excerpt from 'The Golden Sovereign' pp. 77-78 (437 words)

excerpt from 'The Golden Sovereign' pp. 77-78 (437 words)

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The Golden Sovereign

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“Mum said you wanted to hear me sing.  Well, if you’ll give up being cross, I will.”

                And she did.  Putting the keyboard cover round her shoulders, as a stole, she sang a sentimental ballad named ‘Because’.  The voices in the kitchen died away, except my father’s, but even his was reduced to a whisper, his flow of reminiscence being punctuated by a “Bravo, Maudie” here and there, to prove that he was listening, in spite of being the victim of his own volubility.

                I still sat at the tea-table, leaning over the debris of the Cornish pasty, my head in my hands.  The girl’s voice was a gift from God; a pure mezzo-soprano, pouring out from a full throat and strong lungs, without a trace of vibrato (that symptom of the mal-trained and usually ruined English singer).  With a complicated irony, I accepted the banal words, “Because you sing to me, in accents sweet,” bowing my head to let them pass.  The thrush-throb of that voice, reduced almost to demi-voce in the tiny, over-furnished room, conquered me instantly. “Sing something else,” I pleaded.

                She half-turned, studying me with a new interest.  “Didn’t you like that song?”

                “I liked the way you sang it.  I agree with Hubert Parry.”

                “Huh!  My word!  Aren’t we high and mighty!”

                But she was flattered.

                The next song was by Sterndale Bennett, a lyric in the manner of Mendelssohn.  “Oh, refresh my aching eyelids with thy cooling drops of dew” it began, and I took the words to myself, as an intoxicant.

                “That’s better, isn’t it?” said Maudie.  But by this time I was incapable of response.  The hypnosis was absolute.  “Not asleep, are you?” she teased.  And with that, after I had roused myself sufficiently to shake my head, she began to sing Dvoràk’s “Songs my Mother Taught me.”

                She sang it like a child, the open notes almost breaking upon their own candour.  The skill could not be that of art, for she was too young and untrained.  It was the luck of youth, perhaps.  Whatever the source of this perfection, it was too much for me.  I left the table, and crushed myself into the corner of the room, between the wall and a cabinet, my face hidden, in an effort to control the devastating conflict of emotions: sorrow, rapture, loneliness, recognition and acceptance of pure beauty.

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excerpt from 'The Golden Sovereign' pp. 77-78 (437 words)


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