A Victorian Legacy - Chapter 24.2a First Impressions
Welcome one and all to chapter 24.2 of my Victorian Legacy, and Bertie’s second year atuniversity. As always, I suggest that you’ve read at least the couple of chapters leading up to thisone, so that you aren’t completely confused by what is going on.The short catch-up version is that during his first year at university, Bertie joined the footballteam, was successful there, got his cousin Christopher into the Legacy Society, and started tosettle into life away from home and his brother.Ezra Howard approached Anthony to ask for permission to court Bethany, which was given,making several people very happy, including Bethany and Ezra.Oh and John started to put his “plan” into action, making everyone reading nervous, includingme.Right, I think that’s all you need to know at this point, let’s get on shall we?
It was mid afternoon when Derrial Whendonberry checked the number on the door in the PrinceWilliam Halls of Residence against the slip of paper in his hand before nodding and pushing itopen. He was quite impressed with what he saw when he stepped inside. He’d heard rumoursabout the rooms at some of the other halls and therefore had been worried that his room wouldbe a bare, poky little thing. Instead it was a good size with a comfortable looking bed, lots ofspace for books and a nice desk for him to work at. Yes, he thought kicking the door closedbehind him, he’d be happy here.
He was part way through unpacking his trunk, when he came across a book, tucked down theside of his clothes. He looked at it puzzled: it wasn’t something that he had packed, and the onlyway it could have gotten there, was if someone else had packed it for him. A present then,perhaps from his parents or one of his siblings.
Intrigued he sat on the edge of the bed, and read the title. It was a book about the religions ofthe Takemizu region. He smiled and opened it, ready to skim a few pages, when he noticed theinscription within the front cover. My Dearest Derri, Just a small token to make sure that you do not forget all about me while you are off gallivanting and having fun at university. Good luck with your studies. I’ am going to miss you, and your friendship, terribly you know. Your dear friend, Celestia. P.S. Write to me!
He put the book down beside him, and placed his head in his hands.Damn.Just when he’d been doing such a good job not thinking about her too.
Memories of the day before flooded into his head. He’d spent the afternoon with Dean, Celestia,Stuart, and David, talking and generally enjoying the last time they would all be teenagerstogether. Time had gotten away from them, and the sun was setting by the time Celly and Stuartstarted to get ready to walk to the train station in order to catch the train back to Simford.“I’m sorry, we shouldn’t have kept you so long, it’ll be dark by the time you get to Simford andhave to catch a mail coach to Regalton,” he’d said as they all stood on the pavement outside hishouse.
Celestia had laughed at him. “Derri, you are leaving for university in the morning. I would staylonger if I could. Besides, I will not be taking the train and stage on my own. Stuart will be withme, and you’ll act as my knight in shining armour, protecting me from any ne’er do wells, will younot?”
She’d aimed this last question at her cousin who dropped into a mock bow. “Of course my lady.I am at your service.” This had elicited a snort of laughter from David, and caused Derri to roll hiseyes heavenwards.“Oh you know Derri,” Dean had said aiming a grin at the exasperated look on his brother’s face.“He isn’t happy unless he’s worrying about something.”
Derri had been shaking his head at his brother’s remark and thinking of a suitable retort whenCelestia had taken him by surprise with a hug.“I am going to miss you,” she had said, squeezing him tight. “Have a good journey and write tome as soon as you can, letting me know where you are staying.”
“You’re going to bombard me with letters aren’t you?” he had asked, trying not to think about herproximity, or the fact that the scent of her hair reminded him of fresh herbs.
She had let go of him and smiled up at him. “Of course! I am an inveterate letter writer. Youshould see the volume of letters I exchange with Bethany.” She had then shrugged. “I intend todo exactly the same with all my friends when they or I leave for Simbridge, and since you are myfriend, you will be receiving at least two letters a week from me.”
Friend.The word echoed round his head as he sat in his room in Simbridge, because therein lay hisproblem. Celestia had made it clear time and time again that she saw him as a friend, and onlyas a friend, whereas he had realised many months ago, that his feelings for her ran deeper thanthat. He was hoping that being away from her for a year would help his feelings to change, thatmaybe he would find someone else who did want to be more than friends.A nagging voice in a corner of his mind, doubted it very much.
While Derri had been looking for his room in the halls of residence, Bertie, Andrew and Peter hadbeen lugging their trunks up the stairs at the Legacy Society. They’d arrived earlier that morning,but had been commandeered by Christopher and Ezra for a game of cards before being allowedto do anything else. The game had been fun and they would probably still be playing ifChristopher hadn’t have called a halt when he lost his fifth consecutive hand.
“Rooms,” he said now as Peter reached the final step with his last trunk. “That one is mine, thatis Ezra’s and that one there,” he pointed to the last front room, “is yours Bertie. Andrew, Peter,you can chose which of the remaining three you want.”
“I do not get to choose?” asked Bertie faintly puzzled.Christopher shook his head. “No, you are the heir. Every heir since Grandpapa has slept in thatroom: it is yours and no one else’s.”
