Thought I'd place a bit of a warning and say that this chapter does deal with a rather mature issue. Don't worry, I've kept it PG and nothing terrible actually happens, but I felt it only fair that I should warn you.
I could hear the faint sounds of laughter as I slipped into the kitchen. Who was in the parlor and what on earth was going on there? I was too tired to go and find out though. All I wanted was a cup of tea and then to go to bed. I put the kettle on the stove and when the water boiled I brewed a very weak tea, we had precious little of it and had to be sparing, and drank it in silence. I was just about to put the cup away when the door opened and Elsie entered.
“Ah, Sarah, Evy sleeping?”
“She is. I looked in on Kristoffs and he really wants to see Sam, do you think you could arrange it somehow? I haven’t got the strength.”
“Sure thing, honey, don’t you worry. You should just go to bed.”
“That exactly what I plan to do, I only want to check in on Prissy first. What is going on in the parlor?”
“Oh, that is all Lulu’s doing,” Elsie said with a laugh. “She got the Sergeant to get the Colonel to come to the parlor so she could ask him his age. Turns out you was right, he is forty seven, will be forty eight in August.”
“Oh, so I’m free from housework tomorrow?” My eyes brightened; at least I had some good news today.
“It is terribly unfair if you was to ask me,” Elsie grumbled.
“No, Elsie, unfair would have been if Prissy would have bet with us and won.”
“Now that would have been injustice in its purest form.” We both laughed at this. “Anyway,” Elsie resumed, “we got to talking about everyone’s age and then we moved to places of birth and then to places of travel. You know, Colonel White has traveled all over Europe.”
“Has he now?” I mumbled.
“And of course once we got to travel we moved on to languages, turns out the colonel can speak five. Then we got to music and Sergeant Hosehigh said Colonel White is quite the musician and singer and now Lulu is trying to get him to serenade her.”
“What?” I tried to stifle my laugh and didn’t succeed.
“Once again, it is all Hosehigh’s doing. He said the colonel had a large stash of love songs and Lulu wants to hear one. I just came here to bring these cups back. We served them hot tea; I hope you’s alright with that.”
“I don’t mind heaping coals of fire on their head,” I replied with a shrug. “Is the colonel really going to sing?”
“I don’t know,” Elsie shrugged and left. I figured Prissy and sleep could wait, this was something I couldn’t miss out on. I followed Elsie back to the parlor but didn’t actually go inside. I only planned to stay a moment and didn’t want to draw attention to myslf.
“Come on, Colonel Sir,” Robert was saying, “just one song. Sing that little Italian song, remember, the one you sang it to the men once.”
“No,” Colonel White was very reluctant, “I’m tired, I’ve had a long day and I’m not in the mood to sing.”
“Now, Colonel Sir,” Elsie put in, “look at poor Lulu here. Her husband was sold by that horrible Massa Beverly and all her children, save on, died. She’s put in blood, sweat and tears for this family and for this house. Don’t you think she deserves a song? A love song? You boasted to us of how well you know Italian, now go ahead and prove it and do a kind deed while you are at it. It is Christmas after all, the best time to do good deeds.”
If Elsie knew how to do anything, she knew how to appeal to a man’s conscience and sense of honor. Colonel White heaved a loud sigh. “Elsie, you have a talent with words. Very well, if you put it that way, but only one song and then you and I Robert head back to the men.”
“Sing that Italian love song, sir,” Robert persisted. “It is a beautiful song,” he turned to Elsie and Lulu, “all of us fell in love with it. One of the men even tried to learn it so he could sing it to his bride back home. He isn’t having much success though.”
“Not that one,” Colonel White shook his head.
“We want to hear it,” Lulu firmly said, “the piano is there. Please, Colonel, look, we’s put you up for the night, gave you hot drinks, surely we deserve something in return?”
Colonel White chuckled, “ah, you have got me, very well, for you Lulu, only for you. Let it be my Christmas present.” He got up and went to the piano. Opening the lid he took a deep breath and began playing. All at once the entire room was filled with beautiful music. I had to admit, this man was a master of music, his fingers just slid effortlessly across the keys without a single mistake even though he was playing from memory.
And then he began to sing. His voice was rich and deep and harmonized with the music of the piano, never getting out of tune, never taking a false key. This man did not belong in the army; this man’s place was on stage, singing to an adoring public. I leaned against the doorpost, listening with great interest. He got through the first verse and moved on towards the chorus.
Io vivo solo per te
I stiffened, those words were strangely familiar
Il mio cuore
La mia mente
La mia anima
Oh God in Heaven, it couldn’t be true.
Io sono tuo per sempre
Il mio pensiero a te ricorre
Si tiene il mio
Ogni battito del cuore
Mi perdo nel mio amore
I closed my eyes as the second verse started, I couldn’t enjoy the song anymore, the words to the chorus rang in my ears. I knew them so well. When he began singing the chorus a second time I could take it anymore. I backed away from the parlor and gathering my skirts ran up the stairs. His voice haunted me through the dark halls until at last I breathlessly came to my old room. Throwing open the doors, I rushed inside and going to the closet pulled the faded piece of paper out of my mother’s dress pocket. Going over to the window, where the moonlight was shining through, I studied the poem. At last I found and understood the one clue my mother had left concerning my father’s identity. With opened eyes I was able to make out the little scribble at the end of the poem. It consisted of two letters: B. W.—Brandon White. I slowly sank to the floor and hugging my knees, rested my forehead on them, not knowing how to react to this new piece of revelation.
