A Summer in Olympia Ch. 05byNigel Debonnaire©
It was just past Monday noon when I knocked at the office door of the St. Louis Choral-Symphony Society. A pale man in his twenties wearing a dark suit and white shirt opened it and asked who I was. I told him of my appointment and he ushered me in immediately.
Alfred Ernst was a man of average height, with an immaculately coiffed beard and hair, elegant cravat, and sharp grey suit. His blue eyes shone in welcome and he greeted me in German: "Frankie, how long has it been? I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw your letter last week. Welcome, thrice welcome."
"Thanks, Alfred," I replied slipping back into the German of my student days easily. "I couldn't believe my good fortune to see you as the director of this Society. How are you faring in America?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "It will be an uphill climb. Herr Otten resigned because the board cut back the subscription season, but I believe he was too pessimistic. With good music making, we will rebuild the subscriptions and expand the season. How are you? When I heard of your father, I thought you might be lost to the arts forever."
I shrugged my shoulders. "Another uphill climb, I'm sorry to say. I had to leave Europe and use my small savings to help him out. There were no music jobs I could find here in America, since they always want to hire Germans or other foreigners as conductors or faculty, and the MacDowell colony could give me no help, other than inform me of this possibility. I was lucky to find Sir Charles willing to hire me as a copyist on the strength of a piano sonata I sent him."
"You've written a piano sonata? Do you have it with you? I must hear it."
"Yes, Alfred, we'll get to that before long I imagine. How's Minnie?"
"Oh, she's coping with life in a foreign land. St. Louis is such a German town I have a hard time remembering we're in America, except the weather is so blasted hot. We both learned English to live here, and we've hardly used it. Once we accomplish great things here, we'll go back to the Fatherland. You must meet us for dinner, or luncheon. I know a place that will make you think we're back in Leipzig. Thursday, perhaps?"
"Surely, Alfred, surely. Let's take care of business first."
He gave me a look and led me to his office, which doubled as his studio. Alfred was always impeccable, unlike most of our classmates, and his piano was in perfect tune. "Do you get to perform much on the piano?" I asked.
"A little, mostly homes and salons, sometimes I get to the piano at the Beer Garden. But my focus here is on conducting, so that's what I'm working on the most. Now, where is this score we're supposed to do?" I presented it to him and he looked it over. "You have a beautiful style on the page, Frankie, so clean and legible. Most composers think it's all right to give me chicken scratchings like Beethoven, and think I'll be able to decipher it."
"I can relate: this is the interpretation of chicken scratchings. It took me three weeks."
Glancing from page to page. "I hope it was worth the pay. By the way, how much is he paying you?"
I told him and he nodded his head. "That's more than I'm making here, although I don't envy you. Well, let's play through it, just like the old days, one piano, four hands. Ready?"
We spent the next three hours playing through the music without speaking. When we finished, Alfred lit a cigarette and offered me one. I took it and lit it to hear him say: "_Don Giovanni_ closed after five performances; this will as well. That's all Sir Charles is paying for, and I will bet my entire salary no one will want hear it after that. We're mounting Gluck's _Orfeo_ this fall, so we can use the same sets and costumes, the only thing we'll have to make just for this is a fake chain and a big rock, and we'll find other uses for them." He blew out a huge cloud of smoke and held up his hands in disbelief. "God in heaven, this is so artless. How can you stand it?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "I focus on getting the notes right, not whether they belong together or have any great inspiration. I've learned to turn off the critical sense when I haven't needed it. Poverty helps."
"You have a greater talent than I for that. At least it could be something wild and bizarre, like Debussy's music. In fact, I wish it were Debussy. . ." His voice trailed off and he took another puff of his cigarette. "I hear Sir Charles is an exile here."
I shook my head in negation. "Yes, but I can't talk about that."
"I thought not. And his overall contribution to the Society is the biggest this season, so I can't say no. I'll have to get word out so the other members of the board won't criticize him too much, we may want his money next season. How soon will you have the parts ready?"
"Do you want help?"