“How do you know that?” asked Peter intrigued by the conviction in Christopher’s voice as he hadspoken.“Uncle Eddie left some sheet music lying around in there when he left,” replied Christopher with ashrug. “I…” Ezra coughed, and Christopher paused, “Bethany returned the manuscripts to himwhen I told her about them. He wrote back on receiving them and explained the situation withthe room.”“Oh.” Peter seemed content with that explanation, although Bertie wondered why his fatherhadn’t told him about it. It must have slipped his mind.
Andrew was poking his head into the other bedrooms on the same side of the landing as Bertie’s.“Well, I am not sleeping in this one,” he said taking in the room he was currently looking at, “it istiny.”
Peter rolled his eyes at his twin. “I am taking this room,” he said pointing over his shoulder to adoor behind him without taking a look, “so if you do not want that one, you had best take theremaining room, and hope that it is not as tiny as the one you have just dismissed.”“If it is, we are swapping,” said Andrew glaring at the taller man.“Oh really?”“Yes, really.”
“How, pray tell, do you intend to make me swap with you?” asked Peter, crossing his arms.“I may be shorter than you, but I am just as strong, if not stronger,” replied Andrew, taking a steptowards his brother.“It is how you apply that strength as well you know,” retorted Peter.
Not wanting to get involved, Bertie left his friends to their bickering as he opened the door to hisroom, before hefting his first trunk inside. It was smaller than he had imagined, given theimportance Christopher had afforded it, and the furniture in it looked old and well used. Perhapsthat was the answer then: this was the first furnished bedroom in the house and thus had beengiven to his grandpapa to sleep in. Yes, he could imagine his great-uncle Robert insisting thathis brother take this room, while he took an unfurnished one.
He moved towards the side of the bed with his trunk, and as he did so his foot caught somethingtucked underneath it. Dropping the end of his trunk, he bent down and retrieved it. It was abound essay on the circulatory system, and it was authored by John Legacy. It looked like itwasn’t only heirs who slept in this room after all.Shrugging, Bertie threw it onto the bed, ready to send off to his father’s cousin in the morning.
Thankfully it turned out that although the one remaining room wasn’t as large as the room thatPeter had commandeered, it was larger than the tiny room Andrew had complained about, andthe three of them had soon unpacked and started to settle in.Bertie was the first to admit that he was enjoying living in the Legacy Society more than he hadliked living in the halls. True there weren’t as many people living there, but the fact that thehouse was smaller, meant that it was often filled with hustle and bustle as everyone went abouttheir day to day business, attending lectures, writing essays and doing the required reading fortheir degrees. It meant that the house always felt full, even if it wasn’t.
The person that Bertie saw least, was Ezra. If he wasn’t at lectures or tutorials when Bertie wasat home, then he was spending time with Bethany and her mother, or conducting some businessthat no amount of badgering prompted him to share.“Oh come on Ezra, just a little clue as to where you are spending so much of your time,” saidChristopher one day. “I know you are not seeing Bethany because Mama isn’t down, andBethany normally tells me anyway.”“It really is no concern of yours,” replied Ezra.
“Of course it is, I am acting the concerned brother here. If you are up to some sort of nefariousplot, then it is my duty to find it out and warn Bethany and our parents about it.” He gave acheeky grin as he spoke, and Ezra couldnt help but return it
“Now, really if I am up to no good, then I am hardly going to tell you so that you can warn yoursister and parents off of me am I? After all, how do you know that Bethy is not integral to thosemachinations?”
Christopher thought for a moment. “I do not, but I can live in hope that I will one day outwit youinto revealing all the details to me.”
Ezra laughed. “My friend, that day has not yet come.” He clapped Christopher on the shoulder,before heading out of the front door.
Once outside, Ezra pulled a sheaf of papers out from his jacket pocket. He had an appointmentwith a land agent in a little over an hour and a half. It was his third such appointment that week,and his tenth over the past month. He was starting to fell despondent about it, but he has aspecific set of requirements for what he wanted, and although he was prepared to compromiseon a few, most he saw as being non-negotiable.Sighing and putting the papers away, he strode off down the road towards the railway station.
Two hours later, he was standing with the land agent, looking back towards the parcel of land hehad just viewed. It appeared to have everything he had been looking for: a small weed chokedstream running through the back of the property that could be diverted to create a water feature,plenty of space for the house and stables, and even an old orchard that had belonged to thehouse that had previously stood on the land. It was, he thought, perfect.“I will take it,” he said to the agent standing besides him.
“Very good Mr Howard. We can make a start on the paperwork now, but you will be required tocall by our offices to complete the rest.”Ezra nodded. “I need to visit Simdon in the near future, I will stop by then,” he replied.“Very good. Shall we find somewhere to start talking about the contracts?”Ezra nodded again. “That sounds like a capital idea.” With one last look at the land he wasbuying, turned to follow the land agent who was already walking away.
The semester was now in full swing, meaning that the football and rowing squads had startedtheir practices again. Carstairs had graduated at the end of the previous semester, meaning thatJameson had temporarily taken over as captain. He had been an able second in command, butBertie soon noticed that he lacked both the ability to inspire the team, and the initiative andoriginality to come up with his own training regimes. Three weeks in, and they were still followingthe same training patterns Carstairs had used the previous semester, and as far as Bertie couldsee, they weren’t improving as a team. He was finding it slightly frustrating, but there wasnothing he could do about it, and so he contented himself with doing the best he could.
