August went slowly by. The Bennets were back home to their small house, in a shabby but respectable neighborhood, about a two hours out of Los Angeles. Liz practiced the violin, though perhaps not as much as she should. Jenna was often on the phone working out the details of her London trip with Emilie and Ivan. Calvin was composing another piece of music – this time a television jingle – without any enthusiasm. He knew he wouldn't be able to sell it. It was a good thing, a very good thing, that his college-aged daughters had been able to win scholarships, he thought to himself on more than one occasion.
"It's so boring around here!" cried Livia one hot afternoon. The air-conditioning had gone out, and she, along with her sisters and mother, was sitting in the kitchen, the coolest room in the house. "I wish I was going off to college like Liz and Mary. Or else going to England like Jen."
Liz smiled at her sister. "I thought you enjoyed high school, Liv."
"Oh, it's okay sometimes. I just hate the school part of it."
"I know exactly how you feel," sighed Fran, waving a paper fan in front of her face. "I'd like to go somewhere myself this year. There's a very cheap plane fare to Maui in December."
"Maui!" cried Livia and Katie in unison. "I'd love to go to Maui!"
"Well, your father has refused it, and it's no use trying to make him change his mind. Really, that man is quite insane."
"You've got to make him take us," said Livia to Liz. "Dad listens to everything you say."
Liz was running an ice cube down the back of her neck. "I'm sorry, but Maui doesn't sound very appealing to me at the moment. Maybe Alaska, or the middle of Greenland…"
"I know something," said Katie, brightening up. "There's a music academy for high school kids in February down near San Diego. Carter told me about it at Hertfordborough. Here, I'll go get the brochure."
Katie went to her room and brought back a full, glossy brochure about the Brighton Academy of Music. Livia and Fran scanned it eagerly. "Do you know who'll be going?" Livia asked.
"Carter will, and Denny, and probably Hannah Forster."
Livia and Fran looked at each other. This was the perfect solution.
For the next few days, all Livia and Katie, and indeed their mother, talked about was the Brighton Academy, and how much fun it would all be.
Meanwhile, life went on for the other four members of the Bennet household. Among the more significant events was of course Jenna's departure, but also a certain phonecall that Liz received around the 20th of August.
"Liz! It's good to hear your voice again."
"Wickley? Is that you?"
"Hi! Where are you?"
"I'm in New York."
"Oh, so you didn't go to Cincinnati?"
"No, I didn't actually."
There was a pause, as each searched for words. "It's very nice of you to call," Liz struggled.
"Yes." Another pause, and this time Liz thought she could hear a female voice in the background. Finally Wickley's voice cut in with: "God, this is bloody hard. I don't know how to say this, Liz, so I'll just say it. I'm married. I'm living in Manhattan with my wife, Marisa King."
"I know you're surprised, and if you hate me now I don't blame you, but please, just let me explain." When she didn't say anything, he went on, "I was not entirely truthful when I said I knew Marisa just a little at Pemberley. We were married three years ago, when we were students there. Our marriage didn't seem to be working, however, and a little over a year ago we were separated. I thought we were headed for divorce. That's why I didn't tell anyone about her, you see. But when I heard she was at Hertfordborough, I knew it had to be some kind of sign. I called her up, and we got together, and realized we still have feelings for each other."
"She's getting her masters here at Julliard, and I'm trying to get into a music education program at NYU. I'm really, truly sorry, Liz."
"Don't be. I'm glad that you two have found each other again."
"I knew you'd understand." He sounded happy. "Now, I must be going. Say hi to all your sisters for me."
Fran, Livia, and Katie were very depressed when told of Wickley's married state.
"I don't see how Wickley could be married to someone like Marisa King!" Livia cried. "She's so ugly; like a little red-headed rat. She must have a lot of money or something."
"I always knew he was hiding something," said Fran, "and now poor Liz has a broken heart because of it!"
"My heart's perfectly intact, Mom," Liz assured her.
"Oh, no it's not! No it's not!"
But it was true –- Liz's heart was completely untouched. Though she was disappointed by the deception Wickley had seemed to think was necessary, she felt no malice towards him, or his wife. In fact, her opinion of that girl was entirely unchanged. She remembered her as a thin, pouting cellist, but that was all. Where was the sorrow, the anger? The truth was, she had been totally straightforward when she had told Emilie that she didn't love Wickley. Even the infatuation had passed.
"So there goes yet another man," Liz mused to herself that night. "I wonder if I'll ever find someone who's right for me – and hopefully he won't be married."
(Author's Note: I decided to change Anne Fitzwilliam to Anne Wibble, and make her CdB's protégé instead of daughter. I just found the idea of D'Arcy marrying his cousin too revolting to put in my story.)
Wickley's newly revealed spouse was quickly surpassed in Liz's thoughts by the upcoming trip to Labias de Vaca. In the beginning Liz had cowered at the thought of playing a month in an orchestra under Bill Collins's direction, but then came Lotty's letters. Lotty wrote of how much she enjoyed it down there, how she was renting an apartment with a view of the ocean, and how she couldn't wait to see Liz. These letters, along with the excitement caused by Jenna's departure for London, rendered the idea of Labias de Vaca more and more favorable in Liz's mind; and soon she found herself anticipating the arrival of November with pleasure.
Everyone knows how time moves slower when one is anticipating something. But Liz kept herself busy, working up enough credit in college to take a month long break, and at length the day arrived.
Her family was there to see her off at the airport. Liz hugged each in turn. When she reached her father, he seemed more attentive than usual.
"You have everything you need, Lizzy?"
Liz laughed. "I think so."
"If you need any more money, just call."
"You can definitely count on that."
"Write as often as you can, and I might even be persuaded to write back!"
"Oh, I wouldn't want to force you to do anything that strenuous," she teased him.
"Well, go on, go on, they're calling your flight number. Oh, and do say 'hi' to Cousin Bill for me, will you?"
The flight departed at 7:30 pm. Ten hours, two movies, and five cups of coffee later, Lizzy was stepping off the plane at the Labias de Vaca Airport.
"Lotty! Mariah!" she cried, and rushed to hug the two sisters who were there waiting for her.
"How was your flight? Long?" asked Lotty as they drove to her house. "I bet you're hungry. It looks like it's going to be a beautiful day today. We could eat breakfast out on the beach."
Lotty's house was little and cozy, with the beach practically at its doorstep. After Liz had showered and changed, she found her way to the kitchen, where Lotty was preparing a picnic basket. "So this is Labias de Vaca, huh?" she said.
Lotty smiled. "This is it."
"The scenery is beautiful."
"Yes, it is."
"Do you enjoy it down here?"
Lotty didn't answer directly "I have a lot of time to myself. I love to sit out on my porch and read, or just look at the ocean. It's beautiful at sunrise. I feel very peaceful here."
They went out on the beach with the basket and a large blanket. Mariah chatted happily to Liz, probably thankful for another familiar face.
"How long have you been down here, Mariah?" Liz asked her.
"A week. I already played a set of concerts. The orchestra really isn't that bad; I was surprised."
Liz laughed, and Lotty gave her sister a playful slap.
"And have you met Catherine de Bourgh yet?"
Mariah's eyes grew wide with fear. "No, not yet. I've seen her in her box at the concerts, though. She's very scary looking."
"That reminds me." Lotty looked at Liz hesitantly. "Bill called last night, and asked, well, told me that we'll all be going to Mrs. De Bourgh's house for dinner tonight. I told him you would have just arrived, but he seemed to think that even more reason to go."
"I tried to think of a way out of it, but I just couldn't," Lotty apologized. "When Catherine de Bourgh offers you an invitation, you can't turn it down."
"Then I guess we have no choice," Liz sighed.
Bill was just as Liz remembered -- oily, fawning, bumbling. He came at seven to drive them to Catherine de Bourgh's house.
"How do you like Labias de Vaca?" he asked Liz, who was sitting next to him in the front seat.
"Well, from what I've seen it seems like a nice little village."