"Hell no, the rate he's paying me, I don't care if I copy his complete works. A professorship at Harvard wouldn't pay this much. Besides, he's out of town and will want to be present when the orchestra sight reads this, and he's not due back for a long time. And at heart, he's a nice guy with a big heart, even if he's a pompous mediocrity. "
"Pompous mediocrity," he repeated, shrugging his shoulders. "Like most Englishmen."
I shrugged my shoulders and nodded. "Keep your eye out for a man named Edward Elgar. He will be famous before long, even on the Continent."
"Elgar? Never heard of him."
"Living in the Midlands, a local star at this time, but very original. Take a look at his _Salut d-Amour_ sometime."
"I'll remember that. Now, lets clear our palettes and listen to this piano sonata I haven't heard yet." I played the piece for him and when I finished, he leaped to his feet. "I can find a publisher for this, Frankie, I promise you. Did you try anyone in Germany before you left?"
"Everyone. They all said no."
"They will change their minds when this becomes known." He pulled out his fob and checked the time. "If I don't get the rest of my work done today, she will have my head when I get home. Check your diary and let me know if Thursday will work for you: Minnie is eager to see you."
"Thanks, Alfred. We'll be in touch."
Maurice was waiting for me in the outer office, and stood when I came through the door. "I trust it was a good interview?" she said gravely.
"Yes, we're on course for the production. I need to get back to work on the parts as soon as may be; please give Miss Pearl my regrets for tea as I must begin my work and work as late as I can keep my eyes open. The next two weeks will be a marathon."
"I take it you'll want strong coffee often?"
"Yes, Maurice, thank you. I trust Opal will favor me."
"Absolutely, and I can make coffee as well. We will keep you going."
We rode the rails back to the stop for Olympia, and I went straight to my writing desk. The next four days were a blur as I spent every waking moment on my task, wanting to get my task done as quickly as possible. Fortunately, Sir Charles favored an orchestra no bigger than Beethoven's or Brahms'; if he'd written for a Wagnerian ensemble I would have despaired completing my task by the end of the year. The others kept me fed and supplied with coffee but otherwise left me alone. I took no recreation, knowing once I finished I would have some space to breathe. A quick note to Alfred Ernst sent my regrets about Thursday and promised a visit as soon as the parts were done. Word reached me the Broughams reached Colorado in good shape and were enjoying their visit, although Sir Charles sprained his wrist during a fall while hiking. Fortunately it was his left wrist, so his shooting was not affected by the injury.
Saturday I awakened late and realized I had to take a break. My eyes were tired, and I knew unless I rested them I would not be able to continue. I informed Maurice of my intentions, and he brought some cold compresses. I also requested to be left alone, and they respected my wishes. After a day's rest, I decided to take a walk after tea, and strolled out over the ridge to the swimming lake. It was peaceful and serene, and as I sat on its bank I realized someone was swimming. Ducking behind a tree, I thought at first it would be Pearl and Opal, but the swimmer came into view and I realized Maurice was taking a dip. She swam gracefully, her head above the water and dry, her motions economical. Flipping over, her breasts came into view, cutting through the water like white freckled sails, glistening in the late afternoon sun. I was afraid she would look my direction, but her attention was elsewhere and I remained unseen. She got out on the other side and lay on the grass, long and lean, fit and sturdy, her wet skin reflecting the sun except for the dry red hair of her head and the damp red hair between her legs. A horse was tethered near her exit point, and I took the opportunity to return to the house before she returned and saw me out walking.
That night, Maurice invited me into the study and I agreed, knowing that my eyes needed to be unburdened with print of any kind but billiards would be no problem. We lit our cigars, poured brandy and passed the time as gentlemen. "I have a telegram from Sir Charles for you. Would you like me to open it?"
"Shall I read it to you in its entirely or give you a synopsis?"
"A synopsis will be sufficient."
"He is glad your meeting with Herr Ernst went so well, and he looks forward to being at the first read through by the chorus and orchestra upon his return. Casting of the leads can wait for now. His host has invited him to stay another week, and he has accepted. The hunting has been excellent and the men of the party have enjoyed themselves immensely. The ladies did not find Denver to their liking, but the mountain air has been most agreeable and they are glad to forgo another week's summer heat in Missouri. He asks you to give his regards to Pearl, and hopes you are enjoying her company." An eyebrow raised slightly as he read the last. "He also hopes you are finding the staff serving you well and helping you accomplish your endeavor."
