Chapter 1: Prologue
October 17, 1938 (Claire)
Claire hated this. She despised the never ending cycle of long nights and early mornings, of hotel rooms and limousines. Claire was tired of the crowds of well dressed, self important people who wanted to speak with her for ‘just a moment’. Claire felt so alone in those crowded rooms, she hated being there.
Frank said it was important to cultivate the rich and the powerful, they paid for everything. They paid the extravagant price for a ticket to her concerts.
The patrons paid the salaries of all the people that looked after Claire, that set up the piano she traveled with, that followed her everywhere and took care of everything so she could make music.
There was Mrs. Graham, her personal dresser, who took care of all her clothing and made sure she was dressed, coiffed and made up for her performance six nights a week. Mrs. Graham was a widow (her husband had died during The Great War) and treated Claire as though she was a beloved grandchild. She was also a wizard with a needle and very fashion savvy. Mrs. G. had been with Claire since birth, having been her parent’s housekeeper since their wedding.
There was Geillis Duncan her personal secretary. She made all the hotel reservations, confirmed all the tour dates and handled all of the logistical things touring required. Geillis was 20 which was terribly young, but it didn’t matter, she was charming, blunt and ruthlessly efficient. Uncle Lamb had hired Geillis in when she was 16 and Claire was 14. Geillis was the closest thing Claire had to a friend.
There was Hector Forrester, only a year or two older than Geillis, who was her chauffeur and took care of whatever else Claire needed. It was a little awkward the first time she needed personal items, but Hector was completely unruffled, which made it slightly less embarrassing. He ran errands, picked up last minute items and basically made everyone’s life run smoothly.
Hector also escorted Claire everywhere and Geillis jokingly referred to him as the bodyguard. Not that Claire needed a bodyguard, but at five feet even, she was very small and it did make her feel safer knowing Hector (who stood 6’) was there.
Lesley Mohr took care of the piano (a Steinway designed just for her), the small practice harp that had been her mother’s, and the harpsichord Uncle Lamb bought for her when she was six. Les and his wife Lizzie tuned them, packed and unpacked them, guarded them during transport as though they were their children. Lesley and Lizzie were also responsible for setting up the space wherever she played.
There were Joe and Gayle Abernathy, her sound people. Joe had been Claire’s sound man since her first solo concert. Gayle had been the personal secretary to a very temperamental soprano when she met Joe. When Joe proposed, Gayle quit and never looked back. From Joe, she learned all about how to make Claire sound her best in any venue and sometimes Gayle’s ideas produced better results than Joe’s did. They were a great team and quite sought after by venues, their race notwithstanding.
Not that they would ever leave Claire. Joe had grown up with Claire, his father Paul had been her first manager. His mother had been a Jazz singer and had died giving birth to Joe. Joe’s dark skin gave Paul some problems, but Paul didn’t care. He had loved Victoria, Joe’s mother. Julia, Claire’s mother hadn’t cared either; being Irish and Catholic, she knew all about prejudice. She was one of the few big names that hadn’t dropped him, and Paul never forgot it. Neither did Joe.
Last but certainly not least, there was Frank Randall. Frank was her manager now. He planned the tours, the fundraisers, the social events and did all the advertising. Frank had been her manager since Paul died when she was sixteen. He had been Paul’s assistant, so it made sense to Uncle Lamb to hire him.
The only thing Frank didn’t do, was handle the money. All of her finances were overseen by the lawyer that handled her trust fund and her parents’ estate. Ned had been her parents’ lawyer and had always handled her money too. She called him Uncle Ned, although he wasn’t a blood relative. He didn’t tour with them but she was just as responsible for his livelihood as she was for everyone else’s.
The other person that didn’t tour with them was Alec. He stayed home and looked after things while everyone else came on tour with Claire. Mrs. G. called him every day for a check in, and Claire talked to him on Sundays after church. Claire wasn’t sure how old he was, but it was older than Mrs. G. who was in her 50’s.
Eleven people. It didn’t sound like that many, but to Claire, who would turn 18 in three days, it was a heavy burden and a huge responsibility.
Sometimes, Claire wished she could just be normal, although she didn’t really know what normal was.
October 17, 1938 (Jamie)
‘How long do I have to be here before I can go back to the house’? Jamie wondered. He knew why the group was all here, they needed the patronage of the people who sponsored the concerts and paid their salaries. God in heaven, he hated these receptions. They always made him feel as though he was on display.
At 6’3” Jamie towered over everyone else in the room, although thankfully some of his kinsmen were at least 6’ so he wasn’t the only tall man, just the tallest. That and his red hair made him stick out. It probably didn’t help that he wore his hair longer than was fashionable. With his curls, if he wore it short he looked more like a poodle than a man. When he wore it long the weight pulled out a bit of the curl. Besides, with the kilts and such that they wore on stage, it looked fine tied back.
More than fine if the reaction of some of the reception’s guests were anything to go by. Most of the daughters and even a few of the wives of the wealthy men who patronized the concerts, vied for his attention. It disgusted Jamie if he was being honest. He had no interest in being the plaything of a neglected wife or a spoiled child. Jamie wanted a love like the one his parents had. Until then he’d bide his time. Mam said that when he found the woman of his heart, he would know. That her soul would speak to his and his would answer.
Jamie hoped so. He wasn’t the only single man in the Schola, but he did get tired of all the lasses trying to become his wife, or even just his lover. Not that he had a lover. It may not be what everyone expected, but Jamie intended to take one woman to bed...his wife. Jamie was of the opinion that if a woman was expected to be chaste until she married, twas only fair that a man should be expected to be chaste as well.
Uncle Dougal thought he was insane or stupid. He had told Jamie that someone should ken what the Bloody Hell they were doing on the wedding night. Jamie retorted that they could figure it out together. Not that he was completely ignorant. His Da had very thoroughly explained what should and should not happen in the marriage bed. Mostly, Da said, it was about listening and respect for the other person. The conversation had been embarrassing at times, but Jamie was thankful that his Da made him listen. He wouldn’t want to look like a fool, or worse; hurt the lass, when he found her.
He wasn’t likely to find his heart’s own choice this evening though. Not here anyway.
Chapter 2: Childhood
Claire's birth and early childhood
Claire October 1920
Henry, Claire’s father was an Englishman, a surgeon, a brilliant violinist and a tenor. He had a large fortune inherited from his mother, a small estate just outside London inherited from his father, and homes in Paris and New York, so didn’t need to work. Given that he had the means and the desire, Henry chose to work with the poor, doing consulting work in New York at St. Vincent’s and in Paris at L’ Hôpital des Anges. In London he was occasionally called in to consult at St. John’s, but not very often, as most of the patients were already dying.
Of course the estate was in London and so was Ned. Most of Henry’s time in England was taken up with administering the estate. He had liked being a surgeon, but from the moment he saw Julia his focus changed. He adored Julia with everything in him. Until Claire was born. Then his focus split in two.
Julia, Claire’s mother, was a Lyric Soprano, harpist and composer. She wasn’t quite as famous as Jenny Lind had been in the 1800’s but she was pretty famous. She used to tour all year round, until she met Henry. For Julia love was instantaneous and total. They married almost immediately, in 1910. Julia took a sabbatical from touring after the wedding, to start a family.
It was supposed to be a short break, but ended up lasting a number of years. For over ten years, Julia did the odd sold out concert, but did not resume touring until Claire was a year old. Henry served as a surgeon in the Great War. It was a very traumatic separation for both of them, and when the war was over, Henry consulted less than before, preferring to spend most of his time with Julia.
Quentin Lambert, Henry’s younger brother, was an infrequent visitor. Lamb, as he was called, never married. Borrowing Julia and Claire from his brother was all he needed for women in his life, he said. Julia used to tell Claire that Uncle Lamb was married to his career.
Lamb was an archaeologist and preferred going out in the field to teaching, although he did some of that too. Being connected to Oxford University provided funding. Lamb came back to teach the odd class for a semester in between digs. They saw him more often when they were in Europe, he didn’t like New York. Although during the War, Uncle Lamb had stayed with Julia in New York, ‘for Henry’s peace of mind’ he always said.
Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp had been a much wanted child. Julia suffered seven heartbreaking miscarriages at twenty weeks, before finally, with the help of a French Physician, Claire made it into the world, arriving on October 20, 1920.
Julia had been on complete bed rest for the entire pregnancy and in the hospital for the last trimester. Finally holding a living child, Julia had wept tears of joy and relief, and called her Precious from the first.
Claire was born five weeks early and although healthy, was small. Hence her father’s pet name of Brownie. Partially for her dark brown hair, partially because she was such a tiny thing at birth and remained tiny. Lamb called her Fairy Princess, or Princess for short.
Once Claire was a year old, Paul Abernathy, Julia’s manager, began begging her to resume touring. Julia agreed with some conditions.
Having waited so long for Claire, Julia didn’t want to miss a moment. So when she did perform, it would be in London, New York, or Paris only, and never more than a limited engagement of six weeks, with a two month break after. Henry and Claire were to come along with her. She had to be done before midnight, even if there was a reception after. She wouldn’t perform on Sundays or on Holy Days.
Some of her conditions were unusual, but Julia was sought after enough that accommodations were made. They had homes in all three places, although the estate in England was by far the largest, and Claire was in her own bed every night.
When Claire turned four, Julia added Austria to her touring schedule. They added a small house in Austria to their collection of homes.
In Claire’s fifth year, a tutor was engaged for academic subjects. Partially because Julia didn’t want to send her away to school. Partially because of the music. Claire it seemed, was a child prodigy. When Claire began composing for harp at age four, Henry and Julia realized that she needed to begin academic studies as well to be a fully educated person; something both parents wanted for her.
The first tutor proved to be less than understanding of the creative mind. He was let go after a very unsatisfactory month and Henry took over as Claire’s primary tutor. Julia was her music tutor.
Claire learned violin, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, along with Geography and History from her father. She learned music theory harp, and composition from her mother. She also studied the harpsichord with a music teacher brought in for just that subject. Julia had heard Wanda Landowska in Germany and thought the instrument beautiful. They had a small antique instrument in the sitting room of the London house that Lamb had bought. Claire first started playing it at age four and by five needed a proper instructor for the instrument.
Claire already spoke English and French flawlessly, having grown up in a bilingual household. Although Henry had an English estate, he had been raised in France by his maternal grandparents, and was more comfortable with that language. He had of course studied Latin and Greek in university.
Julia spoke English, French, and some Irish Gaelic, although she wouldn’t call herself fluent in it. Both knew enough German and Italian to sing it, but not really enough to carry on a conversation. Henry planned to start Claire on Latin when she was older. She knew her church Latin already.
At the age of six Claire added piano lessons to her other music studies. Also when Claire was six, Henry began to appear with Julia. They sang beautiful duets together, and Henry performed a few pieces on the violin. Claire was always there, falling asleep in the dressing room while Mrs. G. kept watch.
Even surrounded by professional musicians, there was something special about Claire. She seemed to disappear into the sound, and watching her perform gave one the sense that the Angels had come down from heaven to listen. It was breathtaking and heartrending, every single time. But Claire didn’t perform in public. She was only six. The only people privileged enough to hear her play were her parents, Mrs. G. and the music teachers.
It was something of a gypsy lifestyle, but there was stability for Claire and they were together. A loving family, always together. Then as sometimes happens, life changed.
Chapter 3: Discovery
Claire plays for the first time in public
Claire December 1928
It was a six performance engagement alongside an early music group from Scotland, called the Queen’s Singers. The group was made up of 16 vocalists singing music written for the Virgin Mary. Not strictly an A-Capella group they wanted a harpist to accompany some of their pieces, along with a string quartet and a harpsichordist.
Julia was invited to be the harpist. Not her usual type of tour, but it was local to the New York House. Claire had just turned eight that October, Henry was consulting on a case at St. Vincent’s and Julia wanted some time at home. Playing for the Queen’s Singers gave them all the way through the end of fall, and Julia deliberately didn’t let Paul schedule anything until after Christmas. They were celebrating an American Christmas this year.
Rehearsals had gone well, and it was two days before the opening…
“Mummy, why is Mr. Paul yelling?” Claire asked.
“I don’t know Precious, let’s find out shall we?”
Paul, also the manager for the Queen’s Singers was red faced and ranting at another man who was standing there with his arm in a cast and looking rather rumpled.
“Why in the HELL couldn’t you be more careful !!! We open in 2 Fuc”...the red faced man noticed Julia and Claire...2 ruddy days and where am I going to find a replacement for you!?”
Julia gave him a small smile. “What seems to be the difficulty Paul?”
Paul, took a deep breath, “Mike was in a small accident and broke his wrist. Which means he can’t play the harpsichord for awhile, and as I’m sure you know, harpsichord players aren’t all that common. Not decent ones anyway.
I asked the pianist we have opening, but she said the harpsichord was really a different instrument and she didn’t have enough experience to play it right. What the Blood...ruddy Hel...heck am I going to do?”
Julia did appreciate Paul’s attempt to moderate his language in front of Claire.
“Have you called Julliard? Perhaps one of their professors or more advanced students?”
“I did, the Professor is on sabbatical in Europe and they don’t have any harpsichord students currently. It’s not a commonly studied instrument.”
Julia paused.. “I have an idea but I need to check with some people first. Could we postpone the rehearsal by an hour or two?”
“You know of someone?!!! Who?”
“I MIGHT know of someone. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go see what I can do.”
Taking Claire by the hand, Julia left the room and headed back towards the door.
“Mummy, why are we leaving?”
“I need to speak to your father dear, and to you.”
“Me! Mummy!!!” Claire came to a complete stop, a look of horrified realization coming over her face. She knew in that instant who Julia was thinking of.
Julia stopped also. “Precious, I promise this is not something I would ever force you to do, but I would like to go find Daddy and talk about it. Could we do that?”
Claire thought about that for a moment. Daddy would know how to talk Mummy out of this absurd idea.
“Alright, let’s go find Daddy.”
Locating Henry was relatively simple, he was at home. Once in his study, Julia came right to the point.
“Henry, something has come up and I wanted your input.” Then Julia turned to Claire.
“Precious, You heard Mr. Paul, and you understand the situation, but for Daddy’s sake, I’ll explain again.” Turning to Henry, Julia continued. “Mike, the harpsichord player has broken his wrist. Paul has called and cannot find another harpsichordist on such short notice, particularly not one that knows the music. Claire does know the music and has been to all of the rehearsals, so of course I thought of her.”
“However!” Julia looked at Claire. “If you or Daddy don’t think this is a good idea, I shall simply tell Mr. Paul that the person I had in mind is not available. I would never try and force you into something that you truly did not want to do.”
Daddy was thoughtful. “If you are asking me about her ability, of course I think Claire can do it. Particularly if they are in such a bind. The important question however is this...Brownie what do YOU think?”
From the beginning, Claire had been sure that Daddy would put a stop to this. But to have first her mother and then her father make the point that this was rather an emergency gave her pause. What did she think?
Of course she knew she could play the music. That wasn’t a question. She had been playing the harpsichord pieces flawlessly since the second rehearsal. They weren’t complicated after all, just a support for the singers. Mr. Mike had been very nice and given her a copy of the music that first day; when he learned during a break that harpsichord was one of the instruments she studied. He had even let her play a couple of times on his instrument, which wasn’t as nice as the one in the London house, but was a pretty decent instrument all things considered. It was very close to the one she had in the New York house.
This may have seemed arrogant, but it wasn’t really. Claire didn’t really see her extraordinary musical talents as something she DID. They were more something she had been given, and it was up to her to develop them to the best of her ability. Like the story of the Talents in the Bible. God had given her the gift of music. It was Claire’s responsibility to develop that gift and share it with people.
Her parents lived their lives by that philosophy and had raised Claire in that philosophy. Gratitude to God for the gifts she had received and service to others as an expression of that gratitude. So Claire really thought about it. She didn’t want to get up on stage in front of all those people, but they needed her help and she could give it. Didn’t she have a responsibility to do it?
Henry and Julia waited patiently for Claire to think things through. They would never force her, but privately Julia thought this would be a good opportunity for her daughter. Henry thought more in terms of his Brownie showing the world how incredible she was...not that he had a bias mind you.
It was Claire’s choice, and her parents let her make it.
After several minutes of silence, Claire took a deep breath. “Mummy, do you really think I CAN?”
“Yes Precious, I really do. I promise, Daddy and I will be there with you, just backstage when I’m not onstage.”
“okay.” Big breath. “I’ll try.”
Then Henry spoke up looking at Claire very solemnly. “I’m very proud of you Brownie.” Then Henry smiled. “Besides, it’s about time the world learned just how brilliant you are.”
“Daaaadddy” Claire giggled. Henry chuckled with his daughter, and then shared a look with his wife. He knew as did Julia, that this was the moment when their lives changed. The world was about to discover Claire. Whether or not the change was good...well that was another thing entirely.
A decision having been reached, Julia and Claire went back to the theatre. When presented with Julia’s idea, Paul had been skeptical.
“Jesus Christ Julia, I thought you had a real idea.” Julia gave him a disapproving look.
“Paul, it IS a real idea. I wouldn’t have suggested it if I thought Claire couldn’t do it.”
“Come ON, she’s what? eight? for Chris...cryin’ out loud.”
Shy she may have been, but Claire also had a bit of a temper. She hadn’t been sure of this, but Paul’s doubt in her ability stiffened her spine.
“I can do it.” Claire said quietly. Too quietly, since Paul completely ignored her and continued to rant at Julia.
With a determined set to her chin, Claire walked over to the Harpsichord and began to play. Mike having heard her, smiled to himself when Claire began to play. She wasn’t playing the music of the concert but the French overture by J.S. Bach. It wasn’t fast or flashy, but it was a fairly advanced piece of music and contemporary with most of the concert music. All the more brilliant when you considered that the bench was much too low for her and Claire was standing up to play.
By the time she had finished 30 minutes later, the concert hall had gone completely silent, and everyone was staring at the small child playing. Claire didn’t notice. Her father always said she left the room and disappeared into the music when she played, and this time was no exception. As she concluded playing, those listening came to the same understanding that Henry and Julia had. That this little girl brought Heaven to them as she made music. Two of the Singers were in tears.
Claire played the harpsichord every day, but she didn’t perform and was startled by the applause. Coming back into the room, she blushed and looked down at her hands. She didn’t mean to interrupt everyone, Mr. Paul just made her angry, and determined to prove she could play.
Julia smiled at Paul serenely. “You were saying?”
Paul didn’t say anything to Julia, just waved at Mike and asked him to get Claire set up. From there they rehearsed the music with the Queen’s Singers.
The choir members were all very nice and encouraging of Claire, patient while she and Mike went over the various cues and going over entrances and exits several times with her.
The only difficulty had been the bench. Mike was an average 5’10 tall. Claire on the other hand, was eight years old and small for her age standing at just 3’10”. After a bit of discussion, it was agreed that Julia would bring Claire’s bench from home, which was adjusted for her height and although a slightly darker wood than the harpsichord, would fit the instrument. In the meantime, they had borrowed some blocks of wood to raise the bench.
By the end of the rehearsal, Paul was looking much calmer, and Claire felt good that she was helping.
After the rehearsal, Claire didn’t really have much time to panic. She went home, had her dinner, stood quietly while Mrs. G. checked her one black dress (usually for funerals) to make sure it still fit and was in good repair, then went and got ready for bed. She came into the library for evening prayer, climbing into her father’s lap.
“Good evening Brownie, what’s on your mind?” Claire didn’t really climb into Henry’s lap anymore, at the advanced age of eight, unless she needed his reassurance about something. She preferred cuddling into his side while he read to her.
“Daddy, what if I make a mistake?”
“What if you do?”
“Daaadddy, that isn’t helpful.”
“Isn’t it? Claire my darling child, listen to me. People make mistakes all the time. It happens. All God asks is that you do your very best, every day and let Him handle the rest. If you do your best, that is something to be proud of. If you make a mistake or even two...it isn’t the end of the world. It might be slightly embarrassing for a little while, but then life will continue and people will forget.”
“But I wouldn’t forget.”
“Probably not. But what would you do with the memory, hmmm?”
“What do you mean Daddy?”
“Well people generally do one of two things with embarrassing memories. They try and forget them, or they try and learn from them. I suggest you take the second option. If you DO make a mistake, then think about what caused it and learn from that so you don’t next time.”
“Daddy?” This last was a whisper.
“Of course you are darling, you wouldn’t be human if you weren’t. I’m scared every time I go into an operating theatre. Mummy is scared every time she goes out on stage. That’s normal. However, I also know that you are brave, and you can do this.”
“I don’t feel brave.”
“My darling, bravery is not the absence of fear, it is being afraid and doing what must be done in spite of the fear.”
Claire thought about that for a minute. “Thank you Daddy, I love you.”
“I love you too.”
And if she said a silent prayer for courage that night, it was between her and God.
Chapter 4: An act of Kindness
Jamie's birth and early childhood
Jamie was born third in his family on May 1, 1921. He had an older brother William (Willie) and an older sister, Janet (Jenny). His mother was a painter and concert pianist and his father was the Laird of Broch Turach. His ancestors had decided NOT to fight at Culloden and so they had managed to keep their estate when so many other’s hadn’t.
Jamie’s father ran the family distillery and the estate. Jamie’s mother raised Jamie and his siblings, oversaw the house, painted, and in the winter time, when the estate wasn’t so busy, gave concerts.
Ellen believed in making sure her children had a complete education and that included the arts. She herself taught them to draw as soon as they could hold a pencil. Willie had a gift, Janet was hopeless and Jamie was somewhere in between the two.
Each child joined the local children’s choir at age six. Janet and Willie sang in the soprano section, which made practicing at home slightly easier. Having a concert pianist for a mother, allowed them to progress rapidly, mainly because she practiced with her children daily. When Willie was eight, he sang for Mass on Christmas morning, his clear soprano sounding ethereal to the congregation. When Janet was eight she did the same. Jamie was six that year and was put into the same section as his siblings.
All the children received piano lessons of course, and Janet took up the cello at age nine. Willie was more interested in his drawing than taking up another instrument, so his parents left it at that. Jamie wasn’t sure what he wanted to play, or if he wanted to add something to piano lessons. He much preferred being outside and helping his Da with the horses.
Jamie’s Ma started taking Willie with her on tour when he turned eight and Jamie was two. Janet was allowed to go when she turned eight and Jamie was five. Jamie's siblings always came back from these tours with stories of the people they had met and the music they had heard. Ellen also took her children to the museums in whichever cities she performed, and sometimes to the performances of other musicians.
When Jamie was seven, his mother was invited to the United States as part of a tour of Scottish artists. She was to give six performances, opening for a vocal group also from Scotland. A third group gave the Sunday performances, which suited Ellen just fine. She would perform on Sunday, but preferred not to.
Willie and Janet were going with her, and Jamie was wildly jealous. It wasn’t fair that they both got to go to America and he didn’t. He was seven and a half. Surely that was close enough to eight. Jamie didn’t exactly throw a tantrum, but he did sulk about it quite a bit. Brian noticed and brought it up to Ellen.
“Mo ghràidh, I ken that ye’re tryin to be fair, but this isna an opportunity that’s likely to come again any time soon. How would ye feel about bending yer rule slightly to take Jamie to America as well? Mrs. Crook can go wit ye and help Murtagh look after the bairns while ye are rehearsin’ and performin’. He can take his lessons along with him the same as Janet and William.”
“I’m not opposed to the idea, but who would look after you if I take Mrs. Crook?”
Brian laughed. “I think I can look after myself for nine weeks, but if it twill make ye feel better I’ll have young Moira McTavish in to keep the house and cook for me. She’s just finished school and is’na engaged or wed yet.”
“That’s...a very good idea. It will give young Moira a way to earn a bit of money and I’ll feel better knowing that ye aren’t eating down to the pub every night.”
“Alright, I shall go and ask her tomorrow then. Would you like me to tell Jamie or shall you?”
“I will. I don’t want him to think that I’m against the idea.”
Brian bent down and kissed his wife. “I agree. Shall we go to bed then?”
“To bed? Or to sleep?”
Brian drew Ellen into his arms, and kissed her breathless. Then taking his wife’s hand, led her to the bed.
Jamie was beside himself with excitement. He had been miserably sick on the ship and spent most of the voyage in his cabin. The adults had taken turns sitting with him, and he had gone on deck every day, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience. It was worth it to see America.
The crossing had taken a bit less than a week, and Jamie was glad he lived in the modern age. It had taken ships twice as long 50 years ago and Jamie had read that the Mayflower had taken over a month.
Now they were here, in New York, and Jamie could hardly wait to see the museums. His mother had decided that since they were here, they might as well stay a bit longer and go to a Jazz concert. Jazz was a totally American musical form, and Ellen was anxious to hear it performed by Americans.
They saw the Metropolitan Museum and the museum of Natural History among others. There was an exhibit of Modern art that they attended, which Jamie did not enjoy or understand. “Art should look like something.” He whispered to Jenny who nodded.
There were galleries and libraries and opera houses. Sometimes Mam went with them in the evenings, as long as she didn’t have an early rehearsal the following day. Mostly though it was Murtagh and Mrs. Crook that took them around to all the sights. They attended Mass at a different church each week, and wandered through the larger ones after, looking at the stained glass and the statues.
The children faithfully recorded everything they experienced in their travel diaries. Brian had given each a beautiful journal bound in leather. Willie’s was Black, Jamie’s was brown and Janet’s was a lovely red color. He told them to record everything, so he could read about it and share the experience with them, even if he couldn’t be there in person.
The afternoon of the day before the concert series began, the children all went with Ellen to hear the dress rehearsal. They had attended the first rehearsal, but none since. The concert itself lasted until 10:00pm which was far too late for them to be out, so Ellen had received permission for the children to attend the dress rehearsal. Murtagh and Mrs. Crook came as well of course.
They sat quietly in the back, so as not to disturb anyone. Mam was brilliant as always. There was a five minute intermission to rearrange the stage and Ellen joined them, sitting between Jenny and Jamie.
Ellen whispered to them, “what did you think my Darlings?”
“I liked the French piece Mam. Can I learn that one?” Jamie wanted to know
“I think so. It will be a challenge for ye, but ye can try.” Ellen cautioned.
“I want to try.” Jamie insisted.
“Alright my lad. We’ll begin when we return home.”
