December 15th 1936
Your sister showed me your letter. Thank you for agreeing to correspond. I have always enjoyed our conversations and I am looking forward to getting to know you better. Geillis says that you think of me as a friend. I think of you as a friend too. I don’t really have many friends, mostly I have people I work with or people who work for me. My best friend Joe is also like a brother to me and he’s five years older than I am. His wife Gayle is only four years older though.
You must remember Joe, Paul Abernathy was his father. I called him Uncle Paul.
Your sister says that you you are trying to graduate early so you can take Lesley’s place in The White Rose. So you must sing tenor? It’s unusual for a tenor to be so tall. I only know of two tenors that are tall, three now that I know you. I’m sure there must be more though, I don’t know every musician everywhere after all.
This is the last week of performances before the Christmas Holy Days. We have four more performances in January and then we’ll start rehearsals for the Spring series. I’m sure Jenny or Ian has explained those to you.
I must close this now so I can leave it for Geillis to take to the post when she goes in the morning.
If I don’t have a chance to write again before Christmas, may the blessings of the season be with you and your family.
Claire E. Beauchamp
December 29th 1936
I almost called you Sassenach, as that is how I think of you. I know that some people think the word is an insult, but I don’t, at least not in regards to you. I think of something exotic, out of the ordinary… special. You are the only English friend I have you know, and that does make you all of those things. At least to me.
I’m very glad Jenny asked me if you could write, I have always enjoyed our conversations too. Although truly I cannot always think of what to say when you’re standing in front of me. Or rather, there are so many things I want to say and not nearly enough time to get them all out of my mouth without sounding like a clotheid as Jenny would say.
I am trying to graduate early so that I can sing with The White Rose. Partly to help out Lesley, he’s a distant cousin (well almost everyone in both groups are related in some fashion), but mostly because I miss Ian and Jenny. With Willie at University it’s just me and Mam and Da. It’s very quiet here. I love home and I love my parents, but I don’t really talk to anyone except sometimes at school, and then it’s about lessons. Since I’ve started studying for early graduation I don’t even do that.
Not that I’m complaining. Many of the people I go to school with aren’t interested in the same things I am. Even in choir and orchestra only a few seem to take it as seriously as I do. Of course, my mother being who she is, I couldn’t take my music any other way. That’s alright though, it gives me more time to spend with the horses.
My Da raises horses, and I help train them. My favorite is a large black mixed breed called Donas. Da isn’t sure which breeds either, although one of them is surely one of the draft breeds. He’s the largest horse in the stable… and the most mean tempered with everyone except Da and me. Mam says that’s because he recognizes kin in the two of us and then she laughs.
Are you finished with school yet? If I can pass four more tests I can graduate in May, a full year early. It will be hard, but I think I can do it.
We did have a lovely Christmas, although we put more store in Hogmanay (New Year’s) at least the public celebration of it. Christmas is more homely. Mass and a meal with family, singing and reading the Nativity story. We give gifts on Hogmanay and have a big party then.
What did you do for Christmas? Do you celebrate the New Year? I’m not sure what the tradition is in England.
I don’t think this will get to you in time, but I send my prayers for a prosperous and Happy New Year just the same.
James A.M.M. Fraser
Lamb sat down with Claire and Joe over the Christmas holidays to plan out the next year, (1937). Joe and Gayle still lived in Claire’s house with little Lina, so Lamb wanted to go on another dig. Joe would be going to medical school in September. Even with his father dying, Joe had graduated almost at the top of his class at Oxford.
“Claire, you’re sixteen now. Even with Joe away at school, you’ll be alright. Gayle can take care of those things that require a legal adult. Ned still manages all of your finances, Frank and Geillis are making arrangements for the spring tour and Dougal is sorting the vocal music. There’s really nothing for me to do here except keep you company and yell at your academic tutor occasionally.”
Joe and Claire looked at one another. Claire took a breath and said...
“Uncle Lamb? I haven’t had an academic tutor since Joe went to Oxford.”
“I don’t intend to go to University. I’ve studied basic math including algebra and geometry. I can study my languages on my own at this point, I have separate tutors for music. I already run the house with Mrs. G.’s help and as you pointed out, Ned manages the money. I did ask Ned to start teaching me about the estate for when I reach my majority. I no longer needed a tutor for academics. Ned helped the tutor find another placement and Joe wrote a letter of recommendation.”
“Did Paul know?”
“Of course. Joe didn’t need a tutor anymore either.”
“That’s right Quentin. You were on that first South American dig when the decision was made. Or the last Egyptian one. I don’t always remember where you go.” Joe put in.
“I see. Well, that just illustrates my point. You don’t need me here Princess.”
“No, I suppose I don’t.” Claire said slowly. “You will come home for Easter though, right?”
“Alright then. I have to speak with Mr. Mackenzie tomorrow. The vocal music for the Spring series is so complicated that I’m going to pick some easier things to do with the orchestra.”
“Why do you need to speak with Dougal then? That seems like the best solution.” Said Gayle.
“I think so too. What I want to speak about it the Fall series. I’ve decided to do Vivaldi’s seasons this year with the orchestra, and if I do that, I’d like Mr. Mackenzie to pick easier things to sing.” She turned to Joe.
