This is in the second half of the book. Dylan, depressed and unable to compose after having lost Laurence, returns to England to put his life back together. He meets Geoffrey Dohnanyi again, whom he had met years before when Geoffrey was a teenager. They had not liked one another at all. Though born a Gypsy, Geoffrey has been taught by a great violinist, who plans for Geoffrey to take his place. Until the night of this excerpt, Dylan has never heard Geoffrey play. He finds him not in a concert hall, but a music hall and burlesque theatre.


A man in a tailcoat came out from the wings. Smoothing his impressive handlebar mustache, he bellowed, “Ladies and gentlemen, a few weeks ago La Bohème had the great pleasure of introducing you to higher class entertainment when we introduced a world-famous ar-teest who’s a favorite with all of you and even your kiddies. After a triumphant tour of wild, romantic Hungary where he played for the king he has returned. Here he is by popular demand, the star of the evening: London’s own Prince of the Gypies, youngest son of the King of the Gypsies—Chavula Dohnányi!” The applause and whistles were deafening. Geoffrey strode onstage with a confident swagger.

This was a Geoffrey Dohnányi Dylan had not even known existed. Chavula? Tight black trousers were tucked into calf-high, polished black boots which emphasized his long legs and lean build. He wore a white blouse unbuttoned to the wide, fancifully embroidered sash of blue, crimson, and gold that was knotted at his waist. His hair was brushed back and the gold hoop was audaciously displayed. He lowered his head slightly and threw a seductive glance at the audience, emphasizing it with a slow grin.

The mother in the box breathed, “Cor’. He’s so byoo-tiful.” Her husband growled, “A bloody mandrake, I don’t doubt.” The whistles became louder, and then Geoffrey’s expressive face became serious. He tucked his violin beneath his chin and positioned the bow. Silence fell like a blessing upon the raucous crowd.

Dylan had never heard a violin played as Geoffrey Dohnányi played that night. The piano accompanist floundered and quit; no one noticed. Geoffrey’s slim body was in constant motion from head to feet, almost dancing when he played a czardas that had the people clapping in rhythm, slow … slow … faster … faster … and still faster until his fingers were flying over the strings. He stopped, breathing hard; the rhythmic hands burst into wild applause. He played songs they could sing. He played Schumann. He played musical jokes, making the violin hiccough, and whine, and scold. He played magic.

Suddenly Dylan did gasp aloud. St. Joan! Dohnányi was playing the theme from his St. Joan! But he dared—dared to alter the theme itself! Bad enough that he had once criticized the first violin and cello parts, but to alter the theme was unpardonable! And yet …  He listened, frowning. Dohnányi’s improvised doubleï·“stops produced a grating dissonance perfect for portraying the fatal flames that reached for the Maid of Orleans.

The audience was uncertain how to react to the serious music. The applause was more of a question than an accolade. “What kind of music was that?” yelled the man in Dylan’s box, waking one of his children. “Need a new fiddle, boy?” Scattered boos answered the man. With effort Dylan resisted the urge to drag the idiot into the street. One may as well paint rainbows for the blind!

Geoffrey’s skin shone with perspiration as he bowed low. He straightened and spoke. “I wish to close with a song I remember from many years ago when I played with my father. It is called Romnichel. I dedicate it to my people.” Geoffrey positioned the violin once more and drew the first melting tones from the strings. Romnichel was sound wrapped in velvet. The simple, rich melody spoke of wide, black skies with a single star, of the smells of dewy grass and rich, damp earth. Romnichel invaded Dylan’s being in a fever of both mind and body. He knew he would feel that music so long as he lived.

There was a momentary hush as the song ended. Geoffrey slowly raised the violin and bow as if offering them to the god of music. The silence was broken by an eruption of applause. As the audience applauded and stamped, whistled and called for more, Geoffrey bowed again before leaving the stage.

Dylan pushed against the crowd streaming through the door. He had to talk to Geoffrey. Had to! He found his way to the backstage area that he hoped led to the dressing rooms. Power! he thought. Such power! And he’s so young! I’ve got to talk to him—damn it, he shouldn’t have changed my work without—my god, the power—I wish I didn’t want him—must talk to him—beautiful, so beautiful—and he didn’t know whether he meant Geoffrey or the music. When he saw Geoffrey standing in the doorway of a dressing room, he was not alone. Dylan stopped short.

A well-dressed man was with him. Geoffrey held his violin case in one hand and with the other he unlocked the dressing room door. The other man said something and laughed. Geoffrey smiled wearily, glanced up and his eyes met Dylan’s. His lips parted as if he were confused. When the man slipped his arm around Geoffrey’s shoulders and nuzzled his ear, Geoffrey looked away from Dylan. They entered the dressing room. The door closed. Dylan heard the short, dull sound of a bolt going into place and was shaken by a strange, unreasoning anger.

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