The lights dimmed and everyone sat back to listen to the group, The Queen’s Singers. They were also from Scotland and Jamie had heard them before, although the instrumentalists were local.
The first two pieces were nice, but he had heard them before. Then a little girl walked onto the stage and sat down at the Harpsichord. All three Fraser children sat up and looked at their mother.
Ellen didn’t say anything, so the children sat back. The little girl played the introduction and the song began. When the song ended, the little girl bowed with the singers and went back offstage. She came out for a total of three songs, and bowed at the end with the rest of the performers.
Jamie wondered who she was. At seven he wasn’t aware of her looks, but there was something about the little girl that drew his gaze. After the rehearsal was over, they returned to their hotel. Jamie held his mother’s hand walking through the streets and after a block or two he asked her. “Mam, why was there a little girl playing the harpsichord? What happened to the man from before?”
“Mike broke his wrist and they couldn’t find anyone to replace him. Julia, the harpist, suggested her daughter Claire. Evidently Claire has been studying harpsichord since she was five. She began playing the harpsichord before she began playing piano according to her mother.”
“oh. She was very good.” Jamie observed.
“Yes, she was. I wouldn’t be surprised if young Claire becomes more famous than her mother someday.” Ellen said thoughtfully.
“I think I would be scared to death to perform in a hall that big.” Said Jenny.
“She’s probably too young to be scared." Put in Willie.”
“How old is Claire, Mam?” Jamie wanted to know.
“She’s just turned eight in October I think.”
Jamie turned to Willie. “I’m almost eight. I would be scairt and I bet she is too.” He looked at Ellen.
“I’m going to say a prayer for her tonight. For courage.”
“Ye dinna even ken her ya numpty! Why would ye pray for her? She wilna ken anyway.” Willie and Jenny scoffed at him.
“I dinna care. God will ken and so will I.” Jamie stuck his chin out stubbornly.
Before the children could continue bickering, they reached the hotel and Ellen held up a hand. “That’s sufficient children. I do not want people to think you ruffians.”
All the children fell silent, although the argument wasn’t forgotten. During evening prayer, Jamie prayed for the little girl just as he said he would. Willie and Jenny both began to make sport of him.
“Have ye taken a fancy to the lass then Jamie?” Willie wanted to know.
Jenny scoffed. “He does’na even ken what that is Willie. He’s just a bairn still.”
Jamie looked hurt, but didn’t say anything, just went to his room to get ready for bed. Ellen gave her older children a look. “Personally I think it shows a kind heart to pray for a stranger. It was’na well done of ye to mock him for it.”
Willie and Jenny looked sheepish. Ellen went to find Jamie.
“Jamie. Jamie are you in here?”
The little boy came out of the bathroom. He wasn’t crying, but his eyes were red. Ellen held out her arms and Jamie went into them. She cuddled her youngest for a moment, and then said…
“T’was a lovely thing ye did, praying for little Claire. I’m sorry your siblings teased you.”
“I just dinna want her to be scairt Mam. She’s so little. Even littler than me.”
“Ach well. You’re verra big for seven ye ken, and Claire is verra little.” Ellen gave him one more hug.
“Climb inta the bed and I shall tuck ye up.” Jamie got under the covers and his mother made a ceremony of tucking him in.
“You have a kind heart, and that is no a common thing. As ye go through life, people will sometimes mock ye for it. Dinna let them take away from you the gift of sympathy for others. ‘Tis they that are lacking, no ye.” Jamie smiled at his mother.
“I wil’na let them change me Mam.”
“Good lad. Stand strong as yer Da does.” Giving him a kiss, Ellen stood to go. Jamie snuggled down into the covers. When she reached the door, Ellen turned off the light.
“I love you.”
“I love you too. Now go to sleep!” Jamie giggled and rolled over.
The rest of their New York visit was much like before. They went to museums and did their schoolwork, attended Mass on Sunday. They went to the Jazz concert on a Sunday afternoon. It was interesting but Jamie wasn’t sure he whether he liked Jazz or not. Ellen was fascinated with the improvisation of the musicians and spent some time afterwards, speaking with them.
They didn’t go to their mother’s performances, and Jamie didn’t see the little girl again, except for once from a distance at Mass on the last Sunday they were in New York. He hadn’t forgotten about her exactly, but he hadn’t thought of her since the night he prayed for her.
“How did the little girl do in the concerts? Was she scairt?” Jamie had forgotten her name, just remembered that she was littler than him.
“I dinna ken son. Claire may have been, but she didn’t give any evidence of it and her performance was nearly flawless.”
“Do ye think the prayer helped?”
“I’m sure it did son. Prayer always helps.”
That as they say was that. The Frasers returned home to Scotland. Jamie was seasick again. When they returned home, everyone shared the story of their trip with Brian and he read all their journals. The little girl was mentioned by Jamie and Jenny, but not by Willie. After a week or so, life returned to normal at Lallybroch and the adventure to America faded into the background of their collective memory.
Chapter 5: Family performances
Claire's been discovered and goes on tour.
The superstition is that a horrible dress rehearsal makes for a great opening night and a great dress rehearsal means that something will go horribly wrong on opening night.
For Claire’s first opening night, thankfully, that superstition was not proven true.
The dress rehearsal, with the proper bench, had gone perfectly. All of the adults held their breath, but no one said anything to Claire as she was already quite nervous.
Claire’s name wasn’t in the program as she was a last minute substitution and Paul hadn’t made any announcement before the performance, mainly because he didn’t want people to get up and leave. There was some slight murmuring from the audience with Claire’s first entrance. She played three pieces in total, all baroque and all variations on Ave Maria by various composers.
After the first piece, Claire started to relax and enjoy herself. The music wasn’t terribly complicated, or lengthy, and she never had to come on or go off by herself. At the end of the concert she took a final bow with the other instrumental musicians and then the group bow with the choir, and that was the end of it. Julia said good night, they went home and Claire went to bed.
The concert series was running on six consecutive Saturdays. The Queen’s Singers did not perform on Sundays.
The other five performances were similar. Due to the eight o’clock start time, Julia and Claire agreed that adding an afternoon nap into the schedule was the best idea, and they both took one in Julia’s room on the ‘big bed’, as Claire had named it when she was a toddler.
Daddy and Uncle Lamb (who came to town special) came to the last performance. There was a party, but the Beauchamps and Uncle Lamb didn’t go. They went home and to bed.
The next morning Mrs. G. made a special celebration brunch after Mass. As they were finishing, the telephone rang, and Henry answered it. Claire heard him speaking quietly for a minute and then he hung up and came back into the dining room.
“who was that darling?”
“Paul.” Said Henry.
“Paul? Did we leave something at the theatre?”
“No. He wants to meet with us and discuss including Claire in the next concert series.” Henry looked at Julia and then at Claire. Julia didn’t look at all surprised. Claire did.
“What kind of concert series?” Claire wanted to know.
“Well, I don’t know exactly. I told Paul that I would talk to you and call him back. Brownie, if you want to come to the meeting with us I’m happy for you to do so, but not on a Sunday.”
“Mummy?” Claire wasn’t sure what she was even asking, but Julia understood.
“I think we should at least meet with Paul and see what his idea is. Then we can discuss it as a family.”
And that as they say, was that. A meeting was arranged for the following week and several conversations later, it was decided that The Beauchamps would do a limited concert series in Europe and New York, including Claire. Most would take place in a concert hall, but one performance would be in Central Park as part of an outdoor concert series. It would take place over the summer and begin in Europe, and end in New York in September.
July 1929 – France
Claire loved France. Her mother had ensured that she was fluent in the language, they were of French descent after all, and in Julia’s mind, every educated person should speak French and study Latin. Henry insisted on waiting to add Latin until Claire was ten, so the only Latin she knew were the prayers and responses for Mass.
The tour was taking place in four cities. London had been in June, four performances on consecutive Saturdays. Like the Queen’s Singers Julia did not perform on Sundays, which Paul still grumbled about. Henry told him that scarcity drives the prices up and to be glad they were touring at all. Paul got the point and stopped grumbling where Henry and Julia could hear him.
Paris was for July. In August They were playing three weeks in Italy and then two weeks in New York. One of the New York Concerts was in Lincoln Center, and one was in Central Park as part of a summer concert series.
On the days they weren’t performing, Julia and Claire played tourist. Henry was currently in England for his annual meeting with Ned, but would be joining them in Italy for the Feast of the Assumption on August 15th.
For Paris, it was just Julia and Claire. The duets shifted to mother and daughter, rather than the love songs Henry sang with Julia. Claire played a violin piece and added two piano pieces in place of Henry’s three violin works.
The best thing about France Claire decided, were the gardens. Julia had long been into herbal medicine, a hobby she had developed while trying to have a child. She had continued and Claire had grown up playing in the dirt with her mother. France was the premier country for herbal medicine having gotten organized about it in the middle ages. One afternoon about halfway through the month, Julia ran into an old friend.
“Raymond! How lovely to see you.”
“And you Ma Cher. And who is this?”
“This is my daughter, Claire.”
“Ahhh. Bonjour petit Madonna.”
“Bonjour Monsieur.” Claire didn’t know why, but she added a little curtsy.
“Ahh ma belle, what lovely manners.”
“Oh no, please call me Oncle Ray. I know your Oncle Lamb quite well, and remember you as un nouveau-né, although sadly I had to return to Paris shortly after you were born.”
“Precious, Dr. Raymond was my physician when I was carrying you. It is mostly due to his efforts that we have you with us.”
“Non Ma Cher, it is le bon Dieu we have to thank for that. I merely served as His instrument.”
“Be that as it may, we are very grateful to you.” They visited for a short while, until Julia noticed the time.
“Oh Heaven’s we need to get to rehearsal. Raymond, if you can, we are playing this Saturday, at the Philharmonic. I can leave tickets for you at the box office, and perhaps we can have a late supper after?”
“La petit Madonna aussi?”
“Oui. We play together and Claire has just learned a new duet for harp and voice that she will sing with me.”
“I would be delighted ma Cher, thank you.”
The rest of the Paris dates went well. Dinner with Raymond was pleasant. They had spent the evening talking about herbs and gardening. Claire mostly listened and learned, although she did ask the occasional question. Oncle Ray would only refer to Claire as Petit Madonna, although she didn’t know why. He was nice though and treated her like a grown lady, taking her questions seriously and even gifting her with a small book on herbs and their uses. Claire decided she liked Oncle Ray.
Before she knew it, they were in Italy.
August 1929 – Italy
Italy was beautiful Claire decided, even though it was different than France. She couldn’t quite articulate how it was different, but it just was. The first performance had gone well and they were to give the second performance that night.
“Claire, Precious, where are you?”
“In the music room Mummy.”
Concert tour or no, Claire still had to practice her music each day. It was a grueling schedule for a child, but Claire loved making music and didn’t see it as a burden or obligation. Harp and Harpsichord she practiced daily for an hour each. Violin and Piano were practiced every other day for an hour and theory studies for an hour.
Claire also worked with her mother on voice for 30 minutes a day, working mostly on breathing and diction. Julia did not believe in pushing children and most definitely believed in singing in a healthy way, being a student of the Bel Canto philosophy. Claire had a pure sweet voice as most children do, and Julia was determined to let her voice mature naturally.
Composing took as much time as it needed to, or rather as much time as she could carve out for it. Claire was working on her first full orchestral piece currently and the oboes were giving her trouble.
Normally Julia asked her about her progress, but not today.
“Precious you’ll never guess what’s happened.”
“We’ve been invited to the Vatican. The Holy Father has heard of you and would like to meet you.”
Claire was speechless. Like many children, the Pope was an almost mythical figure to her. She knew he was the head of the church, and that seemed a very important job to her, he must be far too busy to see children.
After several moments, Claire finally found her voice.
“But why does he want to see ME? He’s so important. I’m just a child.”
“I don’t know my darling, but he does and so we shall go.”
“We shall go on August 14th. It is before the Assumption, but Daddy will be arriving on the 12th so he can come too. We leave for New York on the 16th. I’m going to try and reach Lamb so he can come. After all it’s not every day you get invited to meet the Holy Father.”
Julia left the room, calling for her lady’s maid Suzette. Claire went back to practicing, but her mind wasn’t on the music, it was on the Holy Father. Why did he want to meet Claire? She just didn’t understand. Not that it mattered. Mummy said they were going, so they were going.
August 14, 1929 The Vatican
Henry, Julia, Mrs. G. and Claire were met at the door to the audience chamber by a Cardinal. Julia had been unable to reach Lamb as he was on a dig in Egypt, so it was just the four of them. Mrs. G. was beside herself. So was Claire if one was being honest.
“Good morning, this way please. His Holiness would like to meet with you in the music room.”
“The Holy Father has a music room?” Henry wanted to know.
“Well, strictly speaking it doesn’t belong to him personally, but all of the musical instruments the church has been gifted over the years are in the salon and we invite musicians to come in and give concerts periodically.”
Claire started to panic. Did they expect her to play for the Pope?!
Her parents noticed, and exchanged a look.
“Precious, you remember, it’s your decision whether or not you play when you are asked to. No one commands you, not even the Holy Father.”
The Cardinal looked startled at Julia’s statement, and then looked at the child. She was pale and wringing her hands. Ahh, the Cardinal thought to himself. He paused and then said to the group of four;
“Wait here a moment please.”
The Cardinal (Blaise) went through the door to the salon and approached Pope Pius XI.
“Your Holiness, the Beauchamp family has arrived. However, I wanted to bring one thing to your attention. The little girl, Claire, is terribly nervous at the thought of playing for you. I believe it to be nerves, due to who you are, rather than anxiety about performing in general. She does tour with her mother after all.”
“Thank you Blaise, I shall be mindful of the child’s feelings.”
Cardinal Blaise went back to fetch the family. They entered the room and all were presented and made their obeisance to the Holy Father. The ladies were of course wearing black with black veils, as was the custom.
“Bonjour, merci beaucoup d'être venu à moi (Good morning, thank you so much for attending to me.)” The Holy Father spoke French, having been advised that the visitors were fluent in that language.
“Bonjour votre sainteté (Good morning your Holiness.)” This was Henry.
“Et c'est le petit ange dont j'ai tant entendu parler. Cela fait de la musique du ciel. Viens mon enfant, assieds-toi ici et parlons ensemble.(And this is the little angel I have heard so much of. That makes music from Heaven. Come my child, sit here and let us speak together.)”
Claire and her family sat and spoke with the Pope for about twenty minutes, before Claire began to get a little bored. Asking her if she wanted to take a short walk about the room, the Pope invited her to examine the instruments.
Claire thanked him prettily and began to look at all of the interesting items the room contained, while Henry and Julia continued to answer questions about their life and travels and touring.
There were beautiful paintings on the walls, done by Raphael her father had told her, but Claire was more interested in the instruments. The center of the room contained a beautiful grand piano, and Claire was drawn to it.
“Vous pouvez essayer si vous voulez ma cher (You may try it out if you wish my dear.)” The Cardinal said to her softly, as he had been next to Claire on her tour of the room.
She smiled at him and sat down. The bench was too low for her, but she was used to that on instruments not specially set up for her. It didn’t matter, she just wanted to get a feeling for the tone of the instrument. She started with something quiet, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. It was one of her favorites. The instrument was exquisite and the acoustics of the room were perfect. As usual when Claire played, she disappeared into the music.
After playing the sonata, she moved on to the livelier Fur Elise, also by Beethoven and her father’s favorite piece and then a piece by Chopin. As she finished, she felt a hand on her shoulder. Claire looked up at her father.
“Oh Daddy, I’m sorry. The Cardinal said I could try and I got lost. It’s such a beautiful instrument.”
“Non mon enfant. Ne t'excuse pas. Vous m'avez offert un beau cadeau tout à l'heure et m'a permis d'oublier un instant mes fardeaux. Je vous en remercie. (No my child. Do not apologize. You have given me a great gift just now and allowed me to forget my burdens for a moment. I thank you for it.)”
Pius had tears in his eyes but a smile on his face. He had heard famous musicians from all over the world perform for him, but none had moved him as had this small child. He could see why they called her la petit Madonna. He didn’t know where or when the nickname had originated, but now he understood it.
Claire for her part, was happy to have made the Pope happy. She curtsied politely and thanked him for letting her play. They ended her visit with a blessing from the Holy Father, and the gift of a rosary for each of them that was made of rose petals and blessed by the Pope. Claire’s was a beautiful deep red color that reminded her of her mother’s hair.
The visit to the Vatican was the last event they had in Italy. They attended Mass for the Feast of the Assumption at the Basilica of Saint Clement, and then spent some time exploring the 1st Century church. The following day they boarded a ship and headed to New York. Claire was an accomplished traveler by this point and fortunately did not suffer from sea-sickness.
There were six concerts in New York. Two in August and four in September, and then they were taking some time off. Claire would be nine in October, and they wanted to spend Christmas in England this year with Uncle Lamb.
They had concerts scheduled in Austria at the pace of two per month in January, February and March. In the meantime, Claire was hoping to spend time with her best friend Joe. He was Paul’s son, and the only non-adult she knew. Everyone else in her life was an adult, unlike Joe who went to a regular school and had lots of friends. He was fourteen which was ages older than Claire, but it didn’t seem to bother him. He always told Claire he liked her best.
Chapter 6: Joe
Claire has some new experiences and spends time with her friend Joe.
Historical references to persons of African descent.
SIGH. I will reiterate. Racism is STUPID.
August 21, 1929 New York
Claire ran down the aisle to reach the stage. Normally she wouldn’t dream of calling out in the theatre. But at the moment, Joe was the only person visible. Arms wide, Joe caught her as she ran into him for a hug.
“Lady Jane, how are you? You look taller, are you taller?”
Joe had always called her Lady Jane, or LJ for short. He said she reminded him of the Lady Jane Austen, with her posh English accent and brilliant mind. The only thing Joe’s mother had left him, were her Jane Austen novels, which Paul had read to him from the time he was a baby. One of the reasons Joe liked Claire was that she never made fun of him for liking the stories. She always understood, even when his classmates didn’t.
“I don’t think I’m taller. Maybe you shrank.”
“I didn’t shrink. I think you are taller. Let’s go measure.”
Claire was always self conscious about her height. She knew that she was much shorter than average, and had to have benches adjusted for her whenever they played. Sometimes other musicians didn’t take her seriously, and sometimes the stage crews didn’t either.
She knew that a lot of people looked at her as a dancing bear. You didn’t expect the bear to dance well, but were amazed he could dance at all.
Mummy just smiled when that happened and told her not to worry, that her music would convince them. But Joe knew it bothered her, so he always told her she looked taller. Claire thought he probably fibbed when he measured her too.
Joe didn’t lie actually. He was an honest person, and truly liked Claire. He just liked to see her smile.
“LJ, I think you did grow. Not much, about ¼ of an inch. But still, you are taller than when you left. See?”
There was a spot on the wall backstage where Joe always marked her growth rate. The maintenance crew knew about it, but pretended they didn’t. The Beauchamps always played at Steinway Hall in New York and did much of their rehearsing here as well. It was smaller than Carnegie Hall, but that suited their music better.
Claire looked and she was a little bit taller. That made her smile, and Joe smiled back. They sat down in the front row of seats and Claire told him all about her concerts in Europe, the sights she had seen, and her visits to Oncle Raymond and the Pope.
Joe in turn told her about his summer, playing with his school chums and helping his father with concerts. Paul was still having difficulty in attracting bigger name clients, but he was managing to do well with several smaller groups and of course the Beauchamps.
“I got to help set the microphones for all the concerts this summer. It was really interesting and the sound man taught me a lot about how placing the microphones made a difference in the way that people heard the music.” Joe was enthusiastic about helping people hear the music. He wasn’t a musician himself, but he liked to listen to all kinds of music.
Eventually Joe wanted to go to medical school, but he knew that the likelihood of that happening was small. His father wasn’t rich, and he was half black. So if Joe couldn’t be a doctor and help people, at least he could bring beauty into their lives by helping them hear the music.
“That sounds wonderful. Are you going to keep helping when you go back to school?”
“I think so, for your concerts at least. You and your parents don’t get upset when I’m around.”
“Who gets upset with you?” Claire was indignant.
“Oh no one in particular, just some people don’t like extras hanging about.” This wasn’t entirely true. There were patrons and musicians that didn’t like working with Negros, or even a Mulatto like Joe. He tried not to let it bother him, he couldn’t help the color of his skin, but he knew it was hard for his father and didn’t want to make things worse if he could help it. Not that he would explain that to Claire.
Claire knew about bigotry, but only in the academic sense. Her parents had explained why it was wrong to judge an entire race instead of individuals, that all humanity came from the same two parents Adam and Eve, so at the end of the day we were all members of the same family. She’d never seen it acted out though. Not quite nine, Claire was incredibly sheltered by everyone who knew her. This was done out of love, but it would have consequences later on.
Claire lived with the expectation that everyone was basically honest and treated one another with dignity. It would leave her very vulnerable as a young adult.
October 1929 – New York
Claire turned Nine on October 20th, and the family was packing and closing up the New York House. They would be leaving for England on November 1st and spending the following two years in Europe.
As Julia got older, she was finding the travel to be more wearisome, and wanted to spend some time showing Claire more of the places she had loved as a child. They had concerts arranged of course, but they were spread more apart with longer breaks in between.
After much pleading on Claire’s part she had begun to study Latin and German. Henry had wanted to wait until she was ten, but as Claire pointed out, Latin was close to Italian and they performed in Austria where German was the language.
Claire already felt self conscious due to her size, and didn’t like having to rely on others to communicate. For such a tiny person, Claire had a very large sense of justice and wasn’t at all afraid of expressing herself. To do so through a translator made her very unhappy.
Julia also thought it had something to do with Claire not wanting to be ignored, which was a common occurrence when encountering new people. Being talked about as though she were not present infuriated the child.
Although she was too well-mannered to throw a tantrum about it, you could tell by the set of her chin and the storm clouds in her eyes how she felt about being dismissed. Julia always responded by pointedly asking Claire her opinions on how things were arranged, and listened attentively to her responses. Stage crews tended to take their cues from that and the only time it occurred now was when at a new venue.
Had Henry and Julia not also instilled a sense of self-discipline and thoughtfulness of others into her, Claire would have easily been spoiled rotten. As it was, Claire was an extremely self-possessed child, and behaved in a very adult manner when in public.
She still thought as a child, and processed information as a child, but to outsiders, her adult manners were a sort of armor that she would put on to force people to take her seriously and include her.
It gave outsiders the impression that she was a very serious, almost melancholy child. This was not reality, but she never laughed in public and only gave polite smiles that did not reach her eyes.
But at the moment, Claire wasn’t in public. She was at home with her family, and it was her birthday. Birthday’s were a big deal in the Beauchamp household. Beginning with breakfast, and then to daily Mass, continuing with whatever activity the birthday person wanted. In Claire’s case, she wanted to go riding, one last time before they left. Claire wouldn’t call herself a champion equestrienne, but she did enjoy Daisy her pony and spending time with her Daddy.
After her ride, it was back to the house for a nap, and then a party with all her friends in the evening. In Claire’s case this meant Paul and Joe, Mrs. G., Mummy, Daddy and Uncle Lamb. Normally Uncle Lamb would wait until they were in Europe, but he had come to America to work with the Smithsonian Institute on something, and had stayed for her birthday. He would be traveling with them back to Europe at the end of the month.
“I’m going to miss you LJ.”
“I’m going to miss you too Joe, are you coming over with your father in the summer?”
“I think so, I had hoped to apprentice with one of the sound men here, but Dad thinks I’ll do better in England. So he set up a summer internship with a man he knows in London. If it works out, I may go to school there next year too.”
“Are you staying with us?”
“Yep. Your folks offered, and it will save some money if I don’t have to board somewhere.”
“Good. You can help with our concerts in London. Maybe the ones in Paris too.”
Joe smiled at Claire. “I would love that. I love listening to you play.”
“What about Mummy and Daddy?”
“Them too. The way you find each other in the music is a beautiful experience to share Lady Jane.”
Just then Claire yawned. It was close to midnight and far past her usual bedtime, which even when touring was eleven. Henry noticed and wrapped up the evening. Claire gave hugs to everyone and obediently went up to bed. She would miss Joe, truly, but now she knew it would be a short separation. It would be nice to have him around in Europe.
December 10th 1929
“Joe!!!” Claire hurtled down the stairs and threw her arms around her friend.
“Are you alright? How was your trip? Can you stay until summer? What about school? Is your father with you?”
Laughing, Joe tried to answer all of Claire’s hurried questions.
“Yes I’m alright. The trip was ok, I had to settle for 2nd class, but at least it wasn’t steerage. I don’t know how long I’m staying, Dad said it would probably be awhile, so through the end of summer at least. I’m not sure about school yet. Dad didn’t have a lot of time to make arrangements for me, and was really glad to just get me out of town. Speaking of Dad, he is with me but can’t stay very long. He has to get back to New York and try and salvage what he can.”
“Let me show you to your room, it’s down the hall from mine.” Joe and Claire went up the stairs far more calmly than Claire had descended. As they disappeared, Henry and Paul entered the house.
“I can’t thank you enough for agreeing to host Joe. It’s a madhouse back home and getting worse. He’ll be much safer here right now.”
“Think nothing of it Paul, Joe’s a nice young man and a credit to you. He’s welcome to stay as long as necessary. How bad is it really? We’ve heard reports of course and the newspapers are screaming about the stock market crash and the financial disaster, but you’ve seen things first hand.”
Paul ran an irritated hand through his hair.
“Truly people are panicking and making things worse. It’s bad of course and a number of people have lost everything, but if people would simply calm down I think it would be alright. They aren’t though, Chicken Littles screaming about the sky falling is what most are doing. We’ve had fifteen patrons withdraw in just the last two weeks.
Our larger patrons are holding steady thank the Lord, but they are all old money and not heavily invested in the affected stocks to begin with. It’s the patrons that recently made their fortunes in the stock market and have now lost them, that are quitting.”
Henry shook his head. “I’ve lived in America off and on for over twenty years and I still don’t quite understand how Americans think. Our own stock market had a crash in September and I haven’t really seen much of a difference in the way people behave.”
“Yes well, you’re all about that ‘stiff upper lip’ you Brits. Good thing that The Beauchamps are scheduled in Europe for the next two years. I don’t think things will be as unsettled here. I hate to say this, but I have a bad feeling about what’s going to happen in the States.”
