On this fine Saturday morning, on the spacious front porch, Madeline read through Marbe's letters a fifth time, coming away even more confused. Shifting through Marbe Tasou's letters, she read one written in 1865 to a woman named Charlotte. In that letter, Marbe, going under the alias Marbile Beauchamps, detailed her frustrations with the war and commented on the ways of the time. She touched upon the slavery system, and how she used her Force powers to save a young boy from serious injury at the hands of slave patrollers. Then there was mention of an odd dream where she, in her nocturnal slumber, met with Tante Seraphine. The old slave told Marbe of her future generations; one such latter descendant Madeline guessed was herself.
"But what did she mean by 'All the evil will die in the desert'? Surely Seraphine didn't mean...Wait a minute! Didn't I meet a Tante Seraphine in New Orleans back in...That was more than ten years ago, 1990 to be exact. She can't be that old! So what gives?"
Shaking her head, Madeline shoved the letters back into the portfolio. The only thing she hadn't viewed was the journal, a recorded treatise of Marbe's entire life, from her early childhood on Coruscant to her death in Natchez. In that recording was her marriage, the birth of each of her children, a full account of the Civil War and Reconstruction from a Jedi point of view, and more. However, the recording wasn't on a conventional VHS tape or DVD; the device was something quite foreign to Maddie. How do I activate it? How does it work? Do I put it in a special player? Why didn't Charlie or Lenore instruct me how to operate this thing?
She examined the object, wondering just how an entire life could be recorded in such a small space. It resembled a crystal cube, about six inches all around, with what looked like circuitry inside.
With a sigh, Madeline put the object away, promising to ask Charlie how the thing works the next time she saw him. Instead, she concentrated on her music, which gave much solace. If anything, whenever things got to her, she could always lose herself in the music, allowing the melodies and rhythms envelope her in that little world only known to musicians.
Holding the Vuillaume between her knees, the bow in her right hand, Madeline sifted through her music on the stand with her left hand, a difficult task if she didn't take ordinary care. One slip could send the expensive, delicate cello crashing to the ground, breaking a string or, worse, the bridge or body itself. That exactly occurred when she thought she heard someone coming. Startled, Maddie lost her grip and the cello toppled; however, in her haste to rescue her instrument, a remarkable thing happened. The moment Maddie held out her hand, the cello stopped in mid-fall, hovering just above the wooden porch floor. The instrument still hovered as Maddie held her hand, then it gently righted itself. No damage.
The Force...Has to be the Force...
Come on, she thought while tuning, this isn't the only time it happened. First time I did that was in fifth grade. I knocked over my music stand and nearly busted my cello, but I made it float back into position. No one saw me do it, thank goodness. I've done that with many things: glasses of milk that almost spilled, my toys, Mom's good vase I nearly knocked over from playing ball in the house...
"Your tea, miss," said Mary, setting the tray on the glass table. "Mrs Fellowes thought you'd be a bit hungry this afternoon."
Indeed, it was a tea fit for a noblewoman with many sandwiches of various types, fruit, scones, jam, and cherry cake.
"Oh yes, Mary," said Maddie, "I've worked up quite an appetite. It's all that reading Marbe Tasou's letters and practicing..."
Something else had bugged Madeline these days: Mary and her strange history, and her own journey to Oz. So she asked just that.
"Mary," she said while pouring tea, "how did you come to Oz? I mean, if you left Eaton Place in 1906, you've been here some years."
The maid replied, "Well, I come here almost six years after leaving my last place, miss. See, I was in – I guess I told you about my trouble."
Maddie shook her head, saying, "You mentioned Mr Bellamy helping you out of some trouble, but you never elaborated. Come on, tell me. Whatever you say won't go beyond these walls."
Mary, despite living in Oz all these years, and discovering life here is far different from what she left behind, asked tentatively, "Miss Madeline, would it be too forward if I ask to sit down?"
