Chapter Thirteen Continued
There were four chairs set up, in the normal quartet position. The violist and cellist were already seated; chatting light-heartedly as they warmed up. They looked vaguely familiar to Liz, especially the violist -- a tall young man with light brown hair, a nobly arched nose, and a large black mustache. Could he be…? No, impossible.
D'Arcy was seated in the first violin spot, as if that was the most natural thing in the world. "Here's your music," he said, handing Liz the second violin part. He paused, realizing that she was staring at him sharply, and asked, albeit somewhat puzzled, "Oh, would you like to sit first violin?"
"No, no," Liz replied innocently, breaking the glare, and took her music with a small smile. The meaningful glance, passed quietly between the violist and cellist, went unseen by both violinists.
After tuning to D'Arcy's A, Liz turned to the violist and cellist and said, "Hi, I'm Liz Bennet. I don't think we've met."
The cellist reached across her stand and shook hands with Liz. "I'm Cindy," she replied. "And this my friend, uh --"
"Bčla," the violist blurted.
"Pleased to meet you." Liz smiled and sat back in her seat, casting a few quizzical glances over at that viola player. She was certain that she'd seen him somewhere before.
"Death and the Maiden" is the most serious of Schubert's quartets. It consists of four movements: an Allegro , followed by an Andante con moto , a Scherzo (Allegro molto) , and finally a Presto .
At the end of the first movement, Cindy stood abruptly. "It's so dreadfully hot in this room," she clamored; "it's making me very thirsty. Could I get anyone else a drink, while I'm over there?"
"No, thank you," said Liz, thinking it actually rather cold in the room. D'Arcy declined as well. So there they were, alone together (for Bčla had scurried off with Cindy). There were a few moments of silence, in which Liz debated whether or not she should say anything to the man sitting beside her. She finally decided that she would say something, knowing that it was probably the last thing D'Arcy wanted. "The room looks nice tonight. Did Carolyn do the decorations?"
"I believe she hired someone to do it."
My, that was quick. Liz was not discouraged, however, and proceeded, "I think it's your turn to say something now, William. I just commented on the room; you could say something about the marvelous mountain weather we've been having."
He smiled. "I'll say whatever you want me to say."
"Never mind; that should do just fine. Perhaps a little later I'll tell you about the ten-mile run I took all alone this morning -- ha, wouldn't Carolyn disapprove! -- but for right now, I'll hold my peace."
D'Arcy began to wipe the fingerboard of his violin with a piece of cloth. Eventually, he asked, "Do you always talk by rule then?"
She was brisk in her retort. "Sometimes that's the best way. It allows us to say as little as possible." She likewise began to wipe her fingerboard.
"Do you really like saying as little as possible, or are you just thinking of me ?"
"Both," Liz replied archly. "You see, I think that we're very alike. We're both quiet, unsociable people, who don't like to speak unless we'll say something that will amaze the whole room."
"That doesn't sound anything like you. Whether it sounds like me or not…"
"Oh it does, I promise."
At that moment, Cindy and Bčla came hastening back to their seats, both quite out of breath. "Sorry it took us so long," Cindy panted.
They resumed the piece. After finishing the Scherzo , the cellist left her seat again, saying, "I'm sorry, but I really have to use the restroom. Bčla, why don't you come with me?"
Liz thought it very strange that Cindy should want her male friend to come with her to the bathroom, but said nothing. Now she had that terrible annoyance of making conversation with D'Arcy again. This time, however, he spoke first.
"I enjoyed your quartet's concert on Friday."
"Thanks." She paused, and then said, "When you saw me in the lobby after that concert, I had just made a new friend."
Immediately, the features on D'Arcy's face grew rigid and cold, and he turned back to his instrument. "It's easy for Wickley George to make friends -- whether he can keep them or not is a different story."
"Losing your friendship is something that will probably handicap him for the rest of his life," Liz shot back.
D'Arcy glowered, but was unable to say anything else, for at that moment William Lucas joined them. "Liz, Mr. D'Arcy! I just had to come over and tell you how much I've been enjoying your music this evening. It's obvious, Mr. D'Arcy, how excellent a violinist you are -- just by watching you sight-read! And Liz, you've been doing a great job as well. Hopefully, you'll have more time in the future to play together, especially with another friendship blooming so fully, eh?" He nodded conspicuously over to where Jenna and Charlie were sitting, still together.
Liz blushed at William Lucas' indiscretion; at the same time she saw D'Arcy start, and begin to stare fixedly at Charlie and Jenna.
Meanwhile, out in the hall, the cellist named Cindy was leaning beside the restroom door. Her friend, the violist, stood next to her, and seemed somewhat confused. "I don't understand it, CK," he told her. "First, we go over to get some punch, and you're not thirsty; and now we're at the restroom, and you don't have to go! What's up? Why do you keep interrupting the quartet?"
"I have my reasons, Josh," she answered, smiling mischievously. "Oh, and while we're out here, you can take off that mustache. Why did you put it on, anyway?"
"So no one would recognize me," he said, peeling off the stick-on black facial hair. "I've been having a real problem lately -- I get mobbed wherever I go by screaming fans."
"And so that's why you said your name was Bčla."
He grinned. "It was the first thing that popped into my head. Y'know: Bell… Bčla. It wasn't too apparent, was it?"
"No, not at all," CK assured him.
"Say, shouldn't we go back in there soon? They may be wondering where we went."
The cellist glanced nonchalantly at her watch. "Nah. We have plenty of time."
What they did or said after this does not affect the storyline, so, without further ado, let us go back to Liz and D'Arcy, who are talking of very different matters.
"I remember you once said that you never forgave and forgot," Liz said to D'Arcy, after William Lucas had left; "that your opinion, once made, was implacable. You're careful not to form the wrong opinion of someone, right?"
"I am," he said firmly.
"And you're never biased?"
"I hope not. May I inquire why you're asking me all these questions?"
Liz sighed. "Oh, to understand you better. I'm trying to figure you out."
"And how's it going?"
She shook her head. "Terribly. I've heard you spoken of so many different ways -- I'm totally puzzled."
"I can believe that." He rose from his seat. "I wish you wouldn't try to sketch my character right now, Liz. The result would reflect badly on both of us."
Liz wondered what he meant by this. "But if I don't sketch your character now, I'll probably never get another chance to."
"I would never suspend any pleasure of yours," he said coldly. "Forgive me, but I've had enough of this non-quartet."
Liz watched as he stalked to the other side of the room, and packed up his expensive violin. When she turned back, she was surprised to see Carolyn Bingley sitting in his vacated seat, smiling acidly. "Liz! I've been meaning to talk to you."
This was the last thing Liz could have wished for. "Well, here I am."
"I hear you've become quite friendly with Wickley George. No doubt he forgot to tell you that he's merely the son of Stewart George, Gautier D'Arcy's best friend!" She laughed at this as if it was the most clever thing she had ever said; then, taking a more somber and condescending air, she said, "Liz, as a friend, let me warn you not to believe everything Wickley George tells you. He treated Will in an infamous manner!"