“Well, let’s hope you’re wrong then shall we? In the meantime, Joe is welcome for as long as he likes, and if you find things getting too uncomfortable over there, the door is always open for you here too.”
“Thanks Henry. I mean that. I know that I have sometimes pushed you and Julia to have Claire do more than she wants to, but I do appreciate your friendship and support.”
Paul stayed the night and then left to meet his ship at Plymouth. He had enjoyed breakfast with Henry and Julia and Joe, Claire waking up just in time to say goodbye. Paul wouldn’t see Henry or Julia again.
Chapter 7: Loss
Claire suffers loss, as do those around her.
This is a sad chapter. I'm sorry in advance for pulling on your heartstrings. It's necessary to move the story forward.
December 31st 1932
They were on their way home from Mass. The local parish priest offered a Mass at Midnight on New Year’s Eve, thinking it would be a lovely way to ring in the New Year.
The roads were slippery and it was snowing. Henry, Julia and Claire were in the car, Henry and Julia in the front, Claire in the back. It was the smaller car since Simon their driver had a horrible head cold, as did Joe. Both were at home being fussed over by Mrs. G.
Claire was dozing in the back seat when her mother screamed and her father shouted. The car swerved, then slammed into something. The next thing Claire remembered was waking up in a hospital bed. Joe was in a chair next to her bed, sleeping.
“Joe?” Her throat hurt.
“Hi Lady Jane.”
“May I have some water?”
“Sure.” Joe got Claire a glass and helped her hold it while she drank. It tired Claire out. She sank back against the pillows and looked at Joe, trying to catch her breath. Then she looked again.
Joe tried to smile but his mouth wasn’t working right. It looked like he was trying not to cry. That wasn’t right. Joe was almost Eighteen. Eighteen year old boys didn’t cry. Ever.
“What do you remember LJ?”
Claire thought. “We were in the car. Mummy screamed really loud and Daddy shouted. Then there was a bang. I don’t remember anything after that. Where am I? Where are Mummy and Daddy?”
There was a long pause, then Joe drew a shaky breath. Where were the grown-ups? He did NOT want to be the one to tell her.
“Joe, don’t say things like that. Daddy doesn’t like bad language.”
Claire looked around the room.
“Where are Mummy and Daddy? Did they get hurt? Why aren’t we all in the same room? Are they in a room for adults?”
Joe didn’t say anything just pursed his lips.
Claire was getting frightened by Joe's continued silence. Where were her parents. Why wouldn’t Joe tell her?
Claire brightened when Uncle Lamb and Paul entered the room.
“Uncle Lamb? Where are Mummy and Daddy? Mr. Paul? Why are you here. We didn’t expect you until summer. What’s happened!!!” Claire was beginning to get more frantic with her questions.
“Claire, Fairy Princess, you need to calm down. I’ll explain, but I need you to be calm now.” Uncle
Lamb’s eyes were red as if he had been crying. He took Claire’s hand.
“My darling girl, I need you to be very brave.” Then Claire knew exactly where her parents were.
“Mummy and Daddy are dead. Aren’t they?” It was said almost clinically. If it hadn’t been for the slight wobble of her chin, Claire would have appeared detached.
“Yes Dear, they are. I am so very sorry.” Lamb was more than sorry, he was destroyed.
Quentin had been in love with Julia since he had first laid eyes on her at her engagement party to Henry. Henry had known. They were brothers after all, and close. Lamb never told Julia, had taken great care to be affectionate but never improper. He thought Julia suspected though. She was careful around him too.
When Julia had such trouble with her pregnancies Quentin had found Ray, the best physician in Europe and convinced him to travel to America to treat her. When Claire was born Lamb had gone to New York, (although he hated the place) and spent several months there, fleeing once Claire was thriving and he couldn’t stand it anymore; to watch Julia and Henry look at each other and Claire the way they did.
Henry understood, had always welcomed him home and made excuses to Claire when Lamb would flee again. But now Henry was gone, Julia with him.
Henry had swerved to miss another car, lost control, and hit a tree. Julia’s neck had been broken. Henry had been flung into the steering wheel which crushed his chest. Claire had survived with cuts from broken glass and bruises from being flung about. Saved because she had been sleeping and was in the back seat.
All Lamb had left now, was Claire. Claire who was looking at him with devastated eyes and a wobbly chin.
“They would want us to go on, to be brave and”...Lamb couldn’t continue for the lump in his throat.
“To pray for them. For their souls I mean.” Said Claire very quietly.
“Yes.” But it was said on a sob.
A small hand patted his. “Then that is what we must do.”
As Lamb broke down crying, Claire did not; although her eyes had the bright sheen of tears. Daddy had always said she was strong. Daddy had also always said that Uncle Lamb needed looking after. Since Daddy was no longer there to look after Lamb, it was up to Claire.
Having decided; at the age of twelve Claire stuffed all her feelings into a box, clamped the lid on tight, and went on.
She didn’t cry during the week she spent in bed recovering from a concussion and various bumps and bruises. The doctors speculated that being asleep in the middle of the back seat had protected Claire from worse injury.
Claire didn’t cry during the funeral planning, simply stating what she wanted for the music and helping Uncle Lamb and Mr. Paul decide who should be notified personally and who could read about it in the papers.
She didn’t cry when receiving all the visitors that came. Public face securely on, Claire greeted everyone and thanked them for coming.
She didn’t cry during the Requiem Mass held for her parents, or during the cemetery service that followed.
Claire didn’t cry at the funeral luncheon, again thanking everyone for their condolences with a stoic face, polite but detached.
It wasn’t until the night of the funeral, after everyone had left except for those living in the house, that she showed any emotion at all.
It was after supper, and Claire was in the music room, playing the harpsichord. She hadn’t had much opportunity to practice since the accident and was a little rusty, but that was to be expected. Lamb and Paul and Joe were all sitting at the other end of the room talking quietly while Mrs. G. was in the kitchen cleaning up the dishes.
“No Paul, you’ll have to cancel them, surely you can see that. People will understand.”
“Yes Lamb, I know. I would have to cancel at any rate, until I can find someone to replace...” Paul stopped. He had been about to say replace Henry and Julia, but the look on Quentin’s face stopped him. Lamb wasn’t looking at him. It occurred to Paul rather belatedly, that the music had stopped.
“No.” Claire was quiet but firm.
“No what Princess?” That was Lamb.
“No, we will not be canceling, and we won’t be finding replacements.” They all stared at the child, not quite understanding what she meant.
“Claire you must understand that you need a partner for the duets. It's such short notice. Everyone worth having is already booked for this summer.”
“I shan’t be singing the duets any longer Mr. Abernathy.” Claire’s formal address was her attempt to sound professional. As Daddy always had when speaking of business. She continued.
“I realize we will need some time to rework the programme, but I am confident that I will be ready in time for the first concert in June.” Paul and Joe continued to stare at her mouths agape. Her uncle cleared his throat.
“Claire. You don’t have to do this.” Claire just looked at him. Lamb tried again.
“Princess, give yourself some time.”
“No. Time won’t help. Time won’t bring them back. I need to go to them. I can find them in the music. I need...I need...” Tears brimming in her eyes, Claire started to shake. Then she clenched her hands and took a breath.
“Mummy said that music helps people forget their troubles. That it was up to us to share the gifts God gave us with people, to bring beauty to them. I think...” another deep breath, “I think it will help me too.”
The two men and the teen boy looked at one another for a moment.
“Are you sure you want to do this Lady Jane? It’s a big responsibility.”
“I’m sure. I do have one request though. Will you come with me, as my sound man?”
“LJ, I’m not ready for that.”
“Yes you are. Mr. Williamston said that you did a great job on all our concerts last year. You even figured out a better set up for that concert in the Austrian Cathedral than he did. Please Joe. I’ll feel better with you there. I trust you.”
Paul was torn. On the one hand, he agreed with Claire that Joe was ready. Paul also knew that she could handle the concerts solo. Claire had done two with just Henry last year, when Julia came down with the flu. Substituting piano pieces for the duets that she and Julia normally did. Performing the harp pieces Julia usually played. Henry had substituted tenor solos for his duets with Julia.
Without her parents, the program would have to be re-worked. That wasn’t Paul’s concern. Claire was capable of playing enough to fill a program.
Paul wasn't sure this was fair to Claire. He saw Claire as a pseudo niece, having known her since she was just a couple of months old when she came home from the hospital. She was only twelve for crying out loud. This was a huge amount of responsibility to put on a child.
On the other hand, a number of people depended on this concert act for their livelihood, not the least of whom were him and Joe. Paul still managed other groups, but nothing on the level of Julia and Claire.
The others, the secretary, the chauffeur, the instrument caretaker; would also be thrown out of work. With the world in the throes of a depression, it was unlikely that they would find another job.
Claire addressing him as Mr. Abernathy indicated to Paul that she had some idea of the difficulties and was trying to rise to the occasion. Caught between these two thoughts, Paul truly did not know how to respond.
Lamb was also torn, but for another reason. Lamb understood Claire about finding her parents in the music. He understood that completely. Trouble was, Claire was only twelve. Lamb didn’t want to leave her alone. She couldn’t tour and go digging with him.
Then again, a twelve year old couldn’t very well go with him on his digs. Besides, the instruments wouldn’t stand up to the sand or the heat, and Claire wouldn’t want to give up her music. Lamb would have to give up his digs to stay with her. He was the adult. It was the right thing to do.
Joe didn’t say anything else while the men sat silently thinking things through. He did however, take Claire’s clenched hand into his.
“Lady Jane, let’s go for a talk while Dad and your Uncle think about this.”
Claire resisted for a minute, then followed him out into the hallway. Joe took her to the sitting room. They sat down on the sofa and Joe took her other hand.
“I want you to do something for me.”
“Let go. I’ve got you.”
Claire looked at Joe and saw the understanding in his eyes. Her chin started to tremble and the tears started to fall, finally. She cried silently. Joe lamented the fact that even in her grief she was so controlled.
Claire was afraid that if she was noisy, they wouldn’t let her go back on tour. So she sat there for fifteen minutes crying silently, holding Joe’s hand. Then she stopped, shoving her feelings back into the box. Joe handed her a handkerchief and she wiped her face.
“Thank you Joe. You’re my best friend you know.”
“I know. You’re mine you know.”
“I know. So will you? Come with me I mean? Be my sound man?”
“If you really want me to, yes.”
“I really want you to.”
“Alright. Why don’t you go up to bed. We can all talk tomorrow after we’ve slept on it.”
Claire agreed, and went upstairs.
Joe re-joined the men in the music room. They discussed things long into the night, trying to make the best decision for Claire. She would have been furious if she knew. Thankfully no one said anything.
Eventually, with Joe advocating heavily for Claire’s wishes, it was decided that they would attempt to rework the program and would spread out the concert dates to give her more recovery time in between.
Instead of every Friday and Saturday, it became just Saturday. Instead of eight concert dates and a month off, it became six concert dates and two weeks off. It was decided that a permanent tutor should be found and Mrs. G would have the additional task of duenna as well as dresser.
Suzette could stay on as Claire’s private secretary if she wished. Joe would do the sound, and Simon could stay on as chauffeur. Lamb intended to give up his digs, unless they could be fit around the concert schedule. He didn’t need the money after all, and Claire did need him.
Chapter 8: Jamie 1929-1933
Jamie is learning and growing.
The next three years passed for Jamie as the previous seven had before them. He continued going to school, sang with the choir and studied piano at home. He also continued studying Latin and Greek with his Da. French, German and Italian he studied with his Mam. The Fraser children had each begun to study languages at age six, when they joined the children’s choir.
The Latin and Greek were so he could go to university when he was old enough. The French was because Mam wanted him to go to University in Paris. The Italian and the German were so he could sing in those languages without an accent. He already spoke English and Gàidhlig.
Jamie took to languages the way Willie had taken to drawing. At ten he could read and write Latin and Greek fluently, hold a conversation in German, Italian, and French, and was close to being able to read and write in French fluently. Jamie didn’t have to work very hard to achieve fluency, he just had the knack.
Janet was sometimes envious that languages were so easy for Jamie, and became occasionally frustrated at her own slow progress. Most of the time, it just pushed her to work harder. When she realized she couldn’t compete with Jamie in languages, Janet threw herself into her cello studies, determined to excel at something that was just hers.
Willie was content to learn what he could, doing the minimum required in all his academics and his music, so he could spend more time with his sketchbook.
Despite the difference in ages and the fact that they argued something fierce, the Fraser children were close to one another. They all played together, all had friends that came to Lallybroch. To run through the fields, ride the horses (with adult supervision), eat Mrs. Crook’s cookies and swim in the stream by the old mill house when it was warm enough.
Jamie’s best friend was a boy named Ian Murray. Ian was the same age as Jenny. Something in the two boy’s personalities were in such sympathy that they understood one another in a way the rest of the children didn’t.
The Fraser children had tempers, and would frequently start arguing over this or that when they played. Ian was one of the few that could successfully mediate their squabbles.
Willie’s voice changed when he was thirteen, and with some coaching from his voice teacher, Willie’s voice settled into a nice strong tenor. Uncle Murtagh and Uncle Dougal were ecstatic. They had formed a singing group called The White Rose and desperately needed a tenor to give two voices to each part. Ellen wouldn’t allow Willie to perform until he was sixteen, but she did give permission for him to rehearse with the group until they found an adult tenor, as he had aged out of the children’s choir when his voice changed.
The year Jamie turned eleven was a year of changes. His voice began to change and he couldn’t sing with the children anymore. It was early, but not unheard of. Since Jamie couldn’t sing, he spent more time in the stables and with his friends, particularly Ian Murray.
The two boys were almost inseparable. They studied together, rode horses together, wandered through the woods and fields together. They told each other all the secrets that a boy tells their best friend. So Jamie knew that Ian wanted to go to University, but didn’t think his Da could afford to send him.
Ian knew that Jamie missed singing terribly and was working with his voice teacher to learn even while his voice sounded odd.
In the meantime, Jamie began studying the Double Bass. All indications were that Jamie was going to be tall. The Double Bass was a good instrument for a tall person. Ian already played Viola, so they practiced together. It didn’t sound like much without a Violin to play the melody, but the boys didn’t care. They got enough practice with the youth orchestra in town. Janet belonged, but Willie didn’t.
Jamie also knew that Ian had discovered girls. One girl in particular, although no one else knew. The girl didn’t even know. Ian had told Jamie, but swore him to secrecy as he wasn’t yet ready for the girl to know; he didn’t think she liked him back.
“I dinna want to ruin our friendship. If Janet kens I fancy her, it will.”
“I dinna understand why.”
“I promise ye will when ye’re older and fancy a girl.”
Jamie shrugged. “Alright. D’ye want to go to the cave? Work on Latin?”
Ian had told Jamie a couple of years before about wanting to go to University. Jamie offered to help him learn Latin and Greek, so that if Ian did get to go, he would be ready.
There were a series of hidden caves in the woods near Lallybroch. Jamie and Ian studied there for two reasons. Ian didn’t want anyone to know he was learning from a lad three years younger than him. Jamie didn’t want to be bothered when he was studying. They spent most afternoons studying. Their other friends had faded away, not wanting to be bothered with school, except when in the classroom.
After about two hours of Latin, the boys took a break and dug into the basket Mrs. Crook had given Jamie before he left the house. It was an open secret among the adults at Lallybroch that Jamie was tutoring Ian and why. Brian and Ellen had already decided to sponsor Ian at University if he kept up with his languages, but didn’t tell the boys. Let them have a secret. It did no harm and bonded them as friends.
As the two boys ate, they chatted about a variety of things and people.
“Willie’s sixteen now. Mam said he could start singing with White Rose down to the Pub on Friday nights if Uncle Murtagh brings him straight home after.”
“Will he get to share the tips?” Ian wanted to know.
The White Rose didn’t get paid, but people could put money in the jar on the piano.
“I dinna ken. If he does Da will put it away for him, so it does’na really matter either way. I think Willie is happy to be singing in public again.”
They hadn’t found another tenor. The rest of the group had been singing without Willie. It sounded alright, but with only one tenor, the group had been limited to singing mostly simple pieces. Now The White Rose could sing more complicated songs which Dougal and Murtagh hoped would get them more notice.
For a small town in the Scottish Highlands, Broch Morda had a very well developed music community. Much of that was due to Lady Broch Tuarach’s fame as a pianist.
Brian had built a small concert hall in town. Famous artists (and their managers) came to perform regularly. It also drew musicians from all over to settle in Broch Morda. Most gave lessons and taught at the local schools. The school music program was heavily subsidized by Laird Broch Tuarach.
Jamie overheard Murtagh telling Brian that if Willie sang with them, they might be able to attract a manager that would send them on tour. Going on tour would help Willie earn money for his future.
Brian conceded that it might be a good experience for Willie, but that Ellen would probably have something to say about the plan.
Jamie hadn’t heard anymore, so he left before he was caught eavesdropping.
Jamie March 3rd, 1933
Jamie squirmed in his seat at the dinner table. Normally, he wouldn’t have been fidgeting. This was not a normal dinner. A friend of Mam’s had come to stay for a few days. Mr. Abernathy was trying to talk Mam into going on tour this summer. Jamie was relieved when the meal was finished and he could ask to be excused.
Cricket had just had a new foal and Jamie was anxious to go see him. Da had named him Donas and he was beautiful. Jenny wanted to see him and asked to be excused also. Willie stayed at the table with the grown-ups. Jamie wondered why, they were just talking. It was boring. He and Jenny dashed out of the room just as Mr. Abernathy tried again.
“Come on Ellen. The kids are older now. You can leave them for a summer, or… take them with you if you want. Claire is a kid too. She could stand to make a few friends her age.”
“No Paul. I don’t tour in summer. I tour in winter if I tour at all. Summer is our busy season, you know that.” Ellen gave him a sharp look. “Paul, we’ve been friends for a long time. What’s going on?”
“I need to find a complementary act for Claire. Her guardian doesn’t want her to do the whole three hours and I agree with him. She isn’t entirely recovered from the accident.”
Ellen made a sympathetic noise. “Poor child. To lose her parents on Hogmanay on the way home from church. Why didn’t you just cancel the concert series?”
“That was my first impulse. Henry and Julia were close friends. I see Claire as a niece and I thought she needed time. Claire talked me out of it.”
Ellen’s eyebrows rose. “Claire talked you out of it? Paul, she’s a child. Shouldn’t the decision be up to her guardian?”
“Yeah, it should. Claire’s different. Oldest twelve year old I’ve ever met. Besides, her argument was that performing would make her feel closer to her parents. They always took the stage together.
Lamb and I argued about it for a long time, but in the end we decided to try and make this work for her.
So now I’m talking to everyone I can think of that isn’t already booked, trying to find someone to take half the program. I thought since you are a pianist and she’s a pianist, we could make that work.”
Ellen was shaking her head. “I won’t do it Paul. Besides, you should have something different than another pianist. It will just draw comparisons. Quite frankly I’d probably be the one found lacking. I remember that little girl. She was brilliant at eight. I can’t imagine what she sounds like now.”
Willie spoke up. “Mam? What about The White Rose? We could do it. I’m done with school. Dougal was hoping we could set something up before I leave for University.”
“What’s The White Rose?” Paul wanted to know.
“It’s a men’s vocal group that my brother put together with some of the local men. William is one of the tenors. They sing Madrigals and Folk Songs mostly.” Ellen said.
“Are they any good?”
“I think so, but since I’m related to the entire group, I’m probably biased.” Ellen smiled.
“We’re singing tonight down at the pub if ye’d like to listen and find out for yourself Mr. Abernathy.” Willie encouraged.
Paul was getting desperate. “I might just do that son. Thanks for the suggestion.”
Paul had thoroughly enjoyed the performance. He had met with Dougal Mackenzie and Murtagh Fitzgibbons, the spokesmen for the group and hammered out a contract for the tour. The group was a little raw, but with some practice and polish they’d improve enough before June. Ellen had offered to work with them on concert etiquette, how to fit their performances to a stage rather than a pub.
Paul was appreciative. “Thanks for doing this Ellen. I have a lot of loose ends to take care of before June.” He turned to Dougal. “Thank you too Mr. Mackenzie. I know this is short notice. I’m asking you to change the informality of singing in a pub to the formality of the concert stage, but I really think this will be good. You have a different sound. I think we can capitalize on that.”
“I think so too. I am grateful for the opportunity Mr. Abernathy. All the lads are.”
“Call me Paul. I’m American. We tend to the more informal.”
“Paul it is then. Ye must call me Dougal.”
“Done.” The men shook hands. “Now I have to go or I’ll never get all
Yes Jamie is a polyglot just like he is in canon.
None of my children are, polyglots they each study three languages. English, Latin and one other (they all picked different ones). The only one they are fluent in is English.
However, there was a child in a home school group I belonged to years ago that was fluent in seven different languages. When he was 14.
Chapter 9: Learning to live without them
Claire and Lamb must learn to live without Henry and Julia.
This chapter describes some unhealthy coping mechanisms. Mind your triggers.
June 1933 – Paris
The opening in June was for Paris. The new program consisted of Claire playing the piano, the harpsichord and the violin, but not for the full three hours. Paul and Lamb had put their collective foot down, and stated that a vocal group would do the second half of the performance.
They were a family group also, from Scotland. It was an all male group called The White Rose. They sang mostly Madrigals with a few Jacobite ballads thrown in. The ballads were in the Scottish language, Gàidhlig. The men wore Highlander dress onstage. This presented The White Rose as an exotic looking novelty to the aristocrats that made up the bulk of the audience.
There were six of them, Dougal MacKenzie - bass who was the leader, Rupert MacKenzie - baritone, Angus Mohr - baritone, Lesley Mohr - tenor, William Fraser - tenor and Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser - bass. Claire thought they were all related to each other, but she didn’t know for sure.
Other than at rehearsals, Claire had no contact with them. Mrs. G. always hustled her right back to her dressing room and then home. (Mrs. G. spoke Gàidhlig, and didn’t want Claire exposed to the sometimes ribald humor, even if the child didn’t know what was being said.)
In reworking the program, Claire refused to play the harp on stage. She didn’t feel able to face using her mother’s instrument in public. She still played it every day at home and still composed for it, but would no longer share her compositions with anyone outside the house. Claire also refused to sing. That had more to do with her still healing body. Claire explained to Uncle Lamb; she couldn’t quite manage her breathing. It was decided that for this first tour, instruments alone would be enough.
The day before the first concert, Claire prevailed on Joe to take her to visit Dr. Raymond. She knew of Joe’s dream to be a doctor, and she wanted to see if Oncle Ray could help. He was very encouraging, telling Joe that if he could pass the entrance exams, The University of Glasgow in Scotland accepted students regardless of race.
In fact they were the first university to grant a black person a medical degree. The school had done so in the 1837, almost one hundred years before. Joe thanked Dr. Raymond, and left the visit very optimistic. He knew he could pass the classes, it was a matter of affording it. Claire of course had some ideas about that.
“Joe, you are eighteen. If you work as a sound technician for the next two years and go to Oxford for University, you can save enough money to go to medical school in Glasgow. Then you can come back and work during the summer concerts to make enough to continue.”
“That’s a lovely idea Lady Jane, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to earn quite enough. Even if I can save enough for tuition, I’m not sure about living expenses.”
“Oh. I forgot about that. If you were here you could just keep living at home. But Glasgow is in Scotland, I don’t think we have a house there.” Claire was deep in thought.
“Don’t worry about it L.J. I have to get through University first.”
The concert series was a massive success. People who came initially to see Claire due to the novelty of having a child as the main performer, were completely entranced. Those who attended her concerts tried to articulate the experience to their acquaintance and couldn’t. It was a combination of things really.
Claire seemed to be an adult in a child’s body; which at first was disconcerting. When she began to play, people forgot she was a child. Claire disappeared into the music. Although audience members could see her on the stage, it was as though they were watching a fairie or sprite, come out to entertain them. Due to her rise in popularity, the shows started to sell out. Paul and Lamb began to argue over whether or not to add additional dates to the tour.
The White Rose was benefiting from the situation as well. The music that they performed was quite different from Claire, which in this case meant that they didn’t suffer from the comparison. Rather, still remembering the beauty of Claire’s music, the audience was favorably disposed to The White Rose. The group wasn’t on her level, but they were quite good. The novelty of the songs in Gàidhlig made up the difference for most people.
Once the first series ended in August, (with no additional dates much to Paul’s dismay), Claire and Joe returned to the house in London and prepared to meet their new tutor. Joe had spoken to his father who had spoken with Lamb. It was decided that Joe and Claire would share an academic tutor, who would supplement Joe’s University classes to catch him up in Greek and Latin. The tutor would also help Claire with those subjects that were not music related. Claire continued to formally study all of her music subjects with the exception of harp.
Claire didn’t want to share the harp with anyone except her parents. So now, Claire played the harp from 4pm-5pm each day, always alone in her music room with the door shut. She would play for her parents, and play out her misery. Always ending with silent tears running down her face. Claire allowed herself fifteen minutes each day to cry for her parents. She would let her feelings out for those minutes then lock them back up in the box.
It was a terribly unhealthy way to cope. Claire hid everything so well, that those around her didn’t understand what was happening. Joe suspected that she wasn’t handling her grief well, but at eighteen as wonderful a young man as he was, Joe was mostly focused on himself and his future. Paul didn’t see anything different. Claire had always had a certain reserve in public, that was where Paul encountered her.
Mrs. Graham knew something was wrong, but she was a servant. After saying something to Lamb and being ignored, Mrs. G. didn’t feel as though she could do anything other than be there for Claire when she was ready.
Lamb was barely functioning and began to drink quite heavily to forget. He was never violent, just disconnected. Finally, just after Claire’s thirteenth birthday, Lamb fled again, this time to a dig in Cairo. Claire was left alone with Mrs. G., Joe and her tutors.
Joe started at Oxford in September of 1933. Lamb had pulled some strings and Joe was admitted as a day student so he could stay at the house with Claire while Lamb was off on a dig. Paul went back to the United States for the school year, to manage his clients there.
Claire did another concert series in Summer 1934. With Lamb away, it was up to Paul to make the arrangements. Slowly at first, he added additional concert dates once the originals sold out. Claire didn’t complain, but Joe got into a number of arguments with Paul about it. Paul prevailed and Claire played concerts every Saturday from June 1st through September 1st in 1934.
