THE BUST OF THE MAREFranc68
To Lady Fischer, Berlin
18th of Nov. 1848
It was a very cold German winter, when I had reached the frosty and steep narrow gorge of the Rhine River, and saw the towering and picturesque image of the Von Heissen Castle. The carriage had travelled the rustic passage to reach the access road of the castle and its gateway. I saw the large iron drawbridge gate, then a vaulted tunnel and a machicolation. I could descry the oriel windows that were formed and had protruded, from the upper main wall of the medieval castle, above the surface of the hardened ground. The windows were supported by sturdy corbels and brackets. There was a lone flag waving high that had depicted the Von Heissen coat of arms, within the narrow watchtower that once was adjoined by a barbican. A spiral passage had led to an iron gate that was needed to pass through.
Once I was allowed to enter the castle, the carriage ascended the passage, and had reached straight to the pulchritudinous courtyard that imparted a splendid view of the vast circumference of the hillside landscape. I was assisted by a lackey off the carriage, where I had marvelled at the Romanesque stone carved capitals of the castle. The exquisite embellishments had exuded its natural attributions, and the pointing and grouting of masonry and brick of its structure fascinated me. I had climbed the steps of cobblestones that led to the front door of the castle that was engraved, with the Von Heissen coat of arms that was a dragon.
Once I had reached the door, I was greeted by the sole representative of the castle, by the name of Günther. He was the steward, a stocky fellow and demure in his decorum, but pleasant in his cordiality. The trip from Berlin was weary and tedious. I was grateful that Baron Von Heissen had allowed me to spend two weeks of leisure in his castle. The baron was away in Switzerland, tending to a private matter. I was escorted immediately inside, due to the cold and the wintry frost that was not propitious to stay outside much. I feared the bitter effects of the chilblains that had threatened unmercifully, from the Rhine. Inside we had passed the hall and gallery, where I met the few servants that were present. I shall make a specific and essential description of the inner architecture of the medieval castle that I had found attractive, so that you would be entertained when you come. There were several apartments that were elegantly decorated. The upper storey of the west-facing posterior structure was filled almost totally by the hall. The mosaic of the mural paintings and the chandeliers had arrested my curiosity the most.
I shall be waiting for your arrival, with a salutatory smile!
I was shown therewith by the steward the study room, dining room, the apartments, the solar, the tapestries and the furniture of garish decor. The sofas, tables, armchairs and seats in a northward alcove–were homely. Near the drawing room was a small artificial grotto that had formed the passage to the colourful study, with its array of books. The opaque glass windows divided the upper chambers, from the narrow corridor that had connected the exterior stairs, with the main stairway therein. I had admired the stately predilection for the art and splendour of Baron Von Heissen and was grateful for his amicability.
There was one certain fresco that had filled me, with such fantastic intrigue and enigma. It was the image of the illusive dragon that I saw in the coat of arms. This image was a haunting representation of the mystery, behind the Von Heissen mystique. It was only the second time that I had visited this grand castle. The first time was when I was a child and had visited my cousin a fain summer ago. The memory was exceedingly indistinct and transient.
The entire day I did nothing, with the exception of wandering in the castle, and beholding the wondrous architecture that had inspired me. I was not prevalent about the brilliant collection of art that had belonged to the baron—nor did I know of his dedicatory and proficient connoisseurship. I had demonstrated my admirable deference to his impeccable and inimitable preference.
The adjoining room to the antechamber was an impressive Great Hall and was the quintessence of courtly life. The attached living and dining rooms were used for leisure time and spent playing chess or music, whilst unique entertainment was provided by singers and poets, who would gallivant. A small passage through the outer wall had led up to a chapel and the vault ceiling. I saw that the excellent chamber I was staying was furbished, with wood panelling, a canopied four-poster bed, a reading area in the window niche. It was one of the few rooms in the castle to be used specifically for the exuberant guests. This detail I was informed by the faithful servants.
The first night at the Von Heissen castle was dormant and insignificant. The next morning, I began to observe the sundry portraits that hung in the gallery, and a peculiar and particular object had arrested my awareness in the knightly baronial hall, above the fireplace near the candles in the iron candelabra that shed light. It was a strange bust that had eluded my attention the day before. It was a bizarre depiction of what had appeared to be a fiend. I was not certain of what it represented and what being it was, but my intrigue had caused me to ask the steward when I saw him.