"Little village?" he cried. "My dear Liz, Labias de Vaca is hardly a 'little village.' Catherine de Bourgh has invested millions of pounds in it, and it is well on its way to becoming the next —"
"—Rio de Janeiro," Liz finished for him.
He looked at her, pleasantly surprised. "You understand me, I see. Music?"
He pushed a tape into the tape player. Soon Kenny G's saxophone was wailing from the car speaker. Bill tapped his hands on the steering wheel and made snapping noises with his mouth in an attempt to be cool. Liz looked down at her lap, trying hard not to laugh.
Bill mistook her action for something else. "Don't worry about your clothes, Liz. Though Catherine de Bourgh and her protégé, Miss Wibble, will undoubtedly be wearing gowns of the top quality, they will not be angry with you for wearing slacks and an old blouse. They are quite charmed by our informal American ways."
Liz frowned. That "old blouse" had cost her fifty bucks. "Great, that makes me feel much better."
Twenty minutes later, they arrived at Catherine de Bourgh's house. Or perhaps I should not say house – mansion, palace, castle are all closer to the truth. It was gigantic. As Bill handed his keys to the valet attendant, he observed Liz out of the corner of his eye. This would make her realize what she had turned down.
They were then shown inside by no less than Fortescue, the butler. They proceeded down a long, high-ceilinged hall, its walls covered with oil-paintings of Mrs. De Bourgh's scowling ancestors from various centuries back.
"Is this place for real?" Liz whispered to Lotty.
They stopped in an anteroom. Fortescue disappeared inside a tall, oak-paneled door.
"He's introducing us," Bill explained proudly.
No sooner had he said this, than the door opened again, and they were admitted into the drawing room.
The only relief Liz could observe from the oppressive decorum of the room was the grand piano, which was situated on the far side of the room by a large window. Her hopes were raised – a musician can never be wholly bad.
This appraisal of her surroundings lasted only a second, before her attention was caught by the figure at the head of the room.
Catherine de Bourgh was as grand and formidable as her residence. She sat in a high-backed chair by the fireplace, one hand resting on the chair arm, the other stroking the purring cat that rested on her lap. Beside her, in a smaller chair, was a younger woman, thin, meek, and hardly noticeable in comparison to the impressive matriarch to her left.
"Elizabeth, Mariah," said Bill, his voice a reverent hush, "it is my esteemed honor to introduce you to Catherine de Bourgh and Anne Wibble. Mrs. De Bourgh, Miss Wibble, this is –-"
"You are very late this evening, William," Catherine de Bourgh interrupted. "We were almost ready to dine without you. I demand an explanation for this dilatory behaviour."
Bill rushed to sit on the couch to her left, while the others contented themselves with chairs further back. "Words can't describe how apologetic I am, Mrs. De Bourgh," he cowered. "I have no idea what could have taken us so long from Lotty's house, but –-"
Catherine de Bourgh turned her attention to Lotty. "Charlotte. I was most displeased with the way the first violins sounded at the concert on Saturday. I could barely hear them in the last movement. You must always play forte in a Tchaikovsky symphony."
"Of course, Mrs. De Bourgh. I'll remind the first violin section at the rehearsal tomorrow," Lotty promised.
"I will write a note in my score to have the first violins always play forte," Bill added, "and if you have any more of your very helpful suggestions, please –-"
"See that you remember, Charlotte."
Fortescue appeared in the room again, this time to announce that dinner was served.
The meal, which they ate at a table that could surely seat fifty, consisted of four courses in which meat was the primary ingredient. Liz, a vegetarian and proud of it, filled her plate with broccoli and potatoes.
Throughout the meal, Catherine de Bourgh's conversation and attention was divided between giving her opinions on music and other subjects to Lotty and Bill, and talking about herself and her ward, the colorless Miss Wibble. Anne Wibble, as Liz had learned from Lotty earlier that day, was the daughter of some good friends of Catherine de Bourgh's, Lord and Lady Edwin Wibble of Kent. When they were killed in an unfortunate yachting accident, Catherine, a childless widow, took the care of their daughter Anne upon herself. It was Anne who Catherine intended for her nephew, F. William D'Arcy.
Liz studied the young lady, who sat to her left. "Do you enjoy it here in South America, Miss Wibble?" she asked.
At first it seemed that Miss Wibble had not heard her, so Liz repeated the question. This time, Miss Wibble sent her an apathetic glance. "Enjoy myself? Miss Bennet, indeed…"
Liz wasn't sure what to make of this ambiguous response, so she continued with, "I just flew in this morning, but from what I've seen it seems very beautiful down here. It's my first time to South America. How long have you been here? Do you like it, or do you wish you were still in England?"
Miss Wibble dabbed her mouth with her napkin, and looked away.
Just as I suspected – dull and cranky, Liz thought scornfully. She's perfect for him.
After dinner, they retired to the drawing room for coffee. Liz was prepared for another hour or two of boredom, when, to her surprise, Catherine de Bourgh said, "Miss Bennet. That is your name? I noticed you ate no meat at dinner. You are not feeling ill, I hope?"
"No, I'm –-"
"Loss of appetite is a sign of illness. You should have a doctor see you immediately. Dr. Meyer is the primary physician in Labias de Vaca. I wouldn't trust anyone else down here."
"That's very kind of you, Mrs. De Bourgh, but I feel fine. I never eat meat."
Catherine de Bourgh recoiled in alarm. "Never eat meat?! You're not –- one of those, I hope?"
"A vegetarian? Why yes, actually, I am. I haven't eaten meat since I was thirteen years old."
"Shocking! Not since you were thirteen? And your parents didn't object? Why, I always made sure that Anne ate meat at every meal. You have been deprived of many essential vitamins and nutrients found only in meat. No wonder you're such a small thing."
Liz refrained from commenting on Anne Wibble's size.
Catherine de Bourgh began on another tangent. "Where did you go to school, Miss Bennet? A boarding school of any repute?"
"No, I was home-schooled during my high school years."
Catherine de Bourgh's countenance, already slightly pink from the shock of Liz's dietary preferences, turned a startling shade of crimson. "What? How on earth did you ever go to university?" she cried. "Did you go to university?"
Liz nodded. "I graduate this spring."
"Your mother was a slave to your education, I am sure."
Liz laughed at the thought of Fran being a slave to anything.
The older lady shook her head in disgust. "Your parents have made many grave mistakes with your upbringing, I see. No child can learn anything without the aid of a school. It is absolutely impossible."
Liz smiled, but did not reply.
"And your socialization!" Catherine de Bourgh continued. "A child will learn nothing about making friends, and getting along with his or her peers, without school. Without a traditional education, a child will not know how to operate in the real world."
"If that's so, then I suppose your Queen, who was also home-schooled, must have no idea how to operate in the 'real world', as you say."
Catherine de Bourgh, evidently deaf to this last remark, began to advise Bill and Lotty on music for upcoming concerts, and Liz sat the rest of the evening in silence.
"We'll start with the Rossini," Bill announced to the orchestra the following morning. It was the first of Liz's rehearsals with the Labias de Vaca Philharmonic Orchestra, and she was very eager to hear what they were like.
During the rehearsal (in which they played a Rossini overture, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade), Liz made the following observations: Bill Collins was just as bad a conductor as she had imagined; the orchestra didn't sound half as unpleasant as she had expected; and Lotty was the one with the real control.
Liz had a fairly good view of the orchestra from her place at the back of the second violins. She could see that, save for the first downbeat of a section and any terribly important hold or ritard, the orchestra members never looked at Bill. This was just as well, for, besides being a poor leader and an unreliable conductor, Bill Collins was not a person one would choose to spend hours watching. He stomped, wheezed, and made wild, unnecessary gestures with his flaccid hands. He spewed perspiration over everyone in the front row of players. He even had the impudence to wiggle his behind during the Gershwin.
It was clear to anyone who knew anything that Lotty was the one who was truly leading the orchestra, though from her seat as Concertmaster rather than the conductor's podium.
The principal horn player asked a question regarding tempo. Without a word, Bill bent down to consult with Lotty, then rose again and answered the man's question.
