Chapter 1......... The Symphony
October 24th, 1882
Fog curled along the docks at Liverpool and twilight shrouded the Mersey River. Rain drizzled onto the wooden planks, painting them night-black as if it were raining ink. It wasn’t merely quiet; the absence of all the normal sounds of life –laughter, luggage clashing, the squawking of seagulls, tearful goodbyes, loud bursts of profanity – had been washed out, and the silence that filled the air in its place was deafening. The profound stillness made it resemble more the shores of Acheron than a place humans would go about mundane business.
There was only one person left standing on the dock, a middle-aged man with fleshy, sallow skin, smoking a cigarette under the ineffectual shelter of the gangplank canopy. He was huddled over himself, head bent downward, his worn hat catching most of the rain and his bare neck catching the rest. The smoke curled starkly in the bitter air of October while he stared distantly at the slick wood under his feet.
“Vous êtes Pierre Toussaint?” a stranger’s voice asked at the same moment a pair of black shoes scuffed into his vision.
Pierre gave a start and looked up. The stranger’s hands were tucked into his pockets and a satchel hung by his side. He was looking out on the Mersey as if disinterested in the reply.
“Enfin… Ça dépend si je te dois de l’argent,” Pierre coughed. “Vous êtes?”
“A friend,” the stranger said, still speaking French. His clothes were shabby as if he had just come from a long journey. “You are leaving for America? I have many acquaintances there.” He gave Pierre a significant glance before looking back out at the river.
Pierre studied him a moment before fishing in his pocket, drawing out a brass cigarette case. “I’m scheduled for several lectures and concerts in New York and Virginia, but I have never been to America before. Do you care for a cigarette, friend?”
“I only smoke on Hallow’s Eve.”
“Ah,” Pierre said, understanding.
“Here,” the man handed him a parcel wrapped in brown packaging. “It’s imperative that this be delivered to someone in Boston on the 18th of November.”
“Of course,” Pierre said, feeling the weight of it in his hands. “What is it?”
The man gestured permission and Pierre unwrapped it. It was a book bound in black leather with a simple title gilt in gold. It smelled fresh, as if the wheat paste had finished drying in the bindery only minutes ago, and the pages were crisp and barely opened.
Pierre took a sharp breath.
“So you know what this is,” the stranger said.
“I… we haven’t seen one of these in…”
“A hundred years at least.”
Pierre opened the cover as if lifting the lid of a snake basket. His skin crawled at the sight of the letters, feeling like the black ink could wriggle off the page and into him. Almost despite himself, he found he was reading the first sentence. The world started dissolving away with the sensation of sinking before the stranger’s hand shot out to slam the cover closed.
“Best not read it,” he said, as if it were a friendly suggestion, though it was clearly an order. “In fact, if I were you, I would keep it out of sight for the duration of your travels.”
Pierre shuddered and re-wrapped the book, then paused and looked up at the stranger, his eyes slanted. “I must ask –”
“Of course, you must,” the man interrupted, and he had already rolled up his right shirtsleeve, showing Pierre a small, black tattoo.
Pierre nodded, satisfied, and tucked the book under his arm.
“Further instructions are in this letter,” the stranger said, handing him a slip of paper. “Please destroy it after reading. Have a safe journey, Pierre.”
Pierre looked at the thick scrawled handwriting, stark against the bleached paper. “But how will I know who to…” he trailed off as he looked up. The stranger had disappeared.
The foghorn of the ship blew out a low tone that reverberated against the water, startling him and making him drop the butt of his cigarette. He kicked it into the river and scanned the expansive docks, but the stranger had vanished like a phantom. Pierre glanced at the package under his arms, his sallow face a little paler, and stepped onto the gangplank. Three quarters of an hour later, night had fallen, and the ship had departed for New York City.
November 18th, 1882
The brooch was from the 17th century. Silas was certain of that. It was a mourning brooch and the barely legible date 166…–16…3 was inscribed on the back. However, the name of the deceased had almost worn away completely. All he could make out were the letters …b…a………l.