"I don't remember all the details, but I do know that it wasn't poor Will's fault at all. I'm sorry I had to tell you this, Liz, knowing how much you like Wickley; but really, considering what kind of man he is, you couldn't possibly expect much better."
"What kind of man is he?" Liz responded, starting to get angry. "The only thing you've accused him of is being the son of Gautier D'Arcy's best friend, and he told me that himself."
The Great Carolyn Bingley looked shocked at being spoken to in such a manner by this little nobody. "I beg your pardon," she replied, mustering all the scorn and contempt that she felt for Liz Bennet into one icy glare. "Forgive my interference. I thought you would be glad I warned you, in view of Folge-Habe. But never mind!"
They parted -- Carolyn in an injured waltz, Liz in a furious storm. "Insolent woman!" Liz muttered. "You think you can influence me by this petty little argument?! It convinced me of nothing, besides what an ignorant harpy you are, and how malicious your beloved Will is!"
This was indeed the last straw. Liz had totally had it with this party, and wanted nothing more than to go home. She put her violin away, and was about to search for the rest of her family, when Jenna approached.
"Hi Liz," she said. "I've been talking to -- Oh, you look so upset! What's wrong?"
Liz had no wish of ruining her sister's obviously great evening with her own complaints. "Nothing, nothing. What have you been up to?"
"I've been talking to Charlie about Wickley George," Jenna replied in a whisper. "Liz, he says Wickley and William did have a falling out, but it was entirely Wickley's fault! He says Wickley 's not at all trustworthy."
"Does he know Wickley himself?"
"No; the first time he saw him was at the reception Friday."
"Then all he's heard is D'Arcy's story! Jenna, it's great that Charlie believes his friend, but since he's only had a one-sided account of things, my opinion of Wickley and D'Arcy remains unchanged. Now, may I please change the subject? Let's talk about happier things, like… you and Charlie!"
Jenna smiled, and looked down at her hands. "He's so nice, Liz. I like him a lot."
Liz grinned, and was about to reply, when Jenna gasped in horror. "Liz, look!"
She turned just in time to see Bill Collins slinking over to a table, at which D'Arcy was seated.
"Oh no," Liz moaned. "He's going to talk to him!"
"Is there any way we can stop him?"
Liz shook her head in anguish. "Too late."
The sisters watched helplessly as Bill Collins slid into the seat next to D'Arcy. "F. William D'Arcy? I'm Bill Collins, the Bennets' cousin, and I've just made an amazing discovery! Is it true that you're the nephew of Catherine de Bourgh?!"
"Yes," D'Arcy muttered, eyeing him warily.
"My goodness, what a coincidence! I was hired by Ms. de Bourgh herself to conduct the Labias de la Vaca Philharmonic!"
"Remarkable." This was the same as saying Leave me alone, you buffoon, but Bill Collins was never one to take a hint, and continued to shower praises on D'Arcy's exemplary aunt. D'Arcy was now staring at him in visible disgust, and then boredom. When Bill finally stopped for breath, D'Arcy walked away.
"Good, it's over. I'm gonna go talk to Charlie," Jenna told her sister, squeezing her hand. She left, and Liz went to get herself a plate of food. On her way back, she passed the table where her mother was sitting with Lonna Lucas.
"Jenna and Charlie make such a nice couple, don't they, Lonna?" Fran was exclaiming. "Just look at them over there -- ah, young romance!"
"Jane is such a sweet girl," Lonna added.
"Charlie is a very lucky young man," said Fran. "But, as I always remind my girls, knowing some top-notch musicians never hurt a career! -- Do you have any idea how much he makes a year…?!"
Liz was horrified. Fran was talking loud enough to be heard by half the hotel. Jenna and Charlie, who could obviously hear every word, looked extremely embarrassed. D'Arcy and the Bingley sisters were with them, and had also overheard. The latter two were now whispering turbulently, and the former was looking at Fran in dismay.
"Mom, please ," Liz murmured. "Everyone can hear you!"
"I don't care if they do! Who wouldn't want to hear me?"
"F. William D'Arcy, for one matter, and --"
"F.William D'Arcy! Oh, well la di da! I don't give a rat's backside what he hears, the intolerable man!"
Liz's head began to throb. And then, just when things seemed like they couldn't get any worse, a familiar voice began to wail…
It was Mary, who had appeared quite out of nowhere, and was now accompanying herself in a slow, laborious version of her favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber song. Her voice was so loud and out of tune, and her piano playing so thick and clumsy, that she had attracted the attention of the whole room.
It seemed to go on forever. Mary sung all the verses, pausing now and again for dramatic affect. A few people clapped politely at the end, and, taking this as a request for an encore, Mary started on another song -- this time "Don't Cry For Me Argentina." But before she could get through two lines, Calvin appeared at her side, and said, "That'll do just fine, dear. You've delighted us long enough. Let someone else have a chance to show off."
Mary flushed deeply, and stumbled back to her seat. Liz felt bad for her sister, and sorry that her father had had to humiliate her; but at the same time, a little relieved in knowing they would hear no more of Mary's musical renditions that night.
Louise Bingley took Mary's place at the piano, and, smiling synthetically, proceeded to play the whirling Presto from Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. As Louise was a professional pianist, and Mary a very untalented amateur, the difference between the two was shamefully evident.
"Livia! Livia!" It was now time for the youngest Bennet daughter to make a fool out of herself. She ran wildly about the room, while carrying an oboe over her head. Sanderson Little, to whom the instrument belonged, was chasing her, as well as Denny, Carter, and a few other young men.
"If you want it back, you'll have to catch me first!" she squealed. She continued to run and giggle, until, colliding with a table, the oboe flew out of her hands. Luckily, it was caught by someone closeby, and delivered safely back to Sanderson Little.
"Oh, that was fun, wasn't it?" Livia breathed, plopping down in a chair. "Go get me a Coke, will you, Denny -- I'm so tired!"
I've died -- yeah, that's it. I've died and this is what hell is like, Liz mused. She heard a loud HONK! Bill Collins had his bassoon out again. Oh God, why me? Why me?
Jenna stuck her head into the practice room, where Liz had been struggling persistently with a Gavinies etude. "Oh, I'm sorry… I didn't mean to bother you --"
"No, come on in. I'm not frustrated with you, just this annoying etude."
Jenna laughed. "I know how it is. Hey, I'm going to F. William D'Arcy's recital, and thought you might like to come… but if you're busy…"
"I am definitely not busy. In fact, I was just about to put this piece of wood away." Liz set her violin down in its case with a sigh of relief. "Wait a second -- You're going to F. William D'Arcy's recital?"
"Charlie invited me at the party last night." Jenna smiled, reddening. "You and me, that is. We're going to meet afterwards for a drink."
"I see." Liz grinned guilefully. "In that case, are you sure you want me coming along?"
"Yes, of course!"
"Well, all right then. First let me change."
Liz cast off her tee shirt and sweatpants, and deciding it was warm enough outside, slipped into a comfortable short green dress. Jenna appeared in a long blue thing.