"Thanks, Maestro," the horn player said.
That's Lotty's job in a nutshell. Quietly doing all the work while Bill receives the credit and the money.
"I have an announcement to make regarding Mrs. De Bourgh's party in three weeks' time," Bill said at the end of the rehearsal. "As many of you know, she has expressed her wish that some of our members perform works of chamber music at this affair. I have here a list of these special musicians who will have the privilege of playing at Mrs. De Bourgh's home." He cleared his throat. "In the Trout Quintet – Lotty Lucas, violin, Elizabeth Elliot, viola, Frank Churchill, cello, and Mariah Lucas, bass. In the Bartok Quartet No. 4 – Liz Bennet, violin, Mary Musgrove, viola, and Peter Elton, cello. You may pick up your music as you leave."
"I think it's really weird that I'm playing this chamber music thing," Liz said to Lotty as they drove home. "I mean, everyone else is a principal or far up in their section. Who am I? A single sub in the back of the second violins."
Lotty smiled. "That's true."
"Say, who are the other musicians?"
"You know, the pianist in your group and the second violinist in mine. Bill forgot to mention them."
"There's a list clipped to the back of your music."
Liz flipped to the back page of her quartet part. "Trout Quintet… you, blah, blah, blah, Geoffrey Fitzwilliam, piano – hmm, don't think I've heard of him. Here we go – Bartok Quartet No. 4 – Liz Bennet, violin, F. Will… Oh God."
Lotty glanced at her. "Will D'Arcy's second violin, is he? It makes sense that his aunt wants him to play at her party. He's playing a solo with the orchestra in a few weeks – you knew that, of course."
Liz shook her head. "I didn't know. Jeez, this is the last thing I need. But am I really playing first to his second? It must be a misprint."
"I don't think so. Maybe it was Will who wanted you to play in that string quartet."
"Don't be ridiculous. He can't stand me any more than I can stand him."
A week later, as Liz was putting her violin in its case after a concert, she espied a man standing close by, and looking at her very intently. He was tall and fair-haired, about twenty-eight, with a black turtleneck, black trousers, and wire-rimmed spectacles.
Liz shut her case and smiled up at him. "Hi, anything I can do for you?"
The man returned the smile, and stuck out his hand. "Geoffrey Fitzwilliam," he introduced himself, in an easy English accent. "You must think me rather strange for staring at you like this, but I wanted to make sure you are who I think you are. You are Liz Bennet, I hope?"
"A pleasure to meet you, Liz. I've heard much about you from my cousin."
"F. William D'Arcy. I understand you were acquainted during the summer."
"Oh! Yes, we were, a little." She took a better look at the man standing next to her. "You're F. William D'Arcy's cousin? I'm sorry, I'm a little surprised. You don't seem at all like him."
He laughed. "Many people have said that, regarding our appearances. I inherited the light colouring from the Fitzwilliam side, whilst William's darker looks came from his father."
"Is William here tonight?"
"Yes, we both flew in this afternoon, in time to see the concert. It was my first taste of the Labias de Vaca Philharmonic, and I must say, I was quite pleased by it."
"I'm glad. You're playing a Mozart piano concerto with us in a few weeks, I hear?"
He bowed his head in assent, then glanced at his watch. "Would you care to join my cousin and me for something to eat? Will is extremely anxious for you to come, but he's too shy to ask you himself."
Liz hesitated. Of course, Geoffrey Fitzwilliam wasn't as striking in appearance as his cousin, but he seemed very friendly, and eager to please. "Sure, I'd love to."
After telling Lotty that she wouldn't need a ride home that evening, Liz walked with Geoffrey out to his car.
"Liz. How are you?" came a voice from the darkness. She could just discern the tall form of F. William D'Arcy leaning against the car.
"I'm well, thank you. And your family?"
"They're all just great, thanks."
Liz gave him a polite smile, and climbed into the front seat. She couldn't believe her ears. Was he actually going to be civil?
But it was too good to be true. William spent the whole ride to the restaurant sitting in silence, while Liz talked and laughed with his amiable cousin. Geoffrey was cheerful and affable, with an easy disposition that Liz found very refreshing.
Once they had arrived at the restaurant, the trio found a seat in the corner and gave their orders to the waiter.
Liz continued to talk to Geoffrey, but now and again she had the distinct feeling that the other member of their party was watching her. She glanced at William across the table. He was looking at her with a steady gaze, though he didn't attempt to contribute to the conversation.
"So, Geoffrey, you're a professional pianist, I take it?" Liz asked, averting her eyes from William. He making her very uncomfortable. That's what he wants. Don't pay attention.
"Not professional actually," Geoffrey sighed. "I'm afraid I'm just an enthusiastic amateur, with an auntie who owns an orchestra. My career is in medicine."
"Yes. My parents receive the credit for that. They're both academics, you know, and were quite frightened by the idea of me becoming a musician, and turning out like a D'Arcy!"
He laughed, looking for encouragement from William.
William smiled a funny, half-sided smirk. "Heaven forbid you ever become a D'Arcy, Geoffrey."
"And what about you, Liz?" Geoffrey asked her. "Any plans for the future, after your work down here is done?"
She shrugged. "I don't know really. I'm getting my bachelor's this spring, but after that it's all up in the air. I love chamber music most of all, and would really love to do something with that."
"Then you should!" Geoffrey cried.
"But I'm not sure I'm good enough. After all, there are so many violinists…"
He scoffed. "You're being absurd, surely. Why, Will couldn't stop raving about your playing for a month after he came back from the States."
"Huh, yeah right," Liz laughed. "Will is my harshest critic."
"If he's your harshest critic, then you must be incredible!" Geoffrey rejoined.
Liz smiled, knowing he was just trying to flatter her.
Geoffrey and Liz began to talk about books and music, and discovered that they shared similar favorites, to the delight of both. But while Geoffrey was describing a fantastic book that he said Liz absolutely must read, she had the uneasy sensation of William's eyes upon her again.
This time she was going to do something about it.
"Geoffrey, I'm sorry," she cut in, "but can you tell me why your cousin keeps staring at me? What is it? Has my face gone blue?"
Surprised, Geoffrey looked at William, who flushed accordingly, and took a long gulp of his water. Liz sipped her soda with a smile of satisfaction.
When she arrived home later that night, Liz found an email message waiting for her from Jenna. "At last!" she thought.
Date: Mon, 1– Nov 199– 23:40:44 -0000
Subject: Hello Lizzy
I'm sorry it's taken me so long to write to you. I hope you're having a good time in South America. Is Labias de Vaca all that you thought it would be? ;-) I'm sure you're having fun, though.
The Sadovniks are wonderful hosts, and keep me very busy. England is a beautiful country, and London is a wonderful city. I wish you were here with me. We've been to the usual sightseeing places, as well as lots of plays and concerts. Emilie and Ivan have even got me a couple free-lancing jobs (I thought this would be illegal, since I don't have a work permit, but they assure me it isn't). A couple days ago I did a recording session for the soundtrack of the latest BBC drama adaptation – very fun! :-)
Now I'll tell you what I'm sure you want to know the most. No, I haven't seen or heard from Charlie Bingley since I got here. I called up Carolyn soon after I arrived. She wasn't as glad to hear from me as I'd expected, but I thought she was just a little under-the-weather. She said she was on the other line, but that she'd call me back when she got off.
Two weeks later, Carolyn finally called me back. She told me that Charlie knows that I'm in England, but that he's very busy making an album with Georgette D'Arcy, and can't be bothered to visit people who are only slight acquaintances.
Liz, this can only mean one thing. If Charlie ever felt anything for me, he doesn't any more. Carolyn was just trying to shelter me from the truth. So that's it, then. Not worth dwelling on it, right?
Again, I hope you're having a great time. I miss you a lot.
See you at Christmas.
Liz's heart was heavy as she shut down the computer. Jenna had tried to make her email sound positive, but Liz could see right past that. She knew how crushed Jenna must be.
