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Cavendish pressed on in his insistent, carping drone, 'The next rehearsal will be with the orchestra and the professionals. I don't think we're ready, do you?'

'I can always call for extra rehearsals if we need it. It would help if people would learn the music, you know.'

But Cavendish was not reassured. 'I fear this time we may have bitten off too much.'

'Nonsense.' Sir Aidan picked up the programme again and opened it. 'There's nothing here that any half-decent choir shouldn't be able to sing with their eyes closed.'

'There will be paying members of the public coming along to this. The press may well be there. We don't want to embarrass ourselves.'

'We won't, Cavendish!' Sir Aidan insisted forcefully. 'Good grief, you're such an old woman. If anyone should be worried, it ought to be me. It's my reputation on the line. I am the one who has pulled strings to ensure the participation of our distinguished guest performers. I have also managed to secure the attendance of a certain very important personage.'

'He's coming, is he? Churchill?'

'The First Lord of the Admiralty has expressed that intention to me, yes.'

'Ah, an intention.'

'Winnie won't let me down.'

'Winnie now, is it?'

'We were at school together.'

'So you said. I expect a lot of other boys were too.'

'What do you mean by that?'

'Are you sure he remembers you?'

'He remembers me.'

Cavendish shook his head woefully. Really, it was hardly surprising that his wife treated him so roughly. He would have brought out the harridan in the saintliest of women. The man was a wet blanket.

'You have nothing to worry about,' insisted Sir Aidan. 'He will be there.'

'That's just what I 'am' worried about. It's making the choir nervous, the thought of performing in front of such a prominent individual. We are not at our best under such circumstances.'

'On the contrary, I am confident that the presence of such notables will inspire the choir to new heights of excellence. I certainly hope so, for I am also expecting the presence of another celebrity in the audience. One whom I understand to have the most exacting musical standards.'

'Who?' Cavendish asked warily.

'Sir Edward Elgar.'

Cavendish's eyes bulged. 'You do know we're performing one of his pieces?'

'Naturally. That's why I put it in the programme. To entice him. A local choir singing his Christmas Greeting in a Christmas concert? He won't be able to resist.'

Cavendish shook his head. 'This won't end well.'

'Don't be such a doom-monger, Cavendish. Mark my words, this concert will put us on the map. I see it leading to all manner of invitations and opportunities.'

'For you?'

'For the choir. Festivals, even the Proms—who can say?'

'Are we ready for that?'

Sir Aidan ignored the question. 'And in the meantime, we will be supporting a very worthy cause. How much have we raised already, by the way?'

'I don't have the figures with me.'

'Roughly. Off the top of your head. You must have some idea.'

'I think we are close to two hundred.'



Sir Aidan nodded approvingly. 'Excellent, excellent!'

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