They were a little late in arriving, so, after getting their tickets, they hurried to find their seats, which were right in the front row. Liz had just enough time to glance through her program as the lights went down. "First half: Sonata for Solo Violin by Bčla Bartok, Sonata in D minor by Cčsar Franck," she read; "Second half: Tzigane by Maurice Ravel, Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso by Camille Saint-Saëns. With Louise Bingley, piano, and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra … what ?!" Liz nudged her sister. "Jenna, look!"
"Shh," said someone behind them, and Liz diffidently obeyed. She couldn't help but wonder, though, as F. William D'Arcy walked out onstage… The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra? Had she read it correctly?
She would have to wait to find out, as the first piece was for violin alone. Bartok's Solo Sonata is a wild and dissonant piece, terribly difficult. Liz was loath to admit that D'Arcy played it well, and she was consequently the only one in the whole auditorium not spell-bound by F. William D'Arcy's amazing interpretation of that daring opening piece.
When it was over, it took a few moments for people to respond, as if they were all in shock; then came the peals of applause -- so thundering one would have thought the recital was over. But no, it was just beginning. D'Arcy acknowledged the cheers with a brief, small nod, and walked off stage. He reappeared soon after, and with him was Louise Bingley, whose response to the audience was much more prominent. She smiled with all her phony sweetness, and bowed, and mouthed "thank you", and bowed, and smiled, and bowed again, all before sitting down at the piano. Liz was rather disgusted -- I don't think it's you they're clapping for, dear.
The Franck Sonata was well done, if a little stiff on D'Arcy's part, and melodramatic on Louise's.
During the intermission, Jenna made the excuse of having to use the restroom, but when she didn't return after ten minutes Liz knew that she was looking for Charlie.
Jenna came back looking somewhat bewildered. "Did you find the restroom all right?" Liz asked.
"What? Oh, yes, thanks." Jenna was quiet after that, looking a little at her program, and then off in another direction until the second half began.
The curtain, which had lowered during the intermission, rose again, and lo and behold, there was an orchestra on stage! "Ah, so it is the L.A. Chamber Orchestra after all," Liz muttered to herself. "I really can't believe it -- Well, maybe I can; after all, this is F. William D'Arcy, The Great."
D'Arcy conducted both the Ravel and the Saint-Saëns from the violin. Liz might have been brought to admit that it was an incredible performance, maybe… Maybe, but not quite.
"Well, where are you going to meet Charlie?" Liz asked her sister as they gathered their things to leave. "You're sure you want me to come along? 'Cause, y'know, I could always take the bus home if not…"
"No, please stay. He said he'd meet us by the backstage entrance."
So that was where they went. At first the line to get backstage was so long that it was impossible to see anything; but then, as it began to disperse, and Charlie wasn't there…
"Maybe we'll see him if we go back there," Liz suggested.
Jenna nodded silently, and they pushed their way through the crowds of people who were waiting to see F. William D'Arcy.
"Let's stay by this bench," said Liz. "He'll be sure to see us here."
They waited five, ten, fifteen minutes, but saw no one they knew. Finally, after most of the people were gone and there was still no sign of Charlie, they heard an unfortunately familiar voice wail, "Dear Jenna! How are you, darling?!"
Carolyn Bingley waltzed over, wearing a long orange gown and carrying a glass of wine. "I'm so glad you could make it, Jenna darling!" she gushed, and then added as an afterthought, "Oh, hello Liz. Good to see you too, as ever. That is simply a stunning green dress you're wearing. Not my style, of course, but pretty in a cute sort of way. Now, what can I do for you ladies? Eager to see Will, like everyone else on this planet? Really, you wouldn't believe the crowds he pulls in –- utterly amazing! But it makes sense, I suppose, considering who he is. Hertfordborough is not used to having musicians of his calibre, apparently, and --"
"We didn't come to see Will," Liz interrupted.
"What?" said Carolyn, surprised. "Who, then?"
"I, uh, we were going to meet Charlie for some coffee, and…" Jenna's timid voice trailed off as Carolyn began to laugh.
"What's so amusing?" Liz asked hotly.
"Oh, nothing at all, I assure you!" Carolyn giggled. "You poor little thing, you mustn't have heard -- no, how could you have?" She took a sip of wine, and continued, "You see, my dear, Charlie left this morning for London. He's set to make a recording with Georgette D'Arcy. Will, Louise, and I are following tomorrow morning."
Jenna was too shocked to say a word. Liz was startled, but equally suspicious. "But Charlie's recital is scheduled for the day after tomorrow. Will he be coming back?"
"No, I'm afraid he won't. The festival is almost over, and his recital wasn't that important to him. Don't worry, my dears, the entire situation has been explained to William Lucas."
Jenna had paled and was staring down at her hands. "That's kind of inconsiderate, isn't it?" Liz asked, struggling to remain civil. "I mean, a lot of people bought tickets to hear Charlie play, and he just leaves when he feels like it?"
"Really, I'm very sorry, but that's all I can tell you! This recording is very important, and to own the truth, I, for one, am glad to be going back to London. I'm dying to see dear Georgette again. We were here for almost a fortnight as it is," she added, making a face.
Liz looked away indignantly, and, as she did so, caught a glimpse of D'Arcy, hastening down the hall in the other direction.
"Do you have an address or… or do you know anywhere I could reach him?" Jenna's voice was innocent, trusting.
"Well, let me think for a moment…" Carolyn's brow wrinkled in two little lines, and she tapped the wineglass deliberately. "You know I would willingly give you his address, Jenna, but the problem is that I'm not quite certain of it myself. He could be staying at his flat in London, or at our parent's home in Surrey, or at our aunt and uncle's in Windsor. I really haven't the faintest idea." Then, after a moment's consideration, she reached into her pocketbook and produced a small business card. "This is the address of Charlie's agent in London. It's the only thing I can give you. If you write him, I'm sure he'll be happy to send you an autographed copy of Charlie's new CD, once it's released."
"Thank you," Jenna said, accepting the card.
"We've got to go." Liz began to pull her sister away. "Bye, Carolyn. Thanks for the card."
A light rain began to fall as Liz drove the car out of the Lodge Hall parking garage. "I can't believe that woman," she growled. "It took all my will-power to keep from punching her right then and there. She is the most snobby, self-satisfied twit that ever -–"
"Liz!" Jenna looked dismayed. "What are you talking about? Carolyn Bingley was being a friend in telling me about Charlie! How can you call her all those nasty things?"
So she still trusts her. She still believes her. "Jenna, I don't think Carolyn was being a friend. I think she could have given you Charlie's address if she wanted to –-"
"But she said herself that she wasn't sure where he is."
"You have to stop believing everything Carolyn Bingley tells you!"
"Lizzy, she was just being kind. She could have told me the truth directly, which is 'My brother doesn't care about you any more; that's why he didn't tell you he was leaving, and that's why he doesn't want you to have his address.' It's as simple as that." Jenna's voice broke on the last sentence, and she began rummaging around in the glove compartment for a tissue.
