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Alex and Czarina

Alex and Czarina

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Alex and Czarina

324 Seiten
5 Stunden
Feb 7, 2013


Father Alex Smythe is a young parish priest visiting St. Agnes for the first time. St Agnes is a large and wealthy parish. He notices a young lady sitting up front with the junior choir. To him she seems to have no interest in the service or his sermon. Then he discovers that her attention is taken up with the sound of ball and bat of a game of cricket playing just out side the church windows. Even more shocking to his senses is that the girl is the soloist for the morning. When she stood and started to sing, his heart skipped a beat. Who is she, he wanted to know. She was Czarina Hollis the pride and joy of her family. There are more things in store for Father Smythe. Follow him and see how he wins his love and the heart of the town.
Feb 7, 2013

Über den Autor

Mrs. Graham always presents herself as a lazy person, and a praticing coward. Yet she borrows four to six hours from each day to complete the tasks she has set for herself. She will also never refuse a challenge to partner anyone at a domino table. Growing up in Jamaica, her mother insisted that the devil found work for idle hands. She made sure her daughter’s hands were never left idle for long. Mrs. Graham is adept at all kinds of needle work. Reading is one of her favorite passions. Her day begins with two daily crossword puzzles that must be completed before she leaves for work each morning. She does most of her writing at nights to the music of Chopin, Tchaikovsky, and Nat King Cole. For the last thirty or so years she has resided in South Florida.


Alex and Czarina - Josephine M.R. Graham


© 2013 Josephine M.R. Graham. All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.

Published by AuthorHouse 2/6/2013

ISBN: 978-1-4670-3557-6 (sc)

ISBN: 978-1-4670-3556-9 (hc)

ISBN: 978-1-4670-3555-2 (e)

Library of Congress Control Number: 2011916945

Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models,

and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.

Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid.

The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Completed October 21, 2009

This book is dedicated to the memory of my sisters, Avril Hope Victoria Sinclair (my baby sister) and my (big sister) Mrs. Elith Sinclair-McFarlane. The world is an exceptionally lonely place without you two. I shall always remember and hold your memories dear to my heart. Till we meet again.

My most grateful thanks go Mrs. Joan Legge. Without her undivided attention to detail, this book could never be published.


CZARINA HOLLIS WAS SEVENTEEN YEARS OLD the first time she locked eyes with Rev. James Alexander Smythe. It was Sunday morning; and she was sitting in church along with the other members of the junior choir. Czarina was not paying any attention to the sermon the young priest was giving. Rather, she was day dreaming. In 1988 hurricane Gilbert had lay ruin to much of the area around the church, including the field in which she could hear the children playing. It was now two years later, and as she listened to the sound of the ball as it connected with the bat across the open field. The sound to her ears was very exciting. There was a hot cricket match in progress, the echo of the ball as it struck against the bat sounded like the cries the trees made as they were split and broken, by the power of the wind wielded by a mighty axe man. It was with a mixture of awe and fright that afternoon as everyone stood and watched the majesty of nature’s fury. When the hurricane was over the field where the match was now being played laid in ruins. Now three years later, everything in the area was reborn and alive with energy again.

Suddenly she sensed that she was being watched. Turning her head she looked up into a pair of soft, smiling, brown eyes, looking down at her from the pulpit. Heaving a sigh and pulling her thoughts back, she tried to focus on the sermon that the priest was giving. Today’s service was very special it was Children’s Day. The newly confirmed members would receive their first communion and Czarina was the junior choir’s soloist for the service. The young priest Rev. James Alexander Smythe, was visiting for today’s occasion. Father Walter O’Malley, the parish priest, was taken to the hospital on Wednesday and the report was, he was not doing at all well. Her mother had volunteered to care for the visiting priest until Monday. He would be preaching again at Vespers. Czarina was quite put out by her mother’s offer, there would be no chance for her to play cricket this afternoon. Her mother would simply not allow such carryings on with a priest as their house guest.

Fiddle sticks, why did mother agree to be his host?

She thought to herself,

Who needs to sit home and dance attendance to a dull clergyman? Rats! I wish my brothers were home.