I don’t know how long I sat there, in the cold, dark room, but it was probably the better part of an hour. A noise caused me to look up. The door had just opened and someone had entered. I rose to my feet, and put the scrap of paper in my pocket. I could easily tell that the intruder was a man.
“How dare you enter sir?” I demanded. “Leave this instant.”
“I am not in the habit of taking orders from a woman.” The voice was slurred, but I recognized it to belong to Captain Sawnders. What was he doing here at this hour of the night?
“Sir, you have no right to be here, this is my private chamber. Leave at once or I shall call for help?”
“Oh, and who is going to come?” He was coming closer to me, and I instinctively backed away, only to collide into the wall.
“Perhaps you do not know, but Colonel White and his men are in the house. They are downstairs and I do not doubt they will come if I were to call for help.”
He was very near me by now, and he suddenly reached out and grabbed me by the neck. I gasped for breath.
“I guess I’ll just have to make sure they don’t hear you,” he whispered in my face. I winced from the horrible smell of alcohol that flooded my nostrils.
“Sarah Rose,” he kept on talking, “yours has got to be the prettiest face I’ve seen in all my time on this cursed soil. But you also happened to be my downfall. “ His other hand grasped my arm so hard I would have cried out from the pain, had I not been so busy trying to breath. “You have no idea how hard I worked for this position,” he sneered at me, “I’m not like those other officers, born into good family. I had to struggle to earn the position of captain, and in a blink of an eye you took it away from me. You know why they hate me? Because I am beneath them, I am an outcast to them. I am a bastard. Oh yes, shocked aren’t you? My mother was nothing more than a common whore. But I rose from my station, I proved my worth and now you, a spoiled, pampered princess took it all away. Well, if I am destined go down, I’ll go down in flames. I’ll show them just how much of a bastard I am,” he laughed and roughly threw me to the ground.
Fear gripped my heart as a horrible shiver went down my spine. “Please sir, you are drunk, think of what you are doing,” I pleaded. “If there is one thing I have learned from life, it is that we do not have to let our status of birth dictate our code of conduct. If you wish to be an officer and a gentleman, you must act like one.”
He picked me off the ground, holding me tightly by the arms, “Thanks to your performance out there I will be an officer no longer, so I don’t care. You took it away from me, and you’re going to have to pay for it.”
I opened my mouth to scream, but he was too quick and grabbed my throat, choking my cry. “Now, now,” he chided, “none of that. We can do this the easy way or we can do it the hard way, the choice is up to you, my dear.”
In reply I spit in his face. His eyes flashed with rage and he swung his arm and delivered a hard blow to my face. I would have fallen if he had not been holding me with his other hand. Again and again he hit me, I tasted blood and felt my face swelling. At one point and I tried to back away from him, but he grabbed my dress at the shoulder and gave me a rough shake. This was too much for the threadbare cloth and it tore in his grasp, causing me to tumble to the floor, my right arm and a part of my right shoulder exposed. He laughed and threw the scrap away. I grabbed this precious moment and collecting what little strength I had left gave a desperate cry for help. It was cut short by his hand, which clamped over my mouth. I didn’t know if I had been loud enough, the servants’ quarters were on the other end of the house, not to mention by now most of the house was probably sleeping, but I prayed that someone would hear me.
“I told you we could do this the easy way,” Sawnder whispered, “but you chose the hard way. You have no one to blame but yourself.”
My hand clawed his face, but he angrily twisted it behind my back. I was almost ready to lose all hope when suddenly his grasp on me loosened and losing my balance I tumbled to the ground. Something heavy fell on top of me, but was quickly taken rolled. My whole face stung, my wrists and shoulders ached, and all I could see were white spots on a dark background. I shivered from the cold and with fear. I didn’t want to faint and I focus all my attention on staying consciousness. There was some kind of commotion going on with a lot of angry voices, but to me it was one big blur of light and sound. Then it all became quiet and a pair of strong hands gently helped me sit up. My hand instinctively went to my shoulder where the dress had torn and I wondered where I would find the cloth to put a patch over the tear. Suddenly I found myself enveloped in something warm. It felt like I had been tucked in the folds of a large coat.
Now that the horror was over and all was calm, the tears began to come. I bit my lip trying, to be strong, but it was no good and I broke down into sobs. I was pulled into someone’s arms and a voice told me it was alright, I was safe now and no harm would come to me. My senses were returning to me and I looked up to see who had come to my rescue. Though my vision was still a little blurry I did catch a pair of grey eyes, and that was enough to tell me everything. For the second time in one day, I had been saved from Sawnders by Colonel White.
The song in the media section is called Per Te and is sung by Josh Groban. As much as I would like to get a recording of the song in the story, it isn't possible, cause it would take too much effort to find someone to write the music, write the rest of the song, get somone to record the music and sing it and so on. But this song is also in Italian and though completely different, it ironically still has the same two important words (not to mention Josh Groban sings great :) )so if you have time to listen to it I hope you will enjoy it :)