"Carolyn – sheltering Jenna from the truth?" Liz thought bitterly as she went to bed. "Oh please." Carolyn was doing her best to control her brother, and it looked like it was working.
The next time Liz saw Geoffrey Fitzwilliam was at his aunt's house, several days later. Catherine de Bourgh was having some members of the orchestra over for tea, and Liz was one of the lucky invited.
"Liz!" a friendly voice called as Liz, Lotty, and Mariah were admitted into the house. Geoffrey Fitzwilliam, dressed for tennis in an outfit of white, bounded down the large entrance hall to join them.
"Wonderful to see you again," he told Liz, shaking her hand warmly. "And these are your friends?"
Liz introduced him to Lotty and Mariah.
"A pleasure," Geoffrey said.
As they walked to the drawing room, Lotty whispered teasingly to her friend, "How do you do it, Liz? Isn't it enough that F. William D'Arcy is madly in love with you, but do you have to have his cousin too?"
Liz blushed severely, and began to object, but they had already reached the drawing room door.
Seven pairs of eyes turned to meet them. Catherine de Bourgh was in her usual spot by the fireplace, with Miss Wibble's faded self on one side, and Bill Collins on the other. Three orchestra members – two men and a woman – were sitting by the piano. William was on the couch.
"There you are, Geoffrey," Catherine spoke. "Charlotte, nice to see you as always." She nodded to Mariah, and acknowledged Liz with a raised eyebrow.
Liz sat down near the piano, and Geoffrey drew up next to her. Catherine conversed mainly with William, her clear favorite, and seemed to regard her other guests only as bodies to warm the room.
As usual, William didn't go out of his way to say anything to anyone. Liz watched him carefully, curious if she could detect any hint of love between him and Anne Wibble. But it was just as she suspected – he ignored Anne just as he ignored everyone else, and Anne seemed equally indifferent.
"Tell me who those musicians are," Geoffrey whispered to Liz.
Liz looked across the room at the three other musicians whom Catherine had invited. "Peter Elton, a cellist. I'm – William and I are playing a Bartok quartet with him. The woman with the long blond hair, the one who's winking at you, is Isabella Thorpe, an oboist."
"Who's the other man, the good-looking one?"
"Frank Churchill, another cellist. He and Peter don't get along very well, or so I hear. See how they're not talking to each other? Something about a woman who used to be in this orchestra. Both men wanted her. Now she's married to another guy, and lives somewhere in Europe."
The evening was predictable enough. Catherine de Bourgh presided over everyone in the party, with the exception of Liz, Geoffrey, and Frank Churchill. These three had managed, somehow, to find a quiet corner to talk without Mrs. De Bourgh's notice or interference.
Liz had hardly known Frank before that afternoon, their acquaintance extending only to brief nods and hellos exchanged in the halls. He was, as Geoffrey had pointed out, a very attractive young man, Australian, and extremely witty. Liz was certain she liked him when, displaying his talent for mimicry, he started, quietly, to do impressions of Catherine. He had her voice down exactly, and even threw in some of her ridiculous postures and gestures. Both Liz and Geoffrey were in agony, trying desperately to choke back their giggles. Frank grinned at the mischief he was producing.
"Well, Miss Bennet, you are very plain this evening, I dare say!" he proclaimed in a feigned aristocratic accent. "You should take my excellent advice, and try to be more like my dear Anne. You see how she sits there, so docile and placid? That is the way all young women should behave! Observe her pallid expression, so lifeless and dull. It is the essence of feminine beauty!"
"Stop!" Liz hissed, tears of constrained laughter clouding her vision. She didn't trust herself.
But it wasn't until Frank told Geoffrey that he should stop being so friendly, and start acting mean like his cousin William, that Liz and Geoffrey really lost it. They toppled over in their chairs, roaring with uncurbed laughter. This naturally got the attention of Catherine, as well as the rest of the people in the room.
"Well!" Catherine exclaimed. "This is most uncalled for. Geoffrey, get up off the floor. You're behaving like a – a wild ape! Is this the way you conduct yourself in front of guests?!"
Geoffrey rose, giving Liz a hand, and they sat back down in their chairs. Both were red with a mixture of merriment and embarrassment, but they strove to remain composed.
Catherine continued to speak to William as if the incident hadn't happened, but Liz felt her glare, angry and malevolent, more than once.
"Miss Bennet," Catherine de Bourgh finally said. Her voice was studiously calm, and she looked at Liz with a lofty superiority that could almost be called disdain. "Tell me, what does your father do for a living now?"
"Uh, he's a composer. He writes for TV commercials," Liz replied, trying to hide her confusion.
"Oh, I see." Catherine smiled condescendingly. "That would suit him very well, I imagine."
"Yes, he –"
"And your mother, does she still attempt a career in music?"
Now Liz was suspicious. "My mother hasn't played the violin since college."
"Aunt Catherine, would you like me to fetch you a deck of cards?" Geoffrey asked anxiously. "Or perhaps some music – would you like me to play something on the piano?"
"Has she not?" Catherine said, ignoring her nephew. "Perhaps that is true – yes, perhaps it is. How old is your eldest sister, Miss Bennet?"
"Jenna's twenty-three. Twenty-four in the spring."
"Are you very close to your parents, Miss Bennet?"
"Yes, pretty close."
"I suppose they tell you all about their past?"
Liz glanced around the room. Everyone else was silent, watching the exchange. "Sometimes."
"Then you know about Folge-Haben, of course."
That name again. The first two times she had heard it mentioned, by Carolyn Bingley and then by Bill, Liz had disregarded it; but this third time, its connotations, and the contempt with which Catherine spoke it, made Liz turn suddenly very cold. "I, uh–"
William said something to his aunt that Liz couldn't hear. Catherine looked at William, rather cross, but nodded her head. "Charlotte. I must speak to you about the turn out at the last concert. It was quite dreadful! Let me advise you, next time, to…"
Lotty Lucas pretended to listen to what Catherine de Bourgh was telling her, while actually she was in serious contemplation about her friend. If she wasn't careful, Liz would learn about the Folge-Haben business from the wrong people, and the results would be painful and humiliating. Lotty couldn't see her friend get hurt like that. But what to do?
Chapter 24 A
On a rainy Monday evening, F. William D'Arcy stood in the reference area of the Labias de Vaca Public Library. It was a brand new facility, which would account for the overwhelming smell of fresh paint. William thought it quite lacking in fiction and literature, but there were already enough reference books to entertain you (if they could entertain you) for an entire year. This, he knew, could be attributed to his Aunt Catherine, who cared nothing for fiction.
So here he was, scanning encyclopedias. Encyclopedia of Marine Life, Encyclopedia of Medicine in Sixteenth Century Italy… Ah! Here was something interesting. William picked up the 1997 Encyclopedia of Musicians. He flipped through the pages, stopping on what caught his eye. He looked up Fitzwilliam, and found his mother, Anne, who had been a great mezzo-soprano; then, turning back, he searched for his father, Charlot Gautier D'Arcy. He read the small paragraph that outlined his father's career, his early life, his rise to fame and the founding of Pemberley, the pieces for the violin he had composed, and, finally, his date of death. After that was William's own paragraph, taking up a much larger portion of the page.
D'Arcy, F. William (baptized Fitzwilliam Robert Andrew D'Arcy), born August 23, 1971 in Derbyshire, England. Celebrated English violinist, known for his amazing virtuosity and passionate lyricism. Son of C. Gautier D'Arcy and Anne Fitzwilliam, brother of Georgette D'Arcy. He received his first violin lesson from his father, at the age of three and a half. At five, his father moved him to London to study at the Royal Academy of Music. His progress was so rapid that by age eight he made his professional debut, playing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra, and at ten made his first recording, with pieces by Bach, Paganini, Kreisler, and Ysaÿe. For the next half dozen years he continued at a breathtaking pace, touring all of Europe as well as North America and Asia. But while he was touring the United States in the fall of 1987, F. William learned of his mother's untimely death from ovarian cancer…
William stopped reading. He knew what it would say.