The priest was coming to the end of his sermon. It was time for her to concentrate on the solo she would be singing. Czarina was used to singing in church. She had been doing so since she was three years old. Never once was she ever daunted to get up and sing her soul out. Today for some unknown reason was different to her. The power and sweetness of her voice always astonished anyone hearing her for the first time. She had put a lot of practice in and, wanted to hit every note just right. Like her maternal grandmother she was only five feet six inches tall, and barely weighed one hundred and ten pounds. Her apparent frailty caused everyone hearing her for the first time to come to attention whenever she opened her mouth to sing. Then she appeared to grow in stature. Her chosen selection today was the beautiful Veni, creator Spiritus. Standing before the altar dressed in her beautiful white junior choir robe, Czarina stood very still and waited for her cue. Her robe moving slightly about her, fanned by the gentle breeze from the open window, and the white mortar board sitting saucily on her hair gave her a look of defiance. Father Smythe returned from London three years earlier, and was used to listening to the Choirs of Westminster Abbey, and St. Martins in the Fields. His friend Dickey Fox, an opera buff, always managed to get tickets for whatever opera was playing. No slouch when listening to a great soloist, he waited to hear just what

St. Agnes and its soloist had to offer. He was surprised to see that the soloist was the girl who was more interested in the cricket match across the field rather than in his sermon. As the musical introduction faded away she began to sing. Father Smythe sat upright and loosened his collar. His heart started beating like a frightened bird. For the remainder of the service he kept hearing the voice Dame Joan Sutherland, the great Australian Diva, and this young girl both voices appeared to mingle then faded away.

Good Heavens who is she?

He wondered in amazement. Who is she? He could hardly wait for the final Amen to die so he could say the blessing and get to the door. He was sorely disappointed; it was as if she had evaporated. He dared not ask anyone who she was, her name was not on the program. His only hope now was that she would be at Vespers this evening. With the formalities over, he set about finding his way from St. Agnes to Albatross Ave. The house was called The Etude. He would be the guest of the Hollis family. Before leaving, Bishop Murray gave him detailed instructions how to get from the church to The Etude where he would spend the afternoon and night. From him he also got a rundown of the family. There were three sons’ identical twins Carlton Simon, Charlton Etienne, and Tay-Jourdan TJ were all away at universities in England.

Mr. Hollis, a noted pianist, was presently on tour in South America. At home were Mrs. Irene (pronounced Erain) Hollis, her mother-in-law Mrs. Simone Etienne-Hollis, and her daughter Czarina. She was supposed to be very outspoken and a tomboy, much like her grandaunt Jourdanne Hollis-Brennan used to be. Young Miss Hollis was the darling of her father and brothers.

He was struck by the sudden beauty that surrounded him as he turned his car on to Albatross Ave. When he was given the address three days ago, he was sure someone was putting him on. Getting out of his car he stood to look at the view. There was a park of sorts with a well laid out cricket pitch. Across the street the Caribbean Sea rippling, the crest of its waves like white horses chased each other to the shore. Approaching the front door of The Etude he could hear a piano being played by someone quite accomplished. At his ring the door was opened by a very handsome woman.

Hello Father! Do come in. I am Irene Hollis. I am so sorry that I was not in church this morning to greet you.

Thank you so much Mrs. Hollis

Replied Father Smythe as he shook hands with her.

It is so good of you and your family to put me up.

No trouble at all; let me have your bags, and show you to your room. You have plenty of time to change. Brunch will be in an hour.

All this was being said as she walked him across the house.

Here you are Father, relax and make yourself at home. The door on the left is your bathroom; I will send Sheila in to unpack for you.

Once again thank you Mrs. Hollis I will do just fine.

Alright, see you in awhile.

Closing the door softly she left.

For a big woman she was light on her feet.

This thought crossed his mind as the painting on the wall caught his eye. It was called The Etude at Sunset. The artist caught the different colors of the setting sunlight lighting the house like a thousand candles. It seemed to form a protective halo around the building. The painting caught and kept your attention, for a quick second you thought the house was ablaze. The signature simply said Irene.

This painting could hang in a museum anywhere.

He mused,

The person playing the piano was now playing the piece popularly known as Moonlight Sonata, the way Beethoven intended it to be played. Without a pause the tune changed to Scott Joplin’s Ragtime. Above the music Father Smythe heard Mrs. Hollis in a very firm voice saying,

Czarina for god’s sake it’s Sunday, go get cleaned up, and come to the drawing room. Father Smythe has arrived.

The playing stopped as someone rapped on the door.

Come in please.

