Episode 47: Twinkle, Twinkle | Scryer's Gulch
By the time the piano lesson was ending, Annabelle had a headache; Lily Bonham was a very bright child, but she was also a very indulged child. Luckily for everyone, indulgence did not encourage a native spite, but rather a native impatience, a desire to skip the preliminaries and move straight to the action no matter how important the preliminaries were.
In this, Annabelle supposed, Lily resembled her father. Lily assumed sitting down at the piano and making her fingers look like they were playing would be enough to assume familiarity with the keyboard. Bonham was assuming familiarity without preliminaries, too--but with Annabelle herself, not the piano. That presented some serious difficulties.
Annabelle had no illusions about the nature of Bonham's interest. She knew exactly how pretty she was and had used her looks to advantage many times before. But though she'd come perilously close in the past, she'd never dishonored herself and she didn't intend to start now. How long could she stave off Bonham's ultimate declaration? Would he give her enough time to finish the job? If he made his final move in the blunt fashion she guessed he would, she'd have few choices. Most of them involved gunplay, the next stage out of town, or both.
A crash of notes brought her out of her brief rumination. "Now, Lily, let's not bang on the keys."
"It's not fair, why can't I play a little song already? I've been practicing for an hour, shouldn't I be able to play a song by now?" she said, plucking at Annabelle's gray sleeve.
"An hour in a lifetime's work, Lily. Playing an instrument requires dedication."
"It isn't fair! I just want to play a song!"
Annabelle put a hand over her charge's restless fingers. "I'm willing to let you try, if you do not expect to play 'The Soirée Polka' or anything like it. Agreed?"
Annabelle showed her note by note how to pick out "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." To her relief, the girl picked it up quickly, so quickly that when it came time for the lesson to end Lily was playing it with both hands--just the melody, repeated an octave lower, but far more progress than Annabelle had expected out of a first lesson. "Now, Miss Lily, you may play that tune as often as you'd like, but you must also do the scales and exercises I've given you as well. Can you do that? Your brother has assured me you may come here to practice daily, and you must practice daily to advance."
"I will! I will! I promise!" Just then the door to the salon opened and Tony strolled in. "Listen, Tony, I can play a song!" She plowed through her two octave performance, stumbling only twice, and her brother burst into appreciative applause.
"Well done, Lil! Now, go see Charles and tell him to bring that coffee tray in." The girl trotted out of the room calling for Charles, and Tony shut the salon door behind her.
"Please open the door, Mr Bonham," said Annabelle.
"I wish you'd call me Anthony."
"I wish you'd open the door, right this minute," she said in a firm tone. She had nothing to fear from him--she could throw him across the room if need be--but she had her reputation as a demure schoolteacher to consider.
"Very well," he said, eyeing her as if she'd passed a test and he approved. She was expecting him to be disappointed. "I still wish you'd call me Anthony." Annabelle fixed him with a stern eye and opened her mouth to give him a set-down, but the arrival of Lily, Charles and the coffee tray interrupted her.
Annabelle got no more than two sips of coffee and a tea cake when a loud voice and a lingering odor of cigar smoke heralded the return of Jed Bonham. "Well, now, and how did the lesson go, missy?" he said as Lily launched herself at him. The girl dragged him to the piano and made him stand attentively through three repeats of her one and only musical accomplishment before his fatherly patience gave out. "That's enough, sweetheart. We're going to have to send for a piano, hey?"
"Oh yes, please, Papa, though it's fun to come to Tony's like this."
"You can come here any time you like, peanut," said her brother.
"She's very promising, Mr Bonham," smiled Annabelle.
"Thank you," both men said automatically, then scowled at one another. "Take your sister home now, Tony," said Jed. "I'll escort Miss Duniway home."
Annabelle let Jed help her into her coat, bid her pupil and Tony goodbye, and ignored Jed's surreptitiously proffered arm as they walked out of the LeFay and down the boardwalk toward the less lavish Hopewell. It was late enough in the year that dark was already falling. The nearly full moon hid behind low clouds that looked as if they might be bearing snow. Annabelle was glad of her wool coat and warm gloves.
"So you're interested in the BB, eh?" said Jed.
"I think it wise I know something about the town and its main industry. Mr Lockson has given me some of its brief history--"
"Brief!" barked Jed. "That man wouldn't know brief if it birthed him!"
Annabelle smiled. "He has a rather…roundabout way of speaking, true. We did not get round to the actual mechanics of mining, though, and I would like to know."
"No better place than the BB. Though it's hardly a place for women, mind. Muddy, and the men are uncouth."
"This entire town fills with them every night, sir, and much of the day. If it is to be heard at the mine, I have heard it here, however much it may fill me with distaste."
"Well, then, as long as you're prepared, I'd be happy to show you, Miss Duniway. Shall we say, tomorrow after school?"
"Perhaps an hour later? I need to freshen up and rest a moment in my room after class."
They had come to the doorway of the Hopewell. The dining room was already beginning to fill up, and Annabelle smelled ham and onions. Julian saw them through the door and scowled at Bonham, who returned the look with a cool disdain before turning back to Annabelle. "Tomorrow, then, around four o'clock. I shall call for you here."
"I look forward to it," she said.
"Oh, it will give me great pleasure to show you what I can do," grinned Jed. He tipped his hat and headed back up the street toward the glowering mansion at the top of the hill.
Annabelle shivered and went into the hotel, greeting Hopewell with a near-absentmindedness. She was hungry, but wanted to be next to her own fire to digest her thoughts before anything else. One thing was sure: Tomorrow she'd be taking her etheric pistols on her hips and Misi in her pocket.