Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Beautiful Miller Maid by Janette Miller Chapter 3 Halt by the Brook part 1

The following is part of the opening chapters of a novel I have written based on my youthful experiences. It is based on Schubert's song cycle Die Schöne Müllerin which tells the tale of a young miller who falls in love. You can find the earlier chapters on this blog. One day I'll put the whole thing up as a iBook.

The Beautiful Miller Maid by Janette Miller
Chapter 3 Halt by the Brook Part 1

 “I think she will do for Phebe” said Simon. “I’ll get Louis Crick to write to her school. I’ll get Pansy to teach her the two little arias and see if she is up to it. I’ll tell her school I am prepared to rewrite.”

“Do what you like” said a disinterested Tring “but I shall never sing Rawlings again even for British Television” and Tring lost interest. It was now another rival that took up the cudgels against Antoinette who was in the future to prove deadly.

Pansy Salmon was duly instructed to teach Antoinette the fiendishly difficult little aria that Phebe sings to her doll. Pansy by now was completely jealous. Her best friend had played the first Phebe and it seemed inconceivable that this chit of a girl with no musical background should usurp the role. Pansy’s strategy was masterly inactivity, just three one hour sessions and no score to the applicant.

“That should put paid to her chances” thought Pansy who was a first class unmarried bitch.

November came and the  BBC decided to do The Ghosts so it became imperative to see if Antoinette was up to it. It was arranged that she should come to Simon’s flat in Swiss Cottage at 5 pm on a dark cold night in November and sing for him. He forgot and it was around about six o’clock when he and Tring arrived in the dark at their London “pad”.

The flats on the second floor had a flight of steps leading up to it. The entrance was forbidding. It was of the hideous red brick Edwardian era and resembled  the blocks of council flats in the next suburb. The flats also had the sort of lights that turn themselves off when not needed to save electricity and when the happy party pushed the button and turned on the lights they were in for the shock of their lives. There was a young schoolgirl in full uniform sitting on the door step of their flat who was overjoyed to see them.

“I’m awfully sorry” said Simon, “How long have you been here? We were delayed.”

The child very composed stood up and said “Since five. The lights went out and I had no idea where I was. I was afraid to move for fear of falling down the stairs. I have never seen this type of light before.

My chaperone just bought me here and dumped me. I mean you were supposed to be here at 5 pm. Then all the lights in the passage went out and I was stuck. I mean you are sort of on the second floor and I have only been here once.”

Antoinette sound like a very young and “Not amused” Queen Victoria. It was hard to say who was the most embarrassed, Antoinette or the naughty and rude grown men who ought to have known better. Actually her school should have known better! Taking a child to a man's flat and then leaving her alone on the doorstep would not be allowed today!

Antoinette was ushered in to the tiny and to her disappointing flat of the major English Opera composer. It was small, dark, dingy and depressing and she felt unworthy of so great a man. Tring was dispatched to make tea.

“Indian or China” he called out in his upper middle class voice. This would be enough to intimidate any working class or lower middle class child as he well knew but he was greeted with the words.

“Russian, please but if you have no lemon china will do!" came the confident reply.

Simon could not help laughing. He knew exactly what Tring was up too. Putting Antoinette in her place! There was no lemon!

For the first time Simon decided he better get to know this young girl a little better so he sat down and started to ask her a few questions. He did this with his little boy friends all the time. Cars and aeroplanes were his usual openers but here was a little girl. King was at a bit of a loss and then he remembered that Antoinette had seen his disastrous production of“Henry VIII” at the Royal Opera House so he asked her about that.

He discovered she was a little ballet dancer who had worked at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden since the age of twelve in the ballets and consequently had had an almost impeccable musical education. That is why she knew all his ballet music so well. It seemed she had grown to love opera and ballet and besides watching rehearsal from the wings queued for tickets in the gallery for the operas and ballet.

She was astoundingly knowledgeable especially in modern music, which she loved. She could talk knowledgeably about Beethoven, Berlioz, Herne Heinz, Wagner and Stravinsky as well as himself.

“You should try Mahler” Simon said.

“I don’t do symphonic music. I get so bored at concerts as I am always waiting for the curtain to go up. That's why I like opera” Simon was not impressed that this young lady with impeccable taste did not like Mahler and told her she would learn to love Mahler as she grew older. He suggested Symphony 2 Second Movement as a start.  In her school uniform Antoinette still looked 12 years old. She had not grown one inch.

She looked him straight in the eyes and said seriously. "Mahler is never performed and I cannot afford the records! Long playing records are  expensive".

Tea was served, China as there was no lemon and Tring, trying to be helpful suggested that Antoinette should learn Schubert. Antoinette had a small voice but would be suitable for this genre. Antoinette was at a disadvantage, as she had never come across Schubert. Tchaikovsky, and Stravinsky wrote ballet music and it appeared that Schubert wrote songs.

“My dear young lady, you should sing Schubert, I know it is written for the male voice but your tiny voice would suit it and it is not as if you will ever be performing it in public, is it” Tring delivered in a condescending manner.

Antoinette looked at Tring rather like Alice in Wonderland looking at the caterpillar on the mushroom.

“Tring and I perform the two Schubert cycles often” said Simon softly. He could see that Tring was in danger of putting Antoinette off

“ I’ll make a point of looking up the songs up when I get home. I am not a singer I am a ballet dancer.” said Antoinette defensively.

“Antoinette Miller,” said Tring for that was her surname and this was the first time he had grasped the suitability of the name , “ Why ‘Die Schöne Müllerin’ Tring exclaimed in glee sounding more like Lewis Carrol's caterpillar than ever!

‘Yes, you shall be King’s “Schöne Müllerin”

King too was struck by the aptness of Miss Miller’s surname and both of the mature men giggled like naughty boys and the “in” joke went far above Antoinette’s head as although she spoke French she did not have one word of German. Translated “Die Schöne Müllerin” means “Beautiful Miller Maid”. It was a joke that would come to haunt them all.

The Beautiful Miller Maid Chapter 3 Part 2 can be found here.

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