Joe did the sound for her again. The only reason Paul ended the tour was because Joe’s term was beginning and Claire flatly refused to perform without him. Generally speaking Claire was very compliant with Paul, unless it involved her interacting with new people. She didn’t attend any of the social receptions promoting the tour of course. Those ran late into the evening, far past her bedtime.
After Cairo, Lamb came home briefly for Easter 1934, then was off to Africa on another dig. Claire didn’t mind so much and enjoyed his letters, describing all the things he was seeing. To Claire this was more normal than Lamb being around all the time, it felt stable.
Joe and Mrs. G. didn’t think it was stable at all. Both tried to be there for Claire, they really did. Everyone protected her physically. The problem was that Joe and Mrs G. even Alec could see what she needed was a full time parent. No one was around to guide her emotionally.
Joe was nineteen, and a boy. There were things Claire didn’t discuss with him. Alec and Mrs. G. were servants. As she had been raised by her parents, Claire maintained a certain reserve with both due to their respective positions.
With no one to guide her, Claire took cues from those around her, not always interpreting those cues correctly. She began to behave more and more as an adult. An emotionally closed off adult.
October 1934 – London
Claire was finally taking some time off. She had just turned fourteen, and was now working with a voice teacher. Working on new repertoire of course, but not performing yet. Perhaps in a year or two she’d sing again. Her range was quite large, although the higher notes sounded breathy. The voice teacher told Claire she’d probably end up a Mezzo, or a Contralto.
Mr. Abernathy, (She hadn’t called him Mr. Paul since the funeral, wanting to be professional. Joe remained Joe.) wanted her to perform a short Holiday concert series. The discussions were difficult. Claire was reluctant, not wanting to be gone over the Christmas Holydays. Mr. Abernathy was angry about it.
“Claire, I just need you to understand! The potential is enormous. For all of us. More people go to concerts during this time of year. I’m not suggesting you perform on Christmas Day, I just want to book a few concerts during the holiday season.”
Claire stuck her chin out mulishly. Paul saw it and tried another tack before she could refuse him.
“Claire, A lot of people are hurting financially. If we book a few concerts, all the people that work at the venue will have a bit of extra income, to celebrate Christmas with their families.”
It was the right thing to say. Claire was easy to persuade if she thought it would help someone else.
Claire sighed heavily. “Alright. I’ll do eight concerts, two in November, three in December before Christmas and one in between Christmas and New Year’s. But that is it. I’m not doing more than that, period. I don’t want to fall behind in my studies, and I want to spend some time with Uncle Lamb when he comes home.”
Paul smiled. “Will you sing? Just one song? Please? Let it be your Christmas present to me.” He cajoled.
Claire was smiling though she rolled her eyes at him. “One song. Which Christmas song is your favorite?”
“O Holy Night.” Paul said immediately. “In French, then English.”
“Getting your money’s worth?” Claire teased.
“Of course!” Paul laughed with her. It was more than he thought he’d get, and he’d take it. The White Rose was already on board, having become Claire’s second act exclusively. They could use the extra money too.
December 1934 – London
When Lamb arrived home for the first Sunday of Advent, he noticed that Claire looked tired, but assumed that she had been excited about seeing him for the holiday season. When he found out about the concerts in November & December, Lamb was a little concerned. He asked Claire about it, who said it was a good idea. She presented the concert series as a gift for her to give people for Christmas.
Besides the series, they did the usual things. Went to church, decorated the house, spent time with the small circle of people Claire would socialize with. She still didn’t like strangers, they made her nervous and shy.
Lamb went to some parties with colleagues from Oxford, dragging Joe along to make connections.
It was a lovely holiday. When her Uncle talked about going out New Year’s Eve Claire became very upset and begged him not to go. Her parents had died then, and she wanted everyone at home. Claire rarely asked Lamb for anything. He couldn’t refuse her when she looked at him with Julia’s eyes and begged him to stay home, where it was safe.
So Lamb stayed home. Paul, Joe, Alec and Mrs. Graham were there as well. They listened to the radio and played Whist. Then chess.
At midnight they wished each other a Happy New Year, and set firecrackers off in the back yard. Lamb drank the entire time. When Claire went up to bed at about twelve thirty, Lamb was blind, stinking drunk.
It didn’t numb him enough. Lamb broke down sobbing in the sitting room. He passed out on the sofa a short time later. Paul and Joe found him when they came inside from the back yard. They called Alec and Mrs. Graham in from the kitchen, to help get Lamb up to the bed. It wouldn’t do for Claire to come down in the morning and see her uncle in such a state.
Chapter 10: Franklin Alexander Randall
Claire meets Frank.
This is the chapter in which I practice the skill of foreshadowing...
January 1st 1935 – London
Uncle Lamb slept the entire day of January 1st. He was still asleep when Paul came home after an early morning meeting, for New Year’s Day brunch. For the past two years since Henry and Julia had died, Paul and Joe had brunch on New Year’s day with Lamb and Claire.
This year, Paul brought a guest. Frank Randall was smart, polished and ambitious. Paul Abernathy had hired him the previous summer on the recommendation of one of Frank’s professors. Claire knew him, but not very well.
At 26 Frank was finished with University having obtained a business degree at Oxford. He could have entered many professions. Frank chose to promote musical groups and soloists. He didn’t play an instrument or sing. Frank liked to listen to music, strictly classical of course. By managing musicians, he could be a part of the exclusive world of concert music, with access to the rich people that patronized the arts.
Paul had gone looking for an assistant after receiving the cancer diagnosis. None of the doctors knew exactly how long he had, but they were all agreed that two years was wildly optimistic.
Paul was a music manager. Wildly optimistic was his bread and butter. He needed two years. In two years he could make enough money to put Joe through medical school.
In two years he could train someone to manage Claire and The White Rose. He didn’t care as much about the other groups, they would all find someone to manage them if they didn’t like his replacement.
Claire… she was special. She was his legacy, just as much as Joe was.
Paul didn’t tell anyone about the cancer of course. His medical condition was no one’s business. Paul did make plans.
One of those plans was Frank. The young man was learning the ropes and making connections faster than Paul had expected he would. He was a natural for this business.
Frank was good looking, polite, attentive, intelligent. He could converse on a wide variety of subjects, and was at home in any social situation. He got along well with the men in The White Rose. Frank also treated Claire with consideration, but not condescension. He never flirted with her or behaved improperly in any way. Frank was a good choice, Paul thought. He was young enough to be Claire’s manager for a good long while, yet old enough that he would see her in a more paternal way.
Living in a bubble the way Claire did meant that no young man had ever paid her singular attention before. Frank did. He made her feel special. Lamb, sleeping off his drunk, didn’t notice.
Paul, worried about training Frank to take care of Claire in the business sense didn’t notice. Mrs. Graham was in the kitchen and she didn’t notice either.
At fourteen, Claire was ready for her first crush. Frank was safe. He was so much older than Claire, that she never seriously considered that he might be attracted to her. She smiled at Frank and tried to engage him in conversation. For Claire...that was being wildly flirtatious.
Joe noticed, but being one month shy of twenty, didn’t want to make assumptions about Frank’s intentions. To his credit Frank never did or said anything inappropriate. He was attentive to Claire, but didn’t flirt with her.
Joe understood that Claire was starting to notice boys. She was growing up, it was normal to test her wiles on a male. Joe just wanted her to be safe. It was one thing to practice flirting with someone he knew. Joe didn’t know Frank. He didn’t want Claire taken advantage of. Joe decided to keep an eye on the situation and talk to Claire if necessary.
After brunch, the three men and the teenage girl went into the parlor to spend the afternoon talking. Well, Paul and Frank talked. Joe and Claire played Chess. After trouncing Claire several times, Joe excused himself citing homework. Claire joined the conversation with Paul and Frank for a little while. At precisely 4pm, Claire rose and excused herself as well.
Frank looked at Paul a little offended. It wasn’t the done thing for the hostess to get up and leave the room in the middle of a conversation. Paul gave him a casual look. “It’s alright. It’s four o'clock. Claire practices harp from 4-5 every day.” He gave a short laugh. “Doesn’t matter where we are or what the schedule is. four of the clock, she goes into a room, shuts the door and plays harp for an hour.”
“I wasn’t aware she performed on the harp.” As far as Frank knew it was piano, harpsichord and violin. Claire had sung the one song for the Holiday series, but Frank didn’t think that was typical.
“I didn’t say she performed on the harp. She doesn’t. Hasn’t since her parents died.” The one time he had brought up the harp, she hadn’t said a word. Just looked at him with those devastated eyes, got up and left the room. Paul hadn’t brought it up twice. That part he didn’t share, which gave Frank the impression that she wasn’t good enough to perform on the harp.
Frank admired her discipline. To practice daily on an instrument she didn’t perform with.
“She won’t sing as a regular part of her concerts either, for all she has the voice of an angel. She sang one song for this last limited engagement. I had to ask it as a Christmas present to get her to do it.” Paul wasn’t sorry either, he’d use whatever leverage he had to in order to get Claire singing in public again.
Frank nodded. He had heard her sing. Claire did have the voice of an angel.
Paul and Frank talked for a few minutes more then Paul left to use the washroom. Frank sat by himself, and heard the faint sounds of the harp coming from the next room. He couldn’t hear well though. Was Claire any good on the harp? Could she improve enough to perform with it? Frank was intrigued.
Curiosity getting the better of him, Frank followed the sound.
Claire was typically quite careful to close the door all the way. That day, for whatever reason, it hadn’t latched shut. She faced away from the door when playing, so she didn’t see Frank open the door. She didn’t hear him either. Claire had disappeared into the music to find her parents. Sometimes she still cried, now she also smiled at the good memories. The wound of loss was still there, but had scabbed over a bit.
As Frank watched Claire, a smile lit up her face reaching all the way to her eyes. He had never seen her smile like that before. In that moment, Claire was the most beautiful creature Frank ever beheld. Then, the music registered.
Claire played harp better than any of her other instruments. God. The music. He couldn’t even explain the beauty of it. Why she didn’t perform on harp exclusively dumbfounded him.
Frank stood in the door transfixed. He stood and listened to her play for he didn’t know how long.
Then the music changed.
Claire was playing a different piece now. It was haunting and sad. Tears ran down Claire’s face. She still didn’t make a sound, except what she played on the harp.
Without knowing why, Frank felt like crying too. Now he understood why Claire didn’t play harp in public. The public wasn’t ready for the raw emotion of her playing. Suddenly Frank felt like a voyeur. This was private, he was intruding.
Silently, with great effort of will, Frank closed the door and walked back to the parlor. Paul had returned, but had fallen asleep on the couch. Frank decided that he should leave. So he went to the hall, caught up his hat and left.
Joe studied quite late into the evening and didn’t see Claire before she went to bed. The next day was a Wednesday. Joe wasn’t due to start school again until the following Monday. He had some news, but wanted to tell Claire and Paul together. Paul wasn’t at breakfast. Lamb and Claire were, then Lamb left for the day.
Paul was present for lunch and Joe braced himself. “Dad, Claire, I want to talk to you about something.” Deep breath.
“I’m going to propose to Gayle.”
Claire squealed. She jumped up, rushing to hug Joe. “Finally! You’ve been dating her for two years.”
“I thought you planned to wait until you graduated son.” Paul liked Gayle. He did.
Joe looked nervous which was uncharacteristic. “I was, but if I don’t propose now, I don’t know when I’ll get the chance. Geneva Dunsany is going on tour in America and plans to be gone for the next year. If Gayle goes with her, I won’t see her for a year. If Gayle and I are married, she can quit working for Geneva.
Look Dad, I know this is earlier than I intended. Gayle has been working with me on Claire’s sound set-up. I can’t do it during school terms without my grades suffering. You want Claire to do concerts when I’m in school.” Joe turned to Claire.
“I just thought that you know Gayle. If she did your sound set up for a spring and fall concert series, you could do them and all the tour and venue people could be earning money. I trust Gayle, so I wouldn’t feel guilty for not doing your sound. Geneva Dunsany makes her miserable, but Gayle hasn’t been able to find another job. If she did sound for you, Gayle would still be earning money too and wouldn’t feel like she was taking advantage of me by quitting Geneva and getting married before I'm done with school.”
Claire nodded. She did know and trust Gayle. Claire didn’t like Geneva who was very spoiled and unpleasant to anyone she considered a social inferior. She wasn’t unpleasant to Claire, just treated her as though she were five instead of fourteen.
“I think that sounds wonderful. I like Gayle and I trust her almost as much as I trust you, Joe.” Claire looked at Paul and delivered the coup de grâce. “I’d be willing to tour during the year if Gayle took over for Joe.”
Paul chewed his lip thoughtfully for several minutes then nodded. “I can see that working. If we put Gayle on the payroll in your place Joe, you’ll still be able to make ends meet, but can concentrate on your studies. I give you my blessing, now you just have to ask the girl.”
Normally it would be Gayle’s father, but Gayle didn’t know her father, he had abandoned her mother before she was born. Gayle’s mother had died of a fever when Gayle was a baby and her Grandmother who had raised her, had died when Gayle was 16. Gayle had been making her way ever since.
Joe hugged his father and Claire. “I’m taking Gayle to dinner tonight. I’ll ask her then.”
“Do you want a big wedding?” Claire wanted to know.
“No. Can we just have a Mass then breakfast here afterwards? Gayle doesn’t really have family and only a few friends. You are all my family. I would like Lamb there if he can bear to leave his dig. Where is he anyway?”
“He’s at the college. I think he’s teaching this semester, so he’ll be here until June.”
“Great. If Gayle agrees, we can get married in May at the end of next term. It’s not so cold, but the bugs aren’t out yet, and you can finish your tour in April.”
Gayle said yes. She was greatly relieved to be quitting as Geneva Dunsany’s personal secretary.
Geneva was not so happy. She raged for days at anyone in close proximity, even storming into one of Claire’s rehearsals to yell at her for stealing Gayle.
Claire sat and let her rant. When Geneva wound down, Claire calmly said to her, “Gayle is an adult. She makes her own choices. She and Joe wanted to get married. As you are so fond of reminding me, I’m a child. They don’t need my permission. Besides, I didn’t make the decision to hire Gayle. Mr. Abernathy did. I suggest you go talk to him.”
So saying, Claire turned around and continued practicing. Geneva stared at her furiously for another minute and then stomped off the stage.
The wedding was small but very beautiful. There was a breakfast afterwards just for the family. The house staff was there as well.
The following Monday Claire’s personal secretary Suzette came into the parlor.
“Miss Claire, may I speak with you?”
“Of course Suzette. Is there something that needs my attention?”
“I’m getting married.” Suzette said in a rush. She had been dating Murtagh Fraser from The White Rose for almost eighteen months.
“Oh Suzette, that’s wonderful.” Claire didn’t understand why Suzette looks nervous.
“Yes it is, but he lives in Scotland. I’ll be moving there after the wedding.”
Then Claire understood. Suzette was leaving her. That’s why she looked nervous. A small selfish part of Claire didn’t want her to go. Claire refused to give voice to it. She would not act like Geneva Dunsany. So Claire smiled and gave Suzette a hug.
“I’m so happy for you Suzette. When is the wedding?”
“Murtagh wants to get married as soon as the banns are called. So about a month. I’ve talked to him and he understands that I will not leave you without a secretary. So if you cannot find someone right away I will continue my duties until you do.”
“Oh Suzette. That is so sweet of you. Don’t worry. I’ll talk to Uncle Lamb at dinner and have him start looking. With all those students at the college, he’ll find someone.”
Suzette looked relieved. “That’s a wonderful idea Miss Claire. I can work with whoever he hires. To help them learn how you like things done, so it’s an easier transition. You’ll come to the wedding, won’t you?”
“Of course I will. I’d be honored.”
Suzette hugged her again. “I will still see you. Murtagh doesn’t plan to quit singing and I already told him I’ll not be left at home when he goes touring. I’ve seen the way the women just throw themselves at all the men in White Rose at those receptions.”
Claire laughed. “Well, I never go to those, so I haven’t seen that. Paul always says to leave the patrons to him, so I do. I’m usually tired by then anyway, so Mrs. G. and I go home after the performances.”
“I must say I’m glad of that. Mr. Abernathy is right. Those receptions are no place for a young lady.”
Suzette left and Claire went back to her school work.
Chapter 11: Suzette's Wedding
Claire goes to Suzette's wedding
Mid June 1935 Claire
Claire had never been to the Scottish Highlands before. It was a beautiful country, all green with rolling hills covered in heather. She was in Scotland for two whole weeks and had brought nothing but her small practice harp. It would be the first time Claire hadn’t practiced piano every day since the age of five. Her piano teacher assured her that it wouldn’t harm her technique.
As promised, Claire had been invited to Suzette’s wedding. Joe and Gayle hadn’t come, they were still on their wedding trip. Uncle Lamb had given them the gift of a trip to America to visit Joe’s extended family. They would be gone for the rest of June. Paul had gone to America also, to work with the groups he managed there.
Uncle Lamb had agreed to come with Claire, so he was in Scotland too. It was exciting to sight see with him. Uncle Lamb wanted to see all the lochs and the parks, so they spent a lot of time wandering through woods and across moors.
Culloden moor had made Claire very sad. All those men dying for nothing except Charles Stuart’s ego. The museum was interesting, but all Claire could focus on were all the children who’s fathers never came home.
Craigh na dun was a lot more fun. Uncle Lamb told Claire the story of the woman of Balnain. They giggled madly together as they placed their hands on the stone. Nothing happened and Claire confessed to being a little disappointed.
Suzette was getting married in the parish church in Broch Morda. Murtagh’s family all lived in the area, he had grown up there. Claire was surprised to see a concert hall in town, it seemed to be a rather remote area for such a thing. Uncle Lamb shrugged.
“The White Rose is made up of men from Broch Morda. As I understand it, the local Lord or Laird as they say in Scotland, built the concert hall for his wife. Ellen Fraser is a concert pianist, and Murtagh’s distant cousin. William Fraser is her son.”
“Ellen Fraser. I think I’ve heard of her.” Claire didn’t really pay much attention to other performers, unless she personally worked with them. That name sounded familiar though. Maybe she’d ask Paul about it when they got home. She knew Murtagh and William of course. They were in The White Rose.
The wedding was beautiful. A children’s choir sang, which was a new experience for Claire. She was more used to men singing the Mass. The sound was amazing and Claire found herself thinking that maybe she should start singing more again.
The party afterwards was interesting. Claire had never seen Ceilidh dancing. Everyone except her seemed to know how to do it, even the children. Uncle Lamb had gone off to talk to some of the older men in the crowd, so Claire sat and watched. It was very entertaining.
“Are ye no going to join the dancing?” Claire looked up startled. A tall thin boy with red curly hair was looking down at her. He was wearing a kilt like most of the men, but for some reason it didn’t look odd on him the way it did on some of the others.
“I don’t know how. It’s very fun to watch though.” Now it was the boy’s turn to look startled.
“You’re a Sassenach!”
“I’m a what?”
The boy blushed a little. “Sassenach. It means English person or Outlander.”
“Oh. Yes. I am.” Claire wasn’t sure if she should be offended or not.
“I’m sorry.” The boy said. “I did'na mean to be rude. It just startled me. Suzette is French ye ken. I did’na realize that she had English relatives as well.”
Claire smiled at that. “I’m not really a relative. Suzette was my mother’s secretary. When my mother died, Suzette became my secretary. I’ve known her all my life. So I wanted to come support her today.”
“That’s verra kind of you.”
“Would you like to sit down? I don’t really know anyone except Suzette.”
“I would, thank ye.” The boy sat down at the table with her, and paused awkwardly. Then he said,
“I’m sorry about yer Mam.”
“Thank you. It happened years ago.” Claire did not want to dwell on that today.
“Are ye here with your Da then?”
“No. He died with my mother. I’m here with my Uncle.”
The boy blushed even darker red and fell silent. After several minutes of awkward silence, Claire took pity on him.
“I’m Claire Beauchamp by the way.”
Now the boy looked sheepish. “Pleased to meet you. I am James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser.
Claire laughed. “Well, I suppose you had to have a name to match your height.”
The boy, James, laughed with her, comfort restored. “I’ve some growing left to do Mam says.”
Claire cast about for another topic, to keep him talking. He was nice, and she was a little bored, sitting by herself.
“Do you live in Broch Morda?”
“Nay. I live at Lallybroch. I attend school in Broch Morda though.”
“Lallybroch, where’s that?”
“Tis the estate west o the town. My Da is Laird Broch Tuarach ye ken.”
“Oh. Oh! Is your mother Ellen Fraser?”
“Yes. Do ye ken my Mam?”
“Yes. Well, no not personally. I’ve heard of her though. She’s a concert pianist.”
“She is. Would ye care to meet her? I can introduce you if ye’d like.”
“Oh would you? I haven’t had anyone to talk to about piano in ages!” Claire stood up.
James offered her his arm, and led her over to a group of ladies sitting at another table.
“Mam. May I present, Miss Claire Beauchamp” James said with a flourish that made his mother laugh.
Claire blushed prettily and curtsied. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Ma’am.”
“Hello my dear. I’m Ellen Fraser. I haven’t seen you in a very long time. My how you’ve grown.”
Claire was confused.
“I’m so sorry Ma’am. I don’t remember...”
“No dear, you wouldn’t. You were just eight the last time I saw you and we didn’t formally meet at the time. I was the pianist for the concert series in which you made your public debut.”
Claire’s face cleared. “I thought your name sounded familiar. I just couldn’t remember where I had heard it before. You are a brilliant pianist Ma’am. I was just telling your son that I hadn’t had anyone to talk piano with except my tutor since...”
Ellen’s face softened. “Yes I heard about that. I’m sorry for your loss. I would be delighted to talk piano with you. What are you working on right now?”
Just like that, Claire and Ellen settled in to talk about music.
They spoke for the rest of the afternoon. When it was time for them to leave, Ellen gave Claire a hug. Claire was a little startled. She hadn’t been hugged like that since her mother died. Then she relaxed into it. It felt nice to be hugged by someone’s mother even if it wasn’t her own.
“It was lovely to finally meet you Claire. I wish you all success on your concert series this summer.”
“Thank you Lady Fraser.” Claire turned to James.
“It was nice to meet you James. Thank you very much for talking with me and introducing me to your mother.”
James turned red and bowed, but didn’t say anything. Claire wondered how old he was. She had thought he was her age or older. Now she wasn’t sure. James was so tongue tied and awkward in conversation. Maybe he was younger.
Uncle Lamb fetched her wrap from the table and they went back to the hotel.
After the wedding, Uncle Lamb and Claire stayed in Inverness for another week. The summer tour didn’t start until the first week in July, when Joe and Gayle came back. They did some more sightseeing, tried local restaurants and went to a beautiful little church called St. Mary’s for Mass on Sunday.
They took a closer look at the building after Mass. As they were walking towards the back, they saw a young woman in the back pew, sitting and crying.
Claire tapped her on the shoulder. “Miss, are you alright?”
The girl jumped and wiped at her face furiously. “Yes. Thank you.” She had hair that was a strawberry blond sort of color and a pale complexion. She was very pretty, even with a face that was tear stained and blotchy.
“Are you sure? Is there some way we can help you?” Uncle Lamb thought the girl was lost. She obviously wasn’t an adult and shouldn’t really be here by herself.
The girl grimaced. “Unless you can give me a job and a place to live then no. Thank you for your concern.”
“Why would you need a job at your age? You should be in school!” Lamb wanted to know. He was becoming quite concerned.
“The orphanage turns you out at sixteen. The matron had lined up a secretarial job for me, but he didn’t want a secretary, the old lecher wanted a...”
Lamb cleared his throat. “Yes. Quite. I see.” He looked meaningfully at Claire, who just looked confused.
The girl seemed to understand. “Yes. Well, the job included room and board. Since I ran away from the job, now I’m homeless too. I’ve tried to apply other places, but they keep telling me I’m too young and too pretty, that I should give up and look for a husband. I don’t WANT a husband. I want a job!”
The girl dissolved into tears again. Claire wasn’t sure if they were tears of sorrow or of rage. Given the muttering and the gritted teeth, she suspected rage as the cause.
Lamb’s thoughts went in a different direction. Claire had been nagging him to find her a personal secretary since Suzette announced her engagement. He kept forgetting to post for one.
“Miss. Please don’t take this question the wrong way. Are you qualified to be a secretary?”
“Yes. Yes I am. I took all the classes and got top marks. I knew I’d need a job when I turned sixteen and I’m not about to earn my living on my back. I have more self-respect than that. Besides, my Mam would come down from Heaven to box my ears if I sank that low.”
“I see.” Lamb paused. “I know this is going to sound extraordinary... I’m looking for a secretary, or rather my niece is.”
“Oh Uncle Lamb! That’s brilliant.” Claire turned to the young woman. “Uncle Lamb is right. I am looking for a secretary. Mine just got married you see. We came to Scotland for the wedding.”
The girl looked skeptical. “Really? I dinna mean to be rude, but you’re what, ten? What on earth would you need a secretary for?”
Claire didn’t take it personally. No one ever got her age right. Either they thought she was much younger than fourteen because she was so tiny, or they thought she was much older than fourteen because of the way she behaved. Claire held out a hand.
“How do you do? My name is Claire Beauchamp. I’m a concert musician. I promise I do need a secretary. I’m fourteen years old, and I go on tour in a week. If you’ll take a chance on me, I’ll take one on you. You’d have to live in my house so you can keep up with all the correspondence. You will work with all the staff, but mostly Paul Abernathy who’s my manager, and Ned Gowan my solicitor. I don’t know what the salary is, but I’m sure it can be negotiated.”
“Geillis Duncan.” The girl shook her hand, and looked at Uncle Lamb who nodded encouragingly. “If you’re serious, I’ll give it a try. If nothing else it will get me to England.”
“Wonderful. We’re leaving on Friday. Do you have a place to stay in the meantime?”
Geillis looked embarrassed. “Actually, no I don’t. I brought my suitcase with me when I ran from…” She looked at Claire. “Well anyway, I was planning to stay in the church tonight and figure something else out tomorrow.” She pointed to the rather battered looking case at her feet.