It was snowing outside in Boston, the white flakes only visible in the light of the gas lamps lining Walden Street. The stars were shrouded by a thick blanket of smoky clouds, though Silas hadn’t glanced out the window to see it. He’d been slouched over his desk for hours. To his left was a tall stack of papers, and to his right, a smaller stack marked in red ink; papers he had been grading before he abandoned them for the collection of letters of Reverend Wilhelm Franks in an attempt to trace the origin of the brooch he had picked up in Pennsylvania a week before.
His attention to the one small brooch was almost comical in the midst of the study, which may have better been called a museum. It was lined with bookshelves, and every inch of them was packed with oddities: 16th century horseshoes reportedly from the pope’s own livery, painted eggs displayed on pedestals, several collections of dried moths, a mask from Africa, a dried cuckoo’s foot from Australia, and, of course, tightly packed rows of books from seven centuries and at least fifteen languages.
Silas Lawrence’s propensity for collecting could not be called a hobby, nor could it be called an occupation. If anything, it was a personality flaw. Old things seemed to find him wherever he went, and without fail he brought them home with the intention of selling them or sending them to the proper museum. However, once in his possession, he couldn’t help being curious where they had come from and what winding path they had taken through history. Often before he’d learned much about one piece, he would pick up another, and piece by piece, his collection grew before he’d had a chance to sell any of it.
In any case, the book of collected letters of Reverend Wilhelm Franks was shedding no light on the brooch’s origins. He closed the book and was about to go look for another when he saw the piece of Latin composition on the table in front of him. He set Wilhelm Franks aside and skimmed the page’s scrawled and sloppy handwriting with a bemused frown.
“Declensions, Theodore,” he mumbled under his breath, leaning forward and dipping the pen. “You’ve been in this class for three semesters, and I wish you’d at least have the decency to cheat with the appendix to pass.” He rubbed his forehead and marked two things wrong, ignoring the other twenty, and gave the composition a 95%. He set it on the small stack to his right and stared at the stack to his left with a sigh, rubbing his hands through his hair. He ought to hire an assistant. They were so brutally expensive these days, though. He might be able to convince his father to talk to the college treasurer. Surely something could be done.
His father! Blast! He was late again!
He jumped up from the desk, checking his sleeves. Ink stains. He didn’t have time to put on another, though. He half tripped over a parlor table as he threw on an overcoat and crashed through the door, trying to tamp his hair down as he darted down the stairs, forgetting his hat like he usually did. In the parlor, the proprietress of the boarding house was sitting in front of the fire, her seemingly permanent glower hovering over her embroidery. Silas managed a, “goodbye, Mrs. Finch,” before he shoved open the door to the streets. The thick flakes of snow landed on his eyelashes and the back of his neck. He blinked and looked up with a distant expression. Then he almost ran into the cab waiting at the edge of the walk.
“Beacon Hill,” he said, putting his foot on the step.
He paused with his hand on the frame, feeling like he had forgotten something.
“Silas!” he heard a scream behind him that nearly made him jump out of his coat.
He turned to see a woman racing toward the coach, her untamed hair flying out of its loose bun and feet almost tripping over her skirts. “Faye, dear,” he smiled.
She stumbled to a halt, hand on the cab as she panted. “Sometimes, I can not believe you. You forgot me. Again!”
“I obviously did not forget you,” he gestured at her. “Here you are.” He held out a hand.
She took it with a slanted look and climbed into the cab. He sat next to her and shut the door as the cab started moving. Faye gave a loud sigh and looked out the window.
Silas stifled a sigh himself and looked up at the ceiling. “What?”
“How often do you think other men forget they’re married?”
“Forget they’re…” Silas snorted. “I didn’t forget we were married. I was in a rush is all. Because you were late.”
“And you weren’t?”
“Well, I can't imagine I would have been late if you had remembered to leave on time.”
“Is that so? Then what the devil happened last week?”
“Language, darling. Last week was an exception. The grading was due in the morning.”
“Well, grading or no grading, we're late now, and someone ought to take the blame.”
“A good suggestion,” Silas said, hiding a grin. “Might I propose you do?”
“I don't think I will.”
“I did last time.”
Faye slumped into the seat and leaned her head back. “Oh, alright. But next time, it's your turn.”
