For the first chapter of this novel, go to the archives under October 2010, and scroll down.
39. This Most Balmy Time
The longest of my last visions showed old Toby dozing in the sun in what was called the “Wash-house Court” of the Charterhouse. A boy led in a stooped old man in a black clerical gown. He tapped the ground in front of him with a cane–he was obviously blind. The boy led him to the bench where Toby sat, and helped him to a seat, saying loudly, “Captain ‘ume! You have a visitor!”
Toby started and looked at the old clergyman. He rubbed his eyes, looked away, and looked back, his eyes widening.
The old man smiled. “Well, Toby, have you no word of greeting for your old tutor?”
“Can you be Felix indeed? Are you not dead? Or am I dead, or dreaming?”
“I am indeed Felix, and I am not dead yet.”
“But the turnkey said you had been killed.”
“No, I did not die, though the turnkey thought I had. The brute who dashed my head against the wall was to be hanged, so he had nothing to lose by amusing himself with me. I awoke on the dead-wagon, and slipped away. The blow to my head did not kill me, but it left me dazed, and I soon lost the sight in my remaining eye. I groped the streets begging, and would have surely died if my Moll had not found me.”
“Moll, Moll,” Toby muttered.
“Aye, Moll. She had fallen on hard times. From whore she had turned bawd, and thence to ragpicker. I had helped her from time to time when my printing shop flourished, and now I was worse off than she. But she could yet see, and we made do. I had a few small debts among the printers that I managed to collect with her help, and got a stock of ballads. We could not play our old game, but must sell ballads honestly.”
“‘Oh, Liddesdale has ridden a raid,” Toby sang rustily.
“One day a puritan preacher began ranting at me and the small group listening to my ballads. He was able to take my audience and attract more. He preached a deal of nonsense, but he was lively, and when he passed his hat, the standers-by must have thrown in two shillings in ha’pence and farthings–I could hear them chink.”
Toby nodded and smiled.
“Well, the next day, I left my ballads at home, put on the best sober clothes I could borrow, and began preaching. I had searched my memory the night before and had patched together a sermon full of tales and scandal, but based on sound doctrine. I was able to hold two dozen people for an hour, and earned a shilling eightpence. Each day after I drew larger crowds, until–”
“Aye. As I thought might happen, the beadles arrested me for preaching without license. By then I had a large following, who harrased the beadles and then gathered under my prison window, where they heard me preach from my confinement. When I was brought before the bishop’s court, I knew I must strike boldly, or forever be a beggarly bawd and ballad-seller. As humbly as I could, I invited the court to attend to the crowd of my followers outside, who were singing psalms fit to burst their lungs. I said that if the bishop would appoint any learned divines to examine me, they would find me more capable than most who now served cures in the church, and they would find me no heretic or schismatic, and if allowed, more like to serve good order than to disturb it. If the divines found me fit, I modestly begged that they would allow me to take the cloth of the church of England. To my surprise, a gentleman whom I did not know testified that he had heard me, and that I spoke no heresy, nor threatened good order. This gentleman spoke to such good purpose that I was released into his custody while the bishop’s court considered my proposal. While the court deliberated, we spoke for many hours. I told him some of my history, but not that I was hanged, imprisoned, and lived with a bawd. He was a man of wealth and power, but had some unusual notions. He liked my preaching and my doctrine, and had a curacy in his gift. After some ado, and after a tedious examination by a committee of most pedantic divines, I was admitted to the clergy, and the gentleman bestowed his curacy on me. Later, the living proper fell open, and now I am the vicar of the parish of Bray. And the chaste, pious matron who kept my house for years was our Moll–God rest her soul.”
“Ah, Moll. She made a good end?”
“Better than most.”
“But you are blind,” Toby said, reaching out to touch Felix’s face. “I’m sorry for that. I–I sometimes think I am not in my right mind.”
“Who is in his right mind? And be not sorry for my blindness. Some losses bring gains.” He smiled thoughtfully as both sat in silence for a moment. Then Felix began to speak, his voice taking on depth, losing the creak of age that could be heard in his first words.