It’s me Father, I am Sheila. Shall I put your things away; is there anything you need me to press for you?

Stepping back into the room he shook hands with her, and handed her two shirts.

This one is for Evening Song, the other is because we dress for dinner, I am told.

If you are ready, Sir, I will show you to the drawing room. Your shirts will be in the closet by tea time.

Thank you Sheila.

Saints protect me,

He whispered under his breath as he entered the room. The soloist from this morning was sitting there along with Mrs. Hollis and another lady who just had to be her mother-in-law.

Mrs. Hollis met him as he entered.

Father Smythe may I present my mother-in-law Mrs. Simone Etienne-Hollis, and my daughter Czarina. You must have seen my daughter in church this morning.

He was shaking hands with Mrs. Hollis Sr. but his eyes were focused on Czarina. She had not even bothered to look up as he came into the room. When he took her hand, his throat closed up he could only shake her hand in greeting. There was so much he wanted to say to her. To tell her how much he enjoyed her singing, and what a future she had. Did anyone ever tell her how beautiful she was, or that when she sang the angels in heaven cheered? All during brunch she kept her eyes on her plate, speaking only in monotone, and only when spoken to. Thanking Mrs. Hollis for a fine meal, and complimenting her on her home, he excused himself and was headed for the door.

If you don’t mind Ma’am, I would like to take a look at the different architectural styles I saw as I drove in. It is so unusual to see so many different styles blending together in one area.

Sure, Father all the houses here were built by my husband’s granduncle Zackary for his parents, brothers and sisters. It was an old family joke Jourdan Hollis the 1st said, his children could live anywhere they choose, providing it was one mile from his house. Those seven sons and three daughters were known as The Tribe. If you don’t especially, want to be alone Czarina could show you the area.

Speaking for the first time, Czarina protested.

Mother, please I should be at the park; there is a match about to start. You know I am on the team and we are already one person short. Cecilia Hollis is out of town.

Czarina, could you be the adult you say you are, and show our guest around?

Mrs. Hollis, I don’t mind if there is a chance of my playing, I shall be happy to go with your daughter to the park; that is, if the teams will have me?

Czarina said.

Really, Father you are a priest, be serious, you are not even dressed to play. But if you were and you were able bowl, we may be able to use you. The other side has a very great bowler with a mean googly.

Father, are you sure you want to do this?

Mrs. Hollis, if it’s alright with you for your daughter to play? I am pleased to go along too.

"Yes, but as Czarina has pointed out, you are not dressed to play cricket. Perhaps one of my sons may have an outfit to fit you. Reaching for the house phone she asked Jolly to help him get suited up in one of TJ’s outfits, on his return to the sitting room the ladies were quite pleased with his new appearance.

Well Gary Sobers Teased Czarina.

Let’s go and give them a what for.

Determined to get to the park before the match started, Czarina started off on a trot.

He had to hurry to keep up with her. A loud cheer went up as she trotted out to the pitch to talk with the umpire. The captains and umpires agreed that Father Smythe could bowl for Crescent United, Czarina’s team, in place of the absent Cecilia Hollis.

Well if I am on the team let me be a full team member for the afternoon. Please call me Alex. It would be too bad to be whipped by your father in public.

This comment drew a laugh from everyone.

Father Smythe was surprised at the crowd that had gathered, more so to see that many of them were the people he had just served at communion this morning. The Crescents won the toss but elected to let the Jourdanairs bat first. They were playing fifty overs per side. Father Smythe’s ability as a cricketer was unknown to them. He told them he often played short stop and bowled sometimes. This was precisely what was needed. The Jourdanairs were very confident and felt they had an edge. Czarina whispered a prayer hoping that her rashness would work out. Crossing

herself she gave the ball to Alex to open the bowling.

When the Umpire said play ball Alex marked out his strides, they were long effortless and easy. With his very first ball he got the Jourdanair’s best bats man out, leg before wicket. The last man fell just in time for the tea break. Their final score was one hundred and forty-two including three sixes and five fours. Alex was very surprised to find that he was opening bats man, and Czarina was his partner. Czarina and the absent Cecilia were the only two girls on the team, the bowlers from the other side always tried to trip them with unexpected balls. Today was no different as the fast bowler turned, you could literally feel the earth shake as he ran up and hurled his best at Czarina.

