bridle Lane establishment for six generations and entering the shop was like stepping back in time into a Dickensian era. Hillary pushed open the wide door, set with small panes of hand blown glass, and a little brass bell clanged a very unmusical clang. She stepped onto the worn wooden floorboards and made her way around a large, brightly decorated Christmas tree, towards a counter on the far side of the shop. A cast iron stove hissed quietly in the corner giving off a cheery warmth.  All around the walls, and from lines strung across the ceiling, violins in various stages of assembly, repair, and disrepair were hanging on thin hooks.  A young man, about Hillary's age, stood in his leather apron behind the counter and his fresh face gave her a pleasant smile as she approached the counter.

"What can we do for you today?" he asked.

"There seems to be a buzzing sound as I play an E flat." she said. "Listen to this." She took out the violin and played an E flat, which was accompanied by the harsh buzzing sound.

The lad in the leather apron took the violin and looked it over. The violin had been a good one once upon a time, but it was old and the varnish was worn in places, especially around the area of the chin rest. It had a Stradivarius label in it – but that meant nothing as thousands of violins had been passed off as having been made by the great master. The Old Man would probably know who made it, but it almost certainly was not worth more than a few hundred pounds.

"Hmm, sounds like the bass bar has come loose. We can repair that for you, but it means taking the back off the violin to get at it. And then cleaning off the old glue and sticking the back on again - Not much change out of a hundred pounds I am afraid." He looked at her sympathetically.

"Well, it is the only violin I have..." said Hillary. Only the windfall a few days ago made it possible to even think about laying out a hundred pounds to fix her violin. "How quickly can you do it?"

The young man sighed inwardly. Musicians always wanted their precious instruments back in a hurry. "I will get right on it. Come back in a couple of days and it should be ready. But give us a ring first to make sure, ok? Ask for me, my name's Peter."

Two days without being able to practice. She could not remember when last she had not played her violin for two whole days. Well, she would probably survive.

The violin was not ready in two days. There had been "complications" - which sounded ominous. Two days stretched into two weeks, during which her pleading, wheedling and exasperation were expressed in turn at the delay, but Peter refused to elaborate on the nature of the problems, or how much it would take to fix them. Finally, Peter gave her the go-ahead to come and collect her violin. 

As the bell on the door clanged its very unmusical clang, Peter came out from the workshop behind the counter. He smiled as he recognized her and turned back into the workshop. "She is here Mr Giles!" he called out. Then a violin on the counter caught her eye. It was sitting on a red velvet cushion. At first she did not recognise it, then she realised it was actually her violin - but transformed so that it looked fresh and clean and sparkled in the shop lights.

A large man with a plump round face came out from the workshop door. He wiped his hands on his apron – once white but now stained with varnish and rabbit skin glue. "Hello my dear, how are you? Well, I hope?"

"Thankyou, yes." Hillary replied. "Is that my violin being so honoured by sitting on a velvet cushion?"

"Ah yes, your violin." Mr Giles picked it up reverently. "May I ask how you came by this violin?"

"My mother bought it from a pawn broker when I was six year old. It had been sitting in his shop for many years and he sold it to her cheap." She smiled, slightly embarrassed. "I am afraid I have never been able to afford a better one."

Mr Giles raised his eyebrows and considered her statement. "No, but then I don't suppose anybody could afford a better violin than this." he said gently. "There is no better violin than this..."

Hillary's face furrowed in puzzlement. "What do you mean?" she said.

By now, all the workers had come out of the workshop behind the counter and were grinning as they crowded around the instrument, admiring it.

"This is a Stradivarius, my dear." Mr Giles said simply.

"Well, it has a Stradivarius label," said Hillary incredulously, "but half the violins ever made have Stradivarius labels in them! Everyone knows that signifies nothing"

"No my dear, this is a Stradivarius. And not just any Stradivarius either. This is the Mendos Stradivarius, which has been lost now for half a century." Mr Giles paused while his words took root and their full meaning was realised.

"It was named after Alfred Mendos, the Portuguese violinist who had it for many years in the latter half of the 19th century. It was once owned by Paganini himself. Its last owner was Samual Donjac, who was revered almost as a god in his day. He reputedly bought it from Claus Fischer's widow for over twenty five thousand pounds, when the great Claus Fischer died in the early 1940's. That was a lot of money then, in the dark years of Second World War!

"People have been searching high and low for this violin. Collectors have dedicated years of their lives looking for it. And then a young girl brings it into my shop!" Mr Giles paused, tears welling in his eyes. "That I should live to see the day when the Mendos violin is found again!" He ran his hand slowly over the now shining varnished back of the violin.