“You, old friend, live with faces in firelight and figures in sunlight; you dwell in chambers and corridors, where you walk on carpets and sit upon joint-stools and settles; you gaze through windows on steeples and chimneys, clouds and trees. You live in space and time, and you often measure one by the other–so many leagues, so many hours. I live now in time alone, alone in time. I feel the space my body occupies only when it moves, and it moves only in time; it is but temporaneously ambulatory. I can say, like you, that Paul’s is so many streets or miles away, but to do so is mere parroting a forgotten tongue; it is meaningless to me now. How many ticks of my staff, how many minutes trickle from the glass of my life before I hear the boasts of the knights of the post and smell the ink and paper of the bookstalls? Voices come and go, they speak for seconds or hours, I reply, they go away. For me, a voice speaking two rooms away, out of my hearing, may as well be in Trinidado as in Trinity Lane. I touch a table. If my hand in circumtangent motion is busy a score of seconds, it is small; if threescore, it is large.
“I yet have memories of faces–of my plump Moll, my lady in Lincolnshire, my widow, and you, old friend–but they freeze and melt with time. Time, no doubt, takes them one way while my memory takes them another. I know now that my memories are in my own head, cranially confined, and in no other’s. You, too, though you realize it not, assemble in your own head what you apprehend in space, for that is what I do with sound and touch. And that narrow bony box upon my shoulders is a straiter coffin than those of lead or oak. If these bones should stir and burst their cerements at the last trump and come together, reclothed in flesh and with eyes reillumined, I doubt I should know any of you, and I think I might close my eyes, obscure those reborn orbs, and commune with those images that are only cerebrally extant.
“I go, friend Toby. We have parted many times before with little expectation of meeting again, and yet we have. But we both grow passing old, and if we meet again I doubt that it will be on this temporal and mundane plane.”
Felix rose, and Toby embraced him. Then he led him toward the door of the courtyard. Felix’s words echoed in my mind for a long time after.
I could never learn fully what Howell and Tedesco had done, and just how Scarlatti figured in the scheme. Schirmer told me in general terms that it involved laundering of drug money through the complex play of dummy businesses and the money raised for the buyout of Cullen. The wopkraut file was a list of the businesses and bank account numbers. For one reason or another, the evidence was not as complete as the FBI would have liked, but our confrontation with Scarlatti forced them to move. They were able to convict Scarlatti on mail and wire fraud as well as assault and threat with a deadly weapon, but the conspiracy case linking the three of them was weak. Consequently, Tedesco got two years in a country-club prison, and Howell got only six months. In all fairness, Howell may not have known about the drug angle when he first got involved with Tedesco. I heard that both of them lost a lot of money in the 1987 market crash. Howell didn’t get the CEO job at Intersoft, but he had another very good executive position waiting for him when he walked out of the slammer.
I have not heard from Jean since she thanked me for sending her the wopkraut file. Callie told me later that she got in a support group for those who had rejected their recovered memories, and that she was now suing her original Dallas therapist. Callie said Jean met a man in the group, and had been seeing a lot of him.
Clio and I wallowed in the new dimension of our relationship for several days. Like teenagers, we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. When the quartet next met, there were gleams of comprehension almost from the moment Alice, Doreen, and Marina walked in the door. Clio swore she hadn’t told anyone, but Marina and Doreen exchanged knowing glances as they unpacked their instruments, and Alice said, smiling, “Something is going on around here.” We must have been giving off powerful vibes or pheromones or something. When they were seated with their instruments, they looked at Clio and me expectantly. I had the Goffriller in my right hand, and put my left arm around Clio.
“We have an announcement to make,” I said.
Clio giggled. “We’re engaged.”
“It’s about time,” Marina said.
The others cheered and Doreen played “Here comes the bride.” Then Clio and I submitted to hugs and congratulations. Eventually we settled down and read through some quartets, but giddiness was never far from the surface. After a jolly allegro from the early Mozart volume, Alice said, “That would make a good processional.” That set them off, suggesting various movements for wedding music.
“A Haydn presto for the recessional,” Marina said. “Gets them out fast.”
“How about the ‘Monty Python’ march?” Doreen laughed.
“You will play at the wedding?” Clio asked.
“Try and stop us,” Marina said. “What’s the date?”
“Soon,” I said.
“We don’t know,” Clio said at the same moment.
Marina bounced up and down. “Wait, wait!” She pulled out her pocket calendar. “The Hampstead Consort is in town for a concert in five weeks. Let’s have it then.”
Clio was curious. “We can’t afford a pro group.”
I caught on to Marina’s idea. “The Hampstead Consort consists of some of our London friends. You’ve heard us speak of Arthur Reed-Noble? It might be fun to invite them. But why don’t we get married next week and just have a party when they come?”