“Fine,” Silas folded his hands amiably and leaned back with a distant expression, trying to think of a name that contained the letters …b…a………l.
Despite his rumpled clothes, it was obvious he had never experienced poverty. The clothes were expensive and new, but he wore them with the complete indifference of someone who would never have the capacity to appreciate them. Faye however, though her clothes were equally expensive and well-tailored, wore them awkwardly, as if trying to wear a different skin. Her hair was a mess of untamable curls, all the colors she wore managed to clash with each other, and underneath her dress she wore decrepit, muddy riding boots (though to be fair, this may have had more to do with the rush to catch up with Silas before he left without her).
The cab drove through the tight streets of Beacon Hill and came to a stop in front of one of the identical townhouses differentiated only by the number 5 on its doorframe. The 5 was recently polished and centered to a thirty-second of an inch, both vertically and horizontally, as was the doorknocker.
Silas and Faye walked up to the door and stood a moment on the landing, straightening each other out, Faye smoothing Silas' rumpled shirt and straightening his tie and Silas brushing a splatter of mud off her coat. He took his glasses off and put them in his jacket pocket.
“Shall we?” he held his arm out to her and rapped the door knocker.
The butler answered the door and let them in. Silas saw the butler was wearing his customary blank face, which Faye had informed him meant the butler was irritated about something or other. He wore that expression a lot.
“Hello, Mr. Oscar,” Faye said as he took their coats.
“Is father already…” Silas gestured to the dining room and the butler gave a brusque nod while putting Faye’s coat on a hanger.
Silas took Faye’s hand and strode toward the dining room door. The butler tossed the coats on a chair and ran after them to open the dining room door, shooting them another scathingly blank look.
Inside, the oak table was already laid with cold, white China and delicately arranged plates of roast beef and boiled carrots. The room was windowless and lit only by three candlesticks on the table. Four others hung from ornate silver brackets on either side of the wall, illuminating the grey wallpaper decorated sparsely with dark pictures of windy landscapes. The butler closed the dining room door and Silas felt Faye shiver against him as a draft blew through.
There were three people in the room. On one side of the table sat a young couple. They had a delicate poise about them, the man sitting straight and stiff in his black suit and the woman’s golden curls falling over her square shoulders. Mr. Lawrence sat at the head of the table, his body tall and lean like Silas, though it made him imposing where it only made Silas look clumsy. His eyes had grown dull over the years and his mustache had greyed completely, but that did little to soften his commanding demeanor.
“Ah, Silas,” Mr. Lawrence said. “Come in, come in.”
“My apologies for being late, father,” Silas said as he pulled a chair out for Faye. “I lost track of time.”
Mr. Lawrence waved dismissively with his hand. “You know Mr. and Mrs. Ansford, of course?”
“Yes,” Silas said, giving a short nod to Mr. Ansford, who nodded back politely.
“How do you do, Mrs. Ansford?” Faye asked.
Mrs. Ansford smiled back brightly. “Quite well. And you?”
Her teeth were so white. It was startling. She was wearing a sky-blue dress with lace lining that made her blue eyes sparkle like sapphires. A pearl and diamond necklace draped delicately over her chiffon collar. Silas realized he was staring and looked away quickly as Faye smoothed her hair back into its unruly bun and straightened her brown cotton shawl.
“Mrs. Ansford, that is a lovely necklace,” she said. “It becomes you so well.”
“Why, thank you!” Mrs. Ansford smiled brightly, putting her hand on Mr. Ansford’s arm. “It was a gift from Richard for our anniversary last month. It’s so kind of you to notice.”
How could anyone not notice? Silas mused.
“We’ve been married two years now,” Mr. Ansford said.
A porcelain doll, Silas realized. That’s what Mrs. Ansford reminded him of. Like the German china dolls with their glassy white skin and fragile features. Thank God Faye wasn’t so delicate.
“And how long have you been married, Mr. Lawrence?”
“Hm?” Silas glanced up from his plate at Mr. Ansford, then looked at Faye. “Ah… what is it now, dear? Two years and… em…”
“Three years and a month,” Faye answered. “The anniversary was only a few weeks ago, remember?”