He and Andrew were sitting talking after practice one day, when Jameson and Gravesapproached them.“Legacy, Harrison,” said Jameson nodding at them both. “Good practice today,”
“Thank you,” replied Andrew. “We do our best, don’t we Bertie?”Bertie nodded. “We do.” They lapsed into silence and still Jameson stood there looking at them.A pained expression crossed his face as if he was making his mind up about something.
“Bertie, could I have a word with you?” he said at last.“Of course,” replied Bertie before getting up and dusting himself off.
He followed Jameson as the other man walked a little bit away from Andrew and Graves.“Bertie,” he said once they were out of ear shot, “last year when you tried out for the team, yousaid that you had captained your school team.”Bertie nodded. “I did.”Jameson nodded and scratched his head before blurting out “look, I know I am not a naturalcaptain: I am basically trying to copy what Carstairs has always done, and I know it is notworking. I have seen you on the pitch: you are an excellent player, but more than that, I haveheard you shouting to the other players, encouraging them, and, well they play better when youdo.”
Bertie didn’t really know what to say, so just nodded and said “thank you.”Jameson looked around uncomfortably. “They play better for you than they do for me. Theyeven play better for you than they did for Carstairs. I am going to give up the captaincy and Ithink that you should take it.”
“Me, captain?” repeated Bertie.Jameson nodded and met his eye. “Yes. I think that we could even win the inter-university cupwith you in charge.”Bertie laughed. “Thank you for the compliment.”
“It is true. Look, I know I have been a bit of a pillock in the past, but I really think that you are thebest man on the team to be captain. Certainly far better than me, and far better than Graves.Some people manage to inspire confidence in those around them, and when you are on thepitch, you are one such man.”“Thank you,” said Bertie sincerely.
“It is true. Will you take the captaincy?” asked Jameson.Bertie paused as if thinking, but it as an easy decision for him. Hadn’t he been looking at firstCarstairs’s and lately Jameson’s style of leadership with a critical eye? Thinking at every turnwhat he would be doing instead? He had, and there was only one answer he could give the olderman standing before him. “Yes, yes I will.”“Good.” Jameson smiled and seemed to relax. “I will see you at the next practice captain.”
“Do not be late,” said Bertie.“I would not dream of it captain,” called Jameson over his shoulder as he walked back towardsGraves and Andrew.
Andrew approached Bertie as Graves and Jameson walked away. “What did he want?”“He wants me to be captain,” said Bertie raising his eyebrows.“Well, I hope you accepted,” replied Andrew folding his arms.“Yes I did.” Bertie smiled. “I think that it will be fun being in charge of a team again.”“Yes, and I think it will be fun having you as my captain again.”Smiling the two friends started to head back to the Legacy society.
Ezra’s purchase of the plot of land on the outskirts of Regalton was progressing nicely and hehad engaged the services of an architect to start drawing up plans for the house he intended tobuild there. Whilst in Simdon signing the last of the contracts, he had also seen the otherpressing business he had in the city and the fruit of that visit was now nestled in a small velvetbox which was tucked in a pocket of his tail suit. He was uncomfortably aware of it every time hemoved. He was also waiting for the opportunity to speak to Mrs Smith alone and was starting toworry that it was not going to present itself.Bethany had noticed that he was not his usual poised self. “You seem very distracted thisevening Mr Howard,” she said looking over at him.“Hmm?” He looked down at her. “I apologize Miss Smith, I have something…pressing on mymind,” he replied, marvelling, as always, at her beauty.
“I am very sorry to hear that. Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked, her featuresradiating concern.He smiled fondly at her. “Not at this precise moment.” He noticed that Anthony had moved tothe cloakroom with his and Mrs Smith’s coats, leaving Alexandra standing on her own. Realisingthat this was the opportunity he had been waiting for, he asked “Miss Smith, may I take yourcoat?”
“Of course,” she answered before turning to allow him to slip it from her shoulders. She shiveredas his fingers brushed her arm, but he didn’t notice.“I will be back momentarily,” he promised.
With her coat over his arm, Ezra made his way to the cloakroom, stopping to speak to Alexandraon his way.“Mrs Smith, I hope you are enjoying the evening thus far,” he asked her.“It has been very pleasant Mr Howard. I must thank you for acquiring the tickets to the play: theseats were second to none.”
“I am gratified to hear that you enjoyed it,” he replied with a smile. “Mrs Smith,” he said after apause, “if I may ask something of you this evening?”“Of course Mr Howard.” replied Alexandra straightening a glove.“I would very much like to be able to spend a … short amount of time alone with Miss Smith. Ipromise I will behave in a gentlemanly manner towards her at all times,” he added quickly asAlexandra shot him a sharp glance.