"Oh, that's not true. You know that's not true, Jen!" Liz exclaimed in frustration. "Charlie Bingley is in love with you. Anyone can see that! Carolyn Bingley certainly sees it, and she's panicking. She doesn't want her dear brother getting involved with anyone who can't help his career one hundred percent. So she hurries him home to London, and refuses to give you any clue as to his whereabouts."
"I just can't believe Carolyn would do something like that," Jenna sniffled. "Maybe she doesn't know how her brother feels. Maybe it's some big mistake."
"Fine, if you want to believe that."
"But –- I just… I'm so sad when I think I'll probably never see Charlie again…"
"Charlie Bingley is a smart man. He can dial a phone. Jen, you've got to believe me when I tell you that Charlie loves you. Not even Carolyn Bingley can deny that." She smiled. "I'll make a deal with you. If Charlie Bingley hasn't called in two days, I will buy you a plane ticket to England myself and send you on your way. Agreed?"
Jenna smiled through her tears. "Liz, you sound so confident…"
"I know when I'm right. Now, we're almost home. Do you think we should tell Mom about all this?"
"Oh, uh… I don't know. Probably not. I mean, I'm sure she'll overreact, and then she'll get her migraine, and –-"
"You're right. Don't say a word."
Liz made a conscious effort the rest of that evening to remain lively and up beat, and to persuade Jenna to do the same, so no one would suspect anything was amiss. But the efforts were in vain; for, on the following morning, such circumstances were to occur as would subject Liz to Fran's wrath, regardless of Charlie Bingley.
It all started after breakfast. Liz was planning to take a bike ride, in hope that, by ignoring the rain that had been pounding ceaselessly on the windows ever since yesterday evening, she would convince the Rain Gods to desist.
But all would have to wait until she found her bike gloves. She was in the living room/kitchenette, scouring her bags for the missing articles, when she felt a sweaty hand on the back of her arm.
"Bill!" Liz straightened instinctively and jerked her arm away. "Can… I help you?"
"More than words may describe, Elizabeth," he gushed, plumping down on the sofa. He patted the cushion beside him. "Sit; I have something to speak with you about."
Liz felt her heart thud in alarm. She knew what this was. "No thanks," she replied warily. "I'm still searching for my bike gloves. You can talk while I look."
"Suit yourself." He cleared his throat. "When the time has arrived to disclose my aspiration, I am not (I flatter myself) superfluous in my use of words. Indeed, I believe that the shorter, the better. Therefore, I will deliver you my proposal in simple measures. I have been watching you, Elizabeth -- oh no, no need to interrupt. I know how surprised you are, you with your natural modesty as regards your violin playing, but you must listen to me, as you must listen to a critic or teacher, if you are ever to become a professional violinist. I have been listening all the while I've been at Hertfordborough -- during concerts, in rehearsals, even while you were practicing on your own. I've been watching you, and listening to you, and turning an idea over and over again in my mind, and have finally come to a decision." He rose from the couch, and taking her hand, he said, "Elizabeth, I shall now -- with happiness and total confidence -- offer you the position of Concertmaster of my orchestra in Labias de Vaca."
"Bill, I --"
"No no no no," he shushed, holding up a finger. "Please, let me finish. Perhaps you may wonder why I have chosen you -- you, who are as yet so inexperienced. Experience, though by no means negative, is not always essential. As Catherine de Bourgh wisely told me when she heard I was searching for a concertmaster, 'Be careful whom you choose. He or she must have control of the instrument, of course, but need not be a genius. A humble, unknown player, with a warm, sweet sound. Respectable training, though of course any truly preeminent connections are hardly to be expected. You want the audience to come to hear the whole Labias de Vaca Philharmonic, not just the concertmaster.' And this is what I found in you, dear Elizabeth."
She could take no more of this. "Please! Let me save you the trouble of saying anything more. I'm very flattered that you're offering me the concertmaster position, but I'm sorry, I just can't accept it."
Bill looked confused for a second, then chortled smarmily. "Pardon? Oh, ahahaha. I know what you must be feeling: utter shock, and fear, at such a worthy position being offered to you. I expect you were counting on one more year at the music conservatory, and then perhaps taking some auditions for a section position in an orchestra. No, I've talked to your mother, and she agrees with me. Everything is worked out. You can come straight back to South America with me after Hertfordborough."
Liz let out an exasperated laugh that sounded more like a yelp. "Really, don't be absurd! Did you just hear what I said? I don't want the position."
"Let's stop playing these petty little games, Liz. You know I won't take 'no' for an answer."
"Excuse me? I think you'll have to."
His shiny round head was beginning to turn a very bright shade of pink. "You really can't be serious!" he stammered. "What with your family's connection to Folge-Haben, I would think you to be overjoyed by my offer!"
"Folge-Haben?" Where had she heard that word before?
"Never mind, never mind. I don't particularly feel like wasting my time trying to convince a girl to take a position I am no longer sure I want her to have!"
Suddenly, Fran burst in from the room next door, where she had been listening. She was furious with her daughter, while simultaneously trying to cajole Bill into believing that Liz was drunk, and would certainly accept his offer as soon as she was sober.
"Please, help yourself to some iced tea, Bill, while I just take Liz into the bathroom to get, uh, straightened out," she laughed, taking her daughter forcefully by the arm.
"No indeed, madam. I will not stay another minute with this, this amateur violinist who would not know the chance of a lifetime if it was offered to her on a silver platter!" He stalked out of the room.
"You think you can get away with this, Elizabeth Kreisler Bennet?" Fran fumed. "Just wait till your father hears about this!"
As if on cue, Calvin walked in. "What in the world's going on?" he asked placidly. "I could hear you shouting a mile down the street." He placed an arm around his wife's shoulder. "Please sit down, my dear. You look as though you're about to blow a fuse."
She threw his arm off violently. "I'm not sitting down until you do something about this crisis your daughter has caused!"
"Crisis? What crisis?"
"The crisis about Bill and Liz! Oh, how daft can you be, Calvin? Bill has offered Liz the once-in-a-lifetime job of concertmaster of the Labias de Vaca Philharmonic, and your daughter has stubbornly refused it!"
Calvin looked at Liz with lifted eyebrows. "Is this true, Elizabeth?"
Liz folded her arms across her chest. "Yes."
"Make her take this job, Calvin," said Fran, "or, as God as my witness, I'm disowning her!"
Calvin turned calmly from wife to daughter. "Well Liz, I'm afraid you're doomed to lead a semi-parentless life from this day on. Your mother will disown you if you don't take the job in Bill Collins' orchestra, and I will disown you if you do."
Fran let out a screech of horror. Liz kissed her father on the cheek.
The phone rang down the hall. Katie picked it up.
"Hello? Oh, hi. Yes she's in, but I don't think this is a good time. You see, Bill Collins just offered her a job as concertmaster, but she won't take it! Mom's gone ballistic; she's completely spazzing out. What? Hey, that's a great idea. Yeah, I'll tell them now. Okay, buh-bye."
