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“Good evening Mrs Mueller,”

The old lady looked up from her book with a smile as Jack entered. “Oh Doctor Maynard, I’m glad it’s you. I wanted to let you know how much I’m enjoying the book you recommended.”

He smiled at the frail little woman, dwarfed by the piles of pillows behind her, sitting up in bed with a huge book open across her lap.

“I’m glad you are enjoying it, although to be strictly honest, it was a friend of mine who said you might enjoy it.”

“Well please thank your friend for me. I thought I’d read all the biographies of Napoleon, but this is by the far the best. Oh, I’ve just remembered,” she held up her hand as if to interrupt herself, “Marta and Josef came to visit me this morning. They asked to be remembered to you.”

“I’m sorry I missed them. How is Mathilde?”

Mrs Mueller’s face lit up at the mention of her little granddaughter. “Beautiful. She smiled at me for the first time this morning. I had forgotten what a special moment that is.” 

“I remember David Russell’s first smile. I don’t think Doctor Russell stopped grinning for days.” He took her pulse, reviewed her medication and added his notes to the chart that hung at the foot of the bed.

The old lady regarded him shrewdly. “I don’t think you can truly understand it until your own little one smiles at you. I hope that one day you’ll experience that, Doctor Maynard.”

Jack tucked his pen back in his breast pocket. “Thank you, Mrs Mueller. It has been, as always, a pleasure.” He was in the doorway when she looked up again from her book.

“Oh Doctor Maynard, please don’t forget to thank your friend for me!”

“No.” Jack closed the door behind him. “No, I won’t.”

“Yes, Doctor Russell. Yes, I’ll tell him. Thank you sir, good bye.” Miss Bedford was just replacing the telephone receiver as Jack walked in.

“Good evening Doctor Maynard, that was Doctor Russell on the phone. He asked if you would telephone him at your earliest convenience.”

“Did he say it was an emergency?” Jack tried to keep the strain out of his voice, but was reassured by the motherly smile of the Sanitorium secretary.

“I rather think he was calling to ascertain your dinner plans for this evening, Doctor Maynard, there’s no need for alarm.”

“Oh. Yes, of course, he said he would ‘phone some time this evening.” Jack passed a weary hand through his hair and tried to conceal the fact that for a second, he had yet again jumped to the conclusion that Jo had been in an accident or contracted some fatal illness. Months ago, when he had first started to worry about her, he had dismissed it as a brotherly instinct, the product of spending so much time with the Russells. Now, however, he was not so sure. What was worse, he was fairly certain that observant people round him were beginning to notice the tension in his voice whenever anything to do with Jo was mentioned, and people did not come much more observant than the efficient woman sitting at the desk before him, fixing him with what his mother would have called a Knowing Look.

“Was there anything else you needed, Doctor?” 

Jack managed a smile and checked the clock. “No, thank you Miss Bedford, I have already kept you past your normal time. See you tomorrow.”

“Good evening Doctor.”

“Good evening Miss Bedford.”

Jack slid into the nearest chair and, reaching for the telephone, was soon put through to Die Rosen.

“Jem? It’s Jack.”

“Evening, Maynard, everything all right at the San?”

“Yes, I’ve just finished rounds and Miss Bedford was in the office today, so all the paperwork is up to date.”

“Excellent. That woman is a treasure, I cannot think what we did without her. Now look here, the von Trapps arrived this afternoon, and Madge just reminded me that we had never confirmed whether or not you were still coming for dinner tonight. “

Jack rested his elbows on the desk and loosened his tie with one hand. Of course, the sensible thing to do would be to avoid contact with Jo and her family, to distance himself and assess his true feelings.

“Thanks Jem,” he shrugged off his white coat and reached for his jacket. “I’d love to.”

 


 

“Well?”

Maria, curled up in a basket chair next to the big picture window, looked round and laughed.

“Well? You weren’t sure whether I would love this place? I can lay your mind to rest on that score. It’s beautiful. I’m so glad you suggested coming here. Of course, I would never be so disloyal as to prefer these mountains and lakes to our own, but they run a close second, don’t they?”