My suggestion was hooted down, and Clio said five weeks was just enough time to plan a simple wedding. Clio and the women began discussing places, invitations, clothes. Music was clearly over for the evening. Everyone followed Clio into the kitchen where she put on water for tea. I looked at my watch. Clio saw me and interrupted Alice to address me.
“Tony, go home.”
“What?” I was surprised. “Don’t I get any–tea?”
“No. We have a wedding to plan. I’ll see you in the morning. Not too early. Work on your book.” She grabbed my shirt and gave me a quick kiss. “You haven’t been home for three days,” she whispered.
“I have too,” I protested. I’d fetched clean clothes, checked my mail. But she shut me up with a longer kiss.
“Good night, Tony,” Doreen said with a laugh.
“Sleep tight,” Alice said, and Marina giggled.
I did work on the book during the next five weeks–more than I wanted to. But I also played Clio’s cello while she painted, which she claimed she had to do to keep her sanity. We also found some time to discuss our future. And to make love. As to our future–I thought I’d try to get a teaching job somewhere. I could pick up a few education courses and try to find a public school job in Baltimore. Clio said that though she loved her studio, she was not fixed in concrete, and if another location should work out well for both of us, she wouldn’t mind moving. Doreen, my mentor, had other ideas. She thought I should try for a college job on the strength of our articles and my book, which she thought should be publishable. She had a friend at a non-traditional college that didn’t require a Ph.D. for their faculty if they had other qualifications. On her recommendation, I wrote the music department chair at Hoosac College in Vermont, and sent along our articles and three chapters of my book.
Plans for the wedding proceeded, and they seemed to get less simple as time passed. Families had to be consulted and invited. My mother, who had been upset when I finally told her about all my misadventures, was pleased that I was marrying, but had doubts about my job plans and was uneasy that Clio was an artist, an occupation that in her part of Tennessee suggested instability and at least potential immorality. But when they finally met, it took Clio no more than five minutes to win her over, her genuineness was so evident. Clio’s brother Frank and his family seemed very pleasant, laid-back folks; they were the young family whose picture I had seen stuck in Clio’s mirror long ago. Frank worked for the National Weather Service out in Seattle, and his wife was a caterer. They had two little girls. They were a little wary of me at first, remembering Clio’s previous relationship. But we got on better footing quickly.
I sent invitations to Tom Backscheider and his wife and to Hiro Watanabe, as well as to Perry, Myron Fish, Carrie, and other old friends, more as a news item than with any expectation that they would come. But many of them did. Arthur Reed-Noble showed up with Fiona, the lutenist, and James, the singer. Arthur, more florid and portly than ever, his moustache bristling fiercely, greeted me warmly with a “Maclean, old chap,” and kissed Clio’s hand, deliberately playing to the stereotyped role he was acting and subtly mocking it too. “I do hope you have laid on some good single malt instead of these blends you Yanks seem so fond of.”
“Will Glenmorangie do?”
“Oh, aye, laddie,” he said, shifting his accent from BBC to Edinburgh.
Tom Backscheider and his wife came, with Tom formally attired in khakis, a white shirt and string tie, and loafers–with socks. Perry came with Tom; it turns out they had been doing some work together, and Tom gave him a plane ticket. Hiro sent good wishes, but he had married and his wife was expecting, so he didn’t come. Myron Fish managed to find a medical conference at Johns Hopkins he could attend before the wedding. Marina recruited another cellist named Donna to fill my space in the quartet for the wedding, and after the rehearsal dinner we played a Brahms sextet with her and Myron. Callie and Arthur seemed fascinated with each other; as they conversed, their Texas and Scottish accents got thicker and thicker.
The wedding was held in a restaurant near the harbor, with the ceremony in a large upstairs room and the reception in the main dining area. A Unitarian minister officiated; Alice and Marina sometimes played in her church when they wanted special music. She was relaxed and humorous, and fit right into our motley crew. The quartet played a processional from an early Mozart quartet, and Clio entered glowing in a long white linen dress, much simpler than the usual bridal gown. An unexpected special treat came when Arthur and James performed Hume’s “Fain would I change that note” before the vows. I was so moved I could hardly croak out “I do.” But I did. And we had one of Haydn’s prestos for a recessional.