His response was vague and dubitable. The only thing that he could respond was that it was a mare, and it was connected to the history and tradition of the undetachable Von Heissen lineage. The mare was a spirit or goblin known in German, as the 'mahr'. Therefore, the history of the family was mysteriously unknown. He did make reference to the foolish superstitions of these parts of Europe.
Thereby any semblance to a mythical creature was coincidental and merely circumstantial. The striking image of the bust was too convincing, but it was nothing more than a bust or a wrought sculpture. I felt a strange energy had emanated from the inanimate object, as its eyes were penetrating and its stare was of a diabolical nature. There was something odd about this sculpture, and I could not rid myself so easily of its imposing presence.
That night I had spent my time of leisure in the Great Hall playing the piano. I was a fervent pianist and admirer of classical music, but an unusual occurrence would transpire during the late night. I was sleeping in my chamber bed, when I had heard what appeared to be an uncanny noise coming from downstairs. At first, I had dismissed the noise, as being a sound from the windy hillside—or the tumultuous jollity of the merry revellers of the village below. As I rose to investigate, the apparent sound had seemed to be coming from the direction of the hall. The steward who was sleeping in the room in the same storey had not noticed the sound.
Gradually, I left my room and headed towards the stairway that had led downstairs. Along the way, I still heard the sound. As I got closer, the sound had seemed to be coming directly from the hall, and it had sounded like the playing of the piano. When I had reached the edge of the corridor by the hall, I descried the image of an outré figure playing the piano. The stranger had appeared to not notice my presence in the beginning, until I made a footstep walking forth. He had perceived my presence then, and instantly stopped playing and vanished into the thin air. I was lost for words and was uncertain of what had resulted. I had lit the lamplight to see where the stranger had scurried.
The incident had awakened one of the servants, a Mrs Schneider, who saw me standing in the hall. She immediately asked me if I was all right, and what had occurred. I told her that I was, but that I had heard a strange noise coming from the hall. Naturally, I mentioned the stranger, who I had seen playing the piano, and had enquired.
'I saw a strange fellow of short stature playing the piano. Who would be playing the piano at this late hour in the hall? I can’t imagine that one of the few servants of the castle would have the audacity to awaken the sleeping souls of the castle'.
Her response was, 'With all due respect sir, it was probably the nimble mice that are active during the night. I suspect that was what you saw'.
'Mice you say Mrs Schneider, and the mysterious figure I saw before?'
'It was probably the deceiving effects of the moonlight of the hillside, upon the draperies casting a reflection of a shadowy figure'.
Since I was not certain of what I had seen, I could not dismiss that possibility, 'Perhaps, you are correct Mrs Schneider'.
There was absolutely nothing I could have done, except to ponder restlessly the remainder of the night. I would calm my anxiety, and accept that it was a troubling experience and nothing more. The first thing I did when I saw the steward the next morning was to inform him of the unique occurrence from last night. He was informed by Mrs Schneider, and he too dismissed the occurrence, as being nothing more than a trivial misunderstanding.
That night again, I heard the strange sound of the playing of the piano coming from the hall. This time I was verily cautious, when I had descended the stairway with my oil lamp and reached the hall. Once more, I saw the familiar improcerous figure playing the keys of the piano that had emitted brief diapasons of light. I had walked towards the entrance of the hall, and it was then that the figure turned around amidst the darkness. It was a naked fiend whose unsightly guise bore the appearance of a being, and its large crimson eyes had stared with a devilish gaze.
Quickly, I lit the lamplight in the hall, but the astute stranger was gone, as the heavy sound of the lid of the piano being closed was heard. It had appeared to manifest as male from what I could perceive, but that I was not certain of. Mrs Schneider had heard the bewildering commotion and saw me standing in the hall anew flabbergasted. This was no nightmare, I was standing in the hall alone unwittingly. Somehow, I was in the hall awakened. The episode was no hallucination nor opium dream, and there was no sign of the mare. It was as if nothing had happened.
I then yelled, 'Who are you?'
'Sir, are you all right? What are you doing in the hall? Should you not be sleeping sir?' Asked Mrs Schneider afterwards upon her arrival.
'Sleeping how could I? Did you not hear the wretched noise of the piano again Mrs Schneider?' I had retorted.
'I am afraid I did not hear any noise, except your scream sir!'
'You would not believe me, if I told you that I saw a bloody demon in the hall. You would think of me totally mad!'
Her expressions were earnest, 'Sir, you should see the doctor in the morning, and you might be suffering from the delusive effects of the cold winter or sleep walking'.
