The pianist turned on her stool as the doors were opened by a servant and the three ladies flounced into the music room. When the doors were immediately shut after them, the pianist stood, beaming with smiles as she examined the ladies. Thelma wore an indigo gown specked with silver on the skirts and rimmed with silver on the sleeves and waist, silver necklace studded with diamonds rested against her chest with a dangling pair of matching earrings. She had her smile on as usual.
Phyllis had on a pink gown, the swells of her breasts laid exposed. The pianist bet her bodice were always tightly tied. White earrings graced her earlobes and a white choke of necklace around her tender neck too. Emilia although looking stunning was not as bright as her gown. She wore a yellow gown, a yellow pin with a blossomed flower flattered the side of her hair, her face looked indifferent and withdrawn.
‘“Welcome ladies!” the Pianist addressed them. “I have been waiting. You all look magnificent.”
“Good morning ma’am!” They all chorused.
“How was your Latin class?” she glanced from one lady’s face to the other.
“Borriiingggg….” Phyllis did not hesitate to say, fluttering her fan against her face as she let out a fake yawn.
“Lovely!” Thelma exclaimed, clutching a small silver purse in both hands against her laps.
“Good.” Emilia simply said.
The pianist smiled warmly. “Very well then, why don’t you ladies just take your seats and we will begin with our lessons.”
The ladies seated themselves on seats opposite the pianist and the grand piano which separated them. “Good!” stated the pianist, slightly adjusting on her stool. “Emilia, you are to lead today.”
“What!” Exclaimed Phyllis. “But I thought I always took the lead! I have the most melodious voice amongst us.”
“I know Phyllis.” Said the Pianist still smiling. “I just wanted to try out something new. We shall take a duet next week. Emilia leads, you and Thelma back her up.”
“Fine…whatever!” said Phyllis, rolling her eyes while fluttering her lashes. “Let’s get this done with.”
“Alright…” the Pianist flexed her fingers. “Emilia, shall we?”
Emilia gave a quick nod and waited for the first notes of the piano then she began and the others joined her where and when they were supposed to while the pianist humming along encouraged them with nods.
Emilia started going wrong, Phyllis frowned and turned a questioning look on Emilia who didn’t notice but continued singing. Thelma tried to cope by singing along but found it rather too difficult.
Even the Pianist had stopped humming, giving a worried look and finally stopped playing the piano. “Emilia?” she called softly.
Emilia jolted back to reality. “Ma’am?”
“Are you okay?” she asked, her voice laced with concern.
“Yes I am, why?” Emilia asked, bemused.
“Your singing off-key, lead singer!” Phyllis remarked rudely.
“And it was really horrible!” added Thelma.
“Oh!” Emilia stared down at her hands in shame and embarrassment. “My apologies everyone, I am not just myself today, I am a bit carried away today.”
“Should someone competent now take the lead?” questioned Phyllis with a smirk more to the Pianist.
“Not yet, Phyllis.” Stated the pianist still concerned about her favourite student.
Phyllis however frowned in displeasure.
“Emilia?” the Pianist continued in a calm soothing voice. “Is there anything you will like to share?”
“No.” Emilia simply answered.
“Not even with your friends?” Thelma who was sitting at the end strained her neck to look at Emilia who only glanced at her from the corner of her eyes and shook her head.
Just then, the doors burst open and a messenger, a man in uniform stepped into the room.
“Lucas!” the pianist spun around in her seat. “How dare you interrupt us and so rudely!”
“My apologies ma’am!” The servant said after bowing to each lady in the room. “But I have a message for Lady Emilia.”
Emilia looked up then. “For me?”
“Yes milady!” Answered the man. “Your lady-in-waiting has asked you to be excused from school and she wishes you to come immediately.”
Emilia leapt to her feet, alarmed. “Leave school, why?”
“I can’t say. She said it’s very urgent and it is very important you come now.”
Gathering her gown, Emilia rushed out of the room and the messenger followed, shutting the door after them.