The reception was a combination recital and jam session. Tom and Arthur played one of the Bach gamba sonatas; Tom was sight-reading, but he did a good job, and was delighted at the novel experience of playing with another person. Every time the viol added to the counterpoint, Tom smiled one of his squint-eyed grins and said “Cool!” Fiona and James did several bawdy Elizabethan songs, and Arthur, mellow and red-faced from several large glasses of single malt, played a couple of Hume’s lighter viol pieces. I got away with playing only the gigue from Bach’s first cello suite. Then Fiona switched to the wire-stringed orpharion, and James pulled out a shawm, a first cousin of the oboe with a penetrating sound. Together with Arthur they played a group of lively Renaissance dances, to which the guests did disco steps instead of branles and galliards. Callie Warren taught the group the “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” which they danced to the tune of “La Volta”; instead of calling out “la volta” and leaping up, they kicked and yelled “bull shit!” Callie and Arthur, both red-faced from dancing, continued to hold hands after the music stopped.
The biggest surprise came about three in the morning. Clio and I had just fallen asleep at her house, when we heard the wailing of shawms and bagpipes outside the window, followed by another bawdy Elizabethan song. Arthur’s consort had treated us to another Elizabethan custom, serenading the newlyweds. It was thought that the second time on the wedding night was more likely to produce a child. Fortunately for us at the time, Clio was on the pill.
We didn’t go on a honeymoon trip right away, but hung around until all our out of town friends had gone, and then we made ourselves put in a certain number of hours at work every day. Although I had pretty much moved into Clio’s place, my lease ran for three more weeks, so I continued to write in my garage apartment. I was nearly finished with the first draft of the last chapter.
About a week after the wedding, I got a call from Doreen’s friend at Hoosac College. They had an opening for someone who could teach music history, cello, and help with the orchestra. They wanted me to visit and give a talk and a short recital, sometime before the end of the month–that was within two weeks. I thought I could get an acceptable talk out of my last chapter, but I worried about the recital. I hadn’t been practicing for performance. I expressed my gratitude and interest, but also my concern.
“What did you have in mind in the way of a recital?” I asked.
“You’re a cellist, aren’t you? Well, how about one of the Bach suites? That way you won’t have to worry about an accompanist.”
I was greatly relieved. I could play all of the third suite from memory, and I knew Clio’s wonderful cello would give me a boost. So we set a date for my visit.
Neither of us had been to Vermont before, so we decided to make my interview trip into our honeymoon. In the meantime, I pulled my talk together and practiced the third suite, while Clio read up on Hoosac College. She found that the college had a small art department, but the two faculty members were both artists whose work she knew and respected. The college was in a small town near the center of the state, but it was supposed to be surrounded by a beautiful landscape, and was only two hours from Boston. There were galleries in Boston that she knew about, so the prospect of moving to Vermont began to seem more like an opportunity for refreshing change than exile in an American Siberia.
The drive up was very pleasant, once we got past the congestion of the eastern seaboard. Vermont struck us both as beautiful. It was late summer, and the hills were various rich shades of green. I was reminded of the mountains of Tennessee, though here the landscape seemed more domesticated, neater. Hoosac village was a picture postcard of a town, white frame houses with green roofs, a square with a sharp-steepled church, shady maples, oaks, ashes, and beeches. The college blended in with the town; some buildings were early nineteenth century, and others were gray stone in formal quadrangles built in the twenties. There were about two thousand undergraduates.
I gave my talk on the In Nomine , illustrated with taped examples, to an audience of six faculty members, the dean, and a dozen students. The questions afterward were serious and thoughtful, especially those from the students. I managed plausible answers without losing my voice or falling down. The recital drew a somewhat larger audience. My palms were sweaty, but Clio helped by radiating confidence, and I knew the Goffriller would impress the listeners, even if I slipped. After the initial descending C-major scale, I lost myself in the music, and everything worked. The audience applauded warmly.
We had met the music faculty briefly before the talk, and they were very cordial; but after the recital, there was a cocktail party at the chair’s home, and we got to know the individuals a little better. The violin teacher, George Underwood, was a bit older, in his late forties; he had an easy midwestern drawl, thick glasses and thinning hair, and reminded me of my old cello teacher. His wife Betty, the piano teacher, was short, round, and bubbly. Underwood had played in the Boston Symphony until the strain of competitive playing and tendinitis made teaching more attractive. Together they gave sonata recitals, and Underwood played in the less demanding season of the Vermont Symphony.
Betty Underwood was very enthusiastic. “Beautiful playing! And what a marvellous cello! Now we can really get into the trio literature.”
George smiled. “Now, Betty, we haven’t hired him yet.”
“Oh, but we must!”
I may be forgiven for taking Betty’s indiscreet outburst as a good sign.
