A/N Woohoo! I'm back with another chapter, and it's only been about a month! We're improving! Thankfully, my muse seems to be being nice to me again. I'm still not going to make any promises though as to when the next update will be, 'cause I don't want to jinx it!
Anyway, I want to thank all the people who left me such lovely reviews! Wow! blush And thanks also to the people who added me to their favourite authors and author alerts! That's so nice!
Anyhow, this is the last filler chapter. We get down to the actual plot in the next chapter, when, oops! I almost let a spoiler! You'll have to read the chapter to find out what I'm talking about.
Lastly, I should say, in addition to the usual disclaimer, that this chapter was written without any research into how the Paris Conservatoire operated in that era or its physical relationship to the Opera House. I simply wrote what needed to be the case to move the plot forward. So don't use me as a source for historical facts! Ok then, on with the chapter. And of course, please review! I may not always act on your suggestions, but they're always welcome and appreciated!
Needs and Decisions
Jane began her studies at the conservatoire that September, and within the first week felt as though an avalanche had come down on top of her. She'd had no idea that there could be so much to study about music! And her lack of formal training proved to be a serious disadvantage. Thankfully, Christine had had the foresight to give Jane some preliminary training in the weeks between her acceptance and the start of classes, or she would have been completely at a loss! Music theory was particularly bad, and Jane often found herself working late into the evening in order to complete both the studies she was assigned to do and the extra study that she needed to do in order to familiarize herself with facts and concepts which she was expected to have learned long before coming to the National Academy. The work took its toll and was exhausting, but it was also rewarding.
There were a wide variety of subjects taught at the Conservatoire, some of which Jane was stronger in than others. German and Italian she excelled in, but then French had come easily to her as well when she had been taught it back at school in England. History came easily too, for Jane had always been fascinated with bygone eras. It was one of the subjects that required a good deal of extra work though, as, in addition to having to learn the names of various composers and when they had lived and died, she also had to learn the terms and concepts associated with the styles of their eras, and these were new and unfamiliar. Her piano and vocal classes were similar. She did well in them because of her years of practice. But nevertheless there were techniques and terminology taught with which she was unfamiliar, which she had to learn quickly in order not to fall behind. And theory was torture. First of all, it was the subject with which she had the least prior acquaintance, and therefore it was the one which required the most extra work. Not that Jane had ever minded hard work, especially when it would help her learn and progress. But it was tedious and exhausting. And the theory itself seemed so arbitrary, sometimes seeming to be only loosely related to the actual sounds being produced. And Harmony and Counterpoint were governed by such strict rules as to be baffling! Apparently these regulations were supposed to guide the student in the creation of music which was stately, elegant and orderly. But Jane found them stultifying.
Fortunately, Christine was wonderful. Having been through it herself, the young Vicomptess was delighted to take three evenings a week, as well as Sunday afternoons after Mass, to help Jane with her studies. And Jane found Christine to be as good a teacher as any she had at the Conservatoire. To which Christine merely smiled, and said that she herself had learned from the greatest teacher imaginable. She burst out laughing when Jane told her her feelings on Theory and Harmony, and told Jane that her own teacher had said something quite similar, although he had put it far more forcefully. Jane noticed that a look of sadness always came over Christine's face when she spoke of her teacher. She also noticed that the young Vicomptess never spoke of her teacher in front of her husband. But since her friend offered no further information, Jane did not ask as she did not wish to pry into that which was not her business.
On the evenings when she did not work with Christine, Jane would stay at the Opera House long after her classes had ended so that she could practice without fearing that she would disrupt the house once the Chagnys had retired for the night, for she would often practice until quite late. And here Raoul was wonderful, for he permitted her the use of the family's carriage so that she would not have to walk home alone on such evenings, which Jane greatly appreciated. The walk through the deserted opera-house from the practice rooms to the front entrance was spooky enough. Without the constant hum of people which filled the vast building during the day, every creek of the structure's settling, and every moan of wind through the rafters was audible. And the gaslights barely dispelled the immense darkness. It still felt awesome and strange to the young governess that she should have all this time to practice at her disposal, and free access to such beautiful instruments. But she accepted it gladly and with thanks, and lost herself in the music, enjoying the solitude of these nocturnal practice sessions at least until it came time to walk through to where the carriage waited. Oddly enough though, Jane often got the feeling on these evenings that she was being watched, although she could not see or hear anyone else anywhere in the section of the building where she was. It was a little eerie. But she forced herself to remember that it was merely an effect of the emptiness and gloom of the giant building, and that she should not allow herself to be frightened by tricks of the shadows.