I thought of her suggestion and wondered what I had seen. Was it feasible that I was suffering from some hallucinatory consequence, due to the winter or draining weariness of the castle? Was it possible that I had been sleep walking all this time, and my mind wanted to believe this was an actual occurrence? I had remained silent and returned to my room, where I started to seriously question my sanity.
A few days had passed, and every night the invariable occurrence of the sound of the piano being played in the hall below was too maddening. This time I did not rise to investigate. Instead, I had attempted to convince myself that the sound and mysterious figure were not real at all.
For the remainder of that week, I began to study the mystery that had bound this inexplicable demon with the castle. Was this the evolution of a surreal actuality–or was this a figment of my imagination conjured incoherently? Had I succumbed to the mystique of the castle and that of the German myths? I had started to become obsessed, with the bust of the mare in the hall. I had taken medication given by the doctor, who had examined my state of anxiety one day–but that could not efface the traumatic memory of the mare.
Every morning I stared into its phlegmatic eyes of marble rigidity, as I had stood with a taut fixation. I began to sense it alive and taunting me, with its unutterable appeal and quietude in my active or Morphean state of mind. In the study I had searched for illimitable books on information about the praeternatural being and found nothing relevant on the matter.
Thus, the harsh cold winter had prevented me, from leaving the castle to visit the village below the hillside. The walls of the castle were beginning to feel, like the cloistered abbeys of the monks nearby. The steward had departed, and I was left now alone in the castle, with the servants who came and went from the castle doing their daily errands. My inherent faculties were being affected, as I did nothing except stay in the castle and wait for the haunting night to befall me. The occasional gleam from the moon above in the sky would comfort me from the darkness of the castle. Two more days I needed to wait for the beloved Lady Fisher’s departure from Berlin. It would be a memorable day indeed.
To Lady Fisher Berlin,
24th of Nov. 1848
I eagerly await your arrival Lady Fisher, for your enchanting eyes, and a bland smile will bring rejoice in my soul.
Presently, I am languishing, in a stupor of bewilderment, with a doleful longing for your presence. I do not mean to alarm you whatsoever. Perhaps, I am rambling in my discourse and overreacting to the harsh effects of winter, and being confined due to the inclemency of the unstable weather.
I profess that a day does not transpire that I do not think about your arrival. I hope that the trip by train for you will not be tedious nor weary as it was, for me.
Stay warm always during the trip, and I hope that you do not resent the bitter days and cold nights here.
I do miss the bustle of Berlin and the revelry of the city. I suppose I must do with the silence of this sanctuary. I shall attempt to amuse myself, with the thought of your coquettish nature towards me.
I have not much else to divulge, and I shall end this correspondence, with a grateful sigh and relief knowing, that I shall soon behold your beauty again.
The night before the Lady Fisher's arrival, I had experienced a rather disturbing and intangible occurrence that left my mouth agape in incredulity. I was in my bed sleeping, when suddenly I felt the bedstead shake and saw myself in bed awakened to see the dreadful guise of the mare. He was hovering over me intrusively, as he was sitting on my chest, staring at me with his scarlet large oval eyes of sheer terror. I had remained motionless bating breath, as I could not move. His drooling saliva I had felt, and his insidious grin tormented me, irrespective of the hour. He soon would disappear, as I awoke in a dripping perspiration and heavy breath. I had calmed myself and realised it was only a horrible dream. Was this truly abnegation on my selfish part? Were these episodes of continual phantasmagoric fright to end or attenuate in severity? Inspective cognisance was required, but it was irrational emotion that had consumed me before.
The next morning I awoke with the anticipation of the arrival of the Lady Fisher. Hitherto, the castle had been only a haunting prison and perturbed me with resoluteness. The weather had permitted the trip of the Lady Fisher to be possible. At around late afternoon her carriage had arrived. She was an invaluable boon to me, and I was extremely content to have her present. Her natural beauty was the absolute remedy I needed, as felicity had filled her, irradiating her whole countenance. The intermittent flakes were becoming hardened snow with the passing days and frore nights of winter. I waited for her at the courtyard. When she had descended from the carriage, we embraced in an emotional jubilation.
Inside I had escorted her to the hall. The servants were on their errands, and we were all alone to enjoy our company. As it was expected, the Lady Fisher was fatigued with the trip. I took her to her chamber, where she rested until the night.
