The Return of Johannes Muller
((This scene is a collaboration between the players of Ariadne Hughes and Johannes Muller. Just a little backstory on Muller: He was an older character of mine and had been retired until recently. He is from Vienna. He is a musical prodigy and composer. He has chromesthesia (meaning sounds have colors to him). He had gotten married and moved out of Tyrehampton, but has now returned.))
Baron Johannes von Müller slowly steps out of the carriage in front of Mrs. Stanton's estate as a wealth of memories come flooding back to him. Maybe this was a bad idea... He sets his face, it is much more gaunt and a little paler than the last time he was here. In fact, all of him was looking more gaunt. He had lost weight.
Emerson, the butler, is surprised to see him after so long an absence but shows him into the music room. Johannes explains he doesn't wish to bother anyone, just wants to look. When Emerson leaves him he moves over to the harp--the harp Fanny would play--and reaches out to touch it lightly, as if afraid he might break it.
Aria makes her way to the music room, a little nervously. This is only the third time she has been in here since...since Adr--Mr. Sokolov left, and the last time did not go so well--she was too strongly reminded of him, and ended up crying and nearly throwing away her work on the duet she had written for him. But she remembers Baron Müller's advice, and the fact that she is perhaps to sing a duet with Mr. Turner for her aunt at some point, and so she is determined to come back. She has been feeling decently happy today, so perhaps it will not be a problem.
But speaking of Baron Müller... Her eyes widen as she sees him standing there, and for a moment she is too shocked to speak, having thought him gone. Then she smiles, more widely than she is accustomed to doing of late, and says joyfully, "Baron Müller! I did not know you were here!"
Johannes jumps as someone behind him speaks suddenly and he whirls around. "Fraulein Hughes!" He bows deeply but does not smile. His thick German accent has remained unchanged. "Apologies. I vas not meaning to be staying long... I... just came to be remembering. I am sorry... I am being bother for you, I am thinking."
Aria's own smile falters as she senses his mood, and she tilts her head in concern, then shakes it. "Not at all. I only came in to try and play a little, but I can easily do that another time. I am glad to see you..." She hesitates, and then goes on, hoping he won't find her impertinent. "...but you look as though...forgive me...are...are you alright?"
He nods but doesn't meet her eyes. "Ja, I am being fine..." He winces, then shakes his head. "Nein. This is lie. You are not hearing, maybe. Vee vere keeping things quiet...her family...um..." He swallows. "My vife...Vi-er, /Fanny/, vas being very sick and she...vas not recovering. It is bringing much sadness for me." He looks back at the harp. The harp she used to play.
Her eyes widen again, this time in sympathy, and she takes an instinctive step forward and whispers, "Oh...oh, no." And, slipping into German without really knowing why, she adds, "Es tut mir so leid das zu hören..."
He nods. "Danke. It is being shame that I am not visiting vith happier news, ja. But I vas needing to leave London and..." He shrugs, looking a little lost in his too large black jacket. He had nowhere else to go. "You must be having happier news, I am thinking. Wie geht's? Is Frau Stanton being vell?"
Aria wants very much to move forward further, to take his hand in friendly comfort and encourage him to speak of his loss. She suspects he needs it, though she couldn't say for sure why she thinks so. But he changes the subject, and she doesn't want to push him if he doesn't want to talk about it. His words about her having happier news and his question about how she does make her bite her lip, but the second question is easier to answer, and she nods. "Yes, my aunt is mostly well. She has been finding it somewhat painful to walk of late, but she seems alright still."
He nods, trying to focus on the conversation which is difficult. "I am sorry she is having pain, but is good she is being vell." He stands there awkwardly a moment. "You are to be marrying soon, I am thinking. Fanny once says to me that you are being engaged."