“That reminds me. Can you or Gayle come with me tomorrow to meet with him and Mr. Randall? Mr. Randall has been talking about performing at some new venues and I don’t know anything about the acoustics of them.”
“Is Frank talking about changing venues or adding venues?”
“I’m not sure?”
“I’ll definitely be at that meeting then. Geillis too. I want back up.”
“Back up for what?” Claire asked in confusion.
“Hopefully nothing.” Joe got up and left the room.
Claire looked after him wonderingly. ‘That was odd.’ turning to her uncle... “When will you leave Uncle Lamb?”
“After Candlemas. As it is I’ll be late getting to the dig. Everyone else is going after Epiphany. I want to spend some time with you Fairy Princess. You’re growing up so fast.”
“Sixteen is hardly ancient Uncle Lamb.”
“That isn’t quite what I meant Princess. I just meant that the older I get, the faster the time goes for me. I want to make sure I don’t get to the end of my life and regret all that I’ve missed while digging in the dirt.”
Paul’s death had reminded Quentin just how short life could be. He’d stay until Candlemas. Surely he could stand it until then. Claire was still very petite, but her face looked more like Julia’s every day.
Lamb knew the difference between his niece and his lost love, his thoughts towards Claire weren’t incestuous in the slightest. He loved their relationship, mostly conducted through letters and reports from the various staff.
Lamb just couldn’t stand to be in Claire’s presence for a long period of time, before his memories of Julia drove him towards the whiskey. After that New Year’s two years ago, he didn’t want to ever crawl into a bottle like that again. So he came home three times a year, stayed for a while to check on her, then left again.
“I’m glad you’re staying Uncle Lamb. I’m on break and you aren’t teaching. We’ll have lots of time to spend together.”
Lost in his thoughts, Lamb just smiled at her.
Joe left the sitting room to hunt down Geillis. He found her in the kitchen talking to Mrs. G. and working on paperwork.
“Geillis, did you know that Frank is looking at new venues?”
“I did yes. He mentioned something about it during the Fall series last year. Frank thinks that some of the venues are too small.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Because your Da already shot down the idea. He told Frank last year that smaller halls and churches suit the style of music better. Why?”
“You know that, and I know that. I’m not sure Claire knows that. Are you going to her meeting with Dougal and Frank tomorrow?”
“There is’na a meeting tomorrow. Claire is on break and I’ll be telegramming the hotels for the Spring series, confirming that all the arrangements are made for everyone.” Geillis managed Claire’s schedule and knew it intimately. There wasn’t anything on the calendar for Claire until the following week.
So Geillis was shocked by what Joe said next.
“Claire just told me she’s meeting with Frank and Dougal tomorrow. She asked if I would attend because Frank wanted to discuss new venues and she didn’t know about the acoustics.”
Geillis’ face pinked up in anger. “Why that wee bastard.”
“Frank. He’s going to try and talk her into moving to larger venues so he can sell more tickets. I told him last week that I’d be at the telegraph office tomorrow. He wanted to get Claire alone so he could convince her without me interfering.”
“You don’t know that for sure.” Joe said.
“I do ken that for sure.” Geillis retorted. “Why else would he meet with Claire and no have her secretary present to take notes? Or tell you about it? If Claire thought of the acoustics, I highly doubt Frank did’na think about them. He’s an arrogant arse, but he does ken his business.”
“Ok. Maybe he is a wee bastard. Do you think Dougal’s in on it?”
“I hope not.” Now Geillis was pink for a different reason. Joe decided not to pursue that line of questioning.
“Can you rearrange your plans for tomorrow?” Joe asked.
“I dinna think I should. We need to make sure everything is set. What time is the meeting?”
“Afternoon Claire said. I’m not sure what time.”
“Alright. I can go to the telegraph office first thing tomorrow and be back in time for the afternoon meeting. Do ye ken where it’s to be held?”
Joe shook his head. “No actually, I don’t.”
“Well, let’s go find out then.” Geillis got up and stomped out of the room, down the hall. Joe lingered a minute.
He looked at Mrs. Graham. “Mrs. G.? What’s your opinion of Frank Randall?”
The housekeeper spoke slowly, choosing her words with care. “I think Mr. Randall is good at his job...a mite too good at times. He has a great deal of ambition to make a name for himself ye ken.
Also...I dinna want to accuse him o anything untoward...it’s just, sometimes he’ll look at Miss Claire, and...the look is hungry. Hector’s seen it too. He and Auld Alec are bothered by it. Both are always hanging about inside the house when Mr. Randall’s here for meetings and such.”
“Do you think Randall has designs on Claire? She’s only sixteen for God’s sake!”
Mrs. Graham shook her head. “I dinna think so. He’s ne’er once been improper that I’ve ever seen. I’m sorry to have given ye that impression. That is’na what I meant. It’s more that he see’s Claire as his ticket to fame and fortune.”
Joe’s head was reeling. “I had no idea. Thank you Mrs. G. for sharing that with me.”
“Joe, I hope ye ken that none of us would ever leave Claire without protection, whether ye’re home or no.”
Joe nodded absent mindly. “I know. Thanks again.” Joe left the room.
Mrs. G. shook her head and turned back to the supper she was preparing. ‘I hope I didn’t start a stramash’ she thought.