Meanwhile, I sat down in the hall observing the frost that fell on the ground outside. There was a visible sign that a winter storm was approaching. I had wondered in my mind, if the reoccurring mare would reappear again. I wanted urgently to believe that my nightmare would be replaced, with the merriment of the Lady Fisher.
I had taken a book from the shelf in the study that dealt with sleep walking, and the cause and effects of experiencing nightmares. The common symptoms were exactly the same that I was undergoing, sitting up in the dark, heart pounding, breath coming fast, confusion and disorientation. I was having a strange vibration in the ears that had faded away, a hallucinatory sleep and an insomniac tension experimented, within the stage of sleep that paralyses our bodies and disables our plausible comprehension. This intemperate distress, that had accompanied the episodes, was manifest in the reactional sequence the inflicted individual felt immediately afterwards once aroused.
I was concern with the threat of the approachability of the winter storm, and the fact that the servants had not yet arrived. I was worried for their safety, and for the Lady Fisher. It was around eight o’clock in the night when she awoke and had enquired about dinner. At that time, only one of the servants had returned. Fortunately for us it was the cook who had prepared us a sumptuous repast for dinner. There was a startling thing that he had disclosed. He had told us that the winter storm that was arriving had prevented the others from returning. Apparently, the roads to the castle were covered in piles of snow, and truly impossible to travel through. He made mention especially of the access road that had led directly to the castle itself.
After dinner, we sat in the hall observing through the windows the courtyard that was then nipped, with the unyielding frost of the intractable storm. A scintilla of uncertainty had pervaded over the rest of the night, as the Lady Fisher entertained with a superb rendition on the piano of Mozart’s 'Rondo alla turca'. Oddly enough she did not even notice the daunting influence of the marble figure of the mare above. I surely did, and despite my attempts of disguising my consternation, I could not help but be drawn to the bust of the mare.
The howling and powerful wind outside was an unsettling reminder of the eeriness of the night. The Lady Fisher had visited the boudoir of the castle and was enamoured with it. She also was delighted with the antechambers and chandeliers of the castle.
That night would culminate in the most terrifying episode yet experienced. Anon, she retired for the night, whilst I had remained in the Great Hall. Her room was in the apartments downstairs, since I did not want to have her far from my protection. The storm had brooded, this heightened preoccupation within me that bedeviled my mind.
That night I did not sleep at all, for I was busy with the thought of the lingering storm and the presence of the mare. Thence, I had remained in the hall, unknown to the Lady Fisher, who presumed I was asleep. I had nestled around the warmth of the fireplace in the Great Hall, and on the top shelf was a book that had been placed there. This book was about the folklore of the dreaded mare. It was a volume that spoke in depth about the ominous creature.
Suddenly, the flame of the fire decreased, and a cold draught had entered into the night. I heard from my darling’s chamber, the loud sound of a fallen tray. I ran to her chamber expeditiously, investigating the particular scene. An unbidden visitor had entered surreptitiously, through the window that was open wide.
Immediately I closed the window, but the Lady Fisher was not awakened, as I had entered. When I finished closing the window afterwards, I was shocked with what I had seen. Sitting in the bosom of the Lady Fisher so placidly, was the devious and crinigerous mare ogling her breasts, with his lascivious eyes and drool. I did not want to awaken the Lady Fisher, and cause a disquieting stir in her. I had peered at his ugsome, ungainly guise.
The chamber was dark and blear, and fraught of imminent peril and terror. The lamp did not lit at all, as his scarlet eyes wielded over my dismay. His tentiginous eyes had exuded afterwards this hellish grin that was created from an unearthly world of iniquity. He was the embodiment of a serf of some Plutonian kin, curst by the tongues of the righteous ones.
Swiftly, I sought to thwart this forcouth fiend, striking the core of his seeming—but he had scampered under the bed, with his legs that began to splay, whilst I waited for her listless body to quicken. I grew more agog, with the madness that had left me witless, amidst the demon’s taunting play. I had sensed the madness consuming me. The demon then stood erect from her bosom, and sprung on to the ceiling, as I had stepped backwards bemused and reeling soon, till he hid himself in a darkness of the night, like a dangerous thief. In her bed my darling within a profound slumber, whilst I had been oddly creeping. I had searched with my shirt steeping profusely, within a heavy sweat of my dismay, for the horrendous puckle, with a heavy sweat dripping. I found him behind me, as I was too unaware. Standing behind me upright and raring, I had sensed that my feet were becoming leery, with his deep breath upon my neck, as I shivered in the fright of that night. When I had turned around to look, he stood frolicking in some impish prance. He was taunting me in this trance that was bewitching, with his devious and frivolous play. He was taunting me as the master of illusion, with his nefarious and flighty provocation.