His father had told him right after a concert with the Boston Symphony. He remembered it as if it was yesterday. He had been feeling rather sick – had caught the flu that was going around – but he had to play the concert. He walked off the stage after the last curtain call, and there was his father, standing in the wings. "We must talk," his father had said. He had led him back to his dressing room, and, sitting him down in a chair, explained what had happened. His mother had been ill for quite some time, but she didn't want it to deter her son's career, so she and Gautier had kept the disease a secret. She had died that morning, at their home in Derbyshire.
William, barely sixteen, had sat there, stunned, for a very long time. Then, in a burst of rage, he shoved his violin at his father. "There!" he remembered saying, as he stormed out of the room. "You take it – I hate the sight of it. I'll never touch it again!"
And for the next two years, he didn't. He avoided the violin and classical music on the whole, until he was eighteen.
But even after he took up music again, and continued with his career, William still felt a bitter resentment towards his father. It was only five years ago, just before Gautier died, that William finally forgave him.
William had no wish to dwell on these memories that could only bring him pain. He found, with much more delight, that his little sister was listed on the next page. Georgette D'Arcy, it said, seventeen years old and already an up-and-coming flautist. It listed where she had toured, and who her family members were.
Dear Georgette. William missed her, but more than that, he was worried about her. I'll give her a ring, he thought.
He went to the library payphone and dialed the number of Georgette's flat in London.
"Yes?" answered a sleepy voice.
"Mrs. Jones? Will D'Arcy speaking. Is Georgette there?"
"Mr. D'Arcy, it's one in the morning. Georgette is asleep."
"Oh! Yes, of course. I forgot about the time change. How silly of me. Do tell Georgette that I rang, and I'll try back another time."
William hung up the receiver, feeling quite dumb. It was only then that he recalled his original purpose in coming to the library: to copy the solo part of the Sibelius Violin Concerto – which he was playing with the orchestra next week – for the concertmaster.
The copy machine, he found, was currently in use. A tall woman with short brown hair stood at it with a stack of newspapers. On closer inspection, he realized it was Lotty Lucas.
Lotty saw William D'Arcy heading her way just in time to cover the newspaper she was copying. "Hi William. Nice to see you."
"You too." He pulled out the Sibelius part and handed it to her. "This is what you want?"
Lotty examined it, then nodded. "Do you want me to copy it?"
"No, no, keep it. I've had that piece memorized for fifteen years."
Lotty smiled. There was no bravado in his remark, just simple truth.
William noticed Mariah, who was looking for a book in the pathetically small science-fiction section. "Are you all on an outing to the library?"
Lotty knew what he meant by "all". "No, just Mariah and me. Liz is at De Bourgh Hall, practicing."
"Ah." He glanced at his watch. "Well, I was just heading that way myself, for the quartet rehearsal. See you later, then."
Lotty watched William leave the library. She had often suspected that F. William D'Arcy had romantic feelings for Liz. After all, one who seemed to go out of his way to be aloof must have other feelings to conceal. But, though she sometimes kidded Liz about it, Lotty knew not to voice her conjectures seriously. She was sure that the contempt Liz felt for William would vanish in a flash if Liz really thought he liked her; and Lotty didn't want her friend to get her hopes up, only to be disappointed. William and Liz were just too different. Not only in nationality, but also in wealth, upbringing, and philosophies.
Geoffrey Fitzwilliam, on the other hand. True, he was William's cousin, and was part of the same ancient Fitzwilliam family line, but he was open, friendly, more like Liz. Yes, they would be splendid together.
But first… Lotty turned back to the copy machine. She had to finish this, before she thought of anything else.
Chapter 24 B
A knock on the rehearsal room door made Liz start. The clock said six-forty – twenty minutes before the Bartok Quartet rehearsal began. She had reserved the room till then.
"Come in," she called doubtfully.
The door swung open, and there was F. William D'Arcy, violin in tow.
"Oh, am I the first one here?" he murmured.
Liz looked around the otherwise empty room, eyebrows raised. "Yeah, we still have twenty minutes. I was just practicing."
He didn't leave. Instead, he sat down in a chair on the other side of the room, and started unpacking his instrument.
Liz's first thoughts were Well there goes my practice time. She watched William as he carefully attached his shoulder pad to the back of his violin. She thought she would try a little experiment.
"You guys left Hertfordborough so quickly this summer!" she said. "By the time we found out, Charlie had already left. I must say, it made a lot of people unhappy. Not that it's any of my business or anything."
"It was unfortunate that we had to leave so abruptly, but there was urgent business in England that called us home at once."
Liz tried another tactic. "I've meant to ask you – my sister Jenna has been staying with some friends in London since September. You never happened to see her there, did you?"
William's expression was an unusual blend of amusement and confusion. "London is a very big city."
"Yes, but I thought I remembered Jenna saying that she talked to Carolyn Bingley after she arrived. Carolyn never mentioned it to you?"
William seemed intent on rosining his bow. Liz looked longingly at the door. If only the other two musicians would arrive!
"Was that Swan Lake I heard you playing before I entered the room?" William asked after a pause.
"Yes, it was. It's for an audition."
"New York City Ballet. First violin section. I haven't told my family about it yet."
"Are you afraid your family would object?"
"Really just my mother, and no, she wouldn't object, but…" Liz didn't finish her sentence. Why am I telling him this? Mr. Wealthy Virtuoso, everything served to him on a silver platter – like he'd understand.
William looked up. "You don't want to be near your parents forever. I understand completely."
The strange earnestness with which he said this, and the way he was staring straight into her eyes, made Liz momentarily speechless. The next second brought another knock at the door, signaling the arrival of the violist and cellist, and the rehearsal was soon underway.
It was ten p.m. Liz, bike leaning against one leg, violin case slung over her shoulder, gazed at the unrelenting rain from the doorway of the De Bourgh parking lot.
A sleek black Jaguar pulled up, stopping right outside the door. The window lowered, revealing William at the wheel. "Do you have a ride home?" he asked, raising his voice to be heard above the howling wind.
"I was going to bike, but now I'm not sure that's such a good idea. I'll call Lotty."
"Nonsense. I'll take you home. I'm going right that way."
"Thanks, but it's really unnecessary. I'm sure Lotty will –"
"I won't have it any other way. Your bike won't fit in my car, I'm afraid, but you can leave it here until morning. It's very safe."
Liz gave in. After all, she was shivering and the last thing she needed was to catch a cold.
Neither one spoke as they drove to Lotty's house. The swish of the windshield wipers and the rain pelting against the car were the only sounds to be heard.
"Thanks for the ride home," Liz said briefly, as they pulled into Lotty's driveway. "See you tomorrow. Oh, and I should tell you – I usually like to take an hour or so before the rehearsal and practice in that room." She hoped he would get her point, and not show up early next time.
"Indeed?" He seemed suddenly bemused. "Well then. Have a good evening. Good-bye."
Liz ran up the steps to the front doorway. The door was locked, so she fumbled around in her pockets until she found the right key.
Once inside, it was clear that Lotty and Mariah were not home. Liz took off her coat and shoes, laying them by the front door to dry, and went to the kitchen for something to eat. On the counter was a note from Lotty, saying that she and Mariah had gone to pick up a pizza.
Liz poured herself a bowl of Rice Krispies and sat down at the computer. Now was the time to reply to the many emails she had received in the past week.
The modem demanded a password before it would go on-line. "Password?" Liz grumbled. She didn't remember having to use a password before.
She opened a filing cabinet, hoping to find some clue in there. Most of the cabinet was filled with sheet music, but at the back was a folder packed with non-music related papers. Liz felt a little guilty about snooping around like this, and was about to shut the cabinet, empty handed, when something in the back caught her eye.
Liz looked closer to make sure she wasn't dreaming it. Nope. There it was, a thin pile of copied newspaper cuttings, bound together with a rubberband. Printed across the top page, in huge letters, were the words Folge-Haben, and a picture of her father.