It is her turn to nod to the first part of what he says, about her aunt. The rest of his words, however, make a pit open up in her stomach, and she looks at the floor, turning red. "I...w-well..." She shakes her head. "At--at first I...I /was/ engaged...but then..." She stops, swallowing, and tries again. "Y-you see, he--his brother...passed away...and he became the heir. And our families could not then agree on the settlements...and so..." She shrugs, trying to seem as if it doesn't bother her as much as it does. "And so I am not engaged anymore."
"Oh." He clears his throat. "I am very sorry to be hearing this. I know I am being a frank, but vere you having much love for him? Ja?"
At any other time she would smile at his slight confusion about English, but now she just takes a breath and nods. "Ja," she whispers. "I...I loved him...very much. I still do..."
He figured as much. She did not seem the sort who would consent to marry without it. "Ja," he repeats quietly and lets out a breath. "I am hoping you are putting such sadness in your music? It vill be healing for you, maybe."
That does make her smile a little, if wanly. "I am trying..." she murmurs. "It has been...hard...to want to play or sing without him...particularly because he liked my music...very much, I think. But I am trying to use the feelings I have." She hesitates again, bites her lip, and then looks up at him. "And...and you? Forgive me for asking, but...I hope you are doing the same, and that it is helping you as well...?"
He gives her a sad half-smile and shakes his head. "Nein. There is being no music for me anymore, I am thinking. I...I vas having much anger and vas throwing my satchel of music into the fire. There is being no new music here now." He places a hand over his heart.
"Oh, no...but..." And how easily she cries these days! Her eyes fill before she can stop them, and she brushes at them impatiently before stepping forward and impulsively taking his hands in hers. "You cannot stop writing music! I...I understand how you could be so angry...and perhaps that you would not write for some time...but...but you /must/ have hope that you will write again! You--you cannot just...give up music..."
His eyes widen in surprise but he squeezes her hands, happy for the contact. "Fraulein, I am sorry to be making more sadness for you! Please do not be crying. Is alright. I cannot be helping it if music is no longer being in my heart. Please..." He releases one of her hands and fumbles for his handkerchief, which he offers to her.
"Thank you..." she murmurs, using the handkerchief and then shutting her eyes, trying to will the tears away. She sighs. "No, I know you cannot help it. It is only...such a talent...and...and that you should be deprived of something so...so important...when you have already lost so much...it is not at all fair." She bites her lip and squeezes his hand. "I am sorry, I do not mean to make things worse for you." Wiping her eyes again, she takes a shaky breath, attempting to regain her composure.
He swallows hard. He doesn't want to talk about music. Music was his dream. His and Fanny's. How they would have a bunch of musician children. How he hoped they would see music and colors the way he did. The dream was over--he was awake now. "Fraulein, please be believing vhen I am saying to you that you can be making nothing worse. This is not being possible." He shakes his head. "I am being glad you are still having music. This vill be good for you, I am thinking. Your happiness vill return to you."
Somehow, his assurance that she can't make it worse for him doesn't comfort her. "Yes, I...I hope so...but..." /What of you?/ she wants to cry out. /What will make you happy again?/ She cannot simply leave him to grieve alone. And yet...he doesn't seem to want to talk about it, and she doesn't know what to do. "...but...I...I am sorry you are finding it impossible to...I..." She shakes her head, takes a breath, and tries again. What would she normally say in this situation? "I am sorry," she repeats softly, once more squeezing his hand. "And...and if you should ever need anything...to speak of it, or...or anything else...I hope you know you have a friend in me."
He looks at her and nods, not trusting himself to say anything in the moment. He can feel tears in his eyes and tries to blink them back, but it's not working. Suddenly he steps closer to Miss Hughes, wraps his arms around her, and crushes her against him in a hug. He buries his face in her shoulder and cries in a way he has not yet let himself.
For a second, Aria is surprised. Then she closes her eyes, tears slipping down her own cheeks, and tightens her arms around him, holding him close. She can tell he needs this, and is entirely willing to let him have it. She doesn't say anything, doesn't shush him or tell him it will be alright. Perhaps it will be, sometime. But for now, she just holds him and lets him weep.