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We only do this for Fergus!

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 Panorama Helsinki / Finland - Dome and Parliamentary Square (by   tap5a)

Panorama Helsinki / Finland - Dome and Parliamentary Square (by   tap5a)

 

 

            Friday, and with it the announced visit of Matthieu von Klarenberg, came sooner than Claire would have liked. While she had regarded the visit of Dave and Geillis as a meeting with people she knew well and who would not resent any mistakes she might make, the evening with von Klarenberg would be the first meeting with a friend of Jamie's whom she did not know. And as Fraser's official fiancée, she acted as mistress of the house alongside him as hostess. She had felt the responsibility that came with it since the moment Jamie had announced the visit. Claire had planned the preparations and details of the evening all the more thoroughly and was grateful that Mrs Curtius had been at her side with advice and encouragement. Nevertheless, she found it difficult to suppress her inner excitement when, half an hour before the guest's arrival, she entered the living room on the first floor, where she met Jamie.

 

“Gewaff” by Dat doris, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

“Gewaff” by Dat Doris, CC BY-SA 4.0
<https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 

           Fraser was standing in front of the fireplace and turned as Claire entered. She had chosen a simple green dress for the evening with a few unobtrusive embroideries on the top that showed fine thistles. Her hair was braided into a half-crown at the back of her head and pinned up.

           Jamie smiled when he saw her.

           "Is it all right for you?" asked Claire. They had previously agreed on their attire for the occasion.

           "Yes, quite wonderful. All that's missing is the jewellery," he said, picking up a jewellery box that had been lying on the mantelpiece, waiting for this moment. He opened the red velvet box and held it out to Claire. It revealed a delicate necklace of radiant freshwater pearls and a pair of earrings, each with an oval pearl, the plugs hidden behind silver French lilies. Two bangles of an ivory-like material, whose silver clasps proved to be exquisite silversmithing on closer inspection, were also part of this jewellery ensemble.  

           "Will you hold this, please?"

           Claire reached for the jewellery box and Fraser took out the necklace to put it on her.

           "What kind of material are these bangles made of? Is it ivory?" she asked as she felt the pearl necklace wrapped around her neck.

           "No, they are the polished arms of two boars."

           "The canines of male boars?"

           "Exactly. They have been a highly sought-after trophy by hunters for centuries. As you can see from the silver clasps, they have been in our family for many generations."

           Claire took one of the bangles and looked at it more closely. Where the silver held the tusks together, it had been fashioned into small oak leaves with the Fraser family motto "Je suis prest!" in the centre.

           She put the bracelet back and Jamie handed her the earrings so she could put them on. When this was done, she accepted the bangles. Claire looked at them again in amazement, but then quickly put them on as Mrs Curtius called out from the kitchen:

           "Mr von Klarenberg's car has just arrived!"

           Jamie stowed the jewellery box in a cupboard of the living room and threw on his jacket. He extended his right hand to Claire and looked at her expectantly.

           "Come on, let's go," he then said and, when she hesitated, added with a smile, "Matthieu doesn't bite!"

           Shortly afterwards the house bell rang. Alice Bodenser opened for the guest, invited him into the hall where Jaime and Clair were already waiting, and took his coat.

           Jamie approached Matthieu with outstretched arms and greeted him:

           "Count von Klarenberg, what a pleasure to welcome you to my humble home!"

           The addressed laughed out loud, then took Jamie in a boisterous embrace, patted him audibly on the back several times and said:

           "Lord Broch Tuarach, I don't think anyone has patted your lordship's clothes out for a long time, right?"

           Both men laughed and gave each other another friendly hug. Then Jamie turned to Clair:

           "Claire, I want you to meet my best friend, Matthieu von Klarenberg. Matthieu, this is Claire."

           Claire had been meaning to google the von Klarenberg name throughout the week to find out more about him and maybe find a picture of him and his wife. But when she returned to her apartment in the evenings, tired of her work, she had always postponed this intention until the next day and then forgotten about it altogether.             From Fraser's stories about his friend, a certain image of Matthieu von Klarenberg had formed in Claire's mind. But now that she was personally confronted with him, she realized how limited this image was. And she was all the more impressed by the person who now stood in front of her.