All concern about invading Lotty's private property vanished from Liz's mind. There was only one thing she cared about at that moment, and that was to find out, once and for all, what Folge-Haben was.
Liz sat down on the floor. Lifting the top sheet from the stack of papers, she began to read.
BENNET TO BE MUSIC DIRECTOR OF FOLGE-HABEN
By Belinda Hunsford
New York Enquirer, 1-11-73
After an extensive search, it was announced yesterday that Calvin Bennet will be the first music director of the Folge-Haben International Music Society.
Hans Folge and Josef Haben, both of Vienna, founded The Society for the purpose of bringing world-class musicians together to raise money for charity, scientific research, and worldwide peace.
"We are very happy to have Calvin with us," said Mr. Haben yesterday. "He is an excellent young man, with a brilliant conducting career ahead of him. An incredible amount of time, energy, and money has been spent in the preparation of this society, and we have no doubt that Calvin will use it all to its best advantage."
Mr. Bennet, 30, is a relative newcomer to the field of conducting. After graduating from the University of Southern California in 1964 with a degree in music composition, he studied with Giles Woodhouse in London, and worked as an apprentice to Walter Elliot with the Kellynch Chamber Orchestra in San Francisco.
The Society will give its opening concert in September at Carnegie Hall.
Liz glanced at the picture next to the article. It was her father all right – younger, smiling, dark hair instead of gray – but still him.
She grabbed the next page in the pile.
FHIMS OPENING CONCERT A DISAPPOINTMENT
By Belinda Hunsford
New York Enquirer, 9-10-73
Those who attended the opening concert of the Folge-Haben International Music Society last night witnessed an unsatisfactory beginning to what has been the most anticipated new musical ensemble of the year.
The program consisted of Debussy's "La Mer", the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 (John Willoughby, pianist), and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. While the Debussy had some pretty spots, and John Willoughby sparkled on the piano, the overall effect was dull and anticlimactic – entirely the fault of Maestro Bennet. He displayed a lack of enthusiasm, which spread quickly to the audience.
It is not that Maestro Bennet is a bad conductor, for "bad" is too strong a word. "Indifferent", "listless", "detached", "lethargic" are much more appropriate titles.
I hope (as I'm sure Mr. Folge and Mr. Haben hope) that this was just a poor start for Maestro Bennet, and not a forewarning of what we are to expect in the future.
Liz read the next article, and the next, and the next. Each was more scathing than the one before it. It was hard to remain neutral, and she cried out in protest more than once at the derogatory terms used against her father. It's as if, thought Liz, this critic has a personal grudge against Dad.
Belinda Hunsford. That name sounded vaguely familiar. Where had she heard it before?
The reviews continued in the same insulting manner. Liz began to flip the pages aimlessly, marveling at the absurdity of it all.
And then, abruptly, the music reviews stopped, and a large, official looking article proclaimed:
CALVIN BENNET FOUND GUILTY ON DRUG CHARGES
The sound of the garage door opening made Liz stop reading. Lotty and Mariah were home.
Liz went to her room, dazed, and hid the papers in her sock drawer. Drug charges? That was impossible!
"Pizza, Liz?" Lotty offered as Liz entered the kitchen. Liz shook her head no.
"How was your rehearsal?" Mariah asked. "What's it like playing with F. William D'Arcy?"
"Just like you imagine," Liz said.
"Hmm, sounds fun," Lotty joked. "Are you sure you don't want anything, Liz? We got pizza and popcorn, and rented some movies. What are you more in the mood for – A Month in the Country or Much Ado About Nothing?"
Liz drew a deep breath. "Actually, I'm kind of tired. I hate to be a wet blanket, but I think I'll just go to bed."
In the privacy of her room, Liz returned to the papers. Calvin Bennet Found Guilty On Drug Charges. Her eyes devoured the article, hardly believing what they read.
In a New York court Wednesday, Calvin Bennet, music director of the Folge-Haben International Music Society, was found guilty of drug possession and sentenced to two months in prison. Mr. Bennet was pulled over last Saturday for speeding, and found with marijuana in the car. Further investigation revealed that he had been growing marijuana inside his Manhattan apartment.
Mr. Bennet wed Frances Gardiner, a second violinist in his orchestra, just two weeks prior to this arrest. Mr. Bennet's first sentence of five months was reduced to two because the couple is expecting their first child in May.
Neither Mr. Folge nor Mr. Haben, the founders and co-chairmen of the International Music Society, were available for comment. Many speculate, however, that they will not only fire Mr. Bennet from his music director position, but also discontinue funding the orchestra after next year, due to its lack of success.
Liz reread the article several times, then fell back on her bed, eyes closed, head in hands. She had to make sense of this.
The Bennet girls had always been told that their parents were married in February 1973, when in reality, it seemed, they had been married in 1974. Jenna was born in May, 1974, which meant that she had been conceived six months before her parents' marriage. These revelations led Liz to wonder if Jenna had been the reason her parents were married in the first place.
But her father – in jail? Liz couldn't picture it. Poor Mother. Two weeks after their wedding!
The clock read two a.m., and Liz had an early rehearsal. She went to bed, but she knew it would be a sleepless night.
Chapter 26 A
Note: Robert K. Wallace discusses the similarities between P&P and Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 9 in his book Jane Austen and Mozart: Classical Equilibrium in Fiction and Music. Fascinating!
The week passed swiftly for some, tediously for others. During the day there were orchestra rehearsals. The program for the upcoming concert was the Haydn "Surprise" Symphony, Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 9 with Geoffrey as soloist, and the Sibelius Violin Concerto played by William.
Imagine, not one but two soloists to adulate, and both nephews of the mighty queen goddess herself, Catherine de Bourgh! Bill Collins was so excited he didn't know what to do with himself, and in the end he deteriorated into a bundle of nervous sweat. He conducted like he was being flogged – arms waving above his hunched shoulders, head buried in the score, face pinched in a gruesome wince. As a result, the orchestra was usually lost.
When this happened, Geoffrey Fitzwilliam, being the gentleman that he was, would stop and inform Bill (very politely) that they were not together. Then Bill would cry, "I'm so sorry, Dr. Fitzwilliam!" this and "It'll be better next time!" that, but things never got any better. F. William D'Arcy, however, seemed unaware of any of the orchestra's trouble, and glided through his piece without so much as an uncertain twinge in his flawless playing.
During the evenings, the members of the Bartok quartet continued to rehearse. On Tuesday evening William arrived half an hour early, on Wednesday forty minutes. Liz didn't understand it. She had gone out of her way to tell him that she used the room for practicing before the rehearsal. Why, then, was he arriving progressively earlier every night?
And then, of course, there was Folge-Haben. On Tuesday Lotty discovered that the copied newspaper clippings were missing, and immediately guessed the truth. Lotty had wanted to have a long, careful discussion with her friend about Folge-Haben, and use those papers as evidence only if Liz hadn't believed her. Never in her wildest dreams had she wanted Liz to find out like this!
But it was done, and done for the best. Liz didn't wanted any apologies, she just wanted the facts – the where, why, and how. Did everyone know? How could she and her sisters still be in the dark after so long? Why did her parents feel the use of such a disguise was necessary with their five grown and almost grown daughters?
Lotty, almost as upset as Liz, though in her own quiet way, suggested that Liz call Calvin. Liz debated whether to do this, or whether to try Jenna or Emilie. In the end she decided that for now she wouldn't say anything to anyone.
On Thursday night, Liz collapsed into bed in her Spartan-style bedroom and stared out the window at the ocean. She had just spent half a quartet rehearsal arguing with F. William D'Arcy about bowings and dynamics. Her whole body ached with exhaustion. And yet sleep would not come. I'm the only person awake on this whole continent, she thought wistfully. Outside, the waves sang a soothing mantra.
Miles away, in a bedroom very unlike Liz's, a man was gazing at the same ocean. His face was one of total tranquillity, but inside he was drowning – in desire, in indecision.
