Six Years Later
Emily raised her hands high above the piano keys as the last reverberating chords from the piano faded away in the silence of the auditorium, before the audience stood in a roaring ovation. The orchestra conductor turned to her and extended his arm to have her stand to accept the applause.
Emily stood, nodded to the conductor, bowed, and smiled broadly. The audience roared “More, More!” so she turned to the conductor and nodded, and sat again on the piano bench. The conductor raised his baton before the orchestra and the audience quieted as this—the third encore began.
Emily was exhausted, but happy, as this was the last performance for a few weeks. She headed to the dressing room and entered to find her personal dresser and attendant, Cynthia, ready with her freshly brewed cup of tea awaiting her.
The boys ran to Emily and grabbed hold of her legs, before she could even wipe her glistening brow with the handkerchief she always kept up her sleeve.
Mark was standing with a broad smile.
“Were you able to hear the concert?” she asked, freeing herself from the boys and collapsing into a chair.
“Your pieces, yes. But Mark Junior and Charles were restless and I could not leave them alone too long with Cynthia.”
“I am so pleased to have an extended break and to see my friends and family. They have been planning this visit with us for months,” Emily said sipping her tea. Her boys were looking at her expectantly. “Come here, you two,” she said and they raced into her arms.
Mark Junior was five-years-old and Charles was three.
“Have you been causing your father trouble?” she asked in mock ferociousness.
“No Mama. We have been ever so good,” little Charles said.
“I am happy to hear that.” And she hugged them both, before releasing them to go play. But it was very late and way past their bedtime, so they ended up snuggling on the sofa next to their father.
“How long will it take us to get to the chateau tomorrow?” Emily asked as she turned to the mirror to remove her makeup.
“If we leave early in the morning we should be back by dinnertime,” Mark answered. “I imagine you are looking forward to seeing your guests.”
Emily turned to him and sat back in her chair. “Oh, yes. It has been such a long season this year and it is lovely to have these few weeks off before the next performances in April.”
It had become clear, soon after Emily started performing in Europe six years ago, that she was going to be very successful and very busy. It was then Mark suggested they acquire a residence in France where they might base themselves during her performing season, so the family might stay together. At that point, they were expecting their first child.
They found a lovely small chateau just east of Paris, and that is where they were headed for this break in the season. They spent such a great deal of their time in France that the boys were learning French as well as English. And, although the Duchess complained that they were too seldom at Linfield Hall, the family did spend most of the summer there.
When the family finally arrived at the chateau the next evening, Emily was delighted to find that all of their guests had already arrived. But, as much as Mark would have liked it, the old Duchess had been declining in health the last few years and it was advised that she not travel from Linfield to the chateau.
The boys were exhausted from the daylong trip in the carriage and they were turned over to Nanny to have supper in the nursery and to be put straight to bed after.
Although Emily was fairly exhausted herself, from her extensive round of concerts these past few months, she was so delighted to see her family and friends, that she was energized to spend the whole evening gossiping and catching up on all the news from home.
But as the evening wore on, she found she could barely keep her eyes open and she excused herself and went to bed.
One of the chateau’s many features that had intrigued Mark, when they acquired the estate, was the small vineyard that supplied the household wine. It was too small to be of any commercial interest, but he had taken a keen interest in learning about making wine, and he always returned from England in time to oversee the harvest and work with the vintner to ferment, and bottle the completed wine.
The lovely estate was nestled in a valley with gently sloping hills rising from fertile fields below. A river meandered sleepily along the valley floor, bisecting the estate with the vineyard on one side near the house and fields and woods on the other.
The house had been built in the seventeenth century with three towers and large floor to ceiling windows, allowing an abundance of light to flood inside.
Emily was still asleep when Mark rose the next morning. And it appeared that none of the guests were awake when he went outside to inspect the grapevines. New buds were expected on the rootstock any day and he was excited to anticipate this year’s new crop of glowing ripe grapes.
He was surprised to find Spencer coming back from an early morning walk, smoking his pipe.
“Your Grace,” Spencer called out as he caught up with Mark just entering the vineyard.
“Good morning, Spencer, I see you were not too tired from your journey if you are up this early.”
“I had baby Linda in my lap most of the trip in our carriage and tended to nod off when she did, so I was not as tired as some of the others, despite the jostling. Fortunately, our two carriages were large enough to accommodate us all.”
Mark tapped his walking stick on a mound of dirt between two rows of vines. “Gophers. Will need to take care of that,” he said.
“We are all so proud of Emily,” Spencer said, “Ruth and I never imagined she would become so famous.”
“We have not made it public yet, but she is to be listed in the Queen’s honor’s list this year.”
Mark looked toward the house as Emily came outside with Charles and waved.
“Are you ready for breakfast, Spence?” Mark asked. “It seems Emily is hailing us to come back.”
“Famished, but there was no one about when I came out for my walk.”
They headed to where Emily was standing.
“Alice is asking for you, Mark. It seems the twins may have caught a bug on the passage over, and she wants to quarantine them until she knows what it is. We cannot have the entire household becoming sick.”
“I will have Gaspard fetch the doctor. You two go inside. Is breakfast ready yet?”
“It is,” Emily said. “Come Spence. Ruth is already drinking her tea in the breakfast room.”
“Tell Alice I shall be with her shortly,” Mark called out, as he headed toward the stables where he had seen Gaspard headed earlier.
