They watched as Kemington Silver lined up for their march, looking smart and raring to go. Bethany spotted Ellis and waved. He grinned back at her and bobbed his cornet to acknowledge Len. Some of Addersley’s players frowned. They hadn’t approved of Ellis leaving to join Kemington Silver, but he was now playing first cornet with them a place Ken had given to Jason Cale at Addersley too many times.
“Boom, boom!” went the big bass drum and everyone’s hearts beat faster along with it. Then Kemington’s march split the air and they were off.
“Us next, Grandad,” Bethany said excitedly. ‘We’ll do you proud this time!” Then she added in a quieter voice, “I’m glad you weren’t there to witness our last fiasco.”
Len was intrigued but there wasn’t time to go into explanations.
They were approached by a tall young man who smiled at Bethany.
“Hello, Miss Douglas,” he said shyly.
“Bethany,” she told him. “This is Mr Desmond Latimer-Davies,” she introduced him to her grandfather. “I do his mother’s feet at the clinic.”
“I just use Davies,” he said apologetically. “It’s only Mum who uses the whole mouthful. Anyway, it’s Des to my friends.”
His smile told Bethany that he’d like to include her as a friend.
“Best of luck,” he said quickly as Ken commanded the players into their ranks.
“Best of luck, our Bethany,” Grandad said, kissing her cheek. “Best of luck to all of you.”
* * * *
Standing straight in the ranks, Bethany took a deep breath. Once again the deep, heart-thumping notes of the drumbeat stirred them to action. Then they were off and the notes of “The River Kwai March” burst out loud and clear; the deep fruity basses, the mellow horns swelling above them and the sharp, clear notes of the cornets blending in melody. The bright brass glinted in the sunlight and they marched smartly down the main street to applause from the watching crowds.
Bethany knew with satisfaction that their performance was good. She played her best with her grandfather present, keen to make him proud of her. This time the band was working as a team, determined to make up for their previous performance at Greenacres. Their march into the playing arena at King George’s playing fields would be followed by their set piece. Bethany hoped their choice of “The Wizard” would cast its spell over the judge, unseen in a caravan near the venue.
“Not bad,” Ken said as they assembled on the field. “Much better,” he added to his daughter, Lacey, who had made a mess of their previous performance by stumbling in the first piece of music.
She blushed and nodded.
“Now, come on, lads and lasses. Let’s make ‘The Wizard’ a whizz!”
They began sharp and bright. The music rose and swelled around the arena, the louder parts crisp, the slow and gentle parts sweet on the warm air. Jason’s solo was fine and accurate, though Bethany couldn’t help thinking that it did not have the finesse and feeling of Ellis’s playing.
They finished with a flourish, to warm applause. Bethany spotted her grandad in the crowd next to Des. He raised his thumb in approval. At last, a performance that did all their hard work justice.
Bethany couldn’t help but notice that Len looked flushed.
“Come on, lads and lasses. On to the coach quickly and let’s see if we can make up for the time we’ve lost,” Ken commanded.
“Can Grandad come with us, now we have a spare seat?” Bethany put in quickly.
Jason’s father had decided not to come at the last minute. There had been some disagreement about an advertising board that he wanted the band to display, since he’d made a hefty contribution to pay for the coach.
“All right,” Ken agreed.
Bethany made a quick dash to tell her grandfather. As she hurried over she saw him clutch his chest and sink on to a nearby seat. He was pale and sweating.
“Grandad, what’s wrong?” she said anxiously, clutching his hand.
Des was looking anxious.
“Thank goodness you’re here,” he said. “He’s been having some trouble catching his breath. I’ll get the ambulance.”
He ran off and soon returned with help.
“I’m feeling much better now,” Grandad insisted.
“We’ll have to get you to hospital,” the paramedic told him, taking his pulse.
“Is he OK?” Bethany asked.
“I’m all right now,” Len protested.
“You’ll need tests. Your pulse is irregular. It could be an angina attack, but we need to check,” the paramedic explained.
“Honestly, I’m feeling much better now, Bethany. Off you go.”
“I’m not leaving you, Grandad,” Bethany replied fiercely, though he did seem a little better and his breathing was less laboured.
“Come on, now, Mr Douglas,” the paramedic coaxed.
Bethany made to accompany him into the ambulance, but he stubbornly refused to let her.
“I’m not going unless you play with the band. Go and play for me,” he insisted.
“I’ll go with him,” Des assured her. “Do you have a mobile?”
Quickly she told him her number and he punched the numbers into his own phone.
“I’ll let you know as soon as I can.”
“Go on, Bethany,” Grandad urged. “The band needs you. Go on!”
“You’d better go,” Des murmured. “He’s getting more agitated.”
Reluctantly Bethany went towards the coach as her dear grandfather was helped into the ambulance. She could not leave him! Swiftly turning to run back towards the ambulance, she stared in despair as it started up and drove away.