“Why don’t you come with us? You can stay in Claire’s room, it has two beds. Then you can show us the sights this week and Claire can fill you in on what your job duties will be.” Lamb was careful to emphasize that Claire had a separate room from his. He didn’t want the poor girl to think he had designs, after the situation she had just fled.
“Oh yes, please do. I love Uncle Lamb but I’d really love to see something other than museums and ancient ruins.” Claire thought this was just sensible.
The red head chewed her lip for a moment, thinking. “Alright. I guess we might as well make sure we’re compatible before ye take me on tour wit ye.” She stood up and picked up the suitcase.
“I can take that my dear.” Lamb ever the gentleman, wasn’t about to let a lady carry something when he could do it. So saying, he took the suitcase. Leaving the church he and Claire led the way to their hotel. Lamb stopped at the front desk to let them know they had added a member to their party. Claire led Geillis upstairs to her room. Lamb followed and dropped off the suitcase although he didn’t come in.
“Claire, why don’t you and Geillis stay in the room getting acquainted? I’ll go look at that ruin south of town and come back to fetch you both for supper. Does that sound alright?”
In reality, Lamb was going to go to the orphanage and make sure that Geillis was telling the truth. Claire wouldn’t leave the hotel without him so he felt relatively safe in leaving her with Geillis. The lass wasn’t likely to drag her anywhere.
“Alright Uncle Lamb. Please don’t forget the time and be late. I hate going into the dining room without you. People are always asking me if I’ve forgotten my room number. It’s embarrassing.”
“It’s only because you are so very small Fairy Princess. I shall watch the time carefully. I promise.”
Chapter 12: Jamie 1933-1935
Summer 1933 Jamie
Things changed a bit once Willie went on tour with The White Rose. Jamie and Janet had more chores to do, things that Willie had once done. Da said that it was the way of things. Janet disagreed.
“What happens when I leave for university? Will Jamie have ta do everything by himself, or will ye hire someone to help? If ye’ll hire someone for Jamie, why won’t ye hire someone now? I dinna mean to be disrespectful Da, but I’ve already no got enough hours in the day to do lessons and languages and chores and still practice cello enough.”
Brian looked at Ellen. “The lass does have a point Ellen.” He turned a stern gaze to Janet. “Although ye could’ha been a little quieter in the askin’.”
Jenny had the grace to look abashed. “Sorry Da.”
Brian nodded. “Forgiven.”
“Ye could hire Ian Murray. He’s looking for ways to earn money for university and if ye hire him… he could still help me wit my studies like he does now.”
‘Or you could continue to help him my lad’ Ellen thought.
“That’s a fine idea son. Young Ian already kens all the horses and the way things are done here Brian, you won’t even have to train him.”
Brian nodded to Ellen. “You’re right mo chride. I’ll speak to Ian and his father tomorrow.”
Ian was hired on at a respectable wage the next day. He moved into Jamie’s room, it was larger than Willie’s room and had two beds. Jamie was thrilled.
Ian worked hard and saved every penny he could. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to go to university right away, but if he worked hard he would make it. Ian wanted to study mechanical engineering, then return to Broch Morda to make things easier for the farmers like his Da who worked long hours and aged so prematurely.
Ian also watched Jenny. He still hadn’t told her how he felt. They were friends Ian thought. Having Jenny as a friend was better than nothing.
Jenny, satisfied that her precious practice time wouldn’t be curtailed, threw herself into her cello studies. She was already quite good, and had begun to play concerts with Ellen, when Ellen played.
Jamie had always been tall for his age. Shortly after he turned thirteen he had his first growth spurt of adolescence. Jamie gained six inches before Willie came home for Hogmanay that year.
Willie seemed happy to be home. He liked singing, and the money he earned, but would have rather been drawing in preparation for Art School.
Mam wasn’t happy that The White Rose had performances over the holidays. She let Uncle Dougal and Uncle Murtagh know it.
“What the hell were ye thinkin’? Even if ye dinna care about bein’ here, the younger lads will want to see their families and their sweethearts.”
“Ellen. Lesley and I are the only two wit a sweetheart and both are in London.” Murtagh retorted.
Dougal was a widower. He’d gotten married at 16 and become a father at 17. His wife had died of smallpox along with his younger daughter. His remaining daughter had gotten married right out of school and was expecting her first child. Dougal wasn’t seeing anyone presently, preferring to woo all the patron’s wives without tying himself down.
Neither Rupert nor Angus had a sweetheart and Willie was too busy drawing when he wasn’t singing to pay attention to the lasses.
“Hmmmph. Well, I’m glad yer home.” Ellen was still annoyed but at least they made it home for Hogmanay.
“We’ll be leaving again in March for the spring series.” Dougal said.
Ellen rolled her eyes. “I ken. Let me enjoy the time wit ye, however brief it is. Aye?”
Dougal smiled and gave his little sister a hug. “Aye.”
The party that year was loud and boisterous as Hogmanay tended to be. Brian was first foot as he usually was, being dark-haired and male. Ellen and Janet played and The White Rose sang a ballad or two, then the local fiddle group played and everyone danced until they were red-faced and sweaty.
At midnight the party spilled outside to enjoy the cold starry night. Jamie saw Ian watching Jenny as she danced under the stars. He nudged his friend.
“Ye should tell her.” Ian turned to look at Jamie, then shook his head.
“Nay. I’ll no risk it.”
“Ian, Janet watches you too ye ken.” Jamie was now looking earnestly at Ian.
“No she does’na. I’ll no lose her as a friend. I’d rather ne’er tell her than lose her.”
Unbeknownst to both of them, Jenny had gotten close enough to hear what they were saying. She was still dancing and pretending she couldn’t, but listened with all her heart.
“Ian. I’m tellin’ ye, she likes ye too. I’ve seen her watching ye. She smiles at you the way Mam smiles at Da.”
Jenny’s ears turned red, but the boys didn’t notice.
“Even if she did, I’m no good enough for her. If I can maybe go to university, I can...” whatever Ian had been about to say was lost when Jenny marched up to him, grabbed his face and kissed him square on the lips. Ian was completely shocked still for a moment, then began to kiss her back enthusiastically.
When she came up for air, Jenny shook Ian in exasperation. “Ye will go to university ya great numpty. Then when ye graduate, ye’ll come home and marry me. Aye?”
The most beautiful smile stole over Ian’s face. “Aye.”
“Good. Now let’s go tell Mam before Da finds out I kissed ye and comes after ye wit the shotgun.”
“She’s havin’ ye on man.” Willie had seen the exchange and come over to find out what was happening. “Da will just be happy that someone is willing to take the wee foul harpy on ye ken.”
“WILLIAM BRIAN FRASER!” Janet’s voice wasn’t wee at all. Taking off after her brother at a run, she left Jamie and Ian laughing as she chased him across the yard.
Ellen and Brian had of course seen everything.
“Brian, go put the poor lad out of his misery.”
“Aye.” Brian looked at his wife and said thoughtfully…
“Willie’s no entirely wrong ye ken. Our Janet is a fierce wee thing. Young Ian loves her just as she is, temper and all. He’ll settle her wi’out tryin’ to change her. ‘Tis a rare thing, that.”
Now Brian looked at Ellen teasingly. “She takes after her Mam ye ken.”
Ellen laughed. “I ken. I love you.”
Brian kissed her palm. “I love you.”
Later that night, Ian lay in the bed.
“Are you ok wit this? Truly?”
Jamie leaned on an elbow. “Aye. Now ye really will be mac bhràthair.”
Ian smiled. Jamie smiled back. Then being boys, they rolled over and went to sleep.
Jamie had another growth spurt that spring. He was 14 years old and 5’11” in his stocking feet.
Thin and hollow chested as most boys that age are, Jamie turned the girls heads nonetheless. Jamie didn’t notice nor would he have cared if he did. He liked girls, he just wasn’t ready to marry one.
Having grown up with Brian and Ellen for parents, Jamie was willing to wait for that kind of love. He wouldn’t settle for a pale imitation of it. Let other boys his age kiss the girls then break their hearts. He was willing to wait until he was older and ready to marry.
Still he was kind, and that made him popular with the other students. Jamie had many friends and was comfortable talking to anyone.
His Uncle Murtagh got married in June. All the men wore kilts. Uncle Murtagh was old school and wore the great kilt rather than the wee kilt, so of course the rest of the men did too.
Jamie didn’t recognize the pretty girl sitting alone at the table. She was a tiny thing, with dark curly hair that cascaded down her back, almost to her waist. He wondered how old she was. Nine, or ten perhaps? ‘She must be bored just sitting by herself’ Jamie thought. “Are ye no going to join the dancing?”
The girl looked up at him. “I don’t know how. It’s very fun to watch though.”
Jamie was shocked. He blurted out, “You’re a Sassenach!”
“I’m a what?” She looked startled, maybe a little offended.
Jamie felt his ears turning red. “Sassenach. It means English person or Outlander.”
“Oh. Yes. I am.” Definitely offended.
He was embarrassed now. “I’m sorry. I did’na mean to be rude. It just surprised me. Suzette is French ye ken. I did’na realize that she had English relatives as well.”
The girl flashed a forgiving smile at him. “I’m not really a relative. Suzette was my mother’s secretary. When my mother died, Suzette became my secretary. I’ve known her all my life. So I wanted to come support her today.”
“That’s verra kind of you.” Jamie realized the girl must be older than she looked. She sounded like an adult.
“Would you like to sit down? I don’t really know anyone except Suzette.”
“I will, thank ye.” Jamie told himself he was being a good host. Really he just wanted to talk to the girl. There was something about her that drew his attention, although he couldn’t say what it was.
After seating himself, Jamie didn’t quite know how to continue the conversation.
“I’m sorry about yer Mam.”
“Thank you. It happened years ago.”
“Are ye here with your Da then?”
“No. He died with my mother. I’m here with my Uncle.”
Jamie blushed and mentally kicked himself.
After several minutes of awkward silence, the girl took pity on him.
“I’m Claire Beauchamp by the way.”
Now Jamie felt stupid. ‘Ye didna even introduce yerself ye numpty’
“Pleased to meet you. I am James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser.
The girl, Claire laughed. “Well, I suppose you had to have a name to match your height.”
Jamie laughed with her, comfort restored. “I’ve some growing left to do Mam says.”
“Do you live in Broch Morda?” Claire asked him.
“Nay. I live at Lallybroch. I attend school in Broch Morda though.”
“Lallybroch, where’s that?”
“Tis the estate west o the town. My Da is Laird Broch Tuarach ye ken.”
“Oh. Oh! Is your mother Ellen Fraser?”
“Yes. Do ye ken my Mam?”
“Yes. Well, no not personally. I’ve heard of her though. She’s a concert pianist.”
“She is.” Jamie was used to people wanting to meet his mother. “Would ye care to meet her? I can introduce you if ye’d like.”
“Oh would you? I haven’t had anyone to talk to about piano in ages!” Claire stood up.
Jamie nodded, standing up. ‘She must take piano lessons’ He offered Claire his arm, and led her over to Ellen Fraser who was talking to Mrs. Crook and Mrs. Fitz.
“Mam. May I present, Miss Claire Beauchamp” Jamie said with a flourish that made Ellen laugh.
Claire blushed prettily and curtsied. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Ma’am.”
“Hello my dear. My name is Ellen Fraser. I haven’t seen you in a very long time. My how you’ve grown.”
Jamie was confused. Claire said she’d never met his mother.
“I’m so sorry Ma’am. I don’t remember...” Claire said.
“No dear you wouldn’t. You were just eight the last time I saw you and we didn’t formally meet at the time. I was the pianist for the concert series in which you made your public debut.”
Claire’s face cleared. “I thought your name sounded familiar, I just couldn’t remember where I had heard it before. You are a brilliant pianist Ma’am. I was just telling your son that I hadn’t had anyone to talk piano with except my tutor since...”
Ellen’s face softened. “Yes I heard about that. I’m sorry for your loss.” Then not wanting to make the child feel awkward, “I would be delighted to talk piano with you. What are you working on right now?”
Just like that, Claire and Ellen were talking piano. Jamie sat and listened in awe. Having grown up with Ellen for a mother, he was very musically literate. Claire though, she could hold her own in a conversation with his mother, which was rare in Jamie’s experience.
He could have left, but Jamie didn’t want to. Sitting there and watching the brown haired girl talk to his mother made his wame feel odd. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.
Ellen and Claire talked for the rest of the afternoon. When it was time for Claire to leave, Ellen gave the girl a hug, not commenting when Claire stiffened before relaxing.
“It was lovely to finally meet you Claire. I wish you all success on your concert series this summer.”
“Thank you Lady Fraser.” Claire turned to Jamie.
“It was nice to meet you James. Thank you very much for talking with me and introducing me to your mother.”
Jamie was too flustered to do more than bow. By the time he figured out what to say, Claire and her uncle had already left.
“Do you remember her Jamie?”
“I dinna think so?”
“Claire is the little girl you prayed for when we went to America.”
“She was that Claire?” Jamie did remember her now, but hadn’t made the connection earlier. She seemed so much older than the little girl he remembered and occasionally thought about.
“Yes. She seems far too mature for a child her age. Claire is just fourteen after all.”
“She’s the same age as me?”
“A few months older I think, but yes.”
“At first I thought she was younger than me, nine or ten. She’s so tiny ye ken. Then when Claire started talking, I thought she was Willie’s age, or at least Jenny’s.”
“That is precisely my point. Claire acts far older than she is.”
Ellen wondered if losing her parents had something to do with it, then dismissed the thought from her mind. It’s not as if the girl had no family left, she had come with her uncle, who seemed to take good care of her. Perhaps the self-possession came from performing.
Jamie looked after her. Claire was the girl The White Rose toured with. Maybe he’d ask Willie about her.
Chapter 13: Claire 1935
Geillis advocates for Claire.
Summer tour 1935 Claire
Geillis was telling the truth. When Lamb went to the orphanage, the Matron was furious that one of her charges had been put into such a terrible situation. She promised to investigate the man in question. Then she started questioning Lamb about his intentions towards Geillis.
Lamb reassured her that he was legitimately looking for a secretary for his niece. He produced his identification papers, and invited the Matron to call Paul. She did exactly that. Paul wasn’t sure what was going on, but he was more than willing to vouch for Lamb. In the end the Matron seemed to accept that Lamb was being sincere.
They returned to England on Friday as planned, with Geillis. Lamb asked Ned to come to the house and go over things with Claire’s new secretary. That part went smoothly. Geillis was more than happy with the salary.
“As it includes room and board, I’ll be able to put away quite a bit. I dinna ken if I’ll ever get married, but it would be nice to bring something of my own to a marriage.”
Geillis had been given a room down the hall from Claire’s and they were currently in it. Claire sat in the chair with her legs tucked under her, while Geillis put her things away.
“I’ve never really thought about it. Ned handles all that sort of thing.”
“Ach. Well hen ye never have to worry about a dowry anyway. Yer parents left ye well provided for. Mam tried, but it was hard after me Da died. I think she died o tiredness, no the fever.”
Claire didn’t say anything, just nodded.
“There! No that I had much, but it’s nice to see it all tidied away. That was one o the things I hated about the orphanage. We did’na have much, but even the little we had was crammed into one drawer.” Geillis put her hands on her hips and nodded her head.
“So, I’m hungry. Shall we go down to dinner then?”
By the time Joe and Gayle and Paul returned, Geillis had learned the ropes. If Ned and Mrs. G. were anything to go by, Geillis knew she’d have to convince Paul that she could be trusted with Claire.
There wasn’t time before the tour began, to get to know everyone. Geillis was very busy during the tour of course. Working with Paul and Frank on all the administrative things. Keeping Claire’s personal correspondence sorted and sending all the reports to Ned. Making sure there was a practice room available with a locking door, that Mike the instrument caretaker, had what he needed.
Geillis also Arranged accommodations for everyone who needed them. Claire had a house everywhere she played. Paul, Joe, Gayle, Mrs. G. the driver, and now Geillis stayed with Claire. Everyone else stayed in a hotel. Geillis coordinated with Dougal Mackenzie so all the people involved with the tour stayed at the same place.
There were a million and one small things that needed tending to make the tour run smoothly. Suzette was there with Murtagh. To Geillis’ great relief and gratitude, Suzette was quite willing to answer questions. All in all, she had landed into a wonderful situation. Claire was lovely to work for and Geillis was growing very fond of the girl. Paul saw Geillis’ work and indicated his approval.
Geillis actually worked with Frank more often than Paul as the months went on. Frank was always professional, so Geillis assumed he didn’t have any issues with her. If he did, he never mentioned it and she wasn’t one to borrow trouble.
By halfway through the tour, Geillis could understand why everyone around Claire was so protective. There was an innocence about Claire that wakened that impulse in a person. What concerned Geillis was the lack of interaction Claire had with the world. As mature as Claire was, she was incredibly naive about certain things.
Claire lived in a bubble, spending her days and nights with a very small group of people. No one else got within ten feet of her.
It was shocking for Geillis to realize that The White Rose had been touring with Claire for almost three years and Claire didn’t know any of the men in the group beyond their names and faces.
Finally, Geillis couldn’t stand it anymore. It was dangerous to shelter Claire so much. She went and talked to Joe and Gayle.
Joe didn’t understand her concern at first.
“Look Geillis, Claire is a little sister to me. Protecting her is what I should be doing as her big brother.”
“I’m no sayin’ that ye should’na protect her Joe. I’m sayin’ that she’s isolated and that is’na healthy.”
“What? You think she should go to parties or something?”
“No. Joe, dinna put words in my mouth. That is’na what I mean at all.”
Joe was starting to get angry. “Well then explain what you do mean.”
Geillis took a breath, gathering her thoughts. “Claire is fourteen Joe. Who does she talk to that’s her age?”
Gayle’s face lit up with understanding. “She’s right Joe. Claire doesn’t have any friends her own age.”
Geillis shook her head. “No, that is’na exactly what I mean though that’s part of it. Claire does’na have any friends.”
“She does too!!!! I’m her friend. I’m her best friend.”
“No ye are’na.” Joe started to puff up in anger.
Geillis held up a hand. “I ken ye love her, and I ken ye’re close. But Joe, ye said it yerself. Ye look at her as a little sister. Paul sees her as a niece, she is Lamb’s niece. Mrs. G, and Ned and Simon and Auld Alec and even me, all see her as an employer. Frank Randall sees her as a concert act to manage.
Claire spends her days either practicing or doing schoolwork or performing, surrounded by adults. She does’na socialize with anyone her age. Most of the time she does’na talk to anyone except the people I’ve listed, and her tutors.
Ye’re all so busy trying to protect her from life that ye are’na letting her live it. So every time something happens to change her routine, Claire does’na handle it well. Oh she never complains and goes along with things, but if ye look at her eyes ye can see the panic." Geillis took a deep breath.
"I used to live in an orphanage. We had no choice about anythin’ in our lives, and we complained about it all the time. Claire never complains about anythin. I’m no sayin’ I want her to become a diva like that Dunsany woman ye were telling me about Gayle, but she’s fourteen. A little more… expressing her opinion, would’na be a bad thing. Ye ken?”
Joe was pensive. “I see your point Geillis, but I don’t really know how we can change anything. Claire’s always been reserved, even more so since her parents died.”
“I ken that. I dinna want to force Claire into something she does’na want. I do think that we should be preparing her better to stand on her own feet. Everyone around her does all the hard things, to protect her. She needs to do for herself, in case someday, we aren’t here to do it. If we dinna, someone could take advantage of her verra badly and she would’na even ken it.”
Joe threw up his hands. “Fine! I see your point. What do you suggest we do then?”
Fer a start, it would’na be a bad thing for her to socialize a bit more with the other musicians. Especially the ones she works directly with.
I ken Rupert and Angus can be a bit...earthy. Claire’s going to have to learn to deal with men like that some day. At least with The White Rose Suzette and I will be there to… temper things a bit. Murtagh’s a good man and so is Dougal. They willna let the lads go too far, but it will expose Claire to a bit more of the world.”
“How do we go about doing that?”
“How about having her sing duets with them?” Gayle suggested.
Joe shook his head. “Dad can’t get her to sing.”
“I bet I could.” Geillis said.
“Sure. Dinna forget Joe I may act like I’m twenty five, but I’m only sixteen. I want to be Claire’s friend. Friends are honest with one another and that’s what I plan to be with Claire. She has a beautiful voice and it’s a crime that she does’na share it with people more.”
Joe and Gayle both started to laugh. “You have her number alright. That’s just the approach that will work.”
Geillis looked smug. Now to convince Claire.
Autumn 1935 Claire
In the end, it wasn’t difficult. Claire had been working with a voice teacher and was ready to sing again. Paul was ecstatic. They spent most of September and October re-working the program and adding in some duets between Claire and some of the men from The White Rose for the Holiday series.
There were no love songs. Claire may have turned fifteen, but no one was quite ready for that, least of all Claire.
The duets she sang were all holiday pieces.
O Holy Night, Claire sang with Lesley in English and then Willie in French.
She sang a two part arrangement of O Come O Come Emmanuel with Angus.
Rupert sang In Dulci Jubilo with Claire in the original alternating German and Latin text.
Claire sang Un Flambeau Jeanette Isabella with Murtagh. That always made Suzette cry.
The last piece was a 17th century version of Alma Redemptoris Mater in Latin that Claire sang with Dougal. His deeper bass supported her soprano and the Latin language quite well.
Originally, Claire had planned to sing at the end of her program, with the men continuing after the intermission. After they rehearsed it that way, everyone agreed that it made the program unbalanced. The duets were moved to the beginning of the program. Claire played the instrumental portion, followed by an intermission. The White Rose came out and sang again after the intermission to finish the program.
Now that Claire was working directly with them, she stayed and listened to The White Rose perform. Mrs. Graham and Mr. Randall always sat with her. Sitting next to Frank made Claire feel very grown up. She still had a crush on him, but never let on. She always called him Mr. Randall out loud, just as she called Uncle Paul Mr. Abernathy.
Staying to listen to The White Rose meant that Claire got home late and went to a later Mass on Sunday. She thought it was a good trade off.
The series was short, only nine performances. Three in November, four in December and two in January. Claire found that she enjoyed singing in public again. After the series was over, Claire sat down with Paul and Dougal to talk about the Spring series which would be starting rehearsals the first week in February. Frank and Geillis sat in on the meeting as well, taking notes.
“This summer will be the last concert series Willie will be wit us ye ken. He’s off to Paris, to University in September. I have a replacement lined up for him already, a lad named Ian Murray. He wilna be able to sing duets for a bit. I need to get Ian integrated wit The White Rose first ye ken. He’ll most likely be able to sing the O Holy Night in French for the holiday series though.”
Paul nodded. “That’s understandable. Claire, did you have any preferences as to what you’d like to sing for the Spring concert?”
“Not really, although there are some folk songs I’d like to sing by myself.” She turned to Dougal.
“Does anyone sing in Italian? Also, do you know of any women that can sing mezzo soprano or contralto? I’ve been thinking that maybe we could add some polyphonic pieces, but we need more than just my soprano for that.”
Paul and Dougal both looked at Claire in surprise. “Are you thinking of moving to an all choral program Claire?” Paul wanted to know. “If so, this is the first I’ve heard of it.” ‘He looks so tired’ Claire thought to herself.
“No. Well, not entirely I mean. I just thought, you’re always wanting me to add performances. I know that it would help financially if we could perform two nights a week instead of just on Saturdays, but I’d get bored playing the same things two nights in a row and it would come out in my performance.
We could do a Polyphonic program on Fridays with The White Rose singing their madrigals and my usual Instrumental program. On Saturdays, The White Rose could sing their ballads for the first half, along with me singing solo pieces. Anyone that wants to can sing solo pieces actually. We could hire some instrumental musicians and do an orchestral work for the second half.”
Paul was nodding, his face lighting up. “That is a brilliant idea Claire. Are you up for that though? Two performances a week?”
“I think so. I’m fifteen. If we hire more musicians it will give more people a job too. Can we try? If it becomes too much for me, we can figure something else out.”
Dougal spoke up at this point. “I do ken some lasses back home that can sing. I can make inquiries once we decide how many and what voices.”
Dougal made some notes and then looked at Claire.
“For your orchestra...Some of the lads play an instrument, as do several of the lasses I’m thinkin’ of for the choral music. Would ye be willing to audition them for your orchestral pieces?”
“Of course. If I’m going to play two nights a week, anyone else who wants to should be given the chance.” Claire spoke up before Paul could say anything. “I can’t guarantee anything of course, it wouldn’t be fair to anyone including the musician, to hire someone who can’t perform the repertoire up to standard.”
“I can agree with that.” Paul found his voice finally. So it was decided. They would be adding a second performance and more musicians to their tours. Paul was privately relieved. It was getting more difficult for him to pretend all was well. He would need to tell Joe soon. And Claire.
Paul was turning more and more of the management responsibilities over to Frank. He gave the excuse of the groups in the U.S.
Truthfully, there were no groups in the U.S. anymore. Paul had turned them over to another manager when he went last summer. Claire and The White Rose were the only groups he had left. Paul hoped that it would be enough for Frank.
Frank was everything Paul had wanted for his honorary niece. Professional, efficient and completely focused on promoting Claire.
If they added a second performance every week, Frank wouldn’t have to take on any other clients. He could live quite comfortably just managing Claire and The White Rose. Paul would speak to Frank and the rest of the staff after speaking with Joe and Claire when Lamb came home for Easter.
Living with Claire had allowed Paul to save most of his income over the last several years for Joe’s schooling. He’d put it all into a trust that Ned was managing for him. Paul had made out his will and tied up all the loose ends. Now he just had to make it to June so Joe’s schooling wasn’t interrupted.
Chapter 14: Singing again...
Claire steps out of her comfort zone a bit and makes some friends.
Claire hadn’t been had performance anxiety in years. Maybe it was just social anxiety. Claire wasn’t sure. She’d been nervous in social situations before. This wasn’t a social situation though. It was a music rehearsal. So why was she nervous?
Today was Claire’s first rehearsal with the new group for the polyphonic pieces. The group hadn’t come up with a name yet, although several possibilities had been discussed between Paul, Dougal, Murtagh and Claire. Claire’s favorite was Mystic Rose, after the Blessed Mother. Dougal thought it was too close to the The White Rose. He wanted to name the group The Schola, which was a reference to the schola cantorum or music schools in the church. They couldn’t agree so the debate continued.