Alice found Emily in the music room where she had just finished a brief warmup practice.
“I thought I might find you here,” Alice said as she entered. “I hope I am not disturbing you.”
“Not at all, just keeping my fingers limber. No serious practicing while I have a house full of guests.”
“I have something for you,” Alice said, coming over to the piano and opening a folded sheet of music. “It is the latest. And I want you to be the first to play it.”
“Oh, Alice…” Emily said, examining the music and playing the first few bars. “I cannot wait to get into this.” Then she looked up, “How are the boys?”
“Nothing serious. Just a touch of catarrh. I have put them to bed. But knowing those two, I will need to keep checking on them every half hour, or they may tear the room apart.”
Emily laughed. “I will have Nanny keep watch if you like. Not to worry.”
“That would be a treat. Thank you.”
Emily stood up from the piano bench. “Shall we join the others? I believe Gaspard is serving tea—although he never seems to get used to our English ways.”
Alice laughed. “Yes, I am parched.”
They headed down the long hallway from the music room to the largest parlor where there was a nice cheery fire—March still being a chilly month in northern France.
Mother and Papa were seated with Teresa and her husband Trent. Mother was rubbing the now pregnant Teresa’s belly.
“Boy or a girl do you think?” she asked.
Trent spoke right up. “A boy, of course. And I predict he will become a champion cricket bowler by the age of ten.”
Teresa gave him a sour look. “It is going to be a girl—I can sense it. And she is going to become a genteel young lady with impeccable manners, and marry a wealthy shop keeper like Papa.”
“Well, she could do worse,” Papa said with a grin, patting his wife’s knee.
Fanny could not stay silent for long and added, “Well at least you are going to have a child. Just be thankful for that.” She turned to her fireman husband, Thomas, and gave him a kiss. “But we keep trying.”
He had a harassed and forlorn look on his handsome face. “My Fanny is such a worrier. We have only been married a year and already she wants to trade me in for a new horse.”
She gave him a playful swat. “Well, at least, then I might get to where I want to go.”
Gaspard began serving the tea with a plate of delectable French pastries. Charles and Mark Junior rushed over and each tried to grab two pastries each.
“Oh, no,” Mark cautioned. And he held up one finger.
The boys put the second pastries back on the plate and scampered to their place by the fire.
“You will never guess who we saw one evening last week when Trent and I went out to dine?” Teresa addressed Emily.
“Oh? And who might that be?” she asked.
“Our old trio partner, Linton.”
“Oh, my… And where was that?”
“We went to a café where they have entertainment and he was playing the piano with a young lady.”
Emily had to smile at the remembrance of their welcome reception when they played together.
“Did you have an opportunity to speak to him?”
“We did. And he asked after you. He seemed a little envious of your great success over here, but he was also very happy for you,” Trent added.
“Did he seem well?”
“He briefly mentioned how ashamed he was at the spectacle he created at Ruthie’s wedding. But he seemed very jolly now,” Teresa said, adding, “I see Giles occasionally, and he tells me Linton is doing well and has auditioned for a fine small orchestra in Portsmouth and may well be accepted.”
Emily said, “Excuse me for saying this, Trent, but I remember how besotted Teresa was of Linton at one point.” She then addressed her sister, “And I assume you are quite over your infatuation now?”
Teresa squinched up her face and said, “Oh, Emily, I am more than content with my darling, Trent. Are we not, kitten?” and she rubbed noses with him.
“And let me tell you, you might be very surprised if you were to see Mr. Hawthorn.” Teresa leaned forward and said in a mock whisper, “He is losing his hair and he has put on more than a few pounds.”
Trent turned to Papa and said, “Tell Emily and Mark about the shop.”
Papa’s face lit up and he gestured toward Trent. “This young man of our Teresa has taken an interest in the shop and wants to eventually buy me out—just as I did with the old men so many years ago.” He laughed. “Now, I am the old man and the next generation is about to shove me out,” he said with no animosity.
“The world of music is changing and it is time to innovate and move forward,” Trent said with a great deal of confidence.
“And he is the one to do it,” Fanny said, stroking her brother’s arm, as they were sitting on the same sofa.
Spencer stood and stretched. “I got a good deal of mud on my boots this morning. It was fresh from the rain during the night, but I feel to take a stroll again. Anyone wish to join me?”
“I do,” Mark, said, standing.
“And me,” Thomas said. “Want to come along, my dear,” he added, offering his hand to Fanny.
“Why not? Sitting in that carriage all day yesterday made me groggy. And a good stretch would be just the thing.”
Emily added, “I want to take a look at the new piece of music Alice just gave me. I think I shall pass.”
“Now, do not overdo it,” Mark cautioned. “This is supposed to be a time of rest and rejuvenation for you.”
Emily chuckled. “I know. You all go and enjoy yourselves, however you wish, for the rest of the afternoon and we shall all meet up for supper at about seven. And I believe I shall shortly have a nap.”
The friends and family dispersed to their various activities. And Gaspard was left to clean up from the tea, muttering to himself—something about those crazy English, as he left the room with the tea tray.
Emily found that for the moment, at least, she was entirely alone. She was sitting by the fire and she leaned back in her comfortable chair, cupped her hands behind her head, and stretched her legs out straight in front of her. How lovely this day had been, and she sighed, as she reflected upon her many, many blessings.
Ah, before you go...
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