Vienna prelude zion cove.., p.1

Vienna Prelude (Zion Covenant), page 1


Vienna Prelude (Zion Covenant)

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Vienna Prelude (Zion Covenant)



  The Zion Covenant Book 1

  Bodie & Brock Thoene


  Visit the Thoenes’ exciting Web site at

  Copyright © 1989 by Bodie Thoene. All rights reserved.

  Cover illustration copyright © 2005 by Cliff Nielson. All rights reserved.

  Designed by Julie Chen

  Edited by Ramona Cramer Tucker

  Published in 1989 as Vienna Prelude by Bethany House Publishers under ISBN 1-55661-066-1.

  First printing by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. in 2005.

  Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version or the Holy Bible, New International Version{R} NIV{R}. Copyright {c} 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

  This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the authors or publisher.


  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


  Printed in the United States of America

  11 10 09 08 07 06 05

  76 5 4 3 2 1

  This story is for Rachel,

  the firstborn of our love.

  If God had not given her to us as a daughter,

  she is the kind of person we would still have searched for as a friend.


  First thanks belongs to Margaret Tait, who has also brought Amy, David, Ernestine, Sharon, Basil, and the joy of their creation of music into our lives. The heart of God must sing with them as they play!

  Thanks also to those who have helped in special ways. Bettie Turner, Tanya Turner, Kelli Thomas, Michelle Janis, Harrell and Paulette Knox, Naomi Samuels, Michelle Antonell, Debby Jameson, and the wonderful neighbors in our little community.

  As ever, our children and dear family sacrifice much for the sake of this work. For the blessing of their lives, we thank God.



  February 23, 1972

  It was a tiny shop, tucked discreetly in among the other shops along London’s Oxford Street. The first morning, even with the address written precisely on the slip of paper in her hand, Ernestine had almost walked right past it. That was a common mistake, they had told her later. Generations of musicians had been marching right past the door of Holt and Sons and then back again. Eventually, it seemed, all the finest string players found the entrance, just as the finest string instruments in the world somehow managed to turn up here. Names like Stradivarius, Amati, and Guarnerius were matched with hopeful violinists whose names were much less well known than the names of the instruments they hoped to play and purchase here.

  “It is our goal,” the elder Holt had said with a slight, dignified bow, “to match the finest string instruments in the world with musicians who might do them honor for yet another lifetime of their existence.”

  Unfortunately for Ernestine, such cherished instruments were far beyond her financial means. She was a student now at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. The cost of her schooling alone had required sacrifice for her family in New York. Her talent was exceptional, no one could deny that, but mere talent alone was not enough to match her with one of those cherished instruments now tucked away in the vaults of the shop. She had not dared to hope for that. She had not dared to even ask to see the creations from the great violin makers. There was no use deliberately tormenting herself with something she could never possess. She had traveled here with a goal in mind: to trade her old violin for something that was smaller and more suited to her hands. Quite simply (her teacher had told her a dozen times), her violin was too large for her.

  So she had written to Holt’s of London and had come here to the shop. Now, three days later, she sat forlornly in Holt’s tiny walnut-paneled practice room, ringed by a half-dozen instruments. They fit her hands; they fit her meager budget; but each violin was mediocre in tone and quality and would remain so no matter who played them. Of course the Holt family knew this as well. The finest instruments could find a hundred voices in the hands of a master musician. That could not be said for the violins that Ernestine had played hour after hour from the opening of the shop until its closing. The disappointment in her eyes had begun to show in the eyes of the Holt family as well. It was obvious that she was capable of more—deserving of more.

  It was nearly three-thirty in the afternoon when Ernestine replaced the last of the available violins in its case. There were no more instruments within this price range for her to try. Her trip to London had been a waste of time and money. She wrestled down her unhappiness and sat back in her chair for the first time in hours. Her neck and shoulders ached. She had not noticed the pain until now—now that she was finished.

  A soft knock sounded on the door. The youngest of the sons poked his head into the room. His brow was wrinkled with concern and sympathy. He knew before she told him.

  “Not quite right, eh?” he asked apologetically.

  She smiled slightly and shook her head, spreading her empty hands toward the violins on the table beside her. “They are all very nice,” she began, “but . . . ”

  “You must not be too terribly disappointed.” He glanced toward the instruments. “Violins come and go every day around here, you know. Every day. Sometimes it takes months, Ernestine. Violinists have been known to take months making such an important decision. You have been here only three days, after all.” He was trying so hard to be cheerful and encouraging, but it was obvious that he knew how she felt. He had been the first to read her letter from Salzburg. He knew her financial limitations, and for three days the family had heard the intensity of her music. It was rare that a young musician with such talent came along, even more rare than the appearance of the finest instruments. What this beautiful young woman needed in her hands was far beyond her reach—for now, at any rate.

  She lifted her chin slightly. “Yes. Maybe another time.” She clenched and unclenched her hands. “You have all been terrific,” she said in her American twang. “Really great.”