“I believe you will,” she said after a moment’s pause. “I think that perhaps after we dine, while weare waiting for the carriage, I may be able to arrange for Mr Smith to join me in the foyer, leavingthe two of you alone for a few moments. I hope that will be sufficient.”“More than sufficient. Thank you Mrs Smith, it is much appreciated.”“You are most welcome Mr Howard. Now if I were you, I would proceed to the cloakroomforthwith, before my daughter wonders just what we are talking about. Her eyes have not movedfrom your form since you left her.”He smiled down at his future mother-in-law before thanking her again and moving away.
The food was delicious as it always was at La Dancer, and the four of them had a very enjoyablemeal. Even Anthony was enjoying himself, having managed to reconcile himself to the fact thathis daughter was being courted and would one day wed. He also found himself genuinely likingEzra, despite his misgivings that no one was good enough for his little girl.
True to her word, as they were passing through the small hall linking the dining room to the foyer,Alexandra managed to steer Anthony through the doors first, leaving Bethany and Ezra to follow.On seeing that they were alone, Ezra snaked his arms around Bethany’s waist and ducked hishead, pressing his lips against hers. He felt her stiffen as if she was going to pull away, beforeshe relaxed into his embrace.
“Ezra,” she said breathlessly as they parted.“I apologise for my ungentlemanly behaviour Bethy,” he replied, equally as breathless, “but whenI am near you, all sense of propriety goes out of the window.”
Bethany gently caressed his face as she next spoke. He was so handsome, the most handsomeman she had ever met, and she felt a thrill every time she thought about how he was her fiancé.“Do not apologise Ezra,” she said softly, “you could never act in an ungentlemanly fashion to me.”
“I thank you for thinking so highly of me, perhaps too highly of me,” he replied before graspingher hands. She shook her head. “Not possible my love.”He smiled down at her. “It is two years ago today, since we first met. Did you know that?”“Two years? It does not seem possible,” she replied astonished.“But it is. You took my breath away then, and you still do.”“And you make my heart skip a beat whenever you are near,” she replied, her voice no morethan a whisper.
They stared into each other’s eyes for a long moment before he said “Bethy, you remember theday months ago when I asked you to marry me?”“Of course, that day is one of my most treasured memories.” She smiled up at him as shespoke, and he found himself once again captivated by her smile.
Pulling himself together, he let go of her hands and dropped to his knees. “I want you to take thisas a token of our betrothal,” he said pulling the velvet box out of his jacket pocket. “I want theworld to know when they see it on your finger, that you are going to be my wife.”“Oh Ezra, it is beautiful,” sighed Bethany, slipping it onto her finger.
“You like it? It was my Grandmothers.”“I love it,” she threw her arms around him and hugged him tight. “And I love you, Ezra.”“I love you too,” he replied holding her close. “I always have and I always will.”
Out in the foyer, Anthony was starting to get a bit anxious at how long it was taking for hisdaughter and her suitor to follow them from the dining room. Of course, thanks to Alexandra’sdistractive technique, they had been gone for longer than he realised. He was therefore veryrelieved to see Bethany and Ezra walk into the foyer, arm in arm.
“Ah, there you are. The carriage is on it’s way round to the front. Would you like me to get yourcoats?” his gaze was drawn to Bethany’s hand at the same time as Alexandra’s.
“Mama, Papa,” said Bethany noticing their looks, “Mr Howard, Ezra, has presented me with abetrothal ring.”“Oh Bethany, it is beautiful,” said Alexandra taking her daughter’s hand to look at it. “Do you notagree?” she asked her husband.Anthony raised his eyebrows before nodding. “Yes it is, er, lovely.”
“Anthony dear,” she continued, not noticing his discomfort at being asked to pass judgement onjewellery, “if the arrangement is now official,” she looked at Ezra who nodded at her, “we shouldhave an announcement printed in the Times. I have already worked out the wording.”Anthony looked down at her. “I am not in the least bit surprised my dear.”
The morning sun was streaming through the dinning room windows of the Grundstrom house inSimmingtonbury, as Joe was sitting down to breakfast with his wife and mother."More tea?" asked Rachel, holding up the pot and looking over at him."Hmm? Please." he replied, pushing the cup towards her, while he continued to scan the morningpaper. To tell the truth, there wasn’t really much in it to hold his attention that morning, but itgave him an excuse not to have to talk to his mother.
Of course, his mother didn’t realise this. “Joseph, I really wish that you would wait until breakfastwas over before reading the paper,” she admonished holding her cup out to her daughter-in-law. “Hmm? What was that?” asked Joe as he turned to the society pages. There was neveranything in that section that he cared about and he was about to turn the page, when a familiarname caught his eye. He read the passage slowly and with care. Mr and Mrs Anthony Smith, are delighted to announce the engagement of their eldest daughter, Bethany, to Mr Ezra Howard, son of the Reverend and Mrs Benjamin Howard.
He read it once more. Eldest daughter. That meant that she was his daughter, not Anthony’s.His daughter was betrothed and he had found about it through a notice in the paper. The Smithshadnt even had the courtesy to write to him and tell him personally. True he had been adamantabout not wanting to see his children when Anthony had approached him, but even so, this wasimportant. He should have been informed before the public notice was published.