Katie pranced into the living room. Fran was lying on the couch in a flood of hysterical tears. Liz was talking quietly to her father. "That was Lotty on the phone," Katie announced. "She's coming over."
"Katie, this is very bad timing," Liz said.
"No, you don't understand! I told her what happened, and she offered to take Bill Collins off our hands for a while. She's having her recital tonight -- he could go to that, and then spend the night at the Lucas's house."
"I think that is a wonderful idea," said Bill, appearing at the doorway with his suitcase in one hand and his bassoon in the other.
Fifteen minutes later, Bill had left with Lotty, Liz was on a bike ride in the rain, and Fran had gone to bed to sulk, eat a box of Snackwells, and wonder what was to become of them all.
After her bike ride, Liz dawdled in town, unwilling to come home for fear of what awaited her there. She went into her favorite coffeehouse to escape the rain and treat herself to a cappuccino. As she waited for her drink, she spied a poster advertising Charlie Bingley's recital. Underneath it was a smaller, computer-printed sign. It read:
Liz shook her head. It was public knowledge, then, that Charlie had left. She felt very bad for Jenna. She had hardly spoken a word all morning, despite frequent questioning on Fran's part.
The whole Bennet family held tickets for Charlie's recital. Liz had been planning on returning hers, not having known there would be a replacement. Marisa King, it said. Liz thought her name was vaguely familiar, though she could not think from where.
When Liz had finished and paid, she headed back to the apartment. She would have to tell Fran about Charlie's departure -- if she hadn't heard already.
Fortunately, it was Jenna she first saw when she walked in the door.
"Hi Liz," she said, looking up from her book. "Have a nice ride?"
"If it's possible in all this rain. How's Mom doing?"
"She's still in her room."
"Great," Liz muttered, cringing as she imagined what her mother's reaction to the news about Charlie might be.
"What's wrong?" Jenna asked.
Liz told her sister about the sign in the coffeehouse. "Everyone will know about it soon. It'll be better if we just tell Mom now and get it over with."
"I'll tell her."
"No, Jenna, you don't have to –-"
"She's upset enough with you as it is, Liz. Please. It'll be good for me. I'm going to forget I ever felt anything for Charlie Bingley, starting right now." She said this courageously, but her eyes were dotted with tears.
"Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object…"
~~ Jane Austen,
Pride and Prejudice
Liz went to Lotty's recital by herself that evening. She had tried to persuade her father or one of her sisters to join her, but received only negatives. She thought it best not to attempt to ask Fran. (She was right.)
The performance was pleasing. Lotty played sonatas by Handel and Haydn, a Schubert Sonatina, and a Mozart Rondo. As Liz listened to her friend play, she marveled at her perfect intonation and sterling technique. Lotty did not miss one note during the whole recital –- indeed, she never missed notes. There were many places, though, where a stress or some rubato would have been nice, but Lotty played it all completely straight. Something was missing; something that left one feeling slightly unsatisfied at the end of each piece. Her vibrato was thin, and her sound was nice, but dry.
After the performance, Liz tried to speak to Lotty, but was prevented by the large group that had clustered around her friend. Liz was rather surprised when she saw Bill Collins in the center as well, but not unduly, for he was a pompous little man and it was his wont to grab the spotlight whenever he could.
Liz had finally abandoned her hopes to talk to Lotty, and was getting ready to leave, when the voice of William Lucas began to boom across the loudspeaker. She turned around. He stood with his daughter on one side and Bill Collins on the other. "Ladies and Gentlemen, I have an announcement to make. Thank you all for coming to hear Lotty's performance this evening. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. Those of you who have come to Hertfordborough over the years have probably heard her in concert many times, and have witnessed the growth of her violin playing." (Lotty looked extremely embarrassed.) "After she graduated college," William continued, "she taught Suzuki violin, and played at weddings and other engagements of that sort around the city. But her free-lance days are now over, for as of tonight she is the new Concertmaster of the Labias de Vaca Philharmonic!"
At this, everyone began to applaud –- everyone except Liz, that is. She was too shocked to do anything but stare. Lotty, Concertmaster of Bill Collins' orchestra? Impossible!
Bill Collins took the microphone. "Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. Many of you know me, but for those who do not, I am William Ambrosius Collins, music director of the Labias de Vaca Philharmonic. I came to Hertfordborough this year with two objectives in mind. The first was, of course, to hear the excellent music. The second was to look for a concertmaster for my orchestra (which is, by the way, funded in part by the esteemed British arts patron and connoisseur, Catherine de Bourgh). There are many violinists here, and each, in their way, very fine, but nothing comes close (in my humble opinion) to the musical beauty and excellence possessed by this woman you see here."
As he said so, he put his arm around Lotty's shoulder. Liz was horrified and repulsed. What are you thinking, Lotty? You could do so much better!
Bill Collins continued to ramble on and on and on about Lotty and her brilliance as a violinist and what a pleasure it will be to work with her and how delighted Catherine de Bourgh will be. More than once he glanced over at Liz, smiling smugly, exultantly. Liz began to feel sick, but, determined to speak to her friend, she made herself stay through the entirety of Bill's speech.
At length he had finished, and everyone began to leave. Liz walked over to Lotty. "Hi."
"Liz." A hundred different emotions flashed across Lotty's face in that one instant. Was it Apology? Embarrassment? Fear?
"Uh, congratulations…" It came out like a question.
"Thanks," Lotty replied.
This is ridiculous. "We need to talk," Liz said, quiet but firmly. Lotty looked at her sharply, then nodded.
"Let's go outside."
It was still raining. The two women stood shivering under the overhang.
"I'm very surprised," Liz began.
"Liz, I would have told you sooner, but there was no time before the recital."
"That's not what I meant, Lot. I'm surprised that you took the job."
Lotty chuckled. "Why? Because you turned it down?"
"No, I… Well, yes. But Lotty, if this is really what you want, then I couldn't be happier for you."
"I know how you're feeling." She paused, staring out into the darkness and the sheets of rain. Her voice was slightly altered when she said: "I'm very practical, Liz. I've always been that way. I don't pretend to be a Perlman. I know what my violin playing is like; I know what my limits are. I'll be twenty-five in January, and frankly, I want a real job. I want security, stability. This is my best bet. It's only a ten hour plane trip, and I'll be back here for summers."
"That's true," Liz said softly. Lotty had obviously made up her mind. "Then I guess all I can say is good luck."
Lonna Lucas' phone call to tell Fran the "wonderful news" about Lotty and the concertmaster job coincided with Liz's return home that night. Before this, Fran had still held a glimmer of hope that Liz would come to her senses and accept the position -- but now? You may imagine the effect this news had on Fran, considering that she had also just heard about Charlie Bingley & Co. leaving Hertfordborough. Let us say she was very upset, and leave it at that.
The following morning Liz was at the bookstore. She was thumbing through Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility Diaries when she felt a presence beside her.
"And how are we this morning, Miss Lizzy?"
"Why hello, Wickley. I'm fine, thanks, and you?"
"Wonderful, now that I've seen you."
Liz smiled at this over-done gallantry. "I missed seeing you at Charlie Bingley's party Tuesday."