He nodded. “I have only spent a handful of holidays here, but there has always been something about this place that makes visiting it feel like coming home.” He crossed to the window and sat down on the arm of his wife’s chair. “You know, anyone seeing you and Jo at dinner would think that you were best friends! I don’t think anyone would be able to tell that you two had only just met.”

Maria smiled, recalling their lively evening. “I really like her, Georg, she reminds me of myself at that age. Not that she’s actually much younger than me,” she added thoughtfully, “I would never wish my years at the Abbey away but I do think that I started to grow up the day that I…”

“…met the handsome Captain Von Trapp and his seven adorable children?”

She laughed and elbowed him in the ribs. “I was going to say that I started to grow up the day that I started taking responsibility for my life, but in a way, I suppose you’re right. For many people, that day is the day that they enter the Abbey, but for me…” she turned for a minute to look out of the window where a blaze of stars and a full moon were lighting the sky, “I remember my journey from the Abbey to your house as if it were yesterday. I had always longed for adventure and there I was, looking adventure square in the face, and I realised that I was terrified. As I thought about it though, I realised that although I had no idea why Reverend Mother had sent me away, it was a chance to prove that I was capable of making a success of something.”

“And then you met me,” He put a hand on her shoulder, his face full of regret. “and I was vile to you, wasn’t I?”

She smiled up at him and took his hand. “Well, I would be lying if I said that the first few weeks were plain sailing, but I soon realised that you were still trying to cope with Agathe’s death whilst feeling terrible for not being there for the children.”

“Don’t forget that I had started falling in love with you that first night at dinner,” he said, slipping an arm around her shoulders, “Don’t forget that, my love.”

They sat together in silence for a few moments, looking out at the night sky, until Maria spoke.

“You know, these next few years might just be the making of Jo. I think she will surprise everyone one of these days when she becomes a woman. Then we’ll see where her life takes her.”

Georg looked sceptical. “But she’s such a schoolgirl.”

Maria shook her head. “There’s a measure of girlishness that will always be a part of her, but there’s so much of myself that I recognise in Jo. You see if she doesn’t change the day that she starts taking responsibility for her life. Of course,” she added with a smile, “that change might be imminent. Did you see the way that young doctor was looking at her this evening?”

“The one who dropped his coffee cup?”

“Mmm. And had a coughing fit when Jo talked about travelling to Russia. I don’t know, I might be imagining it but somehow, I doubt it…”


“Good night Jack,”

“Good night Madge, thank you for a lovely evening. ‘Night Jem.”

“‘Night Jack. See you tomorrow.”

Jem closed the front door and turned to his wife. “You go on up Madge, there are a few papers in my study that I must deal with before I forget. I’ll turn the lights off on my way up.”

Madge yawned. “All right darling. I’ll just go and check on the children.”

“No need, Jo said she’d look in on them just now. I’d leave her to it if I were you, you look all in.”

Appearing at the top of the stairs on the way from the nursery, Jo caught the last of this conversation, whispered her good nights and entered her bedroom. Once inside, she dismissed the idea of editing the chapters she had written that morning as too risky, should her tired eyes give her away over breakfast. Besides, though she rued the day she had reluctantly promised Jem that she would only attempt to write at what he called a ‘civilised hour’, one glance at the clock hanging above her desk confirmed her suspicion that she had best be getting to bed. She crossed to the window, and was in the act of drawing the curtains, when her attention was caught by Jack Maynard, who had just come round the corner of the house, and was making his way back to his rooms at the Sanitorium. He was walking carefully to avoid the icy patches on the path, with the collar of his coat turned up against the wind and his hands rammed deep in his pockets.

Jo’s immediate impulse was to knock on the window and wave good night, since he had left while she had been checking on the children. It was odd, she thought, that although Jack seemed to be spending exactly the same amount of time at Die Rosen as he always had, they had hardly exchanged a conversation in the last two weeks. She thought back, searching her mind for any event where she might have offended him, but short of the evening when she had beaten him at chess, she could think of nothing. She raised her hand to tap on the window…and stopped. Placing her hand flat on the glass, she shifted her gaze from the figure on the path to her own reflection. She stared at herself for a minute and frowned. Then, she drew the curtains and started getting ready for bed.




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