“I hate this one.” Alice looked contemptuously at the sheet music Bennett placed on the Steinway before her. “You can express yourself with a little less disdain, young lady.” “This song is the bane of my existence.” Bennett looked at his niece. “I said less disdain, not simply removing the word hate.” “I was broadening my point, uncle Bennett.” “It’s Chopin.” “I didn’t say I don’t like Chopin. The man is fine. This song is rubbish.” “Just because you don’t like a song doesn’t mean it is rubbish.” “My opinion is that to give a bright and cheery little girl who is still in the early thrusts of her piano tutilege Piano Sonata No. 2, cleverly disguised as Death March – “Funeral March,” Bennett corrected, standing there with his hands behind his back and seemingly unmoved by his niece’s passionate commentary. “Funeral March. Come to think of it, it ought to be death march because that one guy even said the fourth movement is like the “wind howling around the gravestones.” “Arthur Rubinstein.” “Yeah, him.” Bennett closed his eyes briefly. “You have been anything but a cheery little girl recently, Alice James.” “With regards to this music, uncle Bennett: death, despair and taxes.” “You also assigned that label to Lux Aterna several months ago. Do you remember what I told you about it?” “You didn’t say much. You just gave me another song to play from a French film you liked.” “After that.” Alice tried to recall the moment, to no avail. “When there is no music already written that adequately expresses how you feel, then it is time to compose your own,” he answered for her. “Oh. That.” “I assume your father gave you this sonata because you’re still putting off choosing songs for your recital. He doesn’t like that, Alice.” “I can’t help that I don’t need to prepare weeks in advance like he does! I’m an artist, uncle Bennett. I must create how I create.” “You’re a cheeky girl in a pinafore who will have her backside tanned should she respond disrespectfully to her uncle once more.” Alice felt her face blush. “Sorry, sir.” “For the last recital, you were five weeks away from performing and it was postponed because of the wedding, but it will not be further delayed. Not under my supervision. If you wish to retain your father’s permission to choose all of your own songs, then that artistry needs to come into line. There are programmes to be printed and we are not doing it at the last minute because you won’t decide. This is part of you maturing into a performer.” “I’m not going to be a performer, uncle Bennett.” That wasn’t disrespectful. It was what she believed to be true. “Right. You can do your warm-up exercises for twenty minutes. Scales on each hand and then arpeggios. That tongue is warmed up enough. Any more backchat and your backside will be as well.” Alice clenched her jaw whilst resentfully placing her left hand behind the sash of her dress to complete the right-hand scales. She wondered if anything ever happened to her parents, would she have to leave Waldorf? “Concentrate, Alice.” Bennett gave her right hand a swift rap on the knuckles with a switch he produced from behind his back. “Ow! I was.” No, she wasn’t. The scale started again. If she did have to leave Waldorf, would she live at Barton-Court? Did that mean they would become her parents? Bennett rapped her knuckles a second time. “This is not a slurring exercise. I want to hear each individual note even as you increase the tempo. Begin again, and this time don’t drift away.” This was going to be a long piano lesson.