            Matthieu von Klarenberg was no different from Fraser in his height of 1.90 meters, nor in his muscular build. Both men had remarkable charisma and their presence in a room did not need to be made known for them to be noticed. Each of them defined the presence of a room as soon as they entered it. But while Jamie was more reserved and liked to disappear into the crowd to avoid being noticed, Klarenbergs' charisma was almost palpable. This man knew who he was. This man knew his impact. And it was obvious that he was in no way thinking of hiding his person or his abilities.

           "Mrs Beauchamp," the guest said, extending his right hand to her, "it is a pleasure to finally meet you."

           Claire grasped his hand and inwardly wondered if she had to curtsy to von Klarenberg as she knew people would do in movies. Why hadn't she asked Jamie about this! Now it was too late! Spontaneously she decided against it:

           "Good evening, Count von Klarenberg. I am very pleased that you are our guest today."

           "Oh please, Mrs Beauchamp," Matthieu replied, "let's leave the titles. I allow Jamie to use it because he always teases me about it, but please do call me Matthieu."

           "Thank you very much, but then please call me Claire too."

           "Good evening, Claire."

           The guest, whose black dinner suit was obviously tailor-made and whose matching leather shoes were guaranteed to have cost more than one of Claire's monthly salaries, bent down and reached for a narrow brown wicker basket containing a plant wrapped in cling film. Von Klarenberg took the plant from the wicker basket and handed it to Claire. Dark green leaves and stems protruded from a white and gold flower pot towards her.

 

“Coelogyne multiflora“ by Nicolas Picand Herba.fr - This file has been  extracted from another file: Coelogyne multiflora 3.jpg, CC BY-SA 4.0,  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=76729413

“Coelogyne multiflora“ by Nicolas Picand Herba.fr -
This file has been extracted from another file: Coelogyne multiflora
3.jpg, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=76729413

 

           "This is a Coelogyne multiflora. Unfortunately, this fragrant orchid only blossoms in winter, but then it produces countless flowers. There, between the pot and the foil, is an envelope. My wife has put a short instruction inside on how to treat it. We hope you enjoy it. Jamie told me that you like potted plants better than cut flowers."

           "Oh yes, that's right. And here I have a present to look forward to. Thank you very much, Matthieu. I am very happy about that. Please pass on my heartfelt thanks to your dear wife as well."

           "I'll be happy to pass that on to Teresa."

           "Matthieu," Jamie now intervened, "there is someone else here who would also like to greet you."

           Von Klarenberg turned to Jamie and caught sight of Fergus, who had come down the stairs with Alice Bodenser unnoticed and was now standing beside his father.

           The guest squatted down and held out his arms:

           "Good evening my pirate friend, how nice to see you again at last!"

           Fergus broke away from Fraser and ran into von Klarenberg's arms:

           "Uncle Matthieu! Good evening!"

           "Hello, Fergus!"

           Von Klarenberg reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small present from it:

           "Here's a little present for you, Fergus. I'm to give you the warmest of greetings from Maurice and Teresa."

           "Can I open it now?" the boy asked excitedly.

           "Yes, sure."

           It took only seconds and Fergus had turned the beautiful wrapping, complete with bow, into paper and recyclable waste. What emerged was a photo keychain with a picture of Maurice and Fergus on the front. The boys were sitting next to each other on a sofa and laughing happily into the camera. On the back, it showed a photo of Teresa and Matthieu von Klarenberg with their two children.

           "Oh, that's lovely," said Claire, who had also leaned down to Fergus.

           "Yes," Fergus exclaimed, "now I can have you with me all the time!"

           The boy was thrilled.

           From Jamie came a very different announcement to Fergus:

           "So, what do you say when you get a present?"

           The boy leaned over to Matthieu and gave him a kiss on the cheek:

           "Merci beaucoup, Uncle Matthieu!"

           "Avec plaisir, mon petit ami."

           "And now it's time for the Land of Smiles, son," came the next announcement from Jamie.

           "Yeheeesss, Papaaa!"

           Fergus rolled his eyes, then shook hands with Matthieu and Claire.

           "Good night, Uncle Matthieu! Good night, Claire!"

           Both adults got another kiss on the cheek. Then it was Fraser's turn.