"That's good, Maurice. I shall have to write him back tomorrow."
"Nonsense, sir. You must either rest or return to your work. I will write him on your behalf."
"Of course. And Pearl's letter can share the envelope."
Maurice shook his head. "Pearl never writes her father or mother when they are separated. They never write her, either, and I pass along the news in my correspondence with them."
"Have you written your father lately?"
"Three times a week."
"Remarkable." We returned to our recreation, and Maurice drank more and more, bringing up topics of ancient Greece. "You know, in ancient times, a man's masculinity was not measured by whom his partners were."
"Really?" I knew this already. "How so?"
"A man was considered manly if he were the active partner in coitus. It did not matter who he penetrated, or which orifice: if he was the active party, he was a man."
"Interesting. Do you think that should be the standard today?"
She slyly bent over the table to take her next shot."Yes. Otherwise, your own status might be in question."
She smiled and winked. "There was that incident last week when I brought your altered clothing to your rooms. We shared something there that would make you an outcast in some circles."
The look in her eyes was a challenge, which I had a hard time understanding. "I think not. I know who I am and what I am. It makes no difference to me what others think, or what standard I would be judged by. Let the world think what it will."
"But there are things that should not be spoken of," she said, bending over for a shot. "Kinds of affection that would find no acceptance if made public: that would bring instant condemnation and ridicule. You know what I'm talking about. . ."
I did know, but I didn't believe Maurice thought me ignorant of her secret. For someone who saw her every day, her chin always naturally smooth, her curves hidden in her butler's costume but perceptible to the one looking for it, her gait which was almost masculine, but not quite. Of course, I had seen her naked twice, but that seemed to be beyond her knowledge. "I do know what you're talking about, but not why. Please be more plain."
Maurice shrugged her shoulders. "If I were to share what I knew, of your intimacies with me. . ."
At this, I wrenched her right arm behind her back and pushed her face into the billiard table. "I will not be blackmailed, especially by you, Maurice." Holding her with my left arm, I smacked her backside with my right. "I know what kind of man you are, Maurice, and I know how to deal with you." I spanked her several more times before I roughly pulled her pants down: she wore no underwear and her white, freckled posterior almost gleamed in the light. My hand went between her legs roughly to find her sex, which was wetter than any woman's I've ever touched. I probed harder and her legs spread to accommodate me; this was just a provocation! My manhood rallied quickly after a week's abstinence; I released my pants to let them drop to the floor, and pulled my underpants down as well. My hand went back between her legs and put three fingers into her dripping slit, twisting and turning. "I know what kind of man you are, and how to treat a man like you." I positioned my prick in line with her entryway, and started pushing it inward.
She grunted when I entered her, and stayed down on the table when I released her arm. Her vagina opened wide for me, and I was amazed as more of my penis went inside than with any other woman. I paused from time to time as she adjusted, then resumed my violation of her sex, bottoming out at last with my prick reaching the depth of her cervix. "You are a Spartan woman, trained to fight like a man and even look like a man, to fight off any man unworthy of you and submit only when one is able to conquer you. But you are Siannion Fitz Maurice, and I have conquered you."
Her breathing grew shallower and shallower. I moved in and out a little bit and she let out a small cry. My hips made circles, slowly at first and then picking up speed. Her hips moved in concert, welcoming my intruder gladly and holding it firmly when it hit bottom. "How did you know?" she whispered.
"I saw you that first night with Sir Charles, with Ganymede around your waist. I saw you swimming this afternoon in the midst of your ride."
"I. . .was. . .hoping you'd see me. . .out there. Only Monty knows, and Bella. The rest. . .are deceived. My God, I've never felt like this before. Don't stop, please, please, please. Harder, faster."
I complied with her request, pounding her harder and harder until her hands were clasping billiard balls and banging them against the table. She reached her first orgasm and I pulled out, flipping her over. I pulled open her shirt and exposed her breasts, mauling them with my hands. She lay back and let me have my way with her body, grimacing and gasping as I re-entered her, my hands squeezing her pierced nipples. Another storm came over the horizon, its flashes lighting up the distance and soft booms approaching from afar. As it came closer, I ravaged her more fiercely and she clawed my back. As the storm peaked, rain pelting the windows and the sound of crashing around us, we both reached our summit, and held each other deeply as the storm passed.