"And I was very sorry not to have been able to be there. But I was delayed in Sacramento, and… No, it's impossible to lie to you. I had second thoughts about going to that party, on account of you-know-who, so I stayed in Sacramento an extra night. I hope you forgive me."
"I completely understand," Liz assured him. "Not that I'd mind seeing F. William D'Arcy mortified, but that wasn't the time or place."
"I'll probably never have a chance to now," she continued, "because the whole Netherfield Trio plus Carolyn Bingley is back in London."
"I heard that, but I thought it was just a rumour."
"It's true, unfortunately. Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy to see D'Arcy and both the Bingley women go; but Charlie…"
He looked at her, understanding. "How's Jenna taking it?"
Liz sighed. "I really can't tell. She's so anxious for everyone else to be happy, that she hides her own emotions."
"That's too bad."
"Yeah. Hey! I just remembered. Our whole family bought tickets to see Charlie Bingley's recital this evening. We were going to return them, but now I hear there's a replacement, so I guess we're going. Mom's been feeling kind of, uh, sick lately, so she probably won't want to go. Would you like her ticket?"
He beamed. "Why yes, if you're sure your mother won't mind."
"Marvelous. Who's the replacement?"
"Oh, what was her name…? Something Queen, or… Oh yeah! Marisa King."
She could have sworn she saw him start. "Marisa… Marisa King? Are you sure?"
"Positive. Why, do you know her?"
"Oh, I think I've heard of her." He glanced at his watch. "Oh God, is it eleven already? Time for me to run. What time should I meet you there tonight?"
"How about seven?"
"Perfect. See you then."
Liz watched him dash out of the bookstore. Weird.
"I'm so glad you invited Wickley to come tonight," Livia told her sister that evening. They were sharing the bathroom mirror, the former applying generous amounts of perfume, the latter working a tangle out of her long, dark hair.
"Why?" Liz asked. "Ouch! Darn comb…"
"Oh, no reason," Livia giggled. "Only that he's so much fun to have around. You should see him at parties sometimes –- he is so hilarious!" She set the perfume bottle down and reached for the mascara.
"Ah." Liz gave her sister a sly smile. "Could you hand me that other bottle of perfume, please?"
Livia tossed her the bottle. "You, wearing perfume? I thought you'd rather die than wear the stuff!"
Liz tapped a bit of perfume on either side of her neck. "I never said that."
Livia's brow furrowed in annoyance. "Why are you being so noncommittal today?"
Liz raised her eyebrows innocently, but her eyes sparkled with mischief. "What in the world are you talking about?"
"You know!" Livia fluffed her hair impatiently. "Oh well, never mind then, if you're going to be so difficult. I just hope you don't plan on keeping Wickley all to yourself tonight. Katie and I want to talk to him too."
Liz laughed. "Of course I won't! Why should I?"
"Oh, come on. Everyone knows that Wickley has a major crush on you, Liz."
"What? Oh, don't be silly. We are two mature adults…" She smoothed her hair back calmly, but couldn't help casting a sideways glance at her little sister. "Everyone knows?"
When all the Bennets save Calvin (for when Fran had felt miraculously better that morning and decided that she wanted to come after all, Calvin willingly gave up his ticket) arrived at the concert, Liz told them to go to their seats while she waited in the lobby for Wickley.
She looked at her watch. Five past seven. The concert started at seven thirty. He should be here soon. She watched people enter the hall. Seven ten. She studied the paintings of various patrons that adorned the walls. Seven fifteen. She counted the black-and-white floor tiles. Finally, at seven twenty-two, Wickley breezed in, looking exceptionally gorgeous. "Hi, sorry I'm late," he said, kissing her lightly on the cheek.
"It's okay," Liz smiled. "Here, I have your ticket. We should probably go inside, and –-"
"Liz!" Fran appeared at the auditorium door and shuffled across the near-empty lobby to join her daughter. "Heavens, child, what's taking you so long?! I –-" She stopped when she noticed Wickley. "Why, hello there," she cooed. "You must be Wickley George. I've heard all about you."
"And you must be Liz's mother." He shook her hand courteously. "Delighted to meet you, Mrs. Bennet."
"Ooh!" Fran giggled. "I just adore your accent! But please, call me Fran, unless you expect me to call you Mr. George."
He laughed. "No indeed."
It was seven thirty by the time they found their seats, but the recital was a little late beginning. Wickley sat between Liz and Fran (to Livia's great disappointment). Liz could see the impression he had already made on her mother, for the latter simpered and flirted like one of her daughters.
Seven forty, and Marisa King still wasn't on stage. Liz opened her program. On the first page was a bio, which read:
"Marisa King studied at Pemberley?" Liz mused aloud.
"Hmm?" asked Wickley. "What did you say?"
She couldn't answer. The lights went down rather hastily, to make up for time (it was a quarter till eight), and Marisa King walked out onstage. She was short and thin, with red hair and a light blue dress. For the first half she played Tchaikovsky's Rococco Variations and the Bach Solo Suite No. 3.
During the intermission, Liz asked Wickley his opinion of her.
He looked up from his program and smiled. "I think she's good," he said neutrally. "What do you think?"
"She has style, but not a lot of warmth. Marisa King… Did you know her when you were at Pemberley?"
He shrugged. "A little. We ran into each other now and again."
The second half, a Beethoven Sonata and "Elegy" by Faurč, was very like the first. Liz didn't think she was a bad cellist, but neither was she overly impressed. "Indifferent" was the word.
After the concert the Bennets invited Wickley out for coffee, but he said no, he really should be getting home.
"What a charming young man he is!" Fran squealed as soon as they were in the car. "So handsome and friendly!"
"Yes," said Livia sulkily, "and I don't see why Liz should get all his attention."
"Well, it doesn't matter anyhow," Fran said. "He lives on the other side of the world, and he'll be going soon."
"Oh, but that's not true, Mom," Liz corrected her. "He's staying in America. He wants to get a music education degree over here."
"Does he?" said Fran. "Even so, I bet he'll end up in Maine or Alaska, and then what will it matter?"
"There are things called airplanes and telephones," Liz teased.
Fran shook her head and cried, "I don't see why we're even having this conversation! Why should it matter to us what happens to an attractive young man like Wickley George? You two may be getting along, Elizabeth Kreisler, but I doubt if he'll want a girlfriend as headstrong and impractical as you are! English men like sweet, docile girls. I wonder if he knows about what happened with you and Bill Collins."
"I didn't care at all for Mr. George," said Mary. "I found his manners very brazen and frivolous. If I were you, Liz, I would look for a man with a more serious, steady character."
Livia groaned in disgust. Liz said, "Thanks Mary, I'll keep that in mind."
When they arrived home, there was a message flashing on the answering machine. Livia, presuming it to be for herself, skipped over and pressed the button.
"Hello, everyone! This is Emilie. Ivan and I are staying right down the street from you at the Gracechurch Hotel –- surprise, no? We were in Los Angeles for a conference and decided to drive up and see how everything was going. Call us if you will; we should be up very late. Our number here is 555-7854. OK, bye-bye."
