Tom Purdom



Cecili was playing the harpsichord while Bach watched. Ben was leafing through the music scores arranged on Bach's shelves, but he kept glancing at Bach and Cecili merely for the pleasure of watching their faces. Cecili was fulfilling one of the great fantasies of her life. She had glowed like a winter star the first time she had spent five minutes playing in front of Bach's intent, astutely professional gaze.

Bach was enjoying a pleasure that was almost as rare. He was hearing one of his own works played by a master musician. Cecili was deliberately slowing down in places-- and even missing a note here and there-- as if she really was seeing the score for the first time. But nothing could change the fact that she had been born over four hundred years in the future.

Most of the 18th Century connoisseurs who had heard Bach play had agreed he was one of the great keyboard masters of his era. Ben had heard him play twice now and he knew Cecili would have been the winner if they had ever auditioned for the same job. Bach was only forty-seven-- the age of a promising young novice in 23rd Century society-- and he had become a master in an era when only a minuscule percentage of the population could become professional musicians. The "diffident young lady" sitting at the harpsichord would celebrate her seventieth birthday in just two more months and she had become one of the dominant Bach interpreters of her time because she had outplayed all the thousands of harpsichord specialists who inhabited the Earth in the 23rd Century C.E.

In person, Bach was fleshy and rather unimposing. He was wearing his wig and a full set of gentleman's clothes, but his outfit looked like most of the clothing the members of the expedition had viewed as they had made their way across northern Germany. It was formal and elaborate, but the colors of the coat had faded, the sleeves were wrinkled, and the neck cloth was a little askew. Bach was wearing real clothing, not a costume put together for a historical re-creation.

There were nine people in the music room. Four were members of the expedition. The others were Bach, two of Bach's daughters, and a pair of students from the University of Leipzig who had been hanging around the family quarters while they waited for Bach's eldest son, who was apparently running some errands for his father. Bach's youngest daughter, Regina Johanna, was standing beside Miriam Shaw with her shoulder pressed into Miriam's side. In another month, in October, Regina Johanna would be four. In seven more months-- in April of 1733-- she would be dead.


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