The instrument auditions had gone quite well, with several members of The White Rose earning spots in the small orchestra which didn’t yet have a name either.
There were five women that would be singing, along with Claire. Moira Mohr was 18 and a Lyric Soprano. Angus was her brother and Lesley her cousin. Janet Fraser was 18 and a Mezzo Soprano.
Mary McKimmie was 23 and a contralto. Elizabeth Mackenzie was 21 and also a contralto. Both girls were nieces of Dougal’s. The last girl Laoghaire Mackenzie was a Lyric soprano and just 15. She was a distant cousin.
Laoghaire’s father had auditioned for the orchestra, he played Clarinet. Claire’s voice was currently classified as Mezzo Soprano, although her lower range was stronger.
All of the girls were in the Orchestra. Janet played cello. Mary and Elizabeth played the violin. Moira played the flute as did Laoghaire. Claire was hoping with spending so much time, she would have a chance to get to know them better, especially the ones nearer her age.
Not all of the men played in the orchestra.
Rupert played oboe and Ian played Viola. Murtagh played a variety of percussion instruments and Dougal played the viola. Angus played the trumpet, but wasn’t good enough to pass the audition. He was much better on the Bagpipes, which wasn’t really an orchestral instrument.
Claire felt bad though, he was the only one from the singing group that auditioned but didn’t get a place. Dougal told her not to worry about it. Claire couldn’t help it. She told Angus that if he practiced, she’d let him try out again for the fall series. Dougal and Paul both rolled their eyes, while Angus thanked her and said he would.
They hired other musicians to fill out the orchestra. It wasn’t a full orchestra, more of a chamber ensemble. Normally it would be hard to hire enough even for the smaller ensemble. Times were hard and a lot more people auditioned than they could hire.
Claire had been a little shocked at the response. Were things still that bad for people?
Entering the rehearsal hall, Claire hung back, until Geillis spotted her.
“Ah. There ye are hen. Come meet everyone.” Dragging her into the room, Geillis stopped when they reached the group of people near the piano.
“Hi Claire.” That was Ian. He smiled at her and Claire smiled back. Ian was always nice to her. He reminded Claire of Joe. Between school and his new marriage, Joe wasn’t around as much and she missed him.
“Hi Ian. Am I late?” She asked Dougal.
“No. We aren’t due to begin for five more minutes.”
“Oh good. I got caught up in a piece I’m working on and lost track of time.”
Dougal just nodded. Claire often got caught up in something. She was always working.
“Right. Since we’re all here, I’ll pass out the music and we can begin.”
For the polyphonic program it had been decided that they would sing through a Mass. It was a combination of chanted pieces, motets, and a polyphonic Ordinary.
Since they were singing through the Lenten season for this program, they had decided to sing The Introit Chant for Good Friday, Palestrina’s Missa In Te Domine Speravi, (without the Gloria and a chanted Credo instead of a polyphonic one) Pater Noster by Orlando di Lasso and Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere, for motets.
It was fairly complicated repertoire, but Claire hadn’t picked it, Dougal had. He knew all of the singers including Claire and was the leader of The White Rose. Claire trusted his judgment.
The sing through went fairly well. Everyone was professional even the girl Claire’s age, Laoghaire. She had a beautiful voice, clear and strong. Claire hoped they might become friends.
They rehearsed for two hours, then broke for supper. Claire and the men would come back after to rehearse the duets. Geillis would be there too of course, and Suzette.
For supper everyone went to a nearby pub. Claire had never been in a pub before. It was interesting. The food was good, beefsteak sandwiches and fried potatoes. Suzette ordered tea for herself and Claire. Most of the group including Geillis and Laoghaire had beer.
Geillis gave Claire a sip of hers. Claire made a face, and the men all laughed.
Claire blushed. Ian leaned over and said “dinna fash. My Jenny does’na care for it either. Pointing to Janet Fraser’s tea cup. Jenny smiled at Ian. “No I dinna. Tastes like a sour bread sponge.” Claire giggled.
“You said you were working on a piece earlier. Is it something for piano then?” Ian asked in a friendly way.
“No, it’s an orchestral work. I’ve been working on it for several years, but I don’t play all the instruments, so I sometimes write notes that an instrument can’t play. Then I have to give it to another instrument to preserve the melody.”
“You mean to say you’re composing an orchestral work?” Jenny asked.
“Yes.” Claire nodded. “I started it when I was nine as an exercise for music theory. I’ve just kept going. I might not ever finish it, but I’m learning so much.”
“That sounds amazing. Who’s your theory teacher? My mother is mine.” Jenny said.
“My mother was mine too. I don’t have one now.” Claire said quietly.
Jenny felt bad, but kept going to take attention from it. “So, which books are you using then? Would you mind if I studied with you sometimes? My Mam is back in Scotland and I want to keep learning.”
Claire was taken aback for a minute. Then she was intrigued by the idea. She’d never studied music with anyone not a teacher. “Yes, if you want to. I think I’d like that. Where do you stay while you’re in London?”
“Ian and I both stay with my Uncle Murtagh and Auntie Suzette. Mam would have had a fit if I stayed in the group home with the other girls. Besides, I’d never be able to practice properly there.”
The group home was a large house in London that Dougal rented for the entire group to live in together. The men were on one wing and the women on the other. Brian had a small house in London, and Murtagh stayed there with Jenny and Ian.
“You play cello, right?” Claire asked.
Jenny nodded. Ian had turned back to talk to Rupert about something. Jenny scooted closer to Claire so she could hear.
“Could I ask you some questions about the cello Jenny? I play violin, but I can’t always tell if I’m writing the cello part correctly.”
“What days are best for you to come to my house? I have a practice room at home, which is where I compose. If you brought the cello, maybe you could...try some things out so I could hear them?” Claire was very nervous waiting for Jenny’s response.
“I would love that. Could Ian come? He plays viola.”
“Oh. Yes. I don’t mind Ian. He’s nice.”
Jenny smiled at that. “Yes, he is.”
“He reminds me of Joe.”
“Oh. Well...he’s almost like my brother, or an older cousin, though we aren’t blood relatives. He’s Mr. Abernathy’s son. He’s in his last year at Oxford, and he just got married. He and his wife Gayle still live at the estate, but I don’t see him so often. Gayle sets up all the sound equipment while Joe is in school.”
Jenny blinked. That was a lot of information.
“You miss him, huh?”
“A lot. He’s been my best friend my whole life.”
That struck Jenny as odd. It was obvious that Joe was much older than Claire. Shouldn’t her best friend be someone closer to her in age? Jenny didn’t comment though. She didn’t have enough information yet.
“What day works best for you Claire?”
“Hmmm. Maybe Wednesday? We have choir rehearsals on Monday, Thursday and Friday. Orchestra rehearsal is on Tuesday and Saturday evenings. Once performances start we’ll have performances on Friday and Saturday and rehearsals the other days. My instrument teachers come Wednesday mornings, but I have the afternoon and evening to work on my own. Can you come then?”
“Whew! That’s a brutal schedule. Are ye sure ye want me to come on Wednesdays?” When did the lass have downtime? Jenny thought.
“Oh yes. That’s when I usually work on composing anyway.”
“I’ll have to talk to Uncle Murtagh, but I think I can.” Maybe composing was Claire’s downtime.
“That would be wonderful. Thank you Jenny.”
Geillis didn’t say anything, just listened to the exchange. She shared a smile with Suzette. This would be good for Claire.
It was good for Claire. Jenny and Ian went to Claire’s house nearly every Wednesday afternoon after that. They spent most of their time working on music of course.
Many weeks it was dinner time before they stopped, so Jenny and Ian stayed to eat. This gave them a chance to talk about things other than music. Claire loved the interaction with people closer to her in age. Geillis was there too, and got on with the couple as well.
Jenny and Ian quickly realized that Claire was incredibly naive about anything not music related. After discussing things with Geillis privately, Jenny decided to broaden Claire’s horizons a bit.
With this in mind, Jenny invited Claire to visit the shops with her and the other girls one Saturday afternoon before orchestra rehearsal. Claire was a little nervous, but not as much as she had been for that first rehearsal.
The girls were all welcoming and tried to include Claire in their conversations. Claire didn’t have a lot to contribute, she mostly listened to the other girls. They talked about friends back home, things they were studying and boys.
After shopping for a bit, they stopped into a tearoom for tea and scones. The conversation continued.
Jenny was engaged to Ian, she mostly talked about her plans for their wedding. Moira, Elizabeth and Mary Mckimmie all talked about their beaus. Elizabeth was dating Lesley Mohr. The other two were dating lads back home.
Geillis hinted about an older man that she had a crush on, but wouldn’t give his name. After some teasing, Geillis turned to Laoghaire. “What about you hen? Is there a lad back home waiting for ye?”
The girl turned a bright pink color. “No. I am no seein’ anyone.”
Geillis smelled blood in the water. “Ah...but there’s a lad ye’re sweet on. Come on tell us about him.”
“There is a boy, yes. He’s verra handsome and ever so tall. He’s nice to me. I think he likes me too, but I canna tell for sure.”
“Why do you think he likes ye?”
“He stopped mac bhràthair picking on me last year. Took a punch for it too. He must like me or he would’na done that.”
Jenny scoffed. “I’ve told ye before Laoghaire. Jamie does’na fancy ye. He sticks up for anyone that’s picked on. Ye’re no special.”
Claire perked up at that. “Jamie Fraser? Ellen Fraser’s son?”
“Yes. The clotheid is my youngest bhràthair. He’s always lookin’ out for the picked on. He does it for animals too. Kindest heart o anyone I ken. He does’na chase after the girls though. Says he’s no ready to look for a wife and he wil’na gie a lass a chance to misunderstand until he is ready. He won’t even be 15 until May ye ken.”
Jenny turned to Laoghaire. “If ye want to chase after the lads ’tis yer own concern. You leave mac bhràthair out o yer games though, ye ken?”
Laoghaire looked offended. “I’m no chasin’ after anyone no even yer bhràthair. I just said he was nice and I like him.”
“Alright then. See that ye don’t.” Jenny was determined to have the last word.
“Jenny? What does bhràthair mean exactly?” Claire thought it meant brother. She wasn’t sure.
“It means brother in the Gàidhlig.”
“So Jamie is your brother. Of course! I don’t know why I didn’t make the connection before.”
“Ellen Fraser is your mother. She’s really nice. Jamie is too.” Claire turned to Laoghaire. “I can see why you would like him. He was very kind to me at Murtagh’s wedding last summer.”
“Oh, He was?” Claire didn’t recognize Laoghaire’s tone as a jealous one, though the others all did.
“Yes. He sat and talked with me for a few minutes because I was sitting alone. Then introduced me to Lady Fraser.” Claire looked at Jenny. “I had a wonderful discussion with her about piano until Uncle Lamb decided it was time to go.”
“Ye kept up in a discussion with my mother about music?” Jenny was amazed.
“It wasn’t really in depth or anything. I just hadn’t talked to anyone about music except my instructors since my mother died.” Claire didn’t see that it was a big deal. Everyone except Geillis knew Ellen Fraser. They did see the big deal.
“Wow. I’d have loved to have seen that.” Moira said.
Claire looked confused, so Jenny explained. “There aren’t many people who are willing to talk piano with my mother for hours. So I’m sure it was lovely for her as well.”
Geillis looked at her watch just then and yelped.
“We should be going to the rehearsal hall before we’re late.”
With a flurry of wiping faces and putting on coats, they went off to rehearsal.
There wasn’t anymore discussion on the way, except the music they were rehearsing.
At the back, Geillis and Jenny exchanged looks.
Jenny couldn’t stand Laoghaire. She was a shameless flirt that tossed her hair at all the boys to get attention. Jenny had heard the jealous tone when Claire talked about Jamie, and didn’t want the poor lass to become Laoghaire’s target. Particularly when Claire wouldn’t understand why.
It was just like her brother to look after someone sitting alone. Jenny didn’t think it had been more than that, if Claire’s reaction was anything to go by. Of course, Jamie could be head over heels in love and the lass would’na ken, as innocent as she was.
Geillis had heard Laoghaire’s tone too. Unlike Jenny, Geillis thought that Claire needed a boy her age to take an interest. She had seen the looks that Frank Randall gave Claire when he thought no one was watching. It creeped her out. It wasn’t the age difference per se. Frank was twelve years older than Claire.
Geillis had no room to talk. She had a massive crush on Dougal Mackenzie and he was almost twenty years older than she was. No it wasn’t the age difference. It was the way Frank looked at her. Geillis couldn’t put her finger on why it bothered her...there was just something wrong about it.
Geillis would have to talk to Jenny about getting her brother to come for a visit.
So I'm taking a small poll. Which name does everyone want for the vocal group?
Mystic Rose or The Schola?
Also...you can look up any of the music I listed by title and or composer on you tube. There are some lovely versions. I'm sure they are on other websites too, but you tube is the one I frequent.
Chapter 15: Cancer...
Paul finally tells Joe and Claire about his cancer.
The Spring series was a resounding success. Almost every show sold out after the first week. Part of that was due to the smaller venues that Claire preferred. Paul had always agreed that the smaller concert halls were better suited to her music and to the vocal performances. They ended up doing 24 performances over the three months.
There were other benefits too. Claire had begun to spend more time with the other performers outside of rehearsal. Geillis had become a good friend, although there was still a certain reserve in their interactions since Geillis worked for her, that Claire couldn’t quite dispense with. She also considered Jenny a friend. Moira and Elizabeth were fun to spend time with too. The only person Claire hadn’t gotten to know well was Laoghaire.
She didn’t quite understand why Laoghaire rejected her overtures of friendship, but Claire didn’t lose sleep over it either. Julia had taught her very young that sometimes, you just didn’t click with someone else, and that was ok. Claire was polite to Laoghaire and Laoghaire was polite back. They had to work together, so that was the best way to handle it Claire thought.
The men were fun to spend time with too, even though most of them were older. They did a lot of things as a group, going to see museums and taking hikes, even going on a gondola ride in Italy.
Claire, accompanied by her driver Simon, stopped in to see Oncle Ray when she was in Paris. He was delighted to visit with her and went to that evening’s concert. Since Oncle Ray was there, Claire attended the Saturday reception after the performance. This marked the first time she attended one of the receptions. Everyone was there except Paul. He had gone home, saying something about having a headache. Frank was there, he talked to the patrons instead of Paul.
“You were lovely as always Madonna.”
“Merci Oncle Ray.”
They chatted for some time. Ray asked after Lamb who was on another dig, this time in South America. After about thirty minutes, Frank approached them.
“Claire, if you are willing, there are some patrons that would like to meet you.”
“Oh. Really?” Claire was surprised. Paul always handled the patrons.
Ray bowed over her hand as though she were the Queen. “I will take my leave then Madonna. Shall we have brunch aprés Mass tomorrow?”
“Oh yes, let’s. I’m going to Notre Dame with Geillis and Mrs. Graham. Could you come over at 2:00?”
“Of course. I shall most likely attend an earlier Mass, so I will see you at 2. Bonsoir ma petit.”
Ray left. For the rest of the evening, Frank introduced her to patrons attending the reception, who made much of her. Claire was a little embarrassed at the effusiveness of their praise, but flattered that so many people wanted to meet her. Maybe she should attend these receptions once in awhile. It would probably make Paul’s job easier. He looked tired all the time now.
Frank stayed with Claire the entire time. He was charming and attentive, filling in the silences when Claire didn’t know how to respond to someone. Claire pretended in her mind, that Frank was her beau.
Claire stayed far longer than she had intended, and it was very late when she got back to the house. They were going home on Monday and Joe would be there. It would be so nice to see him.
Claire was getting used to the new driver. Simon had retired a week ago, when they got home from the tour. Claire had known about it and had met Hector when Simon started training him. The old driver training the new one wasn’t typical, but Hector was Simon’s grandson.
It was nice for Claire because Hector knew his duties from day one and never got lost. He was taller than Simon, and a lot stronger. Hector was also willing to talk to Claire more, although when anyone else was around he didn’t.
They were on their way home from the Market. Joe was coming home today and Claire had gone out to get him some fresh strawberries for dinner that night. Joe loved strawberries and they were just in season. Pulling up to the curb, Hector got out and opened the door for Claire. She stepped onto the curb and ran smack into someone. Looking up Claire saw it was Frank Randall.
He had put up his arms to steady her and Claire’s skin burned at the touch of his hands on her arms.
“Mr. Randall? What are you doing here?” Claire wracked her brain trying to think if she had missed a meeting.
“Good afternoon Claire. I just stopped by to pick some paperwork up from Paul. I was on my way out in fact.” After a moment, Frank released her arms and took a step back.
“Oh. I see.” Claire blushed. “I’m sorry I crashed into you just now. I was thinking about seeing Joe and didn’t look where I was going.”
“I understand completely. Joe is a brother to you. Of course you missed him.”
Claire smiled her usual smile, the one that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Yes, I did.” After a moment…
“I should get the berries inside. It was nice to see you Mr. Randall.”
“You as well Claire.” Frank tipped his hat and walked away down the sidewalk.
Claire turned to Hector, taking the berries from him and making her way inside the house. She didn’t see Frank turn and watch her go in with a hungry gaze. Claire shut the door and Frank finally realized he was being stared at. Hector was looking at him with an eyebrow raised in challenge. Frank smiled at Hector noncommittally and turned away.
Hector shook his head and went to put the car away. He’d be telling Joe and Geillis about that little encounter.
Claire went into the house and heard voices coming from the sitting room. Joe was in there, talking to his Dad. Gayle must not be home yet, Claire thought.
“There you are. Come here Lady Jane!” Claire happily went to be hugged. Joe picked her up and twirled her around.
“It’s so good to see you!”
“I missed you too. Where’d you go this morning?”
Claire held up the package. “To get you a homecoming present. Strawberries for dinner.”
“mmmm. I love strawberries. Thanks LJ.”
“Of course. Let me take these to the kitchen. I’ll be right back.”
When Claire returned to the sitting room Gayle had joined them. She looked at Joe and nodded, smiling.
“Dad, LJ… Gayle and I have something to tell you.”
Paul knew instantly. He smiled from ear to ear.
“What?” Claire wasn’t quite as quick.
“We’re having a baby.” Claire squealed and hugged Gayle, then Joe, then Gayle again. Paul shook Joe’s hand and hugged Gayle.
“Congratulations. When is the blessed event?”
“Late October, or early November. Gayle timed it perfectly. The Fall concert series ends on October 15th. The Holiday series doesn’t begin until the third week in November.” Joe was only half kidding.
“You know we’d work it out anyway. How is this going to work with your schooling?”
“I only have a few classes left. I’ll do those in fall term and then take the spring off. I wasn’t going to start medical school until next fall anyway.”
Joe had been accepted into the university in Glasgow pending his final grades.
Paul nodded. That seemed sensible to him. He still hadn’t told Joe. It could wait a week or two.
The summer tour went well. There was less travel this year, they only went to Paris and Austria, skipping Italy this time. Paul was looking more and more tired as the tour progressed. Frank now attended all the receptions instead of Paul.
Claire attended one in Paris and one in Austria. She was usually too tired after performing, but Frank asked her to attend one in each country so people could meet her. Frank said that ticket sales had increased after she attended the reception in Paris, would she please help again? Claire didn’t really want to go, but felt as though she couldn’t refuse either. Mr. Randall had been so charming and acted like her presence made all the difference in the success of the tour. So Claire went.
The receptions were tedious. It was like a continuation of her stage performance.
All the members of The White Rose and Mystic Rose were there. Claire didn’t get to talk to any of them. Frank kept her occupied with meeting patrons the entire night.
Claire was able to observe what Suzette meant though. Women did throw themselves at all the men. Some of the men seemed to enjoy it. Some, especially Ian and Murtagh didn’t. Jenny and Suzette ran a lot of interference for their men it seemed to Claire. ‘How annoyed they must be’ she thought.
Claire was glad when the tour ended. Joe had two weeks before he started school again.
Late August 1936
Gayle was due in about nine weeks. Paul knew that he had to tell them. Joe suspected that something was going on, Paul couldn’t hide the pain and exhaustion anymore. He decided to tell them at dinner that night. Lamb was home, he was teaching the fall term before going on another South American dig.
All through dinner, Paul struggled to find the words. Geillis was at dinner also, talking with Claire and Lamb about the dig he had just come from. Gayle was listening too, but Joe was watching his father. After the meal, the six of them retired to the sitting room.
“What’s going on Dad?” Joe asked bluntly.
“I...”Paul couldn’t make himself say it.
“Would ye like me to leave Paul?” Geillis wanted to know.
“No. You should hear this too. Claire will need you.”
“I...” Paul took a deep breath.
He could do this.
“I have cancer.”
There was dead silence for several moments. The first question came from Lamb surprisingly enough.
“How long have you known?”
“Almost three years. I found out the summer of 1934.”
“How long do you have?” Gayle asked.
“Not long. The doctors told me I should have died six months ago. I’m hoping to see my grandchild before...”
Joe and Claire were both silent and still as statues. After another minute of silence...
“That’s why you’ve been having Frank do everything.” This came from Geillis.
Paul nodded. “Yes. I wanted the transition to be as smooth as possible for everyone.”
Joe got up kicking the chair as he did. He stormed out of the room slamming the door behind him. Gayle followed him, with an apologetic look at Paul.
Claire stood up much more quietly. She crossed to Paul and gave him a gentle hug. “I’m sorry Uncle Paul. Are you in pain at all?” She hadn’t called him Uncle Paul in years. Not since her parents died.
“No darling girl. The doctors gave me medicine for the pain.”
It didn’t do any good these days, but Paul would never tell Claire that. They held each other for awhile, then Claire asked...
“Is that why you kept pushing for me to perform more often?”
“Partially. I wanted to make sure you were firmly established. The more I could get your name out there, the more likely you could continue after I wasn’t there to...” Paul swallowed and continued. "Look after you."
Claire just nodded.
“My main reason was more selfish. I needed to make as much money as I could for Joe.”
Paul paused again, choosing his words carefully.
“I love you Claire, you know that. I wasn’t so worried about you, Henry and Julia left you well provided for.”
“But Joe. Joe is my son. He is all that will be left of me, ever. I had to make sure he could realize his dream of becoming a doctor. All the money I could save, I put into a trust for him. Ned manages it for me. There’s enough for Joe’s education. More than enough actually. I set up a trust for the baby too.”
Claire nodded again. She understood. Paul loved Joe. Claire loved Joe too. She didn’t blame Paul for wanting to make sure his son was taken care of.
“Why didn’t you tell us before?”
“Yeah Dad. Why didn’t you tell us before?” Joe had come back into the room in time to hear Paul’s explanation. He was still angry. Gayle put a hand on his arm and Joe visibly tried to calm himself.
“At first, I didn’t quite believe the doctors. Then, I was trying to secure your future. If I had told you two years ago, you would have dropped out of school. I didn’t want that for you.”
“Well what if I wanted to spend the time with you?” “Did you ever think of that?”
“I did actually. That’s why I handed off all the U.S. groups that summer you got married. I wanted to spend as much time with you as I could. What I didn’t want was for you to stop living your life, waiting for me to die.” Joe deflated a little bit at that.
“I know you’re angry with me son. Please remember that I made the decisions I did because I love you.”
Joe swallowed. “I can’t promise to remember that every day. But I’ll try. I love you too Dad.”
Paul stood and crossed the room. He hugged Joe, who hugged him back. “I know you need some time to come to terms with this and I need some rest anyway. We can talk tomorrow. Ok?”
“Can we?” Joe looked at his father searchingly.
Paul nodded again. “Yes. I meant it when I said that I want to meet my grandchild. I have a little time yet.”
Joe hugged him again. “Ok.”
Paul hugged him back and then excused himself. “I’m sorry, I need to go to bed. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Joe looked at him.
“I promise Joe. I have time yet. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Joe nodded. “Ok Dad. Sleep well.”
Paul left the room.
Geillis stood and excused herself to follow. She needed to make plans.
“Are you ok Joe?”
“I don’t know LJ.”
Lamb spoke up then. “Joe, you may not understand why your father didn’t tell you...but you have to realize he thought he was protecting you.”
“I know Lamb. That’s what makes this so hard. He’s not wrong. I would have quit school. I would have put my life and future on hold for him.”
“He knew that. He didn’t want you to and Joe, you need to respect his choice. I’m not saying you don’t have a right to your feelings, but Paul doesn’t have the time for you to get over this. He’s dying. Make sure you never have cause to regret how you spend the time you have left with him.”
Joe nodded. Lamb was right. They hadn’t gotten to say good bye to Henry and Julia. He had the time to say what he needed to say to Paul.
Gayle was sitting next to Claire. “How are you doing Claire?”
“I’m sad. I’m also grateful. I have time to make sure Uncle Paul knows I love him and that I appreciate everything he’s done for me.” Claire was teary, but not falling apart.
So a little sad...but not terribly so. That's life though. Happy and sad intertwined.
Chapter 16: Requiem Aeternum
Joe and Gayle's baby is born...they say goodbye to Paul.
Have a hanky and your coping beverage of choice at hand. This chapter is sad. But there's a little bit of Jamie at the end to ease the pain.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The next two weeks were spent discussing plans for the fall concert series. Now that Joe and Claire had been told, Paul announced his condition to the rest of the staff, along Dougal and Murtagh.
It was decided that the Fall Series would be split with the first half of performances being in France and the second half in London. Frank continued going to all the receptions. Claire did not attend any, preferring to go home as soon as she was done performing. Gayle did the sound set ups, Joe stayed at the London house with his father.
Claire was relieved when the series ended and Paul was still with them. She took a break from her lessons and even from composing. Jenny and Ian understood, and still visited just to spend time with her. Geillis was relieved. She didn’t want Claire to isolate herself again and would have gone to Paul if necessary.
Whenever she was home, Claire spent part of every day with Paul. He lay on the sofa and listened to her practicing. She even allowed him in to listen to her practice harp. Claire sang all of Paul’s favorite songs. Privately she began praying a Novena to Saint Joseph for Paul to have a happy death.
Joe played chess with his Dad and had long conversations. Paul for his part, tried to pass on every bit of fatherly advice he could think of.