Hillary was stunned! A confusion of emotions whirled inside her. Of course, she had heard of the Mendos violin. What violinist had not heard the of the legendary Mendos violin? Over the centuries, it had been owned by a succession of violinists who, each in turn, had been hailed as the greatest violinist on earth - famous for the range, power and emotional intensity of their playing. Some alchemy had given this particular violin a richness of tone and a purity of voice that could stir the soul like no other. The violin had achieved a mystical status, fiercely protected by those lucky enough to own it and enviously coveted by those who did not. But fifty years ago it had disappeared, never to be heard of again.  

"How it disappeared is a sad story." Mr Giles's reflected, his eyes looking back into the distant past and the workshop men, young and old, settling back to hear again the oft' told tale of how the Mendos violin had been lost.

"I was a young lad then, just ten years old, when my father took me to see Samual Donjac play Bach. It was Christmas Eve and there was a benefit concert for invalided servicemen in the Albert Hall. I shall never forget it. It is a vast place, as you know, and in those days the acoustics were terrible. But somehow, on that night, you could hear every note he played as though he stood right there in front of you. He played the Chaconne from the Partita in D minor..." Mr Giles was briefly transported back to the Donjac's last ever performance, so many years before. "Such playing... do you know, the audience cried during the last section. And when he had finished, why, they cheered so that the roof almost came off!

"We waited outside the artist's entrance afterwards and I can remember him now, coming down the stairs, wearing a long greatcoat with a fur lined collar." Hillary's eyes widened and the blood drained from her face. Of course! That was who the man at Soho Park reminded her of! But no, it couldn't have been....  

Mr Giles did not notice her white face as he continued. "The crowd pleaded with him to play some more – and he did. I can't remember now all the pieces he played, but it was wonderful.

"I decided then and there that I wanted to be a concert violinist -" He caressed the violin as a look of regret settled on ruddy his face. "But I was never good enough. I have had to be content with making them and fixing them, rather than playing them." After a moment he continued.

"Anyway, that was his last ever concert. Donjac was tragically killed that night. His wife was unstable and had been in and out of mental institutions for years. She imagined that he was having an affair with another woman and plunged a knife into his back when he returned home from the concert. She was found, several days later, wandering the streets, quite out of her mind. She spent the rest of her days in an asylum. But the violin was never found. Once, in a rare moment of lucidity a year or so later, she confessed to having sold the violin for money to buy food, but she could not remember where.

"Since then, collectors and enthusiasts have trawled through the musical instrument shops, pawn brokers, second hand shops, junk shops and antique shops of London looking for it. The hunt was quite intense at first, even my father spent days out on the streets with a list of shops to check. Slowly, interest died and the story turned into history, and then into legend. Even today, every once in a while, someone will come in here and search through our old stock, looking for the Mendos violin." Mr Giles chuckled. "Can you imagine that? As if I would not know it as soon as I saw it!"

"But how did you recognize it? How can you be so certain that this is the Mendos violin? " asked Hillary.

"See here," Mr Giles pointed to the scroll at the top of the violin. Unusually, it had two small faces carved on each side instead of the plain scroll ends. "This is what everybody looks for when they search for the Mendos violin. They are the faces of Stradivarius' two children, carved by Stradivarius himself.

 "Of course, there have been many imitations and forgeries over the years but they are easy to spot." Mr Giles' hand moved down to the front of the violin.

"See here, this is what very few people know about." He pointed to a light streak, perhaps a quarter of an inch wide, through the wood on the front of the violin, fading darker almost to a black at the bottom of the instrument. "This is how I know, without doubt, that this is the real Mendos violin."

Hillary was stunned and took a minute to absorb this information. It was odd, but only one question came to mind at that moment. "This is going to sound like a crass question..." said Hillary, "But how much is it worth?"

Mr Giles' face crumpled slightly as a look of disappointment passed over it. "I know a number of collectors who would give you a million pounds for it tomorrow and consider it a bargain." said Mr Giles simply. "If you would like me to arrange for you to meet some of them –"

"No!" said Hillary suddenly. "I don't want to sell it. It's my violin. I have strained all my life to master the violin and that fiddle has been my enemy, my partner, my friend and my tormentor. It is part of me now and I am not going to give it up."

In the silence that followed, she was suddenly aware of the intensity of her outburst. "I was just curious, that's all." She said quietly.

"The Mendos violin was always famous for the incredible tone that violinists could get from it." Hillary continued. "But I have played it now for nearly fifteen years and I have never been able to get a sound that was more than mediocre at best. Why is that?"

"Ahh." said Mr Giles, "The glue holding the back on was old and was only holding it on in a few places. The back almost fell off when we started prying it from the body. Any other violin would have given nothing but a squeak in that state. But," a smile of pride widened on his face, "it will play now as it should." He looked down at the violin as a father would at his new born baby.

Hillary looked at her violin which had been cleaned and re-varnished so that it glowed with an inner light as Mr Giles turned it over in his hands.