I had drowned even more in my episodes of a fret and scare. I had watched and watched his grin, as I endured his beguiling laughter and the pendulum of a clock in the corridor, swinging with a definable oscillation. I could not awake the Lady Fisher, from her terrible nightmare. She was in a very deep unconscious trance that I had dared not risk her death.
The chords of the piano began to be heard, from the fingers of a nightly lord. Had my vision become too blurred, with the madness of erratic thoughts? Into an abyss blurred, with that madness lingering of irrational thoughts? I had followed the shadow of the culprit of the mare, until I found him. The echoes of the night sounded, with a blare that had reverberated.
There was silence in the corridor, with the footprints of the mare that would be visible on the floor, as he had scurried to a chamber away. The bustling wind I would hark, amidst the bleak night. I had followed the horrific footfall through the dark corridor, calling on the mare along the way, as the Cimmerian shade of wickedness had fled. At last, I found him in my darling's chamber and had implored therewith!
'Tell me—tell me being of this castle, what have you done to the Lady Fisher demon? Do not—do not—forsake her, I beseech you now. What must I do? I shall do anything, no murmurs shall I dare whisper. I shall bow truly in obeisance, never reveal your name. Why, why, the Lady Fisher must you take, what sacrifice must I make now? Have you not seen and felt the anguish of my lonesome heart? Soon, the hour of daylight will come, and I can bestow thee with fancy wine—or this succulent feast, amongst the splendours of the night', I had said.
The mare did not want these things and shook his head. Thus, I had offered him my plentiful wealth, but he was a cunning being of ambuscade and mischief. When I had thought that doom would occur, this ironic incident led to his downfall. As he sat again on the bosom of the Lady Fisher, he had entangled himself in her hair, suckling her bosom like a lover of an affair so interminable. Through my despair and instinct, I had trapped him in a goblet to ever stay as he shrieked. At last, the mare was under my behest, trapped in a goblet to forever remain—nevermore, would this brash fiend be to me a demonic nightmare. Then, I hid the goblet in the hidden nook, behind the book on top I had taken before. I had succeeded in casting the horrible mare to the confinement of the goblet, where I intended to banish him there forever.
The Lady Fisher would never be cognisant of the unbelievable occurrence with the Mephistophelian mare. I had saved her soul and body, from the tormenting evil of the villain.
That next morning, she awoke to find me sleeping in the armchair of the hall, by the fireplace. I had explained that I for some apparent reason never told to her, had slept there due to my concern for the storm. She never questioned me afterwards however odd the excuse was. My nightmares were now dreams pleasant and allay—or so I thought.
We would soon depart the Von Heissen castle, after Baron Von Heissen had returned. A vestige still remained, still remained, behind the creaks and strains of the chapel, the bust of the mare. I had hidden the goblet in a recess, behind the altar.
One day as I was walking the cold wintry streets of Berlin, I had sensed the presence of a stranger following me, as the gust of the wind blew. No—no, it cannot be! For a moment I paused and had looked. When I did, I saw the luminous orbs of a withy figure, bouncing from roof to roof. It then mysteriously disappeared straightway, as I had dismissed the queer occurrence and walked forth. Had the nightmare of the mare truly abated? Good God what if the bloody demon had been released from the goblet in the Von Heissen castle?
The intrinsic concept of a dream and nightmare is differential in the contrast of its actual implication, when the undetermined notion of congruity and incongruity are in the rudiment of the conscience. Thus, a dream is but a mere dream, if we allow it to be interpreted in that manner. And a nightmare is a dreadful nightmare that originates and becomes vividly alive, when the fragile mind is susceptible to the lurking sounds of the nefarious beings that taunt us, with lechery and debauchery.
Imagine in this world, a minacious and existential being, within the secluded milieu of the hillside of the Rhine River. It is a mystic place where the unusual enchantment of a castle is enshrouded, in the mystery that bounds illusion with reality so disturbingly. It is a frightening truth that shall haunt the night of a consequential evil that has one name that invokes the dread of the nightly demons. The unforgettable name of this duplicitous villain is embedded, within the castle and thereabouts.
The moral of the story good and evil are quite irreconcilable, in the world of the living and dead. Beware that if fare not with thee, thou shalt fare with the mare.
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