Standing up, I withdrew and sat on a chair, reeling from the sensations. She sat up after some moments and came to sit on my lap, playing gently with my chest hair. "So, you've known my secret," she said with her thick Irish burr.
"Yes. I don't share secrets, it's too painful. I've had my own to carry, to my shame, and I don't know what others are going through, so I don't betray their trust."
She looked deep into my eyes and frowned. "What pains you, Frankie? I can see it in your soul. Something dark, something awful."
I looked in her deep blue eyes and knew I could trust her. "It was when I was a teenager. My family was wealthy, we wanted for nothing, and we always had servants. Being Pennsylvanians, we never owned slaves before the war, and we treated all our servants as members of the family: provided for them, did what was good for them. When I was fifteen, my mother got a new serving maid: Denise. She was my age, she was unbearably lovely and we discovered love together. It was beautiful, we did what we wanted, tried what we wanted, and I learned so much about the ways of love. It was secret, had to be secret, but we got away into the countryside frequently and nature was our accomplice. It was all I could do to keep from attacking you as you left the water this afternoon. Then she stopped having her periods, her stomach grew and it was obvious. I remember when my parents found out: my mother would not stop crying and my father sat there like a statue."
"What was wrong with that? This is America, you coulda married her. It's not like England here."
"Oh yes it is like England one particular way. Denise was descended from slaves. There are laws against people of different races marrying; there is no tolerance. . . It didn't matter that I loved her with all my heart and she loved me with all hers, our love could never, never be. Father dismissed her from his service that day, although I found out later he found her another job in Pittsburgh. The next week, he told me I would have to go to Europe to study music, enroll in whatever music school would have me, make my livelihood there until enough time passed by that people here forgot. He would pay my way, I would not be poor, but I couldn't come home until they said."
She sat and put her head on my shoulder, weeping. I held her and continued: "My dear sister died three years ago and I couldn't come home. Mother died after the Panic set it and Father lost his fortune; that's when could I come home. He's all right now, I had a little bit to help him, but I had to find a job and so I came here. I learned Denise had a daughter and she's a bright child, but she's a second class citizen in this country, always will be and there's nothing I can do about that even if I were the richest man in the world."
We listened as the storm went on to the East and another came over the Western horizon. "I guess the story of a little Irish lass, barefoot from the bogs, youngest of fourteen, isn't as sad as all that. I kept away from the lads and the convent, convinced a recruiting officer I was a eighteen year old boy when I was fifteen year old girl, and took the Saxon Shilling. Went to India and back, served with Sir Charles' cousin in Bengal as his aide de camp, and he gave me a reference. Sir Charles is a horny little bugger if you're a man or woman, so my secret couldn't be safe from him. He's treated me well, and I owe him. Came from England with him to get out of that damned country:America's always been the land of new promise for the Irish. So here I am."
We sat and held each other as the storm passed until we returned to our rooms via the secret ways. I slept the sleep of the dead that night.
The next day we had a Sunday like the one before: Trinity Episcopal in the morning, lunch on the veranda, music through the afternoon. Pearl gave me odd looks all afternoon, and I had to return to my work when after tea. That week was also a blur: I hardly paid attention to who brought my meals, and my rest was undisturbed even with two nights of storms. The celebration of the Fourth of July made no impression, although I had been away from it for so many years I wasn't in the habit of observing it.
The next Monday afternoon saw the completion of my task, and I wired Alfred to tell him I was ready with the parts. He wired back to meet him and his wife for lunch at a restaurant in St. Louis and to bring a companion. Pearl agreed quickly, and we set out with Maurice handling the bundle. The Ernsts met us at a German beer garden close to a park, and Alfred and Minnie were effusive in making me welcome. After greeting them, I made my introduction: "Alfred, this is Miss Pearl Brougham, Sir Charles' daughter, This is Herr Alfred Ernst, conductor of the St. Louis Choral-Symphony Society, and his wife Minnie."