“Oh?” Silas blinked. “I mean, of course, it was. How could I forget? I only meant that… three years already?”
He’d forgotten. He’d also forgotten on the day of their anniversary as well. Faye had had to remind him, like she always did. That was another reason he was glad Faye wasn’t a delicate sort of woman. Someone like Mrs. Ansford would have cried and moped for weeks, he had no doubt, but Faye had simply told him the day before, casually as if she assumed he knew though she knew he didn’t, and very firmly suggested the appropriate celebration, and that had been that.
Mr. Ansford laughed. “I understand, Mr. Lawrence. Sometimes I feel like we were only just married, too. It’s amazing how quickly time goes by.”
Mrs. Ansford beamed at him and he smiled, meeting her eyes and squeezing her hand.
“Where did you two meet, if you don’t mind my asking?” He turned back to them.
Mr. Lawrence cleared his throat as he cut his roast beef. Silas glanced at him, then back at Mr. Ansford.
“Ah… I believe it was… a mutual friend from college,” he answered.
“Oh, come now, there must be more of a story than that,” Mrs. Ansford prodded, shooting a knowing look at Faye.
Faye glanced at Silas, who glanced at Mr. Lawrence, who was still cutting roast beef, rather firmly.
“It was all very… normal,” Silas shrugged. “We met and then… later, got married.” He nodded to himself and started cutting the boiled carrots into pieces.
“Hm,” said Mrs. Ansford. “Well, Richard and I met at a New Year’s Eve ball. Everyone had gone to the veranda to watch the fireworks, and just as the clock struck twelve, we turned and saw each other, and suddenly at that moment, we both knew. It was magical.”
“Charming,” Mr. Lawrence smiled.
“Of course, love at first sight is such a rare thing, and I can’t begin to describe how grateful we are to have experienced it. You know, I was reading to the children at the orphanage two days ago – the orphanage which we support, and I serve on the board – and out of the ten fairy tales, every one was a love-at-first-sight story, except for the Princess and the Frog, which I will say is perhaps my favorite.”
“Is it?” Mr. Ansford asked with a small smile.
“A nice story,” Mr. Lawrence said, “but, of course, hardly realistic.”
“Of course not,” Mrs. Ansford said, “but in a metaphorical sense, I believe love has the power to transform anyone.”
“Certainly not anyone,” Mr. Lawrence raised a brow. “A frog is a long way from becoming a princess.”
Faye looked down at her plate and Silas shifted and rubbed his nose.
“All I can say is that I had the privilege of marrying an angel,” Mr. Ansford concluded with a smile, which Mrs. Ansford returned, and they seemed for a moment to have left the room for heaven.
Back on earth, the conversation died.
“Mr. Ansford, how is the bank?” Mr. Lawrence changed the subject. “And your father?”
“Father’s well, as is the bank. It’s a long process, you know, recovering from a recession, but father says he foresees only improvement in the coming years…”
They talked about finance for the rest of the dinner. Mr. Lawrence or Mr. Ansford would occasionally include Silas in the conversation by asking his opinion, which was terribly unfair as Silas hardly even understood the concept of money.
At long last, Mr. Ansford peered at his pocket watch. “I’m afraid we must be going,” he said. ”Terribly sorry to cut this evening short, but we made plans to attend the symphony tonight.”
“Of course,” Mr. Lawrence replied. “In fact, we three are going tonight as well. Perhaps we will see you there.”
“That would be delightful. On the topic, I would be remiss not to thank you for your generous support. I am aware you were one of the leading contributors in bringing the symphony together?”
Mr. Lawrence smiled and raised a hand dismissively as they followed the Ansfords to the foyer.
“Richard,” Mrs. Ansford said, “did you know Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence live only a street away from us? We shall have to invite them to dinner sometime.”
“Yes, we must arrange that,” Mr. Ansford smiled.
Silas and Faye both smiled stiffly as the butler opened the door, letting in the mellow orange light from the streetlamps. The Ansfords said their farewells and stepped out into the fresh snow, which sparkled underfoot. The butler closed the door to the cold night air.