He ran a hand through his dark curls. Sleep was a stranger to him as well. With a sigh of impatience, he switched on the bedside lamp and took out a pad of paper from a large oak drawer. He would write a letter, he resolved. But it was impossible – the more he tried to concentrate, the more She was there in his mind, tantalizing him, tearing him to pieces! He looked down at the paper, and realized that all he had written was her name.
He ripped up the paper and fed it to the fire.
On Friday morning Liz went to the De Bourgh mansion to play tennis with Geoffrey. After three games – the first won by Liz, the second by Geoffrey, and the third a tie – they sprawled out on the deck with a pitcher of lemonade and sandwiches. "Nervous about tonight?" Liz asked him.
He grinned. "Oh no, not at all… Are you kidding? Yes, I'm nervous! I haven't performed a bloody piano piece for five years, let alone a concerto with orchestra! There's only one person in the world who's never nervous, and that's William. Isn't that right, Will?" Geoffrey called to his cousin, who was just returning from a run.
"Did you say something, Geoffrey?" William asked, joining them and helping himself to a sandwich.
"I was just telling our dear friend Liz that you're never nervous before a performance, unlike we ordinary mortals."
"Of course he's never nervous," Liz chimed in. Her adrenaline was still pumping from the exercise, and she was in a very teasing mood. "He is the famous F. William D'Arcy, after all." She smiled pertly at William over her glass of lemonade. "In fact, I think he likes making other people nervous. It's how he gets his kicks. But it won't work with me – my courage rises with every attempt to intimidate me."
"Touché," laughed Geoffrey.
William plucked a blade of grass from the lawn and rolled it between his forefinger and thumb. "You think you're very clever, don't you, Liz? But I'm not afraid of you."
"I'd be very afraid of me if I were you," Liz rejoined. "I have so much ammunition against you, I don't know where to begin." She wasn't kidding.
"Ammunition?" Geoffrey asked.
Liz turned to him conspiratorially. "As you know, I met your cousin this summer at a festival in California. What your cousin may not have told you is what happened when we first met. It was at a house party, a get-together type thing. Everyone had brought their instruments, except for William. He and his Strad couldn't be bothered to play with – oh, how did he put it? – 'mediocre fiddlers from Podunksville, USA', such as us."
"You said that, William?" Geoffrey said in disbelief.
William shrugged. "It was an excuse. I felt uncomfortable, I didn't know anyone there."
"Oh yeah, and I'm sure no one wanted to be introduced to you, either!" Liz laughed.
"I'm not good with strangers. It's difficult for me to make small talk, to chat with people I've just met."
Liz scoffed. "Let me tell you something, Sir William of Pemberley Kingdom. When I first started the violin, it was hard for me. I couldn't just pick it up and play the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto like you could. But I worked at it, and I improved, and now I'm a violinist. What it takes is hard work – but maybe that's something you've never had to experience before."
A smile, barely discernible, crossed William's lips. "You're exactly right. And I'm sure everyone who's heard you play is glad you stuck with the violin."
"William! Geoffrey!" The door opened and Catherine de Bourgh stepped out onto the deck. "Ah, there you are." She noticed Liz with them and frowned. "Come inside, boys. There are things to do before the concert, and I won't have you wasting your day like idlers."
William obeyed dutifully. Geoffrey gave Liz one last pat on the shoulder ("Wish me luck tonight!") and followed the others inside.
Chapter 26 Cont.
The concert was, miraculously, a success. Both soloists dazzled the audience, and the orchestra stayed together despite their foolish conductor. Liz thought it was too good to last, but when Saturday night rolled around, the second concert proved even better than the first! Catherine de Bourgh, sitting in her usual box seat, looked happier than anyone had ever seen her – even her nephews. "Catherine looked as proud as a peacock at the concert last night," Geoffrey observed as he, Liz, and Frank Churchill took a walk on Sunday. "Which is good for me, but unfortunate for William."
"When she's pleased with me, she smiles and leaves me alone, but when she's pleased with William, she dotes on him to a laughable extent. I expect he's stuck with her and Anne in the drawing room right now."
"Oh, poor William!" Frank crowed, laughing like a drunken hyena. Liz inched away from him. She was beginning to think he was permanently inebriated.
"Liz, a letter for you!"
Liz dashed downstairs and took the sealed envelope from Mariah's outstretched hand. It had a postmark from Los Angeles. Liz tore it open and read eagerly.
November 19, 1997
Home at last! It seems like ages since I was in good old sunny California – almost three months, after all. What I miss the most, what I've missed more than anything since I left, is you. I can't wait for you to come back in two weeks!
The rest of my stay in London was not so good. I caught a cold at the beginning of November, and it still hasn't gone away. It's been very hard for me to practice the cello for long without getting totally worn out. I'm sure I'll feel better by Christmas, though.
Everyone back home is busy as usual. Livia and Katie have gone crazy over some sort of music school – Brighton Academy or something. They probably told you about it. Katie's practicing regularly four or five hours for the auditions in January. Livia's not so worried about practicing, but she talks a lot about the Academy, and all the people who will be there.
Mary has come home for Thanksgiving. She loves college, but is thinking of switching her major from molecular biology to theology. This came as quite a surprise to Mom and Dad (and her science professors, no doubt!).
Speaking of Mom – she's getting a job, and at Disneyland, of all places! It started a couple days ago when she realized that Livia goes away to college in less than two years. She started panicking about loneliness and having nothing to do, so Dad suggested she get a job. She liked that idea, and starts working the 9 to 5 shift of Storybook Canal next week.
Got to go now. Say hi to Lotty and Mariah for me.
The phone rang just as Liz was finishing the letter. It was Emilie.
At first their conversation was limited to surface affairs – Liz's time in South America, what Jenna did in London, and other such things. Finally, Emilie voiced a concern. "Liz, I am worried about Jenna. She is very ill."
Liz sighed. "She just wrote to me. She mentioned something about a cold."
"It is much worse than she admits. She has a fever; she's very pale. I took her to a doctor in London. He thinks that it is a – ah, what is the word – virus. He said she should have as much rest as possible."
"But in our house, that's hardly an option for Jenna," Liz sighed.
"I wonder, Liz, if this is just a regular virus… Surely she wrote to you about that young man –"
"Charlie Bingley?" said Liz. "Could it be depression connected with him?"
"I am very afraid it might be."
On Tuesday afternoon Liz went to De Bourgh Hall to practice. As she neared the door to her normal practice room she heard a piano playing the first movement of Bach's Italian Concerto. She put her head against the wall to listen. It was beautiful. As the pianist finished, Liz knocked on the door. She had to meet this wonderful musician.
"Knock knock, who's there?" Geoffrey said as he opened the door to her. "Why Liz, what a pleasant surprise!"
"Geoffrey, I heard you playing, and it was – you are – I'm speechless. That was marvelous."
"Oh, I just play Bach to keep my fingers nimble. Care to join me?"
"I don't know…" She looked at her bag full of audition music.
"Come on, there's lots of music locked in that cupboard over there – sonatas of all kinds. It will be fun."
They played and they played. They played Brahms, Franck, and Schumman; Beethoven and Hindemith. Liz positioned her music stand so she could see out the window at the ocean and its lashing waves. Storm clouds were gathering to the north.
They took a break at last, and Liz bought fruit juices from the machine in the hall.
"You're a wonderful pianist, Geoffrey," Liz said as she sat down near the window. "But I'm sure you know that already." She hesitated. There was one question pressing in her mind, but she didn't want to seem rude. Not to him, at any rate.
Geoffrey answered it before she could say anything. "My brother is a doctor, you know – a surgeon. He's quite a bit older than me; I was only three when he went to Cambridge. My parents adored him – they still do. Then I came along with this incredible love for music. My parents humoured me at first and gave me piano lessons. But as I grew older, and my interest in music wasn't diminishing, they began to worry. I was serious when I said that they didn't want me to turn out like a D'Arcy. It was hard enough that my aunt, Anne Fitzwilliam, was a singer, and married a French violinist. Aunt Anne was always a rebel. Aunt Catherine loved music, but she knew it wasn't the way to make money – unless you were brilliant like William, of course. My parents didn't care for it at all. They wanted both their sons to be doctors."