At that question, Maddie laughed but recalled what James said about manners and mores in Edwardian England, especially the relationship between employer and servant.
"Of course you may sit down. Come on, there's an extra cup," she said pouring tea for Mary then passing the sandwich tray. "Make yourself comfortable."
Mary smiled then settled in the cushy chair across from her mistress. She said, "I'm sorry, miss. It's old habits I guess. Even though I've been here ever so long, it's still hard for me to act as anything but a servant."
That said, and after treating herself to tea goodies, Mary began her strange, sad tale.
"I came to Eaton Place in 1906, miss. My last place...Well, it ended pretty badly. I did no wrong, miss, but what happened in my last place..."
Mary went on about her last place, working as under-housemaid for another wealthy London family. However, things took a dramatic turn when the son made some unsavory advances towards her. The son, Myles Radford, drunk, and in no mood to seduce Mary with sweet talk, forced himself on her. "That's why I left, miss," she said. "My mistress gave me a nice reference, so I left to work for the Bellamys."
Things seemed to settle for Mary at Eaton Place. She went about her duties as usual, arousing no questions of her last place. Mary managed to put the past behind her until one day...
"I was late, miss. And I had these fainting spells. I knew I was pregnant, and Myles was the father. He had to be because I'd been with no man, not ever."
Madeline asked, "What did you do? Surely you told your employer."
"Miss Maddie, I couldn't tell anyone. It would mean getting thrown out with no references. How would I get another place with no reference? So, I kept it to myself, even planned to get rid of it. But Mr Bellamy caught me crying, and he asked, ever so nicely, what was wrong. I had to tell him after he caught me sneaking in late one night. I made arrangements with a woman to help me get rid of the baby. But Mr Bellamy talked me out of it. That's when he decided to help me."
Then she related the rest of her story: How Richard Bellamy tried to help her, even defied the advice of his family solicitor to stay out of the affair. How the other servants pieced it together after Mary suffered several fainting spells. How those servants, especially Miss Roberts, Lady Marjorie's maid, regarded the girl with contempt. How, in the end, after Myles Radford refused to acknowledge paternity or provide any financial help, Mary received three months' wages and a reference from Mr Bellamy. Even the servants chipped in and gave Mary a little money to help.
"I left there, miss, never to return. I took rooms and stayed there until the baby was born. Alas, miss, I was such terrible pain, and..."
She started to cry then continued, "He died, miss. Right after he was born. Poor little boy. Of course I was so sad losing my baby, but at least I could get another place soon, and I did, but it didn't last long. They found out about the baby and I got sacked."
"So," asked Maddie sympathetically, "how did you end up in Oz?"
"It was March of 1912, miss. I was working as maid of all work for a middle class family in Wimbledon. Not far from the Forrests, whose daughter would soon marry Captain James Bellamy." Mary smiled a bit, adding, "Funny, miss, that people's paths cross in the oddest ways."
Then she continued, "Well, I got a letter from my sister. She and some other girls were going to America, on the new White Star liner. We had a cousin who lived in New York, and she said there were many opportunities in America for young girls like me. I thought it would be perfect, you know, get away to a new place where no one knew me."
Now Madeline was more intrigued. Leaning closer, she said, "You were on the Titanic?"
"Yes, miss. It was just me and my sister, and two other girls. We had this cabin, in steerage, all to ourselves. It was ever so grand, miss. The biggest ship in the world was taking us to America, to a new life. But..."
Maddie said, "I know what happened, Mary. The ship struck an iceberg then sank. But you're here..."
She paused, looked at the velvet bag that held Marbe Tasou's recorded journal, then returned her attention to Mary. She asked:
"Mary, did you manage to get into a boat?"