"Emilie!" Liz cried, astonished.
"The Sadovniks at Hertfordborough? What a wonderful surprise!" said Jenna.
"I hope they brought presents!" said Livia.
"So do I," agreed Katie.
"I hate it when people turn up like this, without any notice," Fran complained. "Still, it'll be nice to see them, I suppose. Emilie will have the latest gossip on all our old friends!"
Ivan and Emilie Sadovnik were friends of the Bennets from way back. Ivan was an oboist and Emilie played the cello. The two had met while Emilie, a Frenchwoman, was studying in Moscow. They now lived in England, but spent a fair amount of time in the United States.
The Sadovniks were called, and it was arranged that they should come over to the Bennet's apartment for lunch the next day, and then go with them to End of Festival Picnic.
The Sadovniks arrived as planned the next day.
"Emilie and Ivan! My, what a pleasure to see you!" cried Fran, answering the door. "Come in, come in!"
"Hello, Fran," said Emilie, hugging the other woman. "I hope you do not mind us intruding like this."
"What? Me? Mind? Heavens no! You know my saying: 'the more the merrier!'" Fran laughed and turned to Ivan. "Well, Ivan, you look as fit as a fiddle, as usual. How do you do it?"
He laughed. "Good to see you again too, Fran."
"Well, come in, come in! You can't spend your whole visit out in the hall like that."
She ushered her guests into the living room, where the rest of the family was waiting.
Emilie Sadovnik was a tall woman, forty-five or so, and beautiful as ever. There was an elegance about her that one could not fail to notice. She had a long, refined face, quick, perceptive eyes, and a pile of silver-gold hair that she kept pinned up. Her husband Ivan, who was more than ten years her senior, was handsome as well. His hair had grown white, but he, like his wife, possessed a grace or elegance that immediately drew attention. Between them, there was an almost constant exchange of glances and smiles, so subtle that only a very watchful person could discern it. It was as if, underneath the ordinary conversation, they were having a private discussion of their own.
Liz had always noticed this between them. Now, as Fran spewed her usual "welcoming guests" routine, she caught it even more. Indeed, they almost looked on the verge of doubling over with laughter. They've known Mom longer than I have.
"It's really a shame you couldn't have come here sooner," Fran was saying. "After all, this is the closing day of the festival. The girls have already finished all their concerts. You should have seen them! They were all magnificent, though I say it myself. If you had only heard Livia playing the "Carmen Fantasy" -- it was enough to put tears in my eyes!"
"We have a tape of it," Livia said eagerly. "I'll go put it on."
"Why yes, uh, Livia dear. That would be wonderful," said Emilie, looking amused.
A little later, when Liz was in the kitchen fixing sandwiches for everyone, Emilie came up to her and said, "And how are you, Liz? We have not had a chance to talk yet."
"Yes," Liz laughed. "Between my mother and Livia's 'Carmen Fantasy' it's impossible to get a word in edgewise."
"So how are you doing, my dear girl?" Emilie repeated. She and Liz had always been close friends.
"Oh, I'm just fine," Liz replied, spreading mayonnaise on a piece of sourdough bread. "My recital went well, and so did the quartet recital."
"Fran tells me you had a job offer recently…"
Liz gave her a look. "Yeah, that's right. I'm sure she also told you how I impudently refused it."
Emilie chuckled. "Something to that extent, yes."
"It doesn't matter now. In the end, the job went to my good friend Lotty Lucas, who'll do a much better job than I ever could. Whole wheat, rye, or sourdough?"
"Whole wheat, please. Fran also told me something that seemed much more serious -- involving Jenna and a man?"
Liz nodded solemnly. "Charlie Bingley. You've heard of him?"
"Yes, he came here to Hertfordborough this year. We met him at an opening party, and from then on he and Jenna were always together. You should have seen them! They looked totally oblivious to anyone else."
"And then what happened?"
Liz sighed. "He went back to London a few days ago. He didn't tell anyone, not even Jenna. We found out from his sister, Carolyn. Tomato?"
"Yes, thank you. How is Jenna doing?"
"Not very well. She tries to keep her spirits up, but just look at her." From the kitchen door they could see Jenna, who was sitting somewhat apart from the rest of the group. Underneath the bronze of her complexion she was pale, and her large blue-gray eyes gazed sadly into space.
"She's been like that a lot," said Liz. "Thinking to herself, hardly responding to anyone else. I hate to see it."
"It should have happened to you instead, Lizzy. You would get over it by laughing," said Emilie.
"I wish it had happened to me, but it didn't, it happened to Jenna, who's so sensitive to begin with…"
"You sound angry, Liz."
"I am. You see, I don't think it was Charlie's intention to do this to Jenna. I think he's just as much in love with her as she is with him. I think it was his sisters who made sure he went back to England, and then refused to give Jenna his phone number or anything."
"His sisters? Carolyn and Louise Bingley?"
"The same. They absolutely hated the idea of Charlie getting involved with Jenna."
"That is horrible." Emilie stood for some moments in silence, while Liz finished making her sandwich. Finally she said, "Liz, do you think that Jenna would like to come visit us in London this fall? We could start her free-lancing there, if she likes."
"Oh, that would be wonderful!" Liz cried. "I'm sure she'd love to."
"And then, perhaps, if we are very lucky, we could attend a few Charlie Bingley concerts while she is with us? If he is as in love with her as you say, it should not be difficult to get them together, once he knows she is in England."
"Thank you, Em," said Liz, giving her a hug.
They told Jenna, and she was thrilled. At once Liz could see a difference in her. Her face regained its normal color, and she made more effort to join in the general conversation.
The evening brought the End of Festival Picnic, held in the town park. The Bennets, even Calvin, went to it, accompanied by the Sadovniks in another car.
As Liz and Jenna were helping their mother unpack food from the trunk, they were approached by Emilie, who asked where the bathroom was.
"You see that building over there?" said Liz, pointing. "Inside, to your right, then down a hall, and through a door on your left with a window in it. That takes you into a big room with a fireplace, and on the other side of that should be the bathroom."
Emilie followed Liz's instructions. As she neared the room with the fireplace, she spied two figures inside. It was a woman and a man who looked in their early twenties. She couldn't hear what they were saying, but they appeared to be having a heated argument. The woman, who was short with fiery red hair, tried to stalk away but the man –- tall and good-looking, with light brown hair –- held her back. He said something smilingly, she replied somewhat subdued, and he took her by the waist and, pulling her close, kissed her.
Emilie decided she should see no more. She hurried back out of the building and joined the Bennets on the lawn.
After dinner was finished, the Bennet girls dispersed in various directions, Ivan and Calvin took a walk towards the river, deep in conversation together, which left Emilie on the blanket with Fran. They began to talk –- or rather Fran began to talk, and Emilie to listen –- about Fran's daughters, beginning, of course, with Livia, moving on to Jenna and her sad situation, and finally to Liz ("When I think that Liz could have had a steady job! And now she'll have to leach off of us for the rest of her life!") Sue Long joined them eventually, for which Emilie was very thankful, as it provided a break in the conversation.