"Do you regret it now?"
He chuckled and shrugged his shoulders. "What good does it do to regret? Medicine's all right. And it makes my family happy. Now all they need is to marry me off to an earl's daughter and their job is done!"
Liz looked at him with pity. Money was a strong force in the Fitzwilliam family; stronger than happiness or, it seemed, love – but what was the point in having something if it only made you miserable?
"How long are you staying after the party on Wednesday?" Liz asked, changing the subject.
"We were set to leave the following day, but William has put it off until Saturday. One of his whims, I suppose."
"Don't you have to get back?"
"Not until next week. William's the one who would want to get back, I should think, to see his sister before his next group of concerts."
"Does William like controlling his sister as much as he likes controlling everything else?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you just said that he changed your plans for no reason at all, and you're his adult cousin. Poor Georgette! Older brothers have a tendency to boss their little sisters around. But then again, little sisters usually need it," Liz added, thinking of her own examples.
Geoffrey was not laughing like she'd expected him to. Indeed, he looked almost alarmed. "Why do you say that?"
"Oh, I didn't mean it that way. I haven't heard anything but the highest compliments for Georgette," Liz said hastily, embarrassed.
Geoffrey smiled for fear of having offended her. "Yes, William likes to have his own way, but it's only because he thinks he knows what's right and what's wrong – and he's usually right. An incident last summer with one of his close friends is a case in point. You know the friend, come to think of it. Charlie Bingley?"
"Charlie looks up to Will almost as an older brother. William looks out for him, for the poor fellow is quite gullible. From what William says, Charlie Bingley fell head over heels last summer for some American girl. Quite infatuated. But William saved him – to use William's own words."
Now it was Liz's turn not to laugh. She stared at him, her countenance clouding like the sky outside. "Saved him?"
"Took him back to England. Told him to forget her; she was not the girl for him."
Liz tried to appear unconcerned. "And why didn't William think she was the girl for him?"
"She was out for his money and fame, sadly. She's a musician of some sort, and probably wanted to feed off his success. There are people like that; you have to be very careful. Charlie is trusting to a fault – he'd believe anyone."
"But how is it William's business what his friend does?"
"How on earth can he think that it's his right, let alone his duty, to bully Charlie like he's a little boy?"
Geoffrey was now quite confused. "Well, uh…"
"I'm sorry. It's really none of my business." Liz rose, dizzy for a moment as the blood rushed to her head. She stumbled to her case and put her violin away.
"Are you leaving?" Geoffrey asked, disappointed.
"Yeah. I have a headache suddenly. Maybe if I just go home and rest."
"But will I see you at Catherine's for dinner tonight?"
Liz said it was doubtful.
Lotty and Mariah went to Mrs. De Bourgh's without Liz that evening. Liz, thankful for the solitary peace, made herself a cup of tea and lay down on the couch. She turned on the TV, but after searching uselessly through a hundred different Spanish-speaking programs, she turned it off and reached for Jenna's letter to read again.
…The rest of my stay in London was not so good. I caught a cold at the beginning of November, and it still hasn't gone away. It's been very hard for me to practice the cello for long without getting totally worn out. …
Worn out. Jenna was never too tired to practice – she loved it more than anything. In the past it had even been the cure for sickness.
Before Liz had a chance to read the letter a third time the doorbell rang. Liz got up, a bit perplexed. Everyone she knew was having dinner with Catherine de Bourgh.
To her astonishment, F. William D'Arcy was on the doorstep. He strode quickly into the room, looking around like he didn't know how he had gotten there.
"William. Can I help you?" Her voice was ice.
"I'm sorry, I hope you're feeling better."
"I am," she lied. "Can I get you something to drink? Tea, juice?"
"A glass of water would be wonderful," he murmured.
Liz brought him what he asked for and sat down on the couch. "Do sit down." Do sit down? Had she said that? Why, of all times, was she choosing now to be a proper hostess?
He sat down, but rose again immediately. He drained the glass of water and set it on the table. He looked very tired – his black hair tousled, his face unshaven. He began to pace the room, breathing hard. He stopped and looked at her, opened his mouth, closed it again, and continued his stride, back and forth, back and forth. Liz felt fatigued just watching him.
Finally he turned to her. His eyes were dark and intense, almost wild. "I can't go on like this. I can't sleep, I can't eat – I must tell you how much I love and adore you."
Liz's throat went dry. Whatever she had expected, it wasn't this. Her cheeks were bright pink and her eyes were fixed on the floor beyond him, but she said nothing. So he went on.
"This has been a tremendous struggle for me, weighing all the pros and cons. My family expects me to marry someone rich, someone noble, someone British, and I always expected the same thing. You and I are very different, as I'm sure you know. But it can't be helped. From the first moment we met, I've felt a fervent, overwhelming admiration for you. The more I fought it, the stronger my feelings became. You are my thoughts, my life. Please, say something – anything…"
Liz's cheeks were now quite white and she looked him straight in the eye as she said, "I really have nothing to say. There is nothing to say. I'm sorry to burst your passionate bubble, but I hope you'll recover enough to marry a rich noblewoman and settle down like everyone expects you to do."
William stared at her like she was speaking Chinese. He steadied himself against the edge of the table. Finally, after a full minute of stunned silence, he said, "And this is all you have to say? May I say that I'm a bit baffled? I had expected a little more of an explanation."
"You're not the only one who's baffled. Do you expect me to forget everything you've ever said, let alone thought, about me and my family? Just because you lust –"
"– Just because you claim you love me, am I supposed to ignore your disdain, your sneers, your derision of my friends, my family, everything that we are? You, who've ruined my sister's happiness, and consequently her health."
"Jenna is seriously ill and it's all because of you and your 'concern' for your friend."
"If you're talking about Charlie Bingley, it's for his good and hers that I separated them from each other. I know it's hard for you to see right now, but you'll thank me eventually. I wish I could be as clearheaded with myself as I am with Charlie."
"But it wasn't on Jenna's account alone that I've come to dislike you so much. Long before you broke Jenna's heart, Wickley George told me what you did to him. What do you have to say about that?"
William staggered across the room. "What I did to Wickley George?" His voice was filled with disbelief.
"It's your fault that Wickley can't find a job anywhere. Your father promised him a position at Pemberley, and you refused to give it to him out of childish resentment. Now he has to scramble to make money any way he can."
"Hah!" William snorted.
Liz rose from her seat. "You see! You still feel a childish jealousy towards him, like some sort of Freudian nightmare. It's not fair to kick a man when he's down, yet you do it anyway – over and over again."
"So this is what you think of me. I don't blame you for thinking me a monster – I would too, if I'd believed all these lies. But maybe if I'd presented myself differently you wouldn't have been so totally gullible. If I'd flirted with you like Wickley George, and hid all my worries and concerns. But I can't deceive people like that. I'm not in the least ashamed of the things I said; they're perfectly reasonable if you understand the position I'm in. You're American and you're not wealthy. Am I supposed to just ignore that? Am I supposed to ignore all the disadvantages I would suffer if I was associated with your family?"
"How dare you –"
"And your parents are notoriously connected to the Folge-Haben disaster. How could I forget that?"
"How dare you speak to me like that? How dare you come in here like this and start insulting me? Let me tell you, once and for all, what I think of you. You are a haughty, conceited man who thinks all the world should bow down and kiss your brilliant feet. From the very beginning, you've acted as if everyone owes you something, like we should praise heaven that you deign to mingle with anyone not part of your hand-picked, artificial little world. I wouldn't feel a drop of romantic interest in you if you and I were the last people on earth!"
William winced at these last words. "That's quite enough. Thank you for opening my eyes to the way you feel about me. Now I'm only embarrassed at what I felt myself. I'm sorry I've taken up so much of your time, but you'll never have to deal with me again. Please take my good wishes, and have a happy life." He reached for the door and then was gone, the sound of his car motor echoing down the street.