Mr. Lawrence folded his hands behind his back. “The Ansfords are very respectable people,” he commented.
“Father, why did you invite them?” Silas sighed, rubbing his forehead.
“Silas,” Mr. Lawrence turned, “you need to start making connections.”
“I have more friends than I can handle already.”
“I mean useful connections. People not in debt or a breath away from the poorhouse.”
“We should be going,” Mr. Lawrence took out his pocket watch and frowned at it. “It’s getting late, and I need to meet with someone before the symphony starts. Will you be coming in my carriage?”
Silas took a short breath. “Yes, thank you.”
The butler appeared silently, holding their coats and helping them into them, then opened the back door where the carriage was waiting.
As they neared the Music Hall, it slowed to a crawl. The street was packed with cabs, carriages, horses, and a bustling crowd. The air was thick with festivity, as if for a holiday or carnival. The women wore extravagant evening gowns and the men black suits with fresh flowers tucked into the button. The symphony was still very much a novelty.
They waited in line until their carriage pulled in front of the building. They disembarked quickly onto the snowy cobblestones. As they made their way toward the Hall, Mr. Lawrence left to find the person he needed to meet, and Silas and Faye made their way inside to the upper balcony, where the Lawrence family entire had reserved seats for every symphony.
Silas slumped into one, crossing his legs and putting on his glasses to peer at the program. Faye sat down beside him and leaned her head on his shoulder. He wrapped his arm around her and turned his head into her slightly. Her hair smelled like tree bark and marigolds and spring earth. It was probably the soap she used. It made her smell like a fairy. Oh, dear. A modern piece was playing tonight. He hated modern pieces and their chaotic disregard for form.
“Do you suppose George will be here tonight?” Faye asked.
“I couldn’t say.”
“I need to give him the next installment of Willoughby to take to Pumphrey.”
“I suppose. But you know… it’s successful enough. It’s not as if Pumphrey could cut your pay or discontinue the serial now if he learned you were the one writing it.”
“Maybe I like having George run all my errands for me,” Faye smiled. “Besides, I like writing in anonymity.” She looked over his shoulder at the concert. “You know, the violinist, Mr. Bernhard Listemann, was supposed to play tonight but took sick. Some fellow from Europe is taking his place and they say he drinks two pints of beer before each performance to warm up his fingers.”
“Is that so?” Silas frowned.
“It was in the papers.”
“Ah, then it must be true.”
He saw his father coming up the stairs and they both went silent as he walked across the row and sat next them. A moment later the orchestra tuned to each other and the conductor walked on stage. The audience clapped politely before the conductor turned and began the first piece, which was the Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80 by Brahms. A man near the front row stretched his arms high and rested one around a woman beside him, glancing back at the audience as if to look for people he knew.
“There’s George,” Faye whispered to Silas, pointing. “Lord, not another lady.”
Silas leaned forward and squinted. “Mm.”
George almost always came to the symphony, though Silas had never understood how he could afford it. George lived well above his means and even he wasn't completely sure how he managed.
Silas soon forgot about George as the music played. He liked Brahms. He liked the sophistication and orderliness of it. He liked that no matter what chaotic nonsense the Romantics were creating, Brahms remained firmly steeped in the transcendency of the Classics.
The piece finished and Silas glanced down at the program. The next piece was called Concerto Pathetique for violin, and it was new and by a minor composer and Silas was certain it was going to be tiresome. The guest violinist walked on stage to the clatter of applause and took his stand near the conductor. He was a middle-aged man with fleshy, sallow skin and dark receding hair. The piece began, and one minute into it, he started into the violin part. Perhaps he had not had much practice at this piece, because the look of concentration he wore was horrific. It was something between a grimace and a growl and he was obviously holding his breath because in between parts he would heave out a breath and wipe his brow with an already damp handkerchief. Then he would look up at the audience, as if searching for something.
“You know, I think he had more than a pint tonight,” Faye said. “Look how he’s sweating.”
Silas coughed and avoided the look Mr. Lawrence shot at them.
As Silas suspected, the piece was tiresome. He didn’t understand why the Boston Symphony couldn’t stick with the tried-and-true pieces – Beethoven, Bach, Mendelssohn, Mozart. Why the constant need to try something new? What was wrong with the old stuff?