"No, miss. By the time they let the steerage passengers on deck, all the boats were gone. I was scared, Miss Maddie, and I got separated from my sister and her friends. It was so awful, miss. Everyone was screaming and running about, and the water was swamping the ship. I managed to get to the stern, but...Miss, the ship split in two. I held on with all my might, but when the ship righted itself again...I tried to hold on, miss, but I slipped and fell into the water. It was so cold and I thought I would drown. That was just before the ship went down. I felt myself being sucked into a swell of water."
Mary Stokes, a young woman who just wanted to escape her sad past and begin life anew, found herself in a swift swirl of water. As she told Maddie, she felt herself drowning, although, quite miraculously, no water entered her lungs. For what seemed like days, she hurtled through that swirl, not knowing if her sister or friends had survived the sinking ship.
"I finally managed to get to the surface, but was so amazed the water was quite warm. A passing ship spotted me then fished me out of the water. They asked how I came to be in the Nonestic Ocean, so I told them. Then the captain said I was the second Titanic passenger they picked up, and the last. Gladys was there, miss, on their boat. She told me the same thing happened to her. So the captain took us to Oz, in his boat."
Maddie raised an eyebrow, asking, "But Oz is surrounded by the Deadly Desert. How did you get across?"
"The captain's ship flew across the desert, miss. I'd never seen such a thing. At any rate, we settled in Oz, and I found a place with a Munchkin family. Gladys became Major Spikeblade's housekeeper. It's nice here, miss. People are very friendly and don't judge me on what happened ever so long ago."
Just before rising from the chair and preparing to leave, she said, "Thank you for inviting me to tea, Miss Maddie. Now you know how I come here. Oh, and I know about the lightsaber, and Miss Marbe, and her brother Master Kirel. That journal is special, miss. If you're wondering how to open it, you might ask the Wizard or Mr Charles."
Inside the house, up in her sitting room, Madeline pondered Mary's tale. How odd that all during that fateful voyage Mary didn't run into her former employer, Lady Marjorie Bellamy, and the lady's maid Miss Roberts. It was the latter who shunned the girl during those troubled days at Eaton Place. However, and very tragically, Lady Marjorie was a Titanic victim; Miss Roberts survived, only to lose her mind after returning to London a shattered shell. Gladys and Mary, through the wonder of the Magic Picture, kept up with the Bellamys' lives all through World War I to the onset of the Depression.
"And here I am, with Marbe's recorded journal, and I can't even get it to work. Gee, Mary observed so much history, and I bet Marbe experienced many red letter dates...Okay, let's try it again..."
She fiddled with the crystal cube, trying to figure out how to activate it. There had to be a key or passcode to use, and she had neither. There was no way to ask Charlie or the Wizard as they were in faraway Emerald City. James was in town, too, and none of the servants could help her. It was so frustrating not knowing exactly what the journal contained; Maddie was that anxious to find out.
With a frustrated sigh, Maddie put the crystal cube down, determining to open it some time this very evening. It was close to dinner, and Maddie hadn't bothered to dress. She had no special plans other than practice her music and work on her composition. Thinking about that, an idea came to her.
"What if there's something musical – a term, pattern of notes, or key signature – that'll open it."
Getting out her unfinished score then picking up the cube, she scanned her work, trying to figure out a certain pattern, perhaps a theme she used over and over opened the journal. No luck as Maddie hummed, even sang, the first bars of the main theme. Nothing happened. Then, as a last resort – make that an act of desperation – she set the cube on the table, picked up the cello then played the composition through from beginning to where she stopped. Again, nothing happened.
"Okay, what gives?," she said, becoming angry and annoyed.
"First of all, you could try to put aside your anger and frustration. Then you'll be able to activate Marbe's journal."
Madeline wheeled around, thinking Mary or Gladys came in with her dinner tray. No, no servants, but, sitting on the couch, was a very lovely woman. Maddie had never seen her before, and she wondered how this woman managed to gain access in the house, let alone upstairs. The woman sat on the couch, looking at Madeline with kind eyes. She said nothing else as Maddie stared right back, asking, "Who are you? How did you get up here?"
Copyright©2007 by PRP