           "Good night, Papa."

           Fraser picked the boy up and gave him a kiss as well.

           "Goodnight Fergus, sleep tight!"

           Alice Bodenser took the boy by the hand and led him up the stairs. The latter obliged and waved vigorously as he departed. When he was gone, Jamie gestured to the door of the sitting room:

 

“Aperitif” by efes

“Aperitif” by efes 

 

           "Come, Mrs Curtius has prepared an aperitif for us in the living room and then let's see what kind of menu the ladies of the house have prepared for us."

            A few moments later, Jamie and Matthieu were standing by the fireplace. Fraser handed his friend a filled glass and toasted him. Claire, who had been in the kitchen removing the cling film from the scented orchid she had been given, walked past them to take the plant into the conservatory. Just as she had set the plant down and turned back to the men, she heard Matthieu laughing loudly. Jamie joined in the friend's laughter as well.

           "Well, did I miss a good joke?" asked Claire as she joined the men. Instead of getting an answer, the friends started laughing out loud again. When they finally calmed down, Jamie handed Claire a glass as well. Matthieu looked at her with a high red face and said:

           "Sorry, Claire. We were just laughing our heads off at the title of a documentary."

           Fraser's friend pointed to a television magazine lying on the couch table. Emblazoned on its cover, which showed a huge young Highland stack, she saw the headline, "The Secret Life of Red Deer."

           Jamie spoke up:

           "We were just imagining a herd of red deer plotting to become stars on German television."

           "Exactly," Matthieu agreed, "the red deer will spread rumours that they have a big secret and poof, an army of German documentarians are on their trail."

           Claire shook her head slightly. But before she could say anything, the bell rang from the dining room, indicating that dinner was ready.

             Claire and Mrs. Curtius had deliberated for a long time about what to serve for dinner. It was helpful that Mrs Curtius knew Matthieu von Klarenberg and could therefore assess his tastes. They agreed that beef fillet tartare with parmesan brûlée would be served as a starter and venison with black salsify and pear as the main course. As for dessert, they planned an orange mascarpone cream with raspberry sauce.

           After they had sat down at the table and the starter had been served, the moment occurred that Jamie had already "warned" Claire about. When they had put Fergus to bed the night before, he had asked her to stay a moment. He had skirted the issue a little but then opened up to her that "the von Klarenbergs are people who took their faith very seriously".

           "You could also say," Jamie said, "that they are very religious."

           "But?" Claire had asked.

           "Well, Matthieu would say - and Teresa would agree with him - that they have nothing to do with 'religion'. Religion, Matthieu always says, is man's attempt to be reconciled to God again by doing good works, and that is contrary to the Gospel. For the Gospel teaches that it is by grace that man is reconciled to God. And the means by which this grace becomes effective is faith in God. His creed, if you want to sum it up, is: we don't have religion, we have faith in a living God."

           "So, why does that concern you?"

           "Well, you ... You have to expect that ... he prays before ... having … a … meal."

           "If that's all there is to it. What's the problem? Or is there something more I have to expect?"

           "No, I ... I just didn't want this to catch you off guard."

           "Good, now I'm 'warned'," Claire had said, taking her leave for the evening.

 

“Betende Hände” von Albrecht Dürer by Google Arts & Culture, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21792217

“Betende Hände” von Albrecht Dürer
by Google Arts & Culture, Public Domain,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21792217

           And now it had indeed happened. After the beef fillet tartare with parmesan brûlée had been served, von Klarenberg had lowered his head, closed his eyes and prayed silently for a moment. He had then wished Claire and Jamie bon appétit and himself enjoyed the food and wine.            
           To Claire's surprise, a lively conversation ensued between the individual courses of the meal. Matthieu did not miss the opportunity to praise the choice of dishes and wines. He praised Claire's selected taste, Mrs Curtius' exquisite cooking and his friend's excellently stocked wine cellar. Every now and then, loud laughter rang out, for example when Jamie and Claire told of some funny experience with Fergus or when Matthieu told of the pranks Maurice had pulled last summer. Silence, even a moment of awkward silence, only fell when Claire spontaneously asked:

           "Why did you and Teresa take so many years between Maurice and Friederike, Matthieu?"