  “It has been our pleasure, believe me.” The young man pushed his wire-rimmed glasses onto his nose. He bowed slightly, and Ernestine thought how much like his father he seemed in mannerisms and looks. “We have had the pleasure . . . the very great pleasure of hearing you play these last few days, and someday perhaps you will be back and—” He turned as his father entered the cubicle.

  The elder Mr. Holt stood half concealed by the door. His face showed none of the disappointment of his son. “No luck, Ernestine?” His face was slightly flushed as he gestured toward the unwanted instruments. “Well, I thought we might have a bit of a problem when I first heard you play. Quite a gift you have, and I expect to hear you playing on the BBC one day soon.”

  His compliments did little to cheer her up, but she stood and extended her hand. “Thanks. Thanks . . . you have been so helpful and I—”

  “Not helpful enough, I’m afraid.” He nodded toward the violins. “I had thought we might have a bit of a problem,” he said again.

  “Will you write me?” She bit her lip and frowned as the realization that she was going back empty-handed sank in. “If something comes in? You have my address at the Mozarteum.”

  The elder gentle
men clucked his tongue sadly. “I doubt that we will ever find just what you are looking for, Ernestine. Something that sounds like a Stradivarius with a price like these.”

  She felt apologetic. Had she been too particular? “Oh! I mean . . . if something turns up . . . like . . . ” She could not think what might turn up that she could afford. She flushed with embarrassment. She had come expecting the impossible.

  The elder Holt tugged at his vest and stepped around his son. He carried a battered violin case in his hand. “Perhaps like this?” He finished the sentence for her, then placed the case on her chair and opened it. Inside was a delicate instrument with an almost golden color.

  His son crossed his arms and nodded approvingly. “Yes. Here is one you might try, Ernestine. Good idea, Father.”

  Ernestine frowned and stared at the instrument for a moment. Her head was throbbing now, and she was certain that trying this one last violin would make no difference. They had as much as said that she could never find what she wanted for what she could afford.

  Sensing her reluctance, the elder man bowed slightly and took the instrument from the case. “One last try, Ernestine,” he urged gently.

  She took the violin from him with a weary smile. After all, they were trying so hard to help her. “One more then.”

  This time they did not leave her alone in the practice room as she raised her bow to the strings and began to play. Warm and rich, the music of Mozart flowed from the room into the hallway, drawing others from the shop toward the cubicle. Here was the voice she had been hoping for, notes so clear and full. After a few moments, tears filled her eyes. She stopped and lowered the bow. This was no ordinary violin they had brought to her. She started to look into the instrument to see the maker’s label.

  “No.” Mr. Holt put his hand out. “There is no need for you to know until we’ve finished talking.”

  Why had they done this to her? she thought, frustrated. Why had they allowed her to play what could never be her own? The agony must have been evident in her eyes as she stood in the center of the room and cradled the violin in her hands. “This is not . . . like the others,” she whispered in an almost inaudible voice. “You know I can’t—”

  “Sit down,” Mr. Holt instructed. “You are quite right. I had not realized how extraordinary it was until you played it.”

  His son had said nothing until now. “We have had it two weeks. But we were uncertain,” he began to explain, then looked at his father for help.

  “You see, it has no history. It is a very unusual instrument. Someone found it just last year tucked away in an attic in an old house in . . . well, in Eastern Europe.”

  “Eastern Europe?” Ernestine asked. Occasionally, she knew, fine instruments found their way out of Communist countries. But it was a rare occurrence and extremely dangerous for whoever carried them into the West.

  “Such instruments have a way of finding their way to shops such as our own on occasion. Many are forgeries, of course. Copies of Strads—or, perhaps . . . ” The young man looked at his father. “Perhaps copies of the work of someone like Andrea Guarnerius.” He shrugged.

  Ernestine looked down at the golden-hued violin in her hands. Guarnerius? The master had created his violins with the skill of Stradivarius in the late 1600s. Some violinists preferred his instruments above any others. Had she just played a Guarnerius violin? What kind of cruel joke were they playing? She blinked up at the two men. “This is not a copy,” she said simply.

  The two nodded in unison. “That is our opinion,” said the elder man. “But its history is a complete mystery. It has no provenance. We can find no proof, no records. It was discovered in an attic by a young chap who brought it over the wall with him. Oh yes, the label says quite clearly Andrea Guarnerius Cremona 1674.”

  She resisted the urge to peer into the F-hole to see the label. She did not dare look at the violin. It was the work of the master! It had survived three hundred years, and now she held it after so many others! She had caused it to sing as three centuries of musicians had done before her! “Why have you let me play it?” she asked, feeling that she did not want to let go of it. “You know there is no way that I can—”

  The elder Holt interrupted her. “It is our goal,” he said solemnly, “to match the finest string instruments in the world with musicians who might do them honor for yet another lifetime of their existence.” He bowed and smiled. “Apart from the voice it has in your hands, we have no proof that it is anything more than a mere copy. It is simply a mystery to us . . . and must be priced accordingly.”