Sue and Fran began to have a discussion in which Emilie had no part, so the latter decided to observe what the others of her party were doing. Livia and Katie were with a large group of boys, as usual, Jenna was talking to what looked like Lotty Lucas and another young woman, Mary was reading a book by herself, and Liz? Oh, there she was, talking to a man with light brown hair and a blue shirt. Was he…? Emilie couldn't tell from so great a distance, but she was quite sure that he…
As if Liz felt Emilie's eyes watching them, she said something to her friend and they walked over to the blanket.
"Emilie, let me introduce you to my friend Wickley George. Wickley, this is a good friend of mine, Emilie Sadovnik."
"How do you do, madam?" the man asked, smiling. Yes, now Emilie was quite sure. He was the man she had seen inside the building.
"I am fine, and you?" she replied. Her warm smile concealed her cold eyes, which were watching him very closely.
"I'm quite wonderful. Liz was telling me that you come from the town of Agneau in southern France. That's also the hometown of the late Gautier D'Arcy. You didn't happen to know him, did you?"
"No, but I knew of him, certainly. He was quite a local hero, as you say."
"So you're not acquainted with the D'Arcy family?"
"No, not at all."
"Ah. You must think me quite strange for asking all these questions, but you see, Gautier D'Arcy was my godfather."
"Yes, I grew up in Derbyshire near his Pemberley School. My father was head of the drama division there."
"Now I see. No, I never had the good fortune to meet Monsieur D'Arcy, but growing up in Agneau you could not but help hear stories about him. He seemed a wonderful man."
"Indeed he was. I wish you could have known him."
"It's too bad his son turned out so differently," said Liz.
"His son? F. William D'Arcy, the violinist?" asked Emilie.
"Yeah. Oh, I forgot to tell you, didn't I, Em? F. William is a friend of Charlie Bingley's. He came to Hertfordborough with him." Liz went on to tell Emilie the reasons for her aversion to that man. She urged Wickley to tell Emilie the story of his dealings with F. William, which he did, not unwillingly. By the time he was through, there were many people gathered around their blanket, listening with wonder and contempt to all the horrible things D'Arcy had done to Wickley.
"Shocking!" said Emilie. "I remember Mr. D'Arcy when he was very young, ten or twelve. I was in an orchestra in Bristol and he was playing a concerto with us –- the Tchaikovsky, I believe it was. I do not remember what I thought of him them, but I believe, indeed I am sure the consensus was he was a very difficult child to work with."
Wickley nodded and said it was very likely.
Later on, Liz saw Lotty sitting on her own, and went up to talk to her. "Hi Lotty."
Liz sat down beside her and asked, "When are you leaving for South America?"
"In a week."
"Wow, so soon?"
"Yeah. Bill's down there already; he left yesterday. Liz –-" Lotty's voice suddenly held an urgent note, "the orchestra is still not filled, and we'll be hiring subs soon. Mariah's coming down to play in the bass section in November. Will you come with her? There's plenty of room in the second violin section, and I'll be so happy to see you."
Liz was startled, but, smiling, she said, "November? I think I can work up enough credits to take a month off from college then. Yes, I'd love to, Lotty. But tell me, do you think I might catch a glimpse of the famous Catherine de Bourgh any time during my stay?"
Lotty rolled her eyes. "Oh, I'm pretty sure you will, like it or not."
When the sun was setting, and it was time for everyone to leave, there was a sadness in the air. In light of the happiness of the picnic, one forgot its purpose: that they would now be leaving Hertfordborough, and going home.
Livia and Katie said their good-byes with great sobs and hugs, and promises of "I'll write you!", and seemed to forget the fact that half the friends they had at Hertfordborough lived within an hour drive of their home.
Liz felt the nostalgic pang she experienced at this picnic every year; but indeed, she felt something more. So much had happened at the festival this year! Was it only two weeks ago that she had been called a 'mediocre fiddler' by F. William D'Arcy? Liz laughed despite herself at this memory.
"What are you thinking?" asked a voice from beside her. She felt an arm on her shoulder, and Wickley was there next to her.
"Oh, about Hertfordborough, and everything."
"Yes, I'll miss this place."
"Are you coming back next year, do you think?"
"I don't know. There's no way of knowing what I'll be doing in a year or so. I hope so very much, though."
Liz smiled. "So do I."
He continued to watch her intently. Then, after consideration, he ventured, "Liz, I have something I…"
Liz looked at him. "Yes?"
He turned away. "Never mind."
"Okay," said Liz, a little puzzled.
They stood watching the last rays of light disappear behind the familiar Hertfordborough mountains. Then, with a sigh and a laugh, Wickley withdrew his arm from Liz's shoulder and turned to go.
"Are you leaving?" asked she.
"Yes, I must. I'm flying to New York tomorrow for an interview, and then to Cincinnati."
"Oh, are you looking for schools there?"
"Yes, I am. May I have your address, or do I presume too much in asking?"
"Of course you can!" said Liz. He gave her a pen and paper and she wrote down her address and number. "I'll be at my parent's until school starts in September, and then you can reach me at the dorm, or at home on weekends."
"Thank you. Now, I must be going."
"Yes, I probably should too."
And as they parted, Liz wondered if they would meet again. She doubted it.
Emilie was worried. She remembered the discussion she had had with Liz about Jenna, saying it would have been better if Liz had been the one who was disappointed by a man, because she could laugh herself out of anything. Emilie wished she hadn't said that, for it seemed her declaration might very soon be tested.
She pulled Liz aside soon after they got back to the apartment. "Liz, I have something to speak to you about. Now, I am going to be very serious, so you have to promise to be serious too, all right?"
"Well, I won't promise anything till you tell me what it is you want me to be serious about."
"Liz…" Emilie hesitated. Should she tell Liz about what she had seen between Wickley and the redheaded girl? She didn't want to seem prying. "Tell me, what do you feel for this Wickley George person you introduced me to?"
"Wow," said Liz, looking a little embarrassed. "What do I feel for him? Well, um, what do you mean exactly?"
"I do not know what word you use for it nowadays, but do you feel like you may be, well, falling in love with him?"
"You're dead serious, aren't you?" Liz laughed. "Well, Em, let's see here. I like Wickley a lot, but no, I don't think I'm falling in love with him. I know I'm not falling in love with him."
"And he? Do you know what he feels towards you?"
"I'm pretty sure he's not in love with me either. I can't be positive, of course. But I'll do my best to discourage it."
"You are not being serious now."
"You're right, I'm sorry. I'm just wondering why you're suddenly asking me all these things. What's up?"
"Perhaps I do sound rather strange. I do not want to see you get hurt, that is all. It is a real shame what Jenna is going through."
"Well, you don't have to worry about me, Em. Wickley's very nice, and very good-looking, but there's something… Well, I don't know. I'm not in love with him, I don't plan on being in love with him, and even if I was, I can't imagine being like Jenna."
Emilie sighed. "That is good. It -- how do you say? -- takes a load of my mind."