With the ease of Sir Frank Worrell, she waited, pulled her bat back, and got that ball full center, smashing it over the bowler’s head across the boundary. The Umpire signaled six runs and the crowd erupted with cheers.

Gosh! Where did she get all that strength from?

Alex thought as he lifted his cap in salutation to her. He went on to make 24 runs, helping the Crescents to win by 30 runs.

Czarina and Alex made it home with minutes to get dressed for Evening song. Dressed in his black suit and clerical collar, again, he became Father Smythe, and Czarina again was the soloist. Sheila had the evening off and accompanied them to the service. Czarina’s solo for the evening was All in the April Evening, Once more Father Smythe was captured by the voice. In his mind, he thought that solo was most appropriate, it was being sung by a black pearl on an April evening. Her voice was a great talent in one so young. He wanted to tell her how blessed she was to have this wonderful gift. Her life’s interests at present were her brothers and all kinds of sports; cricket was her favorite.

At dinner she wore a frothy white evening dress, and was more talkative than at brunch. Telling her mother all about the match, and the contribution Father Smythe made to the side. Czarina talked on about her final weeks in school and all the things she would like to do for the summer. Her father and brothers would be home then.

Czarina, you are aware that you leave for Paris long before the summer will be over.

Mother please, I do not want to spend my Gap year in a foreign country. I have seen London, Moscow, New York, Paris, and Rome. Home is Crescent City; my umbilical cord was planted by that coconut tree yonder. Grandma says home is wherever that cord is planted. I do not want to go anywhere. Won’t you just believe that?

My dear child yes, you have seen all those places, but you have seen them through the eyes of a child. You are nearly seventeen. That is much too young to plant yourself anywhere. Leave, go travel, gain some new experiences, and see them again as a woman. Then you can truly make your choices. Don’t you want to improve your singing, and your music?

Mother, we have a guest. Can we change the subject please?

Father Smythe, an old man of twenty-four, tried to grasp and analyze the strange feelings that were stirring in him. He was quite fascinated by this pretty child-woman. The touch of a hand on his sleeve startled him back to present company.

Father was today your first visit to Crescent City?

It was Mrs. Simone Hollis, he met her gaze, and she winked at him. He took that as her signal to get her daughter-in-law’s attention away from her granddaughter.

No Ma’am it’s not my first visit, but rather my first in a very long time. My mother was Caitlyn Hinds she was originally of May Pen.

Both Czarina and her mother turned their attention, to what Father Smythe was saying. As he spoke a dreamy faraway look and a smile played on his face.

Those must have been very happy memories

Yes Miss Simone, they were; you see my grandmother was an old music teacher. She also had the only record player on the street, where she lived. On Sundays, she would put on music from the operas. All the children would gather and she would explain the stories from the operas to us. Sometimes singing the different roles in whatever language the opera was in. Today when I heard your granddaughter singing some of those memories came flooding back

The striking of the clock brought everyone back to the present. Sadly the day was over and it was time for bed.

When Father Smythe saw Czarina at breakfast on Monday morning, she was once again transformed. Gone were the choir girl, tomboy cricketer, and elegant young lady, at Sunday evening dinner. Dressed for school in her red gym slip, and white blouse, black shoes and white bobby socks, her satchel and hockey stick on the side board she was now exactly what her badge read grammar school student, and head prefect.

Good Morning Father Smythe, so you are leaving us today. It was fun having you. You should come again when my father and my brothers are here. We spend a lot of time at Lake Lowery then. My parents are old romantics. They love to be there to watch the full moon rising from across the bay on that night.

Yes, duty calls me away, and my name to you is Alex. After all we did make a good opening pair yesterday, and you even made more runs than I did.

Father, I mean Alex, that’s nothing, I think you are just out of practice. I play almost every weekend.

Gathering her things to leave, she turned again and went to Alex as he stood to meet her. Taking her hand in his with bowed head and in a very priestly voice told her.

Czarina you are a very beautiful bud in the world’s rose garden. I pray that with God’s blessings you will remain this way for a very long time.

Why? Father I do think you are serious. Thank you.

With a wave of hand she was gone. Father Smythe was still standing with a bewildered lost look on his face when the elder Mrs. Hollis joined him.

Touching him gently on the shoulder he turned to hold her chair for her.

Good morning Father. Would I be intruding if I say you were far away in thought as I came in. Is there anything I can help you with?