By the end of October, Paul had become very frail. The pain medication no longer worked at all, so he was in tremendous pain. He slept a lot, but refused to leave the sofa during the day. He wanted to spend his time with his loved ones. This suited the rest of the family just fine. The sitting room became the place to find Joe and Claire most days. Gayle and Geillis worked with the staff to keep the house running smoothly and Lamb spent all his evenings at home too.
As Paul weakened, he spent more time thinking about what happened after death. Joe never pushed him but they did have long conversations about eternity. For most of his life, Paul had been an indifferent Catholic. Oh, he made sure Joe was raised in the church, for Victoria’s sake, but Paul had never quite forgiven God for taking her when Joe was born.
Knowing that his life was ending, Paul asked Joe to request Fr. Anselm to come and hear Paul’s confession. Joe did so immediately. After explaining Paul’s situation to the priest, Fr. Said he’d be right over.
Fr. Anselm was in the room with Paul for quite some time. When the priest finally emerged, he let them know that he would be available for the last rites, at any time of the day they should need him. Joe thanked the priest and Geillis showed him out.
When they entered the sitting room Paul looked like he’d been crying, but he also looked more relaxed. As though a great weight had been lifted from him.
“I’m fine Joe. Thanks for asking Father to come.”
“Yes Uncle Paul.”
“Will you...sing for my Requiem?”
Claire swallowed. “Of course. What would you like me to sing?”
“Two things actually.”
“The Ave Maria by Bach/Gounod at the church. I’d also like you to chant the In Paradisum at the cemetery. The White Rose has already agreed to sing the Requiem Mass for me.”
“Thank you darling girl.” Paul had taken to calling her that since he told them about the cancer.
“I love you Uncle Paul.”
Joe and Gayle’s first child entered the world on November 7th 1936. They named her Victoria Paulina. Everyone called her Lina. Weighing in at a robust 8 pounds even. Gayle had a fairly easy time and the baby had been born at home with a midwife in attendance. Joe spent the evening in the sitting room with Paul, who in between naps tried to distract his son from what was going on upstairs. Claire was in the room as well, although she went upstairs for progress reports to bring back down to the nervous father.
At Lina’s Christening on November 15th after the Sunday Mass, Paul held his granddaughter proudly. Claire stood as Godmother and Lamb stood as Godfather. Normally they would have waited several weeks for Gayle to fully recover, but Joe and Gayle wanted to make sure Paul could be present.
As a christening gift, Lamb had a photographer come to the house and make a photograph of the family with Paul. Both Joe and Paul insisted that Claire be in the picture.
The Holiday series started on November 20th. There was no traveling this year, all the performances were in London. They had the first two performances that week. Paul was still with them six days later, on Thanksgiving Day. He even sat at the table, though he didn’t eat much. It was a quiet afternoon. They sat in the sitting room watching Paul and Joe play chess. Later that evening, Paul asked Joe to call Father Anselm.
Father came to the house and administered the Last Rites. The next day, everyone was afraid to leave the house. Thankfully there wasn’t a performance that night, they weren’t due to begin again until the following week. Gayle sat in the room with Lina and Paul held her as much as he could, whispering in her little ear all the things he wanted to say.
He fell asleep on the couch right after dinner. Normally everyone would have gone to another room. Tonight they didn’t. At five minutes after nine Paul opened his eyes. “Tory” he said.
The most beatific smile lit up his face, then Paul closed his eyes for the last time.
The funeral was beautiful, and heartbreaking. The funeral Mass was held at Brompton Oratory in London. It was filled to capacity. Paul was well known in concert circles and well regarded by clients and patrons alike. Even those who weren’t Catholic came to the funeral.
Claire had helped Joe make the arrangements. She wanted things to be just perfect. Making arrangements took all her time and attention for the next week. She didn’t get much sleep and kept forgetting to eat, unless Gayle reminded her.
The performances for that week were of course canceled. Tickets were refunded or exchanged for other performances. An announcement went up at the concert venue about Paul’s death. Claire didn’t pay any attention to that part of it, Frank took care of everything.
Just as Paul had asked, Claire sang. Before the Mass started, she sang the Ave Maria while playing her mother’s harp, which had been brought to the church for the funeral.
The White Rose sang the Requiem. Claire sat with Joe and Gayle. Gayle cried, Joe and Lamb were red eyed. As at her parents funeral, Claire did not cry in public. She had done her crying at home.
Claire and Uncle Lamb rode in the car with Joe and Gayle, directly behind the hearse to the cemetery. It was the newer cemetery outside town. The one next to the church was full.
The crowd at the cemetery was smaller but still sizable. Claire chanted the In Paradisum at the proper moment during the committal service.
Geillis had made the arrangements for the reception after the funeral. Typically it would be held in the family home. None of those living at the estate wanted such a large crowd of people invading their house, so the luncheon was held at one of the reception halls they used in London for concert receptions.
Gayle had gone home with Lina, and Lamb had gone with her. He didn’t really know most of Paul’s business acquaintances. Claire had promised Gayle that she would act as hostess for Joe. It was nice to see that Paul was so well thought of. People had come from everywhere in Europe. Many from the United States had sent telegrams. They wouldn’t have been able to reach London in time for the funeral. Jenny’s parents came, and her brothers.
All the members of The White Rose, Mystic Rose, and the orchestra were there. Frank Randall was there.
Throughout the reception, Claire acted as hostess. She stood next to Joe, greeting everyone and thanking them for coming. Once most people had arrived, she circulated through the crowd making small talk with people, although she really didn’t enjoy it. Finally the majordomo announced that luncheon was served and everyone found their seats.
Father Anselm offered the benediction over the meal.
Claire was seated at a table with Father Anselm, Jenny and Ian, Jenny’s parents and her brothers. Jenny had made sure to save her and Joe seats, so they could be with someone they knew. Claire appreciated the thoughtfulness in a distant sort of way, but she felt rather numb.
During the course of the meal Claire went through the motions, answering direct questions, but not really paying attention to the conversation at the table. She just wanted this day to end so she could go home to bed. A headache had started at the cemetery, it was getting worse as the day progressed.
At the end of the meal, Claire stood with Joe again and said goodbye to everyone, thanking them again for coming. Finally, finally, everyone was gone. Claire went to the coatroom to retrieve her coat.
After receiving it from the attendant, Claire turned to leave and ran into someone. She started to fall, until the person put out their hands and caught her.
Looking up, Claire saw Jenny’s younger brother, James.
“Thank you.” Claire almost whispered. Her head was really pounding.
“Are ye alright lass? You’re pale as a ghost.”
“Yes, I’m fine.” Claire said, just as her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she passed out.
When Claire opened her eyes, she was surrounded by people. Joe was there of course. Jenny, Ian and Jenny’s family were there too. Claire realized that she was still being held by young James Fraser.
“Claire? What happened?” Joe sounded almost frantic.
“I don’t really know. I accidentally ran into James and then...I don’t remember.”
“Your eyes rolled back into yer head and ye fainted. Scairt me to death. I thought I’d killed ye.”
“Oh. Is that why you’re holding me?”
“Well I couldn’t let ye fall to the floor.” James said.
“Thank you. You can put me down now.”
“No, I dinna think I will until the doctor gets here and says I can.”
James was sitting in a chair holding her. Claire was relieved to note that they were in a small room instead of the main hall, which was slightly more private. She was embarrassed enough as it was.
“Yes dear. Your secretary called for the house doctor to come.” Lady Fraser explained.
Most reception halls had a doctor on staff for this sort of thing.
“Oh, that’s not necessary. I just have a slight headache and I got dizzy for a moment. Really, I’m alright.”
“L.J. Just be still. This day has been hard enough.”
“Joe?” Joe was almost short with her. He had never talked to her like that before.
“Claire, you’ve been unconscious for almost fifteen minutes. That’s more than a little dizzy spell. Just please...be still and let Jamie hold you until the doctor arrives. Alright?”
“Alright.” Claire closed her eyes again. Her head still hurt.
The doctor arrived shortly and after examining her declared that it was most likely the headache. He gave Claire some aspirin and told her to get a good night’s rest.
James gently stood up and lowered her to the floor. He held onto her arms until he was sure she could stand by herself. Claire was mortified and didn’t know where to look.
“Thank you James.” She finally said.
“I’m glad I was here to help you.” He bowed. Why did he always bow, Claire wondered?
Joe put an arm around her waist. “Come on L.J. let’s get you home like the doctor said.”
Joe took Claire home and put her to bed. She slept for two days. Gayle rang their family physician who paid a visit to make sure that Claire was recovered. He advised regular meal times and getting enough sleep.
“I’m very aware of your habits young lady. You need at least eight hours of sleep and three meals every day.”
“Of course Dr. Sheffield. I just got busy planning the funeral, and forgot.”
“You can’t forget. You must take care of your health first young lady, or you won’t be able to do all the things you want to in life. It’s no fun being an invalid.”
“Thank you for coming Dr. Let me walk you out.”
“Anytime Joe. So are you ready to start medical school?” Claire could hear their voices fading as the two men walked down the hall. Gayle was still in the room. She looked at Claire steadily.
“You know what. How’s the head?”
“It’s better, really. I just had a headache.”
“From lack of food and sleep. Come on Claire. You can’t do that to Joe. You’re all the family he has left. I don’t mean to make you feel bad, but he was scared to death he was going to lose you too. Please, think about that the next time you want to skip a meal. Ok?”
“Alright. I will.” Claire said in a very small voice. “I’m sorry.”
Gayle hugged her. “I know. You didn’t mean to scare anyone. We love you. You know?”
“I do. So, can I get out of bed now? I haven’t practiced in three days.”
Gayle laughed. “Sure. Just don’t be late for supper.”
Examples of the music Paul asked Claire to sing can be found here...
Ave Maria by Bach/Gounod
In Paradisum https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_imF22te4cc
The Requiem Mass https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsaLjDMmDFQ&list=PLfc81u6pGArM5fPvTPUjg9L-B46sjDlcL&index=1
For those interested...Saint Joseph is the patron saint of a Happy Death, which is why Claire would ask Saint Joseph to pray for that intention.
Chapter 17: Jamie: 1935 - 1936
Jamie's year, and perspective of the funeral encounter.
I'm a little behind. Real life has kept me very busy.
Jamie: 1935 - 1936
Jamie turned fifteen on May 1st, 1936. He was glad when school let out. He and Connor Mackenzie had gotten into a bit of a fight right before Christmas and suddenly a bunch of girls were chasing after him, trying to get him to kiss them.
Jamie didn’t understand. He had only gotten into it with the arsehole because Connor had been bullying his own sister Laoghaire. If there was one thing Jamie detested it was bullying. So he had told Connor to knock it off and the bastard had taken a swing at him.
After the science teacher Mrs. Fitzgibbons had pulled them apart, she had led them both by the ear to the headmaster’s office. Mr. McKimmie hadn’t been at all pleased. He’d called both their Da’s.
Brian had come and gotten Jamie. Being sent home for the day was downright embarrassing, but Jamie wasn’t sorry. Not a word had been said until they got home.
Leading Jamie into his office, Brian sat down behind the desk. Ellen was already in the room, working on a pair of socks.
“Well. Let’s have the story then.” Brian said.
So Jamie explained. How he had been walking down the hall to see Connor twisting Laoghaire’s arm. How she had been crying in pain. How he had just broken the hold and told Connor to knock it off. Connor taking a swing. Jamie defending himself. Mrs. Fitz coming out of her classroom and breaking it up.
“Honestly Da. I did’na hit him. I was just trying to grab his hands so he could’na hit me. I ken how ye feel about fightin’ at school. Maybe I should’na have interfered, but the lass was crying because he was hurting her.”
Brian looked at him steadily for a long moment. “If ye had’na been at school. What would ye hae done then?”
Jamie thought a moment. “I’d have thrashed him but good. Any man that would hurt a woman deserves to ken what it feels like.” He said in disgust.
Brian and Ellen started laughing.
Jamie was confused. He hadn’t meant to be funny.
“Do ye fancy the lass then?” Ellen asked.
“Fancy the lass? No. I barely even ken her.” Now Jamie was more confused. What did that have to do with anything?
Ellen nodded. “Alright. Why don’t you go do your homework in the dining room and I’ll check it before ye go back to school in the morning.”
“Yes Mam.” Jamie stood up and gave his mother a kiss. He grabbed his bookbag and left the room. As he reached the door, his Da called his name.
“Jamie.” He turned to look at Brian.
“Sometimes it’s no the easy thing to take a stand. Ye stood up for that lass because it was the right thing. I’m proud o ye mo mac.”
Jamie blushed. “Thanks Da.”
“Yer welcome. Now go do as yer mother said.”
“Aye Da.” Jamie left and closed the door behind him.
Brian shook his head. “I’d almost rather he fancied the lass. Puir lad won’t ken what hit him come Monday.”
Ellen was still chuckling. “I ken. The lasses will be chasing after him harder now that he’s proven such a hero.”
“Aye and the wee fool wil’na even ken why.”
“Oh hush you. He kens verra well what the lasses are about. He’s just no interested in the local lasses. He’s already found another lass to fancy.”
“Who? And how d’ye ken that? He has’na said a word to me.”
“Dinna fash. I dinna think the lad kens himself. Do you remember young Claire Beauchamp? She was at Murtagh’s wedding.”
“Aye the wee lass what tis a musical prodigy. What of her?”
“Jamie sat and listened to her talk about piano with me for over two hours. Then when she said goodbye he was so tongue-tied he could’na speak. Just bowed to her like some 18th century nobleman. ‘Twas the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
“Why did ye no tell me this before?”
“Because he has’na said anything and it’s unlikely to come to anything anytime soon. He lives here and she lives in London. It’s possible he’ll go sing with The White Rose at some point and we’ll see what happens then. But the lad won’t even be 15 until May. Let it be until it is something. In the meantime, his infatuation with Claire will keep the lad from doing something foolish with a local girl.”
After returning to school the following day, Jamie was suddenly more popular with the girls. But they were all acting strange. Jamie wasn’t an idiot, but their flirting and simpering got on his nerves. He told Ian he preferred girls who were a bit more mature, and perhaps reserved in public. Then he told himself he was at school for an education not a romance. Besides 15 was too young to be worrying about romance.
Laoghaire was the worst. She didn’t even say anything to him, just followed him around like a puppy. Jamie was polite when he encountered her, but started to go out of his way to avoid being seen by the lass. Her staring and sighing made him very uncomfortable. Jenny had offered to talk to her, but Jamie said no. The less said the better he thought.
Jamie was glad when the Christmas holidays came. Hogmanay for 1935 was a quiet affair. Jenny had graduated early and gone to join Ian in London. He had graduated the previous May. Willie was in France with Da’s cousin. Jamie missed everyone, but appreciated having his parents to himself for once.
School was easier after Christmas. Laoghaire’s Da had pulled her out of school, and after a couple of weeks the other lasses seemed to get the message that he was’na interested in them.
Still, it was nice when school let out. Jamie spent the summer escaping to the stables as much as he could. He still practiced with his Mam faithfully every day, both voice and Bass. She said it was passing strange that he should be so tall and yet be such a high tenor.
School started again and Jamie applied himself to his studies. It was Jamie’s hope that he could graduate early and sing with his Uncles. He liked to sing, but wanted the travel just as much. Besides. He missed Ian. If he worked hard enough Da promised that he could take some tests and skip a year. Then he would graduate May 1937 instead of 38. He could sing for three years before going to university. That would allow him to save enough money to pay his own way. Da would, but Jamie wanted to do it for himself. Like Ian.
Two days after Thanksgiving, Jenny called Mam. She listened for a minute and then she looked sad. A minute more and she said “Of course we’ll be there for the funeral. When is it and at what church?”
She wrote down the information and said goodbye to Jenny.
“Mo ghràidh?” Brian asked.
“Paul Abernathy died. The funeral is in London next Thursday.”
“Do ye want to go?”
“Then we’ll go. Come here.” Brian held out his arms. Ellen went into them and cried a bit. Paul had been a friend. She hadn’t known he was ill. No one had known. Jenny said that he hadn’t told anyone until recently, not even his own son.
“Thank you love. It was cancer. Puir man.”
Brian shuddered. He wouldn’t wish that on anyone. “Will it be a Catholic funeral?” Ellen nodded.
“Yes. He received the last rites. He even planned his own Requiem Mass. Jenny told me that the men will be singing and so will Claire. Paul asked her to. She called him uncle ye ken.”
“Ach. The puir wee lass. To lose another so young.”
Ellen just nodded again.
The trip to London took two days. They took the train from Broch Morda to Glasgow which took about 6 hours, then the train from Glasgow to London which took 16 hours. They left on Monday morning since Da would’na travel on a Sunday except for emergencies. With the layover in Glasgow it was after midnight before they reached London. Murtagh was there to meet them and take them to the townhouse. Jamie had been there once when he was small, but it had been many years.
Jamie was so tired that he slept until after lunch the next day. Ian and Jenny were waiting for him downstairs. Ian grabbed Jamie and gave him a bear hug.
“a Dhia. It’s so good to see ye man.”
Jenny’s hug was a bit more restrained, but no less fierce.
“Come on, we’re takin’ ye out to lunch. We dinna have rehearsal until this evening.”
The three of them went to a local pub and had sandwiches. Then on a tour of the city to show Jamie the sights. They went back to the townhouse for supper. Uncle Murtagh asked Jamie and Ellen if they wanted to go to the rehearsal.
“We’re rehearsing the Requiem Mass o course, but also some of the pieces for the Holiday series.”
“Well Jamie? Do ye want to go?”
“Yes. Can we Mam?”
“You may. I’m going to stay home with Da. We decided to stay long enough to go to the first December performance. I’ll wait until then. But you go. You can see how they rehearse.”
“Thanks Mam.” Jamie gave his mother a kiss.
The rehearsal was interesting. Dougal ran a very professional rehearsal, even though he was related to most of the singers in some fashion. The Requiem Mass was beautiful, Jamie wished he was singing it.
The rest of the rehearsal was for the Holiday concerts and everyone sounded really good. Jamie was a little intimidated and silently vowed to work harder on his voice training.
The Mackenzie lass, Laoghaire was there. She didn’t say anything to him, just stared at him the whole night. It made Jamie uncomfortable, and he avoided catching her eye.
The next two days were quiet. Jamie didn’t go to anymore rehearsals, but he did take the opportunity to play bass with Jenny and Ian. Murtagh had borrowed one from a man in the orchestra for him to practice with. A bass was too large to bring for such a short trip.
Mary McKimmie came over with her violin Wednesday afternoon, and that was fun. Jenny said that usually they played with Claire Beauchamp, but of course she was busy with funeral things this week. Thursday Mam played the violin parts on the piano for them. It didn’t sound the same, but at least they could practice. Jenny and Ian needed it, and Jamie found it a good sight reading exercise.
The morning of the funeral, everyone got dressed. Black suits with white shirt for the men and Black dresses for the ladies. Mam and Jenny both brought a veil to wear in church instead of wearing hats, since there was a gathering with a meal after the funeral.
They arrived about half an hour before Mass, so they could pray for Paul’s soul and his family’s consolation. The whole Mass was a prayer for Paul, but it was nice to pray for the family too. Jamie sat back and looked at the church. It was bigger than the one back home, but in his opinion it wasn’t as pretty as the chapel at Lallybroch, or the church at Broch Morda.
About five minutes before the Mass was due to start, Jamie heard harp music coming from the choir loft. He recognized the piece as the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria. It was one of his mother’s favorites. He’d never heard it performed on the harp before. Then Jamie heard the singing. It was beautiful. Jenny was sitting next to him and whispered in his ear… “That’s Claire playing. Singing too. Doesn’t she have a lovely voice?”
Jamie nodded. She did. It was clear and strong, not breathy or affected the way some girls sang. The music filled the space of the church and echoed off the marble floors.
The rest of the Mass was just as beautiful. When it was over, most people went straight to the reception. Jenny wanted to go to the cemetery, to support Claire.
“She’s my friend. I want to be there.”
Murtagh offered to take Jenny if the rest of them wanted to go to the hall. Jamie asked if he could go to the cemetery too.
“I’d rather no be indoors for longer than I have to be.” was his excuse.
So Murtagh, Suzette, Jenny and Jamie all rode to the cemetery while Brian took Ellen to the reception.
Ian was still with The White Rose.
Jamie wasn’t expecting Claire to sing again, so when she chanted In Paradisum he was surprised. Her voice sounded just as strong outdoors, even without the acoustics of the church.
The committal service was brief and then everyone went on to the reception. Joe Abernathy greeted people as they came in and Claire was standing next to him. She said hello to Jamie, but he didn’t think she remembered him.
Jamie and Jenny found their parents and discovered that they were all seated at the same table. Claire’s name was at the table as well, next to Jenny’s. Jamie didn’t say anything, but he was excited. Maybe they could talk over the meal. Claire had been nice at Murtagh’s wedding and he wanted to tell her how much he enjoyed her music at the funeral.
Chapter 18: Jamie after the funeral...
Jamie's perspective of the funeral luncheon.
Father Anselm offered the benediction over the meal. Then the priest, Joe and Claire came and sat down at their table as the food was served. Everyone chatted, Claire too, but Jamie could tell she wasn’t really paying attention. He exchanged a look with Jenny, who looked worried for her friend.
At the end of the meal, Claire went and stood with Joe again, saying goodbye to people.
Jamie asked Jenny… “Is Claire alright?”
Jenny shook her head. “I dinna ken. She seemed…” Jenny couldn’t really put it into words, but something was wrong.
“We should be going. Jamie lad, can ye go fetch our coats?”
“Of course Da.”
Jamie had just reached the coat room when Claire ran smack into him. Her head was down so she probably hadn’t even seen him there. Jamie reached out to steady her. She looked up and Jamie saw she was very pale.
“Thank you.” Claire almost whispered.
“Are ye alright lass?” He asked. “You’re pale as a ghost.”
“Yes, I’m fine.” Claire said, just as her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she passed out.
“A dhia.” Though startled, Jamie had quick reflexes and caught Claire in his arms before she hit the floor.
The coat check girl came rushing over and Jamie asked her to fetch Joe. A moment later he heard quick steps.
“What happened?! Why are you holding Claire?” Joe exclaimed.
“I dinna ken what happened. The lass came out of the coat check looking pale. I asked her if she was alright, she said yes and then fainted. I did’na want her to hit her head, so I caught her.”
“Oh. Okay thanks for that, but why are you still holding her?”
“I did’na want to put her on the floor and there is’na a bench anywhere. ‘Tis alright, she’s a tiny wee thing, and no heavy at all.” Jamie also liked holding her, but he wasn’t going to admit it.
Joe nodded. That made sense to him.
Several more people came into the hall, Jamie’s family among them. The coat check girl directed them into a small room that was empty save a few chairs. Jamie sat in one, still holding Claire. Her head rested against his shoulder and his arms cradled the rest of her body.
“I asked one of the staff to send for the house doctor Joe.” Said Geillis.
Father Anselm asked. “Is the child ill?” He traced the sign of the cross on Claire’s head.
“We don’t know yet.” Joe replied. “Thanks Geillis. Can you go settle the bill for me?”
Geillis said “Yes of course” and left to do so.
At that moment, Claire opened her eyes. She seemed embarrassed when she realized that Jamie was holding her, but he didn’t put her down.
“Claire? What happened?” Joe asked. To Jamie he sounded scared.
“I don’t really know. I accidentally ran into James and then...I don’t remember.” Claire replied.
Jamie shared his knowledge. “Your eyes rolled back into yer head and ye fainted. Scairt me to death. I thought I’d killed ye.”
“Oh. Is that why you’re holding me?”
“Well I couldn’t let ye fall to the floor.” He said.
“Thank you. You can put me down now.”
“No I dinna think I will until the doctor gets here and says I can.” Claire still looked dazed to Jamie.
“Yes dear. Your secretary called for the house doctor to come.” Said Ellen
“Oh, that’s not necessary. I just have a slight headache and I got dizzy for a moment. Really, I’m alright.” Claire started to wiggle a bit and Jamie tightened his hold stubbornly. Before she could say anything Joe put a hand on her forehead.
“L.J. Just be still. This day has been hard enough.” Joe said sharply.
“Joe?” Claire sounded surprised at his tone.
“Claire, you’ve been unconscious for almost fifteen minutes. That’s more than a little dizzy spell. Just please...be still and let Jamie hold you until the doctor arrives. Alright?”
Jamie thought he sounded worried. The man certainly looked worried. He vaguely remembered that Joe was in medical school. Maybe it was serious. Jamie hoped not.
“Alright.” Claire closed her eyes again. Jamie wanted to enjoy the moment, but with how worried her friend was, Jamie’s concern overshadowed his enjoyment.
The doctor arrived shortly and after examining her declared that it was most likely the headache. He gave Claire some aspirin and told her to get a good night’s rest.
James stood up and then gently lowered the young woman to the floor and held onto her arms until he was sure she could stand by herself. Claire seemed to be embarrassed, but gave him a tremulous smile.
“Thank you James.”
“I’m glad I was here to help you.” He bowed.
Joe put an arm around her waist. “Come on L.J. let’s get you home like the doctor said.”
The two of them left, and Jamie looked after them. After a minute, Brian took the claim slips from Jamie’s hand and got their coats.
“Jamie. Lad, here’s yer coat.”
He put his coat on, absentmindedly, still looking in the direction Claire had gone.
“Will she be alright d’ye think?”
Ellen shared a look with Brian that said ‘see what I mean?’ Brian nodded.
“I’m sure she will be a bhailach. Come now, we’d best be getting home ourselves.” Ellen took Jamie by the hand as though he were a wean and led him out to the car.
All the way home, Jamie didn’t participate in the conversation, just thought about Claire. Her beautiful voice, her whiskey colored eyes and the way she felt in his arms.
He thought about her for the rest of the afternoon and all through supper. He said goodnight directly after and went to his room to lie in the bed and think about her some more.
Eventually, Jamie realized that he needed to go to sleep. He could think about Claire some more tomorrow.
Jenny watched her brother go up the stairs. She turned to her mother and asked... “Is it my imagination or does Jamie fancy Claire?”
Ellen started to laugh and Brian smiled.
“No a leannan, I dinna think it’s your imagination. Yer Mam noticed it at Murtagh’s wedding.”
Ellen nodded still giggling. “Aye. Puir lad does’na ken it yet though.”
“Are ye sure about that?” Jenny asked skeptically.
“Oh Aye. He kens that she interests him, just no in what way.”