"Joseph, you are frowning." Joe looked over the top of the paper, at his mother, and glared evenmore. She was one of the major reasons he had declined to see his children when Anthony hadextended the offer over a decade previously. He folded the paper with care.
"I apologise Mother," he said after a moments silence. "I was just reading that Anthony Smithseldest daughter is betrothed. You remember Anthony and his wife, Alexandra do you not?"Maria sniffed. "I cannot say that I do.""Oh but you must Mother. Mrs Smiths maiden name is Legacy. She had her eldest children notlong after her wedding to Anthony," continued Joe. He had grown to resent his mother so, somuch, over the years.
Rachel looked from her husband to her mother-in-law, whilst furiously buttering toast. She tried tokeep her head down as much as possible when Joe and Maria had one of their conversations,and from the look on Joes face this was going to become a very loud one.Just as she was thinking that and trying to formulate an exit strategy, the door to the dining roomburst open, and the youngest member of the household dashed in, closely followed by the nanny."I apologise," said the young girl as she finally caught up with her charge.
"As well you should be," snapped Maria, her irritation finding a new person to vent at. "The diningroom is no place for a young child. The children are to be kept out at all times. Make sure you donot let her run amok again, otherwise my son will be forced to dismiss you." It was an emptythreat, and all at the table knew it. They could barely afford to employ the young girl they did,never mind look for anyone else, not that the nanny knew that of course.
Joe watched the chastened girl fight back tears before leaving the room, the dark blue eyes ofher charge, eyes unlike anyone else in the family, looking at him over the nannys shoulder.
With a pensive look on his face, he picked up his paper and his gaze was drawn once more tothe announcement of Bethanys betrothal. The daughter he knew was his, was getting marriedwhile he played no part in her life, and yet the youngest of the two daughters he lived with, andwas raising as his own, he was certain was another mans.He didn’t know it yet, but it was a line of thought which would provide him with more than a fewsleepless nights.
A few weeks after the announcement of their cousin’s engagement had been printed, Bertie,Andrew and Peter were spending a rare free afternoon in one of the practice rooms at the King’sMusic Hall. Eddie had sent over some new sheet music that he and Emmi had been working on,and Bertie had been keen to try it out. Since there was not a piano at the Legacy Society, he hadsuggested the Music Hall, and his two friends had agreed.“Emmi wrote that?” asked Peter as they reached the end of the piece.Bertie nodded. “Yes, Papa probably helped her in transcribing the notes, but I can definitely hearmy sister in the music.”
Andrew and Peter exchanged looks. “I think that she might be even more talented than UncleEddie,” said Peter.“Oh she is, no doubt about it,” agreed Bertie. “You should have heard her play the glockenspielas a small child. Stuart only managed to hit random notes. I am sure I did too, but Emmi, Emmicould play real tunes on it. Papa is doing his best to make sure that that knowledge does notspoil her though.”“If anyone can do that, it is Uncle Eddie,” said Andrew.
Peter nodded, before pulling out his fob watch. “Andrew, it is nearing half past four,” he saidlooking at the dial“Damn, we had better be going,” replied his brother.“Going?” asked a puzzled Bertie looking from one brother to the other.
“Yes,” said Andrew standing up from where he’d been slumping against the wall. “Mom andPapa are holding a dinner party tonight and we said that we would attend.”Bertie laughed, trying to hide his mounting apprehension. “You two? Attending a dinner party?What possible motivation could you have for that?”
“Mom asked us. Apparently Papa’s been given a promotion to head of the astronomydepartment at his university, and she thinks it would be nice if all the family are there to celebratewith friends,” replied Andrew.“Yes,” agreed Peter. “And besides, it will be nice to see everyone again. Mom, Papa, Celly, MissMarina, Miss Eleanor,” his voice trailed off.“Ahhh,” said Bertie with a knowing smile.
“What? They are friends of Mom’s,” said Peter.Bertie nodded. “This would be the same Miss Marina Andrew met in Simdon the other month fordinner would it? And the same Miss Eleanor you said you ran into in the book shop in town theother week?”“She was looking for a particular book and couldn’t find it in Simdon,” muttered Peter, his cheeksflushing pink. “It was nice to see a familiar face.”“Of course,” replied Bertie still grinning.
“Oh shut up you,” said Andrew with a derisory look at his friend. “Come on Peter, we must begoing.”Bertie watched his two friends walk out of the door with a grin on his face, but as soon as itclosed behind them, it slipped and he felt the old fear of being alone return. He couldn’t rely onEzra being at the Legacy Society that night, and if Christopher also decided that he was goingout with his friends, or working on an art project in the Fine Art Building, then he was going tohave to find something to do, that didn’t involve staying at home on his own. Perhaps he’d stopby the Lounge on his way home and see if there was any entertainment on.With a sigh, he gathered up the sheet music and left the room.
As he was walking towards the stairs, lost in thought about what he was going to do that night, hebecame aware of a very familiar melody coming from the recital room. He stopped and listened.Yes, it definitely sounded like A Winter’s Requiem.