The music ended and the audience clapped politely as the violinist turned and bowed deeply several times. Silas started to clap, then rubbed his nose and sneezed instead. He kept sneezing and the violinist glanced up, giving him a strange stare, which Silas didn’t notice. By the time he had finished, the violinist was shaking hands with the conductor and leaving the stage.
A few people looked up to see who had managed to sneeze seven times in a row. George was one of them. He saw them and grinned ear to ear, his neat mustache almost disappearing into the smile, and waved at them. He leaned over to whisper something to the lady next to him who nodded but didn't turn.
“Bless me, good heavens,” Silas sniffed, straightening, pulling out a handkerchief and blowing his nose.
“I wonder who George is with,” Faye mused, tapping her chin.
Silas squinted down at the audience but didn't respond. The concert ended an hour or so later and the audience gave the performers a standing ovation, which they always did no matter how well or poorly the musicians had played.
“Father, I should go congratulate Mr. Stevens,” Silas shouted to Mr. Lawrence over the noise. “He’s a student in one of my classes and was in first violins tonight.”
Mr. Lawrence nodded. “Of course.”
“No need to wait for us. We’ll take a cab back.”
“Will you and your wife be coming to Sunday dinner tomorrow?”
“We’d be delighted.”
“I shall inform the cook.”
“Good night, Mr. Lawrence,” Faye said with a flat smile as Silas’s hand slipped into hers and they made their way through the crowd toward the backstage.
The whole building was bustling now as people made their way back to the entrance and filed into the streets. Silas and Faye fought the crowd, staying at the edge of the wall, moving slowly along it.
“Well, if it isn't the Lawrence’s!” a voice boomed above the noise.
They turned to see George striding toward them. He wasn't a tall man, but he was thickly built and disarmingly commanding. The crowd parted for him like royalty. His hat was cocked to one side and one thumb was idly tucked in the buttonhole of his jacket. He thumped Silas on the back and shook hands.
“Silas, old chap,” he thundered with a grin. “And how do you do, Mrs. Lawrence?” he added with a bow.
“Better without the formalities,” she laughed. “I’m glad to see you, though, George. I have the next installment –”
“Brilliant! We'll talk at Skander’s. Actually, as soon as we get some stuff to cook with, we're heading right over.”
“Skander's? Tonight?” Faye asked. “We hadn't heard.”
“You wouldn't have,” he laughed. “I decided just now.”
“Does Skander know?” Silas raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, it doesn't matter. He'll be up anyway. The fella doesn't sleep.” He put a hand on Faye's shoulder and nodded to Silas. “We'll see you there, then.”
“Who is we?” Silas asked.
“Yes, who is this new lady you took to the symphony tonight?” Faye raised a brow.
George gave a loud laugh. “I’m surprised you didn't recognize her Silas. You'll be embarrassed when I tell you. She's – ah, well, there she is.”
They turned and followed his gaze to a slender dark-haired woman in a blood-red silk dress. Her features were sharp and fair and unmistakable.
“Ira!” Silas choked. “Good heavens, when did you arrive?”
“Hello, Silas,” she smiled. “Only today, actually.”
“You’d think a fella would recognize his own sister,” George prodded him.
“I wasn't expecting… that is… does father know?”
Ira paused, casually tucking a curl back in place. “No… no, I haven’t told him.”
“Ah. Well, it's… it’s good to see you. If it weren’t for father, you could have sat with us in the family row. It’s never entirely filled.”
“Oh, but George invited me to come with him, and how could I refuse?” Ira laughed and took George’s arm.
“It's the commentary,” George whispered with a wink. “All the ladies love it when you talk straight through an entire symphony.”
Faye laughed and Silas frowned.
“Anyways,” George said. “We’ll see you in a little while.”
Ira leaned against George. “You'll come to Skander’s tonight, then?”
“George has both invited and accepted the invitation for us already, so I suppose we will,” Silas said. “But first I do need to congratulate a student of mine.”
“Good luck getting through the crowd,” George waved. “See you in a few hours.”
