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This Could Be the Start

The music-room in the Governor's House at Port Mahon, a tall, handsome, pillared octagon, was filled with a crowd of officers, both naval and military. Among them were a few civilian officials and their wives, and a group of the more influential local merchants and dignitaries. They walked about, taking their places, some in anticipation of an evening’s musical entertainment, while others were grateful for an opportunity to rest their tired feet and ease their straining waistbands.

At the very back of the room, a couple lingered beside the ornate doors, talking in soft tones as they observed the assembled gathering, their particular attention being given to two men in the third row – a large naval officer and a shorter, thin, white-faced civilian in a quite rusty black coat.

“Was there difficulty in bringing him to the concert?” he asked.

She turned to him with a smile. “Not at all. He dotes upon me, and at any rate, he’s an accomplished musician.”

She noted his look of surprise and went on, “You’d find that many naval officers can play an instrument, although the German flute is more often heard in a wardroom. But how did you get the other one here?”

“Ah,” he replied, “we have Sir John to thank for that. There is the Catalan connection, of course, but they scarcely know each other yet. There was a chance meeting which provided the opportunity for the invitation to be passed.”

“Do you believe, then, that you will profit by their acquaintance?”

“Truly, I cannot be sure. But the doctor is in a sorry state, and who knows? They may be of use to each other, at least.”

They looked at the pair, who were sitting apart – the one exhibiting that typical English reserve towards a stranger to whom he has not been introduced, and the other deep in his own thoughts.

“Who knows?” he repeated, and then went on. “But what of you, my dear? You know that the Committee is most appreciative of your efforts, but do you not tire of the subterfuge? It is surely difficult to reconcile your work for us with your duties to your husband” he asked with a carefully innocent look.

“Lord, Joe,” she answered, “I enjoy a wide circle of acquaintance whom I meet through my husband. He bothers me not at all.”

“So then, you will continue to work for us despite such a difficult situation?”

“With all my Harte,” replied Molly, with the briefest of smiles.

© 2005 Kerry Webb