He retraced his steps and stood outside one of the doors to the recital room, listening somemore. His father had never released the sheet music of the piece, and it became obvious to himas he listened that whoever was playing, was trying their hardest to work out the notes frommemory.They were good. Very good. But they were also making basic mistakes. As he listened, henoticed that the key changed far earlier than it actually did, which took away from the real keychange for the last section of the piece when they got to it.
The music stopped and he heard a muffled voice on the other side of the door. Hesitating onlybriefly, he put his hand on the door knob and pushed the door open. Inside he saw two strikinglooking blond girls, one sitting on the piano stool, the other was placing a violin onto a stand. “It isnot quite right,” said the one with the violin.“It sounded perfectly fine to me Sophia,” replied the one sitting on the stool.
“You have not heard the piece as often as I have Lauren,” said the first girl, moving to the musicstand. “Something is wrong, but I do not know what.” She stopped as she noticed Bertiestanding in the doorway.“Can I help you?”
Bertie hesitated for a second before walking over to them. As he got closer, he realised that thetwo girls were identical, apart from the expressions on their faces. The one at the music standwas regarding him with suspicion, while the one seated on the piano stool was looking at himwith interest.
“I apologise,” he said with what he hoped was an unthreatening smile. “I was exiting one of thepractice rooms, when I heard you playing A Winter’s Requiem. You have worked the score outyourself?”
The blond girl at the music stand nodded. “Yes, I did. Mr Legacy has not made public the sheetmusic. You are familiar with the piece?”“I am,” replied Bertie. “I know it very well.”She looked at him for a moment and Bertie got the impression that she was having some sort ofinner battle with herself before she asked “what did you think?”
“I think that it is very good,” replied Bertie truthfully. Sophia preened and looked down at thesheet music in front of her, a smile on her face.“There are parts which still need work, it is true, but you have made a good start.”
Sophia looked up from the music and raised an eyebrow. She may have been complaining toher sister that something wasn’t quite right, but who was this man (whom, incidentally, she hadnot been introduced to), to tell her that all she had thus far was only a good start.“Really sir?” she asked snottily. “And what, pray tell, needs to be improved in your opinion?”
Bertie missed the subtlety of tone which indicated her question came with a warning. Instead,believing that she really wanted honest constructive criticism, he said “I did not hear the piecefrom the beginning, but you have the key change too early: that section is so brief it doesn’t meritthe key changing, so instead there are a number of flats, and the tempo slows down momentarily.The key changes permanently towards the end to reflect the fact that his parents are dead, andhe is mourning their passing.”
Sophia gave a little deprecating laugh. “I do not think so sir. I know this piece of music very well,and the key definitely changes there.”Bertie shook his head. “I am afraid you are mistaken. It is a tribute to the skilful way in which thepiece is composed that you believe the key changes there, but it does not. It is only when themusic reaches the point where his parents die, that he feels the need to make the permanentchange, reflecting his sadness and the fact that his life and family will never be the same again,”he explained.
Sophia sneered at him and answered, her voice thick with condescension. ”With no publishedsheet music, that is pure conjecture. Are you familiar with Mr Legacy? Are you conversant withhis thought processes while he was composing this piece? Because I highly doubt you are. Imyself have seen Mr Legacy in concert over fifteen times, whether playing on his own, or as partof the Simdon Symphony Orchestra. A Winter’s Requiem is my favourite piece of music. I havepaid it much attention every time I have heard him play it, and I am certain that I know moreabout it, and how it sounds, than you.”
Bertie tilted his head, looked down at her, and drew his shoulders back. Really? She thoughtshe knew more about this piece of music and what his father had been thinking than he did? Hehad tried to explain some of Eddie’s feelings, but she had ignored him, instead insisting that sheknew best. He had an inkling that she would continue to do so, no matter what he said.No explaining to her again wouldn’t work, but something else occurred to him. “Mr Legacy is inconcert in Simdon next week. My family and I have tickets to see him and it will be easy for us toobtain more. Perhaps you would care to join us, and we can see who is correct about the keychange.”
Sophia hesitated, thinking about his invitation. She had never rejected an offer to see a concert,especially one being given by Mr Legacy, and it would be a way to prove to this infuriating manthat she was correct. There was one thing stopping her. “That is a very kind invitation sir, but wehave not actually been introduced. For all I know, you could be a confidence trickster who hasbluffed his way into the music hall.” She clasped her hands in front of her as she spoke.
Bertie looked at her. “I assure you I am not. I am Bertie, Albert … Smith. Perhaps you know mycousin Bethany?”Sophia nodded. “Yes, Miss Smith lived in Princess Beatrice House until the beginning of thisyear. I am familiar with her.” She paused. The proper thing to do would be to wait until Mr Smithspoke with his cousin and she introduced them, but there would always be a part of Sophia’s soulwhich rebelled at being told what to do. “I am Sophia Sartor, this is my sister Lauren.”
Lauren got up off of the stool and proffered her hand to Bertie, which he took. “It is a pleasure tomeet you Miss Lauren,” he said as he took her hand.Sophia rolled her eyes as Lauren simpered at him. She loved her twin dearly, but really. Wasthere not a man in Simbridge she wouldn’t dimple at?