  Night Music


  Streams of iridescent twilight streaked the sky above Gothic towers. Soft pink and blue melted into a deep star-flecked purple in the east. The spires of Prague’s Hradcany Castle blended into the darkness, and lights in the castle windows shone like evening stars not yet risen to their places in the heavens. The tall bell tower of Hradcany and the greenish cupola of some lesser-known spire held the broad canopy of evening suspended just above the hundred towers of the city.

  Elisa Linder and Leah Goldblatt slowly crossed the ancient Old Town Square as others hurried home from work. Set in the cobbles, flat stone crosses marked the places where the noblemen of King Wenceslas had died as martyrs for the sake of a cause almost forgotten. Elisa’s father had told her all about it. When she had come to Prague with him as a child, she had stepped around the crosses as though the blood of the martyrs were still wet and fresh on the ground. She was nearly twenty-three now, and still she watched the cobblestones carefully. In the half-light, she felt the presence of a million vanished souls, four hundred years of history crowded into this one moment.

  “You know,” Leah said warily, “we’re the only two left in the orchestra still trying to see the sights.” She flipped through the small red Baedeker’s guidebook. “Everyone else wore out after Paris.”

  “And think what they missed.”

  “Sore feet.” Leah looked up at the sky. “After this, tonight’s performance will be a relief. At least we’ll get to sit down. Are you ready to quit for the day?” It was getting colder, and a wind had sprung up almost as soon as the sun disappeared.

  “One more thing.” Elisa took Leah’s arm and pulled her toward the window of a dark shop. W. Hainz—Clockmaker was stenciled in a faded gold arch across the glass. Inside was a large clock surrounded by gold cherubs, each pointing to the time in London, Paris, New York, and St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg was now Leningrad in Bolshevik Russia, but the old clock had obviously paid no attention to the politics of passing time. “You see,” Elisa said with the same awe she had felt as a girl, “with a clock like that you could get up whenever you wanted. In New York there are people who haven’t even had breakfast yet.”

  Leah was manifestly uninterested. “Look,” she replied with a stern poke to Elisa’s ribs, “the only thing I care about now is a few minutes’ rest, five minutes to change, and a minute and a half to make it to the concert hall!”

  Elisa stood for a moment more, still seeing the reflection of a six-year-old girl with thick blond braids standing beside her father. She turned to Leah and said quietly, “At home we have a clock that was made here one hundred years ago. You see? Some places don’t change at all. Prague will always be Prague.”

  “Fine.” Leah sounded rushed. “Well, someone better tell the old clockmaker that it’s 1936. St. Petersburg isn’t St. Petersburg anymore, and Germany is now the Third Reich. Everything changes, Elisa. Except the time the concert begins. So, do you mind terribly? It might be breakfast in New York, but in Prague all the barons and baronesses are already in their satin.”


  Elisa and Leah made their way upstream through the throngs of concertgoers who moved toward the wide doors of the theatre in Prague. Elisa clutched her violin case and looked back over her shoulder as little Leah struggled to heft her cello against the tide of silks and furs and top hats. For a moment Leah’s determined young f
ace was almost lost from view; then up came the top of the cello case like a shield before her, parting the waves.

  “Excuse me. Pardon me. Excuse me, please!” Leah’s soft Viennese accent rose above the hum of the crowd. Elisa laughed, thankful that her instrument was no larger than a baby and much easier to carry than Leah’s unwieldy cello. In restaurants and on trains, Leah was forever asking for another seat for her “mummy.”

  “Leah?” Elisa called, unable to conceal her amusement that the principal cellist had to battle the audience to get backstage. “Are you all right?”

  “Excuse me, bitte. Pardon.” Leah’s voice took on an edge of irritation.

  “Maybe we should go in the front entrance with them.” Elisa stood on tiptoe. She was a full head taller than Leah and still could only see the cello case.

  Suddenly Leah’s soft voice turned harsh. “If you wish to hear the concert tonight, you will let me pass, please!”

  In an instant top hats doffed and mumbled replies of apology were heard; then the human sea parted for Leah and her cello. Her face was flushed from the effort, but with the utmost dignity she dropped the case to her side and walked deliberately to where Elisa waited near the corner of the huge stone building.

  Elisa nodded regally. “Well done, Your Highness.”

  “They could have killed me—or worse, broken Vitorio to pieces.” Leah patted the cello case affectionately. “Cattle.” She straightened her coat and ran her fingers through her bobbed hair. “I hope they don’t overrun the stage tonight.”

  “We should have just gone in the front entrance with them.” Elisa picked a few tufts of fur off Leah’s shoulder, compliments from a patron’s coat.

  “They wouldn’t have let us in.” Leah grimaced. “We don’t have tickets.” She surveyed her appearance. “I look as if I have been in a catfight.” She brushed her coat, then sized Elisa up and down in mock disdain. “And look at you!” She sniffed. “Perfect. Perfect. I tell you, it’s disgusting. Didn’t we just walk through the same crowd?”

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