“Oh, don't be so dramatic,” Silas huffed, but George and Ira had already gone. “Faye, you can stay here if you'd rather. I'll only be a minute.”
He left her at the entryway and shoved his way through the crowd, which thinned out the further into the building he went. He finally came to the door leading to the backstage rooms and pushed it open, almost knocking over the man standing behind it.
“Oh my…” Silas stammered. “My deepest apologies.”
“It’s no matter,” the man said, amiably, though he was pale and sweating. “I was waiting for you.”
“Oh, good. That is…” Silas paused, realizing he was the guest violinist.
“Do you care for a cigarette?”
“Oh, no,” Silas shook his head. “I only –”
At that moment, someone opened the door and hurried between them, rushing off down the hall.
“Was it Gregory Lawrence you were sitting next to?” the man asked, looking back at Silas curiously.
“Well, yes,” Silas scratched the back of his head. “He’s my father.”
“I can see the resemblance,” the man.
“You know him?”
“Somewhat,” he held out a brown-wrapped package. “Here.”
“Oh,” Silas nodded absently, taking the package and unwrapping the top. “Yes. Of course.”
“You’ll put in a good word for me, won't you?” the violinist asked, running his hand across his forehead then against his trousers.
“I… I’m not sure I…”
“I’m sorry,” he gave a shallow laugh. “It’s no matter. Forget I asked. In any case, I'm glad to be rid of it.” He looked down at the book with a strange expression.
“It’s not that I’m uninterested,” Silas said quickly, digging into his coat for his pocketbook, “but I’m afraid I don’t quite know… here, take this.”
He offered the man a ten-dollar bill, certainly more than the book was worth, especially since the man seemed eager to be rid of it. The violinist looked at the money in Silas’ hand with distaste, as if offended, and turned abruptly, walking away without a word. He slipped out the door before Silas could stop him.
Silas stood there a minute, staring at the closed door in bemusement, then shrugged and tucked the book under his arm, hurrying to the backstage room. The musicians were packing away their instruments with practiced efficiency and he almost didn't catch his student as he rushed by.
“Charles!” Silas said, holding up a hand and stopping a young man, neatly dressed and clean shaven.
Charles gave a start and turned, his expression changing to a smile. “Mr. Lawrence! Thank you for coming.”
“You played magnificently,” Silas said, reaching out to shake Charles’ hand and dropping the book in doing so. He reached down to pick it up, then went back to shaking Charles’ hand. “First violins! Before long, you'll be the one playing the soloist’s part.”
Charles laughed. “Perhaps.”
“Well, I only came back to congratulate you, so I’ll let you be off now. I suppose I’ll see you in class on Monday?”
“Of course, sir.”
“Goodnight, Mr. Lawrence.”
Silas turned, tucking the book once more under his arm, and hurried back to Faye, who was waiting for him by the entrance.
“What's that you have?” she asked, pointing to the package.
“I haven’t the foggiest idea,” he said, glancing at it. “The guest violinist gave it to me. I suppose he’d heard I deal in antiquities, though I can’t imagine how. We should hurry before the cabs have all gone.”
They walked out to the street and caught a cab as it pulled up. Silas held out a hand for Faye and dropped the book again. He reached down to pick it up, muttering to himself, and held out his hand again.
“The industrial district, please,” he said to the driver as they settled themselves inside. He leaned back.
“What a lot of hustle and bustle this is. I wish father wouldn't insist on us coming every single week.”
“Why do we go, again?”
Silas sighed and wrapped his arms around her to keep out the sharp November wind. “To preserve the fine balance keeping us from being disinherited.”
“Well,” she said, looking out the window, “forgive me.”
“You know I wouldn’t change a thing, love. But we’ve talked about this.”
“I know. He’s just so… so… intolerable sometimes.”
Silas went quiet and stared out at the dark buildings, barely visible in the smoggy starlight. The cold wind blew over them.
“He’s not all to blame,” Silas said after a minute, still watching the passing buildings. “If we hadn't married so unexpectedly…”
“I'm glad I wasn’t there when you told him.”
“Yes,” he chuckled as he ducked his head down to kiss her. “You should be.”