"You have obviously done a lot of work on this violin...." Hillary hesitated before continuing. "How much do I owe you?" Hillary flinched in anticipation of a sum she had no way of paying.

"Just play something." Said Mr Giles. "Can you play the Chaconne?"

"Oh yes," said Hillary, her face lightened. This was a price she could pay. "I can play the Chaconne."

Mr Giles gave the violin a final wipe and handed it to her, with her bow. Hillary put the violin to her shoulder to tune it, as she had many thousands of times before. But as the bow touched the strings, she started back. The tone was so huge. The violin resonated as though it would go on for ever. She gasped and looked at Mr Giles in wonderment. He laughed out loud and clapped his hands together, delighted at her surprise! Go on, he gestured.

Hillary lifted the bow to the strings and the mighty Chaconne filled the room. going on to fill the whole universe as it built to its great climax. The violin responded to every nuance and every emotion with an ease and richness she had hardly dared dream of. Mr Giles' face was a picture of deep content. "Ah yes!" he whispered, "That's it."

When she had finished, Mr Giles and the other workmen cheered in delight and were joined by others who had come into the shop and had stood, spellbound by the performance.

"It has been fifty years since I heard the Chaconne played like that." said a beaming Mr Giles. "I wish you could have heard him play."

"Well, you know," said Hillary slowly, "I think I might have heard Donjac play the Chaconne."

"What in live performance? No, no. You can't have!" objected Mr Giles. "You must be confusing Donjac with someone else – though I don't how that is possible! You can't have been born less than thirty years after Donjac died!"

Hillary smiled a mysterious little smile. "I don't think Donjac's performance of the Chaconne at the Albert Hall was his last..." Now it was Mr Giles' turn to look a little puzzled.

-o o-


News that the Mendos violin had been found spread quickly. The story caught the imagination of the public and rolled like a wave through the newspapers and television within a few days. Hillary found herself besieged by newspaper reporters and TV news crews wanting to hear about her and the new-found violin. Finally, Hillary had had enough and locked herself in her bed-sit, refusing to answer the phone.

But on Christmas Eve, Hillary got a message to contact Mr Giles as soon as possible.

"Hillary dear, I have been trying to contact you all day! David Chanders at the BBC wants you to appear at the charity gala performance being given at the Albert Hall tonight. You know the one, famous players from around the world have offered to give their time for free in aid of charity. But it seems that someone has dropped out and they need to fill the spot. Chanders wants you to play the Mendos violin. Can you do it?"

Hillary was taken aback, quite unprepared to be thrust into the full glare of national TV in this way. "Well! I don't know.... What do they want me to play?"

"Anything you like my dear, so long as it takes fifteen minutes!"

Hillary laughed at the absurdity of it. "Well why not. I know just the piece."

"Of course, the Chaconne!" said Mr Giles delightedly. "You will pull the audience right out of their seats! I know you can do it!"

Mr Giles gave Hillary the number to ring and she called David Chanders at the BBC immediately.

Hillary put her white floor length dress with a sequinned belt for the occasion and sat nervously in the dressing room under the organ, waiting for her turn. The past week had been a revelation to her. It had seemed that a new dimension had opened up on her playing. Now she was more used to the violin, she delighted in the dynamic range and complexity of sound she was able to extract from it. She revelled in how the instrument responded as though it almost knew what she wanted to convey.

The time finally came when she was introduced to the packed crowd and she walked slowly on stage. What struck her first was how bright the lights were. The crowd behind the lights was scarcely visible. As her eyes grew accustomed to the bright lights, she saw the audience – a wall of faces, more than eight thousand of them, packed into every crevice, right up to the roof, high above.

This, she realised, was what she had dreamt of since a small child. This is where she had always wanted to be. Suddenly, her nerves left her and she felt at ease. The stage was hers. Hillary relaxed, lifted the violin to her shoulder and started to play. During the last section, the audience wept. And when she had finished, their cheering almost took the roof off.

It was a great triumph. Hillary would be transformed in one performance from a struggling student to an international violin superstar, whom everybody wanted to hear. As she left by the artist's entrance, a waiting crowd cheered and pressed forward. Would she play something more for them? It was Christmas... So, she took out her violin and played for the crowd. They stood with rosy cheeks, nipped by the cold and smiles of enjoyment as she delighted them with a range of classics and favourites with which – not so many days before – she had been trying to pry loose some change from the passing public on her busking pitch.

And... there in the background, standing apart at the back of the crowd, the tall figure in a greatcoat seemed familiar. The collar of his coat was lined with fur. Hillary smiled and nodded to him as she played. He smiled, nodded back and gave her a little wave. But when she looked back a few moments later, he was gone.

The End


© Copyright 2018 GeoffreyKolbe. All rights reserved.

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