“Are you still living in Princess Beatrice House?” asked Bertie turning his attention to Sophiaagain, noting as he did so that her hands were still tightly clasped.“Yes,” she replied shortly.“I will be outside the House in a carriage next Wednesday at five.” His response was equally asshort as he sparked off her.
“Very well Mr Smith, I shall look forward to the concert and proving you wrong,” replied Sophia,inclining her head.Bertie gave a small snort of laughter. “And I shall look forward to the concert and proving youwrong Miss Sartor.”
‘What an impossible young lady,’ he thought as he walked along the corridor to the staircase. Hewas looking forward to wiping that condescending smile off of her face at the concert.
‘What an impossible man,’ thought Sophia, having picked up her violin once more. She wasgoing to saviour the moment on Wednesday when she was proven correct.
Bertie had received some ribbing from his friends about the fact that he had invited a young ladyto concert when they had found out, and even more when Carmen had extended an invitation forMiss Sartor to dine with them that evening as well. Christopher especially had found it hard tobelieve that Bertie was only doing it to prove a point, instead believing that he had a romanticinterest in her. His remarks had been met with disdain from Bertie who was now sitting in theOpera House, Miss Sartor by his side as they listened to the closing bars of A Winter’s Requiem.
Silence fell as the last note Eddie had played died away. It didn’t last long. Before he even hadtime to put down his violin and drop into a bow, the auditorium erupted with applause. Sophia gotto her feet, as everyone around her did the same. “Beautiful, just beautiful,” she murmured.“The emotion he puts into the piece is amazing. And the key definitely changes two thirds of theway through.” This last comment was aimed at Bertie. “No it doesn’t,” he replied patiently. “Youonly think it does, because of the clever, and yet sparing use of flats through that section.”
“Bertie is correct.” Miss Sartor looked down at the little girl standing on the other side of her. “Thekey does not actually change until thirty-two bars from the end, although parts of that section arerepeated several times, so that section seems longer.”“I think you will find that it changes earlier, no matter what your brother may say,” retortedSophia.
“Never argue with Emmi about music,” said Bertie mildly, before his sister could react. “You willnever win.”“You say that only because she is supporting you, and you know that I am correct and will beproven so if I continue discussing it with her,” said Sophia, glaring up at Bertie.He gazed steadily back at her. “I am not.”
By this time, the orchestra had left the stage and the applause had died down. Carmen lookingdown the row of seats and sensing that her oldest step-son and his guest were about to startarguing and that Emmi was winding up to join in, bent down to speak to her daughter inTakemizu. “Beloved Emmi, please do not argue with Bertie’s guest, even if she is wrong,” sheadded on seeing her daughter open her mouth to protest. “Besides, it is time now to go and seeyour father.” This perked Emmi up and she leant forward, to look round Miss Sartor. “Bertie, Iwant to go and see Papa.”Bertie glanced down at her and his fierce glare relaxed into a smile. “Of course.”
He stepped into the aisle and held out his arm to usher Miss Sartor and his family out, noting ashe did so that Sophia barely spared him a glance. Stuart was the last past him. He knew hisbrother better than anyone else in the world, and had been watching him all night.
Now, before Bertie could hurry after the rest of their party, he caught his arm and hissed at him,“what are you up to?”“Me?” Bertie put on his best innocent face. “I do not know what you mean.”
“Yes you do,” retorted Stuart. “You invited Miss Sartor to this concert, and yet the two of youhave spent most of the evening sniping at each other, and do not think I have not noticed thatyou did not utter our surname when you introduced her to us, or that Miss Sartor does not callyou Mr Legacy. What are you doing?”
Bertie’s face split into a grin. “Teaching an insufferable know-it-all a lesson in humility.” Onseeing that his brother was still contemplating him with a look of unease, he added “trust me,”before hurrying after Miss Sartor.
On reaching her, he offered her his arm. After a momentary hesitation, she accepted it. He was,she had decided, the most infuriating man she had ever had the misfortune to meet. It was clearto her on hearing the music again that she was right, and he was wrong. The fact that hecontinued to state that he was correct, was maddening. He had even managed to persuade hislittle sister to agree with him, which was absurd. Just how could the knowledge of a seven yearold, compare to that of an eighteen year old, who had studied music for years and was talentedenough to be able to play a complicated piece of music by ear in only a matter of hours? Yet,(and she hated herself for thinking this), walking with her arm linked with his was comfortable,something about it felt…right.
She was so caught up in her thoughts, it took a minute for her to realise that they weren’t headingtowards the exterior doors. She had assumed that they would be meeting Bertie’s father in therestaurant they were going to be dinning in, and was confused as to where they were going. “Ithought we were to meet your father?” she asked as Emmi skipped past them.
“We are,” replied Bertie as they stopped before a door which was labelled staff only. Carmenknocked on it, and it was opened by a hearty looking man in white tie.“Bless my soul, is that little Emmi?” he asked on seeing Emina standing next to her mother.“Hallo Jack,” she replied a big grin on her face. “Can I go and see Papa please?”“Well, if you insist,” he smiled down at her, before standing back to let them through. He noddedat each of them as they passed, holding the door open behind them.