Jenny’s face lit up in understanding. “O course. The numpty.” She said affectionately.
“The question is...are we going to help it along or no.”
“No.” Brian said instantly.
“Oh but Da, it would be perfect. Claire needs someone to like her for herself and Jamie’s perfect. Also it will keep girls like that Laoghaire Mackenzie from sniffing around after him like a bitch in heat.”
“Janet!!” Ellen said severely.
Jenny wasn’t the least bit remorseful. “I’m sorry about ma language Mam, but truly, the lass still talks about him all the time. She’s been here for over a year and never even looks at another lad. Jamie’s become almost an obsession with her.”
“Well, Jamie might decide he likes her when he joins The White Rose.”
“Lord I hope not. He deserves much better than Laoghaire Mackenzie.” Jenny said in disgust.
Brian was surprised at her tone. It wasn’t like Jenny to take someone in such dislike. He and Ellen exchanged a look, but it was Ellen who asked.
“Jenny, why do you dislike the lass so? Has she done something to wrong you?”
Jenny thought for a moment, trying to choose her words carefully.
“Not me personally, but I’ve seen her with the others and especially Claire. Claire is nice to everyone even Laoghaire, but she does’na return the kindness. There’s a mean streak in that girl and sometimes she’ll look at Claire with...hatred it seems. Maybe it’s just jealousy, but either way ’tis no right.”
“Ah. So this is more about being protective of Claire, than anything Laoghaire has said or done.”
“Aye. I ken I should gie her the benefit of the doubt as she’s no done anything, but I canna help it. Something about her just makes me wary.” Jenny shrugged. “Either way, I dinna want Laoghaire anywhere near Jamie.”
“Even so Janet. No matchmaking. Jamie has’na even admitted to himself that he fancies the lass. As your mother said to me a few weeks ago... let it be until it is something.”
“Aye Da.” That did’na mean she could’na talk Jamie up to Claire if the opportunity presented itself, Jenny thought.
The Frasers attended the first two December performances of the Holiday series, which had been pushed back a week due to Paul’s funeral.
Jamie was astounded. Hearing Claire sing at the funeral was one thing. Watching her perform in concert was something else entirely. She was astonishingly good. Both nights Jamie sat and watched her, spellbound. It seemed to Jamie that when Claire was playing she forgot that the audience was there.
It was like seeing a faerie make music. The only thing missing was the forest. Further astounding him was that Claire was exceptional at so many different things. She played piano of course, but also violin. She sang well with the group, well with a partner and well by herself.
Jamie knew from experience that it was hard to do that, especially all in the same concert.
Singing with a group required the ability to blend with the other voices. Great vocal groups didn’t have any individual voices that stuck out.
Singing a duet required blending with one other voice and you had to change your volume and match pitch with one other person according to their talents. Claire sang duets with several different men, which meant that she constantly had to make those adjustments.
Comparatively speaking, singing solo was the easiest, you just had to maintain your pitch without assistance if singing unaccompanied. Finally you had to sing loud enough to be heard over the accompaniment if there was any. Claire did both types of solo brilliantly too.
No wonder they call her a prodigy, Jamie thought to himself as the audience applauded.
There was a reception after the Saturday performance and Jamie went along with Ian and Jenny. He stuck close to his sister, a bit unnerved by some of the looks he was getting from the women present.
Halfway through the evening, he was coming back from the men’s room when someone ran into him. He looked down and it was Claire. He reached out to steady her without being conscious of doing so.
Claire looked up at him turning a little pink.
“Sassenach.” Jamie wanted to tell her how he admired her, but didn’t want to gush. While he was formulating words, she spoke again.
“Why is it that I seem to run into you, quite literally; every time we are in the same room.”
He half smiled at her. “No every time. Just the last two.”
Claire laughed. “Well yes. But the question still stands.”
“I dinna ken. Perhaps ye are’na fully recovered from the last time?”
Claire shook her head and took a step back. Jamie realized he was still holding her arms and let go so she wouldn’t have to pull away.
“No, I am recovered.” She hesitated then said. “I never did properly thank you for catching me. So...Thank you. I probably would have hit my head or something if you hadn’t been there.”
Jamie felt his ears turning pink. “Dinna fash. Anyone would have done the same.”
“Perhaps. But it wasn’t anyone, it was you. So...thank you.”
He bowed. “You are most welcome my lady.”
Claire giggled at him.
James straightened up and grinned back at her.
“Did you enjoy the concert?” Claire asked.
Here was his chance to tell her, without being a numpty about it.
“Yes, verra much. Your performance particularly. You’re still verra good.”
“Still? You’ve seen me perform before?”
“Aye. I saw the dress rehearsal for your verra first performance in the United States, when ye were small.” He made a self-deprecating sound. “O course I was just a wean myself then.”
Jamie hesitated a minute and then confided, “I prayed for you, ye ken. Ye looked so wee surrounded by all the grown-ups and Mam said it might help to pray for courage for ye. I’d have been scairt to perform at that age.”
Claire didn’t respond and worried that he had offended her, Jamie said hurriedly, “No that ye looked scairt, mind ye. Ye looked verra professional.” He stopped talking and blushed beet red.
‘Nice going idiot, she probably thinks you’re a lunatic.’
If she did, she didn’t let on. Instead Claire smiled at him politely. “Thank you. But I have a secret to tell you...I was, terribly frightened. In fact I was terrified of letting people down. I had never performed in public before then. So...I’m sure your prayers helped.”
“I’m glad.” Jamie said simply. Maybe no a lunatic then.
They stood for a moment, neither knowing what to say.
“Well, it was very nice to see you again James.”
“Jamie.” He wanted her to call him Jamie. James sounded so distant. Like she was talking to a stranger.
At Claire’s confused look he clarified. “My friends and family call me Jamie. I’d be honored if you called me the same.”
“Oh. Alright...Jamie.” She smiled at him and held out her hand to shake. He turned it over and placed a kiss above the back of it. Claire blushed a little, but her smile didn’t falter.
“Claire!” a red head came up to them. Jamie thought her name was Geillis.
“Frank just saw me and said you were looking for me.”
“I was, yes.” Claire looked up at him again. “Goodbye...Jamie.”
He released her hand and Claire turned to Geillis. Jamie couldn’t have told you what they said to each other as they walked away from him. He stood there grinning and watching Claire.
Chapter 19: Pen pals
There were six concerts left in the Holiday series. The Fraser’s came to the first weekend performances, both Friday and Saturday. There was a reception after the Saturday concert and Claire went with Joe. Many of those in attendance had known his father and Joe wanted to be there. Frank had asked Claire to please attend, it would reassure people that she would continue to perform.
For the most part, Claire found these gatherings tedious. As he had before, Frank stayed with her the entire evening, moving her from group to group and filling in the awkward silences with his witty repartee. Claire did the best she could, but small talk was not her forte, so it was good that Frank rescued her when she needed it.
While he charmed the patrons, Claire watched women throwing themselves at the men from The White Rose. By now it had become mostly entertaining. Suzette came to protect Murtagh, and Jenny stuck like glue to Ian. The other men seemed to enjoy it although Claire noticed that Dougal didn’t flirt as usual. He spent most of the evening talking with Geillis.
‘They must be talking about the next series’ Claire thought to herself. As she watched, Dougal laughed at something Geillis said. In response Geillis arched an eyebrow and said something else and Claire saw Dougal look surprised, then thoughtful. Geillis said something else, and Dougal smiled and nodded.
“Isn’t that right Claire.”
Claire was startled out of her reverie by Frank’s voice. “I’m sorry Mr. Randall, I was woolgathering. Could you repeat the question?”
“I said that we were investigating larger venues for the next concert series.”
Claire looked at him blankly. “We are?”
Frank looked annoyed for a minute and then laughed. “Well, yes. Paul and I have been looking at larger venues. With everything that happened, he may not have told you.”
At the mention of Paul, Claire’s breath caught. Something must have shown on her face because suddenly Frank looked apologetic.
“I’m sorry Claire. I didn’t mean to remind you of your loss.”
Claire smiled her professional smile. “Think nothing of it Mr. Randall. I understand business.”
Giving a curtsy to the men with him she said… “Please excuse me. I’ve just remembered something I wish to discuss with my secretary. Not looking at Frank she turned and walked away.
Of course Claire wasn’t watching where she was going and ran right into someone. She looked up. Of course. It would be James Fraser that she ran into. Claire blushed a little.
“Hello James.” He held onto her arms again. She thought it was to make sure she didn’t fall over.
“Why is it that I seem to run into you, quite literally; every time we are in the same room.”
He half smiled at her. “No every time. Just the last two.” Was he trying to be nice?
Claire laughed. “Well yes. But the question still stands.”
“I dinna ken. Perhaps ye are’na fully recovered from the last time?” Now he looked concerned.
Claire shook her head and took a step back. Jamie released her immediately.
“No, I am recovered.” She hesitated then said. “I never did properly thank you for catching me. So...Thank you. I probably would have hit my head or something if you hadn’t been there.”
James’ ears immediately turned pink. “Dinna fash. Anyone would have done the same.”
“Perhaps. But it wasn’t anyone, it was you. So...thank you.”
He bowed. “You are most welcome my lady.”
Claire giggled at him.
James straightened up and grinned back at her.
“Did you enjoy the concert?”
“Yes, verra much. Your performance particularly. You’re still verra good.”
“Still? You’ve seen me perform before?” Jenny never told her that.
“Aye. I saw the dress rehearsal for your verra first performance in the United States, when ye were small.” He made a self-deprecating sound. “O course I was just a wean myself then.”
He hesitated a minute and then said, “I prayed for you then ye ken. Ye looked so wee surrounded by all the grown-ups and Mam said it might help to pray for courage for ye. I’d have been scairt to perform at that age.”
Claire was extremely touched. That he would have thought to pray for her. But didn’t know how to respond without sounding condescending. She must have taken too much time to formulate a reply because after a minute Jamie said hurriedly, “No that ye looked scairt, mind ye. Ye looked verra professional.” He stopped talking and hunched his shoulders, blushing beet red.
Claire smiled. His embarrassment helped alleviate her own, and she could answer him. “Thank you. That was very thoughtful of you, and I’m sure they were heard.” She bit her lip and then confessed, “I have a secret to tell you...I was, terribly frightened. In fact I was terrified of letting people down. I had never performed in public before then.” That seemed to help James and he straightened a little.
“I’m glad it helped.” He said simply.
They stood for a moment, neither knowing what to say.
“Well, it was very nice to see you again James.”
“Jamie.” Claire looked at him, confused. “My friends and family call me Jamie. I’d be honored if you called me the same.”
He wanted her to call him Jamie like his friends did. Did that mean he saw her as a friend? The thought made her smile brightly.
“Oh. Alright...Jamie.” She held out her hand to shake. He turned it over and placed a kiss above the back of it. Claire blushed a little, but her smile didn’t falter.
“Claire!” Geillis came up to her, “Frank just saw me and said you were looking for me.”
Claire sighed. She hadn’t been but couldn’t very well explain this situation in front of James… Jamie. He might not understand why she had told Frank that fib. “I was, yes. Goodbye...Jamie.” Jamie released her hand and Claire turned to Geillis.
Jamie stayed where he was as they walked away. Claire couldn’t resist looking back at him over her shoulder. He was still looking at her, smiling.
“What did ye need me for hen?”
“I didn’t really, I just needed to get away from Mr. Randall for a minute. I know he didn’t mean to but he said something about Uncle Paul and I just wanted a break from meeting patrons.”
“Well, ye can use me for something like that anytime ye please. Did ye enjoy yer conversation wit the wee fox cub?”
“Jenny’s brother James. He’s younger than she is ye ken. So I call him the wee fox cub. On account o his red hair.”
Claire smiled at the idea of anyone calling Jamie, wee. “He must be at least six feet tall. I don’t think wee is a word I’d use to describe him.”
“Yer no answering my question either.” Geillis said wryly.
“Sorry. Yes I did enjoy it, very much. He asked me to call him Jamie. He said his friends and family call him that. So that must mean he thinks of me as a friend, yes?”
Inwardly Geillis squealed with joy. Outwardly she was far more sanguine. “I think it must. I’m glad. Ye dinna have enough friends as it is. Will ye write to him d’ye think?”
“Oh. Oh! Geillis, that’s a wonderful idea. Do you think he would mind?”
“Why don’t we find him and ask him?”
They looked, but the Frasers had already left the reception by then. Claire didn’t get a chance to see Jamie again before he went home with his parents, and this saddened her a bit.
Geillis solved the problem on the following Wednesday. Ian and Jenny had started coming over again and stayed to dinner. It was just the three of them and Geillis that evening. While at table, Geillis came right out and asked… “Jenny. Do you think yer brother would be willing to correspond with Claire? She meant to ask him when they were in town, but with everything going on she did’na get the chance to.”
Jenny’s face lit up and she turned to Claire. “Is that so? I wish you would and I think he’d like it too. Jamie is working very hard to graduate early so he can join The White Rose. Lesley Mohr wants to get marrit, but he can’t quit until Jamie’s ready to take his place. If you write to each other it will help Jamie feel more comfortable when he comes… if he already has a friend his age ye ken.”
Claire was distracted for a minute. “Why does Lesley need to quit to get married? Murtagh didn’t.”
“His fiancee is Elizabeth Menzies. Her Da wants to retire, but she canna take care of all the instruments by herself.”
“I knew that Mr. Menzies wanted to retire.” Claire said absently. “Well, if you’re sure Jamie won’t mind, I’d like to write to him.”
“I can write first and ask him.” Jenny said.
“Oh thank you. That would be so lovely.” Claire replied. The conversation moved onto other things, but Ian didn’t miss the satisfied look that Geillis and Jenny shared with one another.
When they reached home that evening, Ian wasted no time in confronting her about it.
“Yer Mam said no matchmaking Janet.”
“I’m no matchmaking Ian.” At his skeptical look Jenny elaborated.
“Truly Ian, I’m not. Claire needs more friends her own age. Geillis and I are the only ones she has and both of us are older than she is...by more than years too and ye ken it. Jamie’s just as innocent as Claire is and he’ll be a good friend to her without trying to take advantage of her… or her fame.”
“That’s true enough, I just dinna want to see either of them hurt. If he does fancy her and she does’na return his regard...” Ian let the thought hang between them.
“He may be yer friend Ian Murray, but he’s mac bhràthair. I would’na do that to him. Come to that I would’na do it to her either.” Jenny said angrily, although she was more than a little hurt by Ian’s suspicion.
Ian saw this and sought to make amends. “Ach now mo chride. I did’na mean to sound suspicious. I just wanted to make sure ye’d considered everything...and I see ye have.” He said quickly, giving her a kiss.
Mollified, Jenny make a sound in the back of her throat. “Ach. Well then.” And she kissed him back.
They usually took several weeks off before the spring series. This year Claire was looking forward to the break. The six holiday performances after the funeral had been very difficult, as had the receptions. Although the one the Frasers attended hadn’t been as bad. It was nice talking to Jamie that night.
He was still a little awkward, but he had been so concerned for her. Maybe he was just shy and that’s why it took him awhile to talk normally when she saw him. Claire could understand that. She was shy too.
Jenny and Ian hadn’t gone home for Hogmanay that year. Dougal wanted to do some very complicated Choral music for the Spring program and so everyone from both vocal groups stayed in town, only taking the actual Holy Days off. Sometimes they rehearsed twice a day, morning and evening to learn the new music.
Due to her other obligations Claire couldn’t always attend every vocal rehearsal. Laoghaire grumbled about special treatment to the others when she thought her father and uncle couldn’t hear. The one time he had heard her complain, Dougal had told the girl that if she didn’t like the working conditions her father could take her home. This had made her father very angry as they needed the money she earned.
Two days after her conversation with Claire, Jenny did write to Jamie and ask if he would be willing to correspond with Claire.
Jamie wrote by return post that he would be honored. Jenny told Claire, and Claire wrote her first letter the following day.
Chapter 20: Correspondence
Jamie and Claire write to one another. Frank plots.
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.
Chapter 21: Temper
Frank discovers that Claire is not so easily manipulated.
The meeting had been scheduled for 2:00 and it was to be held at the London rehearsal hall.
It was ten minutes before two. Frank was pacing the room, going over his strategy. Dougal was already there and seated at the table, looking over various pieces of sheet music.
‘All I need to do is explain the benefits to Claire. It shouldn’t be that difficult. She may be a music prodigy, but she’s still only sixteen and has a crush on me.’
Frank was aware of Claire’s infatuation with him. He found her fascinating in return, but at sixteen, he didn’t even consider her as a romantic prospect. Frank had been very careful to behave professionally towards Claire. He didn’t want to give anyone the impression that he had designs on the child after all.
However, he was counting on her affection for him to make this meeting go smoothly. If Frank could get Claire’s consent to switch to a larger venue, then they could sell more tickets without adding more shows. The more people that attended a show, the more her name became known. That was good for Frank, it would hopefully catapult him into the circle of the truly big name managers. Frank’s goal was to become England’s version of P.T. Barnum but with legitimate musicians instead of circus acts. Barnum had tried it with Jenny Lind, but she hadn’t appreciated his marketing style.
Frank had been lost in thought. The sound of the door opening brought him back to awareness of his surroundings. Claire came in to the room, followed by Joe and Geillis. Inwardly Frank scowled. This hadn’t been his plan at all. Geillis was supposed to be at the telegraph office today. Joe wasn’t even supposed to know there was a meeting.
None of these thoughts showed on his face though. “Good afternoon Claire.”
Offering his hand, “Joe, it’s nice to see you. I wasn’t aware you were home.”
“I don’t have classes this semester. I’ll he home until August.”
“Ah. That is serendipitous, you can give us some idea of the acoustics of some venues.”
Frank deliberately ignored Geillis. She was just the secretary after all. Geillis didn’t have any power.
“Well, shall we begin?” Frank held Claire’s chair for her, not noticing that Joe did the same for Geillis or that Dougal and Joe had exchanged a look.
When everyone had been seated, Frank took out a notepad as did Geillis.
“The first thing to discuss is the program for the Spring and Autumn series. The vocal music for the Spring series is set, so Dougal, why don’t you lead off with the vocal pieces you’d like to do for Autumn? Then we can discuss the instrumental portions.”
“Sure. I’ve had a number of requests from people to do solo numbers, which I’m not opposed to, but that would mean either cutting some pieces, changing the format or adding an additional performance.”
“What would adding an additional performance look like?” Frank asked.
“I can’t add another performance.” Claire put in.
“Do you mean you personally aren’t able to add another, or that we can’t add another performance at all?” Frank asked.
“I meant me personally. I certainly wouldn’t presume to tell someone they couldn’t perform, I just can’t add another one. I’m due to begin learning how to manage the estate in a week. That will take up what little free time I had available. That’s all I meant.”
“Alright, so if we did add another performance it could be entirely vocal.” Frank said.
“Well it could, but I dinna ken if it would be worth it. No enough people will come if Claire is’na performing.”
Dougal wasn’t naive. Many people came to the performances to see Claire. She was a musician of the caliber that happened once in a hundred years. He and the others benefited from it to be sure, but Dougal wasn’t sure they could draw enough in ticket sales without her.
“I’m sure that isn’t true. The White Rose is a wonderful group. Mystic Rose is also a wonderful group. I’m sure we could hire another mezzo if you wanted to add a performance Mr. Mackenzie.” Claire said.
Dougal shook his head. “No, I dinna want to do that. The voices we have are a good blend and we’re used to one another. If we add a new voice it would affect our sound.” He turned to Frank. “I’m no willing to do an entirely vocal performance this year. Let’s table that until next year.”
There was silence at the table for a minute, except for the sound of Geillis’ pen as she made notes.
“What if we change the format a little?” Claire asked.
“Change in what way?” Dougal asked.
“I could do a bit less for the instrumental portion. For Spring I’ve picked a series of short pieces since the vocal music is more complex. We could simply not do some of them. For the Autumn series, I want to do Vivaldi’s Seasons, so we could just do that without adding anything else. We could also cut some of the duets in order to let people sing solo music.”
Frank frowned. “I’m not in favor of cutting the instrumental portion. It will throw the concert out of balance.” He asked Dougal, “How many people want to sing solo literature?”
“There are four people that want to sing something different. Ian and Jenny want to sing a duet together, Rupert wants to sing a solo piece and so does Laoghaire.”
Claire smiled in relief. “Oh, well that isn’t so many. We can cut one of the duets that I sing and replace it with Ian and Jenny. Then we could either cut another duet and one of my solo pieces or two of my solo pieces. I sing five solo pieces, and six duets so it doesn’t make a difference to me. I would like to keep the German piece and the French piece of my solos and I’d like to keep the Latin duet and the French duet. I’m perfectly happy to cut all of the pieces I sing in English if you’d like.”
“No Claire, you can’t cut all of your English pieces. You need to at least keep the ones from Messiah.” Frank put in.
“Yes well, that’s only one piece per season. We could cut the Italian and the other English solo piece and the German duet to make room.”
“That would work.” Dougal and Geillis both made a note. “Alright lass, let me rework the programs and I’ll get a copy to you in a couple of days.”
“Thank you Mr. Mackenzie. Also, would it be possible to do easier vocal music for the Autumn series? Vivaldi is challenging and a number of the string players are from one or both vocal groups.”
Dougal was nodding before Claire finished speaking. “Of course. It’s no sensible to overwhelm people and give a substandard performance. There are several easier pieces to choose from. I’ll look them over and see which ones would complement the Vivaldi.”
“That would be wonderful Mr. Mackenzie. Now Mr. Randall, you wanted to talk about some new venues?”
“Yes, I did. The venues that you currently perform in are too small. They sell out rapidly and since we can’t add performances, large numbers of people don’t get to hear the performances at all. If we used larger venues, more people would be able to.”
“I see.” Claire looked at Joe. “What about the acoustics Joe?”
“Until I know which venues Frank is talking about I can’t tell you L.J.” Everyone looked at Frank.
“I was mainly looking at Cathedrals. Those buildings were designed with acoustics in mind. Although there is the Olympia in Paris, it was designed as a concert hall.”
“Which cathedrals were you looking at?” Claire asked. “If there’s a choice between a modern venue and a cathedral, I’d prefer the cathedral even if the seating is slightly smaller. Some of those modern buildings are very ugly to look at.”
“Why does that matter? People won’t be coming to see the building, they will be coming to see you Claire.”
Claire was completely taken aback. ‘How could Mr. Randall not understand?’ She looked at Dougal.
“Mr. Mackenzie, surely you understand what I mean?”
“I do. Frank, if people come into an ugly building, it puts them in a certain frame of mind. Most of the music we perform is if not strictly religious, inspired by religion. Everyone in both The White Rose and Mystic Rose is Catholic. Claire is also Catholic. So when we perform, we always sing it as though we were in church, whether the venue is a church or not. The performance would sound...off if the surroundings didn’t match.”
“Well, that sounds very superstitious.” Frank scoffed. “You mean to tell me that the aesthetics of the building will negatively affect your performance?”
“Yes. That is precisely what I’m tellin’ ye. A building is more than just the acoustics. It is also the frame around the music. In a museum, ye never see a beautiful piece of art in an ugly frame, or ye should’na. It matters. To both the performer and the audience.”
“Claire. You cannot agree with that.”
“Why not? It’s true. I don’t mind performing in a concert hall, but I much prefer a church. I just feel better when I play in a church.”
Frank threw up his hands. “Fine. Let’s talk about Cathedrals then.”
Joe held up a hand. “Wait a minute. Why do we need to change the venues at all? The ones that we’ve used before are perfectly acceptable.”
Frank scowled. “No, they aren’t. More and more people are being turned away because the venues aren’t large enough to accommodate the number of people who want to hear Claire play… and The White Rose of course.” Frank added as an afterthought. “So our only options are to add more performances which Claire says she won’t, or play at larger venues.”
“Those aren’t our only options.” Joe responded.
“Oh really? And since when are you the expert?” Frank said dismissively. “You do the sound. The only concern you have is what the acoustics sound like.” Turning back to Claire, “Now Claire, be reasonable. You are missing out on a great opportunity.”
Claire stood up. She had always been very sensitive about Joe being treated badly and Frank had just made her angry.
“Mr. Randall. I will give your suggestions some thought. For the upcoming year we will continue with the venues we have always used and will not be adding performances. I am sorry that some people will be left out, but I will not be rushed into making a decision.”
She turned to Dougal. “Mr Mackenzie, if you could get me the revised program as soon as possible, I would appreciate it. Since we are doing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for the Autumn series, I realize that some musicians will not be needed. Later perhaps we can discuss adding instrumental accompaniment to some of the duets instead.” Dougal nodded, hiding a smile.
“Now I have a lesson with my harpsichord instructor. Thank you for your time.” Claire walked out of the room as if she were the Queen of Sheba. Geillis gave Frank a smirk and followed, leaving the three men behind.
Joe turned to Frank. “Randall, I know you think Claire is a child and easily maneuvered. She isn’t.” He turned to the other man in the room.
“Dougal, you can drop the program off to Geillis whenever you finish it. She’ll be at the home office for the rest of the week. Thank you for all of your input today.” Joe also left the room.
The Scot stood and left as well. He didn’t bother saying anything to Frank.
As he returned to the group house, Dougal turned the meeting over in his mind. He had never seen Claire stand up for herself like that before. It remained to be seen whether or not that was a good thing for The White Rose. In the meantime, keeping Frank at arms length wouldn’t be a bad idea. Claire might decide to fire him and if she did, so would Dougal. He knew exactly to whom they should be hitching their wagon and it wasn’t Frank Randall.
Besides, the other man's dismissal of Geillis hadn't escaped him. He wasn't sure what he felt for the young red head, but she didn't deserve to be treated as a piece of furniture.
Frank was left alone, flabbergasted at what had just occurred. He’d never seen Claire give anyone a snub, least of all him. He couldn’t for the life of him understand what he had done to set her off like that. Well, teenagers were known to be irrational, particularly teenage girls. He’d give it a couple of weeks and then try again. One thing he had learned from this exchange was that he had to get her alone before trying to persuade her.
Dougal’s defection had been a surprise. Frank had thought he would jump at the chance for more exposure and greater profits. He snorted to himself. Musicians were romantics. No wonder most of them never amounted to anything. Arguing that the look of the building made a difference in the sound was a ridiculous notion.