The pianist turned to look at the two ladies left. Their gazes were on the door. Phyllis had a curious look on her face while Thelma stared with her mouth agape. The pianist cleared her throat to get their attention but it was futile.
“Ladies!” she called. They turned to look at her, composing themselves and smoothing their gowns.
“Shall we continue with the class please?”
“Can I take the lead now?” inquired Phyllis.
The pianist nodded. “Yes you may, Phyllis.”
Phyllis took in a deep breath and exhaled, trying to clear her lungs in preparation to show off. She straightened her back and cleared her throat and began to sing while the pianist played.
“Let’s drink to our victory!” Exclaimed Lord William as he raised his goblet in celebration. “At last, what we have long awaited for is here!” He stated, standing behind the desk in the late Duke’s study.
The Marquess sitting opposite the desk also held a goblet while Vera stood at the far side of the window, contentedly sipping from hers.
“I will rather advice you not to count your hatchlings before they are hatched, William!” said the Marquess, glumly.
“I will appreciate it if you will just remain optimistic around me for once, Lord Eugene!” Lord William retorted scornfully.
“Do not throw caution to the wind all because you think all is well.” The Marquess said in a tense tone.
Lord William sipped from his goblet. “Whatever do you mean?”
“How many days will take Lady Emilia to arrive at the castle?”
“Four days by ship.”
“I believe you mailed her a letter yesterday?”
“Very correct!” Lord William stated.
“That lady has as much right as you, remember? Lord William quirked an eyebrow, going around the chair and seating on it. “And dearly did she love the Duchess.”
“What are you insinuating, Lord Eugene?”
“I have a feeling that if care is not taken before the arrival of Lady Emilia, she might very well expose us all.”
Lord William drummed his fingers on the desk nervously. “The Duchess is dead and dead she is!’
The Marquess smiled patiently. “You are still ignorant about what I am driving at, William.”
“Well, get straight to the point!” Lord William coolly said impatiently.
“She might have an autopsy carried out on the corpse of the Duchess.”
Lord William leaned out of his seat slowly as realization sunk in. “That won’t be good.”
“That is why we must act before her arrival…she is probably on her way now.” He stated.
“What do you mean?” Lord William offered a curious look.
“We must proceed with the burial of the Duchess before her arrival. I am certain she wouldn’t want the body exhumed out of love and respect for the Duchess.”
Lord William snapped his fingers in agreement. “Good idea!” he said. “How brilliant! I wonder why I never thought of this!”
“Because you are too busy thinking of the wealth that you are to possess.” Said the Marquess
Lord William ignored him. “I will commence on the arrangements of the burial immediately. Should be ready tomorrow evening.”
“But won’t tongues wag? The rumour might spread that you went ahead with the burial of the Duchess in such an inappropriate time without the presence of her other living relative.” Said Vera.
“From the look of things, I am in-charge and the call is mine. Tongues can wag if they want to, I just can’t risk being exposed by that head-strong woman. I will announce she asked me to go ahead with the burial ceremony since she wouldn’t be able to make it on time.” He reached into his pocket with his hand and groped, nothing.
He pulled his hands out, groping with his palms for anything round and hard against his clothes, yet nothing.
“Is everything all right?” Questioned the Marquess.
“My pocket watch!” said Lord William, still shocked. “I can’t find it.”
The Marquess snorted. “You know that you can get as many as you want even have them studded with gems now you have attained this massive wealth so worry no more and forget the old watch.”
Lord William shot the annoying Marquess a scornful look. “I know that but this is my late father’s watch given to me as a souvenir before he died. It has been passed down from generations. I can’t afford to lose it.”
“You must have gotten carried away with the wine and the incomparable pleasures by the night ladies, so I bet you must have misplaced it in the brothel.”
Vera shot Lord Williams an hurtful look at the revelation which he ignored.
“No! I don’t think so. I must check my chambers.” He exited the study in haste.
To be continued…
© Angela Okoduwa