Sophia looked around her as Bertie steered her towards backstage. “Your father works here?”she asked.Bertie thought about that, before saying “yes, I suppose he does.”“That is why you were able to come by such good tickets then.”“Yes.” It was a good job that Bertie couldn’t see the looks his brother, lagging behind, wassending his way at his omissions.
They entered a small room, and there, at the end was Eddie, loosening his bow, before placing itin his case with his violin. “Papa!” cried Emmi, before dodging round a bassist who wasmanoeuvring his instrument towards its case.
On hearing her voice, Eddie turned round, and opened his arms, ready for a hug. “Emmi! Howdid you enjoy the concert? Did I make any mistakes?”“No Papa, you were perfect,” she stated as she returned his hug. “Mr Hathaway was out of timefor part of Mr Mozart’s Violin Concerto no 5 though.”
Eddie looked at her fondly. “Ah, was he now? Perhaps it is best if you do not tell him if you seehim.”“But why? He should know his mistakes if he is to improve,” stated Emmi.“Because he is feeling under the weather today,” lied Eddie, eager to head his daughter offbefore she upset the orchestra’s pianist.
As the rest of his family greeted Eddie and congratulated him on his performance, Sophia lookedon, her face growing warm at the memory of the conversation she had had with Bertie a few dayspreviously. To think she had accused him of not knowing the music or the composer.She didn’t know he was leaning close to her, until he spoke quietly into her ear. “I am sorry, but Ilied to you,” he said. “My name is not Smith, it is Legacy. Eddie Legacy is my father. A Winter’sRequiem was written about my grandparents, not long after their deaths. I know that piece ofmusic; I know what the emotions are behind it, and I know the people it is about. It has been animportant part of my life and the lives of the rest of my family since I was fourteen. I could play itin my sleep. Does that adequately answer your condescending questions?”
“Mr Legacy, I…” Sophia turned to look at him, and he felt guilty at how distressed she looked.He was about to apologise for his deception when Eddie approached the two of them andSophia’s expression changed as if a door had been slammed shut. “Bertie, are you not going tointroduce me to your guest?”
“Of course Father. Papa, allow me to present to you Miss Sophia Sartor, Miss Sartor, my father,Edward Legacy.”“Very pleased to meet you sir,” said Sophia giving him her hand and trying not to sound flustered.“The pleasure is all mine,” replied Eddie with a characteristically warm smile. “I hope youenjoyed the concert.”“It was very fine Mr Legacy. Your performance was exemplary as always,” she replied.“It is very kind of you to say so Miss Sartor,” replied Eddie.
Carmen came up behind them. “Dearest Eddie, we should be heading towards the restaurant ifwe are to keep our reservation.”“Of course,” said Eddie smiling at his wife before turning his attention to Sophia once more.“Bertie said that you will be joining us Miss Sartor.”
“Oh. Yes Mr Legacy did invite me,” replied Sophia.“Good, then hopefully we will have the chance to speak more over our meal.”“I look forward to that Mr Legacy,” said Sophia with a smile.
The meal had been rather pleasant, even if Sophia had felt herself growing more and more angrywith Bertie throughout it. By the time they had stepped into the carriage for the journey back toSimbridge, her anger and humiliation had combined into a potent burning cocktail of emotion andas a consequence the journey had been undertaken mostly in silence. The few times he hadstarted to apologise, she had cut him off, and they had lapsed into silence again. Her goodnightto him when they had arrived at Princess Beatrice House was terse, and she swept into thehouse without a backwards glance at him.
Lauren had been waiting in her room for her twin to get home and jumped as she flung the dooropen.“How was the evening?” she asked tentatively as Sophia sat down at her dressing table.“The concert was superb, and the meal delicious,” replied Sophia as she started to remove herjewellery.“And Mr Smith?”
Sophia frowned and rested her arms on the table. “His name is not Smith,” she said, her jawclenched. “It is Legacy. He is Edward Legacy’s son.”“Oh.” Lauren was stunned. “I take that to mean that he did know what he was talking about withregards to the key change then?”
Sophia swivelled on her stool to glare at her sister. “Do not mention that to me. As well as beingthe most infuriating man I have ever met, he humiliated me Lauren. If I never set eyes on himagain, it will be too soon.” She stood up suddenly. “Now help me with my dress if you please.”
Lauren did she was bade, noting as she unhooked the bodice, that despite Sophia’s insistencethat she didnt want to see Bertie again, she couldn’t stop talking about him.
Across the town, Bertie was paying the coachman, and trying to get his thoughts straight. Hehad felt triumphant at proving his point to Miss Sartor, but it had been severely tempered by thelook of anguish he had seen on her face. True, she had soon quashed it and had been barelycivil to him for the rest of the evening, but perhaps he had acted in a cruel and unnecessarymanner. He had certainly been ungentlemanly.
He sighed as he watched the carriage clatter off down the road. At least he had managed tospeak to his father, and would hopefully soon have a gift with which to apologise to her.The chapter continues in part b.