Thank you Ma’am but there is no problem. I was drinking in the view and inhaling the sweet fresh air. Kingston has nothing like this to offer. Shall I pour you a cup of coffee Ma’am?"

Thank you. Mrs. Hollis is in the garden seeing to the flowers for the Mothers Union luncheon at noon. What time are you leaving?

About nine o’clock the morning traffic should have died down by then.

Returning to his room he was putting the finishing touches to his packing when there was a tap on his door. He opened the door to see Mrs. Hollis standing with a red carnation in her hand.

Good morning Father. Would you like to wear this on your lapel?

Thank you. You know it is said that the great Oscar Wilde was famous for his blue carnation. I just had coffee with Miss Simone, my next stop would be to come and pay my respects to you before leaving.

Her eyes alight with gay mischief her dimples flashing taking his hand said.

Well father you have been a very difficult cup to take, but I do hope you come to see us again soon. Please don’t wait until you are taking a service. We keep an open door come anytime you are free.

Thank you thank you so very much, that is a very generous offer I will try never to let you regret it. Ma’am have I your permission to write to Czarina?

Sure Father I have no objections. She is a great competitor with her mock exams in a few weeks don’t be surprised if there is no reply.

His visit with Father O’Malley was rather distressing. It was not easy to see one of his old mentors so very ill. Mrs. O’Malley could only sob softly in her hankie and whisper her prayers. She kept asking for Joel her younger son. Father Smythe with the help of the youngest O’Malley son Nigel gave Holy Communion to friends and family gathered in the patient’s room.

It was well after ten o’clock before he started on his journey back to Kingston.

The heavy morning traffic had died down and he was able to make the trip in a much shorter time than usual. Being a roving chaplain, he was never always sure where his next call would be. When he joined the Lord Bishop’s staff he was promised a church after two year’s service. He was nearing the end of his third year, yet nothing was mentioned of his situation. Now and again he began to doubt his calling. As an altar boy he had long admired the different priests with whom he served on any given Sunday. Not until he was almost through high school did he make a total commitment to become a priest himself. It was fright, terror, relief, and gratitude one night, that made him vow to serve God anywhere and in whatever capacity he was asked. He would do so without quibbling. Even now, twelve years later, whenever he remembered what brought him to that decision. His breath would come in short gasps. It was strange the different roads his life had taken. Once again his life was being entangled with the O’Malley’s. This morning ambition and the desire to get ahead were getting the better of him. Before going on to Seminary College he had done a degree in education. What should be his next step? Was the question he was now asking the power that was higher than himself? Shrugging his shoulder Ah well he went into his little den to see what now awaited him.

There was just the usual weekly routine. Yes he was home, but Crescent City came back with him. The house was silent; the daily had the morning off. She would come in the afternoon. Quickly he prepared his report for Dr Murray’s secretary. Setting it aside he went to get a glass of milk and his favorite bulla cake with butter. Lunch was easy. Rocking back in his den he sat and thought of Czarina and wondered when he would see her again. His visits took him to a different church every other weekend. Both

Mrs. Hollis and Czarina had given him an open invitation to visit when the rest of her family was home. But that would not be until the end of May. He took his report to the Bishop’s Office.

Mrs. Murray caught him as he was leaving.

Hi! Father welcome back. I hear you spent the weekend with Irene Hollis and her family.

Yes ma’am I did.

Did you know she and I have been friends since childhood? We were both in love with the Bishop, until the dashing Tay Hollis came back and wooed her away with his fancy piano playing, dancing steps, and heart swooning tenor voice. I have been eternally grateful to that man ever since.

With that she hurried on, leaving him quite bemused. Across the street at Hilo he made purchases for the people he had just left this morning. For Mrs. Hollis he bought Aquamarine by Revlon. He recognized the scent when they first met, a silk scarf for her mother in law, batting gloves and sheet music for Czarina, delicate embroidered hankies for Sheila and a folding cane for Jolly. The parcel and note was left at Confectionary by Dahlia to be delivered along with a box of her special brand of confectionaries.

This weekend he would be officiating at the wedding of one of his class mates at the University Chapel, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus. Wednesday afternoon found him half asleep trying to focus on the service the couple planned and the sermon he wanted to give. His semi reverie was interrupted by the telephone.

Hello Father Smythe here

Straightening his back as if he could be seen through

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