The chair, Adrienne Beaupere, was also the voice teacher. She had a touch of the grande dame about her, for she was tall, stately, and statuesque. She was about fifty, and a widow. Clio charmed them all, and once had Madame Beaupere shrieking with undignified mirth. The only sourball in the group was the composer, Adam Klima, who lost interest in me when I confessed that I had played little recent music. I said I just had not had the opportunity, and expressed eagerness to try some of his own work. He said, “I don’t write ‘beautiful’ music,” and turned away to the hors d’oeuvres.
The college put us up in a comfortable inn that night, and sent us off the next day full of hope. We drove by a white house with a big red barn a few miles out of town; it was for sale.
“Stop,” Clio said. “Look at that. I wouldn’t paint it–too much of a cliché. But isn’t it lovely?”
“So you wouldn’t mind it up here?”
“No. I’m just trying not to get my hopes up too much.”
We drove around Vermont for the next three days, staying at various quaint bed-and-breakfast places, walking down the Church Street mall in Burlington, eating at the New England Culinary Institute restaurant, taking the tour at Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory, hiking up Mt. Ascutney, and going through the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury. This place really appealed to me, for it was a real wunderkammer, a miscellaneous collection of local and foreign things, from a stuffed moose and dusty stuffed birds and Indian pottery, to slippers for Chinese ladies with bound feet, netsuke, minerals and crystals. It was housed in a good old Victorian gothic building. My favorite exhibit was the bug art by John Hampson (1836-1923): Washington saying farewell to his generals, Lincoln, General Pershing, all in mosaics of tiny, brightly colored beetles. Clio was also amused at the possibilites of the bug as artistic medium. “It seems to be archival, too,” she said. “The colors haven’t faded in sixty years.”
Eventually we had to go back to Baltimore, where we waited in anxious suspense. One night the possibilities and implications of the Hoosac job were spinning around in my brain so fast that I couldn’t sleep. I got up and stumbled into Clio’s studio, where the light from a full moon was streaming in through the big windows. I plopped in a chair and stared at the moon. Then I had my last vision of Tobias Hume.
It was a brief one, and not very clear. Old Toby, older than when I saw him with Felix, knocked at the door of a house I recognized as having belonged to Jane and Sir Andrew Monmouth. A servant answered, and Toby asked for an audience with Sir Charles Monmouth, identifying himself as Sir Charles’s mother’s music teacher. After a significant wait, he was ushered upstairs to a room where a man with reddish-blond hair and slightly drooping eyes was standing on a stool being measured for clothes.
“What is your business with me, sir?” he asked rather brusquely.
“By your leave, Sir Charles,” began Toby, removing his hat, “as I told your man, I was your mother’s music teacher; I also taught your aunt, Lady Audrey.”
“I recall Lady Audrey saying something about a poor brother in the Charterhouse. Are you he?”
“Aye, sir, and if you please, I have some private business with you.”
Sir Charles sighed impatiently, stepped down from the stool, and waved away the tailor, who bowed and left the room. “Very well,” he said, facing Toby with folded arms. “On with your business.”
“Sir Charles, you must believe me when I tell you that I come not to beg favor or money. Though I am a poor man, and a subscription to help me develop my instruments of war–” He broke off and shook his head, muttering “No more of that.”
Sir Charles frowned. “To the matter; I have some haste.”
Toby took a deep breath. “I would not depart the world without telling you. I am your father.”
Sir Charles squinted at Toby. “My father? Sir Andrew Monmouth was my father.”
“No, sir. I loved your mother before she left her father’s house. And after she married Sir Andrew, I came to teach her music. And then–you were conceived.”
Sir Charles scowled. “Sir, you are a madman or a rogue, or both. I’ll not have my mother whored and my father cuckolded and me bastardized in my own house. Get out!”
“I go. But I speak the truth.”
“John!” Sir Charles called. “William!” Two servants appeared. “Throw this old beggar out and never admit him to this house again.”
The two men took Toby by his arms and roughly led him down the stairs, pushed him out the door, and slammed it behind him. And then the vision slammed shut, and I have never had another, to my relief, but also to my regret.
Clio brought in the mail, thowing everything on the coffee table but a fat envelope which she waved as she ran toward me. “It’s here.”
I opened it as Clio looked over my shoulder, bobbing on her toes. I was offered an assistant professorship at a modest salary, with hope for promotion with tenure when my book was accepted by a publisher.
We embraced joyfully. “I want that house with the red barn,” Clio said.