The fact was, however, that Jane was indeed being watched. Erik found that he could not help it. It had been a long time since he'd heard talent like hers, and he could not help but be drawn to it like a moth to flame. And so he watched her progress with growing agitation. He watched, and approved of, the dedication with which she worked, and the extra effort and study which she was willing to put in in order to keep up. He was pleased to learn that Christine was helping her. Generosity had always been part of Christine's nature, and he was glad to see that that had not changed. Moreover, Jane needed it, and he was glad to see that the young Englishwoman did not have to carry her burden of extra work alone. He got the sense that, if it had come to it, she would have, and indeed that she was used to coping alone. But he was glad that she did not have to, and that she had a friend such as Christine who was willing and able to help. He frequently listened to Jane's nocturnal practice sessions as well. He relished the chance to hear her play or sing. The skill and technique with which she did both was magnificent, and was equalled only by the passion with which she rendered every note. He noted, though, that the passion with which she played was often one of grief, and that she had a preference for the dark, mournful, haunting pieces and songs which suited its expression.
Erik found himself increasingly frustrated on Jane's behalf, however, at the degree to which the young woman was being held back. And the worst part was that she appeared not even to be aware of it. Lacking confidence in her own talent, and unaware of its true proportions, she was shy to audition for recitals and other such student performances. And so she was frequently overshadowed by those with far less talent but far more self-assurance. And her fellow students' habit of reminding her on a regular basis that they were of higher consequence, coming from families of wealth and prominence while she obviously came from neither, was not helping. It wasn't in anything they ever said, at least in most cases. It was simply that they made no effort to hide or downplay their privilege, coming to classes expensively dressed and discussing parties, vacations, and powerful friends and relatives. And these students, the majority of the school, kept to their own, making no effort to include the less well-to-do students. Jane did, Erik observed with relief, make some acquaintances among those other students who were there on scholarships. But this obvious class hierarchy seemed to reinforce her conviction that she had not the right to be noticed. What concerned Erik the most, however, was Jane's progress as a singer, for it was in this area that she was being held back the most severely. The problem was that the vocal classes were given in groups, and so the exercises and techniques taught were generic. Students were expected either to have had private training before they came to the Conservatoire, or to provide it for themselves as a supplement to their studies. Thus, her voice was not getting the individual attention that it needed in order to achieve the heights of which Erik knew it to be capable. Not that she wasn't making progress. She was. The improvements in the young Englishwoman's voice since she had begun her studies were truly astounding, although her shyness prevented them from being heard and noticed. But they were not nearly as astounding as they could have been with the right training.
Jane was aware of this deficiency too. She enjoyed her vocal classes although not always all of the students in them, and she respected the knowledge of the professor who taught them. But the exercises that he gave her felt awkward, as though they didn't quite fit her throat properly. He had mentioned to her, once after class, that she would benefit greatly from private training, but the problem was that she simply could not afford it. The scholarship which she had been given only covered her tuition, and the salary which she received from the deChagnys for the music lessons which she still gave their son was not nearly enough. It only just covered her books and supplies. She was thankful that Christine had convinced her husband to allow Jane to continue to live with them, or she would have had to cover room and board as well. She could not possibly ask her kind benefactors to pay for private voice lessons on top of everything they'd already done for her. So she simply carried on as best she could.
Erik, of course, had discerned that the problem was a financial one, and it made him all but gnash his teeth. It was absurd that a talent such as Jane's should be held back by something as trivial as the requirement to pay for quality voice training, but there it was nonetheless. What irritated him even further, however, was that he knew of a solution to her problem, but it was one which he was very reluctant to take on – it was one which he had not taken on in ten years. But damn it, he knew of no other musician of sufficient quality who would take the young Englishwoman on without remuneration, at least, not without requiring an alternative form of payment of the kind which he knew that the young governess would never give nor would he wish her to. Christine had done well so far as a supplementary teacher, but she herself was, by her own admission, out of practice and not up to the task of properly training Jane's exquisite voice. So it was with a great deal of trepidation that Erik made his decision.
Christine read Erik's letter over three times before she was certain that she had read it correctly. She couldn't decide whether she was pleased, terrified, or both. Of course, Erik's training was exactly what Jane's voice needed to soar to stardom. And Erik, realizing that Christine would have precisely the concerns which she did, had made a point of stating that he was doing it purely for the sake of music and of Jane's extraordinary talent, and that he did not have any personal stake in the matter. This did succeed somewhat in reassuring Christine, as did the fact that he had chosen to reveal himself to Jane as a normal, if eccentric, musician offering to teach her, with no mysteries or deceptions involved this time. But what if things changed? What if Erik did develop feelings for Jane? And how would Jane react to Erik? He was indeed eccentric, even morbid, and his austerity could be off-putting. And how in the world was she going to contrive to have him over to the house to introduce him? It would of course have to be done while Raoul was away, perhaps on a Sunday when the servants had the day off so that they wouldn't gossip. For there was no question of not doing it. In spite of all her concerns, Christine felt a strong intuition that to introduce Jane to Erik was the right thing to do. The young governess needed the training more than she knew, and Erik needed a fighting chance at making a real friend. And if things did get complicated? Well, Christine decided that she would simply pray, and leave it in the hands of the Lord, and that